Two-Gun Zilch is coming... to the Society of Illustrators in New York City for the exhibit The Art of Harvey Kurtzman, a comprehensive retrospective of MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman, opening this Friday, March 8th!
Co-curators Monte Beauchamp and Denis Kitchen have assembled the most comprehensive assemblage of Kurtzman art to date, culled from private and family collections. Highlights include: Kurtzman life drawings from 1941; rarely-seen late ’40s strips done for the New York Herald-Tribune and well as for Marvel’s Stan Lee; key covers, strips and full stories Kurtzman created for MAD, Frontline Combat, Two-Fisted Tales, Humbug and Help!, sometimes in collaboration with fellow comics geniuses Will Elder and Jack Davis. In addition, “Kurtzmania,” numerous rare artifacts and publications never seen by the public, will be on display.
The exhibit runs through Saturday, May 11th in the museum’s two-floor gallery in New York City’s Upper East Side. The Society of Illustrators is located at 128 East 63rd Street.
It was a mad, Mad afternoon when Robin McConnell, MK Reed and I dropped into the Mad Office. Assistant Art Director and comics consumer Ryan Flanders reluctantly fell for my charms and agreed to a tour even though their deadline loomed large a few days later (hey, we don't want to impede a dying medium, right?). Even the guards had a cute shtick that took 5 minutes of my life and a humorless person would have left. Luckily, that's not me.
Ryan started off the tour by showing us his first office at MAD, it's near the door, pretty cold but looks a bit similar to mine at Fantagraphics.
The MADtropolitan Museum of Art showed off some of the best and brightest of recent hilarious paintings, complete in their gold gilded plastic frames melted down from the plastic noses and vintage glasses frames of the cancelled shows The Real Housewives of Jersey and Williamsburg.
The props display case was amazing from Gutrot which I've definitely drank and Spy vs Spy toilet paper. Photoshop ain't got nothing on printed, folded and glued cardboard.
Everyone else in the office was just as charming, waiting for the day their piles of tchotchkies bury them. Art Director (and a cartoonist himself) Sam Viviano showed off some amazing original artwork and Sculpey sculptures created for photo-shoots. Check out that DREW FRIEDMAN drawing over Ryan's shoulder.
One of my favorite props was an actual headstone used as a support structure in the office created for a back cover thanks to a Feldstein/Gaines joke.
Ryan's new office turned out to be a nightmare, so well organized I made a mental note to courier him a spring-loaded box of trash upon my return home.
Like any good office the mail room is actually where all the good stuff is located (at Fantagraphics, our fridge is in there). Snuggled among packing materials and one hell of a cutting board are sexy flat files full of Al Jaffee, Tom Bunk — EVEN a Tom Fowler, internet friend.
LOOK at this Al Jaffee fold-in drawing. My dream is to have one printed SOMEDAY, SOMEHOW instead of lamely attaching my fold-in to the magazine and tricking my friends into thinking it was actually printed in the magazine.
Jewish Batman, you slay me. That utility belt must have some tasty kosher deserts near the back. (by Al Jaffee)
One beautiful Jack Davis drawing that was REJECTED from the magazine (or Davis decided to redraw) blew me away. The best part was the tattoo "My Mom Loves Me" is infinitely better than Mother tattoos of the world.
In gorgeous ink and the now-illegal duoshade/duotone. Please place your drinks down, Fantagraphics and MAD magazine are not responsible for your spittle shorting out your keyboard.
Despite the slow decline of the magazine industry, MAD magazine has lived on, able to pay cartoonists for their work (wow-za!) and maintain a staff. By raising prices and creating a Mad reading app, they stay current and accessible. MAD's first audience may be a bit gray in the face now as they celebrate their 60th anniversary but continue to wow audiences. As a kid, I didn't have much access to the magazines but my grandmother would buy any books at any yard, church or library sale. Three rooms in their house were lined with built-in-books shelves and in the ‘humor' or comic sections lay the trade paperback editions of MAD (often with the cover ripped off). Ryan was kind enough to explain that most of those were unused comics and many have not been reprinted to this day due to copyright ambiguity. Sounds like something for a legal intern to help them figure out.
As long as parents send kids care packages at camp, people stay overnight in the hospital and Hollywood makes bottom-feeder television and convoluted movies, MAD will reign supreme. Thanks again to Ryan Flanders for the tour, Robin McConnell for some of the photos (there are MILLIONS more here) and MK Reed for the company.
When MAD became a surprise hit as a comic book in 1953 (after the early issues lost money!) other comics publishers were quick to jump onto the bandwagon, eventually bringing out a dozen imitations with titles like FLIP, WHACK, NUTS, CRAZY, WILD, RIOT, EH, UNSANE, BUGHOUSE, and GET LOST. The Sincerest Form of Parody collects the best and the funniest material from these comics, including parodies of movies (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, From Here To Eternity), TV shows (What's My Line, The Late Show), comic strips (Little Orphan Annie, Rex Morgan), novels (I, the Jury), plays (Come Back, Little Sheba), advertisements (Rheingold Beer, Charles Atlas), classic literature ("The Lady or the Tiger"), and history (Pancho Villa). Some didn't even try for parody, but instead published odd, goofy, off-the-wall stories.
These earnest copiers of MAD realized that Will Elder's cluttered "chicken fat" art was a good part of MAD’s success, and these pages are densely packed with all sorts of outlandish and bizarre gags that make for hours of amusing reading. The "parody comics" are uniquely "'50s," catching the popular culture zeitgeist through a dual lens: not only reflecting fifties culture through parody but also being themselves typical examples of that culture (in a way that Harvey Kurtzman’s MAD was not).
