When Mad was turned into a magazine in 1954, every publisher and his uncle came up with his own version, often using the same talent.
From IDW Publishing, comic strip historian Ger Apeldoorn and Eisner-winner Craig Yoe present Behaving Madly, a 200 page coffee table art book chronicling the zany, loco, cockeyed, rip-off, satire magazines that launched after Mad‘s success.
Ger and Craig took some time to discuss the new book, available in stores today!
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FOG!: The book is fantastic! Craig is an old friend of the site, but I’m fascinated that Ger is from Holland. Forgive my ignorance, but is there a comic industry there and how prevalent are American comics over there?
GER: We have a very lively comic strip industry, although you have to remember that the European format is different from the American and not hung up on superheroes. Recently, a lot of Dutch artists have found their way to American publishers, like Erik Kriek with In The Pines, Marcel Ruijters’ Hieronymus Bosch: The Unauthorised Biography and Yasmin Sheikh with Luna The Vampire. Minck Ossterveer, Chris Evenhuis, Boy Akkerman and Romano Molenaar have worked for various comic book series and Junaid Chundrigar has done three seasons of the superhero spoof animation shorts Bad Days for the Stan Lee channel on YouTube.
For the ultimate geek experience go to Patrick Schoenmaker’s mock trailer for the tv series, The Adventures of Indiana Jones on YouTube.
I, myself, work for the Dutch bi-weekly magazine Eppo. When I showed a copy to Mort Walker last week he remarked: “My, you do have a lot of talent over there!”
There has always been a Dutch Mad, which is mentioned in Grant Geissman’s Collectable Mad.
In 2011, I was the editor of a revival of the Dutch Mad which ran for six issues. We had 26 pages of original material from many different Dutch artists. the last few sets can be bought at EppoStripBlad.nl, where you can also see the whole fund of publisher DLC.
FOG!: Mad famously started as a comic book, and after the formation of the Comics Code Authority, Bill Gaines and Harvey Kurtzman reimagined Mad as a magazine.
What was your first exposure to Mad?
CRAIG: I wasn’t exposed to Mad until I was an adult! My first touchstone was a imitator that was outside of this book as it was published later than the period we cover.
That was the brilliant Archie’s Madhouse which I compiled a whole book on as I so highly regard it.
My mom laid down the law: I was not allowed to read Mad.
Somehow she instinctively knew that Mad undermined the establishment and corrupted young minds.
She unwittingly compromised with Madhouse. It was LIKE Mad but its pages were also filled with sexy Archie-style teenage girls!
With Madhouse and so much more despite Mom’s best efforts I was corrupted anyway—to this day!
And in addition I am now a confirmed Mad fan along with their plethora of imitators as we see in Behaving Madly.
GER: I first read Mad off the stands from issue #175. Immediately after that I bought the pocket book versions of Kurtzman’s comic book Mad. I started collecting Mad directly after that and completed the whole run on the same day the first CD-ROM with all issues was announced.
Through Dutch artists who were fans (Kurtzman’s Mad was a huge influence on European artists from Spain to Denmark in the sixties) I got to know and see Humbug, Trump and Help! as well. Since then I have become one of a select group of Kurtzman collectors, who has everythng he ever did. Most of which I show on my blog, The Fabulous Fifties.
I wrote about Kurtzman’s work for Varsity in Alter Ego and am probably one of only a few people who have found copies of his wartime strip, Private Brown, Knows. One of those Kurtzman experts is Denis Kitchen, who I know since I interviewed him with Will Eisner in 1978. I asked him for a quote about the book and offered a free copy in return. No need, he said. He had already ordered his copy as soon as it became available on Amazon.
FOG!: When I was growing up there was Mad and the only imitators that were prevalent were Cracked and Crazy. The book chronicles dozens of titles, some only lasting an issue or two. Why don’t you think more of them lasted for a longer period of time?
GER: In promoting this book I found out that it was necessary to stress that we do not cover Cracked and Sick, or the later Marvel version of Crazy. Cracked and Sick are known to be quite juvenile and have given the field a bad reputation. They were the magazines you bought if Mad was not on the stands.
The earlier imitations we cover are smarter and better drawn. The first because in the late fifties there was a real satire boom in popular media, from which these Mad imitations benefited.
Also, the earlier ones, like Lunatickle and Snafu were based on Kurtzman’s Mad magazine and tried to be just as clever. Stan Lee’s Snafu #1 was on the stands the same month as Kurtzman’s second magazine issue #25.
As to why they all ran so shortly, I don’t know. Most were stopped before sales figures could have been in.
Maybe they were hard to produce?
Maybe distribution was a problem?
