Comic-Con 2019: Mad magazine is not dead yet, say artists Sergio Aragonés and Tom Richmond
The news hit comedy fans like an stick of dynamite in one of Mad magazine’s Spy vs. Spy cartoons: After 67 years, the legendary humor magazine was to be no more?
That was the instant headline when news exploded on July 4 that the cartoon-and-comedy magazine would cease publishing new material after its next two issues.
Layoffs at the publication owned by DC Comics were deep and may or may not have been accompanied by Don Martin-esque sound effects like “Tzing!” “Twong!” and “Floploploplop!” Heartfelt tributes came from far and wide.
But hang on, said a pair of Mad artists with booths at Comic-Con on Sunday morning. Things are changing, but maybe not to the drastic degree everyone expects.
“It’s not really closing, it’s changing,” said Sergio Aragonés, who has worked for Mad since 1962when the Spanish-born cartoonist arrived in New York City. “Nowadays, somebody will they got fired, puts it on the telephone, and other people can say whatever they want.
“Mad is not dying at all,” he said while sketching himself sketching the magazine’s mascot Alfred E. Neuman for a fan. “It’s a pretty valuable property to let it go. There will be changes. Everybody has to change, and Mad is changing.”
Aragonés and artist Tom Richmond, who has worked for Mad since 2000, say a lot of what’s to come is still undecided.
There may be direct sales of publications to readers, Aragonés said, though he’s not a fan of that idea — Mad should be as easy to get as to pick it up at the supermarket or drugstore, he believes.
Richmond, who has movie parodies — long a Mad staple — of both “The Lion King” and “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” in the issue that reaches newstands in August, said there is talk of doing Year In Review annuals and other specials going forward.
Even DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio suggested during a Comic-Con panel on Saturday that we’ve likely not seen the last of Alfred E. Neuman’s gap-toothed smile, saying that there still will be new material, though the format it will take is still to be determined.
Richmond’s first issue with the magazine was its last to be published entirely in black-and-white, Richmond said. That’s the way he and so many others grew up reading it.
“When I was a kid, I just enjoyed Mad like everybody else did, for the humor and the voice,” said Richmond, who lives near Minneapolis, Minnesota. “As a kid, a lot of it’s over your head. I was introduced to ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ there when I was kid. I was 11, I had no idea what it was about.”
As he grew older, and started making his own art, he realized that Mad illustrators like Mort Drucker and Jack Davis were “the best of the best.”
And the humor of its writers shaped multiple generations of comedians and culture, Richmond said.
“I don’t think you can overstate the impact that Mad had on popular culture and humor,” he said. “And how many of today’s comedians have been directly influenced by it. It’s in their DNA.”
A lot of that DNA was likely planted there by Aragonés, who has contributed a huge number of cover ideas and whose “marginals” — small cartoons in the margins of the pages — have appeared in every episode of the magazine for more than half a century.
“It made me,” Aragonés says of landing at Mad as a 25-year-old cartoonist in 1962. “Within a month I was following the Gang of Idiots” — the nickname given the magazine’s legendary artists and writers — “I’ll be thankful for ever.”
So while Mad may be getting older: “Mad is like a crazy old uncle who is getting senile,” Aragonés jokes. “And it was very good to me.”