Goodman Beaver strolls through an urban landscape. Artist: Will Elder.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Warren Magazines
First Appeared: 1961
Creators: Harvey Kurtzman (writer) and Will Elder (artist)
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When Harvey Kurtzman, who created Mad magazine, left that publication following a dispute with EC Comics publisher Bill Gaines (son of Maxwell C. Gaines, founder of All-American Comics) in 1956, he immediately went into a succession of other magazines exploring similar themes, such as Trump and Humbug. By the early 1960s, just before he made it big with Little Annie Fanny, he was doing Help!, where many comix

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cartoonists such as Robert Crumb (Fritz the Cat), Gilbert Shelton (Wonder Warthog) and Skip Williamson (Snappy Sammy Smoot) got their starts, and where Terry Gilliam and John Cleese of Monty Python first worked together. Help! was published by Warren Magazines (The Spirit, Vampirella). It was there that Kurtzman created the character who, many say, first reflected the attitudes and point of view that soon found expression in Annie.

Goodman Beaver, who first appeared in Help! #10 (May, 1961), was created in collaboration with Will Elder, who had been one of his mainstays in the old Mad days. He's been compared to Candide, a pure, naive soul wandering through a landscape steeped in sleaze. That's where the comparison to Little Annie Fanny comes in — she was pure and innocent too, but kept getting caught up in the debauchery that surrounded her. They mainly differed in Annie getting her clothes torn off like Jane or Sally all the time, and that was only because nobody was likely to buy a magazine to see Goodman Beaver naked.

Bluenoses have always campaigned against the likes of Little Annie Fanny, but Mr. Beaver still managed to get himself in legal trouble with "Goodman Goes Playboy", which appeared in Help! #13 (February, 1962). This story prompted a lawsuit from Archie Comics publisher John Goldwater, who objected to the fact that incidental characters Goodman encountered resembled his company's trademarked characters Archie and Jughead.

DC Comics, despite being notoriously protective of its intellectual property, hadn't objected legally when Goodman met somebody who could have been Superman; and Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., which was engaged in protecting its own intellectual property at the time, hadn't been so touchy about Tarzan, either. But Goldwater, one of whose proudest achievements was helping to impose The Comics Code Authority on the industry, didn't seem to have much of a sense of humor about his company's characters appearing in such a blatantly non-Code-approved context. The fact that the object of parody wasn't comics, but the philosophy of empty hedonism espoused by the magazine of that name, didn't seem to make any difference. Neither did altering the characters to be less suggestive of those characters in reprint form.

In the suit's settlement, Goldwater's company acquired the copyright to that story, ensuring it would never be reprinted again. Thus, when Kitchen Sink Press (Li'l Abner, Steve Canyon) reprinted Goodman Beaver in book form, in 1983, that story was present only in the form of excerpts short enough to fall under the "Fair Use" section of U.S. copyright law.

But a few years later, Archie Comics allowed the story to slip into the public domain, by neglecting to take care of business when the copyright came up for renewal. The fact was discovered by Gary Groth of Fantagraphics Books (Prince Valiant, Zippy the Pinhead), which reprinted it in The Comics Journal #262 (September, 2004).

No current plans exist for a restored reprint, but the way is now clear for Goodman Beaver to be printed in full.


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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Harvey Kurtzman estate.