Harvey Kurtzman (October 3, 1924, Brooklyn, New York - February 21, 1993) was a U.S. cartoonist and magazine editor. In 1952, he was the founding editor of the comic book Mad.
Kurtzman was equally well known for the long-running Little Annie Fanny stories in Playboy(1962-88), parodying the very attitudes that Playboy promoted. Because Mad had a considerable impact on popular culture, Kurtzman was later described by the New York Times as having been "one of the most important figures in postwar America."
As a child he drew "Ikey and Mikey," a regular comic strip done in chalk on sidewalks. In 1939, Kurtzman won a contest in Tip Top Comics, the prize for which was the publication of a drawing and one dollar. As a freelance writer-artist during his early years in the comic book industry, his most notable output was a series of humorous one-page fillers called "Hey Look!" Kurtzman often signed his name "H. Kurtz [male stick figure]" (i.e., "H. Kurtz-Man"). Kurtzman found his niche at Bill Gaines' EC Comics, editing the war comics Frontline Combat and Two-Fisted Tales. Kurtzman was known for a painstaking attention to detail, typically sketching full layouts and breakdowns for the stories he assigned to artists and insisting they not deviate from his instructions. Despite (or because of) his autocratic ways, Kurtzman's early 1950s work is still considered among the medium's finest.
The evolution of Mad was marked by Kurtzman's recognition of his own value and talents. The comic book owed its existence to Kurtzman's complaint to publisher Gaines that EC's two editors — himself and Al Feldstein — were being paid substantially different salaries. Gaines pointed out that Feldstein produced more titles for EC and did so more swiftly. The men then agreed that if Kurtzman could create a humor publication, Gaines would raise his pay substantially.
Four years later, amid an industry crackdown on the comic books that EC was producing, Kurtzman received an offer to join the staff of Pageant. When Gaines agreed to expand Mad from a ten-cent comic book to a 25-cent magazine, Kurtzman stayed with EC. Although retaining Kurtzman was Gaines' prime motivation, this revamp completely removed Mad from the Comics Code Authority's censorious overview, thereby assuring its survival.
Kurtzman remained at the helm of the magazine for only a few issues, but it was long enough to introduce the image soon named Alfred E. Neuman, the publication's famous mascot. The character had appeared, unidentified, in one of the comic book issues.
During the 1950s, Kurtzman was also one of the writers for the relaunched Flash Gordon daily comic strip which had previously been one of Kurtzman's Mad targets, when he created the "Flesh Garden!" parody, illustrated by Wally Wood in 1954.