The PopCult Bookshelf
Al Fieldstein passed away earlier this week, and in the PopCult Bookshelf this week we’re going to recommend a few collections of work that he edited, so you can understand why this little-heralded comic book creator deserves way more credit and acclaim than he received during his life.
Fieldstein is most famous for replacing Harvey Kurtzman as the editor of MAD, which he helped transition into Mad Magazine, and which he guided through it’s most successful years. When Kurtzman left MAD he took most of the creative crew with him. Fieldstein had to recruit new talent, and he did quite a job of it.
On his watch, writers Frank Jacobs and Dick DeBartolo, and artists Don Martin, Sergio Aragones, Antonio Prohias, Mort Drucker, and Norman Mingo signed on as “The Usual Gang of Idiots.” Fieldstein guided Mad Magazine through its most profitable years, reaching a peak of 2.8 million copies per issue in 1974.
While Kurtzman gets most of the credit for MAD, it was Fieldstein’s editorial touch that reached and influenced the most people. Fieldstein’s Mad Magazine was required reading for every class clown and school wiseass.
While the Don Drapers of the world were striding the planet like giants, Mad Magazine was there every step of the way, taking the piss out of their ad campaigns and teaching generations of children not to trust advertising or the media. It was Mad Magazine that made “parody” a commonly used concept and word.
For an example of his tenure at Mad Magazine, I’m recommending two paperback collections, which can be found cheap through Amazon’s third-party dealers. “Mad About the 60s” and “Mad About the 70s” both collect the cream of the crop from pivotal decades when Mad was at its most influential.
If you want to learn more about Al Fieldstein, I suggest you seek out “FELDSTEIN: The Mad Life and Fantastic Art of Al Feldstein!“(ISBN-13: 978-1613776766) which is a full biography and also a lushly-illustrated coffee-table book.
One important point that’s made in his biography is that Al Fieldstein was an accomplished and important editor, writer and cartoonist before his association with Mad Magazine. Fieldstein was the editor of many of William M. Gaines’ classic EC Comics titles like “Tales From The Crypt” and “Weird Science.” Before he took over Mad Magazine, he warped a generation of horror auteurs like Stephen King and John Carpenter.
“Child Of Tomorrow: And Other Stories” collects many stories that Fieldstein both wrote and illustrated. It’s available as a single volume, or as part of a boxed set that includes three other EC Comics collections of incredible quality that are mostly Fieldstein-edited material.
Following his retirement from Mad Magazine in 1984, Fieldstein embarked on a fine arts career, creating many Western, Science Fiction and Wildlife paintings.