I don’t know about you, but Mad paperbacks were one of the many influences I had when I was learning to read as a wee lad. We used to be able to get them at the local K-Mart back in the day (y’know, back when K-Mart was trying to be Woolworth’s), and I bought many of them, all long since disappeared in the mists of time. So when I find them astray at flea markets or on eBay, I snatch ’em up.
The Mad Reader was the first paperback edition that Max Gaines and the Usual Gang of Idiots put out, featuring select reprints from the original comic book-sized version of Mad. You’ve got “Superduperman”, perhaps the most popular parody the comic ever did, along with the rarely seen “Starchie”, which got them in a whirlpool of legal trouble with a certain ginger teenager’s creators. The Lone Ranger, Flash Gordon, Gasoline Alley and Dragnet round out the pop culture satires, and Miss Potgold Beer of 1954 makes a couple of appearances.
Even today, this stuff is damn funny! Will Elder, Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Davis, and Wally Wood were at the heights of their abilities, and had been given a fairly free reign creatively by a publisher willing to sell books on their merits. Things would change in a couple of years after the abominable tactics of Frederic Wertham and his sensationalistic and complete bogus “Seduction of the Innocent” tirades before the nation, but for a brief moment, the funny books truly were hilarious.
This li’l paperback is usually considerably cheaper than the original comics or even the DC Archives of Mad, and while it is in black-and-white, it’s a great read!