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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Marvel takes a jab at DC Comics (via CRAZY magazine)

…well, it was all in the name of ‘satire’, so I guess that doesn’t really make it so scandalous.

MAD magazine, a satirical black-and-white publication that debuted as a full-color comic book in 1952, had reached an all-time high with a circulation of 2,132,655 in 1974. Marvel comics being saavy enought to recognize a good thing when they saw it, decided to release their own satirical black-and-white publication called Crazy Magazine in 1973.

Crazy magazine ran from 1973 to 1983 and went through several iterations that depended heavily on the editorial direction.

Marv Wolfman and Steve Gerber were the first two subsequent editors and, with the intent of producing a publication with a different “feel” to it, allowed the magazine to feature work by Harlan Ellison, Basil Wolverton, Neal Adams, and Don McGregor (among others). Early sales of the magazine were poor (this was attributed to Wolfman’s and Gerber’s “too-sophisticated” approach), and Paul Laikin took over as editor in issue #16.

After Laikin became editor, the magazine became profitable again, but mainly because he reduced the payment rate for contributed material so low that no regular Marvel artists or writers had any interest in working for the magazine. The quality of the work suffered and this is most likely the point in time when Crazy Magazine was considered to be another MAD/Cracked Magazine clone.

Crazy stayed very close to the popular black-and-white humor magazine format and this included TV and movie parodies, observational humor on pop culture, features with “Crazy” in the title (ex: “A CRAZY look at…”, “The CRAZY guide to…”, etc), fake magazine parodies, fake full-color inserts, and they even had an Sylvester P Smythe/Alfred E Neuman-esque mascot named Irving Nebbish (he’s in the phone booth on the cover of issue #50). If you compared the interior contents and visual layout of CRAZY and MAD, you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish which was which.

Marvel comics decided to give the 'original dream’ another shot and replaced Laikin with Larry Hama. Along with Hama came an increased budget (meant to offer higher pay rates to contributors) with the intention of bringing high-quality talent. The idea was to move away from 'juvenile’ material and to no longer be seen as a MAD magazine duplicate. Hama also planned on introducing regular features and even ushered in a frightening new mascot - Obnoxio the Clown (see cover of issue #81 above) - to replace Nebbish.

Crazy magazine’s last issue was issue #94 published in 1983.

You can view digital copies of Crazy Magazine on the Internet Archive.

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