ALFRED E. NEUMAN Biography - Fictional, Iconical & Mythological characters

 
 

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ALFRED E. NEUMAN

Name: Alfred E. Neuman                                                                     
                                                                                           
Alfred E. Neuman is the fictional mascot of Mad. The face had drifted through               
American pictography for decades before being claimed by Mad editor Harvey                 
Kurtzman after he spotted it on the bulletin board in the office of Ballantine             
Books editor Bernard Shir-Cliff, later a contributor to various magazines                   
created by Kurtzman.                                                                       
                                                                                           
Since his debut in Mad, Neuman's likeness, distinguished by jug ears, a missing             
front tooth, and one eye disquietingly lower than the other, has graced the                 
cover of all but a handful of the magazine's 450+ issues. His face does not                 
translate well to profile, and thus he has almost always been shown in full                 
frontal view or in silhouette.                                                             
                                                                                           
The first use of this face by Kurtzman came November 1954 on the back cover of             
Ballantine's The Mad Reader, a paperback collection of reprints from the first             
two years of Mad. The character's first appearance in the comic book was on the             
cover of Mad 21 (March 1955), a tiny image as part of a mock ad. A rubber mask             
bearing his likeness with "idiot" written underneath was offered for $1.29.                 
Kurtzman began to introduce other running gags at this time, notably the word               
Potrzebie.                                                                                 
                                                                                           
First cover appearance of Alfred E. Neuman on Mad 21                                       
                                                                                           
Neuman's third appearance was in the border of the first magazine version of Mad           
24 (July 1955) with his now-familiar signature phrase "What, me worry?" written             
underneath. Initially, the phrase was rendered "What? Me worry?". This border               
would be used through Mad 30 (December 1956) and thereafter appeared on the                 
table of contents page of the reprint series More Trash from Mad from 1958 to               
1960 and The Worst from Mad from 1958 to 1961. Neuman also appeared, by name               
only, in an early Don Martin feature, "Alfred E. Neuman Answers Your Questions."           
In it, Neuman answered a letter from a suicidal reader by giving "expert advice"           
on the best technique for tying a hangman's knot.                                           
                                                                                           
The character was also briefly known as Mel Haney. In Mad 25, the face and name             
were shown together as Alfred E. Neuman, but in that same issue, the face                   
appears with the name Mel Haney.                                                           
                                                                                           
In late 1956, Neuman's identity became fixed, when he appeared on the cover of             
Mad 30 as a write-in candidate for the Presidency. His features, which had first           
been rendered in black-and-white by Bill Elder, were fine-tuned and recreated in           
color by Norman Mingo. It was this image which became the character's defining             
portrait. Beginning with issue 30, and continuing to the present day, Neuman has           
appeared on the cover of every issue of Mad and its spinoffs, in one form or               
another, with a small handful of exceptions. One such departure was Mad 233 (September     
1982) which replaced Neuman's image with that of Pac-Man.                                   
                                                                                           
Mingo painted seven more Neuman covers through 1957 and later became the                   
magazine's signature cover artist throughout the 1960s and 1970s, although Kelly           
Freas rendered Neuman for Mad from 1958 to 1962. A female version of Alfred,               
named Moxie Cowznofski and occasionally described in editorial text as Alfred's             
"girlfriend," appeared briefly during the late 1950s. Alfred and Moxie were                 
sometimes depicted side-by-side, defeating any speculation that Moxie was                   
possibly Alfred in female guise. Her name was inspired by Moxie, a soft drink               
manufactured in Portland, Maine which was sold nationwide in the 1950s and whose           
logo appeared in many early issues of Mad.                                                 
                                                                                           
