Al Feldstein by Michael Netzer
October 24, 1925 |
Brooklyn, New York
|Area(s)||Writer, Artist, Editor|
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.
Those comic books, known as EC's New Trend group, included Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Tales from the Crypt, The Haunt of Fear, The Vault of Horror, Shock SuspenStories, Crime SuspenStories, Panic and Piracy. After the New Trend titles folded in 1955, Feldstein edited EC's short-lived New Direction line, followed by EC's Picto-Fiction magazines.
After industry and government pressures forced Gaines to shut down most of his EC titles, Feldstein was briefly separated from the company. But when Harvey Kurtzman left Mad in 1956, Gaines turned to his former editor. Feldstein spent the next 29 years at the helm of what became one of the nation's leading and most influential magazines. Circulation multiplied more than eight times during Feldstein's tenure, peaking at 2,850,000 in 1974, although it declined to three quarters of that figure by the end of his time as editor.
Many new cartoonists and writers surfaced during the early years of Feldstein's editorship. This process leveled off in the 1960s as the magazine came to rely on a steady group of contributors. Feldstein's first issue as editor (#29) was also the first issue to display the twisted work of cartoonist Don Martin. A few months later, he hired Mort Drucker, who quickly established himself as their premier caricaturist on movie satires with Angelo Torres drawing the TV parodies. By 1961, with the introduction of Antonio Prohías and Dave Berg, he had fully established the format that kept the magazine a commercial success for decades.
After he retired from Mad in 1984, Feldstein began painting again after his son, Mark Feldstein, gave him his first oil paint set since pre-Mad. He left Connecticut and relocated in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he spent three years painting the Teton Range and its wildlife.
Two of his paintings from that period placed in the Top 100 of Arts for the Parks, a competition created in 1986 by the National Park Academy of the Arts.
Feldstein moved in 1992 to Paradise Valley, Montana, near Livingston, finding new approaches to depict the Western way of life in his acrylic paintings. In 1999, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts degree by Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana, and that year again ranked in the Top 100 of the Arts for the Parks' Competition. He is represented by numerous Northwest galleries, and he continues to create his Western, wildlife and landscape paintings at his 270 acre (1.1 km²) ranch south of Livingston and north of Yellowstone National Park.
In 2000, he was invited to give the Commencement Address to the new century's first graduating class at Rocky Mountain College.
He was inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 2003.
- VanHollebeke, Jim (1999, 2002). "Interview with Al Feldstein". Canovanograms. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- Dlugos, Jenn (2003). "Al Feldstein Interview". Classic-Horror.com. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- "Al Feldstein". Comic Book Data Base. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- Berk, Jon (2004). "The Weird Wonder(ous) World of Victor Fox's Fantastic Mystery Men". Comic Art Ville Library. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- Wertham, Fredric (2008). "Who was Victor S. Fox?". From the Desk of Dr. Wertham. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- Hajdu, David (2008). The Ten-Cent Plague. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 0-312-42823-5. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- "Al Feldstein Biography". Gallery Artists. House of Fine Art, Montana. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- Morton, Lisa: HWA publicity (19 March 2011). "Datlow, Feldstein Win Lifetime Horror Award". Press release. Horror Writers Association. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- Official website
- Dr. Gangrene: Interview with Al Feldstein (April 3, 2009)
- Who's Who of American Comic Books: 1928-1999
- Horror Writers Association: Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award
- Mark Feldstein
- "How I Was Stalked by George Carlin" by Mark Feldstein