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The Anti-War Comics of Harvey Kurtzman

In the early 1950s, Entertaining Comics was king of the ten-cent jungle. EC innovated the horror comic (Tales From the CryptVault of HorrorHaunt of Fear). It issued the first “scientific” science-fiction (Weird ScienceWeird Fantasy). It re-invigorated the crime comic (Crime SuspenStoriesShock SuspenStories), with a social conscience. And with the blessing of its owner, William M. Gaines, it packaged them with an unprecedented – and splendiferous – amount of sex and gore. Unfortunately, when a public outcry linking comics to juvenile delinquency – to the outraged, befuddled sputterings of Gaines and avid pre-teen readers, like myself – it was an antipathy toward and a ban on just such content that forced him to gut his line.

EC had employed the finest artists and writers in its field, and, of these, Harvey Kurtzman became the most revered. Kurtzman was the first EC alum inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame. He alone had an industry-wide award of excellence (The Harveys) named for him. (He has also been called the father of underground comics, though when told of this honor, Kurtzman demanded a blood test.)

Kurtzman stood somewhat apart at EC. He considered horror comics “immoral.” (What he thought about the others was probably not much more positive.) His reputation today primarily rests upon his having created, edited and written the first twenty-four issues of the satiric humor comic MAD, whose impact on a generation used to the cozy cliches and platitudes of the Eisenhower Age was immeasurable. (After leaving EC, Kurtzman launched three unsuccessful humor mags, TrumpHumbug, and Help, before settling in at Playboy, where he created and wrote “Little Annie Fanny” for twenty-one years, providing stimulation of a different sort.) But before any of this, at EC, Kurtzman produced what have been recognized as the first “anti-war” war comics. With them, the novelist/ newspaper columnist Pete Hamill once wrote, Kurtzman “revolutionized the form…. (His) combat stories were hard, bleak, free of rah-rah patriotism. They were about men, not costumed superheroes.”

8005424432_2bcf6b7908_zThe recent publication of Corpse on the Imjin! (Fantagraphics. 2012), reprinting, in black and white, twenty-five of Kurtzman’s war stories, and reproducing each of his color covers, made it seem a good time for me to look back at this phase of Kurtzman’s career, especially since, throughout the years I and my EC-devotee pals were cramming his inclinations into our skulls, we were also avidly assaulting alleys, storming porches, playing war.

I

Kurtzman was born October 3, 1924, in Brooklyn. As a kid, he drew cartoons in chalk on sidewalks. As a teen, he assisted the staff cartoonist at The Daily Worker. Kurtzman graduated New York’s High School of Art and Music and, after a brief stint at Cooper Union, was drafted. He was still stateside when Japan surrendered. Following his discharge, he kicked around the lower tiers of the comic book industry, most notably turning out about 150 idiosyncratic, one-page gag strips, “Hey Look!”, for Marvel.

In 1949 Kurtzman brought his portfolio to EC, hoping for work in its tonier non-fiction books like Picture Stories From the Bible or Picture Stories From American History. But Gaines was about to end these and launch his self-proclaimed “New Trend.” Gaines hooked Kurtzman into a one-shot warning about the dangers of VD and then plugged him into other books, where his new hire fit uneasily.

The following year, Gaines agreed to Kurtzman’s idea for an adventure comic, Two-Fisted Tales, and, after several issues, named him editor. It did well enough that, in 1951, Gaines put him in charge of a new war comic, Frontline Combat. With the public becoming absorbed in the Korean conflict, war became the focus of both. Kurtzman edited fourteen issues of TFT and fifteen of FC. He wrote sixty-two stories for the former’s stories and fifty-three for the latter. He illustrated fifteen stories and drew twenty-three covers. But with the armistice of 1953, war book sales declined. Since Kurtzman was by now thoroughly involved with MAD, Gaines killed the other two titles.

II.

Before Kurtzman, war comics, wrote William W. Savage, in Comic Books in America 1945-1954, confined themselves to expressing “the virtue of the American cause and the sterling qualities of the American fighting men… (T)hey questioned nothing; and they dealt almost exclusively in happy… endings.” Kurtzman conveyed his counter-message by exercising a degree of control over his books that made him an auteur before Francoise Truffaut let anyone know such a thing existed.

