Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Jack Davis was a star in the MAD Magazine firmament from the very first issue.  Davis was 25 years old, with a fearless ink brush and a precocious talent for converting a human being into a splat.  (This was an important skill for the infant magazine).

Davis could work simultaneously for MAD and several other comics because he was fast as lightning.  Bill Gaines and Harvey Kurtzman recalled Davis penciling and inking three or more entire pages in a day.

Here for your enjoyment is a selection of lovely drawings by Davis spread across many years of MAD:

In later years, Davis simplified and streamlined his work for MAD.  He applied tones through loose washes rather than tight cross hatching.

Yet, the pictures usually retained Davis' underlying quality.

Another brilliant artist selected for the formidable MAD talent pool.


kev ferrara said...

Davis' Hah Noon! and Horror Movie Scenes We'd Like to See are my favorites of his. Also loved his slow motion sports and anything he did with a western theme or hollywood behind the scenes. Or music. Or football or baseball.

He was so wild and free technically and such a silly goose, it is easy to miss just how good Davis' work is. So few people ever achieve anything close to his level of animation. I also don't think there's another cartoonist in history that spent as much time trying to get his characters and locations to look smelly. (I think once he switched to wash tone, he lost some of his smelliness.)

In the pantheon of delight, I put him up there with Kurtzman, Martin, and Elder. To make people laugh with a drawing is a special special talent. I truly love Jack Davis's work with all my heart.

Tom said...

These guys are so good at arranging there masses into rhythmic arrangements, which gives their drawings such a nice flow. They know what brings a drawing to life, is how one part relates to another. One only has to look at the boy's open eye and shut eye to understand that same kinds of relationships of part to part are running throughout all the drawings you have posted David.

Jeff said...

No one could make a zombie look funnier than Jack Davis could, just like no one could depict someone vomiting more hilariously than Al Jaffee could.

David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara-- I agree with everything you've said (although I confess the "smelly" point never occurred to me). I will say that part of Davis' "special talent" is making his drawings look fast and spontaneous but Davis took on so much work for so many different types of clients that sometimes his drawings really were slapdash and suffered for it.

Tom-- excellent point, and one that distinguished Davis from a thousand of his imitators.

Jeff-- No doubt about it.

Richard said...

Absolutely love this. The boots in the third picture are picture-perfect my definition of good cartooning.

They maintain the solidity and credibility of a thing well-understood, but their representation has been perfectly transmuted by his own personal sensibilities and memory.

There's nothing in the drawing of those boots that Davis doesn't own completely, they don't call back to any source material but Davis' own mind and memory, but without falling into flat shorthand or iconography.

Where most artists' "style" is little more than a form of handwriting, in those boots Davis has shown the perfect balance between absolute freedom and understanding. That's a sort of drawing that's in very short supply, even among the hallowed masters on Illustration Art.