When I was growing up, I loved reading MAD Magazine. (I also read Cracked for a while. Anybody remember Cracked?) I was born in March of 1977, the month MAD #189 (above) hit newsstands. This was, of course, way before “Newsstand” was an iPhone app. Back then, we also had these places called “used book stores,” where you could go and get a fat stack of MAD paperback books for pocket change. Maybe now you can read MAD on your iPad, but I’m sorry, you just can’t “pinch” a fold-in; It’s gotta be paper. I’m honestly not sure how relevant MAD is for kids and counterculture aficionados today, but it certainly has a permanent place in the canon of pop culture. And for a limited time, that provenance is being celebrated at San Francisco’s excellent Cartoon Art Museum.
The Cartoon Art Museum’s latest exhibition, What, Me Worry? 60 Years of MAD, is like stepping back in time (and/or completely time-travelling, depending on your age). What would Harvey Kurtzman, Mort Drucker, Don Martin, Sergio Aragones, Al Jaffee, et al think of their lowbrow, satirical comics, cover art, illustrations and fold-ins professionally framed and lit up on the walls of an actual museum? I’ll step in and say they look fantastic. The level of technique, artistry and typesetting is amazing to witness; it’s definitely something we take for granted now. The exhibition features all eras and incarnations of MAD, with several pieces shown for comparison in both sketch stage and finished product. There’s even an actual MAD rejection letter (below, click to enlarge), which, as far as rejections go, is pretty damn cool. What, Me Worry? is up through September 6th. Go see it!