Squa tront! Spa Fon! The great Al Feldstein, passed away today.
Feldstein began working at EC comics, publishers of Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear in 1948. Soon he became editor of most of EC's titles. He typically wrote and illustrated a story in each title and drew many of the covers, a mind-bogglingly prolific output. Eventually he stopped doing the art for stories and stuck with editing, writing, and cover illustrations. According to Wikipedia, from "late 1950 through 1953, he edited and wrote stories for seven EC titles." I've always loved his signature, which features elongated horizontals on the F and the T, and an extended vertical on the N.
After MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman got in a fight with publisher William Gaines over ownership of the comic and left EC in 1956, Gaines put Feldstein in charge of the humor magazine, where he remained as editor until 1985.
Here's an excellent biography of Feldstein, which came out last year.
My friend Jon Lebkowsky (an editor at bOING bOING and the co-founder of Fringe Ware) says, "Your Popeye post sent me to Amazon, where I discovered you can acquire old original issues of Mad Magazine (and various other comics, including Batman #1 and Superman #1) for the Kindle. Best of all, Mad #1 is free!" (It's also free on Comixology)
Cory and I have both raved about MAD: Artist's Edition, a massive hardcover book of high-fidelity scans of original MAD comic book art pages from the 1950s, complete with pencil lines, rubber stamps, Zip-A-Tone, pasted-over panels, yellowing Wite Out, notes in margins, and other markings that add interest to the pages. The paper used in the book was selected to closely match the bristol board of the original pages. (Here's Cory's review, and here's my discussion of the book on Gweek).
When I discovered that IDW, publisher of the MAD: Artist's Edition released The Best of EC: Artist's Edition, I immediately ordered it, too. EC is the same publisher that published MAD, and it used the same stable of virtuoso artists and writers in the 1950s to produce some of the best comic book titles in history, including Weird Science and Tales from the Crypt. This edition includes art by Frank Frazetta, Harvey Kurtzman, Johnny Craig, Roy Krenkel, Bernie Krigstein, Joe Orlando, Alex Toth, and Al Williamson. I haven't received The Best of EC: Artist's Edition yet, but to give you an idea of how big the book is and how nice the scans look in the Artist's Series editions, I asked Jane and Anna to pose with my MAD book.
Read the rest
This photo of Ringo Starr reminded me of the above painting by Frank Frazetta, which appeared on the back cover of MAD #90 in October 1964. I remember seeing it when I was about 12 years old or so, and being just as fascinated by it as MAD's art director, Sam Viviano:
"The best use of MAD's back cover, for me, was as a vehicle for ad parodies, which were always so carefully put together that at first look they seemed to be the real thing. This back cover features a takeoff of the ads for Breck Shampoo which had been running for decades in magazines such as Ladies’ Home Journal and Harper's Bazaar. These ads featured pastel portraits of beautiful young women with silky long hair, rendered from 1936 to 1957 by Charles Sheldon and thereafter by the illustrator Ralph William Williams. (The campaign ended with Williams' death in 1976.) MAD's takeoff, with the headline, "Make Beautiful Hair BLECCH," portrayed — rather than a beautiful young woman with long, silky hair — a not-so-beautiful young man with long, silky hair (a novelty in 1964) — specifically, Ringo Starr, drummer for the Beatles. The portrait itself was painted with full Ralph William Williams lusciousness by infrequent MAD contributor Frank Frazetta. As an impressionable 11-year-old, I was fascinated by how a single image could be both beautiful and grotesque, precisely accurate and extravagantly exaggerated. It firmed up my ambition, already stoked by countless pages of Mort Drucker art, to pursue a career as a humorous illustrator."
Check out all the MAD staff's favorite back covers here.
The MAD Staff Picks Their Favorite Back Covers: Art Director Sam Viviano
Our pal Drew Friedman drew this portrait of Al Jaffee, the beloved MAD magazine writer and artist.
Jaffee made his MAD debut in 1955 and joined the "Usual Gang of Idiots" in 1958. Since 1964, only one issue of MAD has been published without new material by Jaffee. He innovated the MAD back cover "Fold-In," which became a recurring feature, and his "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" arguably encouraged subsequent generations of snarky teens.
(Ruben Bolling and I interviewed Al on Gweek
last year and it was a thrill to speak with him.)
Al Jaffee fine art print by Drew Friedman