In 1956, Hugh Hefner gave MAD's founding editor an unlimited budget for a new satire magazine called "TRUMP"
Harvey Kurtzman is a hero of satire, the guy who convinced Bill Gaines's mother to bankroll a comic book called MAD, then doubled down by turning MAD into a magazine -- only to jump ship five issues later after a bizarre fight with the Gaineses, finding refuge with Playboy founder Hugh Hefner who gave him an unlimited budget to start an all-star, high-quality satire magazine called TRUMP, which lasted for two legendary, prized issues, now collected in a gorgeous hardcover from Dark Horse.
Kurtzman shepherded MAD through the darkest days of comics' trumped-up moral panic, securing finances to continue the comic-book, then converting MAD to a more expensive magazine that found an even larger audience. Kurtzman's bold editorial vision brought in some of satire's greatest writers and illustrators, despite MAD's lousy pay, but he fretted that his bosses, the Gaines family, would inevitably start to jostle his elbow -- or sell the magazine out from under him -- so he demanded an unrealistic 51% of the shares in their publishing company, precipitating an abrupt parting of ways.
But Kurtzman was scooped up by Hugh Hefner, riding high on the success of Playboy, who offered Kurtzman a literally unlimited budget to pay the greatest satirical writers and illustrators to run wild with their imaginations, even when that meant gatefold "centerfolds," color interiors, and the kind of high-end printing that could display the most fiendishly detailed illustration down to the finest comic cross-hatch.
The resulting magazine was called TRUMP, and it ran for two glorious issues before it was laid low by a combination of Kurtzman's unrestrained spending, the collapse of Playboy's distributor (the print edition of Boing Boing was also felled by the collapse of its distributor!), and an economic downturn that shut down Playboy's line of credit.
Both issues are collected in a $16 hardcover anthology -- a steal when you consider that the original issues go for $50-100! -- along with all the known surviving roughs for the third issue, which was in progress when Heff pulled the plug.
The reproductions are accompanied by Denis Kitchen's excellent annotations, which present the whole story of TRUMP, along with contextual notes for the gags, many of which reference current events, media, and ads that are largely lost in the mists of time.
The anthology is timely, thanks in part to the accidental confluence of its name with the self-satirizing President of the USA. But there's a timelessness to many of these pieces, like the spread of clickbait titles for classic literature (lampooning the day's vogue for cheap paperbacks of "worthy" novels):
And the section on debullshitifying corporatese, which would be very much at home in today's online satiresphere:
And the gorgeously staged photospread making fun of gorgeously staged photospreads:
Of course, there's loads of anachronistic stuff, like this Onion-style piece about an uprising in Brooklyn over the Gowanus canal:
Or this double-spread, making fun of the then-absurd idea of "planned obsolescence":
Not all the anachronisms are this pleasant: 1956 was not a good year for racial or gender justice, and the fact that this was being targeted to Playboy's audience meant that there was more than a little casual racism and misogyny,
stuff that MAD, with its younger audience, steered largely clear of.
That said, this really is all-star, vintage satire, with material from the then-unknown Mel Brooks, Wally Wood, Will Elder, and MAD stalwarts like Al Jaffee.
Kurtzman was heartbroken by the collapse of TRUMP, but before and after, he produced the satire that defined the era.
This volume fills in a gap in the Kurtzman historical record, and it brought me immeasurable joy -- something that few TRUMPs can claim to have done this decade.
Trump: The Complete Collection [Harvey Kurtzman/Dark Horse]
Portland! Come see me tonight in Fort Vancouver with my new book RADICALIZED! Next up: Seattle & Anaheim!
Thanks to everyone who came out to last night's book tour event with Richard Kadrey at Berkeley Arts and Letters; I'm in the final stretch of the tour now, with a keynote tonight at 7PM at the Ft Vancouver Library's Revolutionary Reads series, (Clark Community College’s Gaiser Hall, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver WA 98663) […]
San Francisco! Come see me and Richard Kadrey in Berkeley on Monday with my new book RADICALIZED! Next up: Portland/Ft Vancouver, Seattle & Anaheim!
I've had a fabulous weekend at Chicago's C2E2 festival as part of my Radicalized book-tour, and now I'm heading to San Francisco for an appearance on Monday night at Berkeley Arts & Letters at 7:30PM with Richard Kadrey. Then it's on to The Revolutionary Reads series at Ft Vancouver (outside of Portland, OR), and then […]
This morning, CBC's flagship weekend programme Day Six aired its latest episode (MP3), a conversation between host Brent Bambury, me, and Tim Maughan, the author of an outstanding debut novel called Infinite Detail. (Image: Jason Vermes/CBC)
If you’re going to pursue a career in graphic design, videography or web development, there are some essential tools you need to have – and all of them are included in the Adobe Creative Cloud. And whether you need to brush up on Illustrator, Photoshop or InDesign – or are a beginner to them all […]
Got a vision to put on film? The Film & Cinematography Mastery Bundle shows you how to put it there, with classes covering gear, lighting, production – even marketing. Even in this age of indie cinema, filmmaking can seem like an exclusive world for the chosen few. But with the right eye – and the […]
If you’re into tech at all, you should definitely consider unleashing your inner tinkerer on a Raspberry Pi board. If you’re intimidated, don’t be. It’s a statistical probability that people half your age have created cooler things than you can imagine with the versatile kit. Not sure where to start? The Complete Raspberry Pi 3B+ […]