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MAD Magazine #471
posted November 9, 2006
The Usual Gang Of Idiots, 2006 Version
DC Comics, Magazine, 52 pages, November 2006, $3.99
There's a couple of reasons why MAD
doesn't work for me anymore, and it's not because I'm no longer 12 years old, because until I stop eating logs of chocolate chip cookie dough that's actually debatable. Neither reason is anyone's fault, either. First, MAD
runs advertisements now. I hate to get all Statler and Waldorf about it, but MAD
's main contribution was to teach its readers not to trust advertisement-driven culture. It's difficult to keep hammering home the notion that a lot of what people are being told is a lie when you're giving away the things you should be exhorting your readers to distrust.
Second, popular culture is way too fragmented now to afford the magazine a wedge position that allows readers to get on board. It's not a coincidence that the biggest sales period in MAD
's history was the early 1970s, a time when you had three TV channels and movies like The Godfather
playing year-long runs. These are things that are so broadly appealing that kids my age wanted to read MAD
just so that we could participate in some way with those cultural items. The only things that seem to function in as broad a fashion now are general political items, like President Bush and the Red State/Blue State paradigm. Not exactly the rich canvas provided by Dog Day Afternoon
and Richard Nixon's zeppelin-tumble of a presidency.
What you're left with is a magazine where most of the comics have only a tangential commentary function, so the magazine functions, well, like a straight-up humor magazine. It's not a bad one: there's Sergio, and Al Jaffee, and Dick Debartolo and a feature by Peter Bagge in this issue -- their work is as solid and amusing as one might expect. Some of the comics are less inspiring. I like a lot of Ted Rall's work just fine, but I found his one-pager here impenetrable; Ward Sutton is one of the most successful cartoonists of his generation but you wouldn't be able to tell that from his art contribution. Mostly what hits me is that there's so many
people working under these covers, a feeling exacerbated by the wider array of styles on hand than it seems there were in, say, 1965. Maybe it's time to tighten the company and let more styles settle into the reader's consciousness?