Humbug
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Humbug

by Jack Davis, Al Jaffee, Harvey Kurtzman, Arnold Roth
     
 

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Nominated for a 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Award: You know MAD. Do you know Humbug?
Harvey Kurtzman changed the face of American humor when he created the legendary MAD comic. As editor and chief writer from its inception in 1952, through its transformation into a slick magazine, and until he left MAD in 1956, he influenced an entire generation of

Overview

Nominated for a 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Award: You know MAD. Do you know Humbug?
Harvey Kurtzman changed the face of American humor when he created the legendary MAD comic. As editor and chief writer from its inception in 1952, through its transformation into a slick magazine, and until he left MAD in 1956, he influenced an entire generation of cartoonists, comedians, and filmmakers. In 1962, he co-created the long-running Little Annie Fanny with his long-time artistic partner Will Elder for Playboy, which he continued to produce until his virtual retirement in 1988.
Between MAD and Annie Fanny, Kurtzman’s biographical summaries will note that he created and edited three other magazines—Trump, Humbug, and Help!—but, whereas his MAD and Annie Fanny are readily available in reprint form, his major satirical work in the interim period is virtually unknown. Humbug, which had poor distribution, may be the least known, but to those who treasure the rare original copies, it equals or even exceeds MAD in displaying Kurtzman’s creative genius. Humbug was unique in that it was actually published by the artists who created it: Kurtzman and his cohorts from MAD—Will Elder, Jack Davis, and Al Jaffee—were joined by universally acclaimed cartoonist Arnold Roth. With no publisher above them to rein them in, this little band of creators produced some of the most trenchant and engaging satire of American culture ever to appear on American newsstands. At last, the entire run of 11 issues of Humbug is being reprinted in a two-volume slipcased hardcover deluxe format, much of it reproduced from the original art, allowing even owners of the original cheaply-printed issues to experience the full impact for the first time.
Nominated for a 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Award: (Best Archival Collection/Project: Comic Books).

