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Crazy, Sick and Cracked

Crazy, Sick and Cracked are, arguably, the three most successful imitations of the American humor magazine MAD.

Throughout its 50-year tenure, MAD's success has inspired many other publishers to produce their own competing humor comic books and magazines. Most of these were short-lived exercises, such as Zany (4 issues), Frantic (2 issues), Ratfink (1 issue), Nuts! (2 issues), Get Lost (3 issues), Whack (3 issues), Wild (5 issues), Madhouse (8 issues), Riot (6 issues), Flip (2 issues), Eh! (7 issues), and literally dozens of others over the decades. Even MAD's own company, E.C., joined the parade with a sister humor magazine called Panic, which was produced by future MAD editor Al Feldstein. Most of these productions aped MAD's format right down to choosing a synonym for "mad" as their title. Most also featured a cover mascot along the lines of MAD's Alfred E. Neuman.

The longest-lasting of the three major imitators is Cracked, which began in 1958, and is still nominally in existence today, although it has published little new material in years. Their mainstay artist was John Severin, who had done some work for early MAD comics. Other regulars included girlie artist Bill Ward, and cartoonist Charles Rodrigues. Cracked gained some attention in 1987 by raiding Don Martin from MAD Magazine's group of regular contibutors. Martin had left MAD due to a business dispute, but it was still a coup to obtain the services of MAD's "Maddest Artist." Don Martin worked for Cracked for about six years. Cracked's concurrent attempt to sign MAD's premiere caricaturist Mort Drucker was unsuccessful. Cracked featured a janitor named Sylvester P. Smythe as its mascot.

Though Cracked's sales lagged far behind MAD's, it was able to survive for over four decades due to low payrates and overhead, and by being part of a publishing group that could bundle Cracked in with its other magazines, as a package arrangement for distributors. In the late 1990s, Globe Communications was sold to American Media Inc., the same company that publishes the National Enquirer[?] and the Weekly World News. Cracked went along with the deal.

Started by "Captain America" creator Joe Simon, Sick Magazine debuted in 1960, and lasted until the late 1970s. Its mascot was a Neuman doppelganger called Huckleberry Fink. Instead of "What, me worry?", Fink's peppy motto was "Why Try Harder?" Although it had even less of a reputation than Cracked, it did occasionally feature some prominent talent, including MAD regulars Angelo Torres and Jack Davis.

Crazy ran from 1973 until 1983, and was published by Marvel Comics. Many of Marvel's usual superhero artists and writers contributed to the effort over the years. Crazy Magazine originally featured a short, bug-eyed mascot with a large black hat and draped in a black cape, who may not have had an official name. Later in Crazy's run, this character was replaced with the belligerent Obnoxio the Clown.

Other humor magazines of note include former MAD Editor Harvey Kurtzman's Humbug and Trump, the National Lampoon, and Spy Magazine, but these cannot be considered direct ripoffs of MAD in the same way as the others mentioned here. Of all the competition, only the National Lampoon ever threatened MAD's hegemony as America's top humor magazine, in the early-to-mid-1970s. However, this was also the period of MAD's greatest sales figures.

Longtime MAD publisher William Gaines reportedly kept a voodoo doll in his business office, into which he would stick pins labelled with each of MAD's imitators. He would only remove a pin when the copycat had ceased publishing. At the time of Gaines' death in 1992, only the pin for Cracked remained.

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