Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Harvey Kurtzman, Creator of MAD





I just read HARVEY KURTZMAN THE MAN WHO CREATED MAD AND REVOLUTIONIZED HUMOR IN AMERICA  by Bill Schelly.
The title tells the meat of the whole book.  Harvey Kurtzman created MAD comic book.  Harvey was an editor for EC Comics creating war stories when, to make more money, with the owner Bill Gaines' approval created MAD.  After MAD built it own momentum with a big circulation the Comic Code was formed to restrict comic books' press liberties, and of course, for the sake of not warping children, Kurtzman talked Gaines into making MAD a magazine, which he did and it became even more successful.  But it still had a select audience.  Then Kurtzman demanded 51% of the MAD stocks and Gaines fired him.
He and Gaines held ill feelings for each other for many years afterwards, but came around speaking finally.
At one time before the breakup Bill Gaines was a regular guest at the Kurtzmans' house.
When Bill Gaines fired Kurtzman he rehired his horror comic book editor Al Feldstein to take Kurtzman's place.  Feldstein redirected the readership from sophisticated some college to preteen.  The increase in sales was huge.
In the meantime Kurtzman started TRUMP Magazine, published by PLAYBOY, much like his MAD Magazine in sophistication but it lasted only two issues .  Too much meddling from the mother publishing company.
Then he started HUMBUG, which all the artists were owners and it took all their savings so they hung it up after eleven issues.
Then HELP Magazine published by Warren Publishing.  It never made a go either.
Harvey Kurtzman's brand of humor was just too unique for the masses to catch on.
His last bread and butter was Annie Fannie in PLAYBOY, which kept his and artist Will Elder's families fed but they never got wealthy over their artsy enterprises.
One reoccurring theme, or weakness,  throughout the book was that Harvey was a perfectionist.  Which he often did not make deadlines, which were costly.
Also, late in his life he took on a new career of teaching comic booking at a New York art school.  His classes were the star of the school, most of the time packed.
It is a good book telling much behind the scene details of the business end of comic publishing and how Kurtzman and his close band made sacrifices to keep their humor alive.
Underground artists give Kurtzman credit for being the father of Underground Comix which typically Harvey said he demanded a blood test.
He suffered from Parkinson's disease which finally brought him down.

Harvey Kurtzman was my hero.  



0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home

hit counter script