Kurtzman's The Grasshopper and the Ant
Kurtzman, the inventor of MAD,
was 90% Workaholic Ant and 10%
pure Anarchist Grasshopper. The
result was a 100% Cool Cat who
composed comix with Duke
Ellington's grace, Dizzy
Gillespie's wit and Charlie
Parker's originality. Dig it!"
In 1960 the late comics genius Harvey Kurtzman
created a marvelous beatnik take on the ancient
Æsop fable. The comic story, in many ways,
reflected his own attraction to the beat movement and
his internal ant vs. grasshopper struggle. The only
previous appearance of this poignant story was over
forty years ago in Esquire magazine, where the
panels were reproduced small and blurry. The story
remained forgotten and unknown, even to most Kurtzman
Created at what was arguably the
peak of his brilliant career, The Grasshopper
and the Ant is remarkable in several respects.
Kurtzman's best known work (MAD, Little Annie
Fanny, Goodman Beaver, etc.) was collaborative.
These often magnificent collaborations were with other
first rank geniuses such as Will Elder, Jack Davis and
Wally Wood. But Kurtzman fans nonetheless yearned for
more of his madcap solo work, like Hey Look!
and Jungle Book. When working alone there was
seldom color in his creations. The powerful E.C. war
stories that Kurtzman wrote and illustrated himself in
the early '50s were in color, but it was a flat
mechanical color on newsprint. Kurtzman's infrequent
solo work almost always, of economic necessity,
appeared in black & white. Thus the revelation
"Imagine the acerbic satire and the
bold, fluid lines of Kurtzman's seminal 1959 Jungle
Book, but painted in vivid watercolor,
and you have the exceptional Grasshopper and
Ant," said publisher Denis Kitchen.
Roger Price, Kurtzman's friend, fellow cartoonist
("Droodles") and a publisher (Price-Stern) praised the
original appearance of The Grasshopper and the Ant
in a letter to Kurtzman in 1960: "The use of color
with seasonal change [is] very original and effective.
Your drawing is just great. But," Price complained, "I
still am bothered ...by plain old simple legibility. I
have to concentrate pretty carefully to get
everything... I don't mean the legibility of ideas but
actual legibility of printing. Would like to see it
clearer, as what you are saying is too good to be
missed because the words sometimes run too close
together. This, of course, is... a problem of space
which you cannot help." Price's plea for a proper
printing and format would go unanswered for more than
Now Denis Kitchen Publishing, with
the cooperation of Kurtzman's widow Adele, brings you
the complete rediscovered gem in an 8.25" square 80
page hardcover format, with smythesewn binding and
dust jacket. Individual panels are sharply reproduced
the full size of the original art, printed on a matte
stock with spot varnishes throughout.
The introduction by Denis
Kitchen places the story in Kurtzman's life and
career perspective. The book is designed by former
Kitchen Sink Press Art Director Evan Metcalf,
now at DC Comics. The logo is by Peter Poplaski.
The Grasshopper and The Ant is the first book from Kitchen since the
demise of his longtime publishing company, Kitchen
Sink Press (1969-1999), which previously published
several other book collections by Harvey Kurtzman.
"I am absolutely not jumping
back into the business with both feet," cautioned the
gun shy Kitchen, who said he still had nightmares
about investors, lawyers and deadlines, in that order.
"I have my hands full with other projects," he said,
"But I do want to to publish two or three nice books a
year, like this one, on my own terms."
"I just hope to God I don't have one
foot in a tar baby," he added ruefully.
(Click HERE to see more pages.)
Kurtzman Pinback Buttons!
If you order
directly from us you will receive a FREE
pinback buttons featuring art by Harvey
Kurtzman will be included with every
carefully packed book we ship.
Retailers: The Grasshopper and the
Ant is available wholesale from FM
International, Inc. (Madison WI), Diamond
Comic Distributors (Timonium MD), Red
Route (London), Het Raadsel (Amsterdam)
and Last Gasp (San Francisco). Please
contact us if you have difficulty ordering
the book from any of these suppliers.