Little Annie Fanny (Harvey Kurtzman/Will Elder) - Playboy (1962-1988) - Reprinted in Dark Horse Comics - Volume 1 (1962-1970) - 2000; Volume 2 (1970-1988) - 2001
Although Harvey Kurtzman was not successful with the humor magazine (Trump) published by Hugh Hefner, he continued to send ideas to Hefner who was a big fan of the Kurtzman style of humor. In 1962, Kurtzman proposed a comic strip for Playboy with his Help! magazine character, Goodman Beaver (drawn by Will Elder) as protagonist. Hefner agreed as long as Goodman became a sexy woman and the stories featured an ample supply of Playboy-style sexy humor. Thus was born Little Annie Fanny - an amazing parody of Little Orphan Annie with a wonderful collection of pop culture parodies spanning 26 years and 107 issues of Playboy. The Hefner-Kurtzman association was a constant struggle for content (sex vs. humor) with the Playboy editors holding all the cards. However, the Playboy readers were the big winners receiving large doses of humor and improbable situations for the prurient interest with Annie, the ultimate playmate.
Kurtzman first introduced a sexy Annie in Mad comic #9 (1954) with his "Little Orphan Melvin" parody drawn by Wally Wood. In the final frame, Orphan Melvin changes out of her work clothes to reveal a buxom young woman. Little Orphan Melvin returned in the first Mad magazine (#24) drawn by Will Elder. However, Elder's parody was a modern young girl with normal eyes.
Sugardaddy Bigbucks (parody of Daddy Warbucks) appeared in January 1963 with other Little Orphan Annie comic strip characters who became a regular part of the series. Sandy made a token appearance as a photograph on Annie's mirror. Zany artist Will Elder managed to sneak many Annie reference into the backgrounds including leaping lizards and the real Orphan Annie and Sandy (from the back below the word: "Funky!") in a theatre audience in October 1969. Orphan Annie also appeared as a computer operator in December 1981.
The incomparable team of Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder produced flawless parodies of pop culture targets including Doctors Kildare and Casey, La Dolce Vita, the Miss America contest, Ship of Fools, Flash Gordon, James Bond (and Sol Weinstein's Israel Bond), the Defenders, Dr. Strangelove, the Beatles (1965), KKK, the Olympics, Hair, Bobby Fischer, St. Tropez, tennis, body building, jogging, Star Wars, football, political conventions, Disneyland, Indiana Jones, Frank Frazetta's Conan (1985), wrestling, religion and much more. They also produced an excellent parody of the Beatles (1968) that was rejected by the editors. A portion of it exists in the Dark Horse publication of Playboy's Little Annie Fanny Volume 1.
Along the way, the Kurtzman-Elder team found room for parody drawings of Peter Lorre, Liberace, American Gothic, Marx Brothers, Kennedys, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Goldwater, Rockefeller, Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, Elvis, Mona Lisa, Whistler's Mother, Liz Taylor, Robert Stack, Mr. Magoo, Hefner, Casey Stengel, Katzenjammer Kids, Lenin, Marlon Brando, King Kong, Captain Hook, Robinson Cruesoe, Martin Luther King, Popeye, George Wallace, Malcolm X, Joe McCarthy, Abraham Lincoln, George C. Scott, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Charles Atlas, Keystone Cops, Muhammed Ali, Raymond Burr, Hitler, Don Knotts, Melvin Belli, Harold Teen, Eisenhower, Frankenstein's monster, Superman, John Wayne, Bing Crosby, Lassie, Addams Family, Al Capp's Dogpatch, Batman, Captain Kangaroo, Mandrake, Mark Trail, Bob Dylan, Sonny and Cher, Castro, Mr. Clean, Olive Oyl, Krazy Kat, Snow White, J. Edgar Hoover, Dick Van Dyke, Frank Sinatra, Julia Child, Ralph Nader, Tim Leary, Dean Martin, Lee Marvin, Adam Clayton Powell, Charles DeGaulle, Mad Hatter, Gregory Peck, George Jessel, Warren Beaty, U Thant, Ho Chi Minh, Yoko Ono, Harold Stassen, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Phantom of the Opera, Dick Tracy, Jiggs & Maggie, Blondie & Dagwood, Freak Brothers, R. Crumb, Golda Meir, Zorro, W.C. Fields, Spiro Agnew, the Shadow, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Shirley Temple, Jimmy Hoffa, Snoopy, Mark Spitz, Dracula, Three Stooges, Tarzan, Farrah Fawcett, Bride of Frankenstein, Big Bird, Ayatollah, Mr. Bill, Lone Ranger & Tonto, Billy Carter, John Travolta, Liza Minelli, Arte Johnson, Telly Savales, Coneheads, Chuck Barris, Betty & Veronica, Mr. Spock, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert Redford, Mutt & Jeff, JFK, FDR, LBJ, Jimmy Carter, Reagan & Bonzo, Grace Jones, Wizard of Oz characters, Hulk Hogan, Dr. Ruth, Madonna, Gary Hart, Dolly Parton and Woody Allen.
Clearly, Little Annie Fanny was not the comic strip that Kurtzman-Elder wanted to produce. However, there were many positive aspects of the association with Playboy. Will Elder had a high-volume distribution for his wonderful water colors. Harvey Kurtzman was able to satirize pop culture for 26 years. And, parody fans like me received a volume of excellent caricatures and sight gags that may not have seen print without the Hefner connection. It could have been better but it was still very good. [JAM archive]