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Retro Rerun: Crossdressing in Mad Magazine

| Dec 17, 2018
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Almost everyone is familiar with Mad Magazine. But many people don’t know that it started as a comic book. Originally, it was a part of EC Comics, renowned for horror and science fiction comics, as well as humor. The big purge of adult-oriented comics in the early fifties, (due to the belief that they were corrupting America’s youth) left Mad as EC’s only commodity.

From the beginning Mad has presented examples of crossdressing both in its comic and magazine forms. Mad never seemed to look down on the practice, instead finding humor in it, like it finds humor in everything else. This month we’ll look at several examples of crossdressing from throughout Mad’s history.

Mad started early with the first female impersonator showing up in issue 3 (Feb/March 1953, recently reprinted in an anthology this summer). In one of the parodies Mad became famous for, the Lone Stranger stops a stagecoach robbery only to discover that one of the passengers isn’t what she appears to be.

Mad eventually took parodies, particularly of movies, into all kinds of new formats. Star Wars alone got the basic parody, the musical version, the Mad look at Star Wars, and in issue #354 (February 1997) to commemorate the updated re-release they featured “Star Wars Playsets You May Have Missed.” One playset we wouldn’t have missed is “The Dizzy Droid Drag Cantina,” complete with Chewbacca, Luke, C-3P0, and R2-D2 in various levels of dress and featuring the Extraterrestrial Village People.

Recent auctions at Sotheby’s have highlighted Mad’s art for its covers and posters. In recent months, their covers have included both Howard Stern and Dennis Rodman in wedding gowns for a same-sex ceremony, and Alfred E. Newman, the Mad mascot, dressed as Batgirl. But my personal favorite is a poster depicting Washington Crossdressing the Delaware.

The other arena that Mad has excelled has been in its stable of artists and writers that it has featured through the years. Here is an example of Don Martin’s style from issue 208 (July 1979). This is one of a series of funny takes on vending machines.

Spy vs. Spy Do Drag

Spy vs. Spy has been one of the mainstays of Mad Magazine since the 1960s and is the only regular feature of the magazine to make it onto MadTV. Spy vs. Spy is the ongoing saga of two spies, one white and one black, who are constantly trying to outdo the other with complicated traps, deceits and tricks.

The Spy’s creator, Antonio Prohias, was exiled from Cuba by Castro because of his anti-Communist cartoons and at Mad Magazine he found a home.

Frequently the spies would use disguises which makes their feud of interest to us. As you can see from these examples, not only did they use some incredible masks, but sometimes you can be a little overly cautious.

More Mad Looks at Crossdressing

Here are two more cartoons from last month’s issue of Mad Magazine (Oct. 1997). They really don’t need any further commentary.

All images copyright Mad Magazine and DC Comics.

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Category: History, Transgender Fun & Entertainment


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