History of the British MAD Magazine
The first issue of the UK MAD magazine was published October 1959 and the magazine ran 35 years until it was ceased by its last publisher Egmont / Fleetway. In these 35 years the UK MAD had 5 editors: David Climie, Dez Skinn and Ron Letchford were long-time editors, while Maurice ‘Mick’ Anglo and Denis Gifford together did some editorial work on the first few issues, before David Climie came on.
The first publisher Thorpe & Porter was known as an importer for American comic titles. They produced UK versions of US material at this time, which were noted as being published by ‘Top Sellers’. David Climie was the editor and known for adopting the US material in the UK world. He introduced the Anglicisations in MAD articles and changed US terms like Baseball into Cricket or US football into Rugby.
UK MAD was published 7-8 times a year in the first years, until it was published 12 times a year starting in 1966.
Only in 1979 the date of publication was known to be printed on the cover. In the 60s and 70s many European MAD publishers worked together to save production costs. This is the reason why you can find some covers in different countries.
In the mid 70’s Dez Skinn took over the chief position at UK MAD magazine. Even though many claim that Dez is a well-known comic artist, he would never claim to be an artist! He might fairly claim to have worked at every level from office assistant, writer, sub-editor through to editor pre-MAD, and then publisher and director.
A short time later in 1978, Thorpe & Porter stopped publishing comics in the UK. Ron Letchford, with his company Suron Enterprises, seized the opportunity and bought the rights to UK MAD magazine. He took over all editorial duties and managed the magazine until sales figures dropped dramatically. When Ron first ran out of money, he involved another company who had no experience of publishing; i.e. the latter now held the British licence from the US MAD. When they tried to offload MAD, Ron detected this and went to London Editions (who by the way were based in Manchester!) who then became the license holder. Ron did stay on as editor, but all of this required quite tricky legal arrangements.
LE (London Editions) was later merged with the European publisher Fleetway, with the names combined to ‘Fleetway Editions’. MAD was unknown to the Fleetway publishing director, who (rightly) considered it tired and particularly did not like the chunk of license money being paid back to the States. Fleetway took it off ‘sale or return’, which made it far less appealing to newsagents. UK sales were around 6,000, far too low for a magazine. Fleetway declined to renew the license at the end of 1994 with the last number 381.
More interesting facts about the UK MAD can be found on Dez Skinn’s Website.
Thanks to Dave Robinson for a lot of additional details.
List of all known UK MAD publications:
- MAD Magazine: 381 issues
- MAD Artists Special: 10 issues
- MAD Special: 12 issues (#7 – 18)
- MAD Super Special: 31 issues (#42 – 74)
- MAD Extra: 5 issues
- Super MAD: 7 issues
- Collector’s MAD: 5 issues
- The Worst from MAD: 5 issues (#5 – 9)
- MAD Follies: 3 issues
- More Trash from MAD: 6 issues (#4 – 9)
- Miscellaneous Special issues: 17 issues