Sunday, July 3, 2016

Trump: The Complete Collection, by Harvey Kurtzman

Trump is offensive, sometimes hilarious, irreverent, definitely not politically correct, and has limited popular appeal.  No, actually I'm not talking about Donald Trump!  I'm talking aboutTrump, the humor magazine that had a very short two-issue lifespan.  It was the mid-1950s, and Harvey Kurtzman had successfully transformed Mad magazine from a comic to more of a mainstream magazine.  Looking to delve into humor with a more sophisticated, grown-up appeal, he partnered with Hugh Hefner to create Trump.  Alas, as Hefner said, "I gave Harvey Kurtzman an unlimited budget . . . and he exceeded it."  After two issues, Trump was no more.

Gone but not forgotten, Dark Horse Comics has published Trump: The Complete Collection, which preserves the entire two issues, includes a bit of history, and has tons of sketches, mock-ups, and annotations illuminating the original.  Real fans and nostalgia buffs will eat this stuff up.  Casual readers will just focus on the actual magazine portion.

Much of the humor is reminiscent of Mad magazine: spoofs on popular movies, fake ads, random cartoons.  One significant difference is the extended stories and satirical essays; Mad readers wouldn't have had the patience for these.  While the writing is funny and decent, the best part is the art.  On many pages, there is so much detail that it's easy to miss the humor in the background.

I'm not aware of any other magazine like Trump.  Humor magazines seem to be focused on younger audiences, like Mad or its imitator Cracked, or tend toward R-rated humor, like National Lampoon.  (I should point out that even though Playboy publisher Hefner backed Trump, the content was PG at worst, more reflective of the sensibilities of the 1950s than of the direction Hefner was taking publishing with his other magazine.)  I don't know if a humor magazine like Trump would make it today.  At least we have these two issues to show us what might have been.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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