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Thursday, October 18, 2007

When I am frustrated, I get MAD ...

From my collection, I mean. Especially one of the old copies from way back when MAD was not a magazine (it became one in 1956, my final year of school) but a good old 10¢ Comic Book. (See if you can find out what a US $ was worth in Pak Rupees then.)

MAD started at the time when that giant of delightful insanity, reponsible more than anyone else for the success of the comics industry - William M Gaines, Jr. - was in charge of Entertaining Comics, notorious for its crime and horror publications that angered many. It was believed (and especially by Gaines) that the Comics Code was aimed, underhandedly, at his publications.

Harvey Kurtzman and, later, Al Feldstein spearheaded MAD, which now boasts a 3-generation old continuing readership. Kurtzman, who - along with the underground artist, Robert Crumb - was one of my great idols, launched a lot of other very interesting and hilarious ventures after leaving MAD. These included the short-lived Help! magazine which, long before the creation of Monty Python, provided a platform for John Cleese and Terry Gilliam.

MAD had, by far, the most amazing cartoonists and illustraters of the time,among them Will Elder, Don Martin, Antonio Prohias, Dave Berg, Al Jafee, Sergio Aragonés, and Mort Drucker. If you are an illustrater or a comics fan, look them up! Primarily a drawing-based publication, MAD's writers, too, were brilliant and far ahead of anything that has existed in the USA since ... with the exception of National Lampoon & The Onion, both of which, I suspect, owe a lot to MAD.

The ultimate example of MAD writers' wit that I can give is that they managed to spoof Ogden Nash. No mean feat, as anyone who has read Nash will tell you. It's like trying to make a slapstick parody of Charlie Chaplin. I mean, what more can you do to the grandmasters of the genres?

Here - if you'll pardon the digression - are a few of examples for those who, unfortunately, missed out on Nash. His rhymes were not merely funny, they were exceedingly clever and contained side-splitting twists and modified spellings that were sure to make you roar. And his lines spoofed the very blank verse in which he wrote his poems in ways that I have rarely seen done elsewhere.

(Urdu readers: The two blank verse pieces - Billiaañ and Kharraatay -by
Shafiqur Rahman are just as good, as is the two-liner on the Camel by S M Jafri. More about them, in another post, some day. I will be quoting them on the Humourous Urdu Verse evening at T2F, soon.)

Haañ ... to Nash ki baat ho rahee thee. From the stark simplicity of
A bit of talcum
Is always walcum
to the twisted complexity of
What would you do if you were up a dark alley with Caesar Borgia
And he was coming torgia...
and back, again, to the simplicity of 7 words, spread over 4 lines, in a poem titled
Breaking the Ice

Is dandy

But liquor

Is quicker
Nash was the king of mad versification ... and MAD spoofed him, in a poem with a wonderfully Ogdenian title:
A Poem That Doesn't Do Anything But Rhyme ... One Time!

Abraham Lincoln really backed himself into a corner for if you begin a speech with "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal...",

What do you do for a sequal?


Ok ... Ok ... so what has all this got to do with the my frustration at being locked indoors - as must be a zillion others trying desperately to get to where they need to be (home, workplace, emergency ward)? For those abroad and oblivious to why we are locked in, Ms Benazir Bhutto, has arrived and is now taking the [projected] 18-hour ride from the Airport to Bilawal House (usually a 30-minute route) - a ride that is fraught with dangers for her and the city. Even the president has acknowledged the danger by advising caution - after his initial request to delay her arrival was turned down.

So, as I said, umpteen lines ago, I often fight my frustrations with reading old issues of MAD. Today I went through loads of them to relish my favourite Harvey Kurtzman covers and came across one that I just had to modify! The original classic can be seen at Wikipedia's Kurtzman entry.

Here's mine (you can see a larger version if you click on it):

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Blogger Quizman said...

This is a masterpiece!

From a long-time MAD fan.

19 October, 2007 01:55

Blogger sabizak said...

How eerily prophetic, that MAD cover you modified.

I too really enjoyed MAD as a rather young child sneaking them out of my brother's shelves and reading a few of their regulars that I understood and enjoyed. But its been a long time since Alfred E. Neuman has disappeared from my life. This post makes me think I need to remake that acquaintance.

By the way I thought that MAD spoof was way funnier than the Nash originals.

