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The Sincerest Form of Parody: The Best 1950s Mad Inspired Satirical Comics

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When MAD became a surprise hit as a comic book in 1953 (after the early issues lost money!) other comics publishers were quick to jump onto the bandwagon, eventually bringing out a dozen imitations with titles like FLIP, WHACK, NUTS, CRAZY, WILD, RIOT, EH, UNSANE, BUGHOUSE, and GET LOST. The Sincerest Form of Parody collects the best and the funniest material from these co When MAD became a surprise hit as a comic book in 1953 (after the early issues lost money!) other comics publishers were quick to jump onto the bandwagon, eventually bringing out a dozen imitations with titles like FLIP, WHACK, NUTS, CRAZY, WILD, RIOT, EH, UNSANE, BUGHOUSE, and GET LOST. The Sincerest Form of Parody collects the best and the funniest material from these comics, including parodies of movies (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, From Here To Eternity), TV shows (What’s My Line, The Late Show), comic strips (Little Orphan Annie, Rex Morgan), novels (I, the Jury), plays (Come Back, Little Sheba), advertisements (Rheingold Beer, Charles Atlas), classic literature (“The Lady or the Tiger”), and history (Pancho Villa). Some didn’t even try for parody, but instead published odd, goofy, off-the-wall stories. These earnest copiers of MAD realized that Will Elder’s cluttered “chicken fat” art was a good part of MAD’s success, and these pages are densely packed with all sorts of outlandish and bizarre gags that make for hours of amusing reading. The “parody comics” are uniquely “’50s,” catching the popular culture zeitgeist through a dual lens: not only reflecting fifties culture through parody but also being themselves typical examples of that culture (in a way that Harvey Kurtzman’s MAD was not). This unprecedented volume collects over 30 of the best of these crazy, undisciplined stories, all reprinted from the original comics in full color. Editor John Benson (who wrote the annotations for the first complete MAD reprints, and interviewed MAD editor Harvey Kurtzman in depth several times over the years) also provides expert, profusely illustrated commentary and background, including comparisons of how different companies parodied the same subject. Artists represented include Jack Davis, Will Elder, Norman Maurer, Carl Hubbell, William Overgard, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, Bill Everett, Al Hartley, Ross Andru Mike Esposito, Hy Fleischman, Jay Disbrow, Howard Nostrand, and Bob Powell. Casual comics readers are probably familiar with the later satirical magazines that continued to be published in the ’60s and ’70s, such as Cracked and Sick, but the comics collected in this volume were imitations of the MAD comic book, not the magazine, and virtually unknown among all but the most die-hard collectors. For the first time, Fantagraphics is collecting the best of these comics in a single, outrageously funny volume.


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When MAD became a surprise hit as a comic book in 1953 (after the early issues lost money!) other comics publishers were quick to jump onto the bandwagon, eventually bringing out a dozen imitations with titles like FLIP, WHACK, NUTS, CRAZY, WILD, RIOT, EH, UNSANE, BUGHOUSE, and GET LOST. The Sincerest Form of Parody collects the best and the funniest material from these co When MAD became a surprise hit as a comic book in 1953 (after the early issues lost money!) other comics publishers were quick to jump onto the bandwagon, eventually bringing out a dozen imitations with titles like FLIP, WHACK, NUTS, CRAZY, WILD, RIOT, EH, UNSANE, BUGHOUSE, and GET LOST. The Sincerest Form of Parody collects the best and the funniest material from these comics, including parodies of movies (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, From Here To Eternity), TV shows (What’s My Line, The Late Show), comic strips (Little Orphan Annie, Rex Morgan), novels (I, the Jury), plays (Come Back, Little Sheba), advertisements (Rheingold Beer, Charles Atlas), classic literature (“The Lady or the Tiger”), and history (Pancho Villa). Some didn’t even try for parody, but instead published odd, goofy, off-the-wall stories. These earnest copiers of MAD realized that Will Elder’s cluttered “chicken fat” art was a good part of MAD’s success, and these pages are densely packed with all sorts of outlandish and bizarre gags that make for hours of amusing reading. The “parody comics” are uniquely “’50s,” catching the popular culture zeitgeist through a dual lens: not only reflecting fifties culture through parody but also being themselves typical examples of that culture (in a way that Harvey Kurtzman’s MAD was not). This unprecedented volume collects over 30 of the best of these crazy, undisciplined stories, all reprinted from the original comics in full color. Editor John Benson (who wrote the annotations for the first complete MAD reprints, and interviewed MAD editor Harvey Kurtzman in depth several times over the years) also provides expert, profusely illustrated commentary and background, including comparisons of how different companies parodied the same subject. Artists represented include Jack Davis, Will Elder, Norman Maurer, Carl Hubbell, William Overgard, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, Bill Everett, Al Hartley, Ross Andru Mike Esposito, Hy Fleischman, Jay Disbrow, Howard Nostrand, and Bob Powell. Casual comics readers are probably familiar with the later satirical magazines that continued to be published in the ’60s and ’70s, such as Cracked and Sick, but the comics collected in this volume were imitations of the MAD comic book, not the magazine, and virtually unknown among all but the most die-hard collectors. For the first time, Fantagraphics is collecting the best of these comics in a single, outrageously funny volume.

