Nick Meglin died earlier this week at the age of 82. Not a famous name to be sure, but if you're the type of person who reads the mastheads of humor magazines (I know I am), you'll recognize him as first an assistant editor of Mad magazine from 1956 to 1984, and then co-editor (with John Ficarro) until his retirement in 2004, and even after that he was listed as a "Contributing Editor" for quite a while. Meglin started out as an illustrator, but quickly moved on to writing comic books for the legendary (and, at the time, somewhat notorious) E.C. comics in the early 1950s. He wrote dramatic fare but really found his metier with humor when he became one of the writers of Panic, EC's ripoff of its own comic book version of Mad. In the mid-50s, EC publisher William M. Gaines decided to give up on comic books after imposition of the "comics code", and turned Mad, much to the delight of founding editor Harvey Kurtzman, into a "magazine" (basically a black-and-white comic book sold alongside such periodicals as Life, Look, and The Saturday Evening Post.) Soon after that transformation was complete, Kurtzman was snatched up by Playboy founder Hugh Hefner (for whom he did the short-lived Trump years before the satire incarnate ended up in the White House, but became better known for the long-running Little Annie Fanny) and was replaced with horror comic writer/artist and Panic editor Al Feldstein, who was very good at producing a magazine on time but not necessarily the funniest guy in the world. That task was left to Meglin. Though only 10 articles were credited to him during his five-decade stint at Mad, he's been credited by all those involved with much of the uncredited humor in the magazine, such as introductions to articles and the names of departments (a satire of the movie Patton could be found in the Great Scott Department) as well as the pithy masthead quotes of Mad 's mascot, whom I'll get to in a second. Nor was Meglin's original career as an illustrator completely forsaken. Some of you might recall this drawing in the Letters to the Editor section:
But Meglin's greatest contribution may have been that mascot I mentioned earlier:
Megin didn't create this fellow, who had originally popped up in late 19th-early 20th century advertising. Nor was it his idea to put him on the cover of something titled Mad; that would have been Kurtzman for an early paperback collection. Kurtzman also came up with the moniker Alfred E. Newman, though he never called the mascot that. It was just an odd name he used from time to time throughout the magazine. According to all concerned, it was Meglin who brought the mascot and the name together, and, furthermore, came up with the idea of having Alfred on the cover in a neverending (to this very day) series of situations, such as:
Richard Williams illustrated the above, but Meglin reportedly came up with the idea. Perhaps he did a rough draft (in which case he was lucky some cop wasn't driving by.)
OK, this is called Vital Viewing, so it's about time I coughed up the actual video. It's a couple of New Years Eve parties emceed by longtime Mad writer, longtime Match Game writer, and, in recent years, Giz Whiz podcast co-host Dick DeBartolo. After a short bit with publisher Gaines, they'll be two equally short bits with Meglin:
Before you ask, no, none of them were ever on The Gong Show.
R.I.P Nick Meglin.