Cartooning genius Will Elder passed away last Thursday from Parkinsons. Will was one of the original Mad Magazine usual gang of idiots, and was also known for his work in Humbug, Trump, Playboy and frequent collaborations with Harvey Kurtzman including Goodman Beaver. Will was known for insanely detailed drawings where every square centimeter was packed with as many jokes as could fit. These "chicken fat" jokes became a trademark style for the artist and added a touch of surreal zaniness to the already funny storylines he was illustrating. He helped define Mad Magazine's style in its early issues in such stories as the legendary Mole!. After leaving EC comics he collaborated with Kurtzman on several of his projects including Humbug and Help!. Help! spawned an Archie parody, Goodman Beaver, that caused a lot of legal trouble but a link to the original in .pdf format can be found here now that it's gone out of copyright. Goodman Beaver caught the eye of Hugh Hefner, which led to work on Trump and the classic Little Annie Fannie. Anyone lucky enough to stumble upon a Little Annie Fannie comic in a swiped Playboy when they were a kid knows that the boobies initially caught your attention, but the richly detailed stories and sight gags sometimes made you forget about the magazine's other pictorials. Three naughty Annie stories can be found here at the ASIFA Animation Archive. More and more of his work is being reproduced and collected as people realize how timeless much of it is. You can find some good stuff here or go directly to the source at Fantagraphics.
Will has always been a favorite of mine even before I knew who he was. I found some Mad Magazine specials at a flea market a long time ago which had reprints of the old comic books inserted in the magazine. The lunatic feel to these stories fascinated me since they were a lot different from the Mad I grew up with. The story Mole! especially captivated me with its combination of some of the darkest, blackest, bleakest humor with absolutely goofy artwork. Dig Dig Dig! If you can find any of these comic book reprints I strongly recommend them. One of the dumbest things I ever did was pass up on a remaindered autographed copy of Goodman Beaver at a bookstore in Athens back in my college days. Oh, to be young and stupid again instead of old and stupid. There used to be a great Little Annie Fannie archive site on the web somewhere, but the URL is stuck on one of my old hard drives and it's sadly lost in the ether now. The compilations are well worth it especially with some of the behind the scenes extras in them. Yeah they're smut, but they're damned funny smut which is the best kind. It bums me out that we lost another of the great cartoonists out there and it scares me that all the guys who built the foundations for today's humor in the original Mad Magazines are 70 and 80 years old now. At least the spirit is captured in that fantastic art.