Will Elder does Virgil Finlay

Will Elder is one of the greatest cartoonists of all time. He and Harvey Kurtzman were responsible for the early MAD (when it was a comic book) and he went on to illustrate for other humor magazines (usually partnering with Kurtzman). One of Elder's talents was his uncanny ability to mimic the styles of other illustrators. He did so in a way that both honored and lampooned the artist he mimicked. Here's a funny 1957 illustration he did based on the style of the wonderful pulp magazine illustrator Virgil Finlay.

From The Pictoral Arts:

Among many talented cartoonists over the years, Will Elder was one of the top, even though he specialized in satire, and much of it with his compatriot Harvey Kurtzman.

Originally published in Trump magazine in 1957, this illustration satirizes good girl pulp illustration from a decade before. Elder brings his usual 'chicken fat' (extra little sight gags) to the drawing and shows that he could have given Virgil Finlay a run for his money if he had seriously worked for the pulps.

Fantagraphics has two books about Will Elder, and I cherish them: Will Elder: The Mad Playboy of Art and Chicken Fat: Drawings, Sketches, Cartoons and Doodles.

With Trembling Pseudopods

See also: Will Elder, RIP / Funny Will Elder photo / Will Elder interview from Comics Journal / Will Elder and Harvey Kurtzman's "Goodman Goes Playboy" comic


  1. Will Elder is the only cartoonist (well, maybe Crumb on occasion) that could make me laugh out loud at a particular drawring. Not the joke, or the story it was for- they were usually “chicken fat” toss-ins of his own devising. The sheer ridiculousness of what was going on in the illustration is what did it. I remember a hayseed with a big grin cheerily hammering away at something with abandon, all his fingers covered in band-aids. Or the little gangster in old lady drag pushing the enormous gangster in a baby carriage. Or the border illustration he did for MAD magazine #29- a dozen good laughs there. Plus no one could duplicate a cartoonist’s style like Villy Elder. It’s a shame he (and Harvey Kurtzman) spent so many years on “Little Annie Fannie”.

  2. Ah, two great illustrators.  I love all the great old EC artists, Elder’s definitely one of the best, and used to buy up every old Sci-Fi pulp I could find at the local used book store that had Finlay’s illustrations in them.  I liked them better than most of the (non-P.K. Dick) stories.

  3. I just love how he tosses in a gyroscope for the hell of it, or all the stuff tumbling out of a locket that couldn’t possibly hold most of it. Oh, and “GUM”. Heh.

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