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Book Review: Totally Mad: 60 Years of Humor, Satire, Stupidity and Stupidity by DC Comics Staff, Mad Magazine Editors

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For many of us, MAD Magazine was, back in the day, what The Daily Show and the Colbert Report are now. Irreverent and insightful, sarcastic and spot on, MAD was the sort of bent social commentary that fueled our cynicism and sharpened our collective eye. Now a venerable 60 years old and still going strong (it even has its own iPad app!), Time Home Entertainment has published a tribute book to honor six decades of a pop cultural institution. 

Mad Magazine as a coffee table book — the phrase seems nearly oxymoronic. But, Totally Mad: 60 Years of Humor, Satire, Stupidity and Stupidity is anything but — moronic, that it is. Released October 30 Totally Mad is a must for anyone who grew up (or never did) with the ageless Alfred E. Neuman.

With a hilarious foreword by Stephen Colbert and Eric Drysdale, Totally Mad is 254 glossy pages of Mad‘s unique take on just about everything: just as sarcastic, sharp, iconoclastic, and funny as you seem to remember. Arranged by decade, the all the “usual gang of idiots” responsible for deranging…er…enlightening several generations of innocent minds are there: Antonio Prohias‘ classic “Spy vs Spy”comic, the ingenious MAD fold-ins by Al Jaffee, David Berg’s “Lighter Side of…,” and my personal favorites, the spot-on movie and TV satires of Mort Drucker, Jack Davis, and Tom Richmond. 

During my own misbegotten youth, I would wait breathlessly for my next MAD to arrive in the mailbox, wondering what the mad geniuses at MAD would skewer next. They left no stone unsatirized: politics, celebrity, technology, movies and television. Nothing was sacred. 

Leafing through Totally MAD, I was delighted and surprised at how much I recalled of my own MAD experience — how much was memorable enough to remember decades later. “M.U.S.H” from the April 1984 issue, “honoring” the long-running television series on its departure from its “Th-Tha-That’s Alda, Folks Dept.,” the peeks into the “contents of a celebrity’s wallet,” the Vietnam era “Hawks and Doves” strip, the Star Wars parody. The list goes on.

These are not just snippets of things appearing in MAD over the years; they are full pages (and pages) — including those infuriatingly tiny margin drawings. The entire book is beautifully done, fitting of a 60th anniversary.

As a bonus, Time-Warner has included a set of the most memorable full size MAD covers printed on card stock, chosen by publisher William Gaines and editors Nick Meglin and John Ficarra during the 1980s as the “Soul of MAD.” The 8×10 posters are suitable for framing (or for practicing your darts throwing arm). 

Totally MAD is a great walk back through, not only the pages of MAD, but through our own pop-cultural history. Available October 30, it will retail for $34.95.

In the meantime, enjoy my interview with MAD’s Editor-in-Chief John Ficarra from July’s Comic-Con International in San Diego:







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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • Igor

    MAD is great. I started reading it about 1952 and still do when I find it at someones house. And if I see it at a newstand I’ll buy it because MAD never ceases to amuse.

  • I have a similar experience. I would “steal” my older brother’s MAD books and read them by flashlight (so he wouldn’t know I took them — along with his 007 novels 😉

    I finally got old enough to get my own subscription when I was 11 and kept it for years. It was (and still is) a brilliant part of our pop cultural heritage.

  • The Coffee Monkee

    very nice article, its not to see that MAD is still going strong after all these years. I remember I had one MAD paperback that I kept going over. It was shared between my two brothers and I. By the time we were done with it looked like it had been through a war. But it never lost its charm. Even to this day when I find the book at mom and dads house its like a long lost friend. I cherish those memories from my youth. I didn’t even know what MAD was but it was funny!