Monday, October 06, 2008

Bay of Gigs

Monday Cartoon Day.

After having made several pieces of cartoon journalism for The TV Guide and Esquire, Harvey Kurtzman started using the idea in his next publishing venture, Help. Help was the third magazine Kurtzmnan created after Mad. First he had done Mad in color for Hugh Hefner, calling it Trump. When that failed after only two issues, he started Humbug, a much cheaper produced magazine that lasted for 12 issues. Everyone who participated in that lost money, including the artists, who had to provide art for free instead of taking much better paying jobs. In 1961, Kurtzman was asked by Warren owner Jim Warren to start a humor magazine, which they called Help (which had already been the large lettered plee to the readers on the cover of the first issue of Trump). Jim Warren was a low rent version of Hugh Hefner, a publisher who tried anything to get a foothold into the magazine publishing bussiness. He had made a bit of money on the horror movie magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. He tried to expand that succes into another film magazine calle Famous Westerns of Filmland. The first few issues of which were edited by Harvey Kurtzman. He had more succes with his line of horor magazines, starting with Creepy and Eerie. Help was produced as cheaply as possible, which explains why Kurtzman had a lot of stills with funny dialogue or captions, reprints of copyright free comics and illustrations and cartoons and submissions by young artists, some of which were taken from the University magazines that had been Kurtzman's imspiration in the late forties but which were stioll going strong and some of which were by artists who later became known in the undergroud comix movement. In between all this free stuff he had submission by his old pals, such as Bill Elder and Jack Davis. He also 'discovered' Paul Coker, who was at that point not yet working for Mad, but rather a free lance cartoonist, whose cartoons had appeared in all sorts of magazines and who, like Kurtzman (and Elder) had been a regular contributor to Hillman's Pageant magazine.

For Help #6, Kurtzman sent Paul Coker on an assignment to Cuba. The result is not that different from the pieces Sol Siulverstein was doing for Playboy. But it was the first of many such pieces of cartoon journalism, which impressed me a lot when I saw them first. Paul Coker's remarkable style had been fixed since the start of his career as a cartoonist. In fact, he is still going trong with regular contributions to Mad.


ComiCrazys said...

Oh yeah, darn near forgot how awesome Paul Coker's work is. Great post!

Rod McKie said...

Excellent. Those are great. Thanks for posting them, Ger.

rich tommaso said...

Beautiful stuff--I especially enjoyed the ballroom illustration.