Ever since I can remember, Mad magazine has had an "envelope of the month". Readers can submit a letter with an illustration on it and hope to get it published in the letters page. Often times Mad gives away great prizes or free subscriptions to readers who mail in letters. Just the honor of having your letter published in Mad is enough for me.
I often thought about submitting a letter in the hopes of it getting published. I was just to lazy to do it I guess.
In early 2005 I decided to give it a shot. I drew up an envelope with a gag with Alfred E. Neuman as a toy called "Barrel of Neumans" instead the classic "Barrel of Monkeys".
I mailed it off and a couple months later I was at the grocery store and saw the newest issue on the shelves. I paged through it and was thrilled to see that my envelope was printed in the letters page! Thrilled is kind of an understatement. I don't think I stopped smiling for hours, I even showed the check-out girl at the register. I bought two copies of that issue (#453 May 2005) along with the one I got with my subscription.
Tomorrow I will once again mail a letter to Mad in the hopes that it will be printed in my favorite magazine. Since this month marks the 50th anniversary of the Mad strip Spy Vs Spy, I decided to use them as the subject for my envelope art. I dug through a pile of old Spy Vs Spy paperbacks from my collection and found an image on the back cover of one that I thought was perfect and used it for my reference.
Here are a couple scans of my envelope:
So hopefully we will see this in the pages of Mad in the future?
I want to go back to that issue where they printed my envelope so I can tell you a dumb story.
You may have noticed that goofy looking guy's photo above my envelope. His name is Jim Hutchings from Ontario, Canada and he mailed in his photo hoping to have it drawn into a Mad fold-in by artist Al Jaffee. Mad has a "Make a Dumb Wish Foundation" and that was Jim's dumb wish. Jim has mailed Mad dozens of envelopes of the month in the past and is a great artist. He's had many published in past issues.
The editor said after consulting Jaffee he would not be able to grant Jim's request because, "after what happened last time, he would never draw another Canadian!" The editor then went on to make fun of Jim's strange photo.
Further down the page the editor had commented that Al Jaffee may decide to draw me in one of his fold-ins because I hail for the good ol' U.S. of A.!
It wasn't until after that issue that I went back into earlier issues in my collection and found handful of Jim Hutching's previous envelope submissions. Here are a few scans:
So being the odd guy that I am, I actually struck up a friendship with the Canadian artist Jim Hutchings and we became friends on Myspace and chatted from time to time. We were both huge Mad Magazine fans and cartoonists and had much to talk about.
In November of 2005 Jim messaged me to tell me about an envelope he had tried to mail but had dropped on the way walking to the post office. He had lost it in the snow but had luckily photographed it beforehand and was still retracing his steps in the hopes of finding the original.
The next year in March, Mad published Jim's sad story along with the photograph he sent them. They also created a simulated photo of how his lost envelope may appear after being submitted to the Canadian elements after all this time (typical Mad humor).
Two Months later a guy named Scott Borger from Ohio sends a letter to Mad claiming that he's found Jim Hutching's lost envelope and is holding it ransom. As evidence, he enclosed a photo of the aforementioned envelope which is in reality an arrangement of objects and poorly re-illustrated garbage meant to be passed of as the unrecovered original.
Now as if the story has not gone far enough, Jim messaged me on Myspace shorty after to let me know that Matt Handfield from Holyoke, Ma had submitted an envelope challenging him to a envelope of the month battle and along with his submission had sent the editors a drawing of him burning Jim's photo from the same issue I had my envelope posted over a year earlier.
Of course, Mad who looking back was probably excited to have inadvertently sparked up submissions was happy to print the whole ordeal.
It wasn't until November of 2006 that Jim's response appeared in the letters page. He had depicted a boxing match between himself and Handfield and a challenge for an art competition.
(I should have jumped in the ring at this point and whooped both of their butts, but oh well...)
Between November 2006 and Jan 2008 Jim Hutchings and another letters page contributor named Dan Root got into it and continued to battle. I don't have scans of Dan Roots letters but here is the Star Trek themed response from Jim from August 2007.
Eventually in early 2008 Matt Handfield mailed in his final insult in "The Envelope Strikes Back" which was a intensely illustrated depiction of Jim Hutchings frozen in carbonite surrounded by Star Wars characters and being congratulated by Darth Vader.
There has never been another challenge heard from any of the three artists since, but in June 2009 Jim Hutchings did mail one final envelope to Mad celebrating their 500th issue.
I haven't rekindled my friendship with Jim since abandoning Myspace and have yet to reacquaint on Facebook. We will see if my latest Envelope will make it into the pages of Mad, and if you get an opportunity to check the newsstands you may find out before I do.