In Lamenting the Loss of MAD Magazine, Exhuming its Lafayette Street Origins [HISTORY]
Last week, over the quiet Fourth of July holiday, the world learned that MAD Magazine will no longer appear on newsstands, and cease to print new material. Instead, the iconic 67-year-old satire will go into syndication, so to speak.
According to widely published reports, the October issue will be the last. Thereafter, mainly reruns – the only new MAD material will be year-end specials and each of the covers. Newsstands won’t sell it, either. Just mail and comic book stores.
This news is devastating. MAD was really the only comic book we read growing up. Most memorably as a young camper with this flimsy publication as primary means of entertainment. The pithy satire of Sergio Aragones’ A Mad Look At…, Spy vs. Spy, the Mad Fold-in on the back cover. All of it great.
Especially since the operation was based in Little Italy.
The roots of MAD Magazine date back to the glory days of comics on Lafayette Street. Specifically, number 225 at the southeast corner of Spring.
Designed by Cass Gilbert – the same architect behind the Woolworth building – the city landmark was built in 1927 and anchored by the East River Savings Bank. Two decades later, Educational Comics took space on the seventh floor.
This comic book company was founded by the father of the comic book industry, Max Gaines, who left it to his son after a freak boating accident on Lake Placid in 1947. It was William Gaines who took the struggling company, which focused on bible and history comics, and brought it success.
The first step was a name change to Entertaining Comics; then he and friend Al Feldstein dreamed up the idea for The Crypt of Terror (later rebranded, Tales from the Crypt), inspired by their shared a love of horror and sci-fi radio dramas of the 1930s and 1940s.
Staff writer and artist Harvey Kurtzman brought in the idea for MAD. The first issue hit the stands in 1952, and parodied their own genre specialty of horror. Gap-toothed mascot Alfred E. Newman didn’t become the poster child until four years later.
Gaines sold the company in the early 1960s to Warner/DC Comics, which meant the end of the tenure at 225 Lafayette Street.