By: Sheila Gaudet
As a parent, there are many things you know you will sacrifice for your child: sleep, leisure activities, spending money, eating in restaurants that don’t have a kid’s menu, and did I mention sleep? Some of things you don’t realize when looking at that sweet little bundle in your arms when they are born because it takes awhile for their full personality to develop. I grew up a tomboy who did a lot of outdoor activities and played sports, though I also loved music and books. My older son’s interests follow a similar path, though he is more artistic than I am. My younger son follows his own unique path. One of his varied interests is MAD Magazine.
I read MAD occasionally while growing up and liked it but outgrew it, like many things, and never gave it another thought. Andrew’s dad had also read it growing up. The difference between us is that his mother saved his. Thus, my kids have had the opportunity to discover MAD many years ago while visiting Grandmother’s house and digging through old bookshelves and drawers. Andrew is enamored. He has his own comic strip, “Cheeseball” which has a rich set of characters, with their own back stories and a rather complex plot development. He draws new panels and strips on an almost daily basis and classmates and his teacher give him feedback and add to his ideas. Many of the plot lines draw on parody and satire, which seems to suit his 9-year-old funny bone. He believes this is a viable career option.
Normally, he spends April vacation with his dad in Mississippi but due to some conflicts, we had to cancel that trip this year so I was left holding the bag for spring break. Luckily, the weather was nice so I got a few days of yard work out of the boys and a day trip to Newport along with some other normal activities. My saving grace came when I happened to read that not only was Comic Con 2012 coming the last weekend of break to Boston, but they were featuring a panel entitled, “The Legends of MAD Magazine,” which featured Al Feldstein (founding editor of MAD), Al Jaffee (still writing for MAD after 55 years and creator of the fold-in back page) and Paul Coker Jr. (illustrator for the Horrifying Cliches and a designer on many of the Rankin-Bass holiday specials, like Frosty the Snowman). I knew we were in.
We headed up early to the Hynes Convention Center to be there when it opened. Andrew’s admission was free, so for $20 admission – we were in the door. We were immediately greeted by a cast of colorful characters including folks dressed as Star Wars characters and the Ghostbusters of NH, who had not only people dressed like the Ghostbusters from the movie, but a giant blow up Stay Puff Marshmallow Man!!! We wandered the first exhibit hall and got information on an upcoming Superhero 5K Run/Walk in Cambridge on October 28th (www.have2run.com). You dress up as your favorite superhero and run solo or as a team (think heroes vs. villains). I think we may do it!
Dozens of artists who draw independent comics and illustrations, as well as artists who draw for the DC and Marvel comics of the world were there. Aspiring artists could have their portfolios reviewed. After a brief walk through, we headed to the MAD panel discussion where we sat next to the legends of MAD as they graciously signed autographs and posed for pictures before the panel started. For an hour we listened to the history of MAD from people who have been involved with it more than 50 years. It was fascinating to learn about how the censorship issues of the 50s effected comic books, putting many publishers out of business. The reason MAD became a magazine, was to avoid some of the censorship codes. Andrew sat patiently and listened through the hour-long discussion.
After the panel discussion, we went to the vendor area and perused the many offerings. Andrew found one of the comic book dealers and their vintage MAD magazines so for $4.00 we walked away with two collector’s editions. This was also a great spot for people watching as many, many adults were in costume. I even saw a few families assembled into a cast of characters. Andrew isn’t big on posing for pictures with characters, but if your child is into it, this would be a great opportunity.
We were just about ready to leave (Andrew has limited patience with crowds and it was filling up by this point), when we came across Mr. Feldstein from MAD signing autographs. Andrew wasn’t really gung-ho about waiting in line, but did want to meet him, so I convinced him it would be worthwhile. When it was our turn, Mr. Feldstein signed one of his magazines and a print of Alfred E. Neuman, personalized to Andrew. In addition, he let Andrew come behind the table to pose for a picture and listened to Andrew tell him about his Cheeseball comic. It was definitely the highlight of the day.
This was the fifth year of Comic Con in Boston and I would recommend it if you have a child or teen who likes graphic novels, comics, or zombies. There were lots of zombie things going on if you are into that as well. Some of the material was more adult, but most of that was clearly marked and easy to avoid. The artists we talked to were all friendly and encouraging. There were lots of places and people to take pictures of or with, and multiple panels with artist discussions. In addition, though we didn’t get to it, there was a film festival (focused on zombies the day we were there) and an entire section devoted to gaming, including an improve piece about online gaming. The art was truly amazing and there were tons of memorabilia such as comics, books, toys, games etc. Andrew says that next year, he is going in costume. I haven’t decided what I’m doing yet.