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Humbug : Two Volumes

4.5 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics Books; First Edition edition (2009)
  • ISBN-10: 156097933X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560979333
  • ASIN: B0049KAEU8
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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 Arnold Roth: Free Lance: A Fifty Year Retrospective 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.
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