Al Feldstein, the editor of Mad magazine for 28 years, died at his home in Livinston, Mont. on May 1. He was 88.
Feldstein was put in charge of what was to become a pop culture phenomenon in 1956, by the magazine’s publisher William M. Gaines. Under his tutelage, the irreverent magazine parodied politicians, mocked traditional morality, and turned the freckle-faced, gap-toothed Alfred E. Neuman into a cult hero. During his tenure, in the 1970s, Mad’s sales topped two million. In a 1997 interview with the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Feldstein credited Mad’s challenges to authority with helping incite the cultural revolution of the 1960s.
By the time Feldstein retired in 1984, Mad’s heyday was past: Circulation had dropped to less than a third of its peak.
After his retirement, Feldstein moved to Wyoming and later Montana. He bought a horse and llama ranch north of Yellowstone National Park, where he ran a guest house and pursued his “first love” – painting wildlife, nature scenes and fantasy art and entering local art contests.
Feldstein was born in 1925, and grew up in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. He found early success as an artist a World’s Fair contest for children and later trained at Manhattan’s High School of Music and Art and Brooklyn College. He got his first job in comics as a teenager, drawing background foliage for “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle,” which starred a female version of Tarzan.
He is survived by his wife, Michelle, step-daughter Katrina Oppelt, her husband, and two grandsons.