The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics

Artofkurtzman

MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman's influence extended far beyond his famous comic book. He was also the discoverer, mentor, and inspiration to a large number of brilliant artists, filmmakers, comedians, and artists.

Here's biographical snippet from the dust jacket of the new book The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics:

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 above is no exaggeration. if you want to know the roots of modern American comedy, you need to study Kurtzman. In addition to his comedic genius, Kurtzman was also a tremendously gifted visual artist as well. This book, written by comic books historians Denis Kitchen and Paul Buhle, showcases hundreds of examples of Kurtzman's work throughout his career, including many never-before-seen examples of his earlier comics and art school figure studies and landscapes. It's especially interesting to see his conceptual sketches for magazine covers and comic book stories, which show Kurtzman's powerful command of composition and art direction.

This is a book worth consulting and treasuring for a lifetime.

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics

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  1. I still have a collection of pulp Mads in the original comic book format going back to 1952. I went nuts over the background details in anything done by Will Elder. He and Harvey stayed together through Help, Humbug and Little Annie Fanny. They were on the cutting edge of satire and funny.

  2. “the genesis of Monty Python was formed”–?

    Doesn’t anybody copy-edit jacket copy? Or would Amazon be responsible for this bit of undergraduate prose?

  3. One time, i sent Jack Davis some copies of my books, and he told me on the phone that he wished Harvey Kurtzman was alive to see it. i literally cried on the spot.

    -T

  4. One time, i sent Jack Davis some copies of my books, and he told me on the phone that he wished Harvey Kurtzman was alive to see it. i literally cried on the spot.

    Kurtzman was an absolute genius. A cartoonist all other cartoonists should aspire to be.

    -T

  5. oh, pshaw!

    and sorry about the double post up there. I guess my cache was playing tricks on me, so i thought it didn’t go through.

  6. Glad you linked to this book, it is an absolute must have, I bought it a few weeks ago from Amazon and it hasn’t left my desk since. Kitchen is a very good biographical storyteller and knew Kurtzman since his publishing days. But the real treat in this book is the visual selection, it’s got just the right amount of everything in the art & photos. Also, the look of the book and design is downright fantastic, it treats a cartoonist (Kurtzman) like a fine artist and presents everything with respect and reverence. All around a triumph for monographs on artists.

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