Wednesday, January 28, 2015
CRACKED MONSTERS COVER ART BY JOHN SEVERIN
Everything I needed to know about humor I learned from "the usual gang of idiots". The quote was the tagline used by MAD magazine to describe its regular contributors. Between the covers of each month's issue, I lost myself in the parody, satire and sarcasm that would elicit anything from a chuckle to a belly laugh from this teenager. I loved Don Martin's hilariously clever one pagers, packed with enough sound effects to fill a dictionary. I studied the intricacies of Sergio Aragone's "marginal" art (and Spy vs. Spy, of course), and anything that Mort Drucker put his ink pen to; and let's not forget the fold-ins and Dave Berg's "Looks At" strips. From cover to cover MAD was an exercise in the art of the joke.
As with lots of other successful magazines, it didn't take long for the competition to start showing up. CRACKED was founded in 1958 by Major Magazine's Sol Brodsky (who was production manager for the original Marvel Comics empire and co-founded the Skywald "horror mood" line), and was the most enduring of the titles. SICK followed a couple of years later, in 1960, and was created by Joe Simon -- yes, that Joe Simon, that other half of the legendary Joe Simon/Jack Kirby dynamic duo. It lasted for 134 issues.
I enjoyed all the humor that these mags offered, but when I saw the first CRACKED'S FOR MONSTERS ONLY at the local drugstore, I went nuts! Here was a magazine that combined both of my favorite topics, humor and horror! This was a magazine that raised the puns that Forry used in FAMOUS MONSTERS to a new level!
I grabbed every issue I could get a hold of. Unfortunately, it was published about as frequently as Calvin Beck's CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN -- only 10 issues (and one Yearbook in 1967) in 7 years. There were a few supplemental issues, published under titles like MONSTER PARTY and CRACKED COLLECTOR'S EDITION. Still, I devoured the contents -- what was there not to like? Cheesy photo funnies and a sprinkling of real articles about monster movies and horror stars made these 'zines something special. Mainly looked upon now with a dubious nod for allowing inclusion within the hallowed realm of FM and CoF, and with maybe a tidge more cred than Charlton's MAD MONSTERS and HORROR MONSTERS, FOR MONSTERS ONLY still has a place in this Monster Kid's heart.
The thing I liked best, though, was the hearty helping of illustrations by John Severin. Severin is my favorite monster cartoonist right after Jack Davis, and he delivered a mountain of work to FOR MONSTERS ONLY. Severin's line work is superb, and he captures caricatures of monsters like few others.
Severin's art appeared on numerous covers as well. One of them, from CRACKED COLLECTOR'S EDITION #36 (1980), is amazingly now offered up for bid at auction. It is the 25.5" x 14" strip of artwork placed below the masthead and above the cover line. The piece is rendered with acrylic on illustration board and is in FANTASTIC shape. The colors are more brilliant than the printed cover ever was.
One notable factoid worth mentioning is that this is exactly the same image that was seen years earlier as the cover for FOR MONSTERS ONLY #5! Could this be the same piece of artwork that was used on a second cover -- or did Severin repaint it? The item is from The Cracked Vault Archives, which is being emptied for the benefit of any collector with a few bucks to shell out. Well, I at least still have my collection, albeit slowly being eaten by the acid in the paper it was printed on, to lean on whenever I need a good monster laugh.