Kurtzman began with a story idea, whose “twisteroo” ending would deliver a moral lesson. He would write a one-paragraph summary, which he would flesh out to fill the six-to-eight pages allotted it within the comic for which it was intended and tailor for the style of the artist to whom he would assign it. While other editors punched stories out daily, Kurtzman could spend weeks on one of his.

Most comic editors gave artists pages whose panels were blank, except for lettered captions and word balloons. But Kurtzman gave them tracing paper sketches of what he wanted, close-up or long shot, darkness or light, minute detail and angle of viewing. He often acted out scenes to be drawn for artists, changing his voice, facial expression and posture to capture characters’ emotions. He presented “absolute, complete layouts,” John Severin, one EC artist, said. “He knew exactly what he wanted,” said Jack Davis, another. “All you had to do was pencil and render his sketches.” And if you didn’t, you got no further work.

Besides his control, Kurtzman was known for his research. He was driven, he said in a Comics Journal interview, to imbue his depictions of war with “precision… accuracy… authenticity.” He scoured library archives. He interviewed veterans, historians, members of foreign consulates. He visited army camps and airplane factories. He or staff members went up in planes, down in subs, off in tanks, or into armories to guarantee his stories resonated as genuine. He peppered readers Spanish, German and Korean phrases. He taught them how to stop a bleeding jugular vein under combat conditions. Kurtzman’s comics were right about everything, from the geography of Iwo Jima to the color of buttons on Civil War tunics. His approach, said his long-time associate, Will Elder, was “meticulous.”

Kurtzman considered war “the ugliest disease… men were cursed with.” He believed that if he showed this ugliness to a younger generation, it might find another way to solve its problems.

But that turned out to require more than maps and buttons.

III.

Kurtzman’s objection to war seems to have been that it killed people. “Thou shalt not kill,” he reminded readers (TFT 23). “Life is our most precious possession,” he instructed (TFT 25). “Each and every life… is important,” he reiterated (TFT 28). “What good is revolution,” he asked, “when everything you love is dead?” (TFT 22).

But on the other hand, as one Kurtzman soldier told a buddy, “(T)here are times you have to fight… To some degree we have an obligation to support war.” (TFT 24). “We kill… because we gotta,” said another. “It’s a dirty job we have to do.” (TFT 19). “Why are we dying?” a Seabee asked himself. His answer, two pages later, was to save his brother. (FC 7). “No man is an island,” was the message of FC 1. We are “all in war together, soldier and civilian,” was that of TFT 30. “A good American is one who has been loyal to his country,” stated FC 5. By FC 12, Kurtzman was urging us to join the Ground Observation Corps to spot approaching enemy bombers.

Was it any wonder a concerned but confused ten-to-twelve-year old might be unwilling to commit to the Ghandian way?

The problem we presented Kurtzman was that we were already well acquainted with fictionalized death. Even in other war comics, as Savage unceremoniously noted, “American boys dropped like flies.” And in the war movies of our Saturday matinees, supporting actors, whether fuzz-faced recruits mooning over photos of their gals back home or grizzled vets one mission short of returning to the wife and kids, fell with regularity. Even stars didn’t always survive until the final credits. Robert Mitchum went in G.I. Joe. So did the usually indestructible John Wayne in Sands of Iwo Jima. Death, we knew, came to the best of us. But it didn’t irrevocably follow that put us personally at risk.

Given our hard-heartedness, Kurtzman’s de-glamorization did not go far enough to disturb us. His American soldiers did not butcher prisoners of war. They gang-raped no women. They did not live in fox holes amidst their own bodily filth. Their wounds lacked even the gore of EC’s horror books. Because his stories were short, he could not develop his characters suficiently for us to empathize with them. No sickening slaughters, occasioned by the madness or stupidities or geo-political greed of leaders, were exposed to overwhelm us. We flipped his pages and skipped on.

Even more problematically, Kurtzman was a patriot. This is not surprising, since he wrote in the glow that followed World War II. (He also considered Korea “justifiable.”) He seemed to have believed, like most of the country in these days before Bob Dylan twisted the phrase with irreversible irony that God truly was on our side. “As long as believe in GOOD, we can’t go wrong,” he wrote in FC 2. In TFT 24, one fighter at Bunker Hill reassured another that, despite being out-numbered and under-weaponed, they would prevail. “We have something to fight for. We have a cause!” When conceding that Americans might have committed atrocities, in answer to a reader’s letter (TFT 28), he argued that, unlike other countries “our government and constitution condemn such practices.” He seemed blind to the reality that both sides always have “a cause” and one fellow’s atrocity may be another’s patriotic act. As Max Hastings points out in Inferno: The World at War, 1939 – 1945, “It was only because many young men of many nations shared… (a) dogged commitment to do ‘the right thing,’ as each belligerent society defined it, that the war could be carried on.”

