Friday, July 12, 2019


For my final gallery of art from the late beloved MAD Magazine, I've chosen the brilliant Mort Drucker.

Drucker's talent graced the pages of MAD for 50 years. Looking back, his long legacy seems almost supernatural.  

The Godfather
The Godfather

The Godfather
Drucker always said he loved his job.  There's no other way to explain the overflowing generosity of his drawing or his sustained high standards.

Most other cartoonists would draw this next panel with just the two heads of the speakers.  Drucker added twelve additional figures and a complex background, just for kicks.

Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice.  Unlike other caricaturists, Drucker had to draw multiple likenesses of each face with expressions that matched whatever was happening in the scripts he was given.

Beverly Hills Cops

Patton: even the tanks are drawn at a jaunty angle

MAD Magazine will be forever enshrined in the annals of great and important American magazines.  As we've seen, many excellent artists contributed to that reputation.  But in my opinion, no one contributed more than the great Mort Drucker.


kev ferrara said...

Wow. Strong bunch of Drucker sequences; these really exhibit him at his best (as opposed to the Jack Davis images you posted yesterday, which in my opinion were not representative of JD's excellence). Darn good movies being parodied here too (Godfather, Patton, Heaven Can Wait.) These particular parodies would be the pride of any collector of Drucker's work. And the "step on some ants" joke is actually funny.

The late 60s and early 1970s were a great time for movies and Mad's parodies. Many coincident heydays.

For some reason it popped into my head that I don't remember seeing a Mad parody of The Wild Bunch.

Kevin Mizner said...

My God, Drucker was a genius. He was the reason I wanted to draw. Mad magazine wasn't just a humor magazine for me, it was an art lesson. Any issue that had one of his movie parodies was a bonus issue!

kenmeyerjr said...

The best. As great as the other caricature specialists they have had over the years, Drucker remains king. Criminy, even his hands are funny! And, from a old dude craft standpoint, I loooove seeing all that duoshade and zip!

MORAN said...

IMO Drucker was the greatest comic artist ever.

David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara-- Yes, there are some good movies represented here but one of the things that I admire about Drucker is that even when he was doing a spoof of an execrable, short-lived TV show (remember "Alf"?) he still did a great job, better than his subject matter deserved.

I agree that I was able to get better access to Drucker originals than to Davis originals for this series. No slight to Davis intended. I'd be interested to hear what you think the high points of Davis' work for MAD were. I enjoyed his work for the early comic book MAD (and reproduced a couple of examples in this week's series). I was also impressed with his first year or two in the magazine format, but after that I think his best work was done outside MAD. To me, he did great work for other Kurtzman projects such as Humbug, Trump! and Little Annie Fanny. Some of his Time magazine covers were great, especially if they involved an elephant. But I'm not sure where I might turn for his "best work" in MAD.

Kevin Mizner-- I agree completely.

kenmeyerjr-- Yes, even though Drucker said his favorite medium was "a pencil," when you skim over his 50 years of work for MAD, you see how his basic tools advance, from duoshade and zip a tone to ink wash to felt tip markers, and how the printing quality improved to capture more sensitive marks.

MORAN-- Well, different artists were great in different ways. How do you compare Winsor McCay's contribution with Drucker's? But I will say I can't think of anyone better.

comicstripfan said...

The best was saved for last - one thinks of Drucker in a caricaturist pantheon which included such greats as Covarrubias and Al Hirschfeld.

kev ferrara said...

I'd be interested to hear what you think the high points of Davis' work for MAD were. I enjoyed his work for the early comic book MAD (and reproduced a couple of examples in this week's series). I was also impressed with his first year or two in the magazine format, but after that I think his best work was done outside MAD.

Now that I think about it, I guess I mostly agree with you. For me, Jack Davis is soooo EC... soooo identified with Mad (as comic and magazine) that almost anything he does seems to me to belong to the EC/Mad family. No matter who the client. Particularly the stuff he did for Kurtzman after mad. But also, so many of his movie posters with those hundreds of figures running all over the place; that is so very Mad in its sloppy and over-abundant style.

