Al Feldstein | Former Mad editor, 88
Before The Daily Show, The Simpsons, or even Saturday Night Live, Al Feldstein helped show America how to laugh at authority and giggle at popular culture.
Millions of young baby boomers looked forward to that day when the new issue of Mad magazine, which Mr. Feldstein ran for 28 years, arrived in the mail or on newsstands. They looked for the latest send-up of the president or of a television commercial. They savored the mystery of the fold-in, where a topical cartoon appeared with a question on top that was answered by collapsing the page and creating a new, and often hilarious, image.
Thanks in part to Mr. Feldstein, 88, who died Tuesday at his Montana home, comics were a funhouse tour of current events and the latest crazes. Mad was breakthrough satire for the post-World War II era.
Mr. Feldstein's reign at Mad began in 1956. Publisher William M. Gaines had started Mad as a comic book four years earlier and converted it to a magazine to avoid the restrictions of the then-Comics Code and to persuade founding editor Harvey Kurtzman to stay on. But Kurtzman departed anyway and Gaines picked Mr. Feldstein as his replacement.
He guided Mad to mass success. One of his smartest moves was to build on a character used by Kurtzman. Mr. Feldstein turned the freckle-faced Alfred E. Neuman into an underground hero - a dimwitted everyman with a gap-toothed smile and the recurring stock phrase "What, Me Worry?"
Mr. Feldstein and Gaines assembled a team of artists and writers who turned out such enduring features as "Spy vs. Spy" and "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions."
But not everyone was amused.
During the Vietnam War, Mad once held a spoof contest inviting readers to submit their names to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover for an "Official Draft Dodger Card." Mr. Feldstein said two bureau agents soon showed up at the magazine's offices to demand an apology for "sullying" Hoover's reputation. - AP