Mad Magazine's Al Feldstein Dead at 88

As editor, he turned it into a cultural staple

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 30, 2014 3:20 PM CDT

(Newser) – Al Feldstein, whose 28 years at the helm of Mad magazine transformed the satirical publication into a pop culture institution, has died at his Montana home at age 88. In 1956, publisher William M. Gaines put Feldstein in charge of the magazine, which gleefully parodied politicians and mocked traditional morality. Feldstein and Gaines assembled a pool of artists and writers who turned out such enduring features as "Spy vs. Spy," ''The Lighter Side of..." and "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions." Building on a character used by Mad founding editor Harvey Kurtzman, Feldstein turned the freckle-faced Alfred E. Neuman into an underground hero—a dimwitted everyman with a gap-toothed smile and the recurring stock phrase, "What, Me Worry?"

Under Gaines and Feldstein, Mad's sales flourished, topping 2 million in the early 1970s. In a 1997 interview with the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Feldstein credited Mad's challenges to authority with helping incite the cultural revolution of the 1960s. "Who's covering up? That was one of our slogans," he said. "We were orienting them to the adult world." By Feldstein's retirement in 1984, Mad's heyday was past: Circulation had dropped to less than a third of its peak.

In this 1972 file photo, 'Mad' magazine editor Al Feldstein works on page layout in his office at the magazine's New York headquarters.   (AP Photo/Jerry Mosey, File)
In this 1972 file photo, 'Mad' magazine editor Al Feldstein, center, sits with art director John Putnam, left, and a freelancer at the magazine's New York headquarters.   (AP Photo/Jerry Mosey, File)
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