Michael N. Marcus has a blog post this morning about his ten literary gods. Frightening, because practically all of them are literary gods of mine, too.
I was happy to see Don Martin, MAD Magazine’s resident lunatic for many years, was on the list. In high school, MAD was my favorite magazine. Okay, one of them, the others being Crawdaddy, Rolling Stone, and Circus. My favorite non-music magazine… how’s that?
I thought MAD was a riot. Their spoofs of movies and TV shows, mostly drawn by Mort Drucker and Jack Davis, were spot-on (their sendup of “All In The Family” was a classic). Their descents into politics (mostly making fun of Richard Nixon, the President throughout my college years) were funny, and made me think about what was going on in the nation and the world (no doubt Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert got their start by reading MAD). Ditto Dave Berg and his “Looks at…” features, which poked fun at modern culture circa 1972, and frequently featured the battles between the older and younger generations. And let’s not forget the song parodies, the articles that adapted the style of children’s books to talk about the subjects of the day (“Here is a Ku Klux Klansman. In real life, he’s a manure salesman. In the KKK, he’s the ‘Grand Kolossal Krud,’ which means ‘manure salesman.'”), and Al Jaffee’s “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.”
But the cartoons were the highlight of the magazine, especially the ones by the aforementioned Martin, the marginal doodlings of Sergio Aragones, and “Spy Vs. Spy.” That might be the funniest of all, at least as far as I was concerned. Drawn by Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias (who always included a line of Morse code, not unlike the one in the title, under the strip’s name that spelled out “By Prohias”), it featured two spies, identical but for the color of their clothes, both intent on destroying the other, one succeeding. (Occasionally Prohias added a female spy dressed in gray, and the cartoon became “Spy Vs. Spy Vs. Spy,” the femme fatale managing to get them to destroy each other.) There were no words, and few pictures, but they were easy to understand. When they chose to turn the magazine into a TV show (which ran on Saturday night, going head-to-head with “Saturday Night Live”), Prohias’ strip came to life in brief cartoons, such as the ones in the following video.
MAD (the magazine, not the show) is still around, although I no longer understand much of the humor. Which is okay; I’m not the one they’re trying to entertain. No doubt it’s influencing the next generation of smart-ass high school students. May it live on forever.