I’ve heard it said several places now. There is a general agreement that Harvey Kurtzman, the first editor of MAD, greatly influenced an entire generation of young comedians, artists, actors, filmmakers and writers who grew up reading his parodies and satires. The people who made SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, for instance, came of age reading MAD, and you can see the direct line in their send-ups and take-offs, deflating pompous politicians and making fun of egomaniacal “celebrities”. Kurtzman’s bent worldview touched many creative minds. I know this is true because I am one of them. Growing up in Michigan and Ohio, my brothers and I subscribed to and pored over MAD Magazine every month. Then we sought out the paperback editions and discovered MAD had started as a subversive comic book before it evolved into a magazine. It was like the underground comics of the 60s, except it was in the 50s and they sold it mainstream. Harvey Kurtzman was a genius, and there is no need (as there was for unknown or forgotten illustrators on some of my previous lists) to tell you his life story here. It has been very well documented in several books and collections. There is even THE ILLUSTRATED HARVEY KURTZMAN INDEX, a meticulous checklist of everything he created, from EC Comics to MAD to TRUMP to HUMBUG to HELP to LITTLE ANNIE FANNY and beyond. One of Kurtzman’s first genius moves was hiring three artists to start MAD. Each of them would prove to be geniuses in their own right, and this checklist is a celebration of that first group:

Will Elder

Jack Davis

Wallace Wood

In addition to illustrating Kurtzman’s stories in the first issues of MAD, these artists also created paperback book covers. We list those books here.

Not even for a second am I suggesting MAD was just about those four men. There were countless other artists and editors involved from day one, and MAD never could have appeared without the inspiration and guidance of its publisher, William M. Gaines, who was smart enough to give MAD first to Harvey Kurtzman. When Kurtzman moved on, another EC editor, Al Feldstein, stepped up and took MAD Magazine in all kinds of new successful directions with a boatload of new artists, cartoonists and cover illustrators. We loved them all: first John Severin and Basil Wolverton very early on, and then Al Jaffee, Kelly Freas, Norman Mingo, Mort Drucker, Don Martin, Dave Berg, Sergio Argonnes, Antonio Prohias, Nick Meglin and countless others.They created joy, laughter, outrage and emotion with each new issue and each new paperback collection. And none of us who memorized them were ever quite the same again.


These are the first editions of the first four MAD paperbacks, written and edited by Harvey Kurtzman.  Details in Jack Davis Covers section below.


The 5th collection is THE BROTHERS MAD, Ballantine 267, 1958.The 6th collection is THE BEDSIDE MAD, Signet S1647, 1959. Cover by Kelly Freas.

The 7th collection was SON OF MAD, Signet S1701, 1960. Cover by Freas. All of the first seven were written by Harvey Kurtzman. Art by Will Elder, Jack Davis & Wallace Wood. SON OF MAD also has art by Russ Heath, Phil Interlandi & John Severin. Kurtzman and Davis have two stories each in #8, THE ORGANIZATION MAD, and #9, THE IDES OF MAD.

Kurtzman's HUMBUG DIGEST & JUNGLE BOOK are shown in the Jack Davis covers section.


The concept that “The Men Who Make Mad” started as a gang of four is supported by this page from the first edition of the first MAD paperback.


Once asked where the humor in MAD had originated, William M. Gaines replied “Will Elder”. This is from WILL ELDER: THE MAD PLAYBOY OF ART, the essential book on Elder’s life, edited by Gary Groth and Greg Sadowski: “Once the decision was made to create a humor comic, Elder became a prime source of inspiration.  With Jack Davis, Wallace Wood, and John Severin already at his disposal, and Elder as a one man comic wrecking crew, Kurtzman was in a position to create a groundbreaking comic book – and he did. The combination of Kurtzman at the helm with a stable of great artists made MAD seem magical to early readers. … MAD could never have happened had not Gaines, Kurtzman, and Elder all combined forces at the same time.”

And magical it was.

Later, when Kurtzman left MAD he went to work for publisher Hugh Hefner on a new humor magazine called TRUMP. The timing was not right for either of them to launch an expensive new magazine, and TRUMP folded after only two issues. Those two issues are collector’s items today, and (if you ever have the opportunity to read them) are like finding lost issues of MAD or HELP!  TRUMP illustrators included Will Elder, Jack Davis, Al Jaffee and Arnold Roth. Kurtzman and Hefner remained friends, and Kurtzman & Elder would become regular PLAYBOY contributors a few years later.


