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Humbug (2 Volume Set) Hardcover – Box set, August 13, 2008

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Humbug (2 Volume Set) + The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics + MAD's Greatest Artists: Mort Drucker: Five Decades of His Finest Works
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 476 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics; Slipcased Two Volume Edition edition (August 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156097933X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560979333
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 7.9 x 10.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #907,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. MAD's early years have been justly lauded for their japing assault on postwar American culture, but this outstanding two-volume boxed set reflects the history of comedy in the period after staff stars like Kurtzman jumped ship in 1956. Humbug, whose mere 11 monthly issues published in 1957 and 1958 are all collected here, was a refreshing if little-noticed seat-of-the-pants hybrid of MAD-style buffoonery and a tony wit that sadly never found its place. Read today, Humbug seems a time capsule from when comedy was entering its drier, postvaudevillian period; comedians still wore ties and were expected to if not attend college at least have read a book or two. The magazine's mix of chaos and control—Kurtzman's Cecil B. DeMille–sized comedic crowd scenes set against Larry Siegel's pitch-perfect literary satires—creates an uneasy balance that almost necessitated a short shelf life, much in the same manner as National Lampoon (which years later briefly picked up the mantle that Humbug threw down). The set might not be best for end-to-end reading (11 issues is a heavy dose, with all those Sputnik and Have Gun, Will Travel references) but for dry cocktail laughs and low schoolboy snorts, it's hard to think of a better pair of books to have at your nightstand. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

When editor Harvey Kurtzman left the original, comic-book-format MAD to helm the Playboy-size Trump for Hugh Hefner, he took the best MAD artists along with him. Most stayed with Kurtzman when Hefner shut down Trump but let the staff retain its offices to produce Humbug. Owned equally by Kurtzman and four artists, Humbug lasted only from August 1957 to August 1958 but realized, more fully than anything else Kurtzman edited, his dream of a topical satire magazine primarily for adults. Kurtzman packed Humbug’s 32 pages with movie and TV parody comics like those that dominated his MAD; single-panel and sequence cartoons similar to the New Yorker’s; prose parodies of popular novels with, usually, one illustrative cartoon; parody product advertisements; and spoofs of popular-magazine articles on such pop-culture staples as child care, dieting, physical fitness, sports, and trends. All of Humbug except the Trump reprints that plumped up the final issue is in this set, along with an appreciative introduction and a long interview with Humbug co-owners Al Jaffee and Arnold Roth. It’s the dawning of contemporary satire in a box. --Ray Olson

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 12 customer reviews
THe book's production values are beautiful.
DE Burke
There are some seriously funny features in just eleven issues and don't forget the great artists: Jack Davis, Will Elder, Jaffee and Roth.
Robin Benson
He changed humor and the way we look at the world for the better with his irreverent, thoughtful satirical writing and artwork.
Edwi R. Spiegel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Robin Benson on April 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A tip of the hat to Fantagraphics for this sumptuous two volume Humbug package. The complete eleven issues (well, not quite: sixteen pages are missing but I'll get to that shortly) of Kurtzman's third attempt at a humor magazine. By all accounts though, it seemed a bit of a non-starter. It was the wrong size, wrong price, wrong pagination and printed on the wrong paper despite a cracking editorial team. All of this is put right with this reprint which is on a decent bit of stock so the art really sparkles. Incidentally both books have a four page section at the back detailing the problems of reproducing the original art.

Book one has an eight page introduction to the magazine and at the back a thirty-four page interview with Al Jaffee and Arnold Roth. Both features give a lot of background to Kurtzman, the artists and the business decisions surrounding Mad, Trump, Humbug and Help! Everyone seems to agree that with Humbug Kurtzman reached his peak and I would agree with this. There are some seriously funny features in just eleven issues and don't forget the great artists: Jack Davis, Will Elder, Jaffee and Roth. Fans of Jack Davis (especially me) are in for a treat because there's tons of it including some wonderful two panel pages with a `Scenes we'd like to see' kind of feature.

Like Mad and Trump there are some great ad parodies and like the color covers they are printed on a slightly better paper. Another neat idea are the ten pages at the back of book two called Annotations where ads and features are explained to those who weren't around to buy Humbug on the newsstand.

The missing sixteen pages?
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By El Kabong on May 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I type these words with heavy heart for a number of reasons.

One, I'm a Kurtzmaniac; have been ever since I devoured my first Ballantine sideways-paperback of MAD comic reprints as a mere nipper in the early 60s. Bill Gaines parsimoniously withheld Kurtzman's name in all of those books, but once exposed to his unique linguistic lunacy, it became imprinted on my psyche, and it wasn't long before I ferreted out the identity of this particular comics genius. Like many of you, I subsequently made up for lost time when Russ Cochran finally loosed the entire Kurtzman-at-EC canon on the world - in hard covers, yet! - which only increased, exponentially, my high opinion of him.

Two, I hold Fantagraphics in similar high regard; though I have limited patience for their contemporary comics projects, I consider their reprints of classic work (from NEMO to Crumb to Pogo, and all points between) to be nothing less than a public service, keeping worthwhile comics alive in an age when the world is drowning in superhero flotsam like never before.

So believe me, it PAINS me to weigh in on these long-awaited HUMBUG volumes with a lukewarm three stars out of five. (Actually, Fanta is off the hook entirely - the books are physically splendid, produced with love and care and done to their usual high standard.) The problem, I'm afraid, is with HUMBUG itself. It reads, and feels, awfully tired - as though everyone involved had tilled these particular fields before (as they had, of course); sadly, there's a deflated, defeated feel to a lot of the satire. The artwork is more often than not terrific, but the scripting tends to wheeze when it should percolate, and even take flight.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Andromeda on May 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First off, "Humbug" is just plain hilarious - there were times reading "Humbug" when I was laughing so loud, I was afraid the neighbors were going to call the police. Kurtzman is definitely on a high note during this period, and Larry Siegel, who would go on to write for Mad and other humor magazines, puts in some great prose work as well. Al Jaffee and Jack Davis put in career best work - their art is stunning - I just have never seen better from Davis. Jaffee's articles, the writing and the art, are spectacular, inventive, imaginative, scathing in their satire. Arnold Roth was a great discovery for me in this collection, and I immediately picked up "Free Lance," deeply discounted on Amazon. Will Elder's photo realistic ad parody's are incredible, and of course he also contributes his usual brilliantly madcap illustration of Kurztman penned comics.

The material, if anything, was amazingly timely - I was astounded at Kurtzman, Jaffee, Roth and Siegel's ability to find those timeless qualities in the everyday in their satire. True, today's sensationalistic media, game shows, corrupt politicians, intelligence-insulting ads, and chintzy consumer products have different names, but they still have qualities that touch on the universal folly of humankind, and thus we can relate to the humor presented in "Humbug."

The material that is firmly of it's time serves as a history lesson, and in some cases, is a reminder of how far we have come as a nation. The civil rights movement was just getting started, and many of the "Humbug" articles touch on racism. Their (cartoon) version of Olberman's "Worst Person in the World" was called "The Humbug Award," one of which was given to Gov.
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