New York: S.i., [ca.1963-64]. Superb, early letter, connecting three of the most influential illustrators of the 1960's. We find young Crumb living in New York - well before the wide recognition Zap Comix would bring him - appealing to his friend Harvey Kurtzman for help. Kurtzman, formerly of EC Comics and MAD Magazine, was regularly contributing his wildly popular Little Annie Fanny comic strip for Playboy at the time. Recognizing Crumb's talent, in an effort to find him steady work, he sends Shel Silverstein samples of his work and proposes that he talk to Hugh Hefner about bringing Crumb out to Chicago. By this time, Silverstein had authored numerous books - both for adults and for children - and his work regularly featured in the pages of Playboy. The air of deference Crumb displays towards the illustrator is astounding: "Anything you could do in my behalf, Mr. Silverstein, sir, would be appreciated beyond the expression of mere words. I am told by Harvey that you considered writing something for me to illustrate. I am flattered...I would love to collaborate with you on something...I've been a great admirer of your work for some years now and was surprised when Harvey told me you're only about 30 years old..." Crumb would ultimately spurn a potential deal with Playboy that would have provided him with some much-needed security. "He was very antagonistic," Kurtzman recalls. "Playboy was the establishment to Bob"" (cf. People. June 24, 1985). In a few short years though, after the success of Zap Comix, Crumb would have no shortage of work, and remains a cult figure to this day. To the best of our knowledge, contents of the letter are unpublished. Item #3015
Holograph letter, composed in two hands on a single sheet of yellow lined paper, measuring 8.5" x 11.5". Upper half composed by Harvey Kurtzman in red ballpoint pen (55 words); lower half composed by Crumb in black fine-point pen (141 words), with a small illustration of a bespectacled bird along lower margin. Horizontal fold at center, mild signs of handling, with a few creases smoothed out, else very well preserved.