"Chicken Fat" art? Ja, Boss!
May 19, 2008 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Wolf William Eisenberg died this past Thursday, May 14. Comics fans may know him better as Will Elder, one of the original MAD artists who, along with Wally Wood and Jack Davis, et al, worked with Harvey Kurtzman to make "furshlugginer" and "potrezebie" household words in the 1950s. No one could pack a cartoon panel with more gags than Elder, the exemplar of the "chicken fat" school of art.

"The term just came out of what we both [Kurtzman and Elder] knew were the parts of the strip that gave it more flavor but did very little to advance the storyline. That's what Chicken Fat does... it advances the flavor of the soup and, as we all know now, too much chicken fat will kill you!"

Elder is likely better known to millions of PLAYBOY readers as the co-creator, with Kurtzman again, of Little Annie Fanny.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit (17 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Elder could mimic anyone's style, but he also had his own distinctive way of drawing. Here are a few MAD classics:
Mickey Rodent!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:38 AM on May 19, 2008

I was genuinely saddened to hear of this. I loved his early Mad stuff.
posted by jpburns at 11:40 AM on May 19, 2008

posted by doctor_negative at 11:48 AM on May 19, 2008

posted by Scoo at 11:59 AM on May 19, 2008

My personal favorite EC artists were Jack Davis and Graham Ingels, but Elder was one of the all-time greats. He could work in any style of cartooning from realism to bigfoot, and anything in between. He was perfect for MAD.


(Oh, and if you want to buy some gorgeous reprints of classic EC comics, go to Gemstone.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:06 PM on May 19, 2008

posted by languagehat at 12:15 PM on May 19, 2008

posted by autodidact at 12:19 PM on May 19, 2008

Courtesy of my older brother's Mad magazines, Mickey Rodent was my introduction to subversive literature. More than three decades on, I can still envision some of the panels. RIP, Mr. Elder, and thanks for helping me develop a twisted sense of humor.
posted by Fennel B. at 12:24 PM on May 19, 2008

Another one of the greats passes.

I met Harvey Kurtzman once at San Diego, I thanked for his influence on me. I believe reading Mad Magazine helped give me my slightly skewed, cynical and morbid sense of humor and way of looking at the world. He grinned and said "Yes, that's my cross to bear."

I believe Mad comics (and later the magazine) helped warped a generation of young people and we are the better for it.
posted by marxchivist at 3:01 PM on May 19, 2008

posted by jtron at 4:01 PM on May 19, 2008

Marxchivist, I said almost exactly the same thing to Al Feldstein. That gang of idiots gave us whole new paradigms of humor, horror and practically anything else you care to name.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:14 PM on May 19, 2008

Yeah, I'm surprised there are so few comments here. Young people don't realize how strongly today's entertainment world was shaped by the Will Elder, early Mad style. "Mickey Rodent" is the Ur text of nihilistic media satire. Tearing down a beloved national icon just for the hell of it. But very funny.
posted by Faze at 7:23 PM on May 19, 2008


I found my uncle's stash of post-comic format 50's MAD's when I was 12 and was amazed at how he could make something look exactly like a photo...I wondered why he was no longer with MAD and didn't find out until much later about the Kurtzman fallout.
posted by brujita at 10:04 PM on May 19, 2008

posted by Smart Dalek at 6:03 AM on May 20, 2008

posted by Ber at 6:56 AM on May 20, 2008

posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:28 AM on May 20, 2008

If anyone's interested, my hub did a lovely, heavily illustrated blog piece on Elder (his hero!) here. (Click the images for full size or you'll miss most of the jokes)
posted by maryh at 11:04 PM on June 1, 2008

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