30 review for The Sincerest Form of Parody: The Best 1950s Mad Inspired Satirical Comics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Terence

    As I've discovered reading similar collections over the last few months, a lot of the satire here doesn't age well, but it is interesting to see some of the media that drove the government to censor comics in the '50s (most of the collected stories come from 1954-55, just prior to promulgation of the comic codes). Mad magazine came out in 1952 (as a comic) and was immediately followed by a slew of imitators with titles like Panic, Whack, Eh!, Get Lost and Nuts. The imitations were short lived bot As I've discovered reading similar collections over the last few months, a lot of the satire here doesn't age well, but it is interesting to see some of the media that drove the government to censor comics in the '50s (most of the collected stories come from 1954-55, just prior to promulgation of the comic codes). Mad magazine came out in 1952 (as a comic) and was immediately followed by a slew of imitators with titles like Panic, Whack, Eh!, Get Lost and Nuts. The imitations were short lived both because of the aforementioned censorship and because they didn't understand what was making Mad so popular (at its height, 2 million+ subscribers). The best part of the book is the essay, "Notes," at the end, where Benson makes the point that Mad survived and flourished because it was "smart." It appealed - like Pogo and Li'l Abner - to adult readers and found an audience beyond 11-13-year-old boys.

  2. 4 out of 5

    JJ

    A marvelous collection. While some of the writing and art isn't as well done as Mad magazine, much of it is excellent. The historical material at the end of the book discussing Mad and its imitators is fascinating. Lots of Bill Elder-inspired "chicken fat" gags cram many of the panels in many of the stories, making for hours of pleasure studying the artwork in detail.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    When "MAD" first hit the stands in the early 1950s it was an all color comic book published by EC comics. It quickly gained a following and a host of copycats soon followed. While these imitators rarely achieved what MAD had accomplished, and all of them died out pretty quickly, some of the stories managed to effectively satire the pop culture of the day. The illustration is quite good; reminiscent of EC horror comics as well as the original MAD. The main drawback is that they are satires of books When "MAD" first hit the stands in the early 1950s it was an all color comic book published by EC comics. It quickly gained a following and a host of copycats soon followed. While these imitators rarely achieved what MAD had accomplished, and all of them died out pretty quickly, some of the stories managed to effectively satire the pop culture of the day. The illustration is quite good; reminiscent of EC horror comics as well as the original MAD. The main drawback is that they are satires of books, film, television and radio programs of the time so many of the references are lost to the modern reader. Still, as a bit of pop-culture history, it's worth a look.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michael P.

    The success of the MAD comic book, later MAD magazine, motivated a dozen rival publishers to create their own versions. This book purports to reprint the best of these stores. The problem is that few are very good and most are rather bad. This book is two stars for the reprints, but the commentary by John Benson is so well researched and the marshaling of the facts with the research so smartly done that Benson elevates the book into something rather better. Too bad he could not improve the storie The success of the MAD comic book, later MAD magazine, motivated a dozen rival publishers to create their own versions. This book purports to reprint the best of these stores. The problem is that few are very good and most are rather bad. This book is two stars for the reprints, but the commentary by John Benson is so well researched and the marshaling of the facts with the research so smartly done that Benson elevates the book into something rather better. Too bad he could not improve the stories.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    If I actually read this all the way through, I would hate it. The dated, 1950s humor is not for me. But what I do love is the art. Its humor, so it was expected that everything be drawn in a clean, cartoony style. Lots of exaggerated expressions and thick lines make this is great idea book for anyone into cartoon art or animation.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Philip

    The stories collected here may be the best from the 50s imitations of "Mad", but I wasn't terribly impressed. I'd have given this only two stars if it weren't for the historical interest.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    This exhibits examples of comics that arose with the success of Mad in the 1950s. Parody has its place.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kenny

    Waxing very nostalgic.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bob Ro

  10. 5 out of 5

    Max Mclaughlin

  11. 4 out of 5

    K.j. Muldoon

  12. 4 out of 5

    David Neitzke

  13. 4 out of 5

    clumped

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karen Creighton

  15. 5 out of 5

    Joe Lindner

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dave

  17. 5 out of 5

    Will M

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ike Rakiecki

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  21. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

  22. 5 out of 5

    Roy Oki Yamanaka

  23. 5 out of 5

    Victor

  24. 4 out of 5

    John Moran

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dano

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jefferson Workman

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mike McPadden

  28. 4 out of 5

    Robyn S.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Thommy

  30. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Calaman

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