It's impossible to weigh the influence that Harvey Kurtzman has had on the landscape of American comic book and strip publishing, so I'm not even going to try in the span of two hundred words. Suffice it to say, he created Mad magazine for William Gaines; the influential Help! magazine - which inspired a generation of underground cartoonists; and the Little Annie Fanny strips that ran in Playboy for some twenty-five years, among countless other projects for everyone from EC to Marvel Comics.
To put it simply, Harvey Kurtzman was the consummate satirist.
Now, enter Denis Kitchen, publisher of the late great Kitchen Sink Press, who has been almost single-handedly keeping Kurtzman's legacy alive for the past decade or so, as he did Will Eisner before he found a home at DC Comics. So, it's no surprise that one of his first post-KSP books would be a Kurtzman collection, although I'm not sure if anyone imagined it would have been a buried gem as precious as THE GRASSHOPPER AND THE ANT.
Having seen the light of day only once in the pages of Esquire in 1960, GRASSHOPPER was created at the peak of Kurtzman's career and is one of the few complete graphic serials he produced in color. It's also a very revealing story, in which Kurtzman grapples with his conflicted feelings regarding the beatnik philosophies of the time and the need to put food on the table, all personified as modern-day insects sucked from the pages of an Aesop fable. It's almost as if Kurtzman is conversing with himself here, and the results are terribly funny. Some forty years later, THE GRASSHOPPER AND THE ANT remains one of the more poignant satires in graphic fiction.
Peter Aaron Rose is a writer, producer and technologist who lives and works in San Francisco, CA. Under the pseudonym "Peter Siegel", he recently authored Killing Demons, a graphic novel available from Engine Press and Platinum Studios.