Editorial Reviews

News from ME - Mark Evanier
“[A] superb two-volume boxed set that reprints Humbug in full, plus it also contains proper introductions and interviews with some who worked on the magazine. The material is excellent. It's Kurtzman, Elder, Davis, Al Jaffee, Arnold Roth and a few others working at the peak of their awesome powers. The package is excellent. It's well-designed and well-printed, and I can't think of a way in which it could have been improved.”
Robot 6 - Chris Mautner
“It’s a really impressive collection of work... and the production design here is nothing short of stunning. Fantagraphics really knocked this one out of the park in restoration.”
Fort Worth Business Press - Michael H. Prince
“Smart writing, savvy pop-cultural lampoons mirroring the mid-century’s social turmoil, brilliant artwork.”
Bookforum - Ben Schwartz
“Humbug reveals Kurtzman as a satirist who still demands our attention.”
Comic Book Resources
“Humbug is a testament not only to Kurtzman’s genius, but to the astounding skills of his fellow artists as well—people like Jack Davis, Will Elder…Al Jaffee and Arnold Roth and R.O. Blechman.”
San Antonio Current - John Defore
“A comics blockbuster.”
The Guardian - Roger Sabin
“A deluxe collection of a classic but long-forgotten satirical magazine…Originally edited by Harvey Kurtzman of MAD fame, and written and drawn by his MAD compadres, among them Jack Davis and Will Elder, Humbug was cool beyond cool.”
Hairy Green Eyeball - Harry Lee Green
“The Humbug set from Fantagraphics is out and it's great. Fine printing and binding will keep this slipcased two-volume set looking good long after the rest of us are gone.”
San Antonio Current - Rick Klaw
“Never before reprinted, Fantagraphics recently collected Humbug, complete with new essays, interviews, and annotations, in two handsome hardback volumes....Jack Davis and Will Elder... elevated the comic-book parody beyond the standards of MAD and Trump. For Humbug, Davis produced some of the best work of his long career. Al Jaffee... tackled varied topics... all with equal skill and irreverence.”
Miami Herald - Richard Pachter
“This lovingly restored collection of Humbug's five issues is accompanied by essays, interviews and annotations, providing a glimpse into what MAD had wrought.”
PLAYBACK:stl - Byron Kerman
“This omnibus of all eleven issues of Humbug is equal parts giddy genius and period piece. The satire is razor-sharp... [T]here are such subtleties here and such rapier wit that the line is clearly visible from the Algonquin Round Table to Kurtzman to Crumb to Ralph Bakshi to Mr. Show to The Colbert Report.”
Bookgasm - Rod Lott
“Kurtzman and company aimed high for a more sophisticated humor mag than the competition...Fantagraphics’ package for it is bar none—handsome, sturdy and restored with great care...I was most interested in the behind-the-scenes story of Humbug and the creative process that went into it—not to mention doomed it—and the book’s introduction and exclusive interviews more than satisfy on that count.”
Arthur Magazine - Byron Coley and Thurston Moore
“In a way, Humbug almost feels like a goof-humor version of The New Yorker or something. There’s a lot of fairly serious political/social commentary, cloaked in wry rainment. It’s a blend as interesting as any cocktail, and it’s goddamn great to have this stuff easily available. Hats away!”
Detroit Metro Times - Jeffrey Morgan
“Unparallel parodists Kurtzman and Elder ran rampant for themselves when they published these 11 exceptional issues of comic art anarchy. This two-volume hardcover box set has been reproduced from the original art and digitally restored to make everything look even better than when it first came out in 1957. This long-overdue definitive edition of Humbug is an essential slice of satire from the masters of the genre.”
NPR.org - John McAlley
“A lot of Humbug’s humor now tickles the mind more than the funny bone, collected here it serves to fill in the missing piece on a seminal period of satiric shenanigans.”
Vice - Nick Gazin
“This is the best thing I have ever been sent to review. I didn't think that this book would ever exist but now it does and it'd better than I could have imagined... The eleven issues of Humbug are faithfully reprinted in this two-volume hardcover set and it comes in a fancy and sturdy box. The magazines were funny and beautiful with art by Will Elder and Jack Davis and some other folks. If you don't buy this book then I don't want to know you...There is no excuse for not buying this right now. Sell your hair, blood, or skin to get it.”
Robot 6 - Timothy Hodler
“[I]ncludes so many all-time great cartoonists (Kurtzman, Jaffee, Elder, etc.) at the peak of their powers and ambitions.”
Bizarre Magazine - David McComb
“Featuring the entire run of Humbug satirical magazines masterminded by Harvey Kurtzman, creator of the legendary US comic MAD, this luscious two-volume box set will fascinate.”
North Adams Transcript - John Mitchell
“It’s Humbug that functions as the spiritual father for magazines such as National Lampoon, Spy and The Onion, among many others, but there’s something invigorating about it because of its vantage point in the supposedly stodgy and bland 1950s. Coming out of that decade, Humbug really did break new ground.”
Irregular Orbit - M. Ace
“[T]he artwork is uniformly mind-blowing. ... This collects the whole ill-fated run in a luxurious hardbound package including top-notch background material. Worth it for the mammoth Arnold Roth and Al Jaffee interview alone.”
The Comics Journal - Rich Kreiner
“At long last, a handsome, two-volume, slipcased set brings back into print a pivotal, neglected portion of the oeuvre of Harvey Kurtzman and that of a cadre of gifted pranksters bent on smart satire.”
Mark Evanier - News from ME
“[A] superb two-volume boxed set that reprints Humbug in full, plus it also contains proper introductions and interviews with some who worked on the magazine. The material is excellent. It's Kurtzman, Elder, Davis, Al Jaffee, Arnold Roth and a few others working at the peak of their awesome powers. The package is excellent. It's well-designed and well-printed, and I can't think of a way in which it could have been improved.”
Chris Mautner - Robot 6
“It’s a really impressive collection of work... and the production design here is nothing short of stunning. Fantagraphics really knocked this one out of the park in restoration.”
Michael H. Prince - Fort Worth Business Press
“Smart writing, savvy pop-cultural lampoons mirroring the mid-century’s social turmoil, brilliant artwork.”
Ben Schwartz - Bookforum
“Humbug reveals Kurtzman as a satirist who still demands our attention.”
John Defore - San Antonio Current
“A comics blockbuster.”
Roger Sabin - The Guardian
“A deluxe collection of a classic but long-forgotten satirical magazine…Originally edited by Harvey Kurtzman of MAD fame, and written and drawn by his MAD compadres, among them Jack Davis and Will Elder, Humbug was cool beyond cool.”
Harry Lee Green - Hairy Green Eyeball
“The Humbug set from Fantagraphics is out and it's great. Fine printing and binding will keep this slipcased two-volume set looking good long after the rest of us are gone.”
Rick Klaw - San Antonio Current
“Never before reprinted, Fantagraphics recently collected Humbug, complete with new essays, interviews, and annotations, in two handsome hardback volumes....Jack Davis and Will Elder... elevated the comic-book parody beyond the standards of MAD and Trump. For Humbug, Davis produced some of the best work of his long career. Al Jaffee... tackled varied topics... all with equal skill and irreverence.”
Richard Pachter - Miami Herald
“This lovingly restored collection of Humbug's five issues is accompanied by essays, interviews and annotations, providing a glimpse into what MAD had wrought.”
Byron Kerman - PLAYBACK:stl
“This omnibus of all eleven issues of Humbug is equal parts giddy genius and period piece. The satire is razor-sharp... [T]here are such subtleties here and such rapier wit that the line is clearly visible from the Algonquin Round Table to Kurtzman to Crumb to Ralph Bakshi to Mr. Show to The Colbert Report.”
Rod Lott - Bookgasm
“Kurtzman and company aimed high for a more sophisticated humor mag than the competition...Fantagraphics’ package for it is bar none—handsome, sturdy and restored with great care...I was most interested in the behind-the-scenes story of Humbug and the creative process that went into it—not to mention doomed it—and the book’s introduction and exclusive interviews more than satisfy on that count.”
Byron Coley and Thurston Moore - Arthur Magazine
“In a way, Humbug almost feels like a goof-humor version of The New Yorker or something. There’s a lot of fairly serious political/social commentary, cloaked in wry rainment. It’s a blend as interesting as any cocktail, and it’s goddamn great to have this stuff easily available. Hats away!”
Jeffrey Morgan - Detroit Metro Times
“Unparallel parodists Kurtzman and Elder ran rampant for themselves when they published these 11 exceptional issues of comic art anarchy. This two-volume hardcover box set has been reproduced from the original art and digitally restored to make everything look even better than when it first came out in 1957. This long-overdue definitive edition of Humbug is an essential slice of satire from the masters of the genre.”
John McAlley - NPR.org
“A lot of Humbug’s humor now tickles the mind more than the funny bone, collected here it serves to fill in the missing piece on a seminal period of satiric shenanigans.”
Nick Gazin - Vice
“This is the best thing I have ever been sent to review. I didn't think that this book would ever exist but now it does and it'd better than I could have imagined... The eleven issues of Humbug are faithfully reprinted in this two-volume hardcover set and it comes in a fancy and sturdy box. The magazines were funny and beautiful with art by Will Elder and Jack Davis and some other folks. If you don't buy this book then I don't want to know you...There is no excuse for not buying this right now. Sell your hair, blood, or skin to get it.”
Timothy Hodler - Robot 6
“[I]ncludes so many all-time great cartoonists (Kurtzman, Jaffee, Elder, etc.) at the peak of their powers and ambitions.”
David McComb - Bizarre Magazine
“Featuring the entire run of Humbug satirical magazines masterminded by Harvey Kurtzman, creator of the legendary US comic MAD, this luscious two-volume box set will fascinate.”
John Mitchell - North Adams Transcript
“It’s Humbug that functions as the spiritual father for magazines such as National Lampoon, Spy and The Onion, among many others, but there’s something invigorating about it because of its vantage point in the supposedly stodgy and bland 1950s. Coming out of that decade, Humbug really did break new ground.”
M. Ace - Irregular Orbit
“[T]he artwork is uniformly mind-blowing. ... This collects the whole ill-fated run in a luxurious hardbound package including top-notch background material. Worth it for the mammoth Arnold Roth and Al Jaffee interview alone.”
Rich Kreiner - The Comics Journal
“At long last, a handsome, two-volume, slipcased set brings back into print a pivotal, neglected portion of the oeuvre of Harvey Kurtzman and that of a cadre of gifted pranksters bent on smart satire.”
Publishers Weekly

