“Humbug!” (Elvis In A MAD, CRAZY And CRACKED World!)
By Ger Rijff
From the mid 1950’s onwards a long list of satirical comics and magazine publications, feasted their (often sneering) humor on the Rock ‘n’ Roll generation of the day. The editors, writers and artists of titles such as MAD, CRAZY, CRACKED, HUMBUG and SICK, all had their musical roots in that of the Big Band era, the so called Crooner-days. The new sounds that had exploded onto American society in 1955, were alien to most of them.
Even though not many lengthy Elvis comic-stories (2 or more pages) are known to exist from the pages of these 50’s publications, there’s plenty of Elvis related stuff to be found. Especially in the stories about the kids in tight jeans and leather jackets driving adult America crazy!
In future episodes of this article I hope to present some of these illustrations, often drawn by Wally Wood, one of the greatest comic book artists ever!
We will start our exploration into the world of Rock ‘n’ Roll satire in December of 1956 with MAD magazine!
MAD | December 1956
MAD, with a huge teen audience, was the first to devote a 2 page story to Elvis.
‘Elvis Pelvis’ by artist supreme Jack Davis is a classic comic strip from 1956.
On the backcover we can see a drawing of Elvis, next to Dick Tracy and none other than Sgt. Bilko!
And on the titlepage we see that Elvis was part of the Mass Hysteria Department, for obvious reasons.
In recent years I’ve discovered where Davis got his inspiration from: the April 30, 1956 issue of LIFE magazine! Leave it to the Rijffster to dig up these facts!
Also included here are the two original photographs used by LIFE in their article:
HUMBUG | April 1958
HUMBUG was the first to spoof an Elvis movie: Jailhouse Rock. Art by Will Elder, an ex-employee from Mad magazine, who had joined up with writer/artist Harvey Kurtzman after he had turned his back on Mad, to start his own Humbug magazine.
MAD | May 1958
Elvis and Lucy Ball ended up as the ears of Alfred E. Neuman, the ‘face’ on hundreds of MAD magazine covers since the 1950’s, on this may ’58 magazine.
CRACKED | October 1958
CRACKED, on their backcover of a late 1958 edition, had their fun with G.I. Elvis.
CRAZY | March 1959
King Creole was next in line for a satirical make-over. CRAZY magazine was responsible for this 4 page strip.
No other Elvis movie since was turned upside down by one of the satirical magazine titles in future years.
Alright. Here we go with some fresh MAD scans from the 60’s, all Elvis-related. Read ’em and weep, the texts are hilarious!
MAD | June 1961
Here we have a cool image of Elvis at his Bel-Air home at 565 Perugia Way reading the MAD magazine that is shown to the right!
Below we can see the pages Elvis was checking out at the moment the photo was taken.
MAD | June 1962
A brilliant parody, set during the era when Gangsters ruled the USA!
A lot of very familiar faces: Elvis, Bobby Darin, Dick Clark, Connie Francis, Tommy Sands, Bobby Rydell … count your lucky stars!
The artists often used existing photographs for their work. This photo of Elvis is an example of that. We can see Mort Drucker´s cartoon-version on the page below the photo, in the top right corner.
A special thank you to CHAP COMMANDEUR for hooking me up with a copy of MAD 63 (from June, 1961)!