The 11 Best Mad Magazine Spin-Off Merchandise Items


?Since debuting in 1952, Mad magazine has rightfully become a cultural institution thanks to its mix of biting satire and lowbrow humor. Mad’s bread and butter has always been its spoofs of current television shows and movies, yet the publication’s greatest strength often lied in the laughs offered up in features written/illustrated by the likes of Al Jaffee, Don Martin and the rest of the “usual gang of idiots.” And that’s not even beginning to touch upon the pleasures offered by Sergio Aragon?s’ Mad Marginals or the sublime sabotage of Spy vs. Spy. Since the death of Mad mastermind William Gaines nearly 20 years ago, the magazine has weathered numerous storms, from cutting back on how many issues are released annually to starting to include advertisements and dealing with the types of struggles that every periodical seems to be dealing with these days. Yet Mad continues to endure with its legacy intact. Why? Because the magazine still serves as a smart reflection of pop culture — and all of the insanity that comes with it.

As with any phenomenon, Mad has had its fair share of merchandise produced over the years. Some of it is amazing, like the Spy vs. Spy figures DC Direct offered awhile back. While other items have been enough to make anyone feel blecch. It’s the former category that seems more interesting, so today’s Daily List looks at the 11 best pieces of Mad merchandise. What you worry? There’s no need to… unless you actually want to try to buy some of this stuff that is.

11) Totally Mad

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?This seven CD-ROM set that was released in 1999 features every issue of Mad from 1969-1998. Sounds pretty awesome right? So why doesn’t this rank higher on the list? Because trying to collapse your monitor screen in order to read the Fold-Ins is an absolute bitch.

10) Alfred E. Neuman Aurora Model

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?You’d have to be ferschnicken out of your mind from huffing airplane glue to not want to own this model of everybody’s favorite gap-toothed icon. Alfred here comes complete with numerous sets of detachable arms for various poses — all of which are suitably mocking you for buying the damn thing in the first place. This was released in 1965 by the Aurora company. A few months earlier, Mad did a clever bit of pre-release publicity with the following cover:

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?It’s so simple to assemble, even Frankenstein’s Monster can put it together! Originally, the Alfred E. Neuman model was sold for $1.49 (cheap). These days, secondary market prices for one in mint/unopened condition cost upwards of several hundred dollars. No wonder Neuman is non-plussed about everything. Dude is set for life.

9) Spy Vs. Spy Videogames

Unlikely as it may seem, the humor of Antonio Proh?as’ cutthroat Cold Warriors somehow translates perfectly to videogames. Whoulda thought? In the 1980s, First Star released three games based on the Spy vs. Spy characters for home computers. The initial title (seen above), pitted players against each other as the rival spies through split-screen gameplay that was incredibly innovative at the time (well, at least it seemed so to the 10-year-old version of me who absolutely blown away by the Commodore 64 version). Two sequels, Spy vs. Spy II: The Island Caper and Spy vs. Spy III: Arctic Antics, quickly followed. Eventually, the original title was ported to the NES, the Sega Master System and the Game Boy Color. A new Spy vs. Spy game hit the Xbox in 2005, but was largely ignored. Sigh. These days the original First Star games still thrive in the hearts of chiptune aficionados who can’t seem to get enough of the 8-bit melodies that Nick Scarim composed for the releases.

8) The Mad Magazine Board Game

The above commercial has one main selling point and it is this: the Mad Magazine Board Game GUARANTEES wackiness. Antics would, in all likelihood, also ensue. The goal of this Parker Brothers offering was for players to win the game by losing all of their money. See how madcap that is? For participants, up would be down, black would be white. Dogs and cats would be living together. It would be mass hysteria! And so on. It was nothing more than blatant manufactured fun for the entire family that, snark aside, was really quite enjoyable. Milton Bradley also got into the Mad racket, with a Spy vs. Spy board game. I never played it, but I’m assuming it upped the crazy ante by including some hardcore shit like actual bombs and dynamite you could blow apart your siblings with.

7) Just-Us League Figures


?Corporate synergy has never been more beautiful than these DC Direct action figures of Alfred E. Neuman dressed up like members of the Justice League. Er, the Just-Us league that is (Mad never met a terrible pun it didn’t beat into the ground). These were originally released back in 2000, and they will be reissued next year in conjunction with the revival of the line — a move that will also see Alfred donning the outfits of Aquaman and, God help us all, Wonder Woman.


