Robert Crumb writes a short, sad story about the career of MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman

(Click to see larger image)

Harvey Kurtzman created MAD in 1952. It started out as a comic book, and the first issues mainly lampooned other comic books (Superman, Archie). It soon branched out to make fun of all cherised American institutions and I would argue that it was the beginning of modern humor that led to Saturday Night Live.

Kurtzman wrote every story for the first 23 issues of MAD, which were illustrated by the cream-of-the-cartoonist crop: Will Elder, Jack Davis, Wally Wood, and Kurtzman himself.

In 1956 Kurtzman left MAD after publisher William M. Gaines refused to give him controlling ownership. Unfortunately, MAD marked the high point of Kurtzman's career, in financial terms. Even though Kurtzman continued to produce brilliant work, he never again experienced the same level of commercial success that he'd had with MAD.

In this introduction to a 1976 one-shot comic book called Kurtzman Komix (published by Kitchen Sink), Robert Crumb writes a bittersweet appreciation for one of America's great cultural treasures.

I have this comic around somewhere. I bought it when it first came out in 1976. But I can't find it (it's probably in a box at my parent's house) so I just bought a copy on eBay for $5. (As I recall, it's not his best work, but I want it anyway!)

(Via The Pictoral Arts)


  1. Some of Crumb’s earliest published work was in Harvey’s Help! mag. Terry Gilliam and Gloria Steinem were there, too. Poor Harvey- he was great, his war comics and Mad were world- changing, TRUMP’s 2 issues are a high point. Unfortunately, he overplayed his hand with his demands for a controlling stake in Mad in 1956 and paid for it forever after. Bill Gaines turned to Al Feldstein, who produced the commercially viable MAD magazine we are familiar with- Harvey was left to churn out the increasingly horrid Little Annie Fanny, and we are left with many sad “what might have been” speculations…

  2. Checking Wikipedia, I see that Little Annie Fanny ran all the way from the early sixties to 1988, with a short revival a decade later. That’s pretty amazing, given that the strip (at least as I remember it) remained solidly rooted in the sixties, both in its type of humor and in not showing genitalia.

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