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Biographies of the Stars

Harvey Kurtzman

Born in New York City on October 3, 1924 Harvey first studied art at the High School of Music & Art and then under scholarship to the Cooper Union - a popular hotspot for art education during the thirties & forties. After graduating he began illustrating comic book stories at Ace publications in 1943. His earliest features were Magno & the Unknown Soldier which appeared in Four Favorites Comics beginning in 1943. Other features he drew were Black Venus, an aviation strip; and the Black Bull which was featured in Prize Comics.

In 1945 he created a syndicated comic strip titled "Silver Linings" for the New York Herald tribune. Shortly thereafter he moved over to Timely Publications where he created his legendary "Hey Look" one pager which ran for several years in Timely's humor comics, and then after leaving the publisher it appeared in other comics titles, including MAD.

When 1950 arrived, Harvey moved his drawing table over to EC, where he was to produce some of the most revered science fiction, horror & war comic stories that have ever been published. Harvey had first come to Bill's attention in 1948 when Bill was contracted by the New York Board of Education to produce some educational comics. One of these comics, "Lucky Fights it Through" was ahealth awareness story aimed at informing high school students about the warning signs and dangers of venereal disease. Harvey illustrated the book and later when he was looking for a new job he landed at EC.

As the editor of the EC line's two combat titles, "Two Fisted Tales" and "Frontline Combat" he brought some of the greatest war stories to hit comics until Joe Kubert drew "Sgt. Rock" in the late fifties through the sixties.

One thing that was integral to the stories Harvey wrote for EC's war comics was that all of them were entirely based on real events, and told the real story. Many of his waking hours were spent researching the short stories to ensure that the facts and the military armament were correct and exact in detail.

He helped to create MAD comics which would go on to be one of the most influential comic books of all time. Spoofing such things as comic characters, TV shows and even movie poster ads and commercials, MAD became the number one humor magazine & is responsible for influencing many great comedians like Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and even Jackie Gleason. It featured articles by Steve Allen, "Jazzbo" Collins and the famous comedian duo Bob & Ray. Other fans included Steven Spielberg, George Lucas & John Landis.

In 1953, to escape the censor's knife, MAD switched from a comic book to a magazine format and Harvey edited the mag for several issues before leaving EC in a dispute with publisher Bill Gaines who passed away last July.

But his talent was not left unnoticed. In 1957 Hugh Hefner, publisher of "Playboy" hired Harvey & there he created "Trump", a humor mag to compete with MAD. Unfortunately, even with the talents of MAD alumnus Jack Davis and Harvey's close friend Bill Elder, "Trump" lasted but a scant two issues before fading into obscurity. After Trump he created "Humbug", another humor zine. But again, the magazine failed afer eleven issues were published.

Next he created "HELP!" for publisher James Warren who is famous for putting out "Famous Monsters" magazine. At HELP! he showcased some of the earliest work of artists Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton and Jay Lynch, and Harvey was assisted by feminist Gloria Steinem and comedian (soon to be Monty Python co-creator) Terry Gilliam.

These artists would later become some the fathers of underground comic art, which they have all claimed is a direct outgrowth of Harvey's influential & innovative talents which were displayed in his various humor magazine endeavors. He is the Goincr=F|dfather of the underground comic movement, and even drew several features for the undergrounds.

In October 1962, Harvey & Bill Elder created the Playboy feature "Little Annie Fanny". A spoof combination of the sexually naive American woman & the impish comic strip character Little Orphan Annie, Playboy's "Annie" was the central figure in the perceived fantasy world of the male bachelor animal. Indeed, Annie was designed to epitomize the image of the blond sex toy.

During the course of his forty plus years as an cartoonist/illustrator and humorist, he also drew a feature about a pubescent teenager named "Goodman Beaver". A spinoff of Humbug, Goodman later appeared in his own paperback book.

Goodman, a wilder version of the teen idol "Archie", was prone to getting involved in the things that were routinely left out of the tamer, homogenized Archie strip. Many a nude woman were found in the arms of the freckle-faced Goodman. The title of GOODMAN BEAVER itself evokes wild thoughts of what is expected within the pages of those stories.

Another paperback Harvey wrote & illustrated was "The Jungle Book". Unlike the Rudyard Kipling book of the same title, Kurtzman's version of the "Jungle" was New York City, and spoofed the New York business world in an "Executive Suite" styled short story, and then took aim at the hard boiled detective story as well as others. Critically acclaimed, it was a great success and is hailed by cultists of Kurtzman's work.

Harvey also worked with Dan Barry, Jack Davis & Frank Frazetta on the Flash Gordon daily comic strip for a short period in the early fifties.

For the past two decades Harvey had been a frequent guest at comic book conventions around the world, and it was a most common sight to see him buried deep in crowdssigning autographs for fans & giving them tips on illustrating comics.

For his most recent work he donned a historian's cap and produced a book entitled "From Aargh! to Zap!: Harvey Kurtzman's Visual History of Comics" which was published in 1990.

As a seminal influence, as an innovative creator or as just a comic artist he has been one of the greatest to walk the planets of the comic universe and this icon of American humor will be missed by millions. Though gone, he will never be forgotten and will live eternally in our collective memories.

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