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NYCC2010: The MAD Panel

Few know it, but MAD Magazine is one of the staples of the DC/Warner catalogue of properties. Lest we forget, this is the magazine that embodied humor in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and is treated with absolute reverence from many comic writers – notably The Simpsons, which lovingly satirized the magazine during the show’s golden age.

So it’s easy to see why the property was chosen for a new animated series. It’s also another sign of the growing collaboration between DC and the Warner production units on the West Coast. The panel, unusually, covered both the magazine end of the brand as well as the new Cartoon Network animated show – in fact, the panel was introduced, but not moderated, by a Warner Brothers Animation publicity employee.

Despite that, this was clearly weighted more towards the magazine than the animated series. In fact, Mark Marek, producer of the animated show, was the only person present who wasn’t from the magazine. That’s forgivable, as the panel included MAD legends Mort Drucker, Dick DeBartolo, and Al Jaffee in addition to MAD editors John Ficarra and Sam Viviano. While the panel planned to open with the animated show’s producer, Mark Marek, explaining the show and showing a few clips, technical issues forced the crew to discuss the magazine first.

When Marek did manage to show his clips, the result was a curious blend of MAD past and present. First shown was a montage of MAD show clips. They’re clearly trying to get the show’s style, and while they succeed in some places (the Don Martin pieces, the “Spy Vs. Spy” shorts, and other things directly lifted from the magazine’s pages), other bits don’t quite mesh. The movie satires play off as a badly done internet cartoon, and other bits, while funny, seem closer to an Adult Swim mentality than anything else. That’s fine, but MAD‘s classic humor falls into two areas: either it’s rather direct satire on a South Park-esque level, or it’s playful art gags like Don Martin. The loopy illustrated radio type of humor that Adult Swim trades on sticks out a bit.

Still, the team seems to know that they’re working with an institution, and the ratings so far have been promising, with a season 2 a strong possibility at this point. Marek expressed hope that with a potential season 2, Warner Brothers will let the show’s creative team open it up a little more in terms of content. While the magazine has never successfully been sued, Warner is no doubt concerned about litigation. Another problem is the level of content MAD produces currently, which does seem to be more vicious and topical than before – again, closer to that South Park level.

That said, the animation wasn’t the highlight, and the Q&A session was all about the magazine and its legendary pedigree. You can’t blame them – it’s not every day you get to sit in front of comedy geniuses who still know their stuff.

Return to Toonzone New York Comic Con/New York Anime Fest 2010 Coverage Round-up.

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