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Mad Art : A Visual Celebration of the Art of Mad Magazine and the Idiots Who Create It Paperback – November 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

About the shape and weight of a telephone directory, this book has room enough to live up to its subtitle-and more. It begins with legendary cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman and his creation of Mad as a humor comic book in 1952 and continues to the present, artist by artist. Early artists tend to get more space because they helped create the magazine's style and also because some of them have continued to contribute drawings for decades. Jack Davis and Mort Drucker, for example, are each allotted eight pages, enough for an irreverent but affectionate biographical write-up and a variety of art samples. Lesser, later artists get a paragraph and one panel. Along the way, Evanier gives a lot of background information about the comics industry and about the process by which Mad has been produced. In short, this is a book for people who are curious about individual artists, the history of Mad magazine or comics as a business. Mad's success for half a century shows it has mastered the knack of laughing with its targets while laughing at them. Indeed, many of the celebrities the magazine has skewered over the years have felt flattered to find themselves the subjects of Mad caricatures. It helps that so much of the magazine focuses on relatively nonthreatening subjects, such as popular culture and suburbia. The only political commentary cutting enough to draw blood is on Ronald Reagan. But clearly the Mad staff knows what it's doing and has been doing it extremely well.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Mad magazine has been corrupting young minds, in a good way, for half a century. As befits the institution it has become, it receives the coffee-table-book treatment with comics historian Evanier's showcase of the artists who have been Mad mainstays over the years. Evanier profiles the unusual members of "the usual gang of idiots" (as the masthead has long called them), of whom the most prominent include cartoonists Jack Davis and Will Elder, with Mad from the beginning; such second-generation stars as master caricaturist Mort Drucker and "Mad's maddest artist," Don Martin, whose baggy-faced as well as -pantsed style virtually defined Mad during its heyday; and talented relative newcomers Drew Friedman and Peter Kuper. Each profile accompanies well-chosen samplings of the artist's work, and Evanier continues his sprightly, informative commentary in additional chapters on Mad's early days, the gestation of a Mad feature, and other matters. A nostalgic treat for boomers as well as a revealing look at Mad today. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Watson-Guptill; First Edition edition (November 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823030806
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823030804
  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 8.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #194,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on December 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
The title of "MAD Art" is a nice, simple title, achieving a sense of balance by consisting of a pair of three letter words, but it is a bit off target. Even when you through in the subtitle--"A Visual Celebration of the Art of 'MAD' Magazine and the Idiots Who Create It"--we are still off the beam a bit, because what Mark Evanier has compiled here is a tribute to the specific artists who made "MAD" magazine the cultural icon it has been ever since I was a kid (and a little bit earlier than that as well). Evanier, a former assistant to the legendary Jack Kirby has written comic books (including "Groo the Wanderer" with "MAD" artist Sergio Aragones) as well as becoming a historian on the subject of cartooning, so there is a sense of scholarship to this effort. Those who comes to this rather thick trade paperback with expectations of reading some choice movie parodies and other familiar "MAD" pieces are going to be disappointed, because this is not that type of "MAD" collection.
Evanier uses a double chronology for "MAD Art," with the chapters detailing the general process by which artists join the "MAD" gang of idiots and end up producing their mini-comic masterpieces in discrete stages, while each chapter provides profiles of over five dozen artists with examples of their work, from the infamous advertising parodies, and classic front (and black) covers to the interior art, including dozens of rare and previously unseen preliminary sketches and photographs. That means the first chapter, representing the fabled time when "MAD" was a E.C. comic book, looks at the legendary artist Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Davis, Will Elder, John Severin, and Wallace Wood.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Blaine Greenfield on June 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
If the names Dave Berg, Don Martin and Al Jaffee mean anything
to you, then you'll want to read MAD ART by Harvey
Kurtzman . . . I loved it, but then again, I rarely missed an
issue of MAD when I was a kid . . . and I can still "see" (in
my mind) the drawings of Berg, Martin and Jaffee, along with
the rest of the "Usual Gang of Idiots," to quote the magazine's
MAD ART features interviews with many of MAD's veteran
contributors about their favorite pieces, as well as what influenced
them in their work . . . but best of all, this official guides through
MAD history also includes a treasury of advertising parodies,
classic front and back covers, and interior art . . . I found
myself laughing out loud, reliving what gave me joy when
I was younger . . . and thinking that someday soon, as a
guilty pleasure, I'm going to have to break down and purchase
a current copy to see if it is still as funny as I remembered.
