Harvey Kurtzman’s “Daily Poop,” 1954

Front page of Mad's Daily Poop.

Parody Of: The New York Daily NewsTitle: “Daily Poop.”
Parody In: Mad comics #16. Date: October 1954. Pages: 6.
Contributors: Harvey Kurtzman (writer), Jack Davis (art).
Availability: Findable. Reprinted in The Mad Reader (Ballantine, 1954), Mad, Vol. 3, No. 13-17 (Russ Cochran, 1987), Tales Calculated to Drive You Mad #6 (E.C. Publication, Spring 1999), The Mad Archives, Vol. 3 (Mad, 2012) and maybe elsewhere.

1954-mad-cov-smHarvey Kurtzman’s “Newspapers!” in Mad #16 is basically a six-page takeoff of the New York Daily News, but it’s preceded by a warning to comic book readers that tabloid journalism’s focus on sex and violence is corrupting American adults. Though clearly a satire of the 1950s anti-comics crusade, Kurtzman’s loathing of the prurience and vulgarity of the tabs is obvious, and his parody is cold-eyed, precise and damning. (So damning, in fact, that it subverts the story’s moral: If comic books are no worse than tabloids like this, maybe they should both be banned.) Even the name “Daily Poop” evokes a not-so-subtle Swiftian revulsion.

Angry letters to the Daily Poop

Proto-trolls commenting in the “Poop.”

The “Daily Poop’s” typeset text and four-column layout reflect Kurtzman’s growing desire to escape the comic-book format and put out a “real” humor magazine. He got his wish the next year, after the same anti-comics crusaders mocked in “Newspapers!” ran E.C.’s other titles off the newsstands, leaving Bill Gaines practically no choice but to convert Mad into a 25-cent magazine beyond the reach of the Comics Code Authority. It’s funny how these things work out, sometimes.

Parts of the “Daily Poop” are silly in the usual Mad way, such as an ad for “Nu-Mal-Trition,” the new weight-loss miracle that “merely knocks you unconscious for days on end.” Elsewhere, Kurtzman and Davis use Mad’s anarchic clutter to portray a society rapidly devolving toward mindlessness: Celebrity gossip crowds out news; movie ads shrink to pictures of lips and one-word titles (“Dames,” “Love,” “Kill”); letters to the editor grow shorter and angrier until all they convey is threats of violence. The world of the “Daily Poop” is a lot like Idiocracy’s. Or ours. — VCR