The Mad Life and Fantastic Art of Al Feldstein (Futurism/IDW)

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Rating: 5/5 – An Amazing Story of a Prolific Artist/Writer/Editor

This is really two stories about comic book history for the price of one. There’s the history of EC comics and then there’s also the history MAD magazine. Author Grant Gussman has delivered a thorough and interesting history of artist/writer/editor Al Feldstein. The two stories are intertwined by two men Al Feldstein and Bill Gaines. Al Feldstein’s art is the focus of this book obviously, but there’s a great deal of fascinating history to go along with it. EC Comics (Entertaining Comics) started as an educational comics venture in 1944. When Bill Gaines’ father Max died in 1947, Bill took over the company. It’s the horror, crime and sci-fi comics created by EC in the 1950’s that everyone talks about. The covers and splash page from those comics are recreated here in beautiful detail.

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This book holds every EC cover, splash page, and house ad that Feldstein did for EC comics. Some of the more well known EC comics are the horror titles like Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror. These horror comics and crime titles like Shock SuspenStories held some of the more shocking and disturbing imagery. Women in various states of torture and murder were not uncommon on the covers of these comics. These were comics for adults but they drew the attention of one Dr. Fredric Wetham. In 1954, Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent kicked off a lot of public scrutiny of comics books. Eventually that lead to a congressional hearing on juvenile delinquency. This may have spelled the end of EC comics but if paved the way for Mad magazine.

The book goes on to review Feldstein’s twenty-eight years as editor of Mad. Bill Gaines and Al ushered in new form of humor magazine that had huge publication numbers for many years. Also in the book, is Al’s early career in the Victor Fox shop as a “headlight” artist. These were stories like Archie and Betty and Veronica about young women in tight sweaters and short skirts. The end of the book has a nice gallery of Al’s more recent work. These include original paintings and many cover recreations Al has done as full commissions.

The best part of the book is the side-by-side comparison of the black and white original art next to the final printed cover with color. The sci-fi covers like on Weird Science-Fantasy are some of the most iconic with their cool spacemen and hideous aliens. This book is well worth your time and money. This is a quality book with exquisite details in book design, printing and binding. Pouring over the eye-catching art you’ll become even more of a fan of Al Feldstein’s art as I did.

Reviewed by: Ian Gowan – ian@comicspectrum.com
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