Friday, December 06, 2013


Flattery be damned. In 1954-55, the hottest comic on the newsstands was MAD, from EC Comics. Almost everyone publishing comics books wanted to imitate it. And the ones who didn't want to imitate it, wanted to kill it off.

But I'm not here to talk about any of the villains who wanted to destroy MAD. I want to mention what EC Comics did to protect their extremely profitable spot on those newsstands. Since almost every publisher was trying like mad to imitate MAD, Bill Gaines and company just decided that the best thing to do was...imitate MAD!

If someone was going to steal some of their sales numbers, it might as well be themselves.

So what they did was create a companion book called PANIC. It had the same writers, the same artists, the same publisher, the same Jewish sense of humor. How could it miss? And the thing was, of course, to kill off the weakest of the imitators by causing the fans to buy PANIC instead of CRAZY or GET LOST! or FLIP or CRACKED or MADHOUSE or WHACK or EH! get the picture. The imitators were out there in droves. Some of them were pretty good, too.

I haven't been concentrating on completing a set of PANIC, but I pick up copies when I see them at a good price. Despite the fact that they are, in essence, exactly the same thing as MAD from exactly the same creators at exactly the same publishing house, you can get these books for a LOT less than you can issues of MAD from the same period.

The last copy I picked up was #7. Sometimes the covers of both MAD and PANIC were kind of bland or uninspiring to me. Such is the case with this issue. But there was something about these special joke covers that seem bland to look upon that inspired the kids of the day to buy the darned things. I reckon they knew what they were doing.

Some day I need to write an essay of how Harvey Kurtzman was fucked out of his position at MAD. It was his baby all the way, and it ended up making the publisher, Bill Gaines, one of the richest men in comics. But for now I'll leave that where it is and save it for another time.


An ad for MAD from Kurtzman and Elder.

Just as with MAD, much of the humor in PANIC was topical. Most people today have absolutely no idea who Joe Palooka was. Palooka is just a word they heard in PULP FICTION. But it was prime material for parody in 1955.

Jack Davis, one of the most popular comedy artists at EC.

THEM was a hot commodity and still new to the screens. Wally Wood has a go at it.

Wally Wood was a great caricaturist and nobody did women like Woody.

Everyone thinks Marvel was the first publisher to connect with the fans. How wrong those people are! EC was adept at making (and keeping) a connection with its fans. The editors printed fan mail, and they bragged about the men who were writing and illustrating the stories that the fans kept coming back to read.

The average American is introduced to Jewish and Yiddish humor. Nobody did that better than the guys writing MAD and PANIC.

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