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Al Feldstein, visionary EC Comics & MAD Cartoonist/Editor has died.
May 1, 2014 8:42 AM   Subscribe

EC Comics and MAD Magazine cartoonist/editor died on tuesday at age 88. Al Feldstein's covers and artwork for EC Comics great Sci-Fi/Horror books are legendary. Sadly, his singular, clunky, thick, goofy style was phased out after a few years of classic work at EC in favor of the more modern, detailed artists in the stable as he took on more editorial and writing duties. He went on to turn a post Kurtzman MAD Magazine into a phenomenon as its editor.
posted by JBennett (49 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
There was something completely sincere about his drawings. He was one of my favorites.
posted by interrobang at 8:47 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]


One of the few magazines you had to hide from your parents that wasn't, you know, one of those magazines.

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posted by tommasz at 8:48 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]


Evan Dorkin: Kurtzman was Kurtzman -- and all credit due -- but Feldstein's Mad was what I grew up on, and it was a major, major, major influence on me and a ton of other idiots.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 8:48 AM on May 1 [4 favorites]


The two primary cultural influences in my early years: the "Yellow Submarine" movie and MAD.

RIP, Al, say Hi to Bill.

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posted by dbiedny at 8:56 AM on May 1


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posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:58 AM on May 1


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posted by Sys Rq at 8:59 AM on May 1


Thanks for posting this, I've been wanting to do it for the last day but haven't had time. He really helped warp the humor of a couple of generations. I was chatting with someone who had met Feldstein, and he told Al his parents hated Mad magazine and he had to smuggle them in the house. Feldstein replied, "Sounds like I did my job!"

Here's a bunch more of his covers and an early humor story.
posted by marxchivist at 9:03 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


The Comics Journal has a long Gary Groth interview with Feldstein (conducted in 2013) here.
posted by Paul Slade at 9:04 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


holy crap, Al Jaffee is still alive though ? (And Bill Gaines died in 92 ? ) Man ..
posted by k5.user at 9:06 AM on May 1


A brief personal reminiscence by Mark Evanier.
posted by Bromius at 9:06 AM on May 1


If I could choose any time and place in history to work, it would be for Al Feldstein's Mad Magazine. For better or worse, it made me who I am today.


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posted by oneironaut at 9:08 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]


Great link marxchivist. I was looking for that sort of gallery of his work to show his range. Mostly I was just appalled that so much time was allowed to pass with no post on this great artist so I kind of threw this together. I just love his work so much. It takes itself so seriously in such a fun goofy way. Like Jack Kamen, another of my favorite EC guys he just COULD NOT draw something that wasn't FUN to look at (with the exception of that heroin cover, that style of inking with a thinner line was out of step with his usual work and gives the drawing more stress and anguish).

He would try to make these sinister creatures but they always turned out so ridiculous, but it didn't undercut the work. It just made the terror or confusion more palatable. I understand that Wally Wood and Kreigstein and Williamson were on the cutting edge with their art, but Feldstein was always my favorite because of that balance he brought with his writing and artwork blending in such a unique way.
posted by JBennett at 9:13 AM on May 1


I had thought of making this post, but I was afraid I wouldn't do Feldstein justice. You did a good job, JBennett.

As great as he was for MAD, it was Al Feldstein's work as a writer and editor for EC's horror line that made the biggest impact on me. (I also think he was surpassed as an artist by Graham Ingels and Jack Davis.) He was a master of the twist ending, and as for his skill with horror puns--why, he had a sense of humor to DIE for!

I'm just so glad I got to meet him in 2007, get his autograph, and tell him how much his work meant to me.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:28 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


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posted by Cash4Lead at 9:31 AM on May 1


Thanks Al. As an unpopular kid in the early 70s, reading and copying from Mad was pretty much my favourite past time.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:32 AM on May 1


He was a master of the twist ending

"Yeah, lady. You sure did a neat job".

"Made of the Future" (the op "singular" link) really hedges its bets on where comics were at in the mid 1950s: one part romance, one part gothic-science horror.

Harvey Kurtzman, Bill Gaines, Will Elder, Wally Wood, Norman Mingo, George Woodbridge, Don Martin, Antonio Prohías, Dave Berg, Bob Clarke, John Putnam, and now Al Feldstein -- all gone.