MAD 's early years have been justly lauded for their japing assault on postwar American culture, but this outstanding two-volume boxed set reflects the history of comedy in the period after staff stars like Kurtzman jumped ship in 1956. Humbug, whose mere 11 monthly issues published in 1957 and 1958 are all collected here, was a refreshing if little-noticed seat-of-the-pants hybrid of MAD-style buffoonery and a tony wit that sadly never found its place. Read today, Humbug seems a time capsule from when comedy was entering its drier, postvaudevillian period; comedians still wore ties and were expected to if not attend college at least have read a book or two. The magazine's mix of chaos and control-Kurtzman's Cecil B. DeMille-sized comedic crowd scenes set against Larry Siegel's pitch-perfect literary satires-creates an uneasy balance that almost necessitated a short shelf life, much in the same manner as National Lampoon(which years later briefly picked up the mantle that Humbug threw down). The set might not be best for end-to-end reading (11 issues is a heavy dose, with all those Sputnik and Have Gun, Will Travel references) but for dry cocktail laughs and low schoolboy snorts, it's hard to think of a better pair of books to have at your nightstand. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781560979333
Publisher:
Fantagraphics Books
Publication date:
03/23/2009
Pages:
476
Product dimensions:
7.90(w) x 10.70(h) x 2.40(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

One of America’s most beloved and best known illustrators, Jack Davis was born in December 2, 1924 in Atlanta, Georgia, and still makes his home in the area.

Will Elder (Hall of Fame, 2003) was also known for a 45-year stint with Cracked magazineand for being one of Mad's founding artists.

In addition to his pioneering work on the “serious” EC war comics, Harvey Kurtzman (1924-1993) created the all-time greatest satirical comic (with Mad), the most widely-read adult comic strip (with “Little Annie Fanny” in Playboy), and one of the earliest graphic novels (with the 1959 The Jungle Book).

Arnold Roth’s cartoons and illustrations have appeared in The New Yorker, Playboy, and Esquire. He lives in New York City.

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