Completely Mad: A History of the Comic Book and Magazine

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9780316738910: Completely Mad: A History of the Comic Book and Magazine

Traces the evolution of MAD from its position as an obscure ten-cent comic book to its near cult status, discussing its reflection of post-World War II popular culture--including movies, politicians, and ad campaigns. Reprint. 75,000 first printing. $75,000 ad/promo.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

This copiously illustrated history of America's ``most successful humor magazine'' never takes itself too seriously, despite patches of banal social history and cultural analysis. Lots of sidebars cover all sorts of material Reidelbach (Miniature Golf, 1987--not reviewed) couldn't integrate into her main narrative, especially profiles of Mad's legendary publisher, William Gaines, and biographies of the many talented writers and illustrators he's employed over the years. Anarchic, irreverent, cynical, and absurdist, Mad began its nearly 40-year history as a four-color comic book edited by Harvey Kurtzman, who brought a new level of satiric sophistication to a medium reserved mostly for superhero dreck and cute funny animals. In fact, the early Mad parodied the funny pages with the same cleverness it would later bring to bear on advertising, movies, and TV. When the comic-book industry imposed new restrictions on itself in the mid-50's, Gaines transformed Mad into a magazine rather than submit it to the censors. While Kurtzman left for other projects, Gaines and his new editor, Al Feldstein, made Mad more accessible to a wider audience. Circulation grew from 325,000 to a high of 2.5 million, with a worldwide readership (in numerous translations and adaptations). Published domestically every 45 days, and with no advertising, Mad provoked the ire of social watchdogs everywhere- -nothing seemed sacred to the self-described ``usual gang of idiots'' who mocked the many icons of modern life. Serious cultural critics like Marshall McLuhan, Paul Goodman, and Dwight Macdonald all found the popular humor mag worthy of analysis as a genuine reflection of tumultuous times. Reidelbach strains when she describes Mad's worry-less mascot, Alfred E. Neuman, as ``an archetype of the Jungian sort,'' and her imitations of the Mad style are as annoying as the book's cluttered design. Nevertheless, it's a fine overview of a vital part of pop culture, and a must-read for true Mad ``fan-addicts.'' (350 color photographs, 200 b&w drawings.) -- Copyright 1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Publisher Bill Gaines and editor Harvey Kurtzman produced the first issue of Mad magazine in 1956 and American satirical humor has never been the same since. Beginning with the comic book company founded by his father, Max, Gaines transformed his father's wholesome comics lines into EC Comics, the profitable publisher of classic 1950s' horror comics, and later introduced Mad and its mascot, the "What Me Worry" kid, Alfred E. Neuman. Although basically celebratory and uncritical, art historian Reidelbach's detailed history of Mad mentions recent criticisms of sexist and homophobic material in the magazine as well as Mad 's (and the comics industry's) contested policies on the ownership of commissioned artwork. Most amusing are descriptions of Gaines--who continues to run the profitable magazine as a "benevolent dictatorship"--and his idiosyncratic management theories ( Mad accepts no advertising, has never conducted a reader survey and does little merchandising). The book is chock-full of Mad material--the usual "trash," as Mad always describes its own contents--as well as information on the many freelance artists and writers who have worked for the magazine.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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