Archive for MAD Magazine

Thrift Store Finds: Monster of the Year

Posted in thrift store finds with tags , , , , , on March 2, 2013 by Christopher Pearce

This week, we’re going to take a quick look at Monster of the Year, written by Bruce Coville and published by Pocket Books under their Minstrel Books imprint in 1989.

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thrift store finds: upstate NY finds

Posted in thrift store finds with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2012 by Christopher Pearce

A few weekends ago, my family and I went for a little trip to Western New York. We met up with my parents and sister in the hamlet of Fredonia. I went to college in Fredonia for my undergraduate studies and while I’ve been back visiting the town a few times since then, those visits coincided with either holiday weekends or the summer. This was my first trip back to my college while it was in full swing, and it was a very fun experience.

Ellen and I can’t go ANYWHERE without thrift store shopping and this trip was no different. On our first day in town, we ran across a church rummage sale and of course, I have some finds to share with you. Everything we found, we got for $2 dollars. Not $2 dollars each item… $2 dollars TOTAL. The rummage sale was having one of those “You give us two bucks, we’ll give you a bag and you fill it up.”

Keep in mind as well, MOST of our bag was filled with clothing and other Ellen-centric items. These are just my geeky items.

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thrift store finds: snl’s coneheads addendum

Posted in thrift store finds with tags , , , , , , on March 10, 2012 by Christopher Pearce

In last week’s TSF, I wrote about my enjoyment of a random issue of a Coneheads mini-series Marvel Comics published in the mid 1990’s. I tweeted about it to the book’s penciller, MAD Magazine‘s Tom Richmond.

Well, Mr. Richmond kept his word and posted a blog about his work on the book!

I was very interested to read about the contributions of inker Marie Severin to the overall look of the book, and Tom’s perspective on where he was as an artist during the book. It’s good reading and you should check it out.

Plus, Tom refers to me as a “cartoonist” in the post which is patently untrue, but absolutely made my Friday regardless. Thanks Tom!

thrift store finds: another round of rejects!

Posted in thrift store finds with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2011 by Christopher Pearce

Let’s end the year with some rejected Thrift Store Finds. These are things I picked up at our local St. Vincent de Paul store which, for whatever reason, I couldn’t figure out a way to dedicate a whole entry to ’em.

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thrift store finds: don martin bounces back

Posted in commentary, thrift store finds with tags , , on March 20, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

(Thrift Store Finds is a mostly-weekly “column” of sorts where I discuss some of the cool books I’ve happened upon in my neighborhood St. Vincent DePaul store. Please don’t mistake me for an expert on any of the books I am writing about… I’m just a fan of a bargain.)

One of the cartoonists most associated with MAD Magazine is Don Martin. Martin’s goofy, exaggerated characters inhabited stories with mundane titles like “One Fine Day at the Beach.” These stories always took a quick left turn from their normal-sounding monikers into absolute lunacy and cartoon anarchy. Some of Martin’s trademarks include the perplexingly bent toes on all of his characters and a penchant for making up the most terrific sound effects you’ve ever ready. Don Martin was a trailblazer in the world of onomatopoeia; I dare say that there was no writer in the world during the back half of the 20th century who was so crazily inventing new sound effects. When something exploded in a Don Martin comic, it didn’t just go “BOOM!”… it went “KRA-BA-MA-BLOOWIE!” It was lovely stuff.

With that in mind,  let’s look at one of those paperbacks for which that royalty dispute robbed MAD of its’ maddest cartoonist:

MAD’s Maddest Artist: Don Martin Strikes Back was orignially released in 1963, although this copy is a Warners Books reprint from 1984. All told, Martin had fourteen MAD Magazine paperbacks all to himself, far more than any other individual cartoonist. Don Martin Strikes Back is #2 in the series. According to the inside cover, Martin and EC Publications share the copyright on the material. It was a dispute over the royalties for these very paperbacks that lead to the unthinkable happening at the end of the Eighties: Martin defecting MAD for it’s Undistinguished Competition. Nabbing MAD’s Maddest Cartoonist was quite a coup for Cracked, which has always been the lesser of the two long-running humor magazines… although, I suppose if you look at it in a certain way, it’s also the most successful MAD knock-off.

The first quarter of Don Martin Strikes Back is a reprint of Martin’s National Gorilla Suit Day comic strips. A day when “people of all shapes and colors around the world get their gorilla suits out of the closet, put them on and go door-to-door,” National Gorilla Suit Day has become a small-time Internet sensation in recent years, with prominent bloggers like Mark Evanier and Cory Doctorow extolling its many virtues and benefits. For those curious, National Gorilla Suit Day happens on January 31st of every year. You may have missed out on 2010, but start planning for 2011, everybody!

