"I wanted to be a cartoonist from the word 'go'"
Harvey Kurtzman was born October 3, 1924 in New York, New York. He had a passion for comic books from his early childhood, and would often be seen searching his neighbor's trash for the Sunday papers. His parents subscribed to "The Daily Worker" and sent him to Camp Kinderland, an upstate left wing summer camp.
During high school, Harvey started drawing caricatures of his classmates, and he found that it "was a way of getting attention in high school. I was the class cartoonist, and I was good at it. I could think up little funny things about any given student." - Even more impressive, when considering that the school was High School of Music and Art. It was during this time that he met some of his future MAD colleagues, William W. Elder, Al Jaffee and others.
Kurtzman graduated in 1939, and he started working with Louis Ferstadt, a portrait painter who worked freelance for DC Comics, Timely Comics (now Marvel Comics) and the Daily Worker. Alongside this, Kurtzman attended the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in Manhattan on a scholarship. In 1945, after returning from army service, he, Will Elder and Charles Stern started the Charles William Harvey Studio, where they did commercial illustrations and other work. They also rented space to other artists, including René Goscinny, Dave Berg and John Severin.
Kurtzman went to meet Stan Lee with a series of comics he had done, called Hey Look!. The small, often absurd, one page stories would be incorporated in Timely's super hero lineup. During his work with Timely/Marvel, Harvey met and befriended several of the artists, and eventually married Adele Hasan, a proofreader, in 1948.
In 1949, Kurtzman approached EC Comics' William M. Gaines and Al Feldstein with his Hey Look! comics. He was hired, and proved himself an excellent writer as he worked on the horror and science fiction comics. He was soon given two comics of his own to write, namely Two-fisted Tales and Frontline Combat, both realistic war comic books. Kurtzman held strict control of the artistic side of the comics even though he only drew few of the stories himself. He was still well-liked, though, and Jack Davis recalls "Harvey was a great teacher, he would give dramatic readings of the scripts that were very inspirational."
Kurtzman also worked on the early Mad Magazine, where he edited and wrote several stories and was the main creative force. He created the infamous Superduperman satire, which cause precedence in what could be allowed as fair use.
In 1956, after four years of Mad, Kurtzman left EC Comics and started work with Hugh Hefner on a glossy magazine called Trump. It was too expensive to produce, though, and it folded after few issues. Kurtzman went on to edit several smaller magazines, including Humbug and Help!, the latter with work by then largely unknown Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton (The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers).
Kurtzman resumed working with Hugh Hefner in October, 1962, at Playboy, with the Little Orphan Annie-bastardization Little Annie Fanny, his perhaps best-known work. His latest works include "From Aargh! to Zap!: Harvey Kurtzman's Visual History of Comics" and Harvey Kurtzman's Strange Adventures, a Marvel-published super hero parody with art by himself, Robert Crumb‚ Sergio Aragonés and Sarah Downs.
Kurtzman has taught at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, and was an honored guest at comic conventions until his death in 1993.
See also other Comics creators.