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In his short story collection A Century of Great Suspense Stories, editor Jeffery Deaver noted that King "singlehandedly made popular fiction grow up. While there were many good best-selling writers before him, King, more than anybody since John D. MacDonald, brought reality to genre novels. He has often remarked that 'Salem's Lot was "Peyton Place meets Dracula. And so it was. The rich characterization, the careful and caring social eye, the interplay of story line and character development announced that writers could take worn themes such as vampirism and make them fresh again. Before King, many popular writers found their efforts to make their books serious blue-penciled by their editors. 'Stuff like that gets in the way of the story,' they were told. Well, it's stuff like that that has made King so popular, and helped free the popular name from the shackles of simple genre writing. He is a master of masters."
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"MS: When did you purchase your first Mad?EN: I didn't buy Mad as a kid. I read my cousin's copies. I only saw him 3 or 4 times a year. He would give me a bunch and I would toss them a few years later. My father would buy me a copy every so often. I'd read a friend's copy if one of them would get an issue. I'd purchase a copy of Sick once in a while. Never remember buyingCracked or Help! but would flip through them at the newsstand. I think I purchased Sick because I knew no one else reading that magazine, so it was my only chance. I had chances to read Mad. It wasn't until 1982 that I started buying Mad on a regular basis. My wife knew she was in trouble when I framed a copy and mounted it to the wall. It took me about 6 years to get them all. The last issue I needed was #21. My favorite comic shop found that issue for me, and charged me an arm and a leg knowing they would get the money from me! I got my first Mad collectible about a year after I started buying the magazine. I think it was theMad Magazine Game by Parker Brothers. A few months later I purchased a small collection. The collection contained Musically Mad, one red bookend, 80 German Mads and 100 regular and special issues. My wife really knew she was in trouble at that point.
"Letters Destined for the Round File Dept: Dear Editor, If I miss an issue, I'll be sick over it! - Huckleberry Fink - Dear Editor, My friends think I'm cracked, so send me some issues! - Sylvester P. Smythe - Dear Fool, This magazine is trash. Why are you wasting your time publishing this junk. Do something useful like painting the house. - Carol Norris. This space needs your letters, please write!"
"The Freaky World of Alfred E. Neuman - New York - (AP) - Right away you know you're headed for the Mad Magazine offices because the elevator stops at the 13th floor. Then you practically crash into a lifesized Alfred E. Neuman in lederhosen, following which: * You hear a whirring sound from the stockroom which turns out to be an artist extracting fresh carrot juice. * You come to a poster on a door - Karl Marx wearing glasses - behind which sits a living human of similar appearance who is mountainous, rumpled and bearded, and hair down to his shoulders, and you learn that he is millionaire publisher William Gaines. * You find the next cubicle decorated with a sampler saying 'God Bless our Fallout Shelter' embroidered by editor Al Feldstein's ex-mother-in-law. * You see two cartoonists huddled over their drawing boards gleefully turning every photograph in the day's New York Times into publisher Gaines. 'With a few strokes and lots of hair, you can do it to any face,' chuckles Sergio Aragones, a mustached Spaniard, applying his felt-tip pen to Sen. James Buckley, Mrs. Juan Peron and a silver-plated samovar from Bloomingdale's. Samovar Best - Actually, the samovar works into an exceptionally fine likeness. It is, as they say somewhere, just another day with the folks who put out Mad Magazine - that hardy collection of parody, cartoons and Alfred E. Neumaniana that has turned up in the secret pouch of a captured Viet Cong and the U.S. House of Representatives. Mamie Eisenhower subscribed for her grandson, David, when they lived in the White House. An anonymous donor recently subscribed for Kim Agnew. And a Mad paperback was seen in the hands of a Beatle in the film, 'A Hard Day's Night.' From the appearances, it's a cheerful, amusing, occasionally sophomoric and even sometimes dull, publication that Gaines calls a 'grown-up comic book.' Big Business - In fact, Mad Magazine is big business. Eight times a year, 1.8 million fans plunk down 40 cents apiece to buy it at the newsstand, while another 100,000 readers get it through the mail. What began as an experimental comic book nearly 20 years ago is today a 48-page magazine supplemented by annual specials, 54 paperbacks with sales figures in the millions, plus foreign translations in nine languages including an Anglicized version, to remove anything critical of the royal family. It carries no advertising, because Gaines says he doesn't want to compromise his integrity. A wholly-owned subsidiary of the giant Kinney Services, it shares its corporate parents with Warner Brothers empire, the Independent