Sunday Mailbag

November 2nd, 2008 | Posted in General

Q: Yesterday in your blog you mentioned wondering what it would have been like to have worked at MAD during the black and white era. When did MAD “officially” switch to a color format? Did you do any work for them before the switch to color, or any black and white work at all?

A: MAD‘s switch to color and slick paper stock didn’t actually happen all at once. “Officially” the first issue that announced a full time switch was #403. However the previous few issues were either special issues, had special color features in them combining the old and new paper stock or were full color but not officially acknowledged so the change was somewhat eased into.

Technically MAD #399 (Nov. 2000) was the last issue printed on the old paper stock and entirely in black and white. It was also the first issue in which my work was printed in the magazine. I threw a big party when it was released! The feature was “Gadgets to Really Make Home Theater Like Going to the Movies” written by Dick Debartolo:

Click for a closer look

Next was issue #400 (Dec. 2000), which was of course a big deal. That issue was printed on the new slicker stock and was actually the unheralded debut of the new color MAD, featuring the full color design for the contents, “Letters and Tomatoes Dept.” and several full color features including “The Untold History of MAD Magazine“.

I had some fake cover illustrations in this color section. Half the issue featured black and white artwork but it was all printed on the slick stock. Being that this was a special anniversary issue the full color format didn’t cause any raised eyebrows, but in fact it was the trial run of the new design.

Issue #401 (Jan. 2001) was the “MAD 20″ issue, and although most of the magazine was in black and white and on the old stock, the “MAD 20″ feature was in color on the new stock in the center of the issue. I had a color piece in that special feature. This was a sort of “transition” issue being a combination of formats, but technically it was the last issue that any content in the magazine was printed in the old black and white only format on the old stock paper.

Issue #402 (Feb. 2001) was next, and it was the first “regular” issue printed entirely on the new stock in the new color format. There were still plenty of black and white features at that time, but from that issue forward every page in the magazine was capable of color printing. Still no acknowledgment in the magazine of the new format, so nothing “official”. I had nothing in this issue.

Issue #403 (March 2001) continued the cover to cover color format on the new stock, but this time featured an “Editor’s Note”, which officially announced the debut of color pages and (gulp!) advertising. Therefore “officially” this issue kicked off the new color era of MAD. It was also the issue in which I had my first parody, “Malcontent in the Muddle” (Malcolm in the Middle), which was also the first parody done in color in MAD, discounting when it was a color comic book very early on.

Technically I did have one single black and white piece in what is considered the final issue of the black and white era of MAD. In the immediate several issues after #399 the work I did for the magazine appeared in the color sections of these “unofficial” color issues. Since then I have had two other features done in black and white, as for a short while MAD continued to have a mix of black and white and color features until it finally had basically all color content. I guess I can consider myself having just squeaked into that classic MAD era by a single published piece.

Thanks to Doug Gilford and his MAD Cover Site for the cover images.

Thanks to Grant Jonen for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I”ll try and answer it here.


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