Well, I was clearing out some of my books recently and I almost threw this one out before deciding to take a closer look at it. I can’t remember where or even when I bought it (probably in a charity shop somewhere) but it’s this really old paperback book from 1962.
My copy of it, which is still readable but not in great condition, was printed in 1965. And, if you’re looking for a piece of vintage “Mad Men”-esque Americana, you’ll probably enjoy this book.
This book contains a selection of cartoons and amusing short articles from a magazine called “MAD Magazine” (kind of like the American equivalent of “Private Eye”, I guess. Albeit with much less political satire). Having never read “MAD Magazine”, I can’t really comment about whether they picked the best parts of their magazine for this book or whether it represents the average issue of the magazine. Even so, it’s still a surprisingly funny book, given it’s age.
Although the book doesn’t contain much in the way of political satire, it is absolutely crammed with vintage social satire. Some of this would have probably been much funnier at the time, some I didn’t really understand (eg: some cultural and sports references) and some of it is fairly dated.
But quite a bit of it is surprisingly timeless – such as a sequence of pictures which show what happens “the minute after” an advert on TV finishes (eg: after a dog food advert finishes, the dog who has previously been eagerly eating the dog food pulls a large steak out from underneath a thin layer of dog food in his bowl).
One of the funniest parts of this book, to modern readers at least, is probably a short comic (called “Tomorrow’s Parents”) about what the “rebellious teenagers” of the 1950s/1960s will be like when they become parents.
The reason that this is so funny in retrospect is because the writer of this comic still believed that “cool” people would be dressing like Elvis/James Dean and talking like beatniks (eg: using words like “hip”, “cat”, “clue you in” etc…) in both the 1980s and at some unspecified point in the early 2000s LOL!!!!!
Another absolutely hilarious part of this book is a 19-page guide called “A MAD Guide For Babysitters” which is a brilliantly cynical parody of those awfully dated 1950s etiquette guides.
The art in this chapter is absolutely hilarious and most of the writing (apart from some fairly outdated descriptions/language on one page) is very good an surprisingly sarcastic and amusing too (eg: “Most clients are considerate, and realise from personal experience that it is practically impossible to go through an evening of watching TV without partaking in a 38,000 calorie snack“).
This book also contains some of Antonio Prohias’ “Spy Vs. Spy” comics. Since I’d heard of this series before, but never read it, I was quite interested (especially given the short bio of Prohias included in the book).
Unfortunately, there are only two (two-page) “Spy Vs. Spy” comics in the entire book. Given that he was pretty much the only cartoonist who was actually introduced in this book, I kind of expected that more of his stuff would be included.
Interestingly, it also contains a short comic called “Scenes We’d Like To See”, which made me think of the segment of the same title in the BBC’s excellent “Mock The Week”. The humour in this short comic is similarly cynical and it would be interesting to see whether or not this was the inspiration for this part of “Mock The Week”.
The art in this book is suprisingly good too and it contains a very interesting mix of both highly stylised cartoons and more detailed/realistic vintage comic art, as well as a few satirical paintings too (such as a collection of magazine covers for elderly readers). Although it is obviously printed in black and white on ordinary book paper, the quaility of the printing is still fairly good and the art is still very easily recognisable too.
All in all, this book is an interesting piece of modern history and, although some of it hasn’t really aged that well, quite a few parts of it are still pretty funny. The art in it is surprisingly good and it has a wide variety of different things in it too.
If I had to give it a rating out of five, then it would probably get a three and a half.