Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Humbug kind of Christmas

Harvey Kurtzman, who created Mad in 1952, left his publisher, William M. Gaines, in 1956, and edited two issues of Trump, another humor magazine, for Playboy publisher, Hugh Hefner. Trump had high production values, like Playboy. (Kurtzman later went to work for Playboy producing the comic feature, “Little Annie Fanny.”) After Trump Kurtzman and fellow artists formed a company to publish Humbug.

When I saw Humbug in 1957 it was on the comic book spinner racks. Retailers really did not know what to do with it. It was the size of a comic book, printed on cheap paper in two colors. It was printed and distributed by Charlton, along with their regular line of comic books. But unlike the full-color comic books which cost 10¢, Humbug was priced at 15¢.

Mad, which was very popular, was magazine-sized, cost 25¢, and had several imitators. It went on the magazine rack along with issues of Time, and yes, even Playboy. After nine issues in the comic book size, Humbug went to a full-size format with issue number 10, and lasted two issues priced at 25¢. Humbug died. The folks in on the enterprise lost their shirts.

This Christmas issue of Humbug, is a nostalgic favorite of mine. I bought it off the comic book spinner in my local drugstore in Seattle, Washington, in late 1957. I was 10-years-old, did not understand all the humor, but was fascinated by it, anyway. I have scanned my personal copy of the magazine.

In 2008 Humbug was reprinted.  The folks at Fantagraphics Books published all of the issues of Humbug, using original art when possible (see my last post, which features some original art from Humbug, by Jack Davis.) They did a wonderful job and created a two-volume slip-cased, deluxe set. It is published in a format that its creators could not have dreamed of nearly 60 years ago.

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