But even when I look at Davis's Fang Mail illustration for Warren, or his Monster Cards, or Eerie #1, or his Dracula Slim Jim ad, I think Tales From The Crypt. And Tales From The Crypt is so silly and wonderful and soooo EC it feels like Mad to me.

Anyway, to be strict about it, my favorites of Davis' work in Mad were: "Hah Noon!" "Horror Movie Scenes We'd Like to See" "Lone Stranger Rides Again" "Slow Motion" "Casey At The Bat" "Face Upon The Floor" Mad's early "Beware of Imitations" ads. The cover to Mad #2, 173, and 178. I love the goon football players he drew for mad, like this...

Much more I can't recall off hand.

Surprised that you didn't also eulogize the equally wonderful Freas, Mingo, Martin, Kurtzman, and Elder. One of the great losses of pop culture, in my opinion, is that Harvey Kurtzman stopped being a cartoonist. I think his Hey Look strips, "Pot-shot Pete" and his early Mad covers are some of the finest and funniest cartooning of the 20th century. Right alongside Don Martin. And Bill Elder, I think, is, by a wide margin, the funniest deadpan cartoonist of all time.

Richard said...

Most of Druckers work that I’ve seen was of the floating head, garbage gag variety. I’ll have to sig deeper. Some of these paint a very different picture of his work than I was aware of.

Anonymous said...

Drucker was incredible. IMO better than Milton Caniff, Alex Raymond, or Hal Foster. A real genius of comic art.


David Apatoff said...

comicstripfan-- agreed, caricaturists are a special breed and the two you mention are two of the finest. At the same time, one of the things that impresses me so much about Drucker is that he was a hybrid caricaturist/illustrator. On the one hand, he could capture likenesses with the very best caricaturists. He worked out more facial expressions and angles for a face than any other caricaturist I know, and he prided himself in doing "whole body" caricatures, paying attention to posture and body types and mannerisms so that he could make clear who his subject was even if the face was turned away. On the other hand, more than any other caricaturist that I know, Drucker had fabulous technical skills that enabled him to draw all kinds of complex backgrounds and bodies that Levine, Hirschfeld, Covarrubias and other greats never attempted: complex machinery, buildings and airplanes, every kind of fish or animal, landscapes-- nothing seemed to daunt him. Only Jack Davis was as fearless.

Kev Ferrara-- When I put together my little tribute to Davis, I was tempted to add art from the EC horror and war comics and from Little Annie Fanny. His art was beautiful, but I felt bound to limit myself to art from MAD, given the theme of these posts. But I certainly agree with you, he did lovely work, especially with Kurtzman. I think the work Davis did for Trump! Was first rate.

I did insert something from Hah Noon into the very first (July 5) installment about MAD, but that was more because Kurtzman was so damn funny ("I'm-a-Stayin'!")than because of the art. I had the same reason for including the Wood art from Superduper man in that same post. It wasn't so much the wood art as it was the hilarious Kurtzman lines.

You're right, Kelly Freas and Will Elder and the rest of them all deserve attention. MAD was the Mount Olympus of comic art.

Richard-- In my view, spending time with Drucker is always time well spent. I really dislike gushing, but Drucker is one of those very rare artists about whom I have a hard time restraining myself.

JSL/Anonymous-- Again, I hate hyperbole but I would not argue with you about this.

kev ferrara said...

I forgot to mention one of my personal insane favorites from early Mad, Basil Wolverton. His Mad #11 cover was surely one of the most subversive covers ever to hit the newsstands up until that point. His Mad Reader series in the same issue is another high point from early Mad for me. And later on he did a series of crazy looking experimental automobiles for Mad, starting in the late 1950s, that I think paved the way for Big Daddy Roth.

Spy Vs. Spy also deserves mention. Aragones' "Drawn Out Dramas" in the margins, which kept the anarchic spirit going. And Al Jaffee had a fun consistent style and his fold-ins could be quite clever (when they weren't not, that is.)

A lot to eulogize, happily, sadly.

Joe Ciardiello said...

As a kid, Mort Drucker was my first drawing hero. Loved him then and still do today.

Ace said...

Those depicted have largely passed on, but the faces are instantly recognizable. Such a talent.