SUNDAY FUNNIES - PANIC #3, lI'L MELVIN
PANIC comicbook was a publication by EC Comics. Interesting, one of its competitors was its sibling. Both PANIC and MAD were published by William M. Gaines, who owned EC Comic books.
PANIC had an upper hand on the non-EC comics because PANIC employed the very same artists as MAD, and MAD sat the standards – all the lampoon comics wanted to look like MAD, it was the best seller. Artists Jack Davis, Wally Wood, and Will Elder did MAD and PANIC.
This was during a time that comics were getting a lot of criticism for their gruesome stories and pictures. EC also led the parade on that, publishing such comics as TALES FROM THE CRYPT, SHOCK, etc. So, I think Gaines was doing a reshuffle of his publications. He knew now, with the new pressures, MAD was doing the best – so why not have another lampoon-type of comic?
This story is drawn by Will Elder, which was the most popular trend setter at MAD.
In this story, LI’L MELVIN, frankly, it was like Elder was a loose cannon. I don't think he had the Kurtzman guidance because Kurtzman was not the editor. Elder put more little tiny side jokes than he put in MAD. I think he also wrote it. I read that he had written some of his own stories for PANIC.
In comic books many times there are more going on than meet the eye. And sometimes even a double story that only the fellow artist or writers can appreciate or get the full-jest of.
For instance, once Harvey Kurtzman carried a sample of his art work to a newspaper in New York City, and the man over things like that was Walt Kelly. Of course, Walt also did the comic strip POGO. Walt Kelly, according to Kurtzman, gave Kurtzman “the bum rush” out of the offices. Harvey Kurtzman was hurt and offended. Elder and Kurtzman were friends, notice how he treats the POGO characters in the story.
Another thing, you might not realize is the story behind the story of JOE POLOOKA’s characters popping up in the story. Al Cap, the creator of LI’L ABNER, and Ham Fisher, creator of JOE PALOOKA, were bitter enemies. Early in Al Capp’s career he worked for Ham Fisher doing a running story about hillbillies in Kentucky or maybe Arkansas. When Al Capp went out oh his own he did a strip similar as the strip he did for Fisher. Thus, a bitter court fight over copyright infringements. Ham Fisher lost and it wasn’t long until he took his own life… so, bare that in mind when you see the below story.
Another interesting thing is the last page where Elder gives an almost raspberry salute to all those "concerned" parents and investigating committees and others critical of the newly innovation of comics.