Mad Magazine Recurring Features


UPC Symbol Gags


in Order of Appearance

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We sort of take the ugly Universal Product Code for granted these days, but Mad complained about it
in a big way with their first issue to feature the unwelcome cover mutilation on #198, April 1978.
In true Mad style, many subsequent issues worked the thing into gags, layouts, and articles below.

UPC SYMBOL GAG ISSUE / DATE
first depiction on a Mad cover - 198 - Apr 1978
When the "UPC" Symbol Takes Over Completely (article written and drawn by Henry Clark) 198 - Apr 1978
Exclusive: FBI releases bionic man's fingerprints 199 - Jun 1978
Can you draw me? If you can, you may have a great career ahead of you! 200 - Jul 1978
Swatch for Alfred's new pin stripe suit and tie 201 - Sep 1978
This is a photograph of The Invisible Man in his prison cell - With his dog! Special #25 -
Fall 1978
Exclusive: New ballistic test proves Booth did not shoot Lincoln 202 - Oct 1978
Exclusive: Scientists release first computer-written joke 203 - Dec 1978
The answer to this puzzle will appear in next issue Special #26 -
Winter 1978
Scientific breakthrough! Hitler's moustache - Cloned! 204 - Jan 1979
Sneak Preview: Extreme close-up of grooves in Bee-Gee's next hit record! 205 - Mar 1979
Exclusive: Extreme micro-photo close-up of George Gobel's hair 206 - Apr 1979
Free street map of your city - Next issue: Crosstown streets Special #27 -
Summer 1979
Question: Which line is longer?
A. The check-out line that uses the new "High Speed" electronic machine to read this UPC symbol
207 - Jun 1979
New postage stamp commemorating 50 years of polluted waterfalls 208 - Jul 1979
For Sale: World's smallest Zebra skin rug - With bath mat! Special #28 -
Fall 1979
Satellite photo of Los Angeles' newest 30-lane freeway... with bike path 209 - Sep 1979
Alfred mows UPCs - - (written and drawn by Sergio Aragones) 210 - Oct 1979
Exclusive: Spectrogram reveals no gasoline on mars, either! 211 - Dec 1979
Andy Warhol unveils new work entitled "Rainfall" Special #29 -
Winter 1979
Hair on head of man watching "Alien"... With son 212 - Jan 1980
Exclusive! Scientists release microphoto of bacteria that causes fatal computer disease 213 - Mar 1980
Close ups of the sound tracks for "King Kong" - And "The Thin Man" Special #30 -
Spring 1980
For Sale! Unused speed lines! Artist retiring! 214 - Apr 1980
Rare photo of Minnesota Fats' private pool cue collection Special #31 -
Summer 1980
Shocking statistics reveal:
Much more bacteria and dirt are concealed deep under household carpets - Than on the surface
215 - Jun 1980
Free automobile pinstriping - Cut out all the stripes, glue them end to end, and stick them on car! 216 - Jul 1980
Free blueprint - Build your own pocket comb! Special #32 -
Fall 1980
Effect of recession on Italy's pasta production last year... And this year 219 - Dec 1980
Claw marks made by consumers trying to hold down rising cost of living 220 - Jan 1981
If you see this on your TV set, it's time to call the repairman! Special #34 -
Spring 1981
With the Mad garbage compactor, the stupid useless UPC symbol... Becomes this! 221 - Mar 1981
Jackie Gleason's personal set of acupuncture needles... And Mickey Rooney's 223 - Jun 1981
Within his cover's city scene, Al Jaffee draws a dog peeing on
the stilts of a human billboard advertising "Sam's Vertical Blinds"
224 - Jul 1981
Dagwood, your sandwich fell over on its side! Special #36 -
Fall 1981
Official group portrait of Olive Oyl's entire family 225 - Sep 1981
Optical illusion:
Stare at this pattern for 10 seconds! Now look away! You'll think you see it on everything!
226 - Oct 1981
Hair on head of a man seeing one of today's typical horror movies... And his son's 227 - Dec 1981
