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Mad Magazine's Al Feldstein, Who Made It Smart Alecky, Dies at 88

Image: Mad Magazine's Al Feldstein, Who Made It Smart Alecky, Dies at 88

Thursday, 01 May 2014 09:21 AM

By Clyde Hughes

Former Mad magazine editor Al Feldstein, who helped turn the satirical cartoon magazine into a pop culture icon for baby boomers, died Tuesday at his Paradise Valley, Mont. ranch. He was 88.

Feldstein had worked as a comic book writer and illustrator before becoming editor of Mad in 1956, a year after it moved from comic book format to a magazine, according to the New York Times.

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"The founding editor, Harvey Kurtzman, established its well-informed irreverence, but Mr. Feldstein gave Mad its identity as a smart-alecky, sniggering and indisputably clever spitball-shooter of a publication with a scattershot look, dominated by gifted cartoonists of wildly differing styles," The Times' Bruce Weber wrote .

Feldstein famously established the fictitious Alfred E. Neuman as the face of the magazine.

"In his second issue, Mr. Feldstein seized on a character who had appeared only marginally in the magazine — a freckled, gaptoothed, big-eared, glazed-looking young man — and put his image on the cover, identifying him as a write-in candidate for president campaigning under the slogan 'What — me worry?'" Weber wrote. "At first he went by Mel Haney, Melvin Cowznofski and other names. But when the December 1956 issue, No. 30, identified him as Alfred E. Neuman, the name stuck."

Mad left few stones unturned for its satirical and parody targets, from presidents, entertainment figures like Michael Jackson, movie characters like Darth Vader and even Santa Claus. Feldstein and publisher William Gaines' artists and writers molded Mad's most popular features, such as "Spy vs. Spy," "The Lighter Side of …" and "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions," according to the Associated Press.

"Mad was wide open (for its parodies)," Feldstein told the Onion's A.V. Club in 2007. "Bill loved it, and he was a capitalist Republican. I loved it, and I was a liberal Democrat. That went for the writers, too; they all had their own political leanings, and everybody had a voice."

Feldstein served as editor of Mad until 1984. Later in life, he did wildlife and landscape paintings in Montana.

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