Drew Friedman's homage to science fiction illustrator Frank "Kelly" Freas in MAD

In MAD #7, illustrator Drew Friedman has a fantastic portrait of the great science fiction illustrator, Frank "Kelly" Freas, along with a short essay about seeing a copy of the paperback Son of MAD (with a Freas cover) as a kid.

Beginning in the late 1950s, the renowned illustrator Frank “Kelly" Freas was hired by MAD to be their cover artist. His vivid cover for the 1959 paperback Son of MAD is the first MAD image I remember seeing, and it remains, to this day, my favorite cover. The abject fear in the poor gorilla's face, the terrified-yet-nuanced pose of his body, the curled toes -- all as he’s encountering the infant Alfred E. Neuman as seen from behind. Pure visual perfection!

The cover is memorable to me for another reason. In the Beatles' first film A Hard Day's Night, the character Shake is briefly seen reading Son of MAD in the opening train scene. Two towering icons forever converged in that moment, the Beatles and MAD! When I first watched that scene, I was so thrilled my head (almost) exploded.

The moment I discovered that cover at age 5, my life changed. From then on, I was a Son of MAD. Not only did it lead me to becoming an obsessive MAD fan, but it spurred my mission to someday join the “Usual Gang of Idiots," something I later (amazingly) achieved.

Here’s my take on that life-altering piece.

Drew's story and illustration page was art directed by Suzy Hutchinson, and is reprinted here with the kind permission of MAD.