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Kurtzman, Harvey


KURTZMAN, HARVEY (1924–1993), U.S. comic book creator. A cartoonist, writer, and editor with enormous influence on several generations of cartoonists and readers, Kurtzman was born in New York City and grew up with comic books. He was drawing a regular strip called Ikey and Mikey in chalk on neighborhood streets before he was in his teens. He had his first drawing published in 1939 in an issue of Tip Top Comics. He broke into the world of the commercial comic book market in 1939. After service in the army, Kurtzman found a job with Stan *Lee at Timely Comics, the precursor of modern-day Marvel. His first work was collected in the 1992 book Hey Look!, one-shot comic fillers he wrote, drew, and lettered. In the early 1950s, he created the ground-breaking and fabulously successful Mad, first as a wild color comic book, then as a black and white magazine. Under Kurtzman the magazine vigorously and fearlessly lampooned American institutions, including other comic strips and television, a medium then in its infancy. It was a publication aimed at adults. Kurtzman rediscovered and developed the character Alfred E. Neuman, Mad's moronic gap-toothed mascot, created the distinctive logos, drew many early covers, and wrote most of the material for the historic first 28 issues. He left abruptly in a bitter dispute over equity with the magazine's publisher, William M. *Gaines. In 1957 Kutzman created Trump, a glossy high-budget satire magazine for Hugh Hefner, publisher of Playboy, who ceased publishing the magazine after two issues. In 1957, with other cartoonists, Kurtzman created Humbug, an innovative publication that lasted 11 issues. On his own, in 1959 he started his first pocketbook of all-new comics, Jungle Book. Its impact was profound but it too was commercially unsuccessful. He then partnered with James Warren to create his final satirical publication, Help! There, in the early 1960s, Kurtzman discovered and gave the first national exposure to a number of young cartoonists, including R. *Crumb, who later became integral to the "underground" comix movement. A Kurtzman assistant was Gloria *Steinem, who contributed to the magazine and who later was a founder of the magazine Ms. She was replaced by a college dropout, Terry Gilliam, who became one of the founders of Monty Python's Flying Circus. While at Help!, which relied a lot on photography (old movie stills were fitted out with new captions and complex and zany scenarios were depicted in a comic-book-like format), Kurtzman created a hilarious Candide-like feature called Goodman Beaver with Will *Elder. Kurtzman took the concept to a more financially secure Hugh Hefner, who approved a sex change in the character. The resulting Little Annie Fanny, starting in Playboy in 1962, was the most lavish comic strip ever created, and it continued as a Playboy mainstay until 1988. Such was the respect for Kurtzman and his contribution to the comic medium that the comics industry's oldest and most respected awards, The Harveys, are named for him.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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