Kurtzman and Elder

Harvey Kurtzman (1924-1993) was an accomplished comic artist but his skills as a writer distinguished him from others in the field.  At EC, Kurtzman realized that Will Elder (1921-2008) and others had better artistic skills.  They met at the High School of Music and Art in New York City in 1939.  Together, Kurtzman and Elder formed a writer-artist team that was the best in the business; and one that survived numerous changes and challenges through their productive cheers.  This website page will focus on the marvelous work that they created as a team.  [JAM 8/30/2017]

Two-Fisted Tales (1950-1955)

The team of Will Elder and John Severin created art for issues 19 through 29, 31, 33 and 36.

Elder (1972): "Harvey was a very good talker.  In the early stages of the war comics he would sit down with most of the artists and describe the story to them panel by panel, and he'd go through the sound effects ... and before you knew it you got very absorbed in the story and it became very interesting ... and eventually you saw the thing laid out as he described it, and before you knew it you were very much involved."

Frontline Combat (1951-1954)

The team of Will Elder and John Severin created art for issues 2 through 11.

Kurtzman (1972): "All our stories really protested war.  I don't think we thought war was very nice generally.  The whole mood of our stories was that war isn't a good thing.  You get killed.  And 'Big If' is about a soldier who happens by coincidence to be in a certain place at a certain time and a shell explodes.  He could have been several places, but he just happens to stop and gets killed.  That's the way war is; you get killed suddenly for no reason."

Mad (1952-1956)

#1    Ganefs!
#2    Mole!
#3    Dragged Net!
#4    Shadow!
#5    Outer Sanctum!
#6    Ping Pong!
#7    Shermlock Shomes!
#8    Frank N. Stein!
#9    The Raven
#10    Woman Wonder!
#11    Dragged Net!
#12    Starchie
#13    Robinson Cruesoe!
#14    Manduck the Magician
#15    Gasoline Valley!
#16    Shermlock Shomes in the Hound of the Basketballs!
#17    Bringing Back Father!
          Meet Miss Potgold
#18    Howdy Dooit!
#19    Mickey Rodent!
          Puzzle Pages!
#20    Katchandhammer Kids!
#21    Poopeye!
          Comic Book Ads!
#22    Special Art Issue
          The Child!
          The Boy!
          The Young Artist!
          The Commercial Artist!
          The Old Pro!
          Mole! (reprint)
#24    Bofforin
          Mmboy Cream Deodorant
          Newspaper Comics
          Classy Crimes #138: Who Put the Strichnine in Mrs. Murphy's Husband?
          Is This Your Life?
          Tom Swiffft and His Electric Ping Pong Ball
          Bind-Aig Plastic Strips
#25    Ipuna Toothpaste
          Leave Me or Me Leave
          Confidential Information
          Mad Awards for Television Commercials
          Crazyroot Cream-Oil Hair Tonic
          Kennt Cigarettes
          Ol' Craw Whiskey
#26    Armstronger Tire
          Ads Exploiting the Davy Crockett Trend
          The Seven Itchy Years
          Canadian Clubbed
#27    Marlbrando Tattoo Needles
          Cartoon Digest
          The Ed Suvillan Show
          Beer Belongs - Enjoy It
#28    Billows Cotton-Pick Whiskey
          Best Toothpaste and Frammistan
          Children's Primer
          Paper Doll Page
#29    Directions for Playing Gringo
          Hot Weather Photos
          Padst Red Ribbon
#30    Pulp Magazines
#31    Ink Blot Tests 

www.mindsnackbooks.com/mad/mad_1.html through mad_22.html

and www.mindsnackbooks.com/mad/mad_24.html through mad_31.html

Panic (1953-1955)

Although Kurtzman did not write the stories for Panic comics, his influence on Elder's art is obvious.

#1    The Night Before Christmas
#2    The Lady or the Tiger?
#3    Li'l Melvin
#4    Smiddy
#5    Tick Dracy
#6    The Phansom
#7    Mel Padooka
#8    Irving Oops
#9    Rx Migraine M.D.
#10  Captain Izzy and Washt Upps
#11  Mary Worthless!
#12  Charlie Chinless


Trump (1957)

#1    The Fastest Gun There Is
        L'l Ab'r
        Our Own Epic of Man
        Liquor Decanters
#2    Science Fiction
        Eti Quette
        Sporty Illustrations
        Liptone Tea

Playboy (1957)

This article by Rolf Malcolm ("The Little World of Harvey Kurtzman") appeared in the December 1957 issue of Playboy.  It was a tribute to the work of Kurtzman, or an advertisement for Humbug, or an apology for pulling the rug on Trump, or most likely, all of the above.  Page 51 includes the excellent painting by Will Elder ("A Visit to Grandma's" - Norman Rockwell parody) that was supposed to be the cover of Trump #3 that never happened.  The article contains seven pages of Kurtzman/Elder humor and two major lies.  [JAM 9/20/2017]

1. "... EC's distributor went bankrupt and, in the ensuing financial upheaval, the Kurtzman Consort was soon out on its own, looking for another publisher."  [Kurtzman quit after a control dispute with Mad Publisher Bill Gaines but he already had an offer from Playboy Publisher Hugh Hefner.]

2. "The publisher of Playboy soon discovered, however ... that the fans of satire, though fervent, are few: there are not enough of them to support a lush, costly publication [Trump] devoted to satire."  [The two issues of Trump sold very well - 65% of 200,000 printed copies each.  Hefner dumped Trump because Palyboy was in financial trouble.]

Other quotes from the article:

Roger Price: "Harvey looks like a beagle who is too polite to mention that someone is standing on his tail."

Stan Freberg (re Mad humor): "... brilliant lampoonery ... an example of pure and honest satire ..."

Editor of Allumination: "Mad is perhaps the first truly adult comic magazine."

Editor of Pageant: "... a very unusual comic book - Mad - has emerged as the leader of the latest trend.  Mad is satirical and it's funny.  And in a field normally dominated by horror and violence, this is such an unusual twist that Mad, in only 11 issues, has soared to a circulation of 750,000 ..."