This unprecedented volume collects over 30 of the best of these crazy, undisciplined stories, all reprinted from the original comics in full color. Editor John Benson (who wrote the annotations for the first complete MAD reprints, and interviewed MAD editor Harvey Kurtzman in depth several times over the years) also provides expert, profusely illustrated commentary and background, including comparisons of how different companies parodied the same subject.
Artists represented include Jack Davis, Will Elder, Norman Maurer, Carl Hubbell, William Overgard, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, Bill Everett, Al Hartley, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, Hy Fleischman, Jay Disbrow, Howard Nostrand, and Bob Powell.
Casual comics readers are probably familiar with the later satirical magazines that continued to be published in the '60s and '70s, such as Cracked and Sick, but the comics collected in this volume were imitations of the MAD comic book, not the magazine, and virtually unknown among all but the most die-hard collectors. For the first time, Fantagraphics is collecting the best of these comics in a single, outrageously funny volume.
Download and read a 14-page PDF excerpt (6.1 MB) which includes the Table of Contents.
• Review: "I find myself wondering how long Prison Pitcan continue. I don’t really know what’s going on beyond a series of beautiful, awesome things, but that’s reason enough for me to continue loving it." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "Move over Tintin, Gil Jordan is here to rock! This book is a nice surprise. There’s mystery. There’s a ton of action. There’s really hip looking artwork. Put those three things together and what else do you need from a title? Gil Jordan: Murder By High Tide collects two tales of the classic comic by Tillieux... and doesn’t disappoint in any way, shape, or form.... Both stories are solid detective tales. Each one engaging and a pleasure no matter what age you are. Even more impressive is the art.... Gil Jordan feels like real Europe, where not everything is pretty.... A highly recommended pick up, out on stands now." – Drew McCabe, ComicAttack.net
• Plugs: Martha Cornog of Library Journal spotlights some of our upcoming releases in the latest "Graphic Novels Prepub Alert":
Pogo: The Complete Daily & Sunday Comic Strips Vol. 1: Through the Wild Blue Wonder by Walt Kelly: "'We have met the enemy and he is us.' Pogo Possum's lament from the 1971 Earth Day strip could be Kelly's most enduring and, unfortunately, accurate legacy. Various Pogo collections have appeared in the past, but the entire daily, plus Sunday run, has never been systematically collected as Fantagraphics is doing in 12 volumes."
Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons: "O'Connor was past mistress of disturbing Southern fiction, the grotesques and violence of flawed lives. But — not making this up — this icon of American literature wanted to be a cartoonist while growing up and drew throughout high school and college. Learning narrative techniques and caricature in the process, she worked in both pen-and-ink and linoleum cuts, lampooning student life and current events issues of the early 1940s. Developing as a visual precursor to her prose, her art suggests a nastily amusing cross between James Thurber and Marjane Satrapi."
The Sincerest Form of Parody: The Best 1950s MAD-Inspired Satirical Comics, ed. by John Benson: "No, these aren't parodies published in Mad magazine. They're parodies inspired by MAD, published in copycat wannabes like Crazy, Whack, Unsane, and Bughouse whose backers were looking to tap into MAD's popularity. Needless to say, the work is not of MAD caliber, but sometimes it's just as funny parodies of films, TV shows, comic strips, novels, plays, ads, classics, and historical vignettes. Look for dense panels crammed with background gags and some familiar artists — like Will Elder, who drew for MAD, too."
Our warehouse manager Nico dug up this video of Will Elder's son-in-law Gary VandenBergh speaking on the phone with Grateful Dead frontman and delicious-ice-cream inspiration Jerry Garcia about Garcia's love for Elder's EC Comics and post-MAD work. It seems a good bet that part of this interview will find its way into VandenBergh's in-progress documentary about Elder.
The latest print available from Drew Friedman's online Fine Art concern is this magnificent portrait of one of Drew's artistic heroes and a subject near and dear to our own hearts: Will Elder, the Mad Playboy of Art himself. Drew depicts Villy in his studio, brushes at the ready. These suckers are limited-edition, signed by Drew and perhaps will provide you with your own artistic inspiration.
Filmmaker Gary VandenBergh is plowing through a revised round of fundraising via Kickstarter to complete Chicken Fat, his in-progress documentary on his late father-in-law Will Elder. As we've previously noted, Gary was a great help to us when we were putting together our book Will Elder: The Mad Playboy of Art, and we've been helping with the documentary by supplying digital images. Gary Groth vouches for VandenBergh as "a generally great guy."
The additional funds will enable the filmmakers to travel to California for more interviews (Hugh Hefner, Joe Dante, Daniel Clowes, William Stout) and to complete the editing.
Pledge gifts include DVDs of the finished film, copies of our Elder books, and more, all the way up to a credit in the film. See the Kickstarter page for much more info on the project.
Filmmaker Gary VandenBergh is looking to raise funds via Kickstarter to complete Chicken Fat, his in-progress documentary on his late father-in-law Will Elder. Gary was a great help to us when we were putting together our book Will Elder: The Mad Playboy of Art, and we've been helping with the documentary by supplying digital images. We can vouch for Gary as, in Gary Groth's words, "a generally great guy."
They've already got a lot of great interviews in the can, including Art Spiegelman, Bill Griffith, Jay Lynch, Al Jaffee, Arnold Roth, Drew Friedman, the late Harvey Kurtzman, Bill Gaines and Will Elder himself, and many more; the additional funds will enable them to travel to California & England for more interviews (Hugh Hefner, Joe Dante, Daniel Clowes, William Stout, Terry Gilliam) and to complete the editing.
Pledge gifts include DVDs of the finished film, copies of our Elder books, and more, all the way up to a Producer credit in the film. See the Kickstarter page for much more info on the project.