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Elder, Will


ELDER, WILL (1921– ), U.S. cartoonist. Elder, who was born in the Bronx, n.y., attended the High School of Music and Art, where he began a lifelong friendship with a classmate and future collaborator, Harvey *Kurtzman, in stinging and hilarious cartoon art. Elder's penchant for zany humor flowered early with legendary stunts: when he failed to show up for class, he was discovered by a nervous teacher hanging by his neck in the school coat closet, his face chalked white. Another time he dressed joints of beef in clothing and spread them across train tracks, moaning, "Poor Schlomie! He fell on the tracks," horrifying passers-by.

Elder began his comic book career in 1946, writing and drawing a feature called Rufus Debree in Toy Town Comics. After several cartooning positions, Elder in 1952 joined Kurtzman, creator of Mad magazine, which gave him a chance to display his zany style of humor. Elder penciled and inked his own stories from the first issue on. He was credited with being the main creator of the early, zany Mad "chicken fat" style. His art was most notable for having numerous visual jokes hidden in the nooks, crannies, and backgrounds of the stories he drew. Elder became such a sensation at Mad that issue number 22 featured a book-length biography of him. Elder and Kurtzman left Mad in 1956 and worked together on a number of projects, including some short-lived satirical magazines. In one of them, Help!, Elder and Kurtzman created an innocent Candide-like character, Goodman Beaver. Inspired by a lusty spoof of the comic-book character Archie, Elder and Kurtzman turned the innocent Goodman Beaver, a man, into a sexy woman and named her Little Annie Fanny. Playboy magazine published the four-to-seven-page stories, written by Kurtzman and painted by Elder, from 1962 to 1988. The strip took comic art to new heights with sophisticated and savage satire and carefully painted stories.

Over the years, Elder's genres included crime, science fiction, horror, fantasy, war, and sex. In 2003, Fantagraphics published Will Elder: The Mad Playboy of Art, a definitive career retrospective. It contained more than 100 pages of comics and other art work.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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