The PopCult Bookshelf
by Ger Apeldoorn and Craig Yoe
classic reprints written and drawn by various talents
We have another gem from Yoe Books here. Behaving Madly is a collection of work taken from the many imitators of Mad Magazine that began springing up following the massive sucess of MAD after it was converted from a comic book into a magazine.
Apeldoorn has written extensively about the books of this period and, together with Yoe, has crafted a detailed look at the best of the also-rans, which might not be a fair way to describe this book. After all, with 200 pages of never reprinted material by comic book legends Bill Elder, Jack Davis, John Severin, Al Jaffee, Joe Maneely, Jack Kirby, Ross Andru, Joe Kubert, Russ Heath, Bob Powell, Howard Nostrand, Basil Wolverton, Steve Ditko, Lee Elias, and many others, Behaving Madly is a pure treasure trove of unexpected delights.
With titles like Cockeyed, Cuckoo, From Here To Insanity, SNAFU, THIMK, and many others, this era of publishing industry imitation is chronicled in tremendous detail.
The hefty (34 page) introduction does a great job of setting the scene for what follows. Taken just as reprints of old material, this book is a time capsule of the post-war era of satire, when the field of humor and comedy was changing. Mad Magazine blazed a revolutionary comic trail in print while comedians like Shelly Berman, Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce were doing the same in stand-up and Second City was introducing the world to improv. This is part of that comedy evolution that paved the way for underground comics, Lowbrow Art and even more cutting edge and “sick” humor in the 1960s.
We get to see jokes about Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, the early days of TV. Hemingway, comic strips of the 1950s, Zorro, Mickey Spillane…pretty much anything in pop culture in the late 1950s was fair game, along with a healthy dose of the macabre.
Beyond that, though, Behaving Madly shows off the versitility of some of the greatest artists who ever worked in comic books. We knew that the Mad Magazine artists like Davis, Wolverton, Elder and Jaffee could do great humor work, but who would have expected Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Russ Heath and Steve Ditko to have such an accomplished manic side (okay, we knew Kirby could be funny, but his art here is revelatory)?
What’s more impressive, since Behaving Madly presents the cream of the crop of the MAD imitators, this book is almost like an archive of missing material from the history of Mad Magazine. Much of it is as funny, or funnier than what MAD was publishing at the time, and many of MAD‘s top talents show up in these pages, either before or after their stints with the top humor magazine of all time. Al Jaffee (who is still doing his fold-outs for MAD past the age of 90) and Angelo Torres both started working for imitations before they were hired by MAD. Jack Davis eventually returned to the MAD fold, a few years after leaving in the wake of MAD founder, Harvey Kurtzman’s departure.
For fans of sick humor, parody, and mid-century mayhem, Behaving Madly is a gold mine. It works both as an historical document of a time when the comic book industry was struggling and top talent was looking for new avenues to earn a living, and also as a collection of very entertaining, very funny, humor comics from a legendary time.
Behaving Madly can be ordered from any bookstore using the ISBN code above.
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