In Space, No One Can Hear You Blecch: Mad Magazine's Alien Parodies
Prometheus, Ridley Scott's sorta-kinda-maybe-but-not-really prequel to 1979's Alien, opened this past weekend and made many millions of dollars. Not as many millions of dollars as Madagascar 3, mind you. (USA! USA! USA!) All the same, I'd imagine a Mad Magazine parody is in the works -- and, hey, did you know they still do parodies?
Like many of my generation, I frequently read Mad parodies before I ever saw the movie -- if I ever saw the movie -- and the images from the parody are often more indelible than those from the film itself.
Let's look at Mad's parodies of the Alien films!
"Alias," Mad #212.
As was tradition dating back to the earliest days of Mad, the legendary Mort Drucker's splash pages rewarded close examination and were crammed with jokes -- often semi-obscure references like the "Courtesy F. Perdue, Jr." note on the chicken. Not every joke in the text landed, but they didn't all have to, either. (And I've left in Sergio Aragonés' Marginals when possible, because they're always great.)
I first saw Alien on VHS when I was seven or eight, and I spent much of the movie hiding behind my mother's recliner, terrified and repulsed by the images on the screen. I was particularly scarred by the "Ash turns out to be a gooey milk-filled android" scene, but seeing it recreated in Mad helped take the edge off. Thanks, guys!
The 1986 sequel was the first (and thus far only) time the Alien films made the cover.
Instead of the legendary Mort Drucker, the artwork was done by the legendari-er Jack Davis. As great as he was at covers -- he drew Time Magazine covers for pete's sake -- he was never quite as suited to the panel-by-panel work as Drucker.
The "Is Vasquez a man or a woman?" joke recurs throughout the piece -- as it does somewhat through the actual movie -- and many of the gags over the years in Mad were what we would now call homophobic and/or transphobic.
Okay, here goes: Those were different times, they had to come up with hundreds of jokes every month and sometimes they got lazy, yadda yadda yadda. It is what it is, and I ain't gonna start an angry Tumblr or go back in time and glitterbomb The Usual Gang of Idiots.
Certainly not when Davis' depiction of Newt is filled with so much win.
They ignored Alien3 altogether (as so many of us did), but got back on the train with the Whedonesque Alien Resurrection (as so many of us wish we hadn't). Mort Drucker was back behind the pen once more, but he doesn't feel as inspired as he once did -- nor did anyone else involved with the movie -- though he nails Ron Perlman, who's pretty much a walking caricature to begin with.
Ultimately, the better the source material, the better the parody. As a result, the Alien Resurrection parody had its moments, but...yeah.
The most important thing I took away from Mad was the notion that it's okay to be irreverent toward mainstream culture, to make fun of it -- even movies that I considered to be quote-good-unquote!
(By the way, I totally stole the "What, me bursty?" gag at the top from @perfect_timing. Thanks, Ira!)