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The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics Hardcover – Bargain Price, June 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though his tenure lasted less than two years at the publication, Harvey Kurtzman is the genius responsible for Mad magazine's design, cast of characters, and unique brand of irreverence. In this beautifully illustrated volume, Kitchen and Buhle follow Kurtzman from his youth in the Depression-era Bronx, through his early freelance work, to his big break with William Gaines of E.C. Comics and beyond. At E.C., Kurtzman aired his anti-racist, anti-imperialist views in war comics Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat. Kurtzman spent "long hours in the New York Public Library researching" to create authentic entertainment that also "compels contemplation." Once he had a family to feed, Kurtzman embarked on a less time-consuming humor project, which in 1952 launched as a comic book called Mad. For 23 issues, Kurtzman did it all-"every word from front to back, and laid out every cover, each story, and filler"-and, ultimately, saved E.C. from bankruptcy. When E.C. denied the artist's request for partial ownership of the company, Kurtzman left. Eventually, he would establish three different humor magazines, none of which as successful as Mad, and spent the rest of his career doing a comic for Playboy. He remains a major influence on today's comic writers, and this vibrant collection makes it easy to see why.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Denis Kitchen is a pioneering cartoonist, writer, editor, and underground comic book publisher. He represents the Kurtzman estate, and maintains the archives. In 1986 Kitchen established the nonprofit Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and served as its president for its first eighteen years. He lives in western Massachusetts. Paul Buhle is a senior lecturer in the American Civilization and History departments at Brown University. He has written and edited thirty-five books, including Jews and American Comics, and lives in Rhode Island. Harry Shearer is a comic personality and author, director, satirist, musician, radio host, playwright, multimedia artist, and record label owner.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Abrams ComicArts; 1 edition (June 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810972964
  • ASIN: B005CDUPL4
  • Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 1.1 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,598,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Sherm Cohen on June 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Length: 2:54 Mins
Want to look through the Art of Harvey Kurtzman book before you run out and buy it? I just made a video browsing through the whole thing! Take a look at all the rare art and wonderful cartoony delights in the video below...This book has enough history, art and context to introduce new fans and reward long-time readers of the greatest cartoonist of the late twentieth century.The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Robin on June 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
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.

***SEE SOME INSIDE PAGES by clicking 'customer images' under the cover.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tom Sito on June 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Harvey Kurtzman, like his contemporary Wally Wood, is not as well known today, but was one of the most influential cartoonists of the mid Twentieth Century. His style helped define EC Comics, MAD Magazine and Little Annie Fannie. He helped new cartoonists get their starts, from Drew Friedman to Art Speigelman to Robert Crumb. Like Wood, his biggest fans were his fellow cartoonists.
Paul Buhle and Dennis Kitchen have done a masterful job in finally telling the story of this unsung creative genius, in words and images. This book is a MUST for anyone who is serious about becoming a cartoonist or collecting cartoons.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By F. Orion Pozo on September 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Art of Harvey Kurtzman is a large-format well-illustrated overview of Harvey Kurtzman's work. The book is divided into 5 chronological chapters based on major periods in his life. Each chapter is illustrated with rough sketches from Kurtzman's personal archives and other half-finished pieces or sections, as well as at least one finished work from the period.

Chapter 1 is entitled "Hey Look! It's the '40s" and is an outline of his earliest work in cartooning. Included are six of the 150 "Hey Look!" one-page comics he did for Stan Lee's Marvel.

Chapter 2 reviews his work with Bill Gaines' E.C. Comics, mostly doing war comics. There is a 7 page section where his story "Corpse on the Imjin" (from Two-Fisted Tales #25, January 1952) is reproduced in black & white drawings.

Chapter 3 is the heart of the book and devoted to his pioneering work with MAD magazine. Over 30 MAD covers are reproduced as well as the complete "SUPERDUPERMAN!" comic (from MAD #4, April 1953).

Kurtzman left MAD after disagreements with Gaines; and Chapter 4 covers the period in Kurtzman's life when he put out three other magazines: Trump, Humbug and Help! Two Trump covers, 14 Humbug covers, and 15 Help! covers are included as well as a complete 11 page cartoon called "The Grasshopper and the Ant" (from Esquire, May 1960) featuring a beatnik grasshopper and a workaholic ant.

Chapter 5 is mostly about Kurtzman's 25 years producing "Little Annie Fanny" comics for Playboy. A three page "Little Annie Fanny" origin story, which traces her life from a childhood in Al Capp's Dogpatch, through her growing up in "Peanuts" and "Little Orphan Annie," and ending with one-panel affairs with "Dick Tracy," "Beetle Bailey," and "Mandrake the Magician," appears here for the first time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J.D. Guinness on June 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Having first devoured Greg Sadowski's Comics Journal Library tribute to MAD Magazine creator Harvey Kurtzman a couple years ago, I was surprised and not a little excited to learn that Denis Kitchen was putting out his own Harvey Kurtzman art book, said to be the definitive work.

Is it? Well, it's certainly impressive. The Art of Harvey Kurtzman, the Mad Genius of Comics, boasts original artwork from the Master's archives, plus a great deal of rare, unpublished material, all of it spanning his entire career, thus bringing you closer than ever before to Harvey Kurtzman's creative process.

That's exciting in and of itself, and there's abundant reminder here of just how effective and amusing Harvey was when relying on his own drawing for a project (He tended for a good chunk of his career to just do layouts for other artists to follow); he had a very expressive, elongated style, deceptively simple and always captivating.

The one downside is that, unlike Greg Sadowski's book on Kurtzman, there is very little commentary from the man himself, but, hey, this is quite specifically an art book, after all.

We do get a useful reminder of what a benevolent boss Harvey was, helping give young Robert Crumb and Woody Allen some valuable space in the page of his HELP! Magazine, or giving his blessing to young Terry Gilliam when the artist wanted to do a photo shoot with the uniquely photogenic John Cleese (thus creating, quite by accident, the epicentre of what would become Monty Python!).

And besides, anything that includes a special section showing the painstaking layer-technique Kurtzman and colleague Will Elder used when creating Playboy's Little Annie Fanny is pretty spectacular.
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