Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman

Back when I still had money, I pre-ordered a copy of THE ART OF HARVEY KURTZMAN by Denis Kitchen and Paul Buhle. After some delays, this coffee table celebration of one of my own artistic and comedic heroes arrived today. As with many books of this type, one can hardly quibble with what's present but one can easily question what's missing. In this case, the latter includes much of the work in Kurtzman's final decades which is glossed over in a mere handful of pages. The rest, however, is wonderful and presents a long section on MAD and Harvey's collaboration with his artists. These, of course, included Wally Wood. In fact, Kurtzman and Wood's classic SUPERDUPERMAN is reprinted in its entirety yet again in eight full color pages!

Here's the official Abrams press release stuff: Harvey Kurtzman discovered Robert Crumb and gave Gloria Steinem her first job in publishing when he hired her as his assistant. Terry Gilliam also started at his side, met an unknown John Cleese in the process, and the genesis of Monty Python was formed. Art Spiegelman has stated on record that he owes his career to him. And he's one of Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner's favorite artists.

Harvey Kurtzman had a Midas touch for talent, but was himself an astonishingly talented and influential artist, writer, editor, and satirist. The creator of MAD and Playboy's "Little Annie Fanny" was called, "One of the most important figures in postwar America" by the New York Times. Kurtzman's groundbreaking "realistic" war comics of the early '50s and various satirical publications (MAD, Trump, Humbug, and Help!) had an immense impact on popular culture, inspiring a generation of underground cartoonists. Without Kurtzman, it's unlikely we'd have had Airplane, SNL, or National Lampoon.

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman is the first and only authorized celebration of this "Master of American Comics." This definitive book includes hundreds of never-before-seen illustrations, paintings, pencil sketches, newly discovered lost E.C. Comics layouts, color compositions, illustrated correspondence, and vintage photos from the rich Kurtzman archives

With the recent HUMBUG collection and forthcoming reprints of TRUMP and probably HELP, it's a good time to be or to become a Kurtzman fan. THE ART OF HARVEY KURTZMAN is then a necessary purchase.

See also my recent speculation on just how wide-ranging Kurtzman's influence might be:

1 comment:

  1. You're skinting me, Steve! I didn't know anything about this,but now I HAVE to get it. Ah well, who needs to eat anyway. As I said in my 'Jungle Book' piece, Harvey was astoundingly influential. Scary Movie anyone?