It’s hard to express how much pleasure the arrival of a certain ebay purchased action figure has given me. Mad’s Alfred E Neuman as Wonder Women – when Two Worlds Collide! And two of my favourite worlds as well.
So, let’s get Mad!
America’s Mad comic was a complete joy to a British young New Town boy. An occasional treat thanks to the scarcity of all American comics at that time in the UK. I’m not sure if it’s a early urban (marine?) myth, but I once remember reading that the comics were simply brought back to England as required ballast for ships returning to the UK from the States. To think the survival of our inner fantasy life was then dependent on a form of paper stabiliser.
Mad was something special; something we just didn’t have in magazine form in the UK. It’s mixture of satire (oh yes it was), inspired art work (Where are my Don Martin collections now, who nicked them?) and great reoccurring strips (Spy versus Spy – swoon) made each issue something to treasure and reread. And even when I actually became a freckled sticky-out eared Newman, when my family changed its name, it never worried me that Mad cover star Alfred E. might become an albatross around my new New/Neu neck – most boys I knew were more into The Dandy and Beano. Mad was a gateway into a different world … and I liked it.
Wonder Woman was a different matter and a rather different Gateway (Gateway City, geddit?). DC and Marvel comics could be as hard to obtain as Mad in a small New Town. On a limited budget one also had to pick and choose and Wonder Woman generally had to be picked up as a bonus when purchasing another DC legend like Superman or Batman. And then come Linda Carter and TV’s Wonder Woman and what a difference that made! Boy, what a difference! She has something that made an adolescent male look at the comics in a totally way. It’s hardly surprising then that when I came to write about female stereotypes and the roles of women in society I chose Wonder Woman to frame the discussion. My ‘Life and Times of a Wonder Woman’ with the sensational Tara Paulsson did well on the Edinburgh Fringe stage and was a Herald’s Critic’s Choice, with the fabulous Tara Paulsson playing “Wonder Woman” in her many different guises: TV star, comic icon, Amazon and stripper/lecturer in feminist studies. The play was also staged in London and then, joy of joys, it went to the New York, where the New York Times said:
“This multilayered, one-hour, one-woman show is an ingenious conceit, a way of talking about feminism, sexuality and society’s view of women, told through the history of a cultural icon … part history lesson, part feminist tract, all funny,”
And that review still gives me a certain frisson of pleasure it has to be said.
And so here we have Alfred E. Neuman as Wonder Woman:
Is this a bad thing? No it’s a Mad thing. That’s what Mad does! It’s only right! Does it detract from Wonder Woman, nah! Does Wonder Woman detract from a cross-dressing Alfred E Newman – certainly not at all!
To me, in fact, it says something more about the USA than a million essays or newspaper articles ever could do. It is quintessentially American … and dig those bracelets; Andy Warhol would have loved them!