Book Review: The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics

Well worth the wait! At last a super looking book about the comics funny man. There are several books about Mad and a recently published Humbug reprint (a Trump one is touch-and-go) help to reveal how great Kurtzman was and this book is a handsome biography not only in words but with two hundred well chosen illustrations.

His story, by Kitchen and Buhle, is helped because they represent the Kurtzman estate and clearly had access to a lot of original artwork which I doubt has been seen before. You'll see art from Two-fisted Tales, Frontline Combat, Mad, Trump, Humbug, Help! and Little Annie Fanny all with decent captions, too.

The book's production is really first-class and a nice touch is the addition of four pages printed on tracing paper that overlay a page of Little Annie Fanny, the long captions explain just how much work went into each page of the Playboy feature.

Since his death in 1993 Kurtzman's stature has grown and rightly so but I thought it unfortunate that he never quite achieved the perfection he was always striving for with his publications. I bet he would have appreciated the love and care that has gone into this book tribute.

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics - 01
Little Annie Fanny, Playboy, August 1967.

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics - 02
Roughs and final art for 'Kings in disguise', a graphic novel from 1988.

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics - 03
The Executive's comic book cover and art from Help!, August 1962.

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics - 04
Roughs for 'Superduperman!', Mad April-May 1953. The story is run on the next eight pages in the book, in color too.

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics - 05
Some 1948 freelance work away from comics.

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics - 06
A lovely touch, I thought, were these four tracing-paper printed sheets detailing how a typical page of Little Annie Fanny was created, from Playboy, May 1978. The long captions describe the huge amount of work that went into this popular feature.

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics - 07
Roughs and covers for Help!

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics - 08
Rejected ideas for a feature on the Freudian aspects of cars, 1958.

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics - 09
Trump gets wrapped up in just two pages, a shame because the only two issues published had some of Kurtzman's greatest editorial ideas.

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics - 10
Mad, June 1954 with a feature called '3-Dimensions!'

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics - 11
Left: the original artwork for the first issue of the liberated new look Mad. The caption says this artwork was framed and kept on the wall of Kurtzman's living room for the rest of his life.

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics - 12
Right: Kutrzman featured in a Scripto TV commercial 1972, drawing Little Annie Fanny on a prison cell wall.

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics - 13
Figure drawings from 1941 while at the High School for Music and Art, NYC.

The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics - 14
Title spread.

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