The venerable satire magazine MAD has had countless imitators during its lifespan. CRACKED, one of the strongest, went from a gag periodical to an online site in 2007, and is now devoted to politically correct clickbait in numbered list form. But the best MAD rip-off came and went in a scant ten years. It showcased artists and ideas too edgy and weird for Will Gaines’ flagship “of idiots”. Like many great things in life, it was called CRAZY.
Intentionally or not, CRAZY did everything MAD did, and better. There were “movie spoofs”, drawn by their answer to Mort Drucker, Kent Gamble. Some were rendered by future Ren & Stimpy artist Bob Camp, like the “Octoplex” spoof I wish I could find, which spoofed eight movies at once as the protagonists sneaked into them. That was the first place I heard of Vice Squad (with Wings Hauser).
The best run of CRAZY came in its final three years, when it was edited by Larry Hama, helmer of Marvel’s G.I.Joe series (and creator of most of its mythos). Mike Carlin was a regular contributor of two features; the back-page clearinghouse “Page O’ Stuff”, and samplings of the schoolwork of a fictional dullard called Dirk McGirk. I consider these as side-splitting as I did in the third grade.
Whereas MAD has the gap-toothed Alfred E. Neuman, CRAZY’s mascot was first a pervert in a hat and trenchcoat, then later “Obnoxio the Clown”, a filthy, obstreperous children’s entertainer. Obnoxio later got his own Marvel comic that was nowhere near as funny as his appearances in CRAZY. In his “Funpages”, Obnoxio showed kids how to have screaming contests and make handcuffs out of a coathanger. And every issue, readers would write in and tell him to die, and he would dish it right back. Try to imagine the humorous exchange below in a contemporary publication for children. A student might become offended to death.
The links to Marvel’s universe were tenuous, consisting mainly of occasional Spider-Man appearances, and “Teen Hulk”, from greats Jim Owsley (writer) and Marie Severin (artist and art director of this issue). CRAZY was a treasure trove of Marie Severin art. Her brother John, too; the magazine was a real Severin bonanza. She’s the best, and she makes it look easy; Marie Severin.
(Trina Robbins also contributed some gorgeous art to the magazine on occasion, but that’s a whole article.)
The timing of CRAZY‘s peak coincided with nuclear hysteria, which made for terrific satire. Susan Bissett (w) and Steve Smallwood (a) created “Aunty Nuke”, a zany Miss Frizzell-type character saving her niece and nephew from atomic peril. Smallwood’s art was always energetic and detailed.
Another long-running feature was Stephen Mellor’s “Kinetic Kids”. The Kids were a gang of delinquents (and a “Li’l Quisling”) who once took over an issue with a make-it-yourself board game called “Rule The School”. Had that game not been stupendously awesome, I would still have an intact copy today. As it is, it’s a miracle the subject of this article (#79, October 1981) is in one piece. CRAZY once had a “Make Your Own Marvel Comic” issue with blank panels and cut-out heroes, and in another instance a theatre you could build in a shoebox, with Aunt May in an iron lung as a prop. CRAZY fucking ruled.
Mellor’s artwork was a marvel to behold, pun intended. “Kinetic Kids” took up three pages; page “A”, the instructions, and page “B”. This is because it is an “Optikinetic Comic”. By flipping page “A” up and down, a terrific “flip book” effect was created. When you introduce this idea to a child, they will begin making their own within moments, and boom goes the dynamite. A brave new world of imagination has been glimpsed. It’s one of the most mentally important things you can do for a kid; it teaches not only animation, but timing and patience. You know who gets excited at the thumbing of a flip book? Everybody.
Kinetic Kids comics were typically a classic schoolyard rhyme, like “Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts”. This one is the “Worm Song” (“Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms”, etc). If I had all the time in the world, I’d make them into an animated gif for you. I do not.
Aside from a wealth of splendid comics old (reprints) and new, this issue contains two plums, the first of which is the 15-page epic “How To Profit From The Coming Nuclear Holocaust”. The art from Paul Kirchner is spectacular, and Steve Skeates strikes a perfect balance between horror and hilarity. It is National Lampoon quality satire. (I mean that as high praise.)
The second plum is referenced on the front cover, and holy crap, was it hard to keep quiet about it until the end of the article. As far as I can tell, it’s the work of Gary Hallgren, which would not surprise me. Hallgren goes all the way back to underground comix, and his skills with a pen are indomitable. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen his stuff in Car-Toons magazine. People of the internet: the name “Car-Toons” may mean nothing to you, but rest assured, it is to comic books what Kate Upton is to tits.
“Loony Labels” is spelled “Looney” on the inside cover, but no matter. This was CRAZY‘s response to Wacky Packages, and what a response it is. The label sheets are self-gummed, so you can cut them out, moisten them, and place them over the relevant product they’re spoofing. Despite the passing of three decades and twain, the designs still more or less pass for the real thing. I would be an unkind webmaster indeed if I neglected to reproduce them here in toto.