“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)!
Thanks for this article. Absolutely fascinating. I love the cartoons, so well drawn.
Jummy! This is Fun! And a fascinating read!
This great site Will open a whole new world for me!
I’m looking forward to some quality internet time!
Thanks a lot Gents!
Great to have you back in the Elvis-fan world, Niels! We trust you will continue your
research on old vinyl & shellacs, as you’ve been doing elsewhere … with me, and solo,
long time ago. Keep us posted and when you have something new available, be sure
to contact us. There’s many hungry fans out there waiting for you.
I loved those magazines as a kid.
I don’t think I can ever get used to the fact, the majority of Elvis fans I’ve
experienced on various websites over the years, are simply not interested
in the Art-form known as comic book illustration… A quick glance at their
work, as shown in this topic, must be clear enough to anybody, they can be
placed on the same level as the great painters of the 16th and 17th Century…
I love those old cartoon drawings. They are very well done but at the same time they are funny- exaggerating the way he looked for comic affect. I suppose this is were you get your inspiration from, Ger…….
Wow! You’re number 5 taking the time to comment on this topic, Paul!
Appreciated, mate. Five, out of the thousands who’ve visited this place since
it went online, ain’t bad… But I’ll continue anyway. Comics from the 40s, 50s
and 60s are my first and biggest love. Sold all my Elvis Sun records when
it was needed to survive… but held on to my vintage comic books.
Ahhh… that smell of 60 year old magazines…Goosebumps!
Ger, such a shame you had to sell your original Sun 45’s…but thats life, has to be done if you need the money. Me, i’m gonna hold on to the two i’ve got for as long as possible.
Anyway Ger, you’re a pretty good drawer yourself, i’ve seen some of your drawings in various books/mags over the years. My favourite one of yours is the teddy boy holding a mint copy of “Milkcow Blues”, were did i see that, can’remember now. I can see where you get your inspiration for your drawings from, those old 40’s and 50’s comic books. Cool!
Not only the 5 Sun 45s, Paul… The 5 78s as well!
And if that wasn’t bad enough already, four original
signed publicity glossies from 1954/ 55 to top it off.
Bitter memories , I tell you ! But one gets over it.
I’m still around, proud father of an 18 year young
boy, a 16 year old cat, and no wife to nag me.
Freedom is a wonderful thing.
The Sun Milkcow Blues Boogie cartoon you mention was done for
Chris Giles, for inclusion in an ad featured in TMAHM, a couple of years
ago. Haven’t done any cartoons ever since. The mind is willing,
but the hand holding the pen isn’t…
I was 6 when I got into Dutch ans American comic books. The little
pocket money I got as a kid, back in the 50s, was used up on Elvis
photo postcards and comic books. A good choice because in later
years, both Elvis and comic books, would land me jobs as a cartoonist,
and publisher of Elvis books. Life has been good to me. m
Ger and Bob : we really needed a site like this one !
I’m browsing through all the topics you’ve uploaded so far, and it´s a constant pleasure for the eyes and mind.
This site is the coolest !
Thanks for everything ! Keep on rocking !!!
Our pleasure, Josep.
It’s a fun feeling being able to do what we like to do,
and get good response from you people at the same time.
Although there’s always room for more comments…
Have a good weekend you all.
No matter the great drawing skills by Jack Davis, illustrating a million and one
world famous personalities, his take on Elvis on the back cover of Mad # 30
isn’t particularly good imo. That’s the reason I didn’t forward that back cover when
we did the first chapter on Elvis in comics…
Still, it’s a nice intro to the Pelvis strip. Thanks for adding.
Fascinating read, really astounded by some of the artwork and how the look and nuances of elvis were captured….interestingly Ger what’s your take on the recent comic book release graphic Elvis ? Does it hold any interest ?
With all due respect to Stan Lee, ex boss of Marvel & brains behind this
project, what I’ve seen of the graphic stories on the Internet, does nothing
for me. The ( mostly) young artists have little to no clue how things looked,
back in the 50s, imo. Neither have they got the artistic quality the old guys
had, back when comic books were fun to read.
While in the Army in Germany, a journalist asked him how kept track on
what was happening home, in the good ol’ USA? His answer was : “I read
Mad magazine…!” Kool answer, EL !
Great work Bob, superb and Mad artwork.
Well done Ger. Brilliant article.
Brings back a lot of memories. May your website continue for a long time.
Your Pakistani and Indian fans.
Well, it’s Bob’s page/site … I’m only doing guest appearances nowdays … And it’s to Bob’s credit we get the topics in such great presentation. He’s unique. And I mean it!
All that aside, you have no idea how big a lift I get reading comments from a fellow comic book fan such as you! The amount of visitors here every day is HUGE! But I will never ever get used to the fact SO FEW bother to send in a comment … Yours makes me very, very happy, Gandoo!
Amazing, the stuff you guys come up with!
Kool straight forward presentation of the 5 pages by Mort Drucker, one
of the greatest illusrators / cartoonists ever! Nobody could do Elvis like Mort did!
What about the Elvis’ cartoons in Mad pocketbooks? Give me an email I would gladly send those I ‘ve got.
Norton, the stories & artwork in the Mad pocket books are ALL reprints from the actual magazines. I have some myself, but would be interested in seeing what you have for possible inclusion in a future episode on Echoes..?!
I love the work everyone invested in Elvis, and it is Art!
Bob, nearly a year since the last comments appeared…Let’s try this summer for additional new stuff…that is, if we both have some energy left..? I still love this page to pieces, and
it’s still unique!