Sunday, May 15, 2005


A panel from Drucker's "Patton"

Mort Drucker is the genius caricaturist who was a centerpiece of MAD magazine for decades. His ability to capture a likeness from many different angles and with a variety of expressions bordered on the supernatural. If Drucker had been born 500 years earlier, he might have been burned at the stake for witchcraft. But practicing his art on the pages of MAD magazine for almost 50 years, he remained safely below the radar of most people over the age of 18.

Drucker's Jack Lemmon

One of the most striking characteristics of Drucker's work was how liberally he dispensed his abundant talent. He was able to lavish creative attention on background details and inanimate objects without restraint. While other more prominent caricaturists such as Al Hirschfeld or David Levine might labor for a week over a single likeness in a fixed position, a torrent of superior drawings flowed nonstop from Drucker's miraculous pen. He might easily draw a hundred distinctive faces for a single issue of MAD, depositing them effortlessly in crowd scenes, or in a picture frame in the background, or even on a passing horse or dog.

Note the complex architecture of a typical Drucker "background" crowd. Drucker's crowds compare favorably to the famous "group portraits" of celebrities by artist Ralph Barton that caused a sensation in venues such as Vanity Fair in the 1920s.

Theatre audiences gave Drucker an opportunity to indulge himself

Another crowd scene, this time the hard way: over the shoulder of the speaker, from above.

Superfluous background characters each have a distinctive personality

It is difficult to think of an artist who doesn't start from a standard template when drawing the human face, either because their style hardens with repetition or because they resort to shortcuts to save time. You can spot an artist's standard presumptions about the human head, usually camouflaged by a few distinguishing details added at the end. This approach was apparent in the work of excellent artists such as Hal Foster (Prince Valiant) and Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon)as well as lesser artists such as George Wunder (Terry & The Pirates). But Drucker makes no assumptions. With each new portrait he seems to start back at the Garden of Eden and redesign the human head from scratch. Never has an artist drawn the head in so many different shapes and sizes. A garden of Drucker faces follows:

Drucker's brilliant drawings were all rendered in his trademark style, a springing, bouncy line that adds energy to each and every picture. (Drucker's forte was his line work. With a few exceptions, his color work was far less successful). One look at his pictures made clear that Drucker's jaunty line was based on a rock solid understanding of perspective, anatomy and composition.

In addition to being more prolific than other caricaturists, Drucker has the advantage of being a superb draftsman. While many caricaturists mastered portraiture, Drucker mastered anatomy and perspective and technical drawing so that he didn't share the limitations of his more specialized peers. Drucker's brilliance at all around drawing enabled him to transcend some of the limitations of the comics medium. While his artwork may be confined to tiny rectangular boxes, he is able to squeeze the illusion of great depth and scope into those spaces.

Drucker's understanding of anatomy and perspective makes him fearless about taking visual risks.

Drucker seemed to be able to squeeze limitless depth into a tiny panel

Another example of Drucker making the most of a small panel

Drucker's use of perspective at work
On thousands of pages, he crowded every panel with dense images and still had enthusiasm left over for visual jokes and playful sidebars.

Drucker's enthusiasm for the act of drawing sometimes took him to bizarre lengths.

Drucker sustained his extraordinary quality over many decades, compiling an unrivaled body of work. To paraphrase Bohun Lynch, Drucker "had drawn so many caricatures that he must now wait for new subjects to be born."

A panel from Drucker's "Godfather"

Drucker's one Achilles heel as a caricaturist seems to be the benvolence of his drawings. He seemed incapable of generating the type of nasty pictures that brought fame and notoriety to Thomas Nast or Daumier.

Those who swoon over the caricatures by Daumier found on museum walls forget that those very pictures originally appeared in the French satiric tabloid, La Caricature. They would do well to invest some time in studying a superior artist hidden in the pages of MAD magazine.


Blogger leif said...

As a kid the movie and tv parodies by Drucker and Torres were always at the bottom of my reading order - way behing Spy VS Spy, Don Martin, the Al Jaffee fold-in, and Dave Berg's Lighter Side - but looking back there's no denying I loved to pour over those dense Drucker panels. Perhaps even more astonishing than all the visuals Drucker effortlessly crowded into those frames is that he managed to design them in a manner that left room for text! Another great article, David.

11/19/2005 10:34 AM  
Blogger dany boom said...

without a doubt. without a doubt, man, drucker is an illustration deity. id consider him like marc davis at disney - not the one everyone trumpets about, not the star- but a workhorse, an excellent draftsman, and a constant source of inspiration.

geeze, just look at the hands he draws even.

( sorry about the bad spelling , there. )

11/22/2005 8:04 PM  
Blogger Drazen said...

