All Men Are Equal Before Fish: Rick Griffin & Man vs Mad Magazine

« Last year I went fishing with Salvador Dali. He was using a dotted line. He caught every other fish. » — Steven Wright

In 1974, prodigious underground cartoonist Rick Griffin was commissioned to design a cover for Welsh rockers Man’s ninth opus… and this is what he came up with.

The original version of Griffin’s proposal, cheekily titled « The Baptism of Alfred E. Neuman. »

While the image of the grinning fool popularly known as Alfred E. Neuman was, and remains in the public domain, Griffin was really pushing his luck, even without MAD Magazine’s distinctive typeface on bold display. Let’s just say William M. Gaines’ lawyers had far more than a leg to stand on.

Understandably reluctant to let such a lovely *and* provocative work of prime Griffin altogether go to waste, Man (and their legal counsel, presumably), engineered a clever and elegant design solution, shown below, which graces the band’s Slow Motion album, issued in late 1974, and still thumbs its nose at MAD Magazine, exceptionally cast in the thankless rôle of the fuddy-duddy villain.


As a born-again Christian (circa 1970) *and* surfer, it follows that fish were, topic-wise, a natural fit for Griffin.


A painting from Griffin’s foremost undertaking of the 1970s, « The Gospel of John » (available to this day!); this one illustrates John 21:6, « And he said unto them, cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They case therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. »

For the record, I prefer my fish alive and swimming free.

– RG

4 thoughts on “All Men Are Equal Before Fish: Rick Griffin & Man vs Mad Magazine

  1. David Markham August 20, 2020 / 07:26

    It may be they simply didn’t want the hassle of a fight with Gaines. As he would well have known, parody is perfectly safe and I doubt he could have won any potential lawsuit.

    And, for the record, I prefer my fish chopped up, reformed into little sticks and covered in bread crumbs.


    • gasp65 August 20, 2020 / 11:42

      Oh, I’m sure they didn’t want the legal squabble with Gaines, who could be quite the bulldog. However, I’d argue that the parody notion isn’t so cut and dried. In this case, it does clearly wander into a grey legal area. For one thing, where’s the humour? This is interesting food for thought:

      And hey, if that’s how you like your fish, it might as well not even be fish… which is the far more sustainable way. The substitutes are impressive, and you’ve likely sampled them unwittingly. What a world we live in.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment, David!


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