Although superheroes like X-Men and Batman still hold lots of readers in thrall, there is now a whole new world of comics with more on its mind than space invaders and mutant outlaws. Available in chain bookstores, as well as in comics and science-fiction specialty shops, the best of the alternative comics are showcasing some of the quirkiest and most original storytelling talent in America today.
Harvey Kurtzman was the genius behind both the legendary E.C. war comics of the early ’50s and the original Mad magazine. As Art Spiegelman points out in his affectionate introduction to this collection of new work, Kurtzman is ”the single most significant influence on a couple of generations of comics artists.” Although Strange Adventures contains seven full-color Mad-silly stories scripted by Kurtzman, all of them (except one) are illustrated by others, including Sergio Aragones, Sarah Downs, Rick Geary, Tomas Bunk, and William Stout. Professional as these artists are, none can match Kurtzman as a stylist. But, fortunately, editor Byron Preiss has had the good sense to include an appendix with the master’s complete black-and-white pencil breakdowns for each of the stories. A rare glimpse of the compleat cartoonist at his purest.