Humbug (1957-1958)

#1    The End of the World is Coming - cover
        du Moirier
        The Keeper of the Gelded Unicorn
#2    Radiation - cover
        The Fishtail
        Around the Days in 80 Worlds
        A Night at the Castle
#3    Humbug Medal - cover
        Sheldon Morris
        You Are There Then
#4    Welcome to the Queen - cover
        The Cannon with the Passion
        Consumer Retorts
#5    Bofforin
        The Day Murray Schneiderman Was Shot
        Evolution in Publishing
        Voting Machine
#6    Subscription Ad
        Why Tell the Truth
        The Humbug Award
#7    Galcream
        Frankenstien and His Monster
#8    Jailbreak Rock
        For The Man Who Has Everything
#9    The Best Television Commercials 1958
        Adhesive Bandages
#10  The Humbug Award
        Old Yaller
        Humbug's Gardening Guide
        Western Onion
#11   Randan
        Muscle Magazines
        Columnia Panel Club


Pageant (1958)

"Conquest of the Moon" was the first Kurtzman/Elder job after the collapse of Humbug.  This ten-page article in Pageant coincided with the fascination that the American public had with the U.S. Space Program after the Russians were first in space with Sputnik I in October 1957.  Kurtzman and Elder had done some work for Pageant since 1954.  After "Conquest," Elder did more drawings for Pageant while Kutzman went on to other things.  Seven of Elder's articles have been reprinted in large format in The Mad Playboy of Art.

Jungle Book (1959)

Although Will Elder did not draw Kurtzman's stories in this book, the second story ("The Organization Man in the Grey Flannel Executive Suite") was the first of 110 adventures that Kurtzman wrote for "Goodman Beaver" and his sister, "Little Annie Fanny."  Elder worked on the last 109 of them.  In The Organization Man ..., Goodman is fresh out of college and going to work as a crossword puzzle editor for "Schlock Publications, Inc."  Goodman comes in with positive ideas about the industry but soon learns the truth about the cut-throat corporate world.  There is just a little of Kurtzman's experience with comic book publishers in this first story.  For Harvey and Will, the goal was always to create a quality product in spite of the obvious profit-making goals of the powers-that-be.  [JAM 9/3/2017]

Times Square (1960) - limited to 500 copies

Help! (1960-1965)

#1    Television Tangle
#2    Beauty Is Truth?
#3    Chess
#4    (Camel)
#5    Defectors
#8    Dogpatch Revisited
#9    Evil Towns That Never Were
#10  77 Penny Strip
#12  Goodman Meets T*rz*n
#13  Goodman Goes Playboy
#14  Goodman, Underwater
#15  Goodman Meets S*perm*n
#16  Goodman Gets a Gun


Executive's Comic Book (1962)

Four of the five Goodman Beaver stories from Help! were reprinted in this pocketbook edition published by MacFadden Books.  The "Goodman Goes Playboy" was not reprinted here or in the 1984 volume because Kurtzman had lost the copyright in a legal dispute with the Archie people. [JAM 9/2/2017]

Little Annie Fanny (1962-1988)

Kurtzman and Elder created 104 episodes of Little Annie Fanny for Playboy magazine over a 26-year period. [JAM 9/2/2017]


TV Guide (January 5-11, 1980)

Comics Journal #67 (1981)

Kurtzman: "I felt that the comics business [1950s] had brought censorship down on its head because of the kind of thing the horror comics were doing.  I always thought the horror comics were evil.  At some certain point they'd turned sick, I thought, and I think they reached that point when EC was running short of classic book plots and had to turn inward; what came out was shear grue - ideas that sniffed of necrophilia."

Kurtzman: "... I proposed the format Mad, I proposed the title, made little title sketches and showed it to Gaines, and he said, 'Go ahead.'  The format would make fun of comic books as they were at that particular period.  So I had a 'horror' story and a 'science fiction' story and so forth.  We used the physical format of EC - four stories, with the legal text requirement in the center.  I gathered in my favorite artists, I wrote the stories, laid them out, and that is the God's honest truth on how Mad started, God damn it."

Kurtzman: "... Gaines was a very paternalistic guy.  Paternalism has its good and its bad sides - it gives you a certain kind of security, but at the same time you always have to go to poppa.  And we had a series of ever-increasing arguments, and finally I decided to ask for as much as I dared, and if Gaines didn't give it to me I was going to quit.  So we had a confrontation and I quit because he didn't give me what I wanted.  And I certainly can't say that I blame him."

Kurtzman: "... I don't tend to be so hard on Hefner.  I think that Playboy had a lot to do with the male fantasy just as Cosmopolitan has to do with female fantasies, and I don't deny people their fantasies.  I think we need them.  We need to play make-believe.  At what point does make-believe become destructive?  That point undoubtedly lies somewhere between the Ku Klux Klan fantasy and The Wizard of Oz.  I don't know where Playboy fits, but Playboy is male fantasy and knowing Hefner as I do I have a great respect for the man.  He's not a dummy.  He's a thinking, intelligent, progressive man."

Greg Potter: "In November of 1952, Kurtzman and Gaines produced the first issue of Mad which, with its 24th issue, became history's first black and white graphic story publication."

Steve Austin: "Harvey Kurtzman develops a rough storyboard, which is sent to Will Elder for spot gags.  Harvey then constructs a tighter storyboard which is sent to Playboy for approval.  Upon approval, Harvey draws the pencils on tracing paper, collects necessary reference material, and hands the page to Bob Price for lettering and masking.  Then, Steve Austin traces the page onto bristol board and paints the preliminary water color.  The page is then turned over to Will Elder, who does the painting, starting with light tones which are built up to a finished rendering.  The page is returned to Harvey who makes corrections on a tracing paper overlay.  Will Elder does the corrections and the page is completed."

