Today, we are featuring the work of two giants of cartooning… Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder.
Harvey Kurtzman made a name for himself in his early years with the one page "Hey Look!" comics, as well as his work editing EC Comics’ war comics. His style was detailed and thorough. His layouts and continuity breakdowns left little room for deviation. When EC decided to create a humor line, Kurtzman was assigned the job as the founding editor of Mad. Beginning as a ten cent comic book, and eventually switching to a twenty five cent magazine (to avoid review by the Comics Code Authority), Mad became a huge hit in the five years it was under Kurtzman’s leadership. Much of the sensibilities of Kurtzman’s work for Mad are shared by "Little Annie Fanny" for Playboy.
Will Elder worked as an artist under Kurtzman at EC and on Mad, expanding and elaborating on Kurtzman’s detailed layouts. They were a great team, and the combination of Kurtzman’s foreground action and Elder’s background gags became a standard device for them throughout their collaborations. Other artists who worked on the "Little Annie Fanny" series were Jack Davis, Russ Heath and Al Jaffee (all former Mad alumni).
The "Little Annie Fanny" series debuted in the October 1962 issue of Playboy magazine. The comic was a parody of the Playboy image itself, vaguely based on the "Little Orphan Annie" theme, with lots of topical references and pokes at popular culture. The strip was the first fully painted comic in American magazines, and was very time consuming to produce. Kurtzman continued the series until 1988- its 100th episode- when he retired it, stating that all of the possible story ideas for the character had been exhausted.
We’ll have more great Playboy cartoons for you soon.
This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Magazine Cartoons.