Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Alfred E. Neuman
Alfred E. Neuman is the fictional mascot of EC Publications' Mad magazine. His likeness, distinguished by jug ears, a missing front tooth, and one eye eerily higher than the other, has graced the cover of most monthly issues. He first appeared in November 1954 on the cover of Ballantine's The Mad Reader, a collection of reprints from earlier issues. Neuman has appeared as Santa Claus, Darth Vader, George Washington and Uncle Sam ("WHO NEEDS YOU"), to name a few. Although Neuman appeared on the cover, the name did not become associated with the image until 1956. He ran for President with the slogan, "You could do worse, and always have!" He appeared in issues of the magazine as a candidate for President in both 1968 (when his face appeared on a balloon on the cover among other "candidates") and 2004; his presidential campaigns were a regular occurence in the magazine.
Along with his face, Mad also features a humorous quotation by him in every issue. His catch phrase is "What, me worry?"
Neuman's origins are shrouded in mystery and may never be fully known. One theory is that the likeness of Neuman probably derived from an early 20th century popular newspaper comic strip, The Yellow Kid. Many advertisements from that era included the likeness and his famous slogan, which was likewise, "What, me worry?" When Mad was sued for copyright infringement, one defense it used was that it had copied the picture from materials dating back to 1911. An almost-identical image appeared as "nose art" on an American World War II bomber, where it was sometimes referred to as "The Jolly Boy". Norman Mingo did the characterization artwork for Mad magazine in 1956.
Since the EC editors had grown up listening to radio, this was reflected in their stories, names and references. The name "Alfred E. Neuman" derived from comedian Henry Morgan's radio series. Morgan began with Meet Mr. Morgan on WOR in 1940, continuing until 1950 with Here's Morgan on Mutual, ABC and NBC. One gag on his show involved a reference to Alfred Newman (1901-70), who scored many films and also composed the fanfare that accompanies 20th Century Fox's opening film logo. The possible linkage is that Laird Cregar portrayed Sir Henry Morgan in The Black Swan (1942) with Tyrone Power, and the Oscar-nominated score for that film was by Newman. Listening to the sarcastic Morgan's brash broadcasts, Mad editors took note of the Alfred Newman gag and twisted the composer's name into Alfred E. Neuman. Morgan later became a Mad contributor with "The Truth about Cowboys" in issue #33.
The definitive research on Alfred E. Neuman can be found in Maria Reidelbach's comprehensive Completely Mad: A History of the Comic Book and Magazine (Little Brown, 1991).
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