Thursday, May 31, 2018

Selling Like MAD!

When Harvey Kurtzman talked William Gaines Jr. into publishing a little humor comic, they changed the landscape of comedy in America. MAD became the template for comedy going forward and bred a host of imitations.  Here are some of those four-color dopplegangers.

EC even imitated MAD itself when they published PANIC, a magazine of humor by EC's other mainstay editor, Al Fiedstein.

Then in an attempt to placate censors and Kurtzman himself, Gaines decided to make the comic book a magazine. With the four colors gone, the increased size made MAD a publication alongside others targeted to an older reader. But the success of that change too sparked imitations, among them magazines by Kurtzman himself for other publishers.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Getting Lost!

One of my artistic heroes is Ross Andru. I fell into comics at about the same time that Andru and his longtime partner Mike Esposito took the artistic reins on The Flash. Later still Andru took over The Amazing Spider-Man and brought a brand new, larger sensibility to the look of that book. I feel that Andru's long run on The Amazing Spider-Man is one of the most overlooked stints by any artist on any character at any time. Much of what we see on large movie screens with Spidey launching himself across a detailed NYC skyline was stuff fully realized when Andru was the artist. The cloistered, shadowy world created by Steve Ditko was brought into the sunshine by John Romita and then the sprawling landscape of the real world was fully added by Andru.

One thing about Andru and Esposito that I didn't know until I got hold of some detailed histories of comics was that they were a team that tried, not unlike Simon and Kirby, to strike out on their own in publishing to escape somewhat the confines of freelance work. Among their efforts was a MAD-style comic called Get Lost. Many of those vintage stories have seen publication by other companies over the years but Hermes finally gave us a collection. I found this at Amazon a few days ago for a ridiculously tiny price and immediately ordered it up. It arrived yesterday!

Here are the three issues included.       

These three issues were reprinted in the late 80's with new covers by different artists in an attempt to hide the vintage nature of the stories.

While doing research on these comics, I discovered that Andru and Esposito worked on another spoof magazine,a MAD imitation called Up Your Nose and Out Your Ear.

Too bad these issues have not been reprinted (to my knowledge).

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Goodman Is Fun To Read!

After leaving MAD, the collapse of the abbreviated Trump, and the cancellation of Humbug, Harvey Kurtzman had one more go at a humor magazine, this time called appropriately enough Help! from Warren Publishing.  (for more on Help! check this link out) In the pages of Help he and Will Elder launched the ongoing adventures of a character who had been introduced in The Jungle Book, one Goodman Beaver. Goodman was a naive everyman who wanders the Earth for the sake of finding a world which is more corrupt than he imagines it to be but who himself is never marked by that corruption. 

The adventures of Goodman have been collected twice, once in the early 60's and later by Kitchen Sink. Both times the Archie parody had to be altered or  pulled  from the collection because of impending lawsuits by the editors over Riverdale. It's a shame as to any clever eye a lampoon only serves to ultimately promote a product. Here is the story in more detail.

Goodman Beaver gave way though in time to another Kurtzman-Elder creation, the bouncy Little Annie Fanny who became a staple (pun intended) of Playboy for a few decades. She was Goodman Beaver with boobs, a naif who is captured in a dirty world and falls into the clutches of those who would do all sorts of things to her if they could.

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Monday, May 28, 2018

Harvey's Two-Fisted Tales Of Frontline Combat!

Aside from his justifiable fame for having given birth to the MAD style of satire, Harvey Kurtzman also changed the way war comics worked. Wars were fought for the right reasons by good guys and bad guys. World War II taught us that and comics reflected it. But the Korean War was something different, a war in which the goals were more philosophical than immediate and the enemy was a proxy for our true foe. Kurtzman tapped into the anxiety about a war which people were ambivalent about and he proceeded to give use  comic book war stories of a different, more mature style. He did that by focusing not on the war but on the warrior, men who were not heroes but merely survivors. To celebrate Memorial Day here are Kurtzman's seminal war comic book covers for EC's Frontline Combat and Two-Fisted Tales.

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