Updated July 3, 2019 to reflect the sad news that MAD Magazine will stop publishing after nearly 70 years.
Like a lot of 70s kids, I grew up with MAD Magazine and it had a big influence on me. I still own all my tattered, and sometimes coverless, issues from that period, up to whenever it was there stopped being newsstands to impulse buy one from. Not only was my sense of humor and irreverence affected by the “usual gang of idiots” but as a cartoonist, the way I approach the medium has the DNA of MAD all up in that.
A few cartoons I’ve done for Mountain Xpress have been tributes to various MAD artists, from Don Martin, Antonio Prohias, Sergio Aragones, and Paul Coker Jr., to the first MAD man himself, Harvey Kurtzman. Even when I wasn’t attempting a blatant ripoff, I mean “homage” to the artist’s style, I can’t help but find myself being influenced by years of enjoying work from people like George Woodbridge or Wally Wood or Bill Elder.
In the early 90s, when I went from doing boring commercial art in ad agencies to full-time starving doing interesting freelance, I submitted some cartoons and ideas to my beloved MAD, sure I would get the same nice rejection letters I got from cartoon syndicates I sent my attempt at a comic strip to earlier.
To my delighted surprise, they actually were interested in my submission and subsequently bought it! When issue #321 came out, there I was: Writer: Brent Brown. Oh, they had another artist re-draw my cartoons. So I am still not a MAD cartoonist, just a writer. Oh well, I would still forever be linked to my MAD muse in the history of contributors!
Undaunted, I sent in more submissions and they were considered, but ultimately rejected for one reason or another. I did enjoy the snarky repartee we had in those pre-email days with making fun of each others locations in Noo Yawk and Naw Kerlina:
A few years later, I applied for, and was summarily rejected from, membership in the National Cartoonist Society (when I found out they existed and contained so many great cartoonists that I would have loved to have met during their yearly conventions, held in various parts of the country). One of these annual meetings in particular was going to be quite close to home. RIght here in Asheville, NC at the Grove Park Inn! Since I was not a member, I couldn’t go to the convention or the main event, the Reuben awards, not as an attendee anyway, but having such luminaries so close was too tempting. I had to figure out some kind of plan to worm my way in amongst my heroes that were going to be practically in my back yard.
As far as MAD goes. The last correspondence I got from the MAD editors was in 1994, asking for more submissions for their “potpourri page” but I never got around to coming up with any ideas to send in and I never did.
Just this week, however, I’ve received in the mail, my first issue of MAD in years (from a subscription deal I found online and decided to see what’s been going on) and I see I can now download the whole issue on my iPad as well (with interactive all kinds of stuff). Seeing the many new contributors that make up this modern MAD makes me wonder why I had not sent in any more submissions in after their last request, and at this point, I can’t remember, but time must just have gotten away from me, and other projects came up and I probably also just ran dry regarding new and different ideas that they had not done similar things about before.
However, as I see the modern day MAD, where they are apparently still looking for and accepting such stuff (even more than they used to, it would seem) I’m thinking it’s not too late to try again. I wonder if they accept digital submissions though, as I haven’t had any letterhead since the Clinton administration.
The news that the corporate suits that took over MAD have finally decided that, after many years of cutting costs one way or another, they are finally closing the doors on this institution has made this old post relevant again. Rather than write a new obituary, I’m just going to add on to this still-relevant love letter. Having lost two best friends this week, I find this news particularly devastating. At least I now know why my great work submitted to them was routinely ignored: they had no plans to continue this legendary publication into the unknown future of free online content and fractured fan bases that doesn’t seem able to make a dinosaur like a monthly print satire publication a fiscally feasible possibility.
Rest in Peace MAD, I still have my subscription pre-paid up to February 2022, so I will see you until then.