Bad MAD Timing?

January 29th, 2009 | Posted in General

Funny how life works.

Last week DC Comics and Time Warner announced that MAD will be going from a monthly to a quarterly publication, presumably due to dropping circulation amid the increasing costs and difficulties of a badly ailing magazine marketplace. Almost simultaneously, MAD began getting the most attention I’ve seen it receive in a long time from the media and on the internet from its latest issue, cover pictured above.

The inside of the issue featured “The First 100 Minutes of the Obama Presidency” as well as the feature I did the art for and previously mentioned, “MAD Exposes Who’s Thinking What at the Obama Inauguration”. The cover image is rendered even more funny considering that the White House refused to allow photographers into the Oval Office to photograph Obama on his first day of work, instead issuing approved pictures which were rejected by the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse in protest.

I’ve got something called a “Google Alert” set up that sends me daily e-mailed digests of links to any web page, blog or other web article published on the internet that includes the term “MAD Magazine” in it. Usually this results in a few links a day to people mentioning the magazine in passing for whatever reason. In the last few days I’ve received literally hundreds of links from news sites, blogs, forums and web ‘zines raving about MAD daring to take on President Obama both on the cover and inside issue #498, which went on sale the same day of Obama’s inauguration.

Here’s a smattering of some of the various viral chatter:

A Google search¬¨‚Ć for “”MAD Magazine” Obama” will give you hundreds of similar mentions. This is by far the most internet buzz I’ve seen from a MAD issue since I started working for them in 2000. Most of the chatter seems to be that MAD is one of the first publications willing to criticize and make fun of “Obamessiah”… something only the right wing catering publications and media outlets have dared to do.

CNN aired a piece on the issue yesterday, featuring editor John Ficarra:

I would hope this will also would shut up all the folks out there who have been accusing MAD of being a left wing rag for the last 8 years. HELLO! MAD has always made fun of those in power, and goodness knows the Bush administration gave them plenty of fodder (although they took plenty of shots at Hillary Clinton and other prominent democrats as well over the last few years). This issue of MAD hit news stands the very same day Obama became president… he hadn’t even had a chance to do something stupid yet and MAD showed they don’t have a problem giving him the MAD treatment. Rest assured that MAD will not hesitate to ridicule Obama every chance they get… which is 75% less chances as of issue #500.

It’s unfortunate that this kind of publicity, which you simply cannot buy, is coming at a time when whatever positive effects it might have had on the circulation are rendered meaningless. Not that I think a little internet buzz would create that big a spike in magazine sales (although if this issue isn’t the biggest seller in recent years I will be surprised) but it certainly can’t hurt.


  1. Shane says:

    Was thinking that exact same thing.

  2. Antzo8 says:

    Controversy sells. And taking aim at Obama in the first month of his first year is definitely going to stir the pot. It was a brilliant choice, leaving no time pass before jumping right onto him. I bet Fredrickson is happy his cover art is the talk of the town. And, yeah what’s with people complaining that MAD has gone to the left? There was plenty of left bashing way into Bush’s two terms, and if one thing in life is sure, its that Bill Clinton jokes never, ever get less funny. 🙂

    Hehehehe ‘Obamessiah’. So true. His face is on every magazine, newspaper etc. I wonder when people will start getting sick of seeing him. Not like its his fault though… Anyway, I hope this issue translates into a boost in sales for MAD, and maybe a few more readers and subscribers.

  3. Rich says:

    Fantastic cover. It’s a shame that these articles don’t give credit to Mark Fredrickson. Great stuff.

  4. Rob Usdin says:

    There’s also a nice piece on Mad in this month’s issue of Geek Monthly –


  5. Aaron says:

    Those who accuse MAD of being a “left-wing rag” are obviously not reading the magazine. The thing I LOVE about MAD is that the are an Equal Opportunity Offender. They don’t care who they make fun of, and they never have! I remember some of the Jimmy Carter gags that were hilarious! And what about Bill Clinton? MAD had a blast with that guy and his cigars and whatnot.

  6. Mark Engblom says:

    Going just from the cover, I don’t necessarily see it as a shot at Obama himself. Yeah, he’s drawn in a funny and not especially flattering light, but it’s essentially a commentary on the huge problems on his plate and the natural reaction of anyone to feel overwhelmed by it. This is a far cry from the Chimpy McBush stuff MAD and others have done for the past eight years. I’ll wait and see what kind of parody MAD is willing to do with Obama. According to the idiot Joy Behar (from “The View”), Obama is “too perfect for mockery”…a sentiment I believe alot of those on the left hold (at least for now). Time will tell, of course…but nobody would be more shocked than me to see MAD rip Obama a new one right out of the gate.

    • Tom says:

      Most of the gags inside this issue refer to the current mess, and most jabs at Obama are superficial comments about his rock star image and associations with people like Ayers and Wright. Of course most of this content was written only a month after the election, and well before Obama actually took office, which he’s been in for nine whole days. As soon as he does something stupid, I am sure MAD will jump all over it. I’ve got faith in them.

  7. Steckley says:

    Just a note, I found out last night that their distributor contacted Mad this week saying they had run low on issues, possibly requiring more.

    Hopefully that will reach the higher ups at DC.

    • Tom says:


    • Antzo8 says:

      Whoa that’s awesome. Its good to see the internet work in favour of MAD, when its rise was one of the factors that saw MAD’s reader base shrink. Good idea to leak the images onto the web though. They did the same with the campaign posters during the election and people loved them.

  8. Kevin Landry says:

    heh, you started in 2000? I once had a letter published about the 2000 annual. It was written back in ’83. They announced the 1984 annual would have 84 pages so I wrote in and asked how many the 2000 one would have.

    heh, MAD rocks. Thanks for all the gags and images. You really contributed to my twisted upbringing.

  9. Mugshotz says:

    I’m not sure if the current MAD cover makes fun of Obama so much as maybe it makes fun of the steaming pile of cow pies Bush left for him. I thought the first 100 minutes was brilliant and I voted for the guy. If we can’t make fun of our leaders… really… who can we make fun of? Well besides celebrites and athletes… 🙂

    • Tom says:

      Again, he has to be given a chance to do something stupid (or something AT ALL) before MAD can make fun of his presidency outside the superficial.

      Tomorrow’s mailbag question involves the changes from B&W to color for MAD, and in answering it I dragged out my back issues from #399 to #404, which covered the end of 2000 and first few months of 2001, which happened to also be the inauguration and beginning of George W. Bush’s first term in office. Looking them over it’s actually the lefties that have a case about unfair treatment of their president. Except for the inauguration piece the “MAD 20” in #401 Bush wasn’t even mentioned let alone criticized at least through #405, when I stopped looking. Obama was the centerpiece of the cover and two interior articles, and I happen to know the subject of at least one more piece in the next issue or two.

      Most of the razzing of Obama right now is about his messiah and rock star image, and lofty expectations. There is not much else to go on right now.

  10. […] But being one who hasn’t picked up a Mad for several years and haven’t bought every copy since I was a kid, I purchase the most recent copy. (see the cover on Tom’s blog). […]


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