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Saturday, March 26, 2005

EC - Li'l Melvin (Elder)

Li'l Melvin
art by Will Elder (one panel by Basil Wolverton), story by Al Feldstein
Panic #3 (1954)

Elder of course has two roles in EC history. He inked a lot of John Severin's work for the war and sci-fi books, complementing the pencils nicely (he also did a few solo stories in a few books, but those I've seen aren't too special). More important was his work on the humour books, as one of the key artists on the early MAD style with Kurtzman, where his ability to mimic other art styles and obsessively detailed art and in-jokes were invaluable. He brought the same skills to every issue of PANIC. He left MAD with Kurtzman and they continued to work together on various projects for decades.

This story is, of course, primarily a parody of Al Capp's Li'l Abner comic strip. As usual for Elder, it doesn't end there, and there are lots of other parodies, most notably the running joke with Walt Kelly's Pogo characters, plus sight gags and small jokes throughout. This particular story descends to self-parody by the end, with a page showing and "analyzing" the hidden messages in some of the panels (such as the small images of some victorolas, a sample of phonographic pictures!). The story is pretty good up until then, even if you're not familiar with what's being parodied, but that final page is just magnificent.

As mentioned above, Basil Wolverton contributes one of his "ugly woman" drawings for a gag in this story.

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