Al Feldstein : biography
Albert B. Feldstein (born October 24, 1925) is an American writer, editor, and artist, best known for his work at EC Comics and, from 1956 to 1985, as the editor of the satirical magazine Mad. Since retiring from Mad, Feldstein has concentrated on American paintings of Western wildlife.
Early life and career
Al Feldstein was born 24 October 1925, in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Flatbush on East 31st Street between Avenue L and Avenue M. He attended P.S. 191, and when he was eight years old, he won a third-place medal in the annual John Wanamaker art competition. After winning an award in the 1939 New York World’s Fair poster contest, he decided on a career in the art field and studied at the High School of Music and Art in upper Manhattan. When he was 15 years old, he was hired by Jerry Iger to work in the Eisner & Iger shop, an art service for the comic book industry. At Eisner & Iger, he earned three dollars a week running errands, inking balloon lines, ruling panel borders and erasing pages. When he began inking backgrounds, his salary jumped to five dollars a week.
With his graduation, he received a scholarship to the Art Students League. He began a rigorous schedule of studying at Brooklyn College during the day, followed by night classes at the Art Students League. At the age of 17, he enlisted in the Air Force in July, 1943, as an aviation cadet and began his basic training in Blytheville, Arkansas. His cadet class was held in reserve, and he was assigned to Special Services, creating signs and service club murals, decorating planes and flight jackets, drawing comic strips for field newspapers and painting squadron insignias for orderly rooms.
After his discharge, Feldstein freelanced art for comic books, including Fox Comics. Feldstein recalled that Bob Farrell, whom he considered a "wheeler-dealer" driving a convertible Cadillac, introduced him to Victor Fox in return for a commission from all payments Fox made to him. Feldstein rewrote Farrell’s scripts for Fox and produced the art for the stories. He described Fox as the "typical exploiting comic book publisher of his day, grinding out shameless imitations of successful titles and trends" and mistreating his writers and artists.
Feldstein wrote, drew and packaged the complete Junior and Sunny books for Fox, and adapted the original radio scripts and produced the art for Corliss Archer. Warned by his letterer Jim Wroten to be cautious about payments from Victor Fox, who’d "gotten himself into financial trouble", Feldstein approached Bill Gaines, who’d just taken over as EC Comics publisher following his father’s death in a speedboat crash. Feldstein’s initial EC assignment was drawing a teenage book, the beginning of a long working relationship with Gaines.
Arriving at EC in 1948, Feldstein began as an artist, but he soon combined art with writing, eventually editing most of the EC titles. Although he originally wrote and illustrated approximately one story per comic, in addition to doing many covers, Feldstein finally focused on editing and writing, reserving his artwork primarily for covers. From late 1950 through 1953, he edited and wrote stories for seven EC titles.
As EC’s editor, Feldstein created a literate line, balancing his genre tales with potent graphic stories probing the underbelly of American life. In creating stories around such topics as racial prejudice, rape, domestic violence, police brutality, drug addiction and child abuse, he succeeded in addressing problems and issues which the 1950s radio, motion picture and television industries were too timid to dramatize.
While developing a stable of contributing writers that included Robert Bernstein, Otto Binder, Daniel Keyes, Jack Oleck and Carl Wessler, he published the first work of Harlan Ellison. EC employed the comics industry’s finest artists and published promotional copy to make readers aware of their staff. Feldstein encouraged the EC illustrators to maintain their personal art styles, and this emphasis on individuality gave the EC line a unique appearance. Distinctive front cover designs framing those recognizable art styles made Feldstein’s titles easy to spot on crowded newsstands.