“Kurtzman has been the single most significant influence on a couple of generations of comic artists.”
— Art Spiegelman, creator of Maus
“In many ways Harvey was one of the godparents of Monty Python.”
— Terry Gilliam, director
"After MAD, drugs were nothing!"
— Patti Smith.
Cartoonist, writer, and editor Harvey Kurtzman (1924-1993) was the founding editor and creator of the most important comics satire magazine in twentieth century America — MAD. He later founded the satire publications TRUMP, HUMBUG, and HELP!, and co-created Little Annie Fanny for PLAYBOY, considered the most lavish comic strip ever created. Kurtzman was described by The New York Times as having been "one of the most important figures in postwar America."
Kurtzman vigorously and fearlessly lampooned such American institutions as advertising, comic strips, movies, radio, and television — a medium then in its infancy. He is responsible for MAD's moronic gap-toothed mascot Alfred E. Neuman which became a national icon. Kurtzman created the magazine's distinctive logotype, drew many of the early covers, and wrote nearly all of the material for the historic first 28 issues, then left abruptly in a bitter dispute overequity with E.C. publisher William M. Gaines in 1956.
During his tenure at E.C., Kurtzman also wrote and edited two ground-breaking war comics that refused to glorify war — Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat.
In the pages of HELP! magazine (1960-1965), Kurtzman gave national exposure to fledgling cartoonists Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, Jay Lynch, and Skip Williamson who would soon pioneer the Underground Comix movement of the mid-to-late 1960s. Robert Crumb, considered the premiere underground comix artist of his generation, stated that one of Kurtzman's MAD cover images “changed the way I saw the world forever!”
HELP! assistant, Gloria Steinem, would later become the founder of MS. magazine and a feminist icon. Steinem's replacement was an equally unknown college drop-out Terry Gilliam.
This retrospective, curated by Monte Beauchamp (founder, editor, and designer of BLABWORLD, an anthology of painting, illustration, print making, and sequential art) and pioneering underground cartoonist, writer, editor, and publisher Denis Kitchen presents many rare artifacts and original art culled from private collections and the Kurtzman estate.