Friday, May 25, 2018
MAD's Original Idiots - Will Elder!
Of all of the original MAD artists, Will Elder is the one I'm least familiar with. I've seen plenty of his work over the decades, but in my formative years he was not all that present in the publications I got hold of. His work in Playboy with Harvey Kurtzman on Annie Fanny was not material I would see until I was an adult and so I didn't have a grasp of who he was or what he contributed to the whole look and feel of early MAD. I read others wax on about his amazing images full of something weirdly called "Chicken Fat" but I never really grokked what that meant until later.
Like the other great artists in this collection, Elder was there from the very beginning, his hectic energetic panels filling up at story in the debut issue.
But when I think of Elder, I think of the amazing spoof of the noxious Mickey Mouse from Disney. The gag on Donald Duck in this sample page goes right to the heart. In the modern day, Mickey and his friends have been reduced to brands, but when Kurtzman and Elder took them on, this was only beginning to be the case, but it was clearly the direction nonetheless.
Perhaps my favorite Elder story, aside from his great Mandrake and delicous Wonder Woman spoofs is the oft reprinted "Starchie". The pure-hearted naifs of Riverdale were the ideal targets for the MAD treatment.
Elder was an artist who influenced a generation of underground talents who went on to redefine the comics form. Elder himself was somewhat hidden away at Playboy for most of my reading life, but upon discovering the master of "Chicken Fat" at last, I'm very glad I did.