Sincerest Form of Parody: the lost ecosystem of MAD-inspired gross-out comics

By Cory Doctorow

Today marks the publication of Fantagraphics' magnificent archaeological comicsology, The Sincerest Form of Parody: The Best 1950s MAD Inspired Satirical Comics. This volume collects the rare, nearly unheard-of parody comics that sprang up in the early 1950s to jump on the bandwagon that MAD magazine set in motion. Many of the same artists who made MAD such a success (Jack Davis, Will Elder, Norman Maurer, Carl Hubbell, William Overgard, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, Bill Everett, Al Hartley, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, Hy Fleischman, Jay Disbrow, Howard Nostrand, and Bob Powell) were represented in long-lost tiles like FLIP, WHACK, NUTS, CRAZY, WILD, RIOT, EH, UNSANE, BUGHOUSE, and GET LOST. Many of these are racier, grosser, and meaner than even MAD dared. There's also an engrossing appendix of annotations from editor John Benson, a MAD expert who wrote the additional text for the first run of MAD reprints.

I grew up on Cracked and Crazy, but these were late, late, latecomers to the MAD knockoff party, and never went as far as these lost titles.

The Sincerest Form of Parody: The Best 1950s MAD Inspired Satirical Comics

Published 6:00 am Mon, Apr 2, 2012

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About the Author

I write books. My latest are: a YA graphic novel called In Real Life (with Jen Wang); a nonfiction book about the arts and the Internet called Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age (with introductions by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer) and a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.

13 Responses to “Sincerest Form of Parody: the lost ecosystem of MAD-inspired gross-out comics”

  1. Feargus Stewart says:

    The top image appears to be corrupted, Cory.  It’s displaying the bottom portion garbled.  Really looks like what you used to get when a DOS program crashed.

    • Cory Doctorow says:

       The file’s fine — I think you must have had an interrupted download. try control-reload or F5.

      • retepslluerb says:

        convert: Corrupt JPEG data: bad Huffman code `PARODY_COVER.jpg’.
        convert: Corrupt JPEG data: 114158 extraneous bytes before marker 0xd9 `PARODY_COVER.jpg’.

      • Feargus Stewart says:

        I’ve refreshed and downloaded etc all I can.  still no go.  It’s not a big deal;  it is almost entirely …not legible but… the equivalent of legible with pictures.

    • retepslluerb says:

      Of course it’s corrupted! Didn’t you read Seduction of the Innocent?

  2. Kibo says:

    My favorite of all the early “Mad” knockoffs was “Panic”. This is because it was done by the same people — “Mad”‘s publishers were shrewd enough to try to take some shelf space away from their actual competition.

    And let’s not forget that even Archie Comics jumped on this bandwagon with the sad “Archie’s Mad House” (I’ll let you guess which of the three words in the title was drawn much larger than the others.)

    • Charles H. says:

      Archie’s Mad House was late-’50s and early-’60s though, which meant that it was contemporary with Mad Magazine, not Mad the comic. Sincerest Form of Parody collects only those knock-off comics that were published during the existence of the original comicbook Mad [late-’52 to mid-’55], hence ones like Archie’s Mad House, Cracked, and Crazy aren’t included. Panic is represented with two stories: the excerpted “The Lady or the Tiger?”, above, and the classic Spillane send-up “My Gun is the Jury!”.
      (Today may have been the official publication date, but it’s actually been on sale for about 2 weeks now. It’s a nice work, collecting a lot of rarely seen stories, though they’re of varying quality. e.g.: The Iger Studio produced ones are about par for their post-Eisner output, which is to say pretty bad. My main complaint is that the images accompanying the essay in the back always seem to be placed one or two pages later than they should be.)

  3. eynstyn says:

    You forgot to Mention Mort Drucker in your list of great artist contributors.  I sure wish I still had the collection of Mad Magazines back in 1969.

    • Charles H. says:

      Cory’s write-up is a bit odd in that regards. His listing is of people who contributed to the knock-off comics included in this volume, of which Drucker is not one of them, not all of whom necessarily contributed to Mad. (Kirby, for instance, is represented in the Charlton-produced imitations — Unsane, maybe? Edit: From Here to Insanity — but I’m pretty certain that he never produced anything for Mad proper.)

  4. chroma says:

     Looks like Elder got some help from Basil Wolverton.