I love his war comics from the 50's too.

12/13/2005 8:57 PM  
Anonymous CHRIS said...


1/02/2006 10:14 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Drucker was my number one man for many years. I SO wanted to draw like him. And the HANDS! The hands were so expressive and added so much to each personality..... I STILL wish I could draw like that. Thanks for putting this up!

1/08/2006 3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Passport photos should look so good. I have admired his work for over 50 years. I toss the Mad magazine aside if a Mort Drucker parody is not in it. My one dream was to have him do a caricature of me . I realized that dream on my fiftieth birthday by having a caricature done by the MAN for my fiftieth

11/07/2006 6:52 PM  
Anonymous Dean said...

Excellent observations about Mort's amazing talent. He has inspired more professional caricature artists than anyone else. There will never be another Mort Drucker. Thankyou Mr. Drucker.

12/01/2006 1:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He always killed me with the simplicity of his bg charecters... so few lines and so loose looking... yet they had everything! I would study his drawings for days when I was a kid. Thanks again for putting these up

5/02/2007 1:58 PM  
Blogger Danny said...

Yap, Mort is the best. I wonder if he was hired for a time to work in Crazy magazine... Did he do Westworld parody as well? Check here:

5/24/2007 4:31 PM  
Blogger mike said...

When The Hulk ran out of toilet paper in a public restroom, that panel was the funniest thing I ever saw.

5/25/2007 12:46 AM  
Blogger เลิศพล said...

come from S.E.Asia Mort Drucker great...and now attempt to copy his line .and once times want to see my Master Mort Drucker.

8/20/2007 12:49 AM  
Anonymous RAW said...

As a fledgling, young artist, I learned the essential character of drawing hands and feet by studying Mort's work. As a college art professor, I instruct drawing students to study Mort's drawings for essential gesture, line weight, balance and everything works as a whole; and hopefully to enhance their idividual stylistic growth. When you compare his many imitators, (Torres,De Bartolo,Richmond etc.)there's still only one Mort Drucker. But I'm sure his artistic spirit will continue to inspire generations of artists to come.

10/07/2007 7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to raw comment...

his artistic spirit will continue to inspire generations of artists to come.

agree your comment

10/19/2007 3:12 AM  
OpenID awflatlander said...

When I was a kid in rural Iowa in the sixties, waiting for my MAD magazine to arrive in it's plain brown wrapper, I always prayed there'd be a Mort Drucker parody. What an incredible talent.

2/03/2008 11:49 AM  
Anonymous Myles said...

When I watch movies fom the 70s and 80s as an adult now I often felt something was missing in movies I thought I saw years earlier. I only recently reslized it was because as a kid I poured over every detail of Drucker Mad Parodies over and over because I was too young to see the movies

3/13/2008 11:44 PM  
Blogger TheWrist said...

...I've always wondered at his brilliant long did he take to do one of theses Mad panels? Did he use a heap of photo references-Did he go straight to ink or did he work it all out in pencil first? Anyone know...I'm always interested in other artists processes. He is BRILLIANT & A GENIUS though man beautiful work...thanks for posting these!

5/13/2008 6:19 PM  
Blogger TheWrist said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/13/2008 6:20 PM  
Anonymous stephen heigh said...

I think everybody and every kid that grew up reading Mad Magazine in the sixties wanted to draw like Mort Drucker. I was amazed at his drawings. A true original.

6/09/2008 11:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always loved his art since I was a kid,I was wondering where I can learn, to do his style of drawing,or at least close to it....

8/28/2008 1:11 AM  
Blogger John Reiner said...

Greetings-Abrahms Books has asked Mort Drucker (and me, as co-author) to write a comprehensive book on Mort Drucker's life and career, due for release in 2010. It will contain countless examples of previously unseen (non-MAD) art as well as step-by-step, start-to-finish pieces. The book will be an overview of his philosophical as well as technical approach to illustration. If you have any questions or topics you'd like to see included in the book, you can submit them to: Thanks!-John Reiner

2/19/2009 6:27 AM  
Anonymous Potter Zebby said...

Re: RAW--

DeBartolo is a "Drucker imitator"? You do realize he never drew a line for the magazine, right? He's one of MAD's top 2 or 3 writers.

3/05/2009 6:09 PM  
Anonymous Bob McLeod said...

Drucker has always been my idol. I learned how to draw from copying him. I particularly learned to draw hands from his example. Your remarks about his art are very perceptive and right on target. The reason he drew so much better than other caricaturists is because he got his start drawing comic books, where you have to be able to draw anything. His comic book work is just as great as his Mad work for sheer drawing.
And thanks to the Danny who posted above thinking maybe Mort drew the Westworld satire for Crazy, but that mess was actually my very first pro job, and far far below Drucker's standards.

