Archive for the 'Comix' Category

Kurtzman and the Comics

Crumb, Terry Gilliam, Art Spiegelman, Gilbert Shelton, Denis Kitchen. These and many other artists hail Harvey Kurtzman as a seminal influence on their cartooning careers. The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics (Abrams ComicArts, 2009) by Denis Kitchen and Paul Buhle demonstrates how Kurtzman transformed the comics landscape forever through his notable work on Frontline Combat, Two-Fisted Tales, Mad and Help!, among other publications.

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman is visually stunning. It provides generous samplings of Kurtzman’s roughs, original line work, and colour reproductions, including:

  • The fully penciled layouts for “Corpse on the Imjun!” story from Two-Fisted Tales no. 25 (January-February, 1952)
  • Colour reproductions of the first 29 Mad covers
  • Colour reproductions of the full “Superduperman!” feature from Mad no. 4 (April-May 1953)
  • Colour reproductions of all nine Humbug covers
  • Eight pencilled sample pages from Kurtzman’s extended graphic narrative, “Marley’s Ghost”
  • Kurtzman’s solo story, “The Grasshopper and the Ant” from Esquire (May 1960)
  • All 26 Help! covers in colour
  • A detailed close-up of Little Annie Fanny’s breasts (!), and the never-before published Little Annie Fanny “origin story”
  • Reproductions of the four vellum roughs and final copy of a “Little Annie Fanny” splash page, demonstrating the level of painstaking detail that led to Hugh Hefner’s agreeing to a $3 000 page rate

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman is divided into five chapters, each of which coincides with Kurtzman’s involvement in various projects: his early army cartoons and “Hey Look!” strips of the 1940s; his E.C. work, in particular Frontline Combat and Two-Fisted Tales; Mad; the relatively short-lived Trump, Humbug, and Help! magazines; and Playboy’s “Little Annie Fanny.” Continue reading ‘Kurtzman and the Comics’

Crumbtemporaries on the Comix

The Life and Times of R. Crumb: Comments from Contemporaries, edited by Monte Beauchamp


Let us consider Chris Ware’s contribution to The Life and Times of R. Crumb: Comments from Contemporaries (St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998), included among the “Accolades and Reflections on the Controversial R. Crumb,” on the back cover of the book:

I can think of no one more unqualified to say anything about Robert Crumb’s artwork than myself. In fact, it’s useless for most cartoonists of my generation to do so; without him, there wouldn’t be any cartoonists of my generation.

–Chris Ware, The Acme Novelty Library

Maybe he’s right. But we should expect Ware’s self-deprecating comments, in particular when mentioning them in the context of Crumb’s impact on cartooning. Were there no Crumb, certainly the next generation of cartoonists would have looked very different. In fact, were there no crumb, even the cartoonists of Crumb’s generation would have looked very different. Crumb’s “contemporaries” profiled in Beauchamp’s collection include cartoonists, publishers, editors, writers, filmmakers, and others. Below is a list of all the contributors to The Life and Times of R. Crumb, in order of their appearance. Continue reading ‘Crumbtemporaries on the Comix’

Long Live Da Comix!

Comix: The Underground Revolution by Dez Skinn

I finished reading Comix: The Underground Revolution (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2004) right after reading Men of Tomorrow by Gerard Jones. The two books are a perfect match for one another. In many ways, Skinn’s work begins where Men of Tomorrow leaves off—with the birth of Mad magazine, and the undergrounds that followed suit from Harvey Kurtzman’s lead.

I am a late arrival on the comix scene, so for me to find what serves both as an itemization and a brief history of the period in the pages of one volume is a real gift. The book is visually rich, including huge amounts of source material, none of which has been watered down for more sensitive audiences. Continue reading ‘Long Live Da Comix!’

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