Goodman Beaver (1984)


Mad (1987-1988)

#256    Goetz Mask
#258    The Weinburger
#259    Rambo 2
#260    Traveler's Blues
#261    Miami Vice cover
            Camouflage Tricks of City Animals
#263    The Day AT&T Went Too Far
#265    How To Pick Up Guys
            Garbage Pail Adults
#266    We'll Make a Fortune
#267    Mad's Fearless Forecast for the Upcoming TV Season
#268    Aliens cover
#269    Fund Raisers That Never Made It
            Mad Celebrity Madballs
#270    Banana Republic Dictator of the Year
#271    The American Ex-Pres Card
#272    Mad Visits an Organ Transplant Hospital
#273    A Mad Look at Some Widely Held Misconceptions (Kurtzman only)
#274    Why Owning a VCR is Better than Going to the Movies (Kurtzman only)
#279    All Purpose Video Game Instructions Kit (Kurtzman only)
#281    The Mad People Watcher's Guide to a Political Convention (Kurtzman only)
#284    Play Pictionary with the Mad Artists (Kurtzman only)

www.mindsnackbooks.com/mad/mad_256.html through mad_284.html

When Harvey And Will Returned To MAD

MAD's first editor, Harvey Kurtzman quit the magazine in 1956 after issue #28 because publisher, Bill Gaines would not give him more control and a large percentage of the product.  Will Elder went with him.  Kurtzman's demands were unrealistic.  He was a great artist and writer but he had difficulty meeting schedules.  He was a micro-manager who had very high standards for his creative work.  Gaines hired Al Feldstein to replace Kurtzman and MAD thrived with sales that grew for years.  Kurtzman struggled through Trump, Humbug, Help! and other projects but finally found a compromise at Playboy with Little Annie Fanny.  Publisher Gaines commented in several interviews over the years that Kurtzman & Elder were always welcome to come back to MAD -- under his terms.  And then, one day in 1985 it happened.

Al Feldstein and Harvey Kurtzman had been contemporary editors for EC Comics.  Feldstein created numerous titles during that time.  Kurtzman had two war comics (Two Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat).  When Kurtzman started MAD, Feldstein started Panic (a direct but authorized copy of the MAD comic format).  When the Comics Code Authority forced EC to shut down its horror and crime titles, Feldstein was unemployed.  Kurtzman continued as editor of MAD, the magazine.   There is no evidence that Feldstein and Kurtzman had ever cooperated on an EC project.

In an interview in 2000 (Journal of MADness #10) Al Feldstein said that he had wanted Kurtzman & Elder to return to MAD.  He had one meeting with Kurtzman and his business manager (Harry Chester) while Kurtzman was editing Help!  Kurtzman & Chester decided not to come back to MAD at that time.

In 1985 MAD was preparing for a change in editorship.  Al Feldstein was planning to retire after editing 226 issues (#29-#254).  Gaines named Nick Meglin and John Ficarro to be co-editors of MAD going forward.  For two issues (#255-256), all three were listed as the editors.  It did not seem like a coincidence that the Meglin-Ficarra team decided to bring back Kurtzman & Elder for MAD #256 as Feldstein was retiring.  Following are the articles that Kurtzman & Elder drew during their brief return (19 issues).

MAD #256 - "MAD's 'Goetz Mask'" (page 35) - This is just a photo of Bernard Goetz, who shot four muggers in a New York subway, with a dotted line around the head.  There was not much effort required to produce this page but it did serve as notice that Kurtzman & Elder were back.  I suspect that the whole thing was created by Art Director Lenny Brenner after a short telephone call.

MAD #258 - "Where's the Beef? - The Weinburger" (back cover) - Al Jaffee came up with this idea that looks like it could have been part of a fold-in concept.  Ronald Reagan's defense secretary (Caspar Weinberger) is shown in a clown suit holding a giant "hamburger" full of weapons with Reagan's weapons lab in the background.  Elder probably added the "We Do It Ronnie's Way!" button; but other than that, his chicken fat jokes are missing.  The five lab workers are in typical Kurtzman poses. 

Kurtzman and Elder were moonlighting for MAD since they were still responsible for the Annie Fanny strips for Playboy until 1988.

MAD #259 - Rambo & Ronald Reagan (front cover) - Rambo is carrying a large hand-held missile while Reagan (with a smile) invites him to attack Central America.  Elder added the Izod alligator on Rambo's bare chest plus a tic-tac-toe scar.  Elder's Alfred E. Neuman is bracing for an explosion in the upper left corner.

MAD #260 - "Traveler's Blues" (pages 10-11) - Frank Jacobs wrote this parody of a Glenn Frey song for the first Kurtzman & Elder multi-page, multi-panel article for MAD since the 1950s.  The sequence consists of 12 drawings of an airplane parked, getting hijacked and then exploding.  The Elder touch can be seen in the small character who surround the plane.  There is a camel with a reverse hump in the second panel.  The pilots are surrendering in panel 7.  In panel 8, the plane is flying into the moon while palm trees and a light pole are bending toward Mecca.  When the plane lands on the desert (panel 8), passengers are throwing off clothes including one bra.  There is a star of David in the night sky on panel 8.  After the plane has exploded, two oil spouts appear in the final panel.  The boys really did not have much to work with in this song parody. 

MAD #261 - "Miami Vice" (front cover) - This cover with pink and pastel blue clothes is the best of the WEHK covers since the "Kate Keen" cover on MAD #5.  Don Johnson has a hair dryer in his holster instead of a handgun.  His badge is on a chain around his neck.  Philip Michael Thomas is fanning himself with a copy of GQ magazine.  Wanted posters in the background are for Ayatollah Khomeini, a shapely woman and an alligator.  Alfred E. Neuman is enjoying his time under the interrogation lamp to work on his tan.  And, there is a vice in the room.  Elder was not generally known for caricatures but he could do them. 

"Camouflage Tricks of Big City Animals" (pages 24-27) - Rurik Tyler wrote this one but Kurtzman & Elder did a great job of creating the urban animals.  They also found ample room in the double splash for background humor.  The "MOVE Headquarters" (Philadelphia) has a "Sweeney Todd Barber Shop" (demon barber of London).  Everything has been stolen from the "Grand Opening" business.  One of the black basketball players has an afro comb stuck in his hair.  It is odd that the drawing is signed "W.E." without the usual credit to Kurtzman.  The hood ornament on the real car is a revolver.  This is a rather bleak ghetto scene by Elder.  The close-up of the "newspaper pigeon" reveals a headline: "Keep N.Y. Clean - Eat a Pigeon Today."

MAD #263 - "Great Moments in Advertising: The Day AT&T Went Too Far" (back cover) - This is a six-panel ad parody featuring a telephone conversation between Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev written by John "Prete" Ficarra.  Reagan has photos of R2D2, C3PO and "Our First Phone" framed in his office, while Gorbachev with hammer-and-sickle birthmark has a frame painting of Rasputin.  The boys showed great restraint for article that presented huge opportunities for chicken fat.  This was the first of three back covers that co-editor Ficarra wrote for Kurtzman & Elder.

