These days, we call them The House of Ideas. But for much of their history, Marvel/Atlas was dedicated to another premise: Follow the leader! Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Crazy #1 awaits!
Artist: Al Hartley/Joe Maneely/Ed Winiarski/Bill Everett/Dave Berg/Joe Maneely
Editor: Stan Lee
Publisher: Atlas Comics (Marvel Comics)
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $450.00
Previously in Crazy: Say what you will about Timely/Marvel/Atlas/Red Circle/Probably several others’ publisher Martin Goodman, he was a remarakably flexible in identifying and following publishing trends. The success of Superman directly led to The Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner, and the waning days of superhero comics in the late 1940s led him (or editor/Goodman’s wife’s cousin Stan Lee) to experiment with horror, Western and giant monster comics, even creating Patsy Walker to cash in on the burgeoning teen market. In 1952, rival EC Comics launched Mad Magazine, bringing “humor in a jugular vein” to the forefront of comic books, and inspiring what was then called Atlas Comics to join them in the humorour parody genre.
So, uhh… Sometimes I ask “Who is this comic for?”, but the clear answer here is “Adolescent boys and/or those who share the attitudes of adolescent boys.” Our first story is a parody of TV science-fiction (specifically ‘Tom Corbett, Space Cadet’, with appearances by Captain Vidiot) with art by Al Hartley. Many will remember Hartley best for his Spire Comics work in the 1970s, infusing his born-again Christian beliefs into the adventures of the Archie Gang, as well as autobiographies like ‘Hansi: The Girl Who Loved The Swastika’, but he started out at Timely comics. This Tess Orbit strip (pun fully intended) is all about the peek-a-boo art of the main character, but ends with the appearance of the protagonist of our second strip, who has tired of waiting for his turn.
Slip-Along Sassity, a parody of Western hero Hopalong Cassidy, who was enjoying a resurgence in the early 50s, not only in the movies, but on the radio and the still-young medium of television. Unlike the first features, which just chained together lukewarm jokes with Good Girl art, Slip-Along adds a little bit of racism to the mix, thanks to some really terrible Native American depictions, and ends with the character shooting a little person who had disguised himself as a baby. It’s… not good, but at least Ed Winiarski’s art is interesting. And hey, y’know what else was popular in the fifties? Monster movies!
Here we see Sub-Mariner creator Bill Everett on art (and possibly on the scripts, but there’s no documentation of who wrote any of the comic stories in this issue), and a story that is actually amusing in places. A panel where the caption describes the monster grabbing “an old lady” shows him picking up another beautiful young woman, who exclaims “Can’t you read captions?” actually made me giggle, and the end of the whole mess ends up as a parody of the closing narration of ‘Dragnet’, with Dr. Frankienstein in a sanitarium and the monster skipping rope with his new teenage lady friend. And then, we get the inevitable crime story.
A parody of ‘Gang Busters’, which would have just arrived on TV in ’53 after an extended fun on various radio networks, there’s not real reason to start this story with a pretty young woman in a bath towel other than “Dave Berg wanted to draw a pretty young woman in a bath towel. Also, if the name Dave Berg sounds familiar in a ‘Mad Magazine’-inspired context, it should: Berg left Marvel a few years after this to become one of the mainstays at the actual Mad. As that first panel will attest, he is also renowned as one of the most talented and prolific Good Girl artists of the 50s and 60s. This issue wraps up with a little culture, thanks to Alexandre Dumas.
It’s this last story that feels most like classic Mad, with Joe Maneely delivering on layered sight gags, side-jokes and visual puns, and his complex art is perfectly suited to the task. The use of phonetic accents makes it pretty hard to read, though, and wraps up an issue that was clearly designed to be quick and disposable entertainment for a comic readers twelve and up. With its roster of talented artists, Crazy #1 is a good-looking mixed bag of an issue that occasionally manages to (briefly) duplicate the entertainment value of a Kurtzman ‘Mad’, earning a historically fascinating 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. Crazy only ran seven issues in this format, returning nearly 20 years later to r̶i̶p̶-̶o̶f̶f̶ homage a different era of Mad, but… that’s another Retro Review entirely.
Dear Spoilerite,At Major Spoilers, we strive to create original content that you find interesting and entertaining. Producing, writing, recording, editing, and researching requires significant resources. We pay writers, podcast hosts, and other staff members who work tirelessly to provide you with insights into the comic book, gaming, and pop culture industries. Help us keep MajorSpoilers.com strong. Become a Patron (and our superhero) today.
They say dying is easy, but comedy is hard, and this issue proves that point. Regardless, the art is excellent throughout, and it's fun to see artists like Harley and Berg doing things other than what they're best known for.