Q: Has anyone ever explained the real meaning of “IND” on the cover of MAD? I saw an interview where the answer was an acronym for “Stupidity is Timeless” but ????
A: For those not familiar with this, here is an example from a recent MAD cover:
There are a couple of MAD secrets that few know about, and the “IND” on the cover is one of them. Some have speculated that it is a tip of the hat to the cerebral nature of the thinking man’s MAD, forming the word “MIND” Others think it is an acronym for “Stupidity is Timeless” as pointed out above, which makes perfect sense since the actual acronym for that phrase, “SIT”, was too boring and dumb to put on the cover and therefore random letters worked better. Some speculate they are the initials of some of Bill Gaines’ closest friends, whom he owed money to and this was his way of paying them back. Others say it stands for “Independent”, meaning that MAD was its own master.
None of these are true.
The truth is that “IND” first appeared between the “M” and “A” on the cover of MAD #38, March 1958, the cover art of which was done by celebrity chimpanzee J. Fred Muggs, as shown:
Muggs was a notorious diva, and he and his handlers insisted on the insertion of that “IND” and the figure pointing at it from within the MAD logo on the cover of MAD #38, or he would refuse to do the cover artwork. What was missed by the MAD guys at the time was that Muggs’ contract, which was over 600 pages long, some of it written in Muggs’ own feces, stipulated that “IND” must appear on the cover of every subsequent issue of MAD as long as the magazine was in existence. Muggs’s lawyers pointed this out after the issue went to press and, much to the chagrin of the editors who missed that clause on page 406 of the agreement, every issue of MAD has had “IND” on it ever since (although not always between the “M” and “A”). What the “IND” really stood for only Muggs knows for sure, but it was overheard that it was an acronym for some simian slur directed at Cheetah, the chimpanzee from the Tarzan films who Muggs always felt overshadowed his own success. Muggs is actually still alive and retired in Florida as of this writing, but MAD scholars who have made the pilgrimage to Citrus Park, FL to beg the aged ape for the meaning of “IND” are only met with snorts, fart noises, and hooting, finally being chased out of the room ducking hurled excrement.
So, like Max Korn and more recently the trash can with the men’s jacket draped across it that appears sometimes in the pages of MAD, the real meaning of “IND” might never be known for certain.
Thanks to David Lubin 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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918 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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