Fantagraphics’ new two book Humbug set marks the first time that the long-defunct magazine’s material has been pulled together into a single collection. Forty years after its initial publication, the magazine has largely been forgotten by all but the most devout cartooning fans. Its founders Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Davis, Al Jaffee and Will Elder, however, should be familiar to all of those who have a passing knowledge of that perennial favorite humor magazine, Mad. Jaffee, Davis, and Elder all followed Kurtzman as the editor made the jump from Mad to Hugh Hefner’s newly launched humor magazine, Trump.
After two issues, however, Trump’s increasing expenses and Hefner’s own economic troubles resulted in the closure of that magazine. Along the way, however, the four Mad refugees added yet another creative cartooning force to the team—a young Philadelphian named Arnold Roth. It was with Roth, funds culled together by the five artists, and some residual Hefner office space that Humbug was born.
Humbug, too folded quickly, completing a paltry print run of 11 issues. Roth, however, would go on to a diverse and successful career illustrating for Playboy; creating his own syndicated strip, Poor Arnold’s Almanac; designing album art for Dave Brubeck; and drawing book covers for John Updike.
We sat down with the artist, a month after his 80th birthday, to discuss Humbug and his early forays into the world of cartooning.
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