For someone with Daily Worker roots, Kurtzman was a surprisingly timid political thinker. He could write about the Spanish-American war without mentioning imperialism. He could omit specific reference to the Holocaust from his stories of World War II. He repeatedly stressed his neutrality in depicting the Civil War. (Slavery, he wrote, was just one of its several causes, and his readers never saw a Negro whipped or sold.) The only behavior for which Kurtzman criticized the government was its treatment of Native Americans. There, he decried the breaking of treaties and killing of women and children. But when he addressed the bombing of Nagasaki, the lesson Kurtzman drew from this arguably unnecessary killing of 30,000 was: “HOPE was not destroyed… Life… bloom(ed) again.” With a message like that, anything short of turning the planet over to cockroaches seemed to warrant parades and marching bands

Kurtzman’s war comics were not without value. His depictions of ordinary soldiers were relatively nuanced, humanizing and admirable. George Evans’s lovingly rendered bi-planes, Alex Toth’s immaculate jets poised against blank space, and Jack Davis’s muddy, sweaty, stubble-faced G.I.s were wonderful examples of illustrative art. And Kurtzman’s own pages were superb. Sometimes they filled with anguished faces. Sometimes they emptied of all but a “RROWAR,” extending across several panels, letters rising or falling in size, darkening or lightening in tone to express volume and intensity. Often his prose trooped across his panels, landing heavily like boots or a tank’s tread as it pounded on. Kurtzman’s bullets unfailingly left visible paths, reinforcing their constant presence and the fate they foreshadowed. And his corpses lay, twisted distorted, in Guernica-like grotesqueness.

But this phase of Kurtzman’s career falls short of greatness. Certainly it did not achieve

the goal he set for it. As Savage concluded “it is questionable that (the stories)… had much effect on the children who happened to read them… (in achieving a) lessening of enthusiasm” for war.

This is not, after all, surprising. If comics, as Bill Gaines and I agreed, could not turn me and my fellows into switchblade wielders, why should one expect them to set us burning draft cards? The deeper, more intriguing question though is, if they couldn’t, were we equally immune to the influence of, say, the Bible, Aesop and fairy tales?

For lessons were installed in us somehow. I doubt we emerged from the womb with more than a desire for food and warmth. Yet we acquired beliefs; we accepted truths; we obeyed rules, not always because we feared spankings or after school detentions if we didn’t. Neuroscientists and psychoanalysts may have more evolved explanations, but my sense is a portion was inborn, waiting to be tapped, and the rest laid upon us, drop-by-drop, by parents and teachers and the remainder of the larger, more powerful world of our surround. Slowly society shaped us into how it wanted us to be. But simultaneously, within each of us, lurked an individualized “I,” fighting toward light and for space so it could grow.

There was a reason EC’s Picture Stories flopped and MAD and Vault of Horror didn’t. Kids weren’t looking to comics for instruction. Kurtzman’s war books, for the most part, missed the point that, of this, we’d had our fill. So when he told me double-crossers would be punished, and heroes could be scared, and blacks and whites should pull together, I nodded – and snoozed. But one early story jolted me awake – and its concluding images stayed with me for sixty years.

In “Tin Can” (FC 3, art by Davis, regrettably omitted from Imjin!) the primary duty of its central character, the unsubtly named Eddie Yearling (nicknamed in-case-you-missed-it “The Kid”) is the cleaning of his destroyer’s lavatory. Yearling doesn’t mind, for he recognizes everyone on board is “part of the big plan,” and as long as everyone plays their part their “operation” will succeed. Then his ship hits a mine. To prevent its sinking, the crew seals off the head, realizing too late he is inside. Saving him means losing the vessel. So Kurtzman delivers his biting message. “It’s like you said, Seaman… You’re just a small part of a large operation! Every man counts on the big job, but no man is bigger than the job…” And Yearling is left to drown.

Kurtzman was a young man who experienced a “good” war. He believed war a terrible thing, and he hoped a new generation of young men would find a way to do without it. He seemed not to recognize that wars are the creation of older men and the young only pawns by which they play them. But when he locked Yearling in that lav, his pounding on its door growing weaker and less frequent with each concluding panel, the consequence of accepting one’s self as a cog in someone else’s machine was made manifest.