10/16/2009 3:58 PM  
OpenID flyinghandsterp said...

I always did study his drawings for days when I was a kid. Sketched and copied many drawings by Mort Drucker. I love how way he signs his name on with vertical-free "E" lines! Thanks for putting 'em up! Viva la Mort Drucker!!!

12/01/2009 1:30 AM  
Blogger Frank said...

I love the guy! I'm 56 years old and kept up with "Mad" since a child.... I'd pick up a magazine and made sure
he did the movie drawings....then I bot it. Sorry Mr. Torres no offense please. I'm sure you understand.
This morning I checked Mr. Drucker on Google and to my sadness he has aged. I forgot Father time is moving fast. I guess I want the world to know he'll be
missed by this one guy from Hawaii.

5/02/2010 12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the guy! I'm 56 years old and kept up with "Mad" since a child.... I'd pick up a magazine and made sure
he did the movie drawings....then I bot it. Sorry Mr. Torres no offense please. I'm sure you understand.
This morning I checked Mr. Drucker on Google and to my sadness he has aged. I forgot Father time is moving fast. I guess I want the world to know he'll be
missed by this one guy from Hawaii.

5/02/2010 12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You weren't famous unless Mort Drucker drew you in Mad Magazine. The guy was simply awesome.

1/03/2011 8:16 AM  
Anonymous JOHN POKORNY said...


9/21/2011 3:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up in Guyana, South America. The first time I saw a Drucker drawing was in Madd. I continued buying the magazine until his work stopped appearing in it. To this day, as a part time cartoonist, I'm aspiring to draw like Mr. Drucker. If I ever get anywhere close I'd be a darn good cartoonist. Still don't know how he captures those features so accurately. Best I've ever seen.

10/07/2011 2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I met Mr. Drucker at a cartoonist convention almost 20 years ago. He was a generous artist with advice unlike most. He said to me when doing caricatures," if the person you are drawing is offended, then you've failed." He is a national treasure.


10/27/2011 4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mort Drucker is a great cartoonist-caricaturist, especially, the movie parodies in MAD Magazine

11/10/2011 6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wanna hear it again? Drucker is great. The one thing I object to in your narrative is that Mad appealed only to the under 18s -- that is so wrong! My father -- born in 1912 -- was CRAZY about Mad Magazine! Look around you -- not too many people have a sense of humor since it requires a sort of "overview". To him Mad was as great as the Marx Bros., Sid Caesar & his writers, Charlie Chaplin, Ben Turpin, Buster Keaton, WC Fields, Marie Dressler, etc., etc., etc.!!!! "Good" is universal and Drucker speaks to -- resonates with -- all sorts of people who have humor, sarcasm, irony and rebellion in their souls, not just kids.

2/06/2012 2:29 PM  
Anonymous Rico said...

Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to mention that I've truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

5/01/2012 12:02 AM  
Anonymous Jeff Cowles said...

Mort's the best in the business! Unlike others, my first stop every issue was with Mr. Drucker's movie satires. I couldn't wait to see who he imMORTalized next. As a young boy and budding artist myself, Mort's caricutures were the only visuals I wanted to copy! I was obsessed with his talents! Reproducing Mort's work was the most influential art class I took. To this day, I'm still drawing caricutures for income, family and friends. Mr. Drucker is an American Icon!

10/15/2012 12:13 PM  
Anonymous zachary alford said...

As a kid I read Mad magazine and savoured Mort's amazing work. Aside from his faces that looked exactly like the people they portrayed, his hands were an endless source of fascination. Also his shoes! I loved the way he captured light on leather! I'm very happy to see a page that gives such loving detailed analysis of his genius. I definitely copied many of his faces in my attempts to draw back in the '70s. He is the king. I loved the whole magazine: Martin, Aragones, Jaffe. But with Mort you were dealing with a magician.

10/29/2012 12:32 AM  
Blogger jankins said...

"ClaudeJankins" here.I consider my self a pretty good artist. But this aint about me. Mort Drucker is the Michael Jordan of Caricature. As a yound kid with artistic talent, He mesmerized me with his effortless looking drawings.His women were a favorite of mind ,again drawn saw effortlessly looking. Whats the most beautiful thing on this earth... women, and in the Mort Drucker Mad world they still are. I took many cues from MD and when the occasional Mad came out without his work inside, I really wasnt that interested in it. Thanks Mort, I can say you were an influence greatly on how I approached my drawings.

11/16/2012 9:07 AM  
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4/20/2013 6:33 AM  

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