There is no doubt that Justin Bieber is everywhere.
From the latest Best Buy Super Bowl ad with Ozzy Osbourne to the film “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” to hit singles online, on the air and everywhere else, the so-called Beliebers have elevated the mop-topped Canadian to dizzying heights of stardom.
Now, he’s about to come back to Earth: MAD magazine’s longtime public face, Alfred E. Neuman — with his big ears and goofy grin — sports a Bieberesque bowl of hair on the cover of the Feb. 16 issue. The headlines: Justin Bieber. “HIS STUPID HAIR!” '‘HIS DUMB BOOK!” '‘HIS TERRIBLE MOVIE!” '‘HIS AWFUL MUSIC!”
Bieber has already been on the cover of Vanity Fair, certainly no easy accomplishment.
“That was probably the highlight of his career and being on the cover of MAD is the lowlight,” John Ficarra, editor-in-chief of MAD, said with a laugh and, just maybe, a snort.
But it may also be another step in the singer’s saturation of all things media and of course, making the cover of the long-published magazine that has been pushing humor, pathos and Alfred E. Neuman for nearly six decades is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
Ficarra said it made sense to put the 16-year-old singer on the cover of issue No. 508 and then playfully mock and satirize him within the pages, too.
“We like to do what we call Zeitgeist covers. When we found that his movie was debuting just about the same time we would be coming with the issue,” it all fell into place, Ficarra said. “We knew he’d be all over the place.”
The issue is bound to be a best-seller with Bieber on the cover, Ficarra said.
“He’ll hate it and buy every copy,” he said, “and it will be a sellout. Or, conversely, Bieber won’t even notice and “we’ll probably sell three copies of the issue.”
Regardless, Ficarra said the magazine, published by DC Comics, is ready for the onslaught of reaction from Bieber’s so-named Beliebers — the fans who buy his CDs, download his singles and scream with joy at his every appearance.
“Every time we put one of these young teen stars on the covers — this goes back to New Kids on the Block — we do get a ton of mail from prepubescent girls,” he said. “The weird thing is I happened to be looking through old issues and we did a piece on Elvis, too.”
At the time, the magazine was inundated by letters from Elvis fans decrying the satire. “So that must be hardwired into the DNA of prepubescent girls. When somebody attacks, they do the same,” he said.
As for Bieber’s reaction to the cover, he did not immediately answer e-mail requests from The Associated Press for comment.
The move to have a Bieber cover is part of MAD’s efforts to remain contemporary in a rapidly changing world where humor and satire abounds on YouTube, the Onion, “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and elsewhere.
Ficarra has been editor-in-chief since 1984 and said the biggest changes that have taken place have been the decision to run advertising and to publish bimonthly. Though the magazine caught heat for taking ads, Ficarra said doing so allowed it to be published in color throughout the issue.
“The magazine has changed quite a bit. We take ads, which was a trade-off for the color,” Ficarra said of the magazine that was first published in 1952 by Entertaining Comics. “Certainly the humor has been ramped up as society has been ramped up. MAD just reflects the signs of the times.”
But old standards remain just that, too, including cartoonist Al Jaffee’s trademark fold-ins.
“Al still does the folds for us,” Ficarra said, pointing out the cartoonist turns 90 this year. “We’re on a plan to get him as many birthday cards as we can. I’d like to get him 5 million or 10 million and he’s such a gentleman that he’ll probably feel obligated to answer every one of them!”
Looking ahead, Ficarra said the magazine has no dearth of subjects ripe for poking fun about. “It’s a great time because there’re so many whack jobs for us to go after,” he said. “The lunatic fringe is alive and well from the right to the left. There’s never a shortage of material.”
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