A mere month after DC Comics shuttered its Vertigo imprint after 25 years, its even longer-running name-brand satire comic magazine Mad Magazine is following suit… or at least it won’t be the same magazine that has been published in some form or other for the past 67 years.
This according to rumors that cropped up overnight just as most places were shutting down shop for the 4th of July, leading to an outcry of tributes, most notably from cartoonist Evan Dorkin. The news was then confirmed a few hours later by The Hollywood Reporter, effectively ending an era.
According to the THR story, Issue 9 of Mad will be the last one sold on newsstands, as it will only be available through comic shops and to subscribers after that. Issue 10 will be the last issue featuring new content, as it will instead switch to previously published content and some of the magazine’s best material from the past 67 years with brand-new covers. There will still be an annual year-end special with all-new material.
This story broke slowly with a rumor about Mad Magazine shuttering altogether to which Dorkin responded on Twitter with a rather long thread that began…
Today won’t end. Goodbye, MAD Magazine. As a youngster I was a huge fan of the 70’s era, as a young adult I rediscovered the 50’s comics, as an old nerd I somehow became a contributor (often working w/@colorkitten) for the last decade +. Getting the e-mail today was crushing.
— Evan Dorkin (@evandorkin) July 4, 2019
The situation started to clarify itself as more recent contributors and former editors (such as Allie Goertz) chimed in on social media with more information about the changes that would take place over the rest of the year.
Mad Magazine originated in 1952 as a humor comic put together by editor Harvey Kurtzman (who also drew most of the comics) and publisher William Gaines, combining parodies of pop culture including other comic book characters, movies and life in general. After its conversion to magazine format in 1955, Mad had an impressive run of 550 (sometimes sporadic) issues along with numerous specials and reprints before being relaunched last year as a bi-monthly periodical edited by Bill Morrison, who left the publication earlier this year.. yet to be replaced. (Surely, that was not a good omen.) Part of the 2018 relaunch was to reflect the move of the magazine to DC Entertainment’s Burbank offices two years ago.
The new Mad Magazine seemed to flourish anew with the election of President Donald J. Trump, who became a regular cover foil with the year-end issues and even received a number of reprint specials that presumably sold well.
The number of comic careers that were began or that thrived due to their work in Mad Magazine is countless, not only Kurtzman, but also the likes of Al Jaffee, Wally Wood, Jack Davis, John Severin, Sergio Aragones, Don Martin, Mort Drucker, Antonio Prohias and many more.
Unfortunately, Mad Magazine was never able to transition into other media with quite the impact of its primary satire competition National Lampoon, which produced a number of hugely successful movies in the ’70s and ’80s. (Plus a few not so good ones in the ’00s.)
Mad‘s most high-profile success in other media was probably the 1995 Fox sketch series Mad TV, which bore very little resemblance to the magazine, which ran for a few seasons.
Incidentally, if you’re wondering, “Why is one of The Beat‘s movie guys writing about comics?” Well, let me tell you. Back when I was a young lad in a decade that won’t be mentioned for fear of aging myself (more), I wasn’t allowed to see any R-rated movies and not too many PG ones either. The Mad Magazine satires by the likes of Mort Drucker and Jack Davis were often the only way I’d even know that some of these movies existed. It actually got to a point recently where I couldn’t remember if I had seen a couple movies from that era… or only remembered them from their Mad Magazine satires. Plus, like most, I was an avid fan of Don Martin and Spy vs. Spy. (Oddly, Spy vs. Spy was one of the Mad comics that was the most frequently discussed as being in some sort of development as a movie.)
These are sad times in comics, especially those who still relished their monthly and then bi-monthly dose of irreverent and often juvenile satire. Over the decades, Mad Magazine was always something you could pick up and get a laugh or at least a chuckle, and it’s influence on comics and comedy is not one that can be discarded or forgotten so easily.