Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Number 2211: The Most Dangerous Island of Death Game

I imagine a conversation between Harvey Kurtzman and Bill Gaines or Al Feldstein...or Bill and Al together: “Harvey, we need you to write and draw a horror story for the new book, Vault of Horror.” This would be in 1950, and so far EC Comics had dabbled a bit in horror, some horror stories in their crime comics titles (soon canceled), and finally in titles of their own. Kurtzman might have pulled a book off the shelf, an anthology with “The Most Dangerous Game,” written by Richard Connel. (I am still imagining.) Since its original publication in 1924 it has become a very famous short story, its plot swiped more times than I can count, from desperate writers who need to get a project done. It has also been made into movies more than once (the first time in 1932).

Harvey did a few stories for Feldstein’s books before being given editorial responsibilities. “Island of Death,” from The Vault of Horror #13 (actual #2, 1950) is not a horror story; not even a suspense story like “The Most Dangerous Game,” so it fails under both categories. But Harvey Kurtzman went on to create Mad and his war books for EC, The Jungle Book for Ballantine Books in 1959, “Little Annie Fanny” for Playboy...the list goes on. This story does not cry out with originality, but it is by Kurtzman, and therefore interesting to me.*

The scans come from the 1990 Gladstone reprint, The Vault of Horror #3.

*The New Yorker did a tribute to Harvey Kurtzman in their March 29, 1993, issue. It takes up four pages: a full-page illustration by Will Elder,  a tribute with a brief history of Kurtzman’s work by Adam Gopnick, then a two-page tribute by Art Spiegleman. This is Elder’s page:


Daniel [] said...

“The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Edward Connell jr is of course really a morality tale. I quite like it, in large part because it does not dæmonize those who hunt for sport, but asks them to consider the experience of being hunted.

In some ways, the 1932 movie is more direct; but, though it is a fine film, it does not provide Rainsford's introspection as clearly. Also, someone placing himself in the position of the cinematic Bob Rainsford is going to be thinking more about protecting Eve Towbridge (Fay Wray) than about the first-person perspective of being hunted.

This comic-book story seems to have been a matter of Kurtzman meeting a deadline. There is no particular life-lesson, and the resolution is by two gods-from-machines (Eric and then the hornets). But, just as you say, it is of interest because it is from Kurtzman.

Kirk said...

I like how Elder includes the High School of Music and Art in New York City, where he, Kurtzman, Feldstein, and a few other Mad writers and artists came from all came from (as well as Miss America Bess Myerson.)