The Freelance Mentalists.
Monday, September 23, 2019
 

UR-MAD

One of my offerings to a
 scroller coaster discussion* 
that began because of Mark Sinker's remarkable
anthology,
 A Hidden Landscape Once A Week: 
The Unruly Curiosity of the UK Music Press
 in the 1960s-80s, In The Words of Those
 Who Were There
 (MIT Press/Strange Attractor Press):


Y'all's Warshow references remind me of my favorite 
and maybe most characteristic line by him:
"...I have myself
read it with a kind of irritated pleasure", yas: 
his visceral response to the original, Harvey Kurtzman
-edited ('52-'56) Tales Calculated To Drive You MAD
---Humor In A Jugular Vein
when turned on to it by his eleven-year-old son Paul, 
with whom he visited MAD HQ (see link below)
----there were of course a lot
of gassy, star-kissed send-ups of The American Dream
 and its protoplasmic roller coaster,  warts and all,
 in glorious, grubby, black and white, shaded and flat
 as needed.

Kicking off another holiday weekend,
Dad addresses the troops:
"Let's go before the mob starts."
We gradually move
from sea to shining sea,
as word bubbles rise:
"Let's go."
"go before mob."
"go."
"fore mob starts." " 's go."
"mob."
"Let's go before the mob starts."
And there was an 
against-the-grain-of-stubble quality, 
also as needed: point man for this
might've been grimacing, zit-ridden,
crosshatch-templed, 
hunched-over-like-James-Dean-Mellencamp
Starchie Standrews
and his surly beatnik accomplice,
no longer quite named Jughead. 
Now Fughead? Slughead?
Jugshead? Something that fit.
( A comics historian
---blanking on his name,
but think he was a member of indie rock group
Soup, approved by 70s xgau
---speculated that this was what
got them busted by the Comics Code Authority,
headed by
 "Archie's 'father,' "
John Goldwater.). 
These  satirical versions were not far from
the more
overtly druggy ones presented by National Lampoon
Magazine 20-odd yrs. later, in the 70s.

More specific beefs,
mad cos angry:
A satire on war movies,
which were big time,
introduced by a denunciation of
patriotic gorefests,
Hollywood insults to those
who had just recently served in WWII
and might still be in Korea,
or recovery.

Also, I can't unsee the one-page portraits, 
female headshot caricatures, sirens of bizarre
beauty: "Heyyy Boyyys"
---finally and instantly beyond vanity, 
self-delusion, because so deep into it
---talk about characters taking on lives and 
mythos of their own
---as drawn, over and over and over, by
Basil Wolverton,
who seemed like a supremely outsider-y
one trick pony, although I didn't have those words then:
just always pictured him,
bald pale and crewcut,
in his undershirt,
hunched over a sketch pad on the kitchen table.
Point: this orig. MAD 
(long and still around in
paperback collections)
sure started seeming like a pre-rock
rock mag once I saw CREEM, 
and indeed started about the same time as rock & roll itself.
I got some of this attitude on the first round:
For me it was 
BM (before music, but also snicker-snicker).
Warshow's report:
https://web.archive.org/web/20100211184906
/http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm
/-em-the-study-of-man-em--paul--the-horror-comics
--and-dr--wertham-1958


Mark repiles:
yes it’s interesting i hardly ever see
 MAD talked abt in this story
 — the only exception being 
todd gitlin’s book on the politics of 1968 
(called “1968”),
 which touches on it when setting the
 scene for the attitudes of the new left 

Me:

Yeah, and maybe even before UR-MAD,
or around the same time,
R. Crumb put out a junior high school 
comix zine, 
bringing the 'tude back homesliced
---as seen in the CRUMB doc.


Frank Kogan replies:
MAD was prime culture for eight-year-old Frank in 
1962, though what stuck with me maybe came 
both later and earlier:
 in 1965 in Rome (!) I managed to get 
several pocket-sized paperback MAD anthologies.
 I remember a Berg’s Eye View with a
 woman in slacks,
 yard-work, hands on hips, glaring at a dog
 and the dog’s well-groomed owner in beret,
 the woman saying,
 “Get that animal off my lawn,” and the beret man
 drawing up in proper dignity:
 “Madam, my dog is NOT an animal.”
 But by then (at the old age of eleven) I’d decided that
 most of MAD’s social satire was too simplistic,
 and I instead was more charmed by an early MAD antho 
from the Fifties, before the MADsters felt 
they had to have ideas. Seemed saucier and more chaotic,
 mad for its own sake; though all I can recall is
 a Hound Of The Basketballs parody where the

 dark and sexy female villain is unmasked at the end 
and lets loose with a string of ampersanded 
and @ signed obscenities,
 the duck from Groucho popping down 
on a string to inform her 
she’d hit the Word Of The Day.

Me again:
Yeah, the original, Kurtzman-edited MAD
 was 52-56, so I knew it mainly 
through those drugstore paperback collections. 
Finally thought to read HK’s wiki
--had forgotten about his giving young Crumb, 
Gilliam, Gil Shelton early mainstream or
 national exposure in Help!
 (Did the Beatles movie get its title from that mag?)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvey_Kurtzman

*The whole conversation about ancient rock mags
and their inspirations
can be found in chronological order here:
https://koganbot.livejournal.com
/375864.html?
view=5242680#t5242680  



 

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