Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Totally, Absolutely MAD

Several* years ago I received a gift for Christmas that I had specifically requested: Totally MAD, a 7-disc CD-ROM collection containing every issue of MAD Magazine from its debut in 1952 until December 1998.

I've always been a fan of MAD Magazine, and I've always been a fan of magazine collections on CD-ROM, so this was a dream come true. I've gone back to it again and again over the years to re-read pieces that I remember from my youth or to see stuff from years before I was born. As an added bonus, my friends left the price tag on the box - not to show me how much it had cost, but to show me that it had been inventoried as "Educational Software"!

With my renewed interest in comic strips I have used the amazing search feature** to look for parodies that I knew of and parodies that I never knew existed. Here are two examples that show how things have changed and how things have stayed the same:

Mary Worthless, The Worst From Mad #4 (1961)

Here's a parody of the strip about compulsive meddler and advice-giver Mary Worth, a fan favorite over at The Comics Curmudgeon. Mary appears to be about ten years older than her current incarnation, although this could be more a reflection of the changing face of old age in the past 46 years than any character change.

Brunettie, MAD #24 (July 1955)

One of the biggest complaints about Blondie is that it is very repetitive: the same characters, the same situations, the same locations, over and over. Will Elder thought so, too...52 years ago! Notice Daisy's brood: up until a few years - or was it decades? - ago, Daisy was often accompanied by a litter of identical-looking puppies. At some point in the recent past it appears that they were tied in a sack and tossed in the riv- I mean, they found good homes. From this parody we can see that the designs for the characters in Blondie have fundamentally changed very little in the past 50 years (Dagwood was still wearing that one-button shirt in the 1970s and possibly the 1980s or later), even though the character designs are radically different from what they looked like in the original, pre-Great Depression strips, when Dagwood was the scion of a wealthy family who chose to be disinherited so he could marry Blondie, a bubbleheaded flapper. In the end of this strip Dogwood has been transported into Terry and the Pirates or Steve Canyon!

This is just one tiny way of looking at the collected issues of MAD, which has always made a point of parodying and satirizing events of the day. There is a lot of historical and cultural information tied up on these discs. There are probably several Ph.D. theses in there somewhere.

And even better, an updated version of the collected MAD is out. Called Absolutely MAD, it packs everything from the first issues up until December 2005 onto a single DVD! I don't think I can wait for Christmas. Maybe I should establish that this will be the first thing that I buy with my first paycheck from my new job! That would certainly encourage me to start taking the job search seriously.

*Could it have been 1998? Or was it 1999? Maybe 2000...
**How amazing? A search for Art Director Lenny "The Beard" Brenner will turn up numerous pages where his drawn caricature is visible in the background of a scene. That's some mighty fine indexing there!


dee said...

I had no idea such a thing existed! To think, I can revisit my two favorite parodies, "Florence of Arabia" and "Lord Jump". Peter O' Toole made such an easy target. It will be worth the price of the CD just to see the panel with him dressed up in his white burnoose, dancing across the desert while singing "I Feel Pretty."

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

Wow that is so cool! And Given the current events that it made fun of at the time I can see why it was considered educational.