What, me worry?
February 1, 2005 12:43 PM   Subscribe

The search for Alfred E. Neuman Carl Djerassi emigrated to the US after Hitler's annexation of Austria, and in his essay traces the gap-toothed Mad Magazine spokesman from his original sighting on a German anti-semitic propaganda poster (PDF).
posted by docpops (27 comments total)

 
Kenyon College graduate Carl Djerassi, no doubt.
posted by bardic at 12:48 PM on February 1, 2005


Djerassi.
posted by greasy_skillet at 12:53 PM on February 1, 2005


Kind of cool, I was really excited for a while, but then disappointed when it petered out without resolution.
posted by OmieWise at 12:54 PM on February 1, 2005


The Antikamnia Chemical Company was using this likeness on its medicine bottles. (Their antikamnia and codeine tablet with the quote beneath the character - it didn't hurt one bit!) I have one source that lists it as 1908. My understanding is that it was the standard picture for a doofus. Mad Magazine co-opted the image, and then surprisingly successfully prevented others from using it.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:57 PM on February 1, 2005


Djerassi's a cool cat. I spent many a time at The Djerassi Foundation visiting my parents when I was a child. My mother worked as a chef there and my father was a resident. It's a really great place, South of San Francisco if I remember.

He's also rather fond of Tang.

I believe this article (in conversational form) was why I was never allowed to read MAD as a child.
posted by Captaintripps at 1:12 PM on February 1, 2005


This would have been a better post with one or two more links.

The son of Mad editor Al Feldstein was the CFO of our company for several months...
posted by Slothrup at 1:12 PM on February 1, 2005


It wasn't just the Antikamnia Chemical Company--a face recognizeable as that of Alfred E. Neuman was in wide use for many years before it was adopted by MAD. That's mentioned in the article, in fact, and the history is given in this book.

Given that a large number of MAD's writers were Jewish, and some of them Holocaust survivors, it would be very, very surprising if they knowingly used a Nazi propaganda image as their mascot.
posted by kenko at 1:16 PM on February 1, 2005


1941?
(larger image)
posted by spock at 1:26 PM on February 1, 2005


Yeah, the first link from slothrup was way fun - a general search link for comix followed by a half dozen pop-up ads rivalling a porn site. I didn't have the stones to check the second.
posted by docpops at 1:36 PM on February 1, 2005


Given that a large number of MAD's writers were Jewish, and some of them Holocaust survivors, it would be very, very surprising if they knowingly used a Nazi propaganda image as their mascot.

Perhaps it is recontextualization to an end, ala ACT UP's reclamation of the purple triangle?
posted by AlexReynolds at 1:43 PM on February 1, 2005


I grew up on MAD Magazines, which my father had a great big stack of. The fact that I was a funny-looking, red-headed, gap-toothed, big-eared little kid with freckles was not overlooked.
posted by hob at 1:43 PM on February 1, 2005


Docpops: I think it was supposed to be www.toonopedia.com, not www.toonpedia.com.
posted by Bugbread at 1:44 PM on February 1, 2005


Alfred W. Bush . . .
posted by LeLiLo at 1:57 PM on February 1, 2005


Damn, no wonder. Thanks. That's a great site.
posted by docpops at 2:03 PM on February 1, 2005


I grew up on Mad too, and I could totally see their Jewish writers recontextualizing Nazi propaganda. That's like the ultimate fuck you.
posted by fungible at 2:07 PM on February 1, 2005


What, me genocide?
posted by cosmonik at 2:09 PM on February 1, 2005


Correcting Slothrups number one link above.

And, I think this whole Nazi angle is a side alley of no consequence. When MAD got sued on a claim that AENeuman infringed on a 1914 copyright, the cited 1911 antecedants. (Above link) Here's a guy who claims an 1876 precedent (pix left side of page, not the poem).

The point is, this is a kind of archetypal image that floated around in a variety of places. The 1950s MAD cartoonists are much more likely to have picked him up from early US comics than from a Nazi poster -- which, by the way, nobody seems to be able to actually produce. The illustration in the FPP link is a re-creation, not the Nazi original.
posted by beagle at 2:34 PM on February 1, 2005


"ALFRED E NEUMAN" ANTIKAMNIA 1908 CALENDAR
posted by kodas at 2:36 PM on February 1, 2005


AEN looks startlingly like my father-in-law...
posted by five fresh fish at 3:02 PM on February 1, 2005


The 1950s MAD cartoonists are much more likely to have picked him up from early US comics than from a Nazi poster -- which, by the way, nobody seems to be able to actually produce.

Exactly. The post is very badly framed; to say the essay "traces the gap-toothed Mad Magazine spokesman from his original sighting on a German anti-semitic propaganda poster" implies that's where it came from, whereas the author is actually saying his experiences in Europe sensitized him to the image and made him think there was a connection when in fact there was not.

OmieWise: What do you mean, "it petered out without resolution"? He learned to love Mad, visited the offices, and discovered the true history of the image. What more resolution do you want in a short article?
posted by languagehat at 3:04 PM on February 1, 2005


What more resolution do you want in a short article?

Like, maybe what he set out to do. That is, find the German source of the image (or at least the German example). I was disappointed with the ending as well.
posted by rooftop secrets at 4:38 PM on February 1, 2005


"...the political cartoon on the last page featuring Gary Hart and Ronrdd Reagan was clever and biting."
posted by uncanny hengeman at 4:54 PM on February 1, 2005


Yeah, the first link from slothrup was way fun - a general search link for comix followed by a half dozen pop-up ads rivalling a porn site. I didn't have the stones to check the second.

I'm terribly sorry about that; I usually check all links before posting, but somehow forgot this time.
posted by Slothrup at 5:02 PM on February 1, 2005


Like, maybe what he set out to do. That is, find the German source of the image

That wasn't what he set out to do, and a good thing too, because the image didn't have a German source. He set out to reconcile his memory of an anti-Semitic image with the American phenomenon of Mad and its mascot. He did it. Sorry he didn't write the article you wanted to read.
posted by languagehat at 6:41 PM on February 1, 2005


I thought Dean Kamen was the inspiration.
posted by The Deej at 7:08 PM on February 1, 2005


docpops: Get a browser that dosn't suck.
posted by delmoi at 9:43 PM on February 1, 2005


Kenyon College graduate Carl Djerassi, no doubt.

Wow! I was hoping that would come out at some point in the thread, but the first post is quite a surprise. Kenyon has had a rather contentious relationship with Djerassi, but then it seems to have one with all of the famous alumni...
posted by somethingotherthan at 7:50 PM on February 2, 2005


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