Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Number 2053: Harvey Kurtzman "saw" R. Crumb before he was born.

A little bit of elementary math here: Harvey Kurtzman was born in October, in late 1942 he would have been 18. He drew these two stories for Super-Mystery Comics Vol. 3 No. 4, which appeared with an April 1943 cover date. (I don’t need to explain, do I, that the cover date is the date a magazine goes off sale?) So say it appeared on the comic book racks in February, 1943. The stories were usually handed in several weeks early, before the magazine was printed, for coloring and production work.  “Hap Hazard,” has a startling caricature of what looks to be a person not yet born, cartoonist Robert Crumb. Depending on when Kurtzman drew this character, Crumb, who was born August 30, 1943, was either not yet conceived, or perhaps early in utero at the time Kurtzman was drawing pictures of him. Years later, of course,in the sixties, Kurtzman gave Crumb some of his first professional magazine work in Help! magazine.

Crumb with hat and glasses.

It is at very least an interesting coincidence.

Kurtzman’s early work lacks polish, but not earnestness. It is fun to look at the youthful drawings of someone I respect so much. He grew as an artist so that by the late forties his mature style was well on its way, and by the fifties firmly in place.

Although "Hap" isn’t signed, Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr credits it to Kurtzman.

Here is a link to some other early Kurtzman work. Just click on the thumbnail.


Unknown said...

Did Kurtzman also write the Hap strip? Because the names of those wrestlers are just like the kind he'd later come up with for Mad.

Despite what you wrote about Kurtzman's lack of polish here, Pap, I actually think he did pretty well. It's obvious without reading any of the balloons that the story's meant to be played for laughs, and the panel where the wrestlers fall asleep got just that from me.

Putting aside how silly that Paul Revere, Jr. story was, the action packed into the short strip would've been decompressed into a full issue or two of modern comics. That certainly was breathless pacing.

Darci said...

So you're saying Crumb's mother was scared by a Kurtzman drawing while she was pregnant?

Pappy said...

Ryan, I don't know, but don't doubt that Kurtzman, even in those early years of his career, would have it in him to do some scripting.

Darci, well, that's as good an explanation as any! As a coincidence, I find it an uncanny likeness.