At a dime-a-pop, comics were the first chance for my friends and I to pick and pocket our own theologies and to pen our own declarations of independence. Al Feldstein, EC’s other great editor, astutely recognized that the company’s great appeal to the young was that, whether “with a laugh… (or) blood” it was engaged with “flaunting… the destruction of… authority.” The laughs popped social pomposities and sacred cows. The blood bathed us like Carrie at her prom. EC showed us, when nothing else around us dared to, that defiance was an option. And once constraints were loosened, we could try to figure out what to do, where to go, how not to end up trapped, the waters rising.

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18 Responses to The Anti-War Comics of Harvey Kurtzman

  1. R. Maheras says:

    I dunno.

    From my perspective, Kurtzman’s war stories were great in the context of their era, and that greatness shouldn’t be diminished simply because they don’t adhere to today’s Liberal Textbook of Contemporary Political Correctness.

    I mean, c’mon! It was problematical that Kurtzman was a patriot? Why? Are you saying that only someone who is NOT a patriot, and strictly adheres to liberal tenets, can be a great artist?

    Such intellectual hubris boggles the mind, but then so does your apparent inference that war can always be avoided.

    Yet, you chide Kurtzman for believing the Korean War was justified, while at the same time criticizing him for not mentioning in his stories the root justifications for the Civil War (slavery) and World War II (Nazi persecution and genocide).

    If war is allegedly avoidable under every circumstance, then you must also be arguing both the Civil War and World War II should not have been fought.

    But if you think those were, in fact, justifiable wars, then your criticism of Kurtzman loses its validity, because now the decision to enter a conflict boils down to one’s personal opinion: Kurtzman’s versus yours.

    Personally, I think Kurtzman’s war stories were pretty forward-thinking and pragmatic. On one hand, they showed that war was brutal and indiscriminate to both combatants and innocent bystanders alike. On the other hand, they showed that despite the human costs, war was sometimes necessary and justifiable.

    I also think his stories were great, despite his apparently unforgiveable “flaw” of being a patriot.

  2. Leonard Rifas says:

    R. – Bob seems to use the word “patriot” to mean someone who is blind to the enemy’s point of view, and you seem to use the same word to mean the opposite of “liberal.” If we go by the dictionary definition as “a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion,” how does such “patriotism” connect to the kind of “internationalism” that led the US into the Korean War? Who defines the “national interest” and how? Korean War comic books (and Milton Caniff’s comic strips) suggested that we had to either fight in Asia or on the beaches of California. A true patriot could ask for some evidence of that.

    Kurtzman’s comics “showed” something different to you than they did to Bob and myself. Bob, older than I am, remembers that even as a kid, Kurtzman’s stories did not (except in 0.9% of his stories) paint an image of war that was “brutal and indiscriminate” enough to “disturb” him or his friends.

    As for Kurtzman “showing” that war was “sometimes necessary and justifiable,” in what stories did Kurtzman make that argument successfully? For example, Kurtzman said regarding atrocities that, unlike other governments, “our government and constitution condemn such practices.” Actually, the enemy’s extrajudicial massacres of prisoners, which Kurtzman dramatized in several stories, were condemned by their government. (“For what it is worth, captured North Korean documents continued to show that high-level officials warned against executing people.” Jon Halliday and Bruce Cumings, _Korea: The Unknown War_, Pantheon Books, NY, 1988, p.90.) South Korea’s extrajudicial massacres of prisoners were not part of Kurtzman’s stories.

    If a decision to support a war comes down to “opinion,” some opinions have stronger factual support than others.

    You refer to Bob’s “apparent inference that war can always be avoided.” I wish you had cited the exact words, because the closest thing I am finding is Kurtzman’s hope that the younger generation might find an alternative to war. That hope was frequently expressed back then, especially by those who opposed comic books for teaching kids that war and violence are inevitable.

  3. Allen Smith says:

    I don’t see how World War 2 could have been avoided, other than by overthrowing the Nazi regime, which wasn’t going to happen unless force was used. A conundrum.

  4. R. Maheras says:

    Leonard (and Allen) — If, as you say, being a patriot blinds one of the enemy’s point of view, then it can’t apply to Kurtzman, since he basically pioneered war stories showing the enemy’s point of view.

