Al Feldstein, the man who turned Mad magazine into a must-read for teens of the baby boomer generation, has died at his home near Livingston, Mont. He was 88.
Feldstein, who died Tuesday, was editor of Mad for nearly 30 years until the mid-'80s, taking the magazine to a mass audience with its blend of political and cultural satire tuned to adolescent sensibilities.
Among other things, he turned the freckle-faced, gap-toothed and jug-eared Alfred E. Neuman character, with the "What, Me Worry?" catchphrase, into a staple of the magazine.
The Associated Press writes:
"Neuman's character was used to skewer any and all, from Santa Claus to Darth Vader, and more recently in editorial cartoonists' parodies of President George W. Bush, notably a cover image The Nation that ran soon after Bush's election in 2000 and was captioned 'Worry.'
"Feldstein also helped assemble "a team of artists and writers, including Dave Berg, Don Martin and Frank Jacobs, who turned out such enduring features as 'Spy vs. Spy' and 'Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.' Fans of the magazine ranged from the poet-musician Patti Smith and activist Tom Hayden to movie critic Roger Ebert, who said Mad helped inspire him to write about film."
"When Mad came about ... [w]e were saying, 'Kids, Madison Avenue is lying to you. Your parents are lying to you. The president is lying to you,' " he said in an A.V. Club interview in 2007.
However, he said the magazine always took a "bipartisan approach to all subjects."
"It filtered up through my typewriter. I used to say, "Mad takes on both sides." We even used to rake the hippies over the coals," he said. "They were protesting the Vietnam War, but we took aspects of their culture and had fun with it. Mad was wide open."