Remembering MAD Magazine’s Al Feldstein, Print & Comedy Success Story


1968 cover of MAD magazine
My worn and well-read issue of MAD magazine from 1968, with the Beatles and Mia Farrow on the cover.

The graphic design of MAD magazine covers has always been a parody itself of publications like TIME or Esquire or Cosmopolitan. Eyecatching and insightful, they poke fun at current political and cultural news with a satirical slant and the gap-toothed smile of Alfred E. Neumann. This week, Al Feldstein – longtime editor of MAD magazine in it’s heyday from 1956 to 1984 – passed away at age 88. He was an influential force in one of the big success stories of magazine publishing and comedy in print, guiding MAD from a fledgling comic book to a leading magazine of satire and humor in the pre-digital age.

Feldstein took MAD from a publication of a few hundred thousand to well over 2 million at its peak. “Basically everyone who was young between 1955 and 1975 read MAD, and that’s where your sense of humor came from,” said Bill Oakley, producer of The Simpsons. Today, those issues are collected by fans who treasure the magazine. Irreverent, satirical humor and spoofs of popular culture were the mainstay with recurring features like Spy vs. Spy, The Lighter Side of…, movie and TV satires, and a back cover called a “Fold-In”: a full page image and question that, once folded over onto itself, created a surprise alternate image and answer. MAD ad parodies, long before Saturday Night Live, were included in each issue, sometimes using Al himself:

parody ads from MAD magazine


So many institutions of the comedy world in print, television and the internet through the years owe much to MAD and Al Feldstein: Laugh-In, Saturday Night Live, National Lampoon, The Simpsons, SouthPark, The Onion. MAD lives on today in print and online. You can check out their website here. There’s even a MAD app for iPad released in 2012.



Find you printing success story by partnering with a local printer! A community printer will understand communication and design, with a special emphasis on your local market. They should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for communicating your message through print, design and typography, signage, apparel, variable data printing and direct mail, integrated marketing and environmental responsible printing. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

Call us at 828.684.4512. ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your print and marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

The John Lennon Letters: When Your Whole Life is on Paper

Lennon and Life on Paper

“I don’t keep a diary and I throw away nearly all the paper I might have kept. I don’t keep an archive. There’s something worrying about my make-up that I try to leave no trace of myself apart from my plays. “
– Tom Stoppard


Our lives on paper live on after we are gone. And if you are famous, every scrap of paper will be saved. A newly released collection of correspondence entitled The John Lennon Letters, edited by Lennon biographer Hunter Davies, contains over 400 pages of annotated correspondence from Lennon. (Hardcover, Little, Brown and Company,  list price 29.99) Most reviewers, however, note that practically all informative correspondence from Lennon had already been published, and Davies collection is being skewered by the critics as a “scraping of the bottom of the barrel” – an attempt to profit from anything written by the hand of the famous Beatle. Here is a painstakingly organized collection of letters, notes, post-its, postcards and paper scraps that seems in total to reveal very little others than mundane details of the former Beatles’ daily life and some not-so-flattering personal qualities. Reviewer Neil McCormick of The Telegraph says all we really learn about Lennon from this mountain of paper is: “Well, he couldn’t spell. He liked to doodle. And he had way too much spare time on his hands.”

Not exactly a glowing review. Often the correspondence of famous people, whether writers, musicians or politicians, contains a wealth of valuable insight and factual data about the person’s life, private thoughts, emotional state and philosophy of life. Successfully published collections include the letters of Emily Dickinson, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene, Richard Nixon… and a long list of works that have made many publishers very happy. In many cases, the only hard evidence we have of the private thoughts and feelings of these luminaries are in the archive of their journals, correspondence and personal papers.

However, we are leaving less and less of a paper trail through life. I wonder how in the digital age the role of paper will be different for the famous and infamous. Libraries and historical societies collect the correspondence of great thinkers, artists and politicians to serve as a primary source for further research. Even bar napkins, margin notes scribbled in books, newspaper clippings or anything bearing the subject’s handwriting is considered significant. But we put less of those things onto paper now than ever before. As our ‘footprints’ become increasingly virtual rather than physical, will these archives be data banks rather than stacks of paper? Will they catalogue blogs, emails, Twitter timelines, social media connections and text messages? Will people, wary of a lack of security when “writing” on a computer, still keep private handwritten journals or diaries?

