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Bill Schelly

Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America

On sale date: May 2, 2015

2016 Eisner Award Winner for Best Comics-Related Book! This biography reveals the true story of Mad creator Harvey Kurtzman—the man who revolutionized humor in America; it features new interviews with his colleagues Hugh Hefner, Robert Crumb, and others.

Harvey Kurtzman created Mad, and Mad revolutionized humor in America. Kurtzman was the original editor, artist, and sole writer of Mad, one of the greatest publishing successes of the 20th century. But how did Kurtzman invent Mad, and why did he leave it shortly after it burst, nova-like, onto the American scene? For this heavily researched biography, Bill Schelly conducted new interviews with Kurtzman's colleagues, friends and family, including Hugh Hefner, R. Crumb, Jack Davis, and many others, and examined Kurtzman's personal archives. The result is the true story of one the 20th century's greatest humorists: Kurtzman's family life, the details of the FBI's investigation during the McCarthy Era, his legal battles with William M. Gaines (publisher of Mad), are all revealed for the first time. Rich with anecdotes, this book traces Kurtzman's life from his Brooklyn beginnings to his post-Mad years, when his ceaseless creativity produced more innovations: new magazines, a graphic novel, and Little Annie Fanny in Playboy.


"The Ramones, David Letterman, Mystery Science Theater, Saturday Night Live: All impossible to imagine without the satire in Mad magazine. Comics historian Schelly has penned an exhaustive (and, yeah, exhausting) study of one of the most important humorists of the 20th century." — Joe Gross - Austin American-Statesman

"...Schelly approaches Kurtzman's work, life and the surrounding sociopolitical context as an all-encompassing tableau. ... As a chronological survey of Kurtzman's career, Schelly's book is a comprehensive, informed endeavor, and will certainly fill many of the gaps in Kurtzman's professional history." — Akin Ajayi - Haaretz

"Thoroughly researched…devoted fans will welcome this exhaustive study." — Library Journal

"This 642-page doorstop from award-winning comic-book historian Bill Schelly is a thorough, loving chronicle of Kurtzman's life, struggles, art, and influence. I didn't want to place it on the shelves alongside my beloved Mad and EC Comics archives. It made me want to take them off the shelves and sit on the floor surrounded by them, giving every page a fresh look." — Mark Rahner - Seattle Weekly

"I highly endorse and recommend Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America... Though 644 pages long, it reads like a breeze and I was sorry it was over when it was. It is scrupulously researched and filled with grand insights into its subject without forcing you into one particular interpretation." — Mark Evanier - News from ME


Black and white.
6.3" × 9.3"