MAD Magazine to stop newsstand distribution after 67 years

Mad will cease to be available on newsstands, with new material only available in the year-end specials.

After 67 years of publishing, MAD Magazine will cease to be available on newsstands, with new material only available in the year-end specials.

The last surviving title of the EC Comics line and the most culturally significant American satire magazine, MAD, will undergo a major transformation as newsstand distribution ceases. It will only be available to the direct market and subscribers, will reprint old content from their 67-year library and only create new material for the year-end specials.

MAD #46 from 1959

MAD Magazine is the home Spy vs. Spy, Mad-fold-ins, A Mad Look At…, the Lighter Side Of, and decades of TV and film parodies while still providing scathing political and social commentary. This has been a rough few weeks for political and satire cartoonists as the New York Times stopped cartoon publishing and The Nib lost funding.

The first indication something was going down at MAD came when Senior Editor Dan Telfer tweeted that he was laid off and is looking for new work. “Hey there! I am a nerdy writer type looking to land somewhere after being laid off from my 2-year stint as Senior Editor of MAD Magazine. All leads and RTs are appreciated!”

Shortly thereafter, Evan Dorkin followed up with his own tweet thread on his memories of working at MAD:

Early reports suggested that MAD was ending all publication by issue #10. Confusion on the status of MAD Magazine was rampant on social media. Even though most view the decision to stop creating new material as a nail in the coffin, Peter Kuper reminded the internet that he still has unpublished Spy vs. Spy comics and he is still working on more.

At this time, there has been no official statement from DC Comics.

“So what do I think about this?” writer Mark Evanier asked on his blog. “I think it sucks and I think it’s a huge mistake, especially for a company like Time-Warner that is so into the concept of branding and expanding everything they own into all possible forms — TV shows, movies, video games, dolls, t-shirts, etc. It ain’t good for them to tell the world that the name of MAD is of such low value that it can’t even sell MAD.

“The letter to contributors blames low sales and I assume they are indeed poor…but just because the marketplace isn’t buying the MAD they’re currently being offered doesn’t mean it wouldn’t sustain a different MAD, one that is true to the working premise of the publication in different, more timely ways. I have to think that someone there is pondering what MAD 2.0 might be like. At least, I hope someone is.”

MAD was founded in 1952 by editor Harvey Kurtzman and publisher William Gaines as a comic book under EC. In 1955, it made a crucial move to  the magazine format in order to dodge the content limitations of the Comics Code Authority.

In 1956, new editor Al Feldstein came on board and hired some of the most iconic cartoonists for MAD, including Don Martin, Mort Ducker, Sergio Aragones and Dave Berg. Under Feldstein, MAD Magazine reached its peak readership of 2.13 million in 1974.

Gaines sold EC to Kinney Parking Company, who also owned DC Comics and Warner Bros. Kinney were mostly hands off and Gaines was allowed to run MAD Magazine as an independent entity until his death in 1992.

After Gaines’ passing, Warner Bros. took more control over the publishing side of MAD and was moved into DC Comics’ offices. Under DC Comics, MAD went though some changes including the addition of advertising and being printed in full color.

With sales still on the steady decline and print media reading habits competing with the instant gratification of the internet, DC Comics relaunched MAD as a bi-monthly magazine in 2017. John Jackson Miller has more data on the publication’s sales over the years.

Dorkin also pointed out that MAD Fold-In creator Al Jaffee, who joined the Usual Gang of Idiots in 1955, right after they moved to the magazine format, is alive at the age of 98. Keeping things light, Dorkin said, “And I wish MAD would hire Jaffee to do the cover for the last original issue of the magazine. Because, for all intents and purposes, MAD is folding.”

That last original issue arrive sin the fall. Here’s the solicitation information:

written and illustrated by THE USUAL GANG OF IDIOTS
This issue, MAD goes straight to hell as we look at more live-action Disney cartoon remakes no one wants! Plus, Xander and Cam try to sit through the latest horror movies, Tom Bunk takes you on a guided tour of the underworld, and MAD finds the funny in The Handmaid’s Tale.
ON SALE 10.16.19
$5.99 US | 56 PAGES

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