Hard to believe, but it's been 70 years since MAD first appeared on the newsstands and began joyfully corrupting the minds of our nation's youth. One of the old EC line, MAD began as a comic book founded by the great Harvey Kurtzman and publisher William C. Gaines, remaining in comic book format for 23 issues before expanding to a magazine format. Over the years there has been no cow too sacred for the usual gang of idiots to skewer. There is an argument to be made that MAD was instrumental in producing a generation that dared to question everything, bringing about the major sociologic and cultural changes of the Sixties and beyond, but that stance just obscures the basic point that the magazine was funny and that biting satire had enthralled a new generation.
Before there was Alfred E. Neuman (who, with his "What, me worry?" catchphrase, debuted in November 1954), there was Melvin. Melvin, alas, did not have staying power. The first issue of MAD was written by Kurtzman and illustrated by such legends as Wally Wood, Will Elder, Jack Davis, and John Severin. This first issue parodied "the old dark house" tale of terror, the dystopian science fictional future, the tough gangster crime story, and the "quiet, clean-cut stranger going into a tough, lawless town" western. Funny stuff, well-drawn, but lacking the laser-sharp satirical focus soon to come. The eventual switch to a magazine was not made to avoid the Comics Code Authority (a self-governing board established in 1954 as a knee-jerk reaction to Dr. Frederick Wertham's "great comic book scare," as promulgated in his book Seduction of the Innocent), but because of the switch MAD did manage to avoid the Authority's strictures.
After 550 issues, scores of "Specials," paperback compilations, and original paperback titles, the magazine died in 2018. This date can be disputed because the magazine was "rebooted" on a subscription-only basis, but this attempt was weak tea. The magic had gone. The magazine was dead. What we are left with are golden memories. Like Bob and Ray, Stan Freberg, Ernie Kovacs and a few others from that time, MAD made a generation grow up and question everything, doing it all with a mile. Sic transit gloria Neuman.
Here's the first issue: