Comics

Art of the Afterthought: The "MAD: 50 Worst Things" Exclusive Preview

It's an early summer for one of the most outrageous and most hilarious MADs. Time to dip your feet into the lake with an exclusive preview.

It's the afterthought that really gets to me, these Fundalini Pages of MAD #515. The issue is constructed around the centerpiece of "The 50 Worst Things About America" (a misnomer of note, it's a pre-summer warmup for some of the greatest things about America, but in MAD's usual "jugular vein"), and around one of the funniest iPhone parodies ever done by the magazine. But that's for later. For now, it's the Fundalini pages, and some of the most memorable. But what really shines through on that opening page and on the pages that follow is how finely the Usual Gang of Idiots craft the art of the afterthought.

It's right there in the bottom corner of the first page--the cover they thought of, after the actual cover was completed. Issue #515's cover is dedicated to #4 on the "50 Worst" list, "Our obsession with cosmetic surgery". The cover is Lady Liberty, with "work". MAD mascot Alfred E. Neuman, pokes his head out from the observation deck. It must be said that this cover is beautifully done. The artwork in the actual list doesn't repeat the same gag the cover does. But this cover flawlessly apprehends both the great and sweeping political ideals (the Statue of Liberty) ushered in by the American Revolution, and the material aspirations (the cosmetic surgery) that this revolution in thinking has made every American heir to.

As with everything the MAD "humor in a jugular vein" here, is a directed humor. In this issue it is a humor focused on understanding that deep and abiding connection between the revolutionary thinking of earlier America, and the pursuit of material happiness that that revolutionary thinking ushered us into. It makes sense that iPhone is up for grabs this issue, as is material care for the elderly, as is the Hunger Games. But it's that double-take, double-punch with the cover that really frames the issue.

A quick glance at the afterthought cover and everything's just the same. It's still Lady Liberty, she's still had work. But what's changed? Glance down at her cleavage. Alfred E. Neuman's All-Star's and jeans legs thrust skywards. He's fallen into the actual bosom of Liberty. It's this framing of the question of how we negotiate our material desires in relation to the greater political ideals of the nation that is a perennial question for the Summer. But it's this printing of the cover the Usual Gang of Idiot's suspected they couldn't get away with that really brings an artistic framing to this issue.

With this cover we've crossed over into Easy Rider territory here, where the "freak" on the edge of society exposes how outlandish mainstream society has become. The art of the afterthought, the printing of the cover the Usual Gang couldn't get away with (but did), reframes almost every piece on the Fundalini Pages. Jeff Kruse's fencing with the idea of Romney certainly takes on a deeper urgency.

Kruse's "My Other Car" bumper sticker for Romney 2012 cuts deeply into the idea of projecting certain kinds of values. Scott Maiko's newspaper ads are purely gripping. It's a profound statement on the kind of very personal, small-scale rebellions that we faced before social media ostensibly opened the doors for such large social movements as Occupy. And of course there's Jacob Lambert's Kafka-esque wrestling with insects much larger than they should be. The bedbug making out with the woman cheating on her husband is almost exactly the right kind of funny that would have you think new kinds of thoughts.

But deeper than finding that connection between our expectations and our aspirations, MAD #515's Fundalini Pages is as moving and as convincing an argument for there being a MAD in the world. A few years ago (after a certain young starlet's music video) it felt like An End for me. Like things had hit the cliff not because there wasn't really room in the world for Metallica (or GNR or Led Zeppelin) but because it felt like there needn't have to be room in the world for them. At least not outside a certain well-defined connoisseur-ship in the nostalgia economy. But these Fundalini pages… they feel like the antidote to that. Like putting your feet into the lake, for the very first time.

Please enjoy your exclusive preview of MAD #515, complete with Katy Perry…

Cover

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Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

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