Friday, January 13, 2006

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT


The above is a picture of the cover of the first issue of MAD comic book. The artist for the cover was Harvey Kurtzman who was also the editor and only writer. When I first picked up this comic book when I was in grammar school I fell in love.

Sure, in my teenage years I would fall in love with Playboy, but MAD was the first publication I fell in love with.

MAD was shocking. It poked fun of things I had respect for, such as The Long Ranger, Dragnet, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan.... it was bringing making a farce out of everything I held sacred - it was love at first sight.

I got a kick out of way the writing and art would lead your mind down one avenue and suddenly pop the balloon it filled for you with an unexpected jab at your funny-bone from another direction.

Harvey Kurtzman was the editor of MAD for 28 issues, then because he wanted too much of the monetarily action, the publisher William Gaines fired him. He and his two main artists, Jack Davis and Will Elder struck out creating other MAD-like publications, but never could make a go of it because they were competing against themslves - the MAD ball with their style and even their lingering art was still rolling strong.

Later Jack Davis went back to MAD and also became a commercial illustrator and he does a lot of work for the University of Georgia's alumni and booster clubs, where I still see his work springing up. Harvey and Will Elder created Annie Fanny in Playboy magazine which carried they kept going for about 30 years. Harvey died a few years ago, and occasionally a movie poster may pop up done by Elder, and recently a book was published featuring his art, but mostly he is retired, doing friend's portraits.

Recently, at a newsstand I flipped through the latest MAD magazine and I just didn't think it was impressive as it used to be. I think partly because it is owned by a big corporation and they are giving it too much input, but they just don't deliver the shock they used to. Or maybe it is me that has changed.... no, it's them!

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