Humor in a Jugular Vein, indeed
So, my resentments over marriages and relationships lost, as well as having been saddled with amazingly unfeeling parents have, for the most part, in my moments of sanity, put on a back burner to maybe never go away, but at least to simmer gently.
But, there is one resentment I have that thoroughly pisses me off to this day. Pisses me off because if history had altered I might be a relatively rich man today. “Thanks, Mom,” he said in a voice dripping with sarcasm.
So, in total at that time I had over 200 comic books. And they ‘all’ went into the conflagration. (sob!) Have you seen what even single issues of those things are worth today if they’re in good condition? The collection probably would have bought me a condo in Dubai.
For some reason, however, three tomes escaped the conflagration. One is a Walt Disney Comics and Stories from 1953, another is a Bugs Bunny from 1955 and the third, and most prized of all, is a Mad Magazine from September 1956. The Mad is the most prized of all. I grant it is in ratty condition, but it’s all there, and it is only the third magazine-format Mad to be published. Therein in lies a bit of the crux of my creative life as it has unfolded.
One day, a couple of years before my mother exhorted me to burn my comic books, my same age cousin showed me two or three ‘comics’ he had found. I’d never seen them before. The books were called Mad Comics. Standard comic book format were they, with the colors and frames, but contained therein were spoofs of established strips. But, rather than cheap throwaways, the lampoons of popular strips were beautifully drawn by established artists like Will Elder and Wally Wood, among a host of others.
What struck me was the fact that not only were the spoofs of Archie, Superman, Prince Valiant and others screamingly funny, they also metaphorically gave the finger to everything. I had, ladies and gentlemen, found satire for the first time. I never looked back. They were irreverent, rude, crude, and sometimes lewd with a lot of very big-boobed girls in the renderings, hilarious and took the constipated society of the 1950s to task. I was in heaven with this stuff.
Down the years I ran along with Mad. Within a couple of years it went to magazine format and in its prime, before it became a tiny bit lame and predictable, it held down the satirical fort. There were facsimiles, but none came close to the original as published by William M. Gaines (a former purveyor of horror comics from his EC stable).
We, of course, grow out of everything. And, just at the right time, when I was young and feeling a little rebellious, the National Lampoon came along. This was more brilliant, more irreverent, dirtier and funnier than Mad ever was in its wildest aspirations.
The premiere issue was known simply as: 'The Sexy Cover Issue.' I own it, I am proud to say. Indeed, I own the entire first year of National Lampoon. That was arguably the best year as well. It was fresh, shockingly smutty, brutal in its politics, often cringe-inducingly sophomoric in its themes, it still reflects a time. The classic cover during that year is the one pictured here – the worried looking dog and the revolver. I was especially struck by that cover since the dog pictured is the spitting-image of my beloved and still lamented border collie, Murphy.
It was around this time that I first turned my hand to putting together some satire of my own. I was still teaching high school, and one of the projects that I got my senior creative writing class to turn their hands to was the creation of an anti-yearbook spoof. And we did it, and it was very funny considering it was put together by me, a group of high school seniors. Two years after that the National Lampoon did their inspired and brilliantly done yearbook spoof, but I like to think we did it first.
After I left teaching shortly thereafter I became a newspaper columnist. My columns were almost always irreverent, and I was periodically chastised by my editor for coming too close to the line. But, I also won a couple of major writing awards for the paper, so he didn’t balk too much. I continued with my satirical column for nearly 20 years, and can honestly attest that – especially before I developed my own style – that Mad and Lampoon had roles to play.
At the same time, I am still pissed about having to burn those comic books.
Labels: Back to the roots