July 4, 2019
When I was a kid in Perth, I was exposed to a huge stack of classic MAD Magazines my friend Ben’s dad had collected over the years. That discovery began my lifelong obsession with MAD. (My parents will never forgive them.)
I remember Ben and I poring over those pages for hours. I meticulously studied the Mort Drucker parodies- the compositions, the hands, (those HANDS), trying to guess the Al Jaffee fold-ins, reading and re-reading the mag for the extra chicken fat in the backgrounds, for Don Martin’s innovative onomatopoeia like Fweep! and Sproing! It introduced me to the work of -among dozens of others- my favourite cartoonist- Sergio Aragones.
MAD shaped who I became as a cartoonist, as a comedian and as a deranged man-child of a human today.
I’m endlessly grateful for having got to spend so much time with the Usual Gang of Idiots these last 5 years, to call them friends and finally, in a surreal twist, colleagues.
Being published in MAD was a massive life-long dream, and I’m grateful to have been part of it before the door slowly swung shut. Thank you to Bill Morrison for giving me the opportunity. I’ll never forget that.
As Tom Richmond reports in his excellent, definitive blog post on the event:
Despite all the signs, I actually had a lot of optimism that the new MAD had a chance. First, their choice of hiring Bill Morrison as Executive Editor/VP was inspired. Bill was a guy who knew humor, who had a deep affinity and knowledge of what made MAD “MAD”, was very smart, savvy, and plugged in to the greater world of comedy, and was a terrific artist in his own right. He put together a young and hip staff of editors and really took MAD into the 21st century, especially with social media.
Then they fired him in January of this year. We all knew it was over then… just a matter of time for the rest of it to catch up.
What’s sad is that MAD was actually having a mini-creative renaissance under Bill. Their cover for issue #4 won a Rondo Hatton award for horror genre art. The feature ‘The Ghasilygun Tinies” in that same issue, written by Matt Cohen and drawn by Marc Palm, received a major amount of national attention and is nominated for an Eisner Award. The magazine itself is nominated for an Eisner for best Humor Publication this year. Several high profile comedians contributed articles for the magazine. But critical success is meaningless. The bottom line is all that matters. Ironically circulation has increased but obviously not to the point that the numbers worked.
Then they fired Bill. Did I already say that? It bears repeating.
In a morbidly bad year for cartooning opportunities, when we’ve seen a slew of unjust cartoonist firings, the end of The New York Times daily editorial cartoons and now, the greatest comics/cartoon magazine in history, it’s hard not to feel the overwhelming weight of this gravitational shift in the industry.
Yes, it’s an opportunity and a new era for cartoons to find a home in other mediums, but it is important to recognise the gravity of this moment.