    You appear to be rationalizing Bob’s viewpoint, which I believe views patriotism as essentially anti-liberal. I actually disagree with such lines of thought, as I grew up in the liberal bastion of Chicago, which annually hosts the largest Memorial Day parade in the country.

    But there is, unfortunately, a huge swath of liberals who equate patriotism with conservatism, and view almost all expressions of patriotism with not just disdain, but actual contempt. Whether Bob realizes it or not, I believe that’s where his viewpoint lies.

    Regarding World War II, or any war, for that matter, most, if not all, are avoidable if the two or more countries involved come to some sort of agreement. Hitler finally declared war on the United States because his ally, Japan, attacked us, but in the eyes of the Third Reich, America had declared war on Germany years earlier when it openly ignored its official neutral stance and began aiding the United Kingdom and other countries fighting Germany. If the U.S. had remained truly neutral, left Germany alone, and not seriously hindered Japan’s acquisition of war materials such as rubber and oil, the U.S.’s entrance in the war would not likely have been “inevitable.”

    Historically, appeasement and/or submission often worked when a huge power set its eyes on weaker neighboring countries. If the neighbors peacefully rolled over and let the aggressor walk all over them, the killing was kept to a minimum once the inevitable invasion began, and often the aggressor nation would simply absorb its captives into their own society. If the neighboring country is too powerful, the aggressor tries non-invasive bullying tactics to get what it wants. Or, it simply pretends to be friends – all while seeking to undermine the power and alliances the neighbor it covets.

    But when a country takes the appeasement route with an aggressor nation, it gives up its sovereignty. Some countries — especially if too weak to resist – reluctantly go that route when pressed. Others, like the U.S., refuse to do so. Yet, defending its sovereignty has huge costs for a nation in both the money and the blood of its people. If a nation insists on keeping its sovereignty, it will have to be involved in wars sooner or later.

    Historically, the U.S. has also accepted the mantle of “world policeman” and “defender of democracy” to its national interests policy, which leads to even more potential war scenarios.

    But if the U.S. made all three things a low priority, or no longer a priority at all, the likelihood of war would be greatly diminished. I don’t see that happening any time soon, however. It’s just not currently in our DNA.

    With that being the case, war and violence is inevitable for the U.S. and other countries powerful enough to defend themselves or project military power.

    Case in point: Do you think if the Falklands Islands had been, say, a Dutch, Albanian, Moroccan or Swiss possession, there would have been a war when Argentina seized the islands in 1982? No. Yet when it comes to a nation with both the means and will to protect its interests, such wars against aggression are inevitable.

  5. Allen Smith says:

    Agreed. Of course, the current US wars also have in the mix the economic motive to go to war, as no defense authorization ever seems to get turned down.

  6. R. Maheras says:

    Despite the fact that I’ve spent three decades with the DOD as both an active duty servicemember and civilian, I am probably more “anti-war” than most.

    “Anti-war” is in quotes because proclaiming that one is anti-war to help prevent the spread of war is as idealistic and fanciful as proclaiming one is “anti-crime” to help prevent the spread of crime. Aggressors unfortunately don’t stop being aggressive simply a potential victim takes a vow of non-violence. In fact, I think I could make a great case that, historically, it actually emboldens them.

    If I were the big dog, however, I’d be much more discerning than are many of our politicians about when and where we’d be squandering our money, resources and the blood of our citizens. But I always have in the back of my mind that there very well could be an instance where I would simply have to pull the trigger.

  7. Jack says:

    I’m pretty sure that Axis aggression, rather than “Nazi persecution and genoide,” was the reason for Allied involvement in WWII, Mr. History Buff.

  8. Jack says:

    Shit, “genocide.” Important to spell correctly when you’re being snotty.

  9. Allen Smith says:

    I agree. The US undoubtedly knew that Jews and other minorities were being persecuted and killed, but that wasn’t what drew it into the war. Ending aggression on the part of the Nazis and Japanese was what caused them to enter the war, with the attack on Pearl Harbor forcing the US’s hand.

  10. Leonard Rifas says:

    R –

    You write that Kurtzman “pioneered war stories showing the enemy’s point of view.” He did something different. He portrayed the enemy as human beings, in a medium that had represented Asian soldiers as beasts or automatons. He did not include in his stories any explanation of the enemy’s “point of view,” that is, any acknowledgement of a North Korean perspective on the meaning of their war.

