Hands-on with the iMad App

April 3rd, 2012 | Posted in MAD Magazine

As promised, on Sunday DC Entertainment and MAD Magazine released the MAD iPad app (which I am unofficially calling iMad, so no lawsuits, Apple!) Here’s a hands-on tour of the new app:

Getting Started

First off, while it is an “app”, it downloads into the Apple “Newsstand” area, not directly on to the iPad pages, which makes sense.

On the Newsstand! Looks lonely… I may have to subscribe to other magazines. Do they still make Tigerbeat?

Once you open the app, you are asked if you want push notifications when a new issue is available (I said yes), and then you are taken to a quick tutorial on how to navigate about the interface both in the menus and when reading an issue. Once on the main page, you are greeted with an upper menu that contains several options:

The Main Menu- access with a tap anytime in the app

Issues- Here you can make purchases of either a subscription for $1.99 for a bi-monthly subscription, $9.99 for an annual subscription, a single copy of the most recent issue for $4.99, or back issues for $1.99. So far back issues only go back to #507, and I do not know how far back they intend to go with back issues. There is also a free preview of the current issue available that (at least for issue #514) contains the cover, table of contents and two sample articles a lot of sample articles- Edit- MAD added a considerable amount of content from the issue after one of the main complaints in the apps reviews was that there wasn’t enough content in the preview.

My Library- This contains any issues you have purchased and downloaded. You can keep them active on your iPad (although they take up a fair amount of space, the full new issue is 547MB), or you can “archive” them, which means they are erased from your iPad’s storage but can be redownloaded with a tap anytime you have an active internet connection.

The Library- obviously the restricted section.

Stuff- This brings up a window with choices for:

  • TV Time Outs- Content from the MAD animated show on the Cartoon Network. So far just a 33 second promo is available there, but as there is room on a scrolling menu below for multiple videos I can imagine this to eventually have full segments and other goodies from the show.
  • Idiotical Blog– A link to the Official MAD Magazine Blog, which fits nicely and give access to the often updated blog with lots of original content
  • Shop– Link to the MAD WB shop, where they have tons of MAD crap for sale. CHEAP!
  • Exclusive– This appears to be a free look at content from other issues of MAD. Right now it contains Arnie Kogen and my parody of “MAD Men” from MAD #508. I assume this exclusive content will change periodically but I am not sure how often. All this content is web-based (although from inside the app, it does not launch the web browser) so it can change easily between issues.

Help- Back to the guide on the interface, and a list of FAQ about the app.

My Account- Here’s where you enter your account info for the app.


Of course you can buy a subscription on the spot, but as a print subscriber (yes I actually subscribe to MAD even though I work for them. Believe it or not I often get my subscription issue before I get any comps from the publisher… they may be a little overworked in the DC mail room) I get a complimentary digital subscription! You activate this through “My Account” on the upper right from the main menu, then enter the needed information. Print subscribers need to grab a recent subscription issue, and get their account number from the white subscription cover, which is located between the # marks above your name and mailing address (tap the “i” icon to the right of the entry box for a visual). This proved a little vexing, as the app insisted the number was supposed to be only 11 digits, and mine is 12. After a couple of tries and errors, I left off the last digit in my number, and it worked! Try entering only the first 11 digits if your number is too long., If it’s too short, enter random digits or try banging your iPad against your forehead and screaming “Fa, Fa, Fa!”

Downloading an Issue

After my account was approved I was instantly notified that the latest issue, #514 with the Mike & Molly cover, was available to download and if I wanted to do so. I selected “download” and the app preceded to download and process the 547.2 MB file. I have a speedy home WiFi and this still took almost five minutes…it’s as big as a fair sized standard def movie! Once downloaded, the issue appears in “My Library” with a cover icon and buttons to “Read” or “Archive”. I also downloaded a back issue copy of MAD #508, which was significantly smaller at only 152.2MB, and took much less time to download.

It’s worth noting that there is a button entitled “Missing Issues” on the upper right of the “My Library” page, and pressing this asks if you want to restore and previous purchases. Apparently, like the iCloud service Apple provides for its iTunes store, your account with the app will record your purchases, and if you lose any of them somehow through hardware failure or the like, you can get them back easily.

Reading MAD

Upon selecting to read MAD #514, it’s immediately obvious that this will not just be a page-turning digital version of the magazine. The cover has become an animated intro with different elements sliding in and sound effects as well. A “Tap to Play Again” button allows you to replay the action anytime. Other articles and features in the issue also feature different types of interaction and reading tools.

One thing I noticed right away is the magazine is meant to be read in portrait orientation with the iPad, not horizontal. You can turn it horizontal, but the images and text stay the same size and you just end up with extra space on the sides. Also, it takes the iPad a heartbeat or two for the text and graphics of an article to “load”, so initially a new article you turn to will be fuzzy for a second before it sharpens up. This seems to be a function of the iPad in general, as I have noticed this phenomenon in other apps.

A single tap on the screen brings up the main menu on top and a sliding navigation bar below, with mini-pages representing each feature in the issue. That makes it easy to browse through an issue. You can also bookmark a page for later quick access.

