The comic industry is mourning the loss of a truly talented creator. Will Elder, whose work was influential to the beginning of MAD magazine, passed away last Thursday morning, May 15, 2008. He was 86 years old.
Elder was born Wolf William Eisenberg in the Bronx, New York. During World War II, he served as part of the map-making team that helped to plan and carry out the invasion of Normandy. Upon his return from the war, he changed his name to Will Elder, which is how he is known to legions of comics fans.
In 1952, Elder was hired by Harvey Kurtzman to provide content for the first issues of the newly-launched MAD magazine. Elder worked with comic legends such as Wally Wood, John Severin, and Jack Davis.
"Willie Elder was one of the funniest artists ever to work for MAD. He created visual feasts with dozens of background gags layered into every MAD story he illustrated," says John Ficarra, editor of MAD magazine, "He called these gags 'chicken fat.' Willie's 'anything goes' art style set the tone for the entire magazine and created a look that endures to this day."
"Willie's passing saddens all of us here at MAD," says Sam Viviano, MAD magazine art director," Everyone who has attempted to draw a funny picture over the course of the last fifty or sixty years owes an enormous debt to Willie, who taught us all how to do it, and no one has ever done it better than he did."
MAD magazine is currently published by DC Comics, and they have a touching tribute to Elders on their website.