But now that Davis has announced his retirement at age 90, it's a good moment to focus on his genuine strengths by looking at some of his originals close up.
Davis did excellent fine line work. He didn't fall into the common trap of letting excessive lines turn his subjects rigid and heavy. Despite all that cross hatching, his pictures remained flexible and sprightly:
|Illustration from Humbug|
|Even in his fine line work, Davis maintained enough variety in his line to preserve priorities (for example, the banker's chin and belly).|
A master of the pen, he was also a fearless inker with a brush. Look at the way Davis transforms a man into a splatter beneath that sledge hammer. That effect could never have been achieved with his fine line cross hatching style:
|From MAD no. 5|
|Note the simplicity of the shading on the father's face|
At age 26, Davis began working at EC comics. From the beginning, his draftsmanship enabled him to squeeze complex scenes into small panels that were already crowded with text:
Even at that early stage, Davis was able to combine thin line and thick brush stroke to bring drama to his pictures in a way that only Neal Adams and perhaps a few others have been able to match.
Finally, Davis had a wonderful sensitivity for color. You didn't always see it in his numerous low budget spot illustrations, but when Davis got serious, there were few better.
Jack Davis has been a brilliant artist and an important voice in American popular culture for decades. As he steps down at age 90, he has a great deal to be proud of.