Art

Will Elder 1921-2008

Will Elder 1921-2008

Comic legend passes leaving a legacy.

Last month, the world lost a great comedic talent. I’m not talking about Sydney Pollack, Harvey Korman or Dick Martin. Perhaps this man was even funnier. His name was Will Elder, and he was best known for a zany cartoon style that helped launch Mad Magazine in 1952.

He attended the High School of Music and Art, where his fellow students included Harvey Kurtzman, the eventual founder of Mad, and Al Jaffee, Mad Magazine’s “fold-in” creator.

The Bronx native got his start after fighting in WWII – storming the beaches of Normandy (just like my grandpa!) When he returned to the US, he began drawing comics for the legendary EC Comics. His ability to ape anyone’s style led to his great parodies in the first issues of Mad, like “Starchie, “Mickey Rodent,” and “Gasoline Valley.”

After departing Mad, Elder went to work for Hugh Hefner at Playboy. Hefner gave Elder and Kurtzman the opportunity to create the long-running “Little Annie Fanny” cartoon strip. Elder did a separate watercolor illustration for each panel of the cartoon, which ran from 1962 to 1988.

What really gets the Flush staff’s juices a flowin’ is his classic over-crowded cartoon panels. Frantic, exciting, hilarious. This guy didn’t waste an inch!

Here’s what some of his contemporaries had to say about Elder:

unquestionably the nuttiest guy who ever walked in the doors here.
William Gaines – Publisher, EC Comics and Mad Magazine

He was a zany, and a lovable one.
Hugh M. Hefner – Publisher, Playboy

Absolutely brilliant… he was the star from the beginning. He had a feel for the kind of satire that eventually spread everywhere.
Al Jaffee – fellow Mad Magazine artist

I don’t know if anybody’s really worked at that level as intensely as Willy did. And it never seemed to distract from the center.
Terry Gilliam – Actor, Writer, Director, Monty Pythoner