Monday, February 6, 2023

Comics: Al Kurzrok, Artist, Letterer, Teacher and Psychologist

Alter Ego #52, September 2005

Allan Lance “Al” Kurzrok was born on October 30, 1939, in Brooklyn, New York, according to the New York, New York Birth Index and his Social Security application, both at His parents were Irving Lawrence Kurzrok (June 6, 1906–February 12, 1976) and Estelle L. Wolf (August 25, 1911–March 1, 1992). 

Kurzrok’s father was born in New York City. The 1920 U.S. Federal Census said he lived in Indianapolis, Indiana with his parents, Samuel and Fannie, older brother, Milton, and younger sister Denice. At some point they returned to New York.

Kurzrok’s father was a student at the Long Island College of Medicine in Brooklyn. He graduated in 1929. 

1929 Lichonian

The 1930 census recorded the Kurzroks in the Bronx at 1349 Nelson Avenue. 

On April 21, 1936, Kurzrok’s father and Estelle Wolf obtained a marriage license in Brooklyn according to the New York, New York Marriage License Index. 

Kurzrok’s father was a competitive amateur tennis player who won many awards. He was profiled in the Brooklyn Eagle, September 8, 1939. 

On October 16, 1940, two weeks before Kurzrok’s birth, Kurzrok’s father signed his World War II draft card. He resided at 900 East 24th Street and worked at 115 Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn. He served in the Navy from March 29, 1943 to May 31, 1945. 

The 1940 census recorded Kurzrok and his parents in Brooklyn at 900 East 24th Street. Kurzrok’s father’s occupation was medical doctor in private practice. 

According to the 1950 census, the Kurzrok family of four resided in Manhattan at 9–11 96th Street in the penthouse. Kurzrok’s father had a private practice as a gynecologist and obstetrician. Also in the household was a maid. 

Kurzrok was a student at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School. Below is his junior class photograph from the 1956 yearbook, Columbiana. Kurzrok is in the back row on the far left.

Kurzrok was profiled in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, January 26, 1986 edition. He said “I started drawing at age seven and it was obvious I couldn’t match my father as a student.” He decided to pursue cartooning at age twelve and was encouraged by parents and their cartoonist friends, George Vonda (Terry and the Pirates), Jay Irving (Pottsy) and Ham Fisher (Joe Palooka). At seventeen Kurzrok ventured to the Apollo Theater and began interviewing black rock musicians. He spent four years at the School of Visual Arts. His pursuit in fine art was a struggle so he looked into comics and got freelance assignments, and eventually landed a job at Marvel. 

It’s not known exactly when Kurzrok began his career as a freelance artist. He contributed to the 1961 book, The Sports Illustrated Book of Bridge

The Grand Comics Database lists Kurzrok’s earliest lettering credits as July 1967 for Tales of Suspense #91 and Two Gun Kid #88. Below are Kurzrok-lettered pages from August 1967. 

Ghost Rider #4, Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Rawhide Kid #59, Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Strange Tales #159, Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Tales to Astonish #96, October 1967 

A 1968 issue of Art Direction said “Freelancer Allan Kurzrok drew Voteman for League of Women Voter’s 4-page brochure.” Kurzrok copyrighted The Adventures of Voteman. Samples of Voteman appeared in Urban Crisis Monitor, Volume 1 (1968) and Government by the People: The Dynamics of American National Government (1969). 

Kid Colt Outlaw #141, Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Don and Maggie Thompson’s Newfangles 41, November 1970, said “Al Kurzrok, now on Marvel’s production staff, will write several Furys [Sgt. Fury] in between Casper and Richie Rich.”

Alter Ego #153, July 2018, published a 1971 Marvel Bullpen photograph which included Kurzrok. 

In the mid-1970s Kurzrok was production editor at Cracked magazine. 

In 1977 he changed careers from comics to counseling. Kurzrok would use comics to teach parable and metaphor to children. 

The Herald-Tribune said
In 1980, while completing psychology studies at the University of South Florida he drew 102 comic strips as part of his doctoral dissertation which dealt with children coping with mortality, loss, grief, anger, jealousy, greed and anxiety.

“The comic strips deal with big issues but they use a humor, a fun approach and very different points of view,” he told the Herald-Tribune in 1994. “I envision parents and children reading them together, interacting with the characters and role-playing. And I have always been a proponent of good mental health beginning at home.”
Kurzrok was listed at Tampa, Florida in the 1980 Resource Directory of the Association for Humanistic Psychology. 

In 1986, Kurzrok was working to complete his doctorate from Union Graduate School in Cincinnati. 

Cartoonist Profiles, #94, June 1992, said Kurzrok was one of several guests at the 1991 OrlandoCon

Kurzrok’s The Kids from “Help!” Look at Loss and Life was published in 1993. The following year Geode Productions released See Yourself! be Yourself!: Fire Up Your Self-Esteem. Kurzrok filed a trademark application for Geode Productions

The Herald-Tribune said Kurzrok was an instructor at the Ringling School of Art and Design which offered his two courses, The Psychology of Self-Esteem and Critical Human Dynamics. He was listed in The National Faculty Directory, Volume 2, H–O (2002). 

Kurzrok passed away on May 3, 2005, in Sarasota, Florida, where his parents had retired in the early 1970s.  

Further Reading
News From ME, Al Kurzrok, R.I.P. 
The Comics Reporter, Al Kurzrok, 1939–2005
Comic Vine, Al Kurzrok
Print, The Daily Heller: Voting Comics Introduce Real Superheroes

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(Next post on Monday: The Inland Printer, January 1916)

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