Thursday, January 7, 2021

Behaving Madly by Ger Apeldoorn and Craig Yoe

(Yoe, 2017) Readers of reprints of the early Kurtzman MAD comic books may recall that they frequently made fun of their seemingly hundreds of imitators (they even published one of their own, Panic). When the comic transitioned to a hyper-successful magazine in 1954 the imitations did not stop, they just did not thrive.  In the 70s and 80s there were always low rent MAD knockoffs, including three long running magazines, Cracked, which had a couple of veteran brilliant comics artists elevating the mostly unfunny comics, Sick, which after a brief heyday before my time had weirdly dismal art, and Marvel's Crazy which was weirdly bad before a brief last gasp of semi-relevance when they got a little raunchy and cynical under the leadership of of drunk, dirty clown mascot. But from the launch of MAD as a a mag until the end of the fifties there were a bunch of imitators that lasted one to six issues, and distinguished themselves from their mediocre descendants by more consistently sporting brilliant artwork (or passable artwork by brilliant artists).  Occasionally they seemed to target humor towards actual adults, and sometimes they were even kinda funny!  This wonderful book opens with a brief but thorough rundown of each publication, with impressive research and authoritative critical assessments of Cuckoo, Cockeyed, Zany, From Here to Insanity, and the rest. The remainder of the book is a Best Of, including nutty artwork by Steve Ditko, Basil Wolverton, Jack Kirby (not as fun or funny as his earlier goofy animal comics), Jack Davis, Al Jaffee, Bill Elder, Joe Kubert, and the magnificent John Severin (who would later elevate Cracked out of the crapper for the next seemingly hundred years). There are monsters, movie parodies, some space race ridiculousness, some Elvis goofing, and a lot of swings for the other King. It seems that MAD did a pretty dry article attacking these knockoffs, and (as seen in a special section of this book) the knockoffs answered the article's criticisms very specifically  by skewering MAD with a lot more vitriol than these editors held for Soviets or manipulative advertisers or Frankensteins. Don't get mad...get this book!

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