Entertainment & Arts

Mad magazine cartoonist Jack Davis dies aged 91

Jack Davis Image copyright AP
Image caption Davis was one of the original "Usual Gang of Idiots" at MAD magazine, a spokesman said

Cartoonist Jack Davis, the "long-time legendary" artist on the US magazine Mad, has died at the age of 91.

Davis, who also created posters for films such as The Long Goodbye and Bananas, was one of the founding artists on the publication in 1952.

He contributed to the magazine for several decades, drawing many portraits of its mascot Alfred E Neuman.

Mad art director Sam Viviano said Davis' "immediately recognisable style revolutionised comic illustration".

'One of the greats'

A spokesman for the magazine, which began as a comic book in 1952, said a list of his "most legendary pieces would run to several pages in length".

He added: "Among his most iconic parodies from Mad's comic book days are of The Lone Ranger and High Noon.

"From the magazine, his notable parodies include spoofs of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Gone with the Wind, and M*A*S*H."

The magazine's editor John Ficarra said there "wasn't anything Jack couldn't do".

"Front covers, caricatures, sports scenes, monsters - his comedic range was just incredible.

"His ability to put energy and motion into his drawings, his use of cross-hatching and brush work, and his bold use of colour made him truly one of the greats."

Image copyright Twitter

Davis began his career at the University of Georgia, where he drew for the campus newspaper - his depictions of the athletics teams, the Georgia Bulldogs, still grace the walls of the institution.

The university's alumni association tweeted that Davis would be "missed by the Bulldog family".

Georgia radio station WGAU said Davis' first success after university was to illustrate a Coca-Cola training manual, "a job that gave him enough cash to buy a car and drive to New York".

Once there, he worked as a freelance cartoonist, before finding a role with EC Comics, contributing to a number of their titles, including Tales From The Crypt and Incredible Science Fiction.

The editors of those titles - William M Gaines, Albert B Feldstein and Harvey Kurtzman - went on to launch Mad, which Davis contributed to from the start as one of the "Usual Gang of Idiots", the magazine's spokesman said.

Away from the magazine, Davis drew posters for films and designed a stamp for the US Postal Service in 1989, breaking the rule banning the portrayal of living people by sneaking in a self-portrait.

He received the National Cartoonists Society's Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996 and the Reuben Award in 2000 and was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2003.

Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter

Celebrities and fellow cartoonists paid tribute to Davis online. The Monkees' drummer Micky Dolenz retweeted a picture Davis had drawn of the group, while author Neil Gaiman said Davis was "so wonderful" and "a legend".

Marvel comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis described Davis as "one of the greatest cartoonists that ever lived", The Walking Dead artist Tony Moore said he was a "consummate professional and gentleman" and Gremlins director Joe Dante called him "the Maddest of the Mad artists".

Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter

Davis' final cover for the magazine came in 1995 - a picture of magazine mascot Neuman plunging radio presenter Howard Stern in a toilet bowl, which the spokesman said "remains a Mad classic".

Ficarra said Davis would "always be remembered for his charming modesty and Southern gentleman manner, which completely belied his rascally sense of humour and wry wit".

"Everyone at Mad and DC Entertainment send their heartfelt condolences to Jack's wife, Dena, and the entire Davis family," he added.


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