Obviously, it is difficult to try to present art in this text-based
newsletter, but I'll try by describing just a few of the hilarious
In one Don Martin strip, written by Duck Edwing, a guy sees a
sign that says "Pay Toll Fifty Feet" . . . he pulls up and as the
collector puts his hand out, he reaches back in his trunk and gives
him fifty feet!
"Footnotes to History," illustrated by Paul Coker, Jr. and written
by Paul Peter Porgest, has illustrations featuring just feet with
such lines as:
"Adolph . . . can't you walk like the other boys?"
"One of these days, David, you're going to hurt somebody with
that slingshot."
"Would you mind very much using a drop cloth, Michelangelo?"
"Orville! Wilbur!
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By n0s4a2 on July 4, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Everyone has nostalgic affection for what Mad once was, and the art generated for it in its heyday has been endlessly recycled. The selections for this book are nice, but the reproductions are tiny. There are relatively few of the gorgeous full color paintings that graced its pages in the '50s and '60s, and no roughs or preliminary sketches to give any insight into the process.
The writing is perky and lightweight, like a testamonial speech for a retiring employee, with a little biographical information on each artist, where he was schooled, what a gifted cartoonist, how respected by his peers, what a funny guy, etc. Here and there are hints at the pressures that must have come into play in the production of the magazine, but propriety and niceness always win out, and the real story is glossed over with well-worn Madisms like, "...mainly because...!" and other breezy, hand-me-down catchphrases. With no glimpse into the creative life behind the vacant gaze of Alfred E. Neuman, you might as well buy a Mad reprint from the days when it used to parody superficial fluff like this book.
The only interesting thing about "Mad Art" is its inclusion of the newer artists who have appeared since most of us stopped reading the magazine. These newcomers are technically rather good (if unoriginal), and it's important to see what's being done today, even though Mad hasn't been funny for a decade and a half.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robin Benson on July 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
Take the arty `usual gang of idiots' out of the confines of the magazine and show generous helpings of their work in the pages of a chunky oversize paperback and you realise what a rich vein of artistic talent the magazine has been working with, right from the first issue too.
Mark Evanier presents sixty-eight of these creative folk. He writes about them in a breezy style mixed in with examples of their work. You can find out how your favorites started at Mad and a lot of interesting background about the magazine. My faves are Jack Davis and Wally Wood, besides being very funny both are superb draughtsmen, Kelly Freas for his brilliant spoof ad paintings, his famous `Great Moments in Medicine: presenting the bill' is included in color, Paul Coker and Bob Clarke. Mad cover artist Richard Williams is special too, he and Norman Mingo have done the most covers over the years. Williams painted the cover to `Mad Art' (click on the cover above to see a larger version) based on a Norman Rockwell painting for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, February 13, 1960.
If you are a Mad fan you'll enjoy `Mad Art' but bear in mind that it is a showcase for the artists and of the hundreds of pictures included very few are of complete articles. There are thirty pages in color and I would have liked to see more, however Mad covers (issue 1 thru 400) are all in color in `Mad Cover to Cover' by Frank Jacobs, a handy companion book to `Mad Art'. I think both books are excellent.
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Mad Art : A Visual Celebration of the Art of Mad Magazine and the Idiots Who Create It + MAD's Greatest Artists: Mort Drucker: Five Decades of His Finest Works
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