October 3, 1924 – February 21, 1993
Originally a journeyman cartoonist in the 1940s, but after joining Willaim Gaine's EC Comics in 1951 he became the editor, writer, researcher and artist (and art director) for Two-Fisted Tales in 1950, and then Frontline Combat in 1951.
Because Kurtzman spent a great deal of time investigating (library research and interviewing specialists) for the subjects that were appearing in the stories being put into the two action/war comics he was in control of, he felt an ongoing financial pressure because he was only paid per book, and these two were only bi-monthly titles.
As a way to ramp up his earnings at EC Comics, Gaines suggesting he do a humor book which would take less prep time than the "war books" to produce. The result was Mad Comics #1, October-November 1952.
Kurtzman the innovator
Kurtzman had so many skills as an artist-cum-art director (and editor, etc.) that he was an expert at packaging together a comic book that met some demands that weren't even being made in 1952, especially regarding accuracy and quality. His own drawing style was a stripped down, boldened effort at simplifying.
It's an approach not that different from a radically different embellisher, like Kurtzman's contemporary Frank Frazetta. Both eliminated distractions from their pictures, trying to build up the main point and to eliminate the unnecessary (and the obvious). It's an approach that was an innovation. And it met the needs for more effective advertising of the product that their pictures adorned. These images had to get across the most important piece of information in the cover picture as quickly as possible. At a time when newstands bulged with comic book and magazine titles, making an effective sales pitch meant doing so in a micro-second as the eyes of potential readers scanned across the rows of covers by competitors.
Harvey Kurtzman cover art by Two-Fisted Tales #27
Harvey Kurtzman cover to Two-Fisted Tales #28- see enlarged.
Kurtzman Cover for Two-Fisted Tales #18
Kurtzman cover for Comics Journal #67, 1981
Jack Davis portrait cover of Harvey Kurtzman
Jack Davis artwork - Harvey Kurtzman. See cover enlarged.
Harvey Kurtzman, Mad covers
Original Page January 2014 | Update Feb 2015