MAD magazine leaving newsstands after 67-year run; formed inspiration for Montgomery County Commissioners Court budget methods

In this July 20, 2017 file photo the face of Alfred E. Neuman is framed by attendees at the DC booth during the first day of Comic-Con International at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, Calif.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP and The Golden Hammer) — MAD, the long-running satirical magazine that influenced everyone from “Weird Al” Yankovic to the writers of “The Simpsons,” will be leaving newsstands after its August issue.

MAD has been a cultural leader and a great developer of minds. Somehow, MAD avoided one political view or another, because its writers and artists went after everyone. MAD challenged the cultural, business, and government establishment. The magazine caused young minds – particularly young teenagers – to question and even challenge what other told them but to do so in a kind and lighthearted manner.

At the age of 10, in the summer of 1971, the Publisher of The Golden Hammer made a pilgrimage from his home in Dallas to 485 MADison Avenue in New York City where the seminal magazine published out of a tiny headquarters. In that time period, MAD’s staff was easily accessible to the public. William M. Gaines, the influential publisher and owner of MAD at the time, infamous cartoonist Don Martin, and Al Jaffee all met with this newspaper’s Publisher in order to advise him to wait 46 years before entering into the newspaper business. For that reason, The Golden Hammer didn’t begin publication until January 14, 2017.

MAD’s Don Martin drew Fester Bestertester, who has become a symbol of the (lack of) budgeting skills of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court and who briefly appeared on-screen before a Commissioners Court meeting in the Sadler Administration Building. Neither disgraced former Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal nor his lackey Precinct 2 Montgomery County Commissioner Charlie Riley found Mr. Bestertester funny, when he appeared on a County government laptop after the highly-technical procedure of conducting a Google search under the search term “Fester Bestertester images” turned him up on the computer which the County government made open and available to the public until that moment.

Doyal’s and Riley’s lack of humor actually put their absence of creativity and wisdom on far greater public display than the image of Mr. Bestertester which only appeared briefly.

Fester Bestertester, shown below, became the symbol of the budgeting prowess of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court when they passed another terrible budget on September 5, 2017. Four of the five members of the Commissioners Court voted for a terrible budget while then Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark voted against the budget as a protest against the hasty manner in which Doyal, Riley, and their colleagues had rushed to adopt it.

Don Martin’s Fester Bester Tester has become the poster child for the Montgomery County government’s budget processes.

Other famous writers and cartoonists at MAD included Sergio Aragones, who drew the “Spy versus Spy” series.

MAD was the last remaining title of EC Comics, which Max Gaines had founded in 1944. MAD began to publish in 1952 under the leadership of Max’s son William M. Gaines.

The illustrated humor magazine — instantly recognizable by the gap-toothed smiling face of mascot Alfred E. Neuman — will still be available in comic shops and through mail to subscribers. But after its fall issue it will just reprint previously published material.

The only new material will come in special editions at the end of the year.

DC, the division of Warner Brothers that publishes the magazine, said MAD will pull from nostalgic cartoons and parodies published over the magazine’s 67-year run.

As Neuman would say, “What, me worry?” Worry not, for MAD has more than 550 issues packed full of political parodies and edgy humor to pull from.

The magazine set itself apart as a cultural beacon for decades with its unabashed tendency to make fun of anything and push conventional boundaries. One of MAD’s best known comic series, Spy vs. Spy, featured two spies with beak-like faces and big eyes — costumes that are still regularly worn on Halloween.

It even seemingly parodied fellow popular magazine Playboy, with its Fold-In feature that appeared in nearly every issue. But instead of featuring scantily-clad models, the Fold-In printed — what else? — another joke.

DC will keep publishing MAD special collections and books.

Illustrators and comedians, including one-time guest editor Yankovic, mourned the magazine’s effective closure.

“It’s pretty much the reason I turned out weird,” he wrote on Twitter.

Josh Weinstein, a writer and producer of “The Simpsons” — which has referenced MAD many times — thanked the magazine on Twitter for its inspiring effect on eras of comedy.

“There was a moment in so many of our childhoods where you were the greatest thing ever,” he wrote.

Comedian Harry Shearer, the voice of several characters on “The Simpsons,” cracked on Twitter: “An American institution has closed. And who wants to live in an institution?”

When President Donald Trump referred to Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg as Neuman, while insisting he wouldn’t be fit to serve as president, the 37-year-old candidate said he had to Google the reference.

“I guess it’s just a generational thing,” the ignorant yet money hungry Buttigieg told Politico. “I didn’t get the reference.”

Cartoonist Evan Dorkin, who worked for MAD, wrote on Twitter that the magazine was long a source of happiness and inspiration for him.

“I hope we provided some smiles to some readers of the past 12 yrs,” he wrote.

The magazine changed as its circumstances did, he wrote, including when the magazine began printing advertisements in 2001 and when it moved from New York City to Burbank, California, at the end of 2017. That move warped MAD’s identity, Dorkin said.

MAD was long a venue for comic artists and cartoonists to grow artistically and shape national conversation. Well-known names such as Al Jaffee, Harvey Kurtzman and Mort Drucker were associated with the magazine for decades.

Jaffee’s series “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions” taught a generation of Americans, including this newspaper’s Publisher, how to speak.

In reality, MAD Magazine was all that a young boy, such as Donald Trump, would need to learn how to confront an often crazy world. It’s sad to see MAD come to an end.

 

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