MAD #265 - "Garbage Pail Adults" (back cover) - This article was likely the result of a brainstorming session with editors Meglin, Ficarra, Charlie Kadau and Joe Raiola throwing in ideas.  George Steinbrenner's "contracts" are on toilet rolls.  Prince (rename "Prissy" be the editors) has a dog collar around his neck.  The Ayatollah is smoking a cigar on a sword while his beard is on fire.  One of his supporters has a shish kabob on his bayonet.  Another is giving his leader the middle finger.  Jesse Helms is watering money plants.  Kaddafi is juggling hand grenades while he sinks into quicksand.  South African Botha has a backwards telescope.  Arafat has a hawk on his shoulder.  And, John McEnroe is about to get a tennis ball in his mouth.  The parody skills of WEHK were well-utilized for this concept.

"How To Pick Up Guys" (pages 46-47) - Their work on this Arnie Kogen article is the best of any they did in their short return to MAD.  These seven panels are classics.  Panel 1: Dagwood is in the background passing a man eating the hanging plant.  Signs in the fast food hangout suggest the "Heimlich Meat Loaf" and the "Chuck Yeager Sandwich."  Clerk is wearing a Viking helmet and a bun.  Panel 2: At the football game is a robot holding a "Hi Tech" sign.  Other signs are "Hoo U." and "I Hate Fottball Poster Made Cheap." The boy in the back needs to go to the bathroom.  A man in the crowd is naked.  Panel 3: A policemen on skis is chasing the naked man from panel two also on skis.  Another skier is rolling in a snowball while a couple ski with the woman riding piggyback on the man.   Panel 4: Crazy Eddie is wearing a straightjacket in the back of the computer store.  The naked man from panel two is on one of the computer screens.  Panel 5: Little Annie Fanny is on the exercise machine.  An Oscar is among the health club trophies.  Panel 6: Man in the background is touching the wrong melon.  Woman in the foreground is carrying melons that look like her breasts.  The supermarket worker is Goodman Beaver.  He has been stamping price tags on fruit and the man's bald head in front of him.  Panel 7: The woman in this panel is one of Annie Fanny's friends from the Playboy strip.  Sign in the background points toward "Banned Books."

 MAD #266 - "We'll Make a Fortune" (24-28) - Kurtzman & Elder went wild with this television parody written by Dick DeBartolo.  This one has the look of their great parodies of the 1950s like "Howdy Dooit" (MAD #18), "Is This Your Life?" (MAD #24), "The Ed Suvillan Show" (MAD #27) and "You Are There Then" (Humbug #3).  There are numerous audience jokes in the double splash - one of Elder's specialties.  From left, man with flower pot on head, toothless man behind woman with extra set of teeth and cigar in her mouth, woman with sunglasses and giant hatpin, man with bald head shaped the same as man wearing wool hat, woman with woodpecker pecking her hat and baby who barfed on man behind them, man with finger in his nose, man with a very small head, a papoose, man with a hand coming out of his hat and three members of the "Hells Angles."  On stage there is a framed one dollar bill worth $1,000.  "Pat Somejerk" is almost hit by an arrow in the next panel and then a woman's sucker gets stuck to his tie.  The wheel jokes start at the bottom of page 24 with "IRS" replacing one of the dollar amounts.  The wheel then starts showing slot machine designs, backgammon, and the directions to Atlantic City.  Meanwhile, the woman's sucker has removed Pat's belt as he escapes from her.  On page 26 Vanilla's outfit changes to a flowered dress, then a striped blouse, a bathing suit, a military uniform, a cowgirl coat and then a tutu.  When the second contestant arrives, Pat has the sucker stuck to the back of his head.  In the next panel, the sucker has moved to the contestant's collar.  The sucker with some of Pat's hair on it then moves to the wheel.  In the final panel of page 26, the first contestant is now riding on the wheel.  On page 27, Vanilla is on the beach where she is wearing a fur coat with five arms.  In the background is a lighthouse with several boats that have crashed into it.  There is a foot sticking out of a pile of sand next to the beach pail ("Taiwan Genuine Junk").  Now the wheel is a Monopoly game and then a tea set as Vanilla continues to change clothes in every panel.  On the final page, the board letters include pi, two mugshots, M&M, a Hebrew letter and two hand signals.  As the show is ending, Vanilla has eight arms.  The male contestant is carrying all of the prizes and has just kicked Vanilla in the rear as a small dog jumps out of the letter board and onto the wheel. 

My guess is that Dick DeBartolo did not recognize the final product.

MAD #267 - "MAD's Fearless Forecast for the Upcoming TV Season" (pages 22-23) - In this article written by Barry Liebman, the Pope is wearing a "B'nai Brith" button and President Reagan forgot his pants.  The Pope's mitre is covering a strategic part of the painting behind him. Judge Pops Kane is cracking walnuts with his gavel.  In the final panel, there are two sets of eyes spying on the crowd.  Because of the format of the article, there are no running jokes from panel to panel.

MAD #268 - "Aliens" (front cover) - The alien has a handbag from "Ellis Island" and a slime bucket.  Ripley has a barf bag and her weapon is from "FAO Schwarz." 

MAD #269 - "MAD Celebrity Madballs" (back cover) - Nothing special here in another back cover idea by John "Prete."

MAD #270 - "Banana Republic Dictator of the Year" (pages 31-34) - Lou Silverstone wrote this article about a Central American leader.  The dictator is wearing a "Bush in '88" hat.  There are many holes in the wall including two that ruined a framed photo of a pretty woman.  Two photos on the wall show the dictator in the exact same pose eating a chicken leg as he currently eating.  There is a Latin pig in the clerk's drawer with writing on desk in Pig Latin.  Next to the pig is a "White House Scapegoat."  The trash can is an "Ed Meese In-Box."  "Our First Banana" is framed in panel three.  The interviewer's microphone and the dictator's chicken leg are switched.  The clerk is drinking his wine.  "Viva Revolution" and "Viva Zapata" are written on the walls.  On page 32, a giant "Greetings El Presidente" bullet passes over their heads.  And then another bullet ("Missed") passes from the other direction.  The lettering on the interviewer's recorder changes in each panel (JVC, CIA, NBA, IOU, JDL, WWF, KKK, KGB, UPS).  In the middle panel, the dictator blows smoke shaped like a banana.  All of the rebels look exactly like the dictator.  There is a bird's nest the opening of a large weapon and the sight target is a woman.  "Viva Prohias" is written on the wall.  On page 32, another large bullet "Missed Again!"  The firing squad are pointing in different directions at a man and his dog tied to posts.  The wall behind them has "Viva Papertowels" on it.  In the prison cell grafitti is on every wall with a sign that says "Graffiti Forbidden."  There is a centerfold of the fully-clothed dictator taped to the prison wall with pictures of fruit.  On the last page, prisoners are wearing shirts that say " I Love Bernard Meltzer."  As the interviewer is leaving town, there is a giant sign that says: "Need a Loan?  Quick Cash?  Call Col. Oliver North at 1-555-IRANSCAM."  Gravestones are for "Liberal Party Members."  The airplane is EL AL.  The final panel shows the stewardess ("Viva Va Voom") and the interviewer hold a microphone with severed wire.

