BILLINGS, Mont. — Al Feldstein, whose 28 years at the helm of Mad magazine transformed the satirical publication into a pop culture institution, has died. He was 88.
Feldstein died Tuesday at his home in Livingston, according to the Franzen-Davis Funeral Home and Crematory. No cause of death was released.
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?”
Neuman’s character was used to skewer any and all, from Santa Claus to Darth Vader, and more recently in editorial cartoonists’ parodies of President George W. Bush.
“The Portable Mad,” a compilation of magazine highlights edited by Feldstein in 1964, gives a picture of the typical Mad features that year.
Among its offerings: “Some Mad Devices for Safer Smoking” (including a “nasal exhaust fan” and “disposable lung-liner tips”); “The Mad Academy Awards for Parents” (one nominee does her “And THIS is the thanks I get!” routine); “The Lighter Side of Summer Romances”; and “Mad’s Teenage Idol Promoter of the Year” (which skewers Elvis Presley and the Beatles.)
Under Gaines and Feldstein, Mad’s sales flourished, topping 2 million in the early 1970s. In a 1997 interview with the Bozeman Daily Chronicle the Daily Chronicle, Feldstein credited Mad’s challenges to authority with helping incite the cultural revolution of the 1960s.