Sunday, April 25th, 2010 Horrorthon Posts

Since you guys are going bananas over Archie, you should read the June 1954 Mad parody “Starchie” (drawn by legendary crazy genius Bill Elder). If you’re not familiar with the history of Mad, all you need to know is that it started out as a much more insane and evil comic book (from EC Comics, the publisher of Tales From the Crypt), but, along with the other famously extreme EC titles, got corralled into the Fredric Wertham “Seduction of the Innocent” scare that prompted the congressional hearings that, in turn, led to the creation of the “Comics Code Authority.” Mad‘s Editor in Chief (and co-founder, with artist Harvey Kurtzman) William M. Gaines was amongst those from the comics industry who testified before congress, making an impassioned “free speech” argument, but to no avail (remember that this was the mid-fifties). Under the newly-formed Comics Code Authority, a voluntary cooperative standard agreed to by all concerned, including Detective Comics Inc. (now DC) and Timely Comics (now Marvel), all the EC titles were cancelled except Mad, which was was re-born as a folio-sized black-and-white “magazine” (therefore exempt from the Comics Code)– the format it’s kept up to the present day. (Stuff from the original run of the comic was frequently repeated in the paperbacks and “Super Specials” we all read growing up, so despite everyone’s best efforts we kids got exposed to the evil anyway.)

“Starchie” is from the original, untamed EC comics version of Mad, and its pretty typical of the extremely high quality of that period. Artist Bill “chicken fat” Elder excelled at the Mad practice of filling each panel with so much insane crap—so many gags threaded through so much erudite surrealism—that you practically go into a trance-state while reading the stuff. (Notice the characters’ propensities for screaming at the tops of their lungs while frantically racing around—more Elder trademarks.) They put out a CD-ROM anthology of the entire run of Mad ten years ago, and I bought it; hence my ability to deliver any material from any issue to customers like yourselves in mere seconds.