  MAD #271 - "MAD's Modern Day Puzzlers" (pages 24-25) - The drawing for this article were all by Harvey Kurtzman.

"A TV Commercial We'd Like To See" (back cover) - Gerald Ford hits several golfers with his club and golf balls.  He injures several Secret Service agents and then poses with Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter.  Nixon is wearing a bandage on his forhead. 

MAD #272 - "MAD Visits an Organ Transplant Hospital" (pages 44-47) - This was Will Elder's last issue for MAD and it was a great one.  Kurtzman & Elder took a Lou Silverstone script and drew an excellent double splash page with 13 panels to follow.  Patients in this hospital include Frankenstein's Monster, the Invisible Man, a man who looks like a bird, a man with eyes in the back of his head, and a man with two heads at opposite ends.  Observing doctors see, hear and speak no evil.  A small boy is holding balloons shaped like lungs.  Igor steals a brain while a dog steals a long piece of an intestine.  Sign near the operating room is "Bodies by Fischer."  In the panels, one of the doctors is an ape and another has made a mouse puppet from a glove while the patient pinches Cyndi Leper.  A doctor uses a hand drill to open a wine bottle.  A brain surgeon is wearing a "Burger Queen" bib while Harpo & Chico Marx are sharing one set of scrubs.  A union seamstress is sewing the top of a patient's head.  Another patient (holding flag and lottery ticket, and wearing Statue of Liberty hat) is resuscitated by a nurse who flashes him.  The same patient is later seen with a party hat and horn holding a beer.  Before examining the patient, doctor soaks the end of his stethoscope in ice.  The operation is being filmed on "Gross & Barf TV."  During the filming, the name of the station is changed to "Wretch & Barf."  Will Elder died on May 15, 2008 of Parkinson's disease.

MAD #273 - "A MAD Look at Some Widely Held Misconceptions" (pages 22-23) - Harvey Kurtzman continued to contribute to MAD for five more issues without Will Elder.  Kurtzman was an excellent artist with a signature style.  He used carefully placed vertical lines to give depth and perspective to his drawings.  In this article written by Mike Snider, Kurtzman stayed on script with a minimum of side gags.

MAD #274 - "Why Owning a VCR is Better than Going to the Movies" (pages 37-39) - Kurtzman always wanted his drawings to correctly show movement and action.  His goal seemed to be to tell the joke without words.  In these drawings, he uses hand gestures and motion lines to represent the story arc.  Foregrounds and backgrounds are separated by the shading and lines.  The petting couples at the bottom of page 8 are in an impossible configuration with five legs and five hands.  Many of his women do not have noses.  All of his sounds have exclamation points except for one small "yawn."  Kurtzman's drawing of car driving at night is an excellent example of his minimalist but effective style.

MAD #279 - "All-Purpose Video Game Instructions Kit" (pages 36-37) - For this Frank Jacobs article, Kurtzman used black Pac-Man style computer characters over a lined and checked maze.  Within the maze are rockets, spaceships, dinosaurs, army tanks and aliens chasing, screaming, shooting and running in a game from a different generation than his own.  This seemed like an odd assignment for an old timer but Kurtzman made it work with a look like no other seen in MAD.  It is impossible to capture the visual possibilities of a twelve to the twelfth power story grid.  But like his border drawings on the cover of MAD #24, there is energy and action here that fits the purpose.

MAD #281 - "The MAD People Watcher's Guide to a Political Convention" (pages 24-25) - Kurtzman put hundreds of political types in this double splash page.  He was not caricaturist.  His characters are expressive but anonymous.  His drawings create mood and situation.  The drawing is meant to be viewed as a whole without attention to the details.  Unlike Elder, he did not want to divert attention from the focus of the article.  The Kutzman crowd is a gathering of personalities - all flawed but actively involved in the moment.

MAD #284 - "Play Pictionary with the MAD Artists" (page 15) - Kurtzman was called back for one more "Prete" article.  This all-hands-on-deck experiment calling for 18 artists to each create drawing in 60 seconds.  Six artists drew "Hitler's Mother" and six drew "Gluttony."  Kurtzman was in the group of six who drew "Frank Perdue's Living Room."  His drawing shows a sad chicken leg with a bowtie under a chandelier.  It is a sad ending for a great artist and a great visionary who created a national treasure.  Harvey Kurtzman died on February 21, 1993 of liver cancer.  He was one of a kind.


My Life As A Cartoonist (1988)

This paperback original (Minstrel Pocket Book) is an honest autobiography that seems to be aimed at young readers.  Kurtzman explains how he got into cartooning and details about the business.  However, he completed omitted all referenced to his longest-running gig: writing and producing Little Annie Fanny for Playboy magazine.  It is interesting that Kurtzman mentions his argument and parting-of-ways with artist John Severin after nine issues of MAD; but completely ignores his failed negotiations with Bill Gaines after editing the first 28 issues.  The many examples of his art and writing in this short, 108-page book. [JAM 1/23/2019]

From Aargh! to Zap!: Harvey Kurtzman's Visual History of the Comics (1991)

Many have attempted to tell the story of the history of the comics, but Kurtzman does the job better with fewer words and more illustrations.  [JAM 9/15/2017]

"... (Bill) Gaines and (Al) Feldstein homed in on a series of successful crime, horror and science-fiction titles, a line they renamed Entertaining Comics (EC).  They were a good team with a unique system of ping-ponging ideas into shape.  Gaines, an avid speed-reader, would devour fiction at night, cataloguing plots in a thumb-nail file of paper slips.  In the morning, he and Feldstein would kick around ideas inspired by the file and rough out stories."

