Buyers go simply MAD over magazine's artwork What, they worry about big prices?

December 19, 1992|By Chau Lam | Chau Lam,New York Bureau

NEW YORK -- Peter Visceglia had just spent $4,000 for a piece of fine art: a drawing of a round-headed, big-eared, gap-toothed Valentine named Alfred E. Neuman.

What, him worry? "You can't put a price on your childhood," he said happily at Christie's auction house yesterday.

About 200 die-hard MAD fans flooded Christie's, hoping to walk out with favorite covers and cartoons from a magazine famous for its comic cynicism.

More than 300 pieces of the original artwork, published from 1966 to 1975, went on sale. They were the work of artists and cartoonists such as Norman Mingo, Don Martin, Mort Drucker, part of a group who called themselves "the usual gang of idiots."

For idiots, they did well. Almost all the works were sold, bringing in $636,625, which will benefit the magazine and artists.

The highest sale -- $30,800 -- went to an unnamed buyer for

Frank Frazetta's "Early One Morning in the Jungle." The four-frame cartoon typifies MAD's irreverence: A rock-headed Tarzan, disturbing the jungle peace with his unholy yell, gets walloped over the head by angry apes.

MAD, whose circulation reached 2.5 million in the 1960s, helped warp postwar American youth through its irreverent, moronic and telling parodies of mov

See MAD, 9A, Col. 1 MAD, from 1A

ies, politicians and culture. Its readers were intensely loyal.

"I was reading it before I could read," said Tom Anderson, a true fan, who visited MAD's New York headquarters on his honeymoon.

Several MAD veterans attended yesterday's auction.

One, writer Dick DeBartolo, said he was sad to see the collection broken up and spread throughout the

country. But he changed his mind when he saw Michael Gidwitz excitedly jump from his seat after successfully bidding for Mr. Mingo's cover of magazine mascot Alfred E. Neuman as barrel-chested World War II Gen. George S. Patton.

Mr. Gidwitz paid $9,000 -- cheap! -- for that cover. "I would have NTC paid $25,000 for it," Mr. DeBartolo said.

Mr. Anderson, 32, already owns 41 pieces of MAD artwork -- and all

its magazines. But he came to Christie's for a few more pieces.

A friend of the Andersons, Richard Pasick, 36, doesn't share that passion. But he was interested because he thinks the works are unique, and believes that cartoons are finally getting serious attention as art -- and as investments.

"If [the Andersons] were to sell their collection today," Mr. Pasick said, "they would more than double their investments."

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