Al Jaffee, Jack Davis, Mort Drucker, Frank Jacobs, Paul Coker, Dick DeBartolo, Nick Meglin, and as far as I can tell, The Beard -- all still with us.

The influence of "the usual gang of idiots" is incalculable, and Feldstein held it all together.


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posted by Herodios at 9:33 AM on May 1 [5 favorites]


Oh, and in lieu of a .

GOOD LORD! *CHOKE*
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:34 AM on May 1 [5 favorites]


I count myself very fortunate to have experienced MAD Magazine at the tail end of the Al Feldstein years, when the usual gang of idiots was still around and firing on all cylinders. It's amazing to realize that the magazine was not only under his stewardship when my older brother was a kid, but when my dad (who was an avid MAD reader) was a kid too.

And speaking of that older MAD material: The stuff that got recycled into some of the Super Specials and the MAD paperbacks was still funny even if I didn't exactly get some of the jokes or references. I intuitively trusted that it was funny because of the contemporary jokes I did get. In that way MAD was instrumental in helping me relate to the past through the lens of cultural ephemera, as opposed to the handful of Big Important Things they teach you about in school.
posted by usonian at 9:46 AM on May 1 [6 favorites]


A big loss! •
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:51 AM on May 1


I used to buy Mad here in the UK back in the 1970s, a time when there was typically a long gap between any big movie's US and UK release dates. This produced the odd sensation of reading all the Mad movie parodies months before you had a chance to see the movie itself.
posted by Paul Slade at 9:55 AM on May 1


I really want to read the story from that "clunky" link.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:04 AM on May 1


What, me buried?
posted by Renoroc at 10:13 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]


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posted by Rabarberofficer at 10:28 AM on May 1


I used to buy Mad here in the UK back in the 1970s, a time when there was typically a long gap between any big movie's US and UK release dates. This produced the odd sensation of reading all the Mad movie parodies months before you had a chance to see the movie itself.

Reading the MAD movie parodies years before being able to see the movies they were based on was part of Growing Up In America™ in the 1960s.
 
posted by Herodios at 10:39 AM on May 1 [4 favorites]


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(There's something deeply satisfying, though, about how many of these men who made me laugh living into their 80s and 90s. The fact that Al Jaffee still apparently does the Fold-In for Mad is, seriously, inspirational.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:00 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


Joakim Z. That story is called "Am I MAN or MACHINE?"
Read it here:

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Page 5

Page 6

Page 7

Page 8
posted by JBennett at 11:02 AM on May 1 [3 favorites]


JBennett - those all load the same image for me
posted by stenseng at 11:07 AM on May 1


Nevermind - seems fine now. Weird.
posted by stenseng at 11:22 AM on May 1


I really want to read the story from that "clunky" link.

Obviously, that's the point of comic book covers. I just point that out because Feldstein was a fucking master at that.

Lots of love upthread for Al Jafee, Mort Drucker, and the rest of the usual gang of idiots. Let's not forget Feldstein was also the guy that hired Sergio Aragones, who among other things gave us those great "mad marginals."
posted by marxchivist at 11:42 AM on May 1 [2 favorites]


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posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:07 PM on May 1


I bought a couple of MAD book from a fete when I was about 12/13. They were from the 50s, so some of the jokes were lost on me (Ford Edsel?) but the other stuff made me laugh and I started buying the magazine. I can still remember a few of the altered movie titles. Such great comedy, it changed my sense of humour at a critical time, so thanks to all at MAD.

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posted by marienbad at 12:53 PM on May 1


EC for me, see?

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posted by Spatch at 1:15 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


Lots of love upthread for Al Jafee, Mort Drucker, and the rest of the usual gang of idiots. Let's not forget Feldstein was also the guy that hired Sergio Aragones

Oops, somehow Sergio Aragones fell out of the little spreadsheet I made to construct that post. Didn't mean to leave out the head of the Marginal Thinking Dept. and creator of Groo the Wanderer, who is still very much alive and mustachioed.
 
posted by Herodios at 1:18 PM on May 1


Perhaps Feldstein's finest hour at EC.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:55 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]


> Harvey Kurtzman, Bill Gaines, Will Elder, Wally Wood, Norman Mingo, George Woodbridge, Don Martin,
> Antonio Prohías, Dave Berg, Bob Clarke, John Putnam, and now Al Feldstein -- all gone.