"Wally Wood was intense, immensely talented, and a particular slave to wrok.  He poured forth a stream of fantasy and sex clothed in a multitude of textures and visual effects - space, machinery, vegetation, monsters."

"Will Elder, in particular, found his metier in Mad, laying down guidelines for the hundred-gags-per-inch art style that everyone now associates with the magazine ... When I was writing the Mad stories that Will illustrated, there was magic between us, and he would be inspired to go far beyond what I wrote for him ... Will would take my ideas and add twenty more sub-gags in the backgrounds.  And they would be funny sub-gags; he would carry my stuff forward and enrich it by a multiple of ten.  And more than anything else, whatever Willie did, he did it with originality."

"Little Annie Fanny, which runs intermittently in Playboy, is probably the most expensive comic strip ever produced, and the most expensive comic that ever will be produced.  Annie ideas never came thick and fast, and I would often open up my storyboard to anyone who could offer good ones.  I worked with everybody - people from the Playboy organization, friends, and professional writers and artists.  Once a storyline started moving, I tried to pack it with as many sight gags as I could that were relevant to the story.  Next I made a storyboard.  From that I made blowups and color sketches and finished pencil renderings.  I passed these on to Will Elder, and he changed everything, adding more ideas and coming up with his own renditions of my renditions."

Hogan's Alley (1994)

[Cullum Rogers] "You could even argue - in fact, I'm going to argue it right now - that [Richard] Nixon, Pat Oliphant and Harvey Kurtzman deserve most of the credit for the great wave of young cartoonists that swept into the nation's editorial pages in the '70s and '80s.  In the '50s, Kurtzman combined a keen attention to detail with knockabout humor to magnify the cracks in the surface of grown-up reality."

Kurtzman Retrospective (1995)

Published two years after Kurtzman's death, this volume by The Cartoon Museum is an excellent tribute to the history of Kurtzman art.  The book also includes a five-page chronological list of his work from 1939 to 1992,  [JAM 9/15/2017]

The Mad Playboy of Art (2003)

Of all the books written about the creators of Mad, this is the best one.  Will Elder's son-in-law Gary VandenBergh has perfectly captured the career and genius of the great artist.  This book reprints examples of all of Elder's work and especially his collaborations with Harvey Kurtzman.  I actually had some correspondence with Mr VandenBergh during the writing of the biography.  He was dedicated to the project published by Fantagraphics on quality paper.  This is how an artist's biography should be presented.  Will Elder was a classic artist who also drew for the comics.  Following are some quotes from the book.  [JAM 9/17/2017]

Elder: "I never planned any specific direction.  More importantly, Harvey's editing focused whatever energy I had into the proper channels.  All my wild ideas were distilled into some organized sense.  I believe that Harvey had the gift of editing and drawing out the best in us for Mad.  Harvey was greatly responsible for encouraging my versatility and sharpening my sense of humor."

Al Jaffee: "Willy is one of the most natural funny men I have ever known.  I think he is probably at the very top as a funny cartoonist.  He's almost a Marx Brother in cartooning.  He just has an instinct for what is funny in a drawing."

Terry Gilliam: "Willy's stuff in particular, the way he filled every inch of the thing with, just stuff, I thought, jokes on jokes on jokes.  I don't know if anybody's really worked on that level as intensely as Willy did and it never seemed to distract from the center of the action."

Hugh Hefner: "I think that, to some extent, the artists have existed in the shadow of Harvey.  But I think there is a very real awareness of the fact that Harvey and company changed the direction of visual art in America."

Kurtzman: "Willy was the funny one."

Elder [re Mad #22]: "Boy, that was a real rush job.  We did that in about five seconds.  We were running behind and needed something fast.  So Harvey decided to devote an entire issue to me, because I was considered the crazy guy.  It was a big mess, but a lot of fun to put together and rather experimental, using painted-on photographs and phony ads and so forth.  Kind of a test run for the Mad magazine."

VandenBergh [re end of Kutzman's editorship of Mad] "Elder always quietly felt that Kurtzman's position was unreasonable, and there is evidence that, in retrospect, Kurtzman agreed.  Had he accepted Gaines's offer [49% of Mad] he would've probably become rich.  Still, at the time he couldn't lose; the door was now open to produce the most lavish humor magazine in history [Trump]."

VandenBergh: "Critics have accused Elder of living in the shadow of Kurtzman, to which Elder replies, 'We've grown on each other, like a fungus!'  In fact, they were alter egos, part of a well-oiled machine.  Kurtzman was a groundbreaking artist-writer-editor and Elder the quintessential artist-clown.  Kurtzman gave Elder the framework in which to go crazy and Elder always went outside the frame.  To the fans that say Elder never got the recognition he deserved, Elder says, 'That's very kind but I didn't need the spotlight.  I was happy to be working and able to be there for my family.  I never needed the praise of critics I didn't really care for.'"

Bill Gaines [re Panic]: "Sometimes Harvey loses sight of the fact that this was my Mad, that I had a lot of other magazines making more or less profits, some of them none ... Harvey felt we were competing with him, and I used to say, 'Harvey.  We're not competing with you, we're all one company.  The money comes from everywhere and it goes into a pot and from this pot we publish."

Kurtzman: "It was a very gllomy day when Trump folded.  The gang was sitting around the Playboy offices, everybody staring at the wall feeling sorry for themselves ... We decided to pick up the pieces and do our own magazine.  And it was one of those classic disastrous decisions, when four or five artists get together and say, 'We will do our magazine, it will be artistically magnificent,' and we did Humbug."

Elder [re Little Annie Fanny]: "The colors were like gems to me.  I worked very hard to give them iridescence.  I used a three-ply illustration board.  The white board works as white paint.  With oils you can pile things on, you can pile the light colors on top of the dark colors.  In watercolor you leave the white board alone and you hit the dark spots first,  If you wanted to build a nice, shiny white yacht like Daddy Warbucks raft, as some would call it, you leave it as the white board and you add, very subtly, wherever there's a reflection of the water, very light blue or greenish blue.  But you don't touch the illustration board except to add form or shadow,  You actually don't apply white paint on watercolor board unless you're adding last-minute highlights."

