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Mad Magazine’s School Shooting Cartoon is a Horrifying Edward Gorey Update

This is shocking. It's also very smart.

Mad Magazine /E.C. Publications via Twitter/dizwire

Satire about school shootings might seem overwhelming in the face of so much tragedy, but a new powerful and artistic statement is calling out the complicity many Americans have about gun violence. But this razor-sharp indictment isn’t coming from Sacha Baron Cohen or even Stephen Colbert. Instead, the most affecting commentary on gun control you’ll see this month was just been published in Mad Magazine.

In the latest issue of Mad Magazine (which is out on newsstands and in Barnes and Noble bookstores right now), there’s a brilliantly sad pastiche of the classic Edward Gorey children’s alphabet book, The Gashlycrumb Tinies, retitled now as The GhastltyGun Tinies. Written by Matt Cohen with art by Marc Palm, the piece reimagines Gorey’s playfully macabre kid’s book as something truly terrifying. One might wonder, how do you out-macabre Edward Gorey? The answer: just add realism.

In the original book, Gorey presents a horrific alphabet in which “A is for Amy who fell down the stairs” and “M is for Maud who was swept out to sea.” But, in The GhastltyGun Tinies, it’s much scarier. Initially, most of the kids are just described by some charming thing they’re interested in. “A is for Alice. A young science wiz.” Or “E is for Eve, who is idealistic.” But then the gut punches start happening. “G is for Greg who was caught unawares” and “J is for Julie who is too young to vote.”

As you read through each entry, the point of the whole thing becomes clear: all these imagined children are dead. But, the brilliant inversion of the Gorey text is what makes this satire so chilling. In Gorey’s version, the kids have ghastly things happening to them. In the Mad Magazine ” spoof,” they’re just going about their business, doing ordinary, innocent things. Whereas Gorey flirted with allowing children to learn about death, this poignant update drives home the most heartbreaking truth of all: The victims of school shootings are gone and, in there place, there is nothing.

The final entry drives this point home most painfully: “Z is for Zoe, who won’t be the last.” It’s enough to make you burst out into tears, and it would be easy to look away from these panels if they weren’t so thoughtfully drawn, and poignantly written. Repacking nostalgia and mocking it is the job of social satire like Mad Magazine, but with this piece, they’ve gone above and beyond their mission statement. They’ve used nostalgia about a beloved kids book to make made a very unfunny statement and forced their readers to pay attention.

The mascot of Mad Magazine, the fictitious Alfred E. Neuman has a famous catchphrase: “What, me worry?” But now it’s clear Mad is very worried about our kids. And when the jester isn’t laughing anymore, everyone should start paying attention.

You can pick up the latest issue of Mad in bookstores and on newsstands now. The cover features Alfred E. Neuman as both of the twin girls from The Shining. Obviously, what’s inside its pages is way more terrifying than that. You can also get a digital or print subscription to Mad right here.