Mad #24 (Harvey Kurtzman) - First Kurtzman Magazine Issue - July 1955

In 1955, William M. Gaines, Publisher and Harvey Kurtzman, Editor decided to transform the comic book (Tales Calculated to Drive You) Mad to the magazine Mad (Humor in a Jugular Vein).  In so doing, they saved Mad from the Comic Book Code and the subsequent blackballing that killed all of the other EC publications.  All lovers of classic parody, satire and lampoon should be thankful for that critical decision.

The cover of Mad #24 is not particularly distinctive, but true Mad fans will recognize several of the running absurdities (or non sequitur) that have become trade marks.  Editor Kurtzman drew the cover art as evidenced by his unusual signature.  He placed the idiot kid (not yet identified as "Alfred E. Neuman") in the ornate border at the top center over his refrain: "What? Me Worry?"  Inside, the idiot kid is named Melvin Coznowski on page 7 and, finally renamed Alfred E. Neuman on page 62.  Several historical figures (Socrates, Napolean, Freud, Marilyn Monroe, Alexander the Great, Rembrandt, Galileo, Lassie, Tom Swift, Columbus, Caesar, Buffalo Bill, Copernicus, Pasteur and Beethoven) and "Alfred Neuman" (with middle initial "L") surround the cover.  All except Monroe are reading Mad.  The price was twenty-five cents "Cheap."  A six-fingered hand points to the inside where the reader "will find an extremely important message."

Inside are nine classic ad parodies, articles by known humorists (Ernie Kovacs and Roger Price), movie parody ("Vera's Cruz"), television parody ("Is This Your Life?"), newspaper comic parodies ("Brunettie," "Little Orphan Melvin," "Smilin' Melvin," "Lil' Ab'r," "Dick Tracing" and "Manduck the Magician") and hundreds of wonderful, detailed drawings.

Mad humor exists at two levels (or dimensions).  As a veteran Mad reader, I measure issues by the amount of second level (3D) humor.  3D humor is the absurd, non sequitur, and inside jokes that usually are found in the background, and usually do not further or pertain to the story line (two dimensional humor).  Examples are caricatures of celebrities in crowd scenes, background signs, Mad words (potrzebie, axolotl, etc.), Arthur the avocado tree, zeppelins, objects that do not belong, Alfred E. Neuman in strange places, etc.  Without trying, I counted 112 separate second-level absurdities in Mad #24.  I remember finding these on the second or third reading when I was an adolescent.  I began reading Mad from cover to cover without skipping a word for fear that I might miss a gem.  I am sure that every issue contains some humor that I have yet to find.  True Mad lovers examine every frame of comic art for the hidden, extra humor.

Reading Mad #24 for the first time at age 47 [1994], I was delighted by the following gems:

Wallace (Wally) Wood's wonderful movie ad parody: "Gluggle!" with 94 detailed, underwater characters ogling "Jane Outsell."  (To count these, I had to run a copy and number each one.)

Wood's space ship cross-section in the "Science Dept."

Bill (Will or Wolf) Elder's crazy, celebrity-filled "Ordinary T.V. Audience" for "Is This Your Life?"

Harvey (Editor) Kurtzman's [or is it Will Elder?] unsigned drawings for the title page of the "Tom Swiffft" parody.

Jack (Jack) Davis's incredibly detailed, improbable fight scenes in "Vera's Cruz," the Gary Cooper-Burt Lancaster movie parody.  (On page 60, Davis crams at least thirty jokes into two 2-1/2 by 3-1/4 frames. [PSA2]

Man has a phi beta kappa key. ("Vera's Cruz" - page 56)

Science - Is a Trip to the Moon Possible? (Wood)
News - Report from Russia
Literature - Out of the Frying Pan and into the Soup (Wallach/Krigstein)
Sports - Wrestling (Davis)
Newspaper Comics (Elder)
Crime - Classy Crimes #138: "Who put the Strichnine in Mrs. Murphy's Husband?" (Shir-Cliff/Elder)
Do It Yourself - Anyone can build this Coffee Table (Davis)
Television - Is This Your Life? (Elder)
Classics - Tom Swiffft and his Electric Ping Pong Ball (Kovacs)
Education - A Guide for Future Job Hunters (Price)
Movie - Vera's Cruz (Davis)
Puzzle - Pictoquiz (Davis)