    Without directly referring to the Korean War, you speak of the questions of “aggression” and “appeasement.” Those were the terms in which Americans understood the Korean War when it was happening, but Korea had been a single nation for a thousand years, and had been divided only recently (by a line drawn by Americans in 1945), against the wishes of Koreans in both north and south. Thinking in terms of resisting aggression led to a major war which left unsolved the problem as Koreans saw it, of how to achieve national reunification.

  11. R. Maheras says:

    You guys don’t get my point, which want not what actually happened, but what would have happened if the US had remained truly neutral — which it in no way, shape or form did with either the Japanese or the Germans. In the Far East, mostly American “volunteer” aviators (military pilots who resigned their commissions so they could fight the Japanese long before Pearl Harbor) almost single-handedly halted what had previously been a successful invasion of China by the Japanese.

    IF a country truly wants to avoid a war, then they don’t let things like “Axis Aggression” goad them into a war. Nothing short of an invasion or direct attack would result in a war, and even then, they would only fight if they had the means and the will.

  12. R. Maheras says:

    Leonard — You’re trying to inject politics as YOU see things into the mix here. The fact is, Kurtzman’s portrayal of them as “human beings” WAS, in fact, empathizing how the enemy felt. And that was groundbreaking.

    And to say it really wasn’t because he didn’t address politics the way you think they should be addressed is simply not being accurate.

    The North Koreans didn’t care what the people of the south wanted. They wanted reunification on their political terms, and they didn’t care if they had to level the entire peninsula to do it. They still feel that way.

  13. Bob Levin says:

    To summarize what I wrote… Harvey Kurtzman intended for his comics to turn kids against war. This didn’t happen with anyone I knew who read them. So I gave my reasons why I thought it didn’t. For one, he didn’t present any content that we weren’t familiar with. For another, his political thinking wasn’t unconventional enough to rock our belief systems. It was in that context that i called him a “patriot.” Kurtzman seemed to accept the dominant beliefs of the culture that the United States possessed a moral worth lacking in other countries, that our motives were purer than other nations, that, indeed, God was on our side. These beliefs were understandable; they also led us into subsequent wars that were disasterous.
    I did not say, not do I believe, that neither the Civil War, nor World War II should have been fought. (Actually, the Civil War raises another question. If you do not believe that the Civil War was fought to end slavery but was fought between competing economic interests, or as a debate in political theory over states rights, all of which Kurtzman seemed to hold in equal regard, then I wonder. i bet you though, he thought it was about slavery but didn’t want to lose EC’s southern readers.

  14. R. Maheras says:

    I don’t know, Bob. The kids you say Kurtzman failed to turn against war were the exact same generation of young adults who later protested Vietnam in anti-war masses the country had never seen before.

  15. Bob Levin says:

    You’re right, of course, but what I’m saying is that in my recollection, these comics didn’t play a part. (The larger message of EC’s, as voiced by Al Feldstein, did.) I remember being more affected by “All Quiet on the Western Front,” and “Paths of Glory,” which I read (and saw) when I was in junior high. Even so, I was a “patriot” myself, in fear of dominoes falling in southeast Asia, until about 1965.

  16. Andrew says:

    Kurtzman’s war comics are impressive as comics. They are not impressive as serious, adult introspection about war and the nature of patriotism. Despite endless praise, we shouldn’t expect more than what was permissible at the time. Had Kurtzman *really* questioned the US military’s role in the Korean War, Dr. Wertham would have been the least of EC’s problems. They would have been immediately hounded out of business by McCarthyites and blacklisted. Kurtzman went as far as he could within the limits of the ’50s comics medium and American pop culture. The same could be said of MAD. It was cutting satire, but since it was restricted to comics figures as opposed to politicians or religious figures, it was “safe” and acceptable. All of Kurtzman’s work is rooted in questioning authority and social norms, but he always played it safe.

  17. R. Maheras says:

    “All Quiet on the Western Front” was mandatory reading in my high school English class, circa 1970.

    My big gripe with most anti-war comics is they are as evasive about the truth and reality as are their jingoistic counterparts.

    For example, “Make war no more” is a catchy slogan, but it fails to address the reality one cannot wish away aggressors. We do not live in a vacuum, and the world is still a dangerous place.

  18. Allen Smith says:

    Kurtzman’s war stories were great. He was talented enough not to lay on the message with a trowel, as was done later in the ’60s when writers wanted to send a message. He gave his readers credit for already having a developed moral sense.

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