|Alfred E. Neuman|
as drawn by Norman Mingo
|No. of appearances|
Alfred E. Neuman is a pop-culture character who has come to be known as the mascot of Mad Magazine.
Alfred E. Neuman is portrayed as a wide-faced, gap-toothed, grinning imbecile.
Unlike Cracked mascot Sylvester P. Smythe, neither the name, the image, nor his famous catchphrase originated with the publication to which they have been inexorably tied.
The image had been in circulation at least as early as the 1920s and may date back even further. It was used primarily to depict an idiot who failed to see the gravity of a situation or supported a point of view contrary to the user's intentions. This made the image popular in advertising and political campaigns.
Apparently, Mad founder Harvey Kurtzman was intrigued by the image and came upon a postcard that he believed to be the original. (It was, in fact, one of the various derived images.) This version of the image was first used on the cover of the first Mad paperback, The Mad Reader. It next appeared on the cover of Mad No. 21 as a part of a phony print ad. He then began to appear more regularly both inside the magazine and on the cover. In these appearances, he would be identified with different names, including "Mel Haney".
The name "Alfred E. Neuman" derives from a character on The Henry Morgan Show, a popular radio program. The Morgan character took the name from film composer/arranger Alfred Newman. It was used by various writers and editors in many EC publications. Kurtzman would use the name throughout the early issues of Mad, sometimes in connection with the image, sometimes not.
Inevitably, readers began to associate the often-used name with the often-used image. Kurtzman's replacement as editor of Mad, Al Feldstein, who himself had used "Alfred Neuman" as a pseudonym, decided to use the image as an official mascot and commissioned Norman Mingo to render what is still considered the definitive illustration of the character for the cover of Mad No. 30. This appearance formalized his look and his name, firmly establishing his identity from then on.
As a major force in popular culture, Mad and Neuman were not, themselves, immune to parody. Cracked would often use Neuman in a humorous way to poke fun at the supposed rivalry between Cracked and Mad. When appearing on the cover of Cracked, his image was typically obscured (shown from behind, in silhouette, as a computer graphic, etc.), most likely to avoid trademark infringement. Inside the magazine, however, he would often be depicted in full.