Like many of you, I imagine, MAD Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman was one of the iconic figures from my childhood. Although, as familiar as I am with his goofy grin, I was not – until now – aware of his origins.
An advertisement for a stage play, The New Boy, which debuted on Broadway in 1894, features a character with the same, unmistakable features; the bad haircut, big ears, gap-toothed grin and crooked eyes. The New Boy even had a similar catch phrase, “What’s the good of anything? – Nothing!” In fact, the character was adopted by political cartoonists and product advertisements, appearing over the years in everything from a 1930 postcard for James Evans Auto Parts (with the slogan “Me Worry?”) to political ads opposing FDR’s reelection in 1940.
The character began appearing in MAD Magazine in 1954, eventually with the phrase “What? Me Worry?” When Al Feldstein became the editor in 1956, he commissioned Norman Mingo to create an illustration which established the look that has been used ever since. Early on, the character had various names such as Melvin Coznowski or Mel Haney. The magazine’s editors were fans of the Henry Morgan radio show, which featured an innocuous character named Newman (a reference to the film score composer of the ’40s and ’50s, Alfred Newman.) Eventually, the character became Alfred E. Neuman, with his signature catch phrase, “What – Me Worry?”
This MAD ’64 Nova Wagon came to me from my friend, Brad, in a trade for some additions to his collection of Jeeps and 4x4s. It completes my collection of the 2017 Pop Culture MAD series, which also includes the delightful Don Martin vehicles and the spectacular Spy vs. Spy vans.
You can follow a link trail of my other ’64 Nova Deliveries by starting here.
And just for fun, here’s an assortment of my vintage MAD digest covers showing Alfred E. Neuman doing his thing.