Every week we ask someone to pick a cover they love and tell us why they love it. And for that week it becomes the best cover ever. No arguing. No debate. For seven whole days that IS the Best Cover Ever. Then next Saturday it gets deposed, as there’s never really going to be a Best Cover Ever? is there? (you can find every previous one here.)
(Charlie Parker, Handyman by Paul O’Connell and Lawrence Elwick)
This week sees something a little MAD from artist and writer Paul O’Connell. O’Connell’s work is great, spanning a number of styles and a wonderfully bizarre number of ideas. He’s a frequent collaborator with fellow writer/artist Laurence Elwick and their work has appeared in various places over the years, often covered right here.
For examples of just how good their work is take a look at these; Sound Of Drowning, Circus Lil, Your Heart’s Desire and the brilliant and jazz-tastic Charlie Parker, Handyman. Their most recent collaboration is the insanity that is Klopsy & Chops, an unfortunate ventiloquist loser and his psychotic, foul-mouthed dummy. Funny as hell, but disturbing as all hell at the same time…
(Klopsy & Chops by Paul O’Connell and Lawrence ELwick)
O’Connell also has a fine history of comedy mashups, the fabulous Muppet Wicker Man is available here, and the inspired mixing of the whimsy and gentle snark of Alex Graham’s Fred Basset with the lyrics of Slayer (heavy metal rock combo of some note I believe)… Fred Hates Us All
Finally, we featured O’Connell and Lord Hurk’s anthology of bizarre re-imaginings of classic kids TV shows Look Out throughout 2013.
So, with that much comedy in his reportoire, it’s hardly a surprise really to find that one of the covers that O’Connell remembers most fondly is from a classic comedy magazine…
Mad Magazine # 227, 1981, cover art by Jack Rikard
Not sure if this qualifies but it’s the only cover that springs immediately to mind… (Ed… yes, it qualifies, absolutely!)
I don’t claim that this is the best comic cover ever. (Ed… yes, yes you do! and if not then inclusion here means we’re claiming it for you Paul!)
But for me it’s the most memorable and it did provide me with a stepping stone in going from a weekly buyer of 2000AD, from the age of 7, to something…well…something more suited to an 11 year old seeking edgier reading material. It was the subtle detail of the human finger in the pizza topping that did it. For me, Mad magazine was like the missing like between 2000AD and Fangoria magazine, which I’d also starting buying in the local newsagent around that time. This was combined with the fact that just opened nearby was the first pizza takeaway I’d ever seen and the woman who worked there was a dead ringer for a character in the actual story.
Around this same time I also discovered Heavy Metal, the European comics athology. I was reading Ranxerox and Milo MInara stories before I could even understand them. But that was part of the appeal (along with the graphic nudity and swear words). Similarly, I didn’t always get the joke with Mad. But I understood the intention and that was enough. Mad took the adult world, with all it’s incomprehensible coda and sacred cows, and made fun of it. I got that and my 11 year old brain related to it.
I was reminded recently that the internet is less than twenty years old. I can barely even remember what life was like before the internet. But this Mad cover it brings it all back. All I knew about culture then was what I saw on TV, heard friends talking about and found to actually purchase in the newsagent over the road. To my 11 year old self, Mad magazine, Fangoria, Heavy Metal and X-rated horror videos (which I couldn’t see, so only read about) were about as subversive as things got.
I remember as a kid going on holiday in Kent and swapping a Mad paperback for a Beano annual with another kid I made friends with. I found the Beano childish and old fashioned and he was totally unimpressed with the Mad book and I have never met a single person between then and now who liked Mad or Heavy Metal as much as I did when I was that age. Nevertheless I’m still always surprised that no one never mention Mad or Heavy Metal when they talk about the comics that influenced their own work. In later life I realised how both were massive influences in terms of the comics I wanted to try and make.