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Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder met when they were students at Manhattan's High School of Music and Art. In the late 1940s, the two teamed with Charles Stern to form the Charles William Harvey Studio, creating comics between 1948 and 1951 for Prize Comics and other publishers. At EC Comics, he inked John Severin's pencils on stories for Weird Fantasy, Two-Fisted Tales, Frontline Combat and other titles.
When Kurtzman created Mad in 1952, Elder was one of the comic book's original team of five artists (Kurtzman, Elder, Severin, Jack Davis and Wally Wood). and his wacky panels, filled with background gags, immediately attracted attention, first with "Ganefs!" in Mad's debut issue but especially in the second issue with "Mole!" The story depicted the successive efforts of prisoner Melvin Mole to tunnel away from the prison, first with a spoon, then with a toothpick and finally with a nostril hair. The wild exaggeration in this story left such a strong impression that it was often quoted ("Dig! Dig!") and even referenced years later in a Psychology Today illustration.
Whatever humorous slant Kurtzman devised in his layouts received a heightened hilarity and amplification when Elder sat down to draw the finished art, and Elder's insertion of background gags set the tone for the entire comic book, quickly spreading throughout into the panels of the other Mad artists and other comic books imitating Mad. Elder's device of separate foreground and background actions was referenced by Louis Malle in his film Zazie dans le métro.
He collaborated frequently with Kurtzman. After leaving Mad, the two worked together on a string of short-lived humor magazines: Trump, Humbug and Help!. For Help!, Elder parodied Archie Comics with his "Goodman Beaver" strip, considered by many to be Elder and Kurtzman's greatest collaboration. The series was reprinted by Kitchen Sink Press with each panel expanded to page size so the readers could see all the little gags.
In the 1960s, Elder and Kurtzman worked for Playboy magazine on the cartoon parody feature "Little Annie Fanny", a color comic a few pages long that starred a naively chaste, busty blond. In 2001, Dark Horse Comics published the trade paperback collections Playboy's Little Annie Fanny, Volume 1" and Playboy's Little Annie Fanny, Volume 2: 1970-1988.
As well, Elder's advertising art, caricatures, cartoons, illustrations and stories were collected in the 392-page career retrospective, Will Elder: The Mad Playboy of Art.
Date of Birth: September 22, 1921
Birthplace: Bronx, New York
Date of death: May 15, 2008
Will Elder is a favorite creator of 3 users
- 1991 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards - Nominee - Hall of Fame
- 2000 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards - Nominee - Hall of Fame
- 2001 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards - Nominee - Hall of Fame
- 2002 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards - Nominee - Hall of Fame
- 2003 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards - Winner - Hall of Fame: (Voter's choice)
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