Ending a suspenseful watch that lasted a few months, the white smoke has finally risen from DC Entertainment, signaling the election of a new pope of humor: Bill Morrison will be the new executive editor of Mad Magazine when it moves westward later this year. Morrison will report directly to Hank Kanalz SVP, Editorial Strategy & Administration, and hire a complete MAD editorial and creative team for both MAD magazine and MAD books, as well as manage the development and implementation of the annual publishing schedule.
Former EE and humor legend John Ficarra and his Erebor-like staff of greybeards will remain on board until the end of the year to ensure a consistent flow of laughs while Mad readies for the final journey to the West.
The fate of MAD had been on tenterhooks ever since DC’s move to California from its former New York home was announced a few years ago. The entire Mad staff threatened to quit en masse if they had to move, and DC Entertainment head Diane Nelson had no choice but to leave them in place, even though special Mad-themed offices had been prepared for them in the new DC digs in Burbank.
However the very senior staff at Mad could only hold off for so long, and earlier in the year it was announced that they would be moving to Burbank as well. But who would run the magazine and who could possibly manage this institution? Well, every irreplaceable person seems irreplaceable until you find someone who will do the job differently but as well, and so it is with Morrison, an animation and comic veteran who has worked with the Bongo Comics line of Simpson Comics and many other hilarious things for years. He’s a great cartoonist himself and knows the score up and down and inside out.
Before we get into the PR full of quotes on how happy everyone is, a word of Mad itself, one of the most legendary comics of all time, and one of DC’s steadiest sellers back in the day. Although it is far from alone in the humor category, and its said that John Oliver and Samantha Bee may have supplanted it as a source of topical humor, on the occasions when I had reason to look at it, it was still pretty funny, in a timeless, dad way, to be sure, but the current political foibles give ample opportunity for everyone to dig in. And their line of books, culling both classic and current humor, has struck a funny bone with readers, it seems.
Morrison’s strong ties to all levels of the comics and entertainment biz ensure that the legend will continues, in The Beat’s opinion.
“The passion and hard work from our MAD colleagues in New York has been instrumental in preserving the enduring legacy of MAD magazine, and for that we are extremely grateful,” said Diane Nelson, President of DC Entertainment and President of Warner Bros. Consumer Products. “I’d especially like to thank John Ficarra and his team for the countless laughs and their unwavering commitment to the company, as well for remaining onboard during the transition of the MAD operations to the west coast. I have the utmost confidence that Bill, together with the editorial team in Burbank, will continue MAD’s legacy of humor and subversion as only MAD can.”
“We’re excited to have Bill on board as part of the MAD editorial family,” said Kanalz. “His pedigree as an editor, writer and artist make him the ideal person to lead the Usual Gang of Idiots out west. The bar has been set pretty high, but we have confidence that the team will find stools tall enough.”Along with The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, Morrison co-founded Bongo Comics Group and was their creative director from 1993 to 2012. He drew the very first Simpsons comic book, SIMPSONS COMICS #1, which earned him his Eisner award and currently serves as president of the National Cartoonists Society.“Joining up with the crew at MAD is thrilling, exciting and an incredible responsibility,” said Morrison. “I don’t know anyone who loves and respects MAD as much as I do. I’ll definitely have my work cut out for me, but I’m dedicated to upholding the high standards of absurd and irreverent humor that the public has come to expect from MAD. I’ve been asked if I will continue to include artist Al Jaffee in the magazine; as soon as I find out who he is, I’ll let everyone know.”
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.