Trump (Harvey Kurtzman) - HMH Publishing - 1957

The late Harvey Kurtzman (he was always late) was a fantastic, wonderful, brilliant writer of satire and parody humor.  He grew out of the adventure comic business, pitched the satire comic (Mad) to William M. Gaines, and then took off on his own with or without the financial backing of others.

In the golden age of comics, the writer of comic stories was also the editor.  He wrote an amazing number of pulp stories in a short period of time, communicated with the artists, and gathered the staff to complete the publications.  It was generally accepted that the artists were the stars.  The writers were distant seconds.

When Kurtzman departed from Mad, he took most of the Mad artists with him (Will Elder, Jack Davis and for one issue, Wally Wood).  He added the talents of Al Jaffee, Arnold Roth and others.  Few would argue that the Trump staff was not superior to the Mad staff in 1956.  With Hugh Hefner's money, Kurtzman published Trump #1 shortly before Mad #31 hit the newsstands.  Mad's new editor, Al Feldstein had enlisted newcomer Don Martin and veteran artists Norman Mingo, Frank Kelly Freas and Bob Clarke.  For its two issues, Trump was the better humor magazine (at twice the price).

The first few pages of Trump #1 were ordinary, but Kurtzman and Elder saved one of their best parody efforts for pages 8-11.  The classic, full-color "Li'l Ab'r" was even better than the seven-page "Li'l Melvin" that appeared in Panic #3.  In addition to "Shmee," "The Shmageggle," the "Foon" and lots of Daisy Mae jokes, the article includes the most amazing parody series I have ever seen.  We are treated to "Jet Fizznick" which is a parody of "Hopalong Feaznick"which is a parody of "Foozless Foznick" the parody of Al Capp's "Fearless Fosdick" which is a parody of Dick Tracy within Capp's comic strip, Li'l Abner - no less than four levels of parody.

The centerfold of Trump #1 includes the equally amazing three-page "Epic" by Elder depicting a recreation of 1956 human culture based on artifacts such as hubcaps and fire hydrants.  Alfred E. Neuman makes a brief appearance as a fish hunter.  Several other Mad running jokes can be found in the issue including the aeolipile, veeblefetzer, chicken fat, Marilyn Monroe and the use of the word: "mainly."

Jack Davis was in great form with a six-page Rin Tin Tin parody, and Wally Wood found time for a wonderful three-page Disney parody.  The back cover by Elder is the classic "Breck" shampoo parody.  Feldstein borrowed this idea a few years later for the back cover of Mad #90 (Frank Frazetta) with Ringo Starr replacing Hairless Joe.

Kurtzman delivered another excellent humor publication in March 1957 with the help of classic humorists Mel Brooks, Max Shulman and Doodles Weaver.  But the humor quality did not matter.  Trump #2 was dead on arrival since Hefner had pulled the plug based on the anemic sales of the first issue.  It was his and our loss.

The main feature of the issue is the excellent, ten-page parody of Sports Illustrated wherein Kurtzman called upon the talents of Elder, Davis, Jaffee and his good friend Bernard Shir-Cliff.  The movie parody ("Giants"), the comic strip parody ("Eti Quette") and Elder's ad parody ("Liptone Tea") are also terrific.

Etta Kett was a comic strip by Paul Robinson that appeared in newspapers for almost 50 years (1924-1954).  Kurtzman and Elder had the ability to uncover the absurdities of Etta's ideal world.  [JAM archive]