Thursday, July 11, 2019

No Longer MAD

Maybe it's time to worry?

After 67 years in publication, MAD Magazine will cease production of new content.  Publisher DC Comics has announced the magazine will halt the production of new content following issue #10 this fall, apart from its annual Holiday Special.  The magazine instead will switch to rereleasing previously created content.

So MAD Magazine will still exist on the stands, but it will no longer be commenting on American life.  That's hard to believe given its long history in the skewering of politics and pop-culture.  It was many kids introduction to satire.

MAD began life as a comic book published by EC Comics, debuting in August 1952. Three years later it switched to a full magazine format and through its life, it has served as home to some of the finest cartoonists comic writers and artists.  Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Wood, Will Elder, Jack Davis, John Severin, Sergio Aragones.  

It filled the gap in political satire in the 1950s to 1970s.  Always pushing the boundaries of the sensors, continually parodying American culture.  No topic was sacred.  Advertising campaigns, the nuclear family, big business, education, publishing, the sexual revolution, hippies, pollution, the Vietnam war, counterculture, cannabis and LSD, tobacco, and alcohol.  Democrat and Republican alike.  

To many, it provided a vital education in satire and humor.  “Plenty of it went a little overly head of course, but that’s part of what made it attractive and valuable.  Things that go over your head can make you raise your head a little higher.  The magazine instilled in me a habit of mind, a way of thinking about a world rife with false fronts, small print, deceptive ads, booby traps, treacherous language, double standards, half truths, subliminal pitches and product placements; it warned me that I was often merely the target of people who claimed to be my friend; it prompted me to mistrust authority, to read between the lines, to take nothing at face value, to see patterns in the shoddy construction of movies and TV shows; and it got me to think critically in a way that few actual humans charged with my care ever bothered to.”  Robert Boyd, the Los Angeles Times in 2007.

Particularly missed will  be new Spy v Spy entries and the Mad Fold-In.  The Mad Fold-In  has been in the back cover of virtually every MAD magazine since 1964.  All written and drawn by Al Jaffee, who is 98 and will still be contributing up to the last issue.

I've seen some responses online that amount to "television shows are cancelled all the time and no one says television is dying."   Trying to downplay the death of print.  But we very clearly see that periodical print is on decline.  Newspapers are struggling.  Magazines are struggling.  Comics are down to a pittance of a readership compared to their cultural reach.  

And when an icon of 64 years shutters new content.  It's easy to understand the concern.  The content was still relevant and biting satire.   It just wasn't finding the audience.  

It also seems to be a victim of the DC Comics restructuring following the AT&T and Warner Brothers/TimeWarner merger.  First Vertigo and its 20 years of more literate comics.  Now MAD.  It seems any imprint that is not labeled DC is going away.  I wonder if the writing is on the wall for them too.  After all, DC's success in film has not quiet panned out the way they might have hoped.

But instead of pondering what could happen in the future, instead of giving into the sentiment at the top that it might be time to worry, I think it's time to focus instead on the words of the immortalized Alfred E. Neuman - 

"What, me worry?"

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