If you are nearer 40 than 20 and had a taste for risqué magazines in your youth, then you’ll probably know who Alfred E. Neuman is. Neuman was – and still is – the gap-toothed mascot on the cover of MAD magazine, the comic book that has satirised modern life for the past 60 years.
The first Australian version of MAD was published here in 1980 but the magazine was founded in 1952 in America by editor Harvey Kurtzman and publisher William Gaines. The first four Australian copies lacked an issue number and a barcode. The fifth issue, No.223 , continued with the US numbers. When the first issue came out, it was priced at $A1.25 for 56 pages. Today, the magazine costs $A5.95 for 48 pages. By 1974 it had reached peak circulation with more than two million readers in the US as its satire on all aspects of life and popular culture became a cornerstone of teenage existence.
Perennial adolescent Neuman has been on every cover since 1955 and is on current issue #539, poking fun at the “mad” craze for adult colouring-in. His face has been crafted to send up everyone from Michael Jackson to Darth Vader, and his mischievous moniker has struck a chord with readers around the world.
The magazine is still lampooning TV shows, satirising big-ticket movies and ridiculing pop culture. Issue #537 ( pictured) is sure to become a collector’s edition with Neuman sharing the cover with Donald Trump to promote “The 20 Dumbest People, Events and Things (of) 2015”.
On the contents page, there is always a quote attributed to Neuman. Past classics include: “Smoking helps you lose weight – one lung at a time”; “A teacher is someone who talks in our sleep”; and “Getting old is when a narrow waist and a broad mind change places”.
Australian MAD is published by Next Media (12 issues per year, including 8 regular issues and 4 MAD Classics).