News | May 1, 2024

Original MAD Magazine Illustrations Featured in New Norman Rockwell Museum Exhibition

© E.C. Publications. Courtesy of DC.

Mort Drucker, The Oddfather (parody of The Godfather), illustration for MAD #155 (EC, 1972). Ink on board . Private Collection 


Norman Rockwell Museum's summer exhibition will explore the art and cultural impact of counter-cultural touchstone MAD Magazine.

Opening June 8 and running through October 27 at the museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, What, Me Worry? The Art and Humor of MAD Magazine will feature iconic original illustrations and cartoons from MAD’s longtime regular contributors, as well as next-generation visual satirists who found a home within the magazine.

First published in 1952, MAD originally launched as an EC comic book series founded by editor Harvey Kurtzman and publisher William Gaines, with its inaugural issue titled Tales Calculated to Drive You Mad. In 1955, with MAD #24, the comic was reimagined as an illustrated magazine, releasing it from the censure of the Comics Code Authority. 

“MAD was a groundbreaking magazine that influenced generations of readers and set the bar, and the tone, for contemporary humor and satire. We are delighted to present original selections from the magazine’s brilliant, irreverent artwork that captured and lampooned nearly all aspects of American life, and we are grateful to the collectors and artists who have made originals available for the exciting installation,” said Norman Rockwell Museum Chief Curator Stephanie Haboush Plunkett.

The installation will bring together original artwork, artifacts and memorabilia, photos, published ephemera, video content, and interactive features, to tell the story of the magazine’s history and influence. A selection of 150 original illustrations and cartoons gathered from artists and collectors will be on display.  

"MAD was much more than a magazine to my generation. It represented a portal to adulthood,” said illustrator and exhibition co-curator Steve Brodner. “MAD was a heat-seeking missile designed to blow open the hypocritical core of most things. In so doing, it engendered in readers an ability to come closer to what might today be called critical thinking.”

Ostensibly geared to kids, through the power of visual communication the publication touched on the big social, political, and cultural issues of the day, from McCarthyism and the Cold War to political corruption, consumerism, and celebrity culture to the defining social and liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

Caricaturist and illustrator Mort Drucker had a long tenure as a MAD artist and his work will be the focus of MAD About Mort Drucker, a special gallery devoted to his art within the exhibition. Additionally on display are other publications and rarely seen artworks that reflect MAD’s ethos, including Panic, with illustrations by Joe Orlando, and Foo! featuring art by Charles and Robert Crumb. Other sections of the exhibition showcase MAD’s iconic covers and the many smirking guises of cover boy Alfred E. Neuman, as well asspecial features like Spy Vs. Spy. Also highlighted are fan letters and quotes from readers.