Some very respectable companies were involved, but apparently someone upstairs didn’t believe in them.
FOG!: I was also surprised to see that writers and artists such as Jack Kirby, Russ Heath, Dick Briefer, Jerry Siegel, John Severin, Steve Ditko, Stan Lee and Joe Kubert all worked in the humor magazine genre alongside such established pros as Jack Davis, Al Jaffee, Will Elder, Basil Wolverton, Virgil Partch and Jack Mendelsohn. What was Bill Gaines’ opinion of the imitators and was he resentful toward other Mad collaborators such as Davis, Jaffee and Elder freelancing for them?
GER: And that is only the tip of the iceberg as far as artists go! Knowing Gaines, I think he was a bit annoyed to say the least. In the book we suggest that the change in title lettering of Frenzy from one that was totally like Mad‘s in #1 to less Mad-like versions in the other issues could have been the result of a cease and desist letter – which he was known to send.
And of course, we have a whole chapter on the article in Mad #41: How To Put Out An Imitation of Mad, which was answered by four of the imitators in an article of their own.
The antipathy might have been mutual, seeing the way Gaines was depicted by some of these artists. Including John Severin, who snuck in a satyr putting pins into a voodoo doll version of Gaines on the cover of Loco #3.
CRAIG: What Ger said.
FOG!: In researching the book, did you come across anything that you weren’t expecting?
GER: All the time. From finding out the connections behind publisher such as Whitehouse and Health Magazines to finding unknown work by artists such as Ric Estrada (who did most of the first two issues of Frantic!) and Al Jaffee (who thought he had only worked for Cracked, but ended up in Zany, too). That is why I hope the book is not only informative, but also a good read. It is almost a detective story sometimes…
CRAIG: Ger did the heavy lifting on the initial research so my mind was blown by what he unearthed on a regular basis. I wasn’t prepared by the voluminous amounts of Mad knock-offs, the hilarious creativity in their pages and how very many of comics humor superstar artists did the work! Including many of Mad’s own usual gang of idiots! I was and am surprised that Gaines let Jack Davis, Al Jaffee, Bill Elder and Basil Wolverton draw for the competition!
We are quite proud of something that surprised us, the discovery we made that that Roy Lichtenstein used one of the Mad wanna-be’s covers as the source of one of his most famous paintings! This was unknown previously to art or comics historians and we’re excited to unleash this revelation to the world!
FOG!: Do you have a favorite imitator magazine?
GER: That has to be either Lunatickle (because of the rare quality of the comic book artists working for it, from Joe Kubert and Lee Elias to Ross Andru and Arthur Peddy) and the superb writing by Jack Mendelsohn in Snafu, almost all written by Stan Lee and magnificently drawn by Joe Maneely, John Severin, Howie Post, Russ Heath and Bill Everett.
CRAIG: Stefan, all these magazines contain some comic gold, which is what we excited dug up for Behaving Madly, but I have a soft spot for the erratic Charlton Mad rip-offs.
And we discovered Charlton was the first to steal the Mad mojo! Typical of all of Charlton’s fare the Mad knock-offs are quite uneven, but when they do hit, the material is as good as it gets!
And it’s fascinating to see Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby behaving madly as it were. Who knew?!?
FOG!: What else do you have coming up?
GER: In December, Roy Thomas will use my article about Stan Lee’s efforts to get out of comics between 1956 and 1962 as the cover piece for the Stan Lee issue of Alter Ego (in honor of Stan’s 95th birthday).
CRAIG: There’s some cool Lou Cameron art in Behaving Madly. I consider Cameron an unsung artistic genius and Yoe Books has a book of his incredible horror comics that we’re finishing up. Cameron is as if “Ghastly” Graham Ingles and “Jaunty” Jim Steranko had a love child!
There’s a major book we have coming out soon on the publisher Fiction House that publishes tons of their sexy sci-fi and their jungle adventures with Sheena Queen of the Jungle and her cohorts. That’s by Mitch Maglio. It’s been fun working with zealots like Ger and Mitch—they’ve become good, close friends in the process!
FOG!: What are you currently geeking out over?
GER: I am not so much a geek as a glutton. Currently I am still tripping over Westworld and I am looking forward to Bill Morrison’s new Mad and Craig Yoe’s upcoming Drawing and Life Lessons from Master Cartoonists.
CRAIG: Thanks, Ger! Speaking of gluttons, Stefan you’re a glutton for punishment! You always ask me this question and I always tell you I HATE current pop culture! I haven’t been to a movie in 20 years, I don’t have a TV, I vomit at the mere thought of current music! I don’t have the patience to read books of today. I pathetically only like old, musty comic books! I know, I know, I am to be pitied! Pray for me!