Mad routinely combines Neuman with another character for its cover images.                 
Neuman has appeared in a slew of guises, including Santa Claus, Darth Vader,               
George Washington, King Kong, Baby New Year, Lawrence of Arabia, Batman, Robin,             
Spider-Man, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Rosemary's Baby, George S. Patton, the                   
Fiddler on the Roof, Alex from A Clockwork Orange, Barbra Streisand, Mr. T,                 
Indiana Jones, Radar O'Reilly, Bruce Springsteen, Mr. Spock, Bart Simpson, Pee             
Wee Herman, Michael Jackson, a California Raisin, Don King, Robin Hood, Abraham             
Lincoln, Guns N' Roses' Slash, the Man in the Moon, an Oscar statuette, an "Operation"     
board game, Jabba the Hutt, Wolverine, Gollum, Spongebob Squarepants, Agent                 
Smith from The Matrix, Kurt Cobain, Shrek, Dr. Octopus, Dennis Rodman, The                 
Incredibles' Jack-Jack, a zombie, a caveman, a fetus, a boa constrictor, a rat,             
George W. Bush, Justin Timberlake, Harry Potter, Lord Voldemort, Barry Bonds,               
Suri Cruise, Wilson the Volleyball, the Mona Lisa, and Uncle Sam ("Who Needs You?")         
among many other familiar faces. Since his initial unsuccessful run in 1956, he             
has periodically been re-offered as a candidate for President with the slogan, "You         
could do worse... and always have!"                                                         
                                                                                           
Early image of the "Me Worry?" kid, possibly from the 1920s.                               
                                                                                           
Considering Neuman's ubiquity as a cover boy, it is perhaps ironic that the                 
single highest-selling issue of Mad depicted only his feet. The cover image,               
spoofing the 1973 film The Poseidon Adventure, showed Neuman floating upside-down           
inside a life preserver.                                                                   
                                                                                           
Along with his face, Mad also includes a short humorous quotation credited to               
Neuman with every issue's table of contents. Some of these quotations were                 
collected in the book, Mad: The Half-Wit and Wisdom of Alfred E. Neuman (Warner             
Treasures, 1997), illustrated by Sergio Aragon├ęs.                                         
                                                                                           
Neuman is now used exclusively as a mascot and iconic symbol of the magazine,               
but before this status was codified, he was referenced in several early articles.           
In one, he gave "advice" to supposed letterwriters; in one of his replies, a               
suicidal reader was instructed on the best way to tie a knot. Other articles               
featured the school newspaper of "Neuman High School," and a bulletin from "Alfred         
E. Neuman University." An article entitled "Alfred E. Neuman's Family Tree"                 
depicted historical versions of Neuman from various eras. Since then, Neuman has           
appeared only occasionally inside the magazine's articles. A recurring article             
titled "Poor Alfred's Almanac" showed his face atop the page, but otherwise the             
character had no role in the text. In an issue in 1968, Alfred's face was                   
assembled, feature by feature, from parts of photographs of well-known politicos,           
including then-President Lyndon B. Johnson (left ear), Richard Nixon (nose),               
Oregon Governor Mark Hatfield (eyes), and Ronald Reagan (hair). The gap in his             
teeth (using the grin of Dwight D. Eisenhower) came from "The 'Credibility Gap'             
Created by Practically All Politicians."                                                   
                                                                                           
Neuman's famous catch phrase is the intellectually uncurious "What, me worry?"             
This was changed for one issue to "Yes, me worry!" after the Three Mile Island             
nuclear meltdown in 1979. On the cover of current printings of the paperback The           
Ides of MAD, as rendered by long-time cover artist Norman Mingo, Alfred is                 
portrayed as a Roman bust with his catch phrase engraved on the base, translated,           
of course, into Latin-- Quid, Me Vexari?                                                   
                                                                                           
Over the decades, Neuman has often appeared in political cartoons as a shorthand           
for unquestioning stupidity. In recent years, Alfred E. Neuman's features have             
frequently been merged with those of George W. Bush by editorial cartoonists               
such as Mike Luckovich and Tom Tomorrow. The image has also appeared on magazine           
covers, notably The Nation) and in numerous Photoshop images and GIF files                 
in which Neuman's face morphs into Bush's. A large Bush/Neuman poster was part             
of the Washington protests that accompanied Bush's 2001 inauguration. The                   
alleged resemblance between the two has been noted more than once by Hillary               
Clinton. On July 10, 2005, speaking at the Aspen Institute's Ideas Festival, she           
said, "I sometimes feel that Alfred E. Neuman is in charge in Washington,"                 
referring to Bush's purported "What, me worry?" attitude. Neuman's features                 
have also been compared to others in the public eye, including Prince Charles,             
Ted Koppel, Oliver North and David Letterman.                                               
                                                                                           
Alfred E. Neuman's surname is very frequently misspelled as "Newman."