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Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America

Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America

Bill Schelly



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This biography reveals the true story of Mad creator Harvey Kurtzman—the man who revolutionized humor in America.

Harvey Kurtzman created Mad, and Mad revolutionized humor in America. Kurtzman was the original editor, artist, and sole writer of Mad, one of the greatest publishing successes of the twentieth century. But how did Kurtzman invent Mad, and why did he leave it shortly after it burst, nova-like, onto the American scene?

For this heavily researched biography, Bill Schelly conducted new interviews with Kurtzman’s colleagues, friends, and family, including Hugh Hefner, R. Crumb, Jack Davis, and many others, and examined Kurtzman’s personal archives. The result is the true story of one of the twentieth century’s greatest humorists. Kurtzman’s family life, the details of the FBI’s investigation during the McCarthy Era, his legal battles with William M. Gaines (publisher of Mad), are all revealed for the first time. Rich with anecdotes, this book traces Kurtzman’s life from his Brooklyn beginnings to his post-Mad years, when his ceaseless creativity produced more innovations: new magazines, a graphic novel, and Little Annie Fanny in Playboy.

"I highly endorse and recommend Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America... Though 644 pages long, it reads like a breeze and I was sorry it was over when it was. It is scrupulously researched and filled with grand insights into its subject without forcing you into one particular interpretation."
Mark Evanier, News from ME

"Bill Schelly has done a solid piece of work. Informative and fun for comics fans who have long glorified Kurtzman... For the general public, the book is Kurtzman's long overdue induction into the pantheon of certified American comic geniuses. ... Schelly details Kurtzman's life honestly and wisely avoids exploiting the melodrama in the rise and sad, slow fall of Harvey Kurtzman..."
Paul Karasik, The Comics Journal

Bill Schelly (1951-2019) was an Eisner Award-winning biographer and chronicler of comics fandom, who wrote books about comics luminaries Harvey Kurtzman, Joe Kubert, John Stanley, Otto Binder, and comedic silent film star Harry Langdon. His final book was the expanded edition of his autobiography, Sense of Wonder, in 2018.

644 page hardcover
Fantagraphics Books, 2015

Tags: Art History, biography, history, humor, publishing View full details