Al Feldstein by Michael Netzer
The great Al Feldstein crossed the great divide this week – Tuesday, 29 April – he was 88.
His most enduring legacy will perhaps be that centerpiece of American satire, Mad magazine. After Feldstein took the helm in 1956 the magazine rocketed upwards and became one of the most popular periodicals in the nation. He captained the ship for twenty-nine years. While Feldstein’s success with Mad magazine is certainly worth the acclaim, his earlier work with EC Comics should not go unrecognized. From 1948 until 1955, he was prolific as writer, illustrator, and editor for this highly poignant line:
As EC’s editor, Feldstein created a literate line, balancing his genre tales with potent graphic stories probing the underbelly of American life. In creating stories around such topics as racial prejudice, rape, domestic violence, police brutality, drug addiction and child abuse, he succeeded in addressing problems and issues which the 1950s radio, motion picture and television industries were too timid to dramatize.
Below is the cover of Panic #2 issued 1 April 1954. The dangerous looking boy is playing with a ‘Junior Kem-Kit For the Budding Scientist.’ In the 1950s atomic everything was in vogue – in 1951-52 Gilbert produced the ‘Atomic Energy Lab’ that included four types of uranium ore. Also in the ’50s Chemcraft produced the ‘Porter Atomic Energy Kit’ that included a vial of uranium ore, a vial that contained a ‘uranium chemical’ and a ‘screen’ of radium. Was Feldstien the only person at the time who recognized the bizarre nature of such things? Be that as it may – his illustration is one that we can all relate to today.
Fare thee well, Mr. Feldstein – you done good.
Panic #2 – 1 April 1954 – Illustration: Al Feldstein