I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This series of posts is about the comics I read, and, occasionally, the comics that I should have read.
As if predicting the indie cred craving, college rock fellow I’d become a few years later, I largely rejected Mad when I was a youngster. I adored the brand of goofball, snot-nosed comedy offered up by that particular periodical, and there were certainly enough paperback collections culled from its pages strewn about my various homes that it’s reasonable to say I was reared on its insolence. But when it came time for me to fish some nickels out of my wee pockets to grab some age-questionable comedic content from the racks on magazines at the grocery store, I decided Mad was too venerable, or maybe too predictable of a choice. I opted for the off-brand competitors instead. And since I was following the Make Mine Marvel plan when it came to my superhero comics, I did the same with my humor mag.
Crazy was launched by Marvel in 1973, as part of ramping up of a magazine line that included horror titles artfully eliding the Comics Code Authority and soon serve as the publishing home of the behemoth success The Savage Sword of Conan. It devotedly followed the Mad model, with a parade of bratty, lowbrow gags rendered by distinctive cartoonists. Like Mad, movie and TV parodies took a central role, usually built on jokes so cheeseball they didn’t even rise to the lofty accomplishment of groaners.
Because the magazine was officially created under the same roof as the high-flying heroes of the Marvel Universe, there was, it seemed to me, a greater willingness to generate material from the vagaries of superhero storytelling. Except for a few characters that had crossed over into the broader public consciousness, most of the Marvel titans were still relatively obscure. In Crazy, though, they could become fodder for intensely specific gag work.
In the early nineteen-eighties, I’m doubt any other magazine would have let the idea of imagining Uncanny X-Men as a product of Momma cartoonist Mell Lazarus get past the brainstorming stage, but Crazy ran with it. As someone who studied the daily comics page and my latest superhero adventures with similar scrutinizing focus, I felt the magazine was catered directly to my specific sensibilities.
Crazy had recurring features that were, to be fair, notably mediocre. To me, the comfort of their familiar jokes was a huge part of the appeal. There was nothing all that memorable in, say, the monthly installments of “Teen Hulk” or the basic as can be song lyric parodies under the conceit of loose spoof of The Midnight Special. There was also the charming oddity of Steve Mellor’s “Kinetic Kids,” a regular experiment in two-page flip book animation from the artist who eventually had a strong hand in the heyday of Spider-Ham.
Nothing found in the pages of Crazy had the feel of mild classic that could be discerned in Mad‘s best stuff. Even at the time, I knew that. It didn’t really matter. I was completely invested in finding new, wild, rule-flouting comedy that could be my very own. Crazy, by aping Mad but also standing indifferently separate from it, satisfied that desire nicely. That I found few others who partook of its ripe japery only confirmed the rightness of Crazy for me. Juvenile comedy rebellion doesn’t require teammates.
Previous entries in this series (and there are a LOT of them) can be found by clicking on the “My Misspent Youth” tag.