All great, all missed. Miss Don the most.
posted by jfuller at 2:20 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


MartinWisse: "Perhaps Feldstein's finest hour at EC."

That's a great story. I had never heard about that.
posted by chavenet at 2:22 PM on May 1


tommasz: "One of the few magazines you had to hide from your parents that wasn't, you know, one of those magazines."

In my house it was my Dad who tried to hide the MAD magazines from his sons.
posted by chavenet at 2:26 PM on May 1


MartinWisse: "Perhaps Feldstein's finest hour at EC."

That's a great story. I had never heard about that.


Blog post about "Judgement Day" which actually contains scans of the story. I also had never heard about it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:21 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


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posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 5:18 PM on May 1


Blog post about "Judgement Day" which actually contains scans of the story.

And here's a scan of the letters page in the following ish. From the first letter (from Name Withheld, Augusta, GA) to the last (from Ray Bradbury, Los Angeles, CA) it shows how the 1950s were both better and worse -- in any case, more complicated -- than sometimes depicted in popular culture at five or six decades remove.
 
posted by Herodios at 6:07 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]


In the mid-80s, when I first started riding my bike pretty far from the house, we found a comic store that was selling old magazines for a quarter. Oui, Penthouse...we bought up all we could, sold 'em for a profit, and cleaned the store out of skin mags. I used some of the profits to buy all the MADs they had - again, a quarter a pop. They went from about '63 to '76, and were in terrible condition even before I read them a dozen times each. I read them clandestinely, of course. But those MADs - where the articles made fun of everyone--right, left, themselves even!--taught me about humor and, dare I say, gave me a pretty balanced sense of the sixties and seventies.

Thanks, Al.
posted by notsnot at 6:16 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]


Here's a nice photo of Feldstein(r) and Gaines(l) I just ran across.
posted by marxchivist at 6:37 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]


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posted by brujita at 12:43 AM on May 2


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posted by Gelatin at 2:50 AM on May 2


Comprehensive obit from The Comics Journal.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 5:17 AM on May 2


Drat. Adding my double to this fine obit post: ---

What, me worry?

MAD Magazine co-creator and editor for 29 years, Al Feldstein, has died. "MAD started during a time of repression in the United States." In 1955, EC got out of the comic business to focus on publishing its humor magazine, "MAD". After "MAD" creator Harvey Kurtzman left EC, Al Feldstein became editor, a job he held until his retirement in 1984. During his editorship, he was responsible for the creation of MAD's trademark spokesperson, Alfred E. Neuman, as well as increasing circulation to almost 3,000,000.

How I Was Stalked by George Carlin by Mark Feldstein (Al's son)

Al Feldstein is one of the most influential figures in the history of horror comics and graphic novels. Al arrived at the legendary company EC Comics in 1948

Who's Who of American Comic Books 1928-1999

An Interview with EC Comics' Al Feldstein

IMDB: Feldstein was famous for his bizarre aliens and gory horror images, but he was also responsible for adapting the works of Ray Bradbury into comic form, and publishing some of the early works of Harlan Ellison.

Al Feldstein's website in his retired years.

MAD at the FBI

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Am a huge fan of MAD mag from way back in the early 60's, MAD was an extraordinary education, genuinely a smartly subversive, intelligently anti-authoritarian, get wise to the chicanery-idiocy of the mainstream media, personality cult worship of Hollywood and Washington DC eye opener. Every single magazine was hilarious, witty, spot on. From making fun of the entire Cold War insanity in those great Spy vs Spy comic strips to lobbing tomatoes at Madison Avenue with spoof adverts, MAD encouraged kids to be less gullible, to look deeper into reality, into appearances, to question things and to think.

I feel deeply grateful that Al Feldstein was born, lived, co-founded MAD. Wishing him a marvelous resonance in the universe.
posted by nickyskye at 1:04 PM on May 2 [3 favorites]


., damn.
EC, and MAD especially is one of my major influences on ... everything growing up.
posted by lkc at 2:13 PM on May 2


Mark Evanier's story of Al Feldstein meeting Ray Bradbury for the first time at the 2002 San Diego Comic Con. Feldstein adapted some of Bradbury's stories for the EC Comics.
posted by marxchivist at 9:28 AM on May 5 [2 favorites]


Amazing, marxchivist. Thank you for that link.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:30 PM on May 5


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