Navigating is very easy but a little different than an eBook. Each article is treated like it’s own section, and while you swipe horizontally to “page” through the magazine between articles, you read an article by swiping vertically, like it’s one big, long web page. Apparently most digital magazines work this way. There are small icons to help you along the way, like a red box with a double arrow in it to indicate if there is more article below, or if you are supposed to swipe to turn the page. Red circles with a + sign in them will let you know you can tap something to enlarge it for easy reading. Other prompts will tell you what features are active for a given article, and there are several different kinds:

Tap to Enlarge: In the “Bigg & Bulky” parody Arnie Kogen and I did, the splash page instructs you to tap a speech bubble to enlarge it, which then darkens the page while a larger version of the selected speech bubble pops up for non-squinting reading. In the story pages, each panel can be tapped to cause that panel to enlarge and pop out for easier reading. Larger panels will have multiple pops ups that incorporate some of the art and word balloons from each area. This takes the place of “pinch and spread” zooming, which I think makes for a nicer reading experience.

Parody Splash Page- Note the navigation prompts

A larger, pop-up word balloon in action. Jokes are twice as funny when enlarged.

Red “+” Enlarge Buttons: These are seem throughout, on individual spot illustrations and on Sergio‘s marginals, each with their own red “+” buttons to prompt you. Several articles have this feature, like the Strip Club.

The Magic Red “+” button does its thing to a¬¨‚ĆSergio marginal. Pop’s up instantly but probably still takes longer to pop up than it took Sergio to draw it…

Tap on a movie/TV parody panel to enlarge…

Static Backgrounds and Layers: For example, in “MAD‘s Make Your Own Twilight Movie”, the background is static while the text and images scroll over it. This article is also interactive, and when you makes your choices at each step, the other become dark. In the feature “Inappropriate Questions to ask During a Job Interview” the text scrolls over the static Tom Bunk artwork. Double tapping hides the text so you can get a good look at the art. I can see this method being used for “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions” and similarly formatted articles.

Pinch and Zoom: This makes a comeback in articles like Spy vs. Spy, but works not on the whole page but whatever section the feature is set for. Some articles, like¬¨‚Ć “MAD Presents a Placemat From Your Local Diner”, has both “Pinch & Zoom” options and has the individual gags separated and enlarged for scrolling down to read one at a time.

The Fold In– This works perfectly, with a nifty animation that “folds” the image when you swipe “B” to “A”. That eliminates the frustration of not folding the back cover perfectly along the “B” line, which always resulted in incorrectly lined up text and much gnashing of teeth.

The Al Jaffee Fold In, Unfolded…

The Al Jaffee Fold In… Mid-fold!!


I ruined three iPads before I realized I could do the fold-in electronically. The retina display shatters spectacularly.

Other articles are just of the regular scrolling variety, with no pop-ups or zooming or other features. Clearly these different features and navigation options are matched up to whatever articles will benefit from using them, and ones where the text and art are big enough for easy enjoyment are just left to normal scrolling.

Back Issues

Looking at issue #508, the reason it was so much smaller in file size is obvious. These are set up with no special navigation or reading features, but are simple swipe-to-turn-page and pinch & zoom versions of the full issues. Each has a navigation bar at the bottom that can be bought up with a tap to browse the entire issue easily. Clearly #514 was the first issue set up to work fully with the new iMad interface, and I assume each new issue will also have these different reading features. I am not sure how far back MAD intends to create back issues to be available for purchase, but I would be surprised if they formatted any older issues to use the full features of the app.

IMO a fantastic job of taking the printed magazine and creating something that takes advantage of more than just the novelty of reading it on an electronic device. I am sure we will see occasional upgrades and improvements like with most apps. One thing I’d like to see is an arrow that automatically goes to the next full page vertically when reading a long article, so you can keep the story in a page by page format more easily.

So, what are you waiting for?? If you have an iPad, go get the new fershlugginer MAD app, putz!


  1. Brent Brown says:

    If only they had come up with this before I had to tediously move over all the PDF files of every MAD issue up to 2003 from the DVD-ROM collection to my iPad via iTunes! The interactivity looks to be a nice enhancement over those static scans.

    • Tom says:

      I looks like the back issues are going to be just static PDFs anyway, so no loss. You’ll miss out on the lower nav bar, and there won’t be a way to do the fold-in (in the back issues there is no animation, just a second page with it folded in). Plus you saved about $850.

  2. David Lubin says:

    Is iMAD only downloadable to an iPad and NOT an iTouch????

    • Tom says:

      Yes. Apple’s “Newsstand” for digital magazines is only for the iPad. Believe me, you wouldn’t be able to read or enjoy the magazine on a tiny iPod touch or an iPhone. Hopefully DC will eventually make the app available for Android tablets as well.

  3. David Lubin says:

    I can’t even read or enjoy MAD and I have TWO subscriptions!! ONLY KIDDING!!! I actually think it’s better than it’s ever been and following your blog, Tom, only enriches the experience. OMG, what the heck am I talking about???? Seriously though, aaah no, not seriously, but MADly, your work is great and you’re destined to become one of the great MAD artists, as in Davis and Drucker. But can you keep going for 20 years? MAD probably will.

  4. I subscribed last night and look forward to reading my first issue. It would be fun if the iPad version had some extras that aren’t possible in print. Esquire does that sort of thing quite well.

    • David Lubin says:

      OMG! Are you THE Glasbergen, the medical cartoonist with work appearing in medical journals? LOVE YOUR STUFF! Keep up the great work! If you are/he is, Tom, how about posting a link to his site? Thanks, David


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