I was surprised at the length of the National Gorilla Suit Day comic, as the Don Martin I have in my recollections was a one or two panel gag guy… but I was clearly mistaken. The National Gorilla Day stuff goes on for an impressive FIFTY-SIX pages. I love the way that Martin takes one flimsy joke and props it up from every conceivable angle with new and outlandish gags. The cartoonist’s regular cast, Fester Bestertester and Karbunkle are involved with what, from I can tell, is every possible permutation of being beat up by a person in a gorilla costume. This one is my favorite:

…and they go on like that.

…and that’s not even the longest story in the book! Clocking in at over 80 pages (almost half the book) is the Fester and Karbunkle story “The Hardest Head in the World.” The setup is similarly structured for a maximum amount of violence and damage as Fester discovers and monetizes the fact that Karbunkle’s noggin can withstand a crushing amount of punishment. It’s also a really fun story full of Martin trademarks.

I don’t want to get all “English professor” here, but I find it interesting that most of the comics in the book are centered around or deal with commerce and consumerism. The Gorilla Day material is (besides good old fashioned slapstick) an inditement of the corporatization of various holidays, and all of “Hardest Head” pivots around the rising and falling monetary fortunes of Fester. I’m not trying to write a thesis on what Martin was REALLY trying to say with these comics; likely as not, he was just trying to make people chuckle at a guy getting hit in the head with a cement mixer. I’m just mentioning that in light of Martin’s later troubles with EC over paperback royalties, it colors the tone of those strips interestingly.

Anyhow, the book was a good deal at fifty cents, American from my local thrift store Want to see a better deal that YOU can take advantage of, if you so choose?

MAD’s Greatest Artists: The Completely MAD Don Martin is as impressive a tome as comic collections get. At 1,200 pages, The Completely Mad Don Martin is a weighty package comparable to other recent high-quality collections like The Complete Calvin & Hobbes or The Complete Far Side. It contains EVERY Don Martin comic from MAD Magazine during his association with the magazine, beautifully presented across two hardcover books in a slipcase.

…and here’s the best part. I’m going to let you in on a great bargain, because you and I are really good friends. This book normally goes for well over $100 dollars… but if you order it from Barnes & Noble online, it’s currently in deep discount. You’ll only pay about $23 bucks! In the past few weeks, comic fans have been going nuts over misprinted online prices for omnibus trades, but this one’s the real deal. I bought mine last week and it’s well worth the money.

The cool thing is that buying this book  is that it doesn’t put you out of the running for doing some primo thrift store shopping, as The Completely Mad Don Martin only collects Martin’s work that appeared IN MAD Magazine… and much of the cartoons and comics collected in these old paperbacks is original material and therefore not included in the hardbound collection.

EDIT: I received this comment from Ms. Norma Martin, widow of Don Martin:

Tues/Oct 19/2010–Chris: I appreciated your appreciation of my husdband’s work. However, you are perpetuating several errors.
He did not have any issues about “royalties”. Not regarding MAD’s hundred or more pocketbooks which contained MAD Magazine work OR his DON MARTIN pocketbooks (13) which contain his work and which he/I now own the copyrights. It would be nice if you corrected your comments. Don left MAD in order to own his art and writings.

In other respects, the CRACKED deal (brokered by Jerry De Fuccio) was as good, if not better, than the one he left.

Happy holidays, Norma

I thank Ms. Martin and am in the process of correcting this article. My “sources” were a baker’s dozen of MAD fan sites and the guy who ran my town’s comic book store in the early Nineties… neither of which are the types of sources I’d want my students citing on a research paper. I regret the error, especially as I hold Don Martin in such high esteem.

Thrift store finds: Howling MAD

Posted in commentary, thrift store finds with tags , on March 13, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

I was reading The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History last weekend. Bill Oakley, one of the producers of The Simpsons during its’ golden years mentions the series’ place in the world:

The Simpsons has transplanted MAD Magazine. Basically everyone who was young between 1955 and 1975 read made, and that’s where your sense of humor came from. And we knew all these people, you know Dave Berg and Don Martin- all heroes and unfortunately, now all dead. And I think The Simpsons has taking that spot in America’s heart.

