Of all the recent collections assembled from the archives of MAD magazine, this volume might be the most interesting. It shows the beginnings of the magazine as a comic book, its transformation into a "slick" three years later in 1955, and its settling down into a familiar format under the stewardship of Al Feldstein.
The early material, as tame as it is by today's standards, shows quite clearly what the hubbub was all about: Harvey Kurtzman, Willie Elder, Wally Wood, and the rest parody comic characters with a zany zest that is infectious. This book boasts color reproductions of MAD's comic book highlights, including "Starchie," "Superduperman," and "Batboy and Rubin." Many readers will remember these stories, if not from the first time around, then from the Ballantine paperback collections so ubiquitous in the 1960s and '70s. MAD About the Fifties shows MAD's tentative transformation into an American institution; this tentativeness, far from being a drawback, results in the only experimental period in the humor magazine's 45-year run (who knew that Stan Freberg, Bob and Ray, and Ernie Kovacs contributed?). Kurtzman's departure in 1956 brought in Al Feldstein, who would expand the magazine's appeal from the thousands to the millions. Purists are still debating whether this was a good idea or a sellout--MAD About the Fifties allows you to decide for yourself.
Aside from historical pop culture interest and the powerful desire among aficionados to complete the set, (MAD About the Sixties and MAD About the Seventies were released previously), MAD About the Fifties also includes some darn funny material. As usual, the art has aged better than the writing--but what art it is! Few have been better than Wood, Elder, Kurtzman, Davis, Jaffee, Martin, and all the rest. MAD About the Fifties contains more of their gems; it deserves a space in any MAD reader's library. --Michael Gerber
Available for the first time from MAD BOOKS! Travel back to the wacky Fifties in this comic compilation of the best of MAD's early years! From the Cold War and Richard Nixon (the first time around) to Howdy Doody and Mickey Mouse, this one's got it all...and then some!
- Author: Grant Geissman