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  • Writer's pictureSteven Heller

Driving MAD Mad

Those of you who grew up on the early MAD magazine—first edited by Harvey Kurtzman in 24 issues as a comic book format and then, after the Comics Code Authority censored the ribald wit and humor of the original, in William Gaines’ magazine version with editor Al Feldstein—may recall its great influence on the market.

“The many MAD magazine imitators were indebted to MAD, but not always respectful of their elder,” writes Ger Apeldoorn and Craig Yoe in Behaving Madly, a first-of-its-kind anthology of copy-cat mags. This collection shows how the otherwise dreary ’50s were invigorated by a renaissance in satiric and comic publishing—and reveals how closely (sometimes using the same artists) that magazines like Crazy, Man, Crazy, Cuckoo, Lunatickle, This Magazine is Crazy, Thimk, Panic, Frantic, Zany and more captured the growing market, if only for a few issues. Moreover, it provides a direct link to the mid-’60s Underground newspapers that followed in their footsteps.

Much of the content was comprised of cultural parodies of TV, film and art, featuring characters like Groucho Sparks, Marlon Brandy and Davey Crockhead. Some features were just plain silly, others more bitingly satiric.

“When Bill Gaines reacted angrily to other publishers edging in on his success,” adds Apeldoorn and Yoe, “he himself often became the target of mockery. … And these wannabes were right to defend their little patch of satire history. Now that MAD showed the way, many talented people flocked to this new form of humor.”

Behaving Madly: Zany, Loco, Cockeyed, Rip-Off, Satire Magazines is a unique collection of long-lost examples of an under-represented yet significant American genre (think of “SNL” and all its imitators—including “MAD TV”).

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