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The Sincerest Form of Parody: The Best 1950s Mad Inspired Satirical Comics Paperback – April 2, 2012

4.8 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

John Benson is a comics historian living in New York City.

Jay Lynch (b. 1945) is a Mad magazine and Topps's Wacky Packages/Garbage Pail Kids contributor and a member of the 1960s-1970s underground comics movement. He recently published a graphic novel for children with Francoise Mouly and Art Speigelman's Toon book line.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics; First Edition edition (April 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606995111
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606995112
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.6 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,338,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steve Ramm TOP 100 REVIEWER on March 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is the kind of book that Fantagraphics (the publisher) does best: Great reproduction graphics and text by an authority who gives the reader the "back story".

I'm old enough to have purchased many of the early issues of Mad magazine and it's fly-by-night imitators, so it was fun to see some of these again (and, in some cases, wonder why I actually bought some of duds). I think the only "copycat" mag that isn't here (there are 11 included PLUS Mad) is Humbug - another Harvey Kurtzman production.

After a two page introduction (in tiny print) we are presented with 160 "comic book size" pages of GORGEOUS color reproductions of such magazines as Eh!, Whack! and Nuts!. (How come Mad wasn't Mad!?). Then comes that "back story". What are called "Notes" are 25 pages of text giving the history of these Mad competitors. Author John Benson knows his comic history. But, again, TINY typeface. Hey, I love this book but I only wish the publisher realized that many of the audience for this volume are over 60 and can use LARGER print , not smaller. I got through it with the help of a magnifying glass.

But the book still gets FIVE stars. Where else are you gonna find this material?

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
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The success of MAD magazine has prompted numerous imitators down through the decades,many of which didn't last very long,even so it was when MAD first emerged in 1953 as a comic book...even EC,Mad's publisher,tried to create one,the short-lived PANIC!...many of these obscure wannabes,with titles like WHACK,BUGHOUSE and GET LOST have been forgotten...until now.
Any fan of humor comics will love this collection from John Benson,reproduced in all their yellowing-paged glory,a compendium of zany,off-the-wall pop-culture parody circa the mid-1950s,as well as illustrating the lengths many of these writers and artists went to in their attempts to copy MAD's formulas.Benson concludes the book with a short but informative history of the subject.
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This book provides and enjoyable sampling of various parody comics that imitated EC's own Mad Magazine (then a comic). This includes EC's own imitator Panic.

The art is interesting and at times delightful; particularly enjoyable is some parodies that Jack King Kirby drew. However, the imitations all remind one how brilliantly subversive Mad Magazine/Comic was underneath Harvey Kurtzman's leadership. The stories while funny are missing that certain zip, that ironic biting on tinfoil while laughing that Mad evoked. Some stories are clearly "lifts" from Mad performed in that creative hothouse that was the 1950's comic industry.

Definitely worth the money.
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A great collection of artwork from the early fifties, when Mad first appeared in a comic-book format. Mad's popularity as a humor comic (although not in the vein as "kiddie" comics) spurred many imitators. Although many of the early Mad comics have been reprinted or the material made available in paperback form much later the imitators were not... until now. Many of the artists and writers of these spinoffs were also contributors to Mad and so its a lot of the same kind of funny stuff. Some, not so much. Still as a sampling of these comics you can't beat it. Material is from Eh!, Panic, Whack, Get Lost, Madhouse, Flip, Nuts, Crazy, Wild, Bughouse and Riot.
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In 1952, comics genius Harvey Kurtzman created one of the all-time great comic books with MAD at EC. After a few issues, the title became a top seller and other, less creative companies took note. Soon there were several imitators, none of which had much success. Most were mediocre,but a few showed some real spark. Most of the copiers didn't really "get" Mad, so they stole what they could of the style with little substance.

This good-looking book presents a fine overview with complete stories in excellent color. Highly recommended. For more on the subject, look for the two issues of Alter Ego magazine that featured the subject.
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The book is a fun read for fans of the MAD comic books. The reprints look great (or, I assume, at least as great as their originals). At the end of the book, there is a history section describing the imitations' publishers, writers and artists, which makes for a good read in itself and explains a lot about the relative quality of the pieces. (I would have put the write-ups in before the reprints, but that's just me.) Unquestionably, some of the imitators' work was awful, and the book doesn't shy away from that; the rest are worth reading, and some of them are really good.
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Format: Paperback
There were very few good things that came out of the dark era in comic book history in the 1950s when Frederick Wertham used pseudoscience and fear-mongering to almost kill the industry. EC Comics, with its line of horror, crime and war comics, was especially hard hit, but it did have one success, Mad. By converting from a comic to a magazine format, Mad was able to circumvent the restrictive Comics Code.

While still in its comic format, Mad reached out beyond its normal comic book audience and became hip (or since it was the '50s, maybe "hep" is more appropriate). It succeeded with well-written parodies and satires, and like any success, it drew a lot of imitators.

The Sincerest Form of Parody is about these imitators, such as Panic (another EC comic), Whack, Eh!, Crazy, Wild, Riot, Get Lost, Bughouse, Unsane and a few others. There are stories from many of these comics, some of which are very amusing, some of which are less so. Most of these magazines would not prosper for very long, an indication that imitations are often pale shadows of the real thing. Nonetheless, the comics featured in this book include a number of big name writers and artists, perhaps none bigger than Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Based on the material alone, this book would merit only three or four stars. Some of the comics are pretty weak with little in the way of humor (though others are pretty good). But this book is more than just the comics; it is a history of this brief period in comics history when Mad-style comics flourished. There are plenty of notes in the back of the book to give background and context. If you're looking for a ton of laughs, this book might disappoint you, but if you're a fan of comic books and their history, the Sincerest Form of Parody cannot be imitated.
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