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Cartoonist Will Elder (Wolf William Eisenberg), whose uncanny ability to capture and satirize the drawing styles of many other artists resulted in some of Mad magazine’s most memorable satires, was born in the Bronx on this date in 1921. Elder’s best-known cartoons included “Mickey Rodent!” (a takeoff on Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck), “Starchie!” (Archie Comics), “Poopeye!” (Popeye) and “Gasoline Valley!” (Gasoline Alley), among many other classics. Elder attended New York’s High School of Music and Art along with his Mad comrades Harvey Kurtzman, John Severin, Al Jaffee, and Al Feldstein. He was famous for filling his backgrounds with sight gags, signs, and other allusions that fueled the satire and filled the reading experience with unexpected delights. “If God is in the details,” said contemporary Mad artist Evan Dorkin, “Will Elder channeled God.” Inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2003, Elder died from Parkinson’s Disease in 2008.
“I would write a story, and as if by magic, all the empty spaces would get filled in by sub-jokes... he was an inexhaustible source.” —Harvey Kurtzman
Watch a trailer for “Chicken Fat,” a work-in-progress documentary on Will Elder by Gary VandenBergh