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Crazy #1-7 (Dec. 1953 - July 1954). Riot #1-6 (April 1954 - June 1956). Wild #1-5 (Feb. 1954 - Aug. 1954).
After the style of MAD.
“If I had to pick one single comic book that was the best comic book ever, it would be Kurtzman’s Mad.” — Alan Moore.
In the early 1950′s, one of the biggest comic publishers in America was EC Comic. At its peak, the company published various genre books such as Tales from the Crypt and Two Fisted Tales with A-list cartoonists such as Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder (both of whom would later work for Playboy’s cartooning department), Wally Wood (who would later design the Daredevil costume we see today), John Severin (who would later be a major contributor for Cracked) and Jack Davis (who would later illustrate posters to movies likes It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World) working for them. Horror, western, crime, sci-fi, and war books flooded a market tired of superheroes. At a time when even Superman and Batman were feeling stale, EC’s books were among the most well-written and well-drawn comics of the era, leading the company to great heights. However, a public scandal sparked by psychologist Fredric Wertham over the violent content of many comics (especially EC’s books) led to a comics-censorship board known as the Comics Code Authority and most of EC’s most popular books to be canceled. Only one book remained in Wertham’s wake: Mad.
Debuting in August 1952 (cover date October–November), Mad began as a comic book published by EC. Written almost entirely by Harvey Kurtzman, the first issue featured illustrations by Kurtzman himself, along with Wally Wood, Will Elder, Jack Davis and John Severin. Wood, Elder and Davis were the three main illustrators throughout the 23-issue run of the comic book.
To retain Kurtzman as its editor, the comic book converted to magazine format as of issue #24 (1955). The switchover only induced Kurtzman to remain for one more year, but crucially, the move had removed Mad from the strictures of the Comics Code Authority. After Kurtzman's departure in 1956, new editor Al Feldstein swiftly brought aboard contributors such as Don Martin, Frank Jacobs and Mort Drucker, and later, Antonio Prohías and Dave Berg. The magazine's circulation more than quadrupled during Feldstein's tenure, peaking at 2,132,655 in 1974; it later declined to a third of this figure by the end of his time as editor. When Feldstein retired in 1984, he was replaced by the team of Nick Meglin and John Ficarra, who co-edited Mad for the next two decades. Since Meglin's retirement in 2004, Ficarra has continued to edit the magazine.
Gaines sold his company in the early 1960s to the Kinney Parking Company, which also acquired National Periodicals (aka DC Comics) and Warner Bros. by the end of that decade. Gaines was named a Kinney board member, and was largely permitted to run Mad as he saw fit without corporate interference.
Following Gaines's death, Mad became more ingrained within the Time Warner corporate structure. Eventually, the magazine was obliged to abandon its long-time home at 485 Madison Avenue, and in the mid-1990s it moved into DC Comics' offices at the same time DC relocated to 1700 Broadway. In 2001, the magazine broke its long-standing taboo and began running paid advertising. The outside revenue allowed for the introduction of color printing and improved paper stock.
In its earliest incarnation, new issues of the magazine appeared erratically, between four and seven times a year. By the end of 1958, Mad had settled on an unusual eight-times-a-year schedule, which lasted almost four decades. Gaines felt the atypical timing was necessary to maintain the magazine's level of quality. Mad then began producing additional issues, until it reached a traditional monthly schedule with the January 1997 issue. With its 500th issue (June 2009), amid company-wide cutbacks at Time Warner, the magazine temporarily regressed to a quarterly publication before settling to six issues per year in 2010.
Mad has had many imitators through the years. The three longest-lasting of these were Cracked, Sick, and Crazy Magazine. However, most were short-lived. Some of the early comic book competitors were Nuts!, Get Lost, Whack, Riot, Flip, Eh!, From Here to Insanity, and Madhouse; only the last of these lasted as many as eight issues, and some were canceled after an issue or two. Many of these titles appeared in the mid-to-late 1950s, but as the decades went by, more imitators surfaced and vanished, with titles such as Wild, Blast, Parody, Grin and Gag!
Most of these productions aped the format of Mad right down to choosing a synonym for the word Mad as their title. Many featured a cover mascot along the lines of Alfred E. Neuman. Even EC Comics joined the parade with a sister humor magazine, Panic, produced by future Mad editor Al Feldstein.
In 1967, Marvel Comics produced the first of 13 issues of Not Brand Echh, which parodied their own superhero titles as well as DC's; the series owed its inspiration and format to the original "Mad" comic books of a decade earlier. From 1973 to 1976, DC Comics published Plop! which featured Mad stalwart Sergio Aragonés and frequent cover art by Basil Wolverton, but was less slavish in its Mad mimicry, relying more on one-page gags and horror-based comedy.
Other U.S. humor magazines of note include former Mad editor Harvey Kurtzman's Humbug, Trump and Help!, as well as the National Lampoon, Spy, and The Onion. However, these titles had their own distinct editorial approach, and did not directly imitate Mad. Of all the competition, only the National Lampoon ever threatened Mad 's hegemony as America's top humor magazine, in the early-to-mid-1970s. However, this was also the period of Mad's greatest sales figures. Both magazines peaked in sales at the same time. The Lampoon topped one million sales once, for a single issue in 1974. Mad crossed the two-million mark with an average 1973 circulation of 2,059,236, then improved to 2,132,655 in 1974.Gaines reportedly kept in his office a voodoo doll into which he would stick pins labeled with each imitation of his magazine, removing a pin only when the copycat had ceased publishing. At the time of Gaines' death in 1992, only the pin for Cracked remained.