Friday, May 16, 2008

Howdy Doodit

How did I miss this? Will Elder, the cartoon genius, has died.

[Yes, yes, I didn't know he was still alive, either.]

Here's a tribute.

He could render anything he could see with the precision of a photograph—or mimic virtually any fine-art style, including various modes of impressionism and early abstract art—yet he had no inclination to waste his time on anything other than his overriding interest, pranksterism. The sound of his name to those who knew him well, such as his former schoolmates and fellow cartoonists, Al Jaffee (who met Elder in eighth grade, when they were both being tested for admission to the High School of Music and Art), John Severin, and David Gantz, was a cue for grin and a round of 'Crazy Willy' stories: the time, when he was a kid in the Bronx, when Elder took discarded pieces of beef carcasses from a meat-processing plant, arranged them in old clothes on the railroad tracks, and started screaming that his friend Moishe had been killed; or the time, when he was in high school, that he smeared chalk dust on his face and pretended to be hanging in the coat closet; or, when went to lunch with some friends from EC [Comics] and tried to pay the cashier with leaves of lettuce that he had in his wallet. His humor was almost aggressively madcap, startling, often dark, and silly.