Cracked Magazine – America’s 2nd Most Successful Humour Magazine


Cracked Magazine is not imaginable without MAD. The success story of MAD magazine began in New York in 1952 and continues to this day (even if the circulation has shrunk and the magazine unfortunately only consists of reprints of older contributions). The magazine started with a revolutionary humour format that no one had tried before. The great success was not long in coming. Other publishers recognised the formula for success and wanted a piece of the pie.
Driven by the financial success of MAD, a large number of satirical magazines similar to MAD were created in the mid-1950s. MAD’s concept was often copied completely and newsstands sold a wide range of humour magazines. Many of these competitors did not last more than a few months on the magazine market. Other magazines had much more success with readers and can boast a considerable number of publications. The most successful of them is Cracked magazine.

Cracked Magazine – MAD’s most successful compitor

Cracked Magazine was launched in 1958 by the ‘Major Magazines’ publishing house. In terms of content and design, Cracked was strongly oriented towards the MAD model, which the reader can easily recognise from the first issue. The first editor of Cracked Magazine was Robert C. Sproul. In the comic world of the time, he was known for imitating successful comics from other publishers.

First issue of Cracked Magazine
First issue of Cracked Magazine

Each issue of Cracked (like MAD) featured two parodies of current movies or TV productions. John Severin drew most of the parody contributions at that time. The rest of the content consisted of satirical cartoons that rarely exceeded 3-4 pages. All pages of the magazine were also made of waste paper and the cartoons were printed in black and white. The front and back pages, including their backs, however, were in colour. However, Cracked never managed to establish a cult article series. Many great ideas are associated with MAD, such as the MAD fold-in by Al Jaffee or the “Spy vs Spy” short stories by Antonio Prohias. Despite their age, the spy cartoons can be compared to current events in the world. Be it the Chinese surveillance state using spy methods to prop up their social credit system or the still ongoing agent cat and mouse game between the superpowers. It is features like these that make a magazine memorable. Playboy has its pin-up poster and MAD has its ingenious folding picture.

The Cracked mascot Sylvester P. Smythe is strongly reminiscent of MAD’s Alfred E. Neumann. The appearance of both comic figures is not the only difference. While Alfred E. Neuman mainly embellishes MAD covers with his grin, Cracked magazine additionally incorporated Sylvester P. Smythe in many cartoons and drawings.

Sylvester P.Smythe of Cracked Magazine
Sylvester P. Smythe

Among the Cracked authors are some very well-known MAD artists. Jack Davis, Will Elder, Al Jaffee and Basil Wolverton are only the most famous names. Cracked could never offer the artists the same commissions as MAD magazine. For this reason, most MAD artists only stayed with Cracked for a short time. Current MAD contributor Tom Richmond also worked for Cracked in its early days. The publisher paid him $100 for an illustrated page. A fraction of what Tom Richmond later earned at MAD.

Cracked is still one of the longest-lived and most successful humour magazines behind MAD. The last issue was sold in March 2007. Cracked magazine has thus survived for almost 50 years. Digitally, the magazine lives on in the internet. New articles and parodies are published daily on the website.

Cracked also published countless special issues and special editions in addition to the magazine. Older articles from the magazine were recompiled and sold again on the newsstands under a new title. The following titles were created in the process:

An additional 10 Cracked paperbacks have been produced under the publishers Ace Books and Dell Books.

You can find all international Cracked publications here!

Overview of all Cracked publishers:

  • 1958 – 1985 Major Publications (212 issues)
  • 1985 – 2000 Globe Communications Corp. (134 issues)
  • 2000 – 2004 American Media (19 issues)
  • 2006 – 2007 Mega Media (3 issues)


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