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15 May 2008 @ 08:26 pm
Will Elder 1921-2008  
Will Elder, one of the founding artists of MAD magazine, passed away this morning. Though I attended the 1972 EC Comics Convention, as far as I recall, Elder did not, and so I never met the man and have no personal anecdotes to share. (I did, however, meet much of the rest of the EC crew, managed to get Bill Gaines, Joe Orlando, George Evans, Al Williamson, and Wally Wood to sign my program book, and even got sketches from the last three of those names, plus a caricature of me by Jack Davis that you see as the icon at left.)

But I've long admired his artwork, not just in those early issues of MAD, but also in the pages of Trump, Humbug, and Playboy. That last publication was where, with Harvey Kurtzman, Elder co-created the strip Little Annie Fanny at Hugh Hefner's request.

I would have liked to have met him, because he was reported to be a wild and crazy guy, legendary in his zaniness. The caricature above right, taken from that con's program book, and drawn by Marie Severin back when she and Elder worked together at EC in the '50s, gives a clue as to how he was seen by his coworkers.

Here's the official press release from DC Comics, currently the publishers of MAD:

William "Willie" Elder, the successful cartoonist and commercial illustrator whose work helped launch MAD Magazine, died Thursday morning, May 15th, 2008. He was 86.

Born Wolf William Eisenberg in the Bronx, New York, Elder changed his name after returning in World War II. During his time of service, Elder was part of the map-making team that was instrumental in the invasion of Normandy.

When Harvey Kurtzman launched
MAD Magazine in 1952, he hired Elder along with Wally Wood, Jim Severin, and Jack Davis to produce content for the first issues.

"Willie Elder was one of the funniest artists to ever work for
MAD. He created visual feasts with dozens of background gags layered into every MAD story he illustrated," says John Ficarra, Editor of MAD Magazine, "He called these gags 'chicken fat.' Willie's 'anything goes' art style set the tone for the entire magazine and created a look that endures to this day."

"Willie's passing saddens all of us here at
MAD," says Sam Viviano, MAD Magazine Art Director, "Everyone who has attempted to draw a funny picture over the course of the last fifty or sixty years owes an enormous debt to Willie, who taught us all how to do it—and no one has ever done it better than he did."

If you want to learn more about the madcap Will Elder, click here to see a larger version of the image above, and then click "next picture" to read a two-page feature from the program book in which Gaines, Al Feldstein, Marie Severin, Davis, Wood, Kurtzman, and Evans praised their friend in 1972.
ianrandalstrock on May 16th, 2008 01:07 am (UTC)
I'm not seeing a "next picture" link.
scottedelmanscottedelman on May 16th, 2008 01:23 am (UTC)
Sorry! I just altered the instructions in that last paragraph.

Evidently, clicking on an image only gets you to that image alone. I had to create a link to the image within the gallery to get to the beginning of that section.

Work for you now?
ianrandalstrock on May 17th, 2008 03:21 am (UTC)
Yep, can see it now. Thanks very much.