A character who exceeds adjectives. While most remember and continue to remember him as the person on the cover on MAD magazine (and it is mad) he was not always doing spoofs on this particular magazine.
Before the MADness: Alfred's Origin/Creation
Not much is known about Neuman's precise origin; a mystery only that smiling mascot knows and
probably never tell. Before MAD put him on the cover of their issue #21, his likeness could be traced to other characters all the way back to the 1890s, such as The Yellow Kid (from the comic strip Hogan's alley of Richard F. Outcault fame).
Harvey Kurtzman claimed to have first spotted the likeness of Alfred on a postcard pinned to the office bulletin board of one of the editors at Ballantine Books,
"It was a face that didn't have a care in the world, except mischief."
As for the name, Kurtzman recalls, The name Alfred E. Neuman may also derive from the American composer, arranger, and conductor of music for films: Mr. Alfred [no E.] Neuman (1900-70). He won Oscars for adapting the scores of such noted musicals as The King and I (1956), Camelot (1967), and Call Me Madam (1953).
Covering all the Bases & Basing all the Covers
On November 1954, Neuman debuted with MAD on the cover of Ballantine's The Mad Reader, which was a paperback collection of reprints from the first two years of Mad. Alfred first appears in comics on the cover of issue 21 of MAD Mad 21 (March 1955), as a tiny image as part of a mock ad. He was a rubber mask with the words "idiot" underneath being offered for $1.29.
He would go on, following issue 30 to appear on the cover of every issue of Mad and its spinoffs, with only a few of exceptions.
Of Guys and Dolls
For a short time, Alfred was also known as Mel Haney. In Mad #25, he was shown and identified (on separate pages) as both Alfred E. Neuman and Mel Haney.
A female with a similar face (only a mother could love) as Alfred by the name of Moxie Cowznofski appeared briefly in the late 1950s. She was described in the editorial text as Alfred's "girlfriend," but there was some speculation that it was him in female guise. To dispel such notions, Alfred and Moxie were depicted side-by-side.
The name was derived from Moxie, which was a nationwide sold soft drink made in Portland, Maine in the 1950s. It was also advertised in many issues of MAD. Product placement anyone?
Master of de skies
Rather than just have him appear as a sort of (to use a phrase) "Vanna White " simply showing what was there, he would be (and still is) drawn in combination with some famous person, event, action or even inanimate object.
His guises include (but are not limited to):
among other familiar faces.
Presidential Runner Down
Since his initial unsuccessful run in 1956, Alfred has periodically been re-offered (or perhaps offer himself) as a candidate for President. His slogan is,
"You could do worse... and always have!"
Alfred E. Neuman in Other Media
In an early episode of the Bullwinkle Show's segment "Aesop and Son", Aesop jr. references Alfred and there was even a bust of him with his normal saying underneath.
In 1980 a movie by Mad Magazine, Up the Academy, we see Alfred E. Neuman at the end of the movie having a sign saying "What Me Worry?"
In 2003 the movie The Texas Chainsaw. There is a picture of Alfred E. Neuman on the top of the Van's ceiling.