6) Mad Toilet Paper


?The magazine lived up to its reputation as the definitive periodical of potty humor with the release of Mad toilet paper that comes imprinted with classic gags. The good news for anyone who has ever yearned to wipe their ass with Alfred E. Neuman’s gap-toothed visage is that this can be found dirt cheap on the secondary market. Just don’t accidentally buy a used roll. Eww.

5) The Mad Show Soundtrack

Of the various musical projects that have spun off of the magazine over the years — including several classic novelty albums that Dr. Demento types still get all glassy eyed over the mere mention of — the most noteworthy was the 1966 Off-Broadway musical The Mad Show. The sardonic theater experience was The Book of Mormon of its day, minus the sacrilege and liberal use of the word “cunt.” What it did have however were plenty of legitimate A-list talents working on stage and behind the scenes. Stephen Sondheim, who already had established himself as a major Broadway force to be reckoned with through his work on West Side Story, provided lyrics to the above “The Girl from Ipanema” spoof (the song was sung by a pre-Vic Tayback Linda Lavin of TV’s Alice). Listening to the soundtrack album from a 2011 perspective, it’s interesting to hear how this material still holds up despite being rather dated. Best of all, there’s a song called “Eccch!” Shortly after The Mad Show closed, several of its participants — including a plucky young songwriter named Joe Raposo — were reunited for a television experiment that came to be known as Sesame Street. Mad indeed.

4) Fleer Stickers

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?At the height of the 1980s sticker collecting craze, the folks at Mad decided to get a piece of the action. Thus, these things were created. Released by Fleer (Topps’ red-headed stepchild of a rival), each pack of Mad stickers came complete with five stickers…and the requisite piece of potentially tooth-busting chewing gum. The stickers were meant to be used in an accompanying album you had to buy separately. At least that came with its own exclusive Fold-In. What’s so great about this is that kids felt like they were actually participating in creating an issue of the magazine. Empowerment is always welcome, even if it comes in the form of assembling Don Martin joke panels.

3) Alfred E. Neuman Halloween Costume

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?Apparently this Halloween costume of Alfred E. Neuman wasn’t a great seller for Collegeville Costumes when it was released in 1960. Kids back then didn’t know how good they had it. If I were aware that this thing existed when I was growing up, I would have begged my parents to scour Goodwills and secondhand scores to try to track one down so I could wear it every Halloween…and the other 364 days of the year. In fact, it’s taking every bit of willpower I possess to not head over to eBay right now in order to fulfill my growing desire to become Alfred. Probably best for me to move on to the next entry now.

2) Toilet Pens

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?While researching this article, I discovered that were Mad-themed novelty pens created. Not just any pens mind you, but the really cool ones with the liquid and the floating things inside. In 1988, Applause released one in which Alfred E. Neuman appears to flush himself down a toilet. I can just imagine uptight adults everywhere seeing these things and instantly losing their goddamn minds. That is if the pens were ever actually released. The only information I could track down was on a Mad collector’s site that had some blurry pictures. I can’t find any for sale on eBay. So Topless Roboteers I need your help. Did any of you have one of these? And if so, can you give it to me? You see, I really want one because I think it would be the perfect companion to my Mad toilet paper.

1) Mad Paperback Books

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In the tumultuous days before everything was available instantly on the Internet, the best way to relive old Mad material without having to go through the pain in the ass of tracking down back issues was to buy the various mass market paperbacks that were available. And by various, I mean hundreds. Seemingly every popular artist from the magazine had his own assortment of releases — I still think Al Jaffee’s Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions prepared me for life than the entirety of my public school education — and there were thematically based compilations as well. Tons and tons of these mothers were released. These were all originally cheap to purchase and to this day you can find them in any worthwhile used book shop. (With Greasy Mad Stuff seeming to be the title that pops up the most). Equally worth mentioning is the just-released The Mad Fold-In Collection, a pricier but totally worth it four-volume hardcover set that collects all of Jaffee’s iconic back cover work spanning from 1964 to 2010. Throughout the decades reading Mad has become a rite of passage for children, many of whom still have issues confiscated by unenlightened teachers and parents to this day. The ongoing Cartoon Network Mad series is continuing the magazine’s legacy of serving as a gateway drug to the world of irreverent humor. But for me, the magazines and these musty old paperbacks are where it’s at.