Comics Journal Library (2006)

Harvey Kurtzman became the seventh artist to be honored by Comics Journal in this manner.  The main portion of the volume is reprinted from Comics Journal #67.  The "War Comic Panel" transcript was reprinted from Squa Tront #8.  Although the text is mostly reprints of interviews, there is an excellent variety of Kurtzman drawings here in large size and quality paper.  Curiously, the "tribute" ends with an essay by Robert Fiore ("Mistah Kurtz He Dead") that is severely critical of the final 30 years of the artist's career.  My question for Mr. Fiore is: What is your volume of work that compares with that of Mr. Kurtzman?  [JAM 9/19/2017]

Kurtzman (1959): "To me, the biggest reason for living is to be able to contribute."

Kurtzman (1965): "... I always feel responsible ... for any of my work.  I may be kidding myself, you know, but I like to have this illusion of a grand raison d'etre.  I have to feel that I'm not hacking for money."

Kurtzman (re leaving Mad): "Professionally, I was completely unhappy.  I was feeling pretty low.  Hefner was in town - this was early in his career, too - and we went out to lunch together.  I was very impressed with him.  He came on with all that gusto and optimism he was putting into his own book, and we just talked back and forth.  His high opinion of my work did much for my ego at that lunch, and put me into just the right mood to go ask my publisher [Bill Gaines] for a substantial piece of the magazine as an alternative to my leaving.  I didn't want a piece of the profits so much as I wanted voting stock ... a controlling interest in shaping the property.  Well, predictably, he refused.  And I quit."

Kurtzman: "I don't think getting rich has anything to do with your value to society."

Al Jaffee: "... Harvey was a control freak - a talented, brilliant control freak.  He reminded me of a master Hollywood director, who'd reshoot an entire sequence costing thousands of dollars just because a certain detail didn't come out quite right.  Who can argue with that type of integrity?"

Kurtzman (1982): "When I do good work, it's a high in itself.  When you do a good piece of work and you can lean back and it looks good, makes you laugh and sing and dance, it's its own reward.  You don't try to get high to do the thing, you do the thing and it makes you high."

Kurtzman (re Alfred E. Neuman): "This is the most asked question in my life.  Alfred E. Neuman was something I picked up off the bulletin board in a friend's publishing house.  Bernard Shir-Cliff had this ting on his wall.  We used it in Mad.  It seemed to be a photograph ... big around as a silver dollar.  His name wasn't Alfred E. Neuman.  Alfred Newman was the name of a music arranger in the '50s that Henry Morgan used to use when he wanted a non-entity.  He called this faceless person Alfred Newman.  And so did we.  We literally had a no-face portrait we called Alfred E. Neuman.  The readers, however, insisted on calling the 'What Me Worry?' face Alfred E. Neuman ... as near as I can make out, the best explanation as to where he came from was that he was an illustration from a medical text of a person deficient in iodine."

Kurtzman (re 'Is Little Annie Fanny still artistically fulfilling?): "No, not really.  To this day, I don't know how to extricate myself from Little Annie Fanny.  There's no place to go, really."

Tales Calculated to Drive You Mad - Artist's Edition (2012)

The Artist's Edition contains full-size, mostly-uncolored reproductions of original artist drawings from the 23 Mad comics.  This volume allows comic fans to appreciate the spectacular drawings of these artists as they were first seen the publisher, and before to comic-book size and printed on cheap paper.  The book includes a foreword by Terry Gilliam and a short biography of Harvey Kurtzman on the last page.  [JAM 9/22/2017]

Following are the contents of this edition: (artists in parantheses)

Hoohah! (Jack Davis)
Gookum! (Wallace Wood)
Mole! (Will Elder)
Shadow! (Will Elder)
Outer Sanctum! (Will Elder)
Smilin' Melvin! (Wallace Wood)
Lone Stranger Rides Again! (Jack Davis)
Bat Boy and Rubin! (Wallace Wood)
Little Orphan Melvin! (Wallace Wood)
Face Upon the Floor! (Jack Davis and Basil Wolverton)
Flesh Garden! (Wallace Wood)
Mad Reader! (Basil Wolverton)
3-Dimensions! (Wallace Wood)
Prince Violent! (Wallace Wood)
Movie ... Ads! (Wallace Wood)
Plastic Sam! (Russ Heath)
Restaurant! (Will Elder)
Bringing Back Father (Will Elder and Bernard Krigstein)
What's My Shine! (Jack Davis)
Meet Miss Potgold (Basil Wolverton)
Howdy Dooit! (Will Elder)
Mad #1 cover and rough (Harvey Kurtzman)
Mad #4 cover and rough (Harvey Kurtzman)
Mad #6 cover and rough (Harvey Kurtzman)
Mad #8 printed cover and rough (Harvey Kurtzman)
Mad #10 cover and rough (Harvey Kurtzman)
Mad #2 cover (Jack Davis)
Mad #3 cover (Harvey Kurtzman)
Mad #5 cover (Will Elder)
Mad #9 cover (Harvey Kurtzman)
Mad #11 cover (Basil Wolverton)
Mad #12 cover
Mad #15 cover (John Tenniel)
Mad #16 cover (Harvey Kurtzman)
Mad #18 cover (Harvey Kurtzman)
Mad #21 cover
Mad #22 cover (Harvey Kurtzman)
Superduperman page 1 (Wallace Wood)
Beware of Imitations (Jack Davis)
House Ad (Wallace Wood)

The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America (2015)


Trump: The Complete Collection (2016)

In January 1957, Hugh Hefner panicked; walked into the hospital on the day the Harvey Kurtzman's third child was born; and stopped production of Kurtzman's new magazine.  Trump #3 was going to be the biggest issue yet with 64 pages (like MAD #24), with a spectacular Norman Rockwell parody cover painted by Will Elder, and an elaborate centerfold feature ("The Flexagon") that was never completed.  Over the years, Hefner's excuse for canning Trump has changed: "too costly"; "not enough fans of satire"; "could not meet deadlines"; "not good for advertising".  But the magazine concept was quashed too soon for any of these reasons to be true.  In my opinion, Hefner fired Kurtzman because Hefner knew that he could not micro-manage two magazines at the same time.  Kurtzman's Trump was going to look better and be better than Hefner's Playboy.  Five years later, Hefner found a way to micro-manage Kurtzman by including his work in Playboy.  Hefner demanded advance approval of every panel of 104 Little Annie Fanny adventures over a 26-year period.  [JAM 9/23/2017]

The PS Book of Fantastic Fictioneers: A History of the Incredible (Two Volumes) by Pete Von Sholly (2019)

Biographies of Kurtzman [bio by William Stout] and Elder [bio by Gary Vanderbergh] are included among the 120 "fictioneers."

