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…