The year was 1952. EC Comics, best known for their controversial horror books and other publications, created a new magazine that would go on to be controversial for its’ raunchy humor and biting satire. It would also become one of the most influential comedy publications in history. That magazine was Mad Magazine.
Starting life as a comic book full of crazy stories, then morphing into the publication that made a character named Alfred E Newman and his catchphrase “What, Me Worried?” just as big as hula hoops and sliced bread, Mad Magazine was not afraid to push buttons when it came to making jokes about social norms and pop culture. It was beloved by subversive kids and loathed by educators and parents.
Over the years that followed, Mad Magazine would influence writers like Harold Ramis, John Landis and the founders of the National Lampoon. Like Action Comics before it, it would also inspire many imitators of wildly varying quality. Perhaps the most famous of these was Cracked Magazine, but there were a number of other books with titles like Sick, Panic and Help! And from 1976 to 1983, Marvel Comics produced their own twisted satirical comic book; Crazy Magazine.
Compiled from contributions from the Who’s Who of Marvel Comics at the time (including Marv Wolfman, Stan Lee and Will Eisner to name a few), Crazy Magazine was a mild hit for a short period, but it never caught on quite like Mad, National Lampoon or Cracked did with readers. Using a mixture of parody (both of pop culture and recycling old comic art with comedic dialogue), original humor and even the art of fumetti (creating comic strips using real photos instead of drawings), the writers wanted the readers to feel that everyone involved at Marvel were indeed crazy for deciding to be involved in this venture. Looking back at old samples available online, some of the strips were funny, but most of the material is cringeworthy at best.
Originally the magazine had a mascot named Irving Nebbish – a character I can only describe as the love child of Woody Allen and The Hamburger from McDonald’s. This was Stan Lee’s creation to counteract Alfred E Newman and proof that even Smilin’ Stan had bad ideas on occassion. However, when sales took a drastic dive in 1980, the staff decided to replace Irving with Obnoxio The Clown; an over-the-top cynical clown with the worst morals this side of a career politician. While the character developed a cult following, it was not enough to help sales and in 1983 Crazy Magazine shut down for good.
Cut to 2019 and the end of an era. Mad Magazine is reportedly doing away with new material after a failed attempt at a reboot earlier this year and will now focus on reissuing classic material. Cracked is now a successful webzine, mixing humorous articles and videos with actual news factoids and fun trivia. National Lampoon officially closed their doors in 1998, ending a legacy of humor that still lives on in several classic film comedies… and some truly terrible comedies that paid to license the National Lampoon name. Meanwhile, over at Marvel Comics, someone with a clear grasp of the cultural zeitgeist said “Hey, let’s bring back Crazy Magazine!” And someone, unfortunately, listened.
How can I put this politely? This debut of the revamp is not only a hot mess, but I do not know of anyone who said “I really miss Crazy Magazine“. Maybe I am wrong? Who knows? Maybe there was some rallying demand for the return of this kind of humor from the people who miss the comedy section of Wizard Magazine.
All I know is that there is nothing in this magazine that made me even chuckle. The jokes are presented in a lazy manner, ranging from sad jokes about Thanos flying a helicopter (like in that one Spider-Man kids comic from the 1970s you’ve seen everyone joke about on-line already) to a joke about Cable that I think would be too corny for CSI: Miami. The artwork is a tad too manic (think Ren and Stimpy, only not as crisp) and it jumps around more than a rabbit on cocaine. Honestly, at the end of this issue, I was wondering if I needed Ritalin or if it was just the comic.
If the idea was to make the audience feel like the artists and writers went crazy while making this book, then at least that aspect of Crazy #1 works. Frankly, I think they’re crazy to think that anyone will actually enjoy this book. Maybe someone will and that’s fine, but for me this book is an oddity on the buffet line that is best ignored.