Comic strips were still new when Howard Pyle passed away. In the century that followed, comic strips evolved into a major part of modern illustration. Comic books, graphic novels, webcomix and other forms of sequential art now attract serious art reviews and win cultural prizes.
So when it came to selecting a living artist to represent sequential art in the Delaware Art Museum show, there was no shortage of artists to choose from. There are sequential artists who are innovative designers or Pulitzer prize winners or web pioneers, there are sequential artists who have written poignant personal memoirs or witty observations of the human condition. But ultimately, for me the choice became easy. If we focus on the actual drawing (whether with pen or stylus), I don't know of any current sequential artist to compare with the remarkable Mort Drucker, whose 50 year career drawing parodies for MAD and covers for TIME is an astonishing accomplishment.
Drucker's uncanny ability to capture a likeness from any angle, in any lighting, with any facial expression, is enough to make him a legend in the industry.
Furthermore, the high standards that he maintained, decade after prolific decade, drawing with fresh enthusiasm and humor, is an example to us all.
But mostly, I am damn impressed with the drawing of it all-- how Drucker designed and constructed thousands of panels, the distinctive style with which his eyes and fingers embraced his subject, his sensitive, descriptive line which could be so exhausting in some panels and yet so incisive and selective when necessary.
Because some "high art" types tend to look down on MAD as slapstick, I wondered how some of the more serious gallery painters in the exhibition would react to Drucker's inclusion. But when I spoke with Phil Hale, whose large and powerful oil paintings are the opposite of slapstick, he responded "when I was younger, my dream was to work for MAD, alongside Mort Drucker."