19 October, 2007 03:28

Blogger Maleeha said...

i'm sitting in a computer lab, recalling fond memories of hours spent poring over MAD publications, idly clicking on the image in your blog post without looking at it first, and WHAM! there she is. there they all are. even the kahuta labs. this is all perfect! esp the sneaky little guy with the stripes ;) this one deserves to be printed out and pasted / circulated!

oh...the wonderful memories of MAD. Like Sabizak, i've allowed Alfred E. Neuman to disappear from my life. I must have read this one publication of theirs, 'snappy answers to stupid questions' at least a hundred times.

i'm hoping this marks the beginning of a new MAD improvs era (not to say the '??? for dummies' was any less funny).

19 October, 2007 09:14

Blogger Zakintosh said...

William M. Gaines was a truly amazing guy. It's difficult to really explain what he meant to many of us who were/are anti-establishment.

A docummentary film that I'd very strongly recommend is "Comic Book Confidential" - I am sure it's lurking around on the 'Net somewhere, like the annotated transcript of Gaines's Memorial Service that offers glimpses of the MADman.


BTW, does anyone remember or know of our own Pir Janglee Sharif Alaeh ma' Alaeh, seemingly inspired by Gaines - complete with flowing beard - who once published an Urdu magazine, Chaand, that was part-MAD and part-PUNCH? Can anyone in Lahore help me trace him or someone connected to him? I am looking to document that publication and would love to see a selection of the best from it published soon.


Thank you, Sabizak & Maleeha, for mentioning Alfred E. Neuman, the subject of my new work, titled "Yes, I worry!", commissioned in stained glass for The Church of the Burning Bush. Here's a preview

19 October, 2007 11:35

Blogger Maleeha said...

oh my.

(this extremely eloquent response is to the preview of 'yes, i worry'.)

20 October, 2007 08:20

Blogger sabizak said...

This post has been removed by the author.

20 October, 2007 20:54

Blogger sabizak said...

Another coincidence is that I learnt just two weeks ago who Max Gaines is. I was looking for a Comprehension to give my students that would subtly broach the subject of stereotyping and confining women to certain roles in society and I came upon this one about Max Gaines polygraph experiments and his subsequent creation of Wonder Woman. His name got ingrained in my memory after I checked around 40 papers with answers on that passage in English that would give Mr. Sajwani a run for his money.
Just a few days later I run into him on your blog and find out that he is one of your heroes. What a 'coincidental' world.

20 October, 2007 20:57

Blogger kinkminos said...

growing up in karachi in the 70s i had (very) limited access to copies of mad (i can't remember if that was cos i couldn't afford them or cos they just weren't available at book shops); random issues discovered at the homes of friends and relatives and associates would be devoured, and the few copies i myself owned were read and re-read ad infinitum; which last phrase reminds me that the first time i came across the phrase "ad nauseum" was in mad.

my favorites were aragones, al jafee, mort drucker and of course the sublime humour of mad's maddest artist, the absolutely brilliant don martin.

over the past year or so i've bought the odd current copy of the magazine, but somehow it just doesn't seem as funny as i remember. obviously many of the great artists aren't around any more -- though sergio aragones is still visible and the dark lord in the hairy potty spoof is called druckermort; i've introduced my teenage kids to mad and they are warming to it.

what i liked best about mad was the fact that the ususal gang of idiots spoofed EVERYBODY, themselves most of all. i remember reading a copy or two of those furshlugginer rivals CRACKED and CRAZY. phooey. apart from being not entirely original, they seemed to take themselves so seriously.

if i had to describe my attitude towards life in one and only one word, that word would be irreverent. and this is due, in some part at least, to having had read mad magazine as a youth.

i think the current "political" situation in pakistan would make a classic mad piece, without the need for anything at all to be spoofed up.

24 October, 2007 12:03

Blogger Zakintosh said...

@Kinkminos: Maria Reidelbcch's "Completely Mad" is a wonderful history of the publication. No real MAD fan can be without it. Rush! (Don't say: What, me hurry?)

@others: Less of a fan than Kinkminos, who brought back a rush of memories with his use of all those MAD words? (Who in hell, other than Kurtzman, could have come up with Potrzebie?) ... Wikipedia has a lot of decent - and free :-) - entries to all connected people and things that's quite comprehensive.

24 October, 2007 12:33

Blogger kinkminos said...

unfortunately my slogan since birth has been (in effect) "what, me hurry?" except now i have a pithy description of my laziness.
thank you.

p.s. will definitely look out for la reidelbach's tome.

28 October, 2007 00:10


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