Al Jaffee, a legendary Mad Magazine illustrator for 65 years, turns 100 years old tomorrow. If ever there were a publication that has defined generation after generation since 1952; openly mocked a society, viciously jabbed at the establishment, and trod with angry shoes on ‘The Man’, MAD magazine definitely wasn’t it. Ha, just kidding! You see I was using reverse ridiculing there, much akin to MAD Magazine itself. Yes, MAD Magazine first made its news stand appearance in 1952 and has been going, more or less, strong ever sense. But more often than not, it wasn’t what was going on inside the mag -with its open contempt and harsh jeering- but rather what was pictured on the cover.
The covers, much like Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, and their ilk, became instant classic pieces of art and treasured as enduring masterpieces. Nah, they were garbage and better as bird cage lining. Ha! I did it again with the jokes! So let’s get on with it, shall we? Here we have 72 of MAD’s most enduring and memorable magazine covers. Why 72? Because seventy would have been too even, and seventy-five would have made too much sense… and this is how MAD would have wanted it. On with the show. Oh, right, if you wanna see all covers that MAD has done in its entire history, definitely check out Doug Gilford’s MAD Cover Site. And a big thanks to ’em!
We’re starting off with issue 4. It’s not that the first 3 were any better or worse, but this one really represents the classic, “What, Me Worry?” attitude later adopted by spokesman, Alfred E. Neuman.
Here we have the classic take on both inept private investigators and the obvious appeal of the sexiness of women. I love the giant thug on the right who’s obviously been involved in some serious criminal activity completely ignored. Classic.
To know Basil Wolverton’s artwork is to know a true genius. His “Producer of Preposterous Pictures of Peculiar People who Prowl this Perplexing Planet” graced comics and mags from Marvel to MAD.
What could be more of a jab at classic works than incorporating MAD’s traditional ‘smut’ into a painting so revered by the world? Not much.
This is MAD’s first attempt at getting its readers into the action by offering them a dot-to-dot puzzle! You can clearly see that it’s some kind of sex-starved ‘masher’ getting cozy with a terrified woman. Ah the 50’s…
Not only is this an absolute who’s who of the 50’s parting the path for ‘Baby New Year’, but you can clearly see who would quickly become the very face of MAD itself: Alfred E. Neuman.
This would mark the first of many, many covers shirking the traditional voting process by imploring the readers to write in for Neuman. Hell, chances are he’d have made a far better president just about every time he ran. Which was a lot.
Made long before Photo-Mosaics were even conceived, this cover shows many of the year’s famous faces combined with specific lights and darks to create the mug of Mr. E. Neuman. Very nicely done.
The funny thing about this cover -aside from the obvious unfinished look and the absurd paint-by-number instructions- is the fact that Frank Kelly Freas actually was courted by many magazines to do their covers. He hung with mad from ’58 through ’62, though, Can’t imagine why…
It isn’t so much the expression on Alfred’s face (that had almost too subtle a change from his norm), nor was it the iconic use of Uncle Sam in the time of conflict. No, it was Al’s body language. Basically as if to say, “You really want ME?” Awesome.
It’s always funny to use self deprecation to sell. MAD was a master at it, and this cover is easily one of its finest attempts. Fly swatters are disgusting after being used, and this mag could only get worse…
This marks the very first cover by years-long artist, Don Martin. When it came to absurd, rubber faced people surrounded by goofy sound effects, Martin was the master.
This cover offers a great feel of the clueless, talentless first-year art student to. Trust me, I’ve been there. The poor attempt to correctly copy a piece of the cover onto the cover in a nice juxtaposed paradox. Or is it?
Was it wise to poke fun at Fidel Castro by giving him an exploding version of the one thing his country has never allowed exportation of to the US? Damn right it was.
Not a whole lot needs to be said here. But just look were Alfred’s snowball hit Lincoln. Ouch.
But of course Alfred is balancing one of those ‘Impossible Shapes’ optical illusion things on his finger with his typical quizzical look on his fur-eyed face… wait, what?
Oh Alfred, that’s not how you do it! It’s supposed to be a school book with a small comic inside… oh, I see… jokes.
The first of lots and lots of Batman covers features that classic Adam West and Burt Ward duo from TV, only with a weird little twist.
Well of course that’s what Neuman’s tooth brush looks like. Why wouldn’t it?
I’m not sure what’s more uncomfortable about this cover. Is it the many faces of an already creepy Alfred E. Neuman? Maybe. Or, perhaps it’s the one subtle difference of the Oriental version in the upper right corner. Just wait, you’ll see it.
If this cover comes as a surprise to anyone, then it’s obvious that you weren’t aware of the Beatles turn to Krishna for a spell in the mid 60’s. This mock-up pokes fun at that time like only MAD can.
Back with the Uncle Sam slams, only this time, it’s the American Icon himself doing the literal jabbing. ‘Who Needs You’ indeed.
Once again Alfred shows us that he is the master of absurd impossibilities.
A very simple cover that stomps flat a truly iconic image: Snoopy on his doghouse. The poor pup looks not only angry, but totally out of his element.