I would agree with most of the above, but I’d mess around with the dates a little bit. I was obsessed with MAD Magazine well into the 1990’s, and most of the guys Oakley mentions were still producing work for the book. Sure, Dave Berg was still making jokes about hippies in 1992… and Don Martin had absconded to Cracked (you can click over here to read all about that, if you’d like), but the magazine was still very much present in the hearts and minds of most of my friends and myself.

MAD Magazine’s seen better days than now; quite a few fans were miffed when the magazine started printing advertisements… and MAD recently went to a bi-monthly schedule. There’s no denying that the shadow that MAD Magazine casts over pop culture is quite large indeed, but I think the book is no longer the repository for all things sarcastic in American humor, having been replaced with more immediate forms of snark. By the time the Mort Drucker parody of the latest big budget Hollywood disaster movie hits the magazine racks, that flick has already been thoroughly eviscerated by any number of comedy blogs, YouTube videos, and goofy podcasts. The magazine’s still terrific (I have a subscription for my classroom) and if you can get it in front of kids, they love it… they’re just not as likely to seek it out anymore.

Finding MAD was never a problem for me when I was growing up. Besides the monthly issues, they regularly released Super Specials full of old content that I scooped up whenever I found them ($3.50… Cheap!). This was the best way to see old material- when Batman came out in 1989, for example… MAD reprinted their spoof of the Adam West/Burt Ward TV series in a Super Special. For many years however, the only game in town for MAD reprints was chintzy paperbacks!

MAD Magazine paperback reprints were a HUGE deal, published by no less than THREE different publishers (Signet, Ballantine, and Warner Books) and stretch over 200 different titles. From what I’ve gathered, collecting these books is like wading into a bottomless morass of variant covers, disparate content and boxed sets. People who try to cobble together a complete collection of these books have been driven over the edge insane with all the various books to keep track of… although MAD writer Dick DeBartolo has provided a decent checklist HERE.

Today I’m going to look at one of the earlier MAD paperbacks, Howling MAD.

MAD paperbacks have been a source of my greatest regret when it comes to thrift store shopping. Earlier this year, someone dropped off a whole bunch of these paperbacks to the St. Vincent DePaul store. I found a couple of them and was really excited to buy them all… but the book section of my thrift store is notoriously messy and although they were only a buck apiece (marked up a little bit from the usual fifty cents a paperback the place usually charges). I decided to pass on them and wait a few days for the store’s monthly half-off sale. Yes, I am that cheap. Needless to say, when I went back for them a few days later, the books were gone, gone gone… and I learned a lesson. If you see something at the thrift store that you really want… pick it up! They still turn up pretty regularly, but it would have been cool to snap up a bunch of ’em in one fell swoop.

Howling MAD was mixed in with the paperbacks and only cost me a measly two quarters. The copyright date at the front of the book is 1967 and most of the material collected here seems to be from around that date… although there was a lot less topical stuff than I normally look for in a MAD collection. The only cultural “tell” that I could obviously see in the book was the extended parody of the CBS Nightly News with Walter Cronkite.

Other than that, many of the features reprinted in Howling MAD could be re-run today with very little confusion from a 21st century kid. Spy vs. Spy translates to any generation. I found that kind of interesting. I always thought of MAD Magazine as being the most current, reactionary thing going when I was a kid. It was very likely one of the first places that sowed in me a distrust of authority, as MAD’s default position is that everybody’s an idiot and out to screw you over in some way. I was surprised to find that most of the jokes in here weren’t as timely as I once imagined!

I also have to confess, I was a little bummed that there didn’t seem to be an all-inclusive theme to this collection. This is just a random jumble of MAD stuff. To be fair… that’s my problem, not the book’s issue. My preference is toward a collection with some all-encompassing reason… like a book of all movie parodies, or a collection of nothing but Don Martin cartoons.

Moving many of these strips from an expansive magazine format to a significantly smaller book format does the art no favors, as you can see in this The Lighter Side Of… feature:

Comics are chopped up and spread throughout Howling MAD in a functional fashion. It gets you to where you need to go, but it’s hard to appreciate in the same way as the magazine. Certain artists certainly fare better than others- while I don’t think Dave Berg’s work does well in this format single panel gag writers like Don Martin and Sergio Aragones’ work is a far better fit for the paperbacks. This probably explains why Martin’s paperbacks were so ubiquitous throughout these paperbacks (I’ll be looking at one of those next week), although some of the Martin cartoons chosen for this book are downright perplexing. I mean, look at this one:

…why, from all the Don Martin comics that you have to choose from, would you pick a strip like this to put in a paperback? One that extends all the way across the page like that? It seems weird to me.

Anyhow, the writing’s a sharp as always. This one was definitely worth fifty cents.