Monday, March 22, 2010

A Book About Harvey Kurtzman

A look at THE ART OF HARVEY KURTZMAN, THE MADE GENIUS OF COMICS by Denis Kitchen and Paul Buhle.

This book is 238 pages long. It took me about ten months to read it. I know that seems like a long time to read a book, but you must remember not all of it was reading. About 70% of it was pictures. That makes it even worse doesn’t it?

Well, maybe not. The pictures were examples of Harvey Kurtzman’s art throughout his carreer. Each picture had to be digested and studied for details, to get my money’s worth.

Denis Kitchen was a cartoonist at one time who turned publisher of alternative and vintage comic books.

According to the book jacket Paul Buhle is a senior lecturer in the American Civilization and History departments of Brown University and has written a half dozen book about the literature merits of comic books.

The book tells of each step in Harvey Kurtzman’s life. His childhood (his family was so poor his family had to put him into an orphanage temporarily); his wife, family, his art work freelancing for young Stan Lee; then going to work for EC, which he was the editor and solo writer of the two war comicbooks; his creation of MAD comicbook; his collaboration with Hugh Hefner in creating TRUMP magazine and its nosedive after two issues; his collaboration with fellow artists in owning the satirical magazine HUMBUG and its demise; his HELP! magazine; he, Will Elder, and Hugh Hefner’s creation of ANNIE FANNY for PLAYBOY, which ran for over 30 years, and his other artistic endeavors. After ANNIE ran its course; and as he grew older with Parkinson’s Disease, sadly, his artistic input begin to dwindle.

The book has many examples of his art work, most I have seen and some I haven’t. And in the book you are told by the experts the historical background of what was happening with Kurtzman’s life, or what was happening in the news, at the time of select drawings, and what to draw your eye to.

The book tells of underground artists, such as Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, and Skip Williamson, giving him credit for being their inspiration and called him “The father of Underground Comix.” Which Kurtzman said he wanted a DNA test.

I think another reason it took me a long time to read the book is that I hated for it to end – it was like closing out a familial old friend.

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