I've been looking at The Sincerest Form of Parody from Fantagraphics for nearly a year. When I'm in my local Joseph-Beth Bookstore, I like to prowl the racks of course and I often come across this handsome Fantagraphics collection of early 50's MAD imitations. I perused it, I considered buying it, but then ultimately I'd put it back. I did this for months and months, always finding something else a bit more urgent to earn my few nickels. A few weeks ago, I finally relented and brought this collection home. I'm glad I did.
First, as a diehard Charlton Comics fan, I'm happy to have examples of EH! magazine. This Charlton MAD imitator is pretty dang good and the cover below is a comic book classic, a visual pun of the purest order. This cover, along with all the others featured in this post are actually in this collection. John Benson is the guy who organized and who supplies his usual detailed background information about how the original MAD comic book from EC Comics made a huge splash on early 50's pop culture and how a myriad of companies tried to poach just a little bit of that success with a cavalcade of imitators, Atlas Comics had three different titles alone (CRAZY, RIOT, and WILD). Even EC imitated itself as evidenced by the last title in the gallery, PANIC. Harvey, St.John, Magazine Entertainment, they all jumped aboard.
The collection is ripe with clever parodies of then modern movies, classic literature, comics, and even other parody books. The talent included is immense with stories by Jack Davis, Will Elder, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Dick Ayers, Howard Nostrand, Mike Esposito, Ross Andru, Bill Everett, Al Feildstein, L.B. Cole, Norman Maurier, Joe Maneely, Dick Ayers, and others.
The burst of these imitators launched quickly and like the MAD comic book itself soon gave way. Within a few years it was over. This collection does a wonderful job of capturing that brief exotic moment in comics history. This link will let you take a closer look at a couple of the stories included. This one is highly recommended, don't wait a year like I did.