Tuesday, May 21, 2013


You have seen the term, "iconic" used frequently here at MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD. With no disrespect for its religious beginnings, I use it when I want to describe the impact of certain images found in horror films, magazines, and other visual media that represent an analogy that is fixed in traditional or conventional thought.

Norman Mingo's cover art for MAD magazine's September 1964 (#89) issue can easily be described as "iconic". It is ubiquitous not only in the realms of humorous illustration, but in the world of Monsterology as well. The image, depicting the Frankenstein monster putting together a model of Mad's mascot, Alfred E. Neuman, is the epitome of ironic reversals in a long line of works that the publication was famous for (I do not include the magazine's current incarnation -- while still somewhat humorous, it has for the most part, degraded into obtuseness). I even use it for a button on the sidebar here.

The MastroNet Spring 2003 auction included Mingo's orginal artwork for the Frankenstein MAD cover. To remind people just how famous this work is, the minium bid amount was for $10,000 with a buyer's premium of $17,119. It did not sell.

Norman Mingo original art.

Here is a description of the item as it appeared in the auction catalog:

"Offered is one of the greatest, most easily recognized, and most significant of all Mad cover artworks, Norman Mingo's September, 1964 cover, featuring Frankenstein assembling an Aurora model of Alfred E. Neuman. Many collectors consider this to be the ultimate Mad cover. It is universally recognized as a classic, and is unquestionably one of the most desirable of all of Mad's many memorable covers. This cover's original painting was first sold decades ago, when Russ Cochran auctioned Bill Gaines' Mad archive material. Of all the Mad cover paintings auctioned by Cochran, this is the Mad cover painting which sold for more than any other. The $8,000 it realized in 1990 may seem like quite a bargain today, but at the time, it was a shocking and record shattering sum. The original cover's image dates from the peak period of the Monster Craze of the early 1960's, a period of enormous popularity for the Aurora Monster Models that were the most successful byproduct of that craze. It is a testimonial, both to the endurance of the craze and to the fact that Aurora was about to produce a model of the magazine's own little monster named Alfred. Because it so perfectly captures the most memorable elements of its period, it has become the quintessential Mad cover, and many now consider it to be Norman Mingo's greatest masterpiece. When Mad originally sold this artwork, it had not yet been decided to withhold a selection of their choicest pieces, the grouping which would come to be known as "The Soul of Mad." Yet despite the fact that this cover painting was not retained in Mad's permanent collection, it clearly is deserving of being included in that select group, perhaps, more so than any other Mad cover art that is currently in private hands.

More than any other artist, Norman Mingo is most closely aligned with the Alfred E. Neuman image. He was the first to capture him in a painted portrait (Mad #30, 1956), and he produced many of the most classic covers the magazine experienced during its 2.4 million copy sales per issue era. There is only one Mingo, and he is universally recognized as the master, the most desirable of the very talented Mad cover artists. Of course, even with an artist of his caliber, there are only so many Mad covers by Mingo, or any other Mad artist, that can fall into that exclusive and very elusive club of all-time Mad greats. This is obviously one, if not the one.

The colorful mixed media (we believe gouache and dyes) on board original measures 16-3/4" x 22" in size, with a flawless image area that measures 14-1/4" x 19-3/4". It is strongly signed towards the lower left corner. Accompanied by a copy of the September, 1964 edition of Mad magazine on which this artwork originally appeared."

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