"Kurtzman was funny, his art was funny, and he got right to the point when he drew!  He also collected a pool of stellar talent at EC comics and directed them all like a maestro.  I saw him give a talk at Comicon about his drawing technique.  He took written questions from the audience and George DiCaprio wrote a card asking, 'What would you do if you were invisible?'  Kurtzman eventually got to the card, read it aloud and looked at the audience with a confused smile and said, 'What kind of question is this???  I would go right to the girls' locker room.  What do you think I would do???'" - Von Sholly

"Will Elder was the funniest of all the MAD cartoonists.  As great as the others were he made me laugh out loud the most!  And he was a HELL of an artist -- his bogus ads, which appeared in MAD magazine and his later rendering on Harvey Kurtzman's Little Annie Fanny showed he could paint like a master.  His restless creative genius filled his cartoons with hilarious little extras; an Elder strip was always packed with wall to wall puns both verbal and visual.  Will Elder was a genius.  Period." - Von Sholly


[Also by Harvey Kurtzman]

Nuts! (1985)

Unknown to many, the two issues of Nuts! may be the rarest of all books edited by Kurtzman.  It seems that these were aimed at young adults.  The covers are good; the artwork is OK; but the humor is just not Kurtzmanesque.  Where is the edge?  Where is the creativity?  And, really, where is Will Elder???  If I had known about these in 1985, I would have run to the bookstore to get them.  Obviously, there were plans for regular (monthly?) issues.  And, even though though both issues had second printings, it appears that low sales killed Kurtzman's last attempt at a mainstream periodical.  There are many drawings here in the Kurtzman style but I wonder if he drew any of them at all.  The unsigned drawings were probably done by Kurtzman assistant Sarah Downs who knew how to approximate Kurtzman's style.  Nuts! may hold a special place in the heart of diehard Kurtzman fans, but his heart was not in it.  [JAM 11/29/2017]

Strange Adventure (1990)


Hey Look! (1992)


Hogan's Alley #8 (2000)

[Kurtzman re Europe in the 1960s] "Wasn't that wonderful?  They treated us like real artists!"

Harvey Kurtzman's Jungle Book: Essential Kurtzman Volume One (2014)

Although it was a commercial failure, the thirty-five-cent 1959 Ballantine paperback with 144 original pages written and drawn by Kurtzman was highly-regarded by cartoon art experts as one his greatest publications.  Evidence for this exists in the fact that 55 years later, the book is celebrated by the issuance of this Kitchen Sink $24.99 elegant hardback volume.  The original title was "Harvey Kurtzman's Pleasure Package" but a description might be: "Too Cool for the Room."  The reprint of Jungle Book shows the drawings in a larger format on quality paper as the creator originally intended.  This volume truly is an artistic classic that must be preserved for the ages.  Following are a few from comments added to the reprinted edition.

[Gilbert Shelton] "In the end, though, I still feel that Kurtzman is the greatest of all the comic book humorists."

[Denis Kitchen] "While comic book circulations [1956] were generally in steady decline and the medium was being widely reviled by the media, parent groups and politicians for its alleged delinquent effect on young readers, MAD's sales were surging, and both the publication and Kurtzman were getting great press.  MAD's success, in large part, was because it wasn't just kid stuff or mindless genre filler like the vast majority of comics of the time; MAD's humor was intelligent, and it's loyal enthusiasts included college students, adults, and even intellectuals."

[Harvey Kurtzman] "The package itself was rinky-dink.  It was small and printed on bad paper and the printing itself was two cuts under the pulps.  On top of that, I did the art on sheets of blue-lined paper.  It was an experiment.  The printer assured me that the lines wouldn't show up, but of course, they did.  Still do.  The gray wash reinforced the blue and so the thing is noticeable.  It was a case of experimenting with a form before all the bugs were out."

[Denis Kitchen] "... if Kurtzman's fans had it in their power most would certainly trade twenty-five years of lavish Annie Fannies for just a few more magnificent solo works akin to Harvey Kurtzman's Jungle Book."

[Art Spiegelman] (1986) "A Kurtzman formula: you say something true, but high-minded - preferably a couple of things true, but high-minded, to set up the rhythm.  Then you deflate the whole lofty mess by saying something really true, but base and down-to-earth.  You point out that the Emperor is nekkid, that mortals are driven by greed and lust.  And preferably, you do it with a vaguely self-deprecatory Yiddish cadence so that nobody gets too mad at you for telling your truths.  ... and, if you're Harvey Kurtzman, you do it with impeccable timing and a tight sense of structure of Keaton that leaves the reader with not just a laugh, but insight."

[Harvey Kurtzman] (1986) "Of course, I'd been deep in the publishing business for years, putting together winners and losers.  Here (Organization Man ...), I was probably thinking of Martin Goodman of Timely [which became Marvel]. for whom I once did a puzzle page."

[Peter Poplaski] "I don't think when you say Jungle Book isn't funny, that it's necessarily a negative statement.  Kurtzman went for laughs, but beyond that was his compulsion to tell the truth behind the warm fuzzy surface of our favorite TV shows, comic characters and the like, to pull it out of our juvenile little hands and show us in his wacky way that it was just a banal, ridiculous commercial contrivance."

[Robert Crumb] "Cartoonists are ground down by the relentless demands of the medium.  few escape this fate, though with us fine artiste-cartoonists it's not quite as brutal, so maybe our creative energy can have a chance to revive itself periodically.  I dunno ... Maybe ..."

[Anthony Bourdain] "As a stylist, as an illustrator, as an innovator of layout, as a storyteller, he made everything that came before inadequate - and everything after transformative."

[Also by Will Elder]

Chicken Fat (2006)

This is a volume of sketches that Elder drew while he was waiting for the next Kurtzman project.  This is an interesting tour through the mind of an artist with a special look at the Elder family.  [JAM 9/18/2017]

True Believer by Abraham Riesman (2021)

[Kurtzman] (about working together again with Stan Lee): "Just like old times."  [Lee] "Just like old times.  You do the work and I'll take the credit!"