Kurtzman Turns The Funnies Into The Sillies

As part of his general send-up of modern popular culture in the original MAD magazine, Harvey Kurtzman took special care with his satirical takes on famous American comic strips. Most often aided by the uncanny mimicry skills of Will Elder, who seemed able to channel any cartoonist’s style, it was clear that their hearts were really in these stories. Whether it was Manduck the Magician, Little Orphan Melvin or Prince Violent, these parodies were coming out of deep familiarity of having been raised on these strips. And Kurtzman always zeroed in on the inane in pop culture as his target.

Putting Manduck into a mind-bending duel with fellow mystic The Shadow was an inspired but typical Kurtzman assault on the shallow and phoney in pop culture conventions.

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MAD Looks at Politicized Comics: 1969

By the 1960s American newspaper comics had gained a deserved reputation as generally banal and innocuous pop culture, prime targets for satire. In April 1969 MAD Magazine took aim at the generally apolitical nature of most strips by imagining a world where comic strips actually reflected their culture. With art by Bob Clarke and script by Frank Ridgeway, “If Comic Strips Covered the Issues of the Day” has Superman coping with air pollution, Dick Tracy adapting to police brutality concerns and Mandrake the Magician’s already-racist depiction of his assistant Lothar turned into an even more troubling notion of Black American fantasies.