Do you remember Mad magazine? You might have read it as a kid. Lots of kids used to read it. But I didn’t. Growing up during the Nineteen-Seventies, I read a competing humor magazine called Loony, essentially a blatant imitation. Instead of Don Martin, Mad’s Maddest Artist, they had Pete Zukko, Loony’s Looniest Loon, who drew similar comics complete with capsule-headed, floppy-toed characters and even the same type of sound effects—SKRUNCH, FLABADORP, BLIPPLADEEBLIPBLIP. Instead of Spy vs. Spy, in which one pointy-nosed secret agent would elaborately, if bloodlessly, murder another, they had Spookorama (spooks as in the slang word for spies), in which one potato-nosed secret agent would elaborately, and gorily, murder another, limbs and intestines flying toward the reader like some two-dimensional three-D movie. Instead of the Fold-In, they had the See-Through; rather than folding in the inside back cover accordion-style, you’d hold it to the light, and the outside back cover would shine through, creating a new image that would refer to some current celebrity or pop-cultural property. Et cetera. I knew Loony was pretty much a ripoff, but I didn’t care. I preferred reading it because it was also an underdog. Or because everyone else preferred Mad, and I felt like indulging in contrarianism. Or both.
A few casual Fridays ago, Zach Breen, that nose-pierced, nineteen-year-old temp in the processing department, walked up to my desk, wearing a black T-shirt with a color photo of Angela Lansbury’s disembodied head on it, above the words WRITTEN IN BLOOD, in blood-red. “Like my shirt?” he asked me.
I nodded out of politeness.
“It’s about Murder, She Wrote.”
“You ever watch that show?”
“Me too. I watch it all the time. That show fuckin’ rules, man.” Pointing at Angela Lansbury: “She’s the biggest serial killer ever.”
“What do you mean?”
“She’s the one who murders someone new every week, then frames someone else for the crime.”
“Don’t the people she accuses of murder always end up confessing?”
“She’s hallucinating that they do. She’s that fuckin’ insane.”
“Maybe? Come on, think about it. If your grandma, like, kept runnin’ across dead bodies everywhere she went, wouldn’t you start to get suspicious?”
Pointing at Angela Lansbury again: “Plus she’s a widow, and she prolly killed her husband, too, before the show began.”
“Though I guess if you’re an old person, killin’ people would prolly be way more exciting than, like, playin’ fuckin’ bingo. Unless you killed ’em during bingo.”
“Yeah, that would—”
“B-7. I-25. N-44 Magnum!” He turned his hand into a gun, the muzzle consisting of his forefinger and middle finger, and pretended to shoot at me. “Bang.”
Copyright © 2021 by David V. Matthews