Official Press Release
William “Will” Elder, the successful cartoonist and commercial illustrator whose work helped launch MAD Magazine, died Thursday morning, May 15, 2008. He was 86.
Born Wolf William Eisenberg in the Bronx, New York, Elder changed his name after returning from World War II. During his time of service, Elder was part of the map-making team that was instrumental in the invasion of Normandy.
When Harvey Kurtzman launched MAD Magazine in 1952, he hired Elder along with Wally Wood, John Severin, and Jack Davis to produce content for the first issues.
“Willie Elder was one of the funniest artists to ever 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.”