MAD UK


MAD UK

MAD Magazine (British Reprint Edition) 1959-1994

Sources:25 Years of MAD Magazine (Suron International Publications, 1984): author David Robinson, British MAD contributor (1978-1994), who wrote all of the following notes.

30 Years of MAD Magazine (Suron International Publications, 1989) and face-to-face contact with its compiler/publisher Ron Letchford (dec. 1984) qv.

E-mail contact with Dez Skinn, British MAD's third editor, qv.

History of British MAD

Mad UK, also known as British MAD [Magazine] , also known as MAD British Reprint Edition (BRE) was a British version of the American humour Magazine begun in autumn 1959.

British MAD later slotted into the satire niche of 1960s Britain, better epitomised by the Beyond the Fringe stage review, TV shows like That Was the Week That Was and Not Only But Also and Private Eye magazine; MAD, though, was more closely akin to lampoon and parody of the American lifestyle and culture known to its US protagonists: publisher William M. Gaines, initial editor and creative force Harvey Kurtzman and his successor Al Feldstein, who made the parent magazine more commercial.

The so-name British Reprint Edition (BRE) of the successful American parent publication, MAD Magazine, began in Autumn 1959, published sporadically (ostensibly bi-monthly at first) and priced at 1s/6d (or 18 old pence, now 7.5 new pence). Fan literature records that a UK version was started because US MAD Publisher William M. Gaines was not allowed to export material to the UK. Nonetheless, imported US copies were finding their way into Britain, including as ballast in cargo boats crossing the Atlantic.

MAD Editors

MAD in Britain has had at least three editors.

The 1984 work, 25 Years of British MAD, records David Climie as first UK MAD Editor. Climie wrote TV sit-coms, including a World War II sit-com called Backs to the Land, Girls and another for Irish male vocal group The Bachelors; however, Climie's more recent claim to fame lies with his offspring, one half of 1980s British music duo Climie Fisher.) After MAD, Climie attempted a British issue of Cracked, the traditional rival to MAD, but this folded after a few issues.

However, Climie is not listed in the earliest issues; and Mick Anglo, an editor and artist in UK comics which were often American-influenced, had more than a hand in those first British issues. Late writer and comics buff Denis Gifford also had artwork in the very early UK MAD issues, but his style was noticeably different from the usual MAD, particularly when slotted alongside the work of Mort Drucker as part of the same article. Gifford admits to having been heavily influenced by Emmwood, a cartoonist in British newspapers, when drawing caricatures for MAD [source: face-to-face conversation with Denis Gifford, dec. 2000); and some of the Gifford work had been deliberately influenced by Harvey Kurtzman's ‘Hey, Look!’ (in Timely Comics, which became Marvel Comics.(source: Association of Comics Enthusiasts newsletter, 1978-1982)).

Climie's editorial successor Derek (Dez) Skinn’s circle of artists and writers included Clive Collins, brother of pop/rock singer Phil Collins, whom he used to good effect.

Beginnings

The front cover of British MAD no. 1 was adapted from US MAD #30 (December 1956), comprising the standard MAD Border and Logo by Harvey Kurtzman and Norman Mingo’s prototype colour head-and-shoulders version of mascot Alfred E. Neuman on a yellow ground.

The cover bore the Tepee logo (TP) of its first UK distributor, Thorpe & Porter Ltd of Oadby, Leicestershire, while the inside front cover (which also doubled as the Contents page to conserve on interior page space) identified the British publisher as London’s Strato Publications (with the permission of E.C. [sic] Publications Inc. N.Y.) On the first page proper, Harvey Kurtzman’s “extremely important message from the editors” (reprinted from US MAD’s first “slick” issue, #24), implored that readers should “Please buy this magazine!”

For many years, British issues needed to satisfy a reduced page count in the British edition – 33, as opposed to 48 in the USA). There was a strong Jack Davis look in UK MAD no.1 (Elvis Pelvis, Gunsmoked, MAD Builds a More Civilised Mouse Trap, et al) plus shades of Kurtzman, although 1959 was well into the Al Feldstein era as US Editor. (Kurtzman and Davis had both departed for Hugh Hefner's 'Trump' and subsequent projects, Davis only temporarily; neither had anything in US MAD during 1959.)

The largest British contribution was a one-page “LETTERS DEPARTMENT” bearing quasi-Good-Will Messages, largely spoofs congratulating (or otherwise) the editors on the launch of British MAD. While the introductory text states that “only the first two [from radio comic Dick Bentley and Peter Sellers ] can be guaranteed to be genuine”, it is not clear whether or not even these are original -- or written without support from, or “ghosting” by, the magazine. In particular, Sellers was on a roll in 1959, not only with the release of key films but also continuing to pull huge BBC radio audiences in The Goons; however, early MAD UK editorial staff Mick Anglo and Denis Gifford(both via former colleague Bob Monkhouse) may have had access to celebrities of this type.)

Apart from these, among classic inclusions were Alfred E. Neuman's Family Tree (from MAD #45: Art Wallace Wood, Writer Tom Koch, uncredited); The MAD Primer (from MAD #41, September 1958: Art Joe Orlando, Writer Tom Koch (uncredited); Don Martin’s On the Pier (from US MAD #41, Sept 1958); the back-cover Reader's Disgust (Reader's Digest spoof magazine) from MAD #33 Jun 1957) with art by Joe Orlando); and the popular Shakespeare Translated: The Balcony Scene from Romeo and Juliet (from MAD #39, May 1958, Writer Paul Laikin, uncredited).

(to be updated very shortly: July 2007)


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