What, Me Imitated?

January 31st, 2012 | Posted in News

MAD debuted 60 years ago in 1952. It’s success, first as a comic book and then as a magazine (or “slick” as the vernacular of the day went) caused the spawning of imitators… MANY imitators. The longest running of them all was Cracked magazine, which lasted almost 50 years (1958-2007), but the list of less long-lived MAD clones was much longer. Here’s a few off the top of my head:

  • Sick
  • Crazy
  • Plop!
  • Nuts!
  • Not Brand Eccch!
  • Eh!
  • Madhouse
  • From Here to Insanity

An upcoming book (to be released in April) from Fantagraphics, The Sincerest Form of Parody, reprints some of the material from the early imitators of the MAD comic book (as opposed to the magazine format). Written by John Benson with an intro by Jay Lynch.

From the book’s desription:

When MAD became a surprise hit as a comic book in 1953 (after the early issues lost money!) other comics publishers were quick to jump onto the bandwagon, eventually bringing out a dozen imitations with titles like FLIP, WHACK, NUTS, CRAZY, WILD, RIOT, EH, UNSANE, BUGHOUSE, and GET LOST. The Sincerest Form of Parody collects the best and the funniest material from these comics, including parodies of movies (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, From Here To Eternity), TV shows (What’s My Line, The Late Show), comic strips (Little Orphan Annie, Rex Morgan), novels (I, the Jury), plays (Come Back, Little Sheba), advertisements (Rheingold Beer, Charles Atlas), classic literature (“The Lady or the Tiger”), and history (Pancho Villa). Some didn’t even try for parody, but instead published odd, goofy, off-the-wall stories.

These earnest copiers of MAD realized that Will Elder’s cluttered “chicken fat” art was a good part of MAD‘s success, and these pages are densely packed with all sorts of outlandish and bizarre gags that make for hours of amusing reading. The “parody comics” are uniquely “’50s,” catching the popular culture zeitgeist through a dual lens: not only reflecting fifties culture through parody but also being themselves typical examples of that culture (in a way that Harvey Kurtzman’s MAD was not).

This unprecedented volume collects over 30 of the best of these crazy, undisciplined stories, all reprinted from the original comics in full color. Editor John Benson (who wrote the annotations for the first complete MAD reprints, and interviewed MAD editor Harvey Kurtzman in depth several times over the years) also provides expert, profusely illustrated commentary and background, including comparisons of how different companies parodied the same subject.

Artists represented include Jack Davis, Will Elder, Norman Maurer, Carl Hubbell, William Overgard, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, Bill Everett, Al Hartley, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, Hy Fleischman, Jay Disbrow, Howard Nostrand, and Bob Powell.

Casual comics readers are probably familiar with the later satirical magazines that continued to be published in the ’60s and ’70s, such as Cracked and Sick, but the comics collected in this volume were imitations of the MAD comic book, not the magazine, and virtually unknown among all but the most die-hard collectors. For the first time, Fantagraphics is collecting the best of these comics in a single, outrageously funny volume. 208 full-color illustrations

I obviously haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t comment on the book itself. However, as these 1950’s comics are extremely rare this is likely one of the only places one can find this content. I’m especially interested in John Benson’s commentary about the comics.

Damn… gotta find another space on the bookshelf.


  1. Mike says:

    Is that Archie and Veronica on the cover?

  2. Mike says:

    Looks like Archie and Veronica in the cover.

  3. BonzoGal says:

    I remember my mom buying me Cracked and Crazy when I was a kid in the 1970s. I was always puzzled by these lame imitations of MAD. MAD seemed written and drawn by grownups doing humor that made them laugh, and we kids were allowed to hang around and listen and learn. Cracked and Crazy were like teenagers trying to imitate the MAD adults and just not quite getting it right.

    I’ve been going through a stack of 1960s and 70s MADs that was I was lucky enough to score at a library book sale. Amazing how wonderfully subversive it still seems today!


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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