It's the 50th anniversary of Mad magazine, the legendary satirical comic book founded by Bill Gaines and Harvey Kurtzman that changed American humor forever.

To mark the occasion, Byron Preiss, publisher of ibooks and a longtime comics fan, is reprinting the Ballantine paperbacks that collected the best work of Mad magazine beginning in 1954. They have been out of print for 25 years. The series will reissue the five paperbacks, all enhanced by digital remastering of the artwork by the magazine's "usual gang of idiots"--Kurtzman, Wally Wood, Will Elder, Jack Davis and others.

"We've added material that was originally deleted," said Preiss, pointing to a Jack Davis lampoon of the 1950s McCarthy hearings that was dropped from earlier reprints. "And these books marked the first appearance of Alfred E. Newman," the grinning idiot synonymous with Mad magazine. The books also include their original advertising and Preiss has added an introductory essay by Grant Geissman.

First acquired from Mad by Ian Ballantine himself, the books sold more than a million copies. The first books, released in March, are The Mad Reader and Mad Strikes Back; the rest will follow in the spring and summer.