But wait, there’s more to recommend The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: Many pages are devoted to Kurtzman’s sketches, overlays and layouts he put together for collaborators to use for their drawings. It’s a fascinating study in how good magazine and comic-book illustration — and art editing —used to be done.
The bio itself follows Kurtzman’s many attempts to control his destiny. He was the creator and the brains of MAD (and he’s the one who had the brilliant idea of taking it from a comic book to a magazine format), but he didn’t own it. He tried his own business ventures, involving humor and/or satire publications, but none succeeded. Unlike, say, Will Eisner, creator of The Spirit (see “The Creator,” posted earlier), Kurtzman’s business sense didn’t hold a candle his artistic sense, the authors say.
Here’s one example: When in 1956 Kurtzman demanded legal control of MAD, owner Bill Gaines countered with an offer of a 10% equity share. Kurtzman walked. Five years later Gaines sold the popular magazine for $5 million. Kurtzman would have made $500,000.
This is a jam-packed book, rich with tales of the time and Kurtzman’s wonderful work. It shows us why the Harvey Awards are named for him.
See my earlier post on this book here.