Panic #7 (1955)

The ad on the inside front cover of this EC Comic cheerfully reads "It’s true I bought the last MAD on the news-stand, but they still have a copy of Panic which is practially the same as MAD!" And that’s pretty much true, as far as I can tell: the mid-’50s comic book size MAD was a revelation, a spectacularly silly parody of the comics and TV shows of the time. It may not have boasted the unique comic genius of Harvey Kurtzman , but Panic featued many of the same artists – Wally Wood, Joe Orlando, Jack Davis and the incomparable Will Elder.
Elder was the real genius of the artists for this type of work, obsessively filling each panel in his stories with wacky humor and off-center bits. Elder illustrates "Mel Padooka," a parody of the old "Joe Palooka" comic strip, and does do in an incredibly manic style. We get Marily Monroe jokes, jokes about other comic strips, silly comments about ghost artists (Palooka artist Ham Fisher was famous for his use of ghosts), and a slew of other targets. Elder’s humor comics always basically followed the lines of satire of the comics they were lampooning, but the real humor, and manic thrill, of his work was in the absurd detail and intense wackiness of Elder’s panels. There’s literally been nobody like him in comics history.
There really is a stright line between comics like this and silly humor like Monty Python and Leslie Nielson movies. It’s nothing but pure wacky, fun, silly humor. And it’s great for that.

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