And what about the rest of us? Are we leaving behind us a trail of thoughts, words and feelings that can be accumulated, researched and categorized without our control or input? The days of tossing the diary into the fire or shoving documents through a paper shredder to hide them for eternity seem to be gone. It will take newly refined skills in research and interpretation to assess the changing archive of information we leave behind as everything from our important documents to our shopping lists live on in computer memory.


Printer’s love paper. They also love the exciting new means of communication and marketing in an interconnected world. Your printer should be able to provide you with everything from encouragement all the way to the complete design, layout, copywriting, production, multi-purposing and distribution of your marketing outreach. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

11 Songs about Paper & Print

After writing a recent blog-post about the significant role of print and paper in our culture, I started thinking about how that has to show up in our popular music as well. And since blog-posts love to take the form of lists, why not take a look at how print, paper, and ink have been portrayed in popular song…

Paperback Writer – The Beatles (1966)

Seems appropriate to start the list with a classic from pop music’s royalty. The paperback novel emerged in it’s mass market format in the 1930s, and quickly became the affordable, accessible way for works both great and less than great to reach new mass markets of readers. Lennon & McCartney show a man desperate to land a job as just such an author. 1000 pages? That’s one thick paperback.

If You Could Read My Mind – Gordon Lightfoot (1970)

Sticking with the theme of a paperback novel, the simile in Lightfoot’s ode to lost love is a comparison between his thoughts and a book, “the kind the drug stores sell.” The hero, the broken heart, the ending that’s “just too hard to take.” A ton of romance novels have carried that plot-line over the years.

Everyday I Write the Book – Elvis Costello (1983)

The best example I know of a song trying to be a book – Costello describes his love affairs ups and downs as chapters, paragraphs, seeing himself as a man with a mission in “two or three editions.” He knows that regardless of how the affair plays out, he will “still own the film rights and be working on the sequel.”

Paper Roses – Marie Osmond (1973)

Well, originally is was Anita Bryant who had a hit with this tune. But a very young Osmond, well before Weight Watchers and Dancing With the Stars, sang about a false love with a comparison between real roses and ones made of paper. Let’s make it clear, however, paper roses last longer than the real thing, are also biodegradable, and require no pesticides to produce. No reason to go around knocking paper roses!

Centerfold – The J. Geils Band (1982)

An iconic publishing image, the centerfold of a magazine was spotlighted in this 80’s song about a young man discovering his high school homeroom angel in a porn magazine.

Black and White – Three Dog Night (1972)

A hit in 1972 for Three Dog Night, the song uses the image of ink on paper to flesh out their metaphor of racial equality and harmony. Interestingly enough, the song was first written in 1954 in response to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling desegregating public schools. The original verse: “Their robes were black, Their heads were white, The schoolhouse doors were closed so tight. Nine judges all set down their names, To end the years and years of shame.” Pretty cool, huh?

Yesterday’s Papers – The Rolling Stones (1967)

A lesser known Stones ballad compares a fading love affair to old newspapers. A clear illustration of how print and the daily newspaper for many years were central to our culture: “Every day means the turn of a page / Yesterday’s papers are such bad news / Same thing applies to me and you.”

Want Ads – Honey Cone (1971)

A big hit in the early 70s, long before, Tindr or Grindr. This song, redone by Taylor Dayne in the 90s, is about a time not so long ago when trying to find a match by running an ad in the classified section of the newspaper was a novel approach. “He’s been lying… I’m going to the Evening News.”

Signs – The Five Man Electrical Band (1971)

A big, angry protest song from the early 70s, this tune decries the exclusion and intolerance of society for the “long-haired, freaky people.” The printed signs… “blocking up the scenery, breaking my mind.”

Paper and Ink – Tracy Chapman (2000)

Chapman’s fifth album reminds us how print can be valued – especially when printing money.

Legal Tender – The B-52’s (1983)

When print goes bad: the B-52s gave us what is arguably the best dance song ever about a federal crime. Jelly jars and heavy equipment, the B’s were in the basement learning to print.

Any songs yet about a Kindle or iPad? I don’t know, but I’m sure there soon will be. I purposely didn’t include any songs here about letters or mail – there seem to be enough good titles on that topic to merit a future blog-post.

ImageSmith is a full-service print and marketing provider located in Arden, North Carolina. Contact us at ImageSmith for quotes on all your marketing projects, and more useful tips on how to create custom, effective, high impact marketing solutions.

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