Required Reading: Humbug

by Harvey Kurtzman / Jack Davis / Will Elder / Al Jaffee / Arnold Roth

Harvey Kurtzman is one of the most important and overlooked comedic influences of the 20th century. He started as the editor-in-chief of a rowdy little magazine called MAD (from 1952-1956). Everyone from Sid Caesar to Mel Brooks to Mort Sahl to Monty Python count him as an influence.

After the initial success of MAD, Kurtzman and some of his key artists were stolen away by Hugh Hefner and Playboy to create a modern, adult satire magazine called Trump (also soon to be collected and published). The problem was they were given too much autonomy: their own offices, an unlimited budget, no deadlines - Hef finally had to pull the plug on Trump after only two issues. But feeling guilty about it, he let the gang keep using the offices. The result was Humbug - one of the earliest comic collectives/creator own endeavors.

Lasting only 11 issues, Humbug might be arguably some of the best illustrated work of Kurtzman's career. Unfortunately, a number of technical and distribution issues sunk it. He would then follow up with Help! which was famous for the talent it gave early exposure to - like Gloria Steinem, Woody Allen, Robert Crumb, and it was were where John Cleese and Terry Gilliam became acquainted (who then went on to form Monty Python).


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