Yet another version of their timeless ‘Unfinished’ covers. But there’s something very strange about this one… look at the paint roller. Impossible I tell you!
Poking fun at Elections is literally Old Hat for Mad. And that’s exactly the point their trying to get across here.
Quite possibly one of the most iconic MAD covers of all time. No Presidential japes, no bizarre creatures… just Alfred E. Neuman eating corn. For the most part.
When MAD ‘apes’ a film franchise, they don’t mess around. And honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was how Al actually looks under his face.
Don Martin is back. And this time… well, I suppose it’s poking fun at the new Arcade craze where games like this electronic driving machine were the rage.
This cover needs no explanation. F you too, guys… F you too.
The guys at MAD know how to take a classic movie poster and amp it up to ridiculous levels. This shark is obviously in no mood to eat Alfred. Who would be?
As far as ransom note magazine covers go, this is definitely one of them. But it also happens to be one of the finest.
The first of many classic MAD covers featuring Rocky. In fact, every Rocky film received a MAD mock-up. But you gotta laugh at Al’s choice of boxing gear.
Just as with all great film franchises, MAD is at the forefront of making fun of them. This is the original Star Wars cover and certainly one of the most classic MAD covers of all time.
I honestly don’t remember items without UPC labels, but MAD sure does! This is definitely a great way to stick it to the establishment, and as original is it got then.
Grease as huge when it first hit the screens and well worth a MAD homage. I had no idea Danny Zucko’s hair was that greasy.
Much like Alfred eating corn on the cob, this half-bitten apple pokes fun at this iconic character’s missing tooth.
The second classic Star Wars cover and quite possibly even more iconic than the first. Alfred E. Yoda, as it were.
Not so much notable for the J.R. Ewing rib, but more for the fact that it was drawn by Sam Viviano. Sam is one of the finest caricaturists working today, and he still occasionally does so for MAD.
Awesome lettering graphics and a disgusting pizza. Perfect match.
A complete copy of TIME magazine’s cover from the same month. Only far better.
Not just an amazing jape of the ET phenom, but also one of the few times where Alfred has his missing tooth. Classic.
A salute to Darwinism… this is evolution? Yeah probably.
And now the third in the Star Wars covers. Gotta love an Alfred Ewok Neuman and a Darth T.
I really don’t think this one needs an explanation. Just the same, Alfred makes a damn ugly Mogwai, doesn’t he?
And so came the business and home computers. Good grief was society in for it.
And yet another where Al gets a visit from the tooth fairy. This time, another jab at the UPC labels. Nicely done.
Here we have another interesting paradox: MAD making fun of a card series that originally poked fun of a popular doll. And a damn fine job it is, too.
Sometimes MAD even found room to poke fun at a piece of pop culture that was destined for failure. Why was Max Headroom even popular?
A classic cover of a classic drama for sure, but again it’s the artist focused on here. Mort Drucker was and is to MAD what Norman Rockwell was to The New Yorker.
Not the first nor the last MAD cover to feature Michael Jackson, but certainly one of the best.
It’s easy to make fun of a piece of entertainment that consistently makes fun of itself. It’s nice that all you see of Alfred is his legs.
Like the cover featuring Pac-Man, this cover mocks one of Nintendo’s greatest gifts to the video game industry for the first time.
What would generally be considered a typical jab at professional baseball is made all the better by another classic MAD artist, Jack Davis. He’s still in the business and you can even follow him on Twitter!
Bart Simpson? Who’s that? Yeah right…
This is funny on a lot of levels! Somehow Alfred’s arm can break the laws of space and time… no surprise there. Secondly, that’s the best Madonna’s ever looked!
And you thought the Addams Family was creepy before!
This cover is just acres of creepy.
You had to know Beavis and Butthead were on the menu. Especially when mixed with Clinton and Gore. Another classic.
Another Mort Drucker classic. Not surprisingly the three psycho chicks on the left have put the very first frown on Alfred’s face. Yep, the first.
This is just a great cover because there is no damn way this could ever happen. Ever.
Just a bizarre cover in its own right.
Those flash in the pan Spice Girls love them some Al!
By about this point, MAD really stopped being the thumb in the eye of society since shows like, well, South Park and many others were doing it far better and treading far more dangerous waters. MAD has since kind of lost its edge, but the covers still kept coming…
Finally, after countless years, one of filmdom’s most amazing poster artist’s put his hand on MAD magazine. Look up Drew Struzan and you’ll know what I mean. An amazing cover.
And now the fourth Star Wars cover. I remember when this poster hit a few months before the lackluster Phantom Menace hit theaters and I thought it was amazing. This cover is even better… than the movie! Ha!
Ha ha! Taco Bell is chihuahua poop!
I love this fifth Star Wars cover completely because Alfred has a limp… saber. Awesome.
And so it’s now Spongebob’s turn…
Another nice ‘jab’ at MLB.
It makes no difference that this is a mocking of Spider-Man, all that matters is that webbing is coming out of his ass.
And so we end with death: Alfred as a zombie. And a good zombie. And so it goes…