Snakes that died making "Raiders of the Lost Ark" 228 - Jan 1982
Play the Mad accordian - Lesson number 1: First pull it apart like this! Then... push it in! 229 - Mar 1982
For sale - Used baselines, yard lines, goal lines and artists' speed lines Special #38 -
Spring 1981
Stack of quarters & slugs needed to play this cover 230 - Apr 1982
Unsold copies of Mad Laugh record... stacked sideways Special #39 -
Summer 1981
Results of Mad Straw Poll - Reagan's popularity when he was elected... and now 232 - Jul 1982
Artist's rendering of the Laurel & Hardy mausoleums 234 - Oct 1982
Leftover sliced baloney from actual front cover 235 - Dec 1982
New status symbol for shirts to replace corny alligators 236 - Jan 1983
Mad's new exclusive built-in microphone -
If you have any complaints about this issue, speak into the mike and we'll hear you!
239 - Jun 1983
Alfred E. Neuman's tooth brush (drawing included) 240 - Jul 1983
Projected sale of Special, if we used word "sex" on cover - Projected sale if we didn't Special #44 -
Fall 1983
Symbol caught in the wave with other garbage on George Woodbridge's cover - 241 - Sep 1983
Cross section of Mr. T's mohawk haircut today... And as a baby 242 - Oct 1983
Fits well within the monitor on Richard Williams' War Games computer console - 244 - Jan 1984
If your windows look like this after you wash 'em, you need a new squeegee! 246 - Mar 1984
...and Rich Little as the UPC symbol Special #46 -
Spring 1984
John Glenn's Straw Poll before "The Right Stuff" - And after 247 - Jun 1984
George Woodbridge's framed picture within the kid's garbage-covered room - Special #49 -
Winter 1984
You may already be a big winner! Scratch off these lines with a coin and see! 253 - Mar 1985
Free with this issue of Mad! This fine minature abstract painting ready for framing! 256 - Jul 1985
An apology: We hope this UPC symbol doesn't offend you! 257 - Sep 1985
With this issue: A free computer chip! 258 - Oct 1985
Stack of the worst UPC gags we ever wrote - And the best Special #53 -
Winter 1985
Never before revealed! A close-up photograph of Alfred E. Neuman's missing tooth - 263 - Jun 1986
Close-up of The Fabulous Moolah's stretch marks! 264 - Jul 1986
We are experiencing technical difficulties - Please Stand By 266 - Oct 1986
Sneaky UPC Symbols (article written by Frank Jacobs / Bob Clarke art) 271 - Jun 1987
Slanted for The Totally Crooked Super Special - Special #60 -
Fall 1987
Mad's UPC Symbol Explained (article written by Frank Jacobs) 277 - Mar 1988
Sergio Aragones walks away with some symbol lines - Special #62 -
Spring 1988
Close-up of ice cube made with New Jersey water! 286 - Apr 1989
UPC Crappo - 291 - Dec 1989
Inspected by Number 0-70989-34080-0-93 Special #68 -
Fall 1989
Magnetically aligned clippings of Alfred E. Neuman's hair 302 - Apr 1991
Barely worth mentioning creative blending of code with promo text for Specials 76, 79, 81, 82, 88
and more in the future that really aren't worth mentioning...
UPC as license plate - 313 - Sep 1992
UPC symbol ruins another cover Special #86 -
Mar 1993
Exclusive closeup of Ferengi fingerprint 321 - Sep 1993
This is not a tattoo idiot! Special #91 -
Jan 1994
UPC symbols suck! HUH-HUH-HUH-HUH 325 - Feb 1994
Printed on the side of a Jaffee-in-the-box - Special #92 -
Mar 1994
Part of a movie ticket - Special #99 -
Fall 1994
Needles used in the making of this cover 340 - Oct 1995
"Jabba's toothpick collection" sign held by Salacious B. Crumb 354 - Feb 1997
Elvis' cholesterol count Special #120 -
Apr 1997
Wolverine Alfred shreds edge of label box holding symbol 399 - Nov 2000
Doctor Octopus Alfred holds the symbol in one of his claws 444 - Aug 2004
Mad #224 UPC detail

UPC detail from cover of #224 - July 1981