Saturday, June 02, 2018

NICK MEGLIN (1935-2018)

My dear friend, Nick Meglin, died this morning.  For nearly 50 years Nick was the loving heart of MAD magazine and a tireless advocate for its astonishing stable of talent.  The following are some of Nick's classic cover ideas for MAD.





But Nick led a much broader life, full of professional accomplishment in varied areas (he was member of the Dramatist Guild, ASCAP, the Writers Guild of America, and the National Cartoonist Society).

The best way to summarize Nick may be with this story:

Last week Nick took me to the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia. With all the knowledge and sophistication of an experienced museum curator, he escorted me from piece to piece, explaining what made Rodin great, citing details from Rodin's life and pointing out subtle features of his bronze casting technique.  Then, as we were leaving he spotted Rodin's The Burghers of Calais  across the Courtyard.  With all the knowledge and sophistication of an 8 week old puppy, he went over to pose pretending to return a rude hand gesture from one of the Burghers.

"Meh"
As his sweetheart (and the most patient woman in the world) Linda Maloof snapped his photo, Nick explained that wherever he encountered The Burghers of Calais around the world, he had to get a picture of himself responding to that Burgher.  The joke never got tired for him.

I say that Nick was my friend, but Nick was everybody's friend.  If you ever read a copy of MAD Magazine or one of Nick's many books or if you ever took one of his art classes at the School of Visual Arts or if you ever went to one of his musical plays, or even if you just believed in decency and humility and kindness, or appreciated a good insult, you were a friend of Nick's.   He was a joyful and remarkable man, warm, funny and expansive.  Everyone gravitated to him.

Nick (far right), Sergio Aragones and Sam Viviano cracking each other up on a panel last week at the National Cartoonists Society convention.
Nick was generous teaching me about illustrators.  He seemed to know personally every illustrator of the past 60 years and he worked with many excellent artists at MAD; his memory was extraordinary and his taste was impeccable.

In recent years he began passing along to me his dusty files of tearsheets and clippings, like a relay racer passing a baton to the next generation.  He knew he wouldn't have time to write all of the books and articles that remained within him, and he expected me to do my share to honor and preserve the talent we both admired.

I told him several times I wanted to sit down and tape record him for two weeks, but he always had something more pressing-- and funnier-- to do.  It would have been a great service to the history of illustration and comic art.  Now I'll never have that chance.  Farewell, my friend.

12 comments:

James Gurney said...

I knew him mainly for his Mad writing and his book "The Art of Humorous Illustration," which rounded up a gaggle of the great illustrators and cartoonists of a few decades ago.

MORAN said...

What a great guy.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear that David . I own his life drawing book and got to meet him , along with Angelo Torres and Frazetta himself at the Frazetta museum opening in 2000 or 2001 . Made him laugh with a comment about the backlighting we both admired on the dress an attendee was wearing .

Al McLuckie

LARRY said...

Nick was such a great guy. he was a very good customer at Durham Tire Pros and always
love eating tuna at Elmo's.. Nick will surly be missed.Our condolence to the family

Friends At Durham Tire Pros

Stevie VanBronkhorst said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, David.

chris bennett said...

Sorry for your loss David - and that was delightful and warm obituary.

kev ferrara said...

So sad to hear of Meglin's passing. Also, sorry to hear of your personal loss of him. And I'll add my own two sob cents, that, having grown up with Mad, lately it feels like the reaper's really chopping away at my moorings.

Back to a wide shot... I remember reading Mr. Meglin say about Mad, "For a bad taste magazine we were in good taste." And I think that was a real key feature of not just his long tenure at Mad, but Mad as a quality cultural product. The greatness of Mad was never just about mocking and satire, never just about sloppiness and low class jokes... there was always the ghost of high culture and true appreciation for quality art, theater, and literature floating in the background, subtly informing everything. So Meglin's fondness for Rodin, which I had no idea about until just now, is not surprising. But it is nice to hear of.

Anonymous said...

David,
Condolences on the passing of your Friend..
D.H.

David Apatoff said...

To All: Many thanks to for your good thoughts.

Sam Viviano, the art director of MAD who worked with Nick for decades, left a loving tribute at the website of the National Cartoonists Society ( http://www.reuben.org/2018/06/nick-meglin-1935-2018/ ) which tells Nick's story far better than I could. He was one funny, irreverent guy.

Nick was the one remaining person I could consult when I wanted an eye witness to what happened in the olden days of illustration. He knew all those artists personally, and understood their work like nobody else. There were about ten mid-level illustrators whose work and practices I wanted to record for posterity. They've never been discussed in books or articles. Nick always used to say, "I'll tell you about him someday...." I just wasn't fast enough. But I wouldn't trade the time we spent laughing about other things.

Michael Mann said...

The loss of Nick Meglin brings back special memories of Mad Magazine and the skits we adapted from its pages for 7th and 8th grades at Monticello (NY) High School: The Howdy Do It Show and Perry Masonmint. That in itself would have been enough, but Nick took it to the next level, shopping in our family grocery store in Wurtsboro, NY, near where he had a vacation home. My brother and I would toss a football with Nick on Route 17 in front of the store when there was no traffic. My all-time greatest football catch occurred when he underthrew me and I reached back with my left hand and caught the ball between my fingers near my left ankle. I was able to bring the ball up without dropping it. Nick was a great guy and I'll regret not contacting him when he retired. Heaven is a little funnier with his presence.

Wanda said...

Sorry for your loss.
Was Mr. Meglin the artist you made a blog post about some time ago, perhaps in your "One Lovely Drawing" series, showcasing how he had redrawn an electrical switch because he wasn't satisfied with it, even though it was unlikely anyone would even notice that small detail. I was quite impressed by that.
Enjoy your blog and have learned much from it!

David Apatoff said...

Michael Mann-- sounds like a great catch!

Lots of kids share your memories of those great MAD stories. The MAD team really had a great influence on people at their most formative stage.

Wanda-- Thank you so much for writing. That old blog post about the electrical switch was about Mort Drucker, a talent who was discovered and hired for MAD by Nick. The two were the closest of friends for decades. If you remember that post, then you've really been with me for a long time. I appreciate it.