News Service (which distributes Mad) and Paperback Library (recently acquired to print the Mad paperbacks). The secret of this free-wheeling humor magazine that appeals mainly to teenagers but also to a lot of their parents is its unlikely blend of creativity and commerce. To some, Mad is irrelevant because it takes no political stand; to others, that is its genius, because according to free-lance writer Frank Jacobs, 'Mad puts down anything it thinks is dumb.' The full-time staff consists only of six: publisher Gaines, editor Feldstein, associate editors Nick Meglin and Jerry DeFuccio, art director John Putnam and production man Leonard Brenner. Plus three young women who handle subscriptions. Brenner, known simply as 'Beard,' is the one with four different editions of Volume A from encyclopedia companies because 'that's the one they give away free.' Meglin and DeFuccio were the only two people breaking up with laughter at the movie 'Love Story' while everyone else was crying. Most of the writing and cartooning comes from a stable of about 25 free-lancers: professional writers and artists who command high fees in television, movies, advertising and magazines, but who have been with Mad for years and generally accord it their first loyalty. Much of that loyalty comes from respect for the patriarch of the family: Bill Gaines. A good-natured, generous gentleman with a widespread reputation for fairness and honesty, Gaines, 49, runs his magazine with the kid gloves of trust. He occupies a modest office right alongside his staffers in their rather unexceptional building on Madison (the magazine spells it MADison) Avenue. What Me Worry? - Flying from his ceiling are at least six miniature zeppelins of various sizes, including one with the 'What? Me Worry?' kid emblazed in red. 'I have a lot of juvenile interests - one of which is King Kong,' Gaines explained with a deep laugh. Gaines' other loves are equally unusual. He makes frequent trips to the island of Haiti but disapproves of its government. He went out of his way to buy 72 pairs of cotton socks for 59 cents a pair at a bargain store, but proudly paid $90 for one bottle of wine. He considers himself cheap, but pays $100 for a gourmet meal. Gaines adores fine food and wine. He belongs to seven connoisseur-type organizations, attends frequent wine-tastings, and, in his five-room apartment in New York's Upper East Side, has turned the bedroom into an air-conditioned cellar for some 500 bottles of wine. Gaines entered the comic book world through his father, M.C. (Max) Gaines, an adman turned publisher who sold the first commercial comic books in the country, discovered Superman and invented Wonderwoman. Max Gaines' death in 1947 pulled the young Bill, then studying to be a chemistry teacher, back home. At his mother's insistence, he took up the family business, ultimately turning the shaky E.C. Publications (which changed from 'Educational' to 'Entertaining' Comics) into the precedent-setting publishers of a line of horror, suspense and science-fiction comics. One day, a talented young staffer named Harvey Kurtzman told Gaines he wanted to do something different. Humor Book - 'I remembered that Harvey was good with humor,' Gaines recalled. 'So I said, 'Harvey, why don't you throw out a humor book?' That was how Mad began.' The first issue, a comic book, appeared on the stands in the fall of 1952. Kurtzman's brand of humor, including a unique spoof called 'Superduperman' in the fourth issue, set the tone. Twenty-three issues later, Gaines discontinued all the comics and turned Mad into a magazine. Then one day Kurtzman asked Gaines for control of Mad. Gaines thought he meant financial control and refused. Kurtzman quit. Actually, Kurtzman meant editorial control, and only recently, after a cash settlement and kind words, have the two me smoothed over the rift. In any event, Kurtzman's departure transferred editorship to Al Feldstein, who is credited with turning Mad into the mass-media success that it is. Kurtzman, who now does an adult comic called 'Little Annie Fanny' for Playboy, says he's 'not bitter - just frustrated, because I didn't cash in.' Oddly enough for such clever fellows, however, and for creators of a magazine read mostly by teen-agers, no Mad staff member is under 30. Except DeFuccio none of the full-timers is a college graduate, none smokes and they generally do not go drinking or lunching together. They are, in fact, hard-working professionals who come to work around 9 in the morning, get their editing or artwork or assignments done, and, with few exceptions, join the 5 o'clock rush to go home. Because they have all been part of the family so long, they work extremely well together. The same is true of the freelancers, most whom have been with Mad since its early days. They meet their deadlines and respect editorial judgment. In return, they get some of the highest fees in the business (around $260 a page) plus a year-end bonus. Whatever the formula, it works. But as editor Feldstein says of Alfred E, Neuman: 'Alfred symbolizes the philosophy of the magazine; Keep smiling, as the world crumbled around you.' (The above article is from the S.F. Sunday Examiner & Chronicle, January 23, 1972. It was written by Lynn Sherr.)