The best book about Kurtzman is THE ART OF HARVEY KURTZMAN by Denis Kitchen & Paul Buhle. Harvey was a triple-threat artist, writer, and editor. His own style was rather primitive, almost like stick figures, and he worked best when he found a fellow mad man to flesh out his ideas in glorious color. That was his friend Will Elder. Kurtzman and Elder were an unbeatable team at MAD, then they did the Goodman Beaver series at HELP! and LITTLE ANNIE FANNY for PLAYBOY. Will Elder’s creation the wide-eyed Annie became an icon of the last half of the twentieth century.





Ballantine 127, 1955.

Will Elder, the maniacally funny MAD artist, also had these two solo covers in the vintage era.



Berkley X573, 1961


HELP! – Harvey Kurtzman, Gold Medal s1163, 1961.

A collection from HELP! Magazine. Illustrators inside include Will Elder, Jack Davis and Gilbert Shelton.

Harvey Kurtzman edited HELP! from 1960 to 1965.



HELP! – Harvey Kurtzman, Gold Medal k1485, 1964 (no date). Specially revised by the author. The revisions cut any references to President Kennedy. It was standard operating procedure to satirize Kennedy in 1961, and very uncool to satirize Kennedy in 1964.

Photo cover with a scene from Will Elder’s “Dogpatch Revisited”. Assistant editor Gloria Steinem photo on the title page.



SECOND HELP! – ING – Harvey Kurtzman, Gold Medal s1225, 1962.


SECOND HELP! – ING – Kurtzman, Gold Medal k1523, 1964. Specially revised by the author. The photo satirizing JFK on the first edition cover had to go in 1964. It was replaced with a photo making fun of Nikita Khrushchev.

WHO SAID THAT? – Kurtzman, Fawcett Special Edition, 1962. Humorously captioned newsmaker photos by Harvey Kurtzman and Chuck Alverson, who was Assistant Editor of HELP! Magazine.  All of Kurtzman’s work for Fawcett Gold Medal is spun off from HELP! Magazine.


FUN AND GAMES – Kurtzman, Gold Medal d1506, 1965.

Although it does not say HELP! Magazine on the cover, this puzzle book is from the people at HELP! Kurtzman was assisted here by HELP! staffers Chuck Alverson and Terry Gilliam.

THE ART OF HARVEY KURTZMAN shows Kurtzman planned another Gold Medal, INSTANT HELP!, which was never published.





From “Goodman Goes Playboy” by Harvey Kurtzman & Will Elder

EXECUTIVE’S COMIC BOOK – Kurtzman & Elder,

Macfadden 50-159, 1962.

This collectible collects four of the five Goodman Beaver stories from HELP! Goodman is a male prototype of Annie Fanny. This book became harder to find when Archie Comics sued the publisher over “Goodman Goes Playboy”, a merciless satire on the world of Hugh Hefner starring Archie and his friends.  When Denis Kitchen reprinted the stories as GOODMAN BEAVER in 1984, Archie Comics still refused to allow the story to be reprinted.


PLAYBOY’S LITTLE ANNIE FANNY – Kurtzman & Elder, Playboy Press, 1966. Oversized softcover. Also published in hardcover.

Archie Comics may not have appreciated “Goodman Goes Playboy”, but Hugh Hefner loved it. He asked Kurtzman to adapt Goodman Beaver into a color comic strip for PLAYBOY.  The first decision was to change Goodman into a sexy female. Annie was born in 1962.




- Kurtzman and Elder, Playboy Press 1972.

A smaller-sized and different selection of the best from PLAYBOY’s comic strip.


PLAYBOY’S LITTLE ANNIE FANNY VOLUME 1, 1962-1970– Kurtzman and Elder, Dark Horse, 2000.

The Playboy Press collections were great, but incomplete. Dark Horse published the complete collection in two volumes.

PLAYBOY’S LITTLE ANNIE FANNY VOLUME 2 1970-1988 – Kurtzman and Elder, Dark Horse, 2001.


WILL ELDER: THE MAD PLAYBOY OF ART – edited by Gary Groth & Greg Sadowski, Fantagraphics, 2003.

A must-have book for all Will Elder fanatics, combining a biographical sketch with selections from MAD, PANIC, TRUMP, HUMBUG, HELP!, PLAYBOY and much more.



Lynn Munroe Books