Jack Davis, famed MAD Magazine founding artist, dead at age 90
Being a child and teenager in the 1970s and 1980s meant you read magazines. For some, it was Tiger Beat, Sports Illustrated, or Rolling Stone. For some of us, a far more consuming mag graced our newsstand. Among the comic books we’d pick up, to find out what happened since we last left Iron-Man and Captain America, an oversized MAD Magazine, complete with a colorful, artistic rendering of Alfred E. Newman and a celebrity, politician, sports figure, or rock star would grace the cover.
As someone who would draw from the moment I could hold a pencil, I was amazed at the ability of Jack Davis, creative genius for much of the art you’d see in MAD Magazine. Caricatures aren’t easy. Good ones, anyway. To create a likeness of someone so realistic, yet so far reaching and distorted is something I never mastered, nor even came close to. Davis did it well.
From MAD to the cover of some of TV Guide’s most memorable issues, Davis didn’t just draw a figure, he would pose them in an action sequence that captured the character of the individual in a way that,
even if you didn’t see their face, you’d know who it was. His work never wavered. Just as musicians know they’ve “made it” when Weird Al parodies one of their songs, any celebrity knows they’ve made it when Davis would create artwork with their likeness on the cover of MAD Magazine.
Jack was born in Atlanta, GA in 1926 and attended the University of Georgia. In 1949, he got his first art job for EC Comics. Then in 1952, he became the founding cartoonist for MAD Magazine, where he worked for most of his career. He illustrated monsters better than anyone in his day and there’s a good chance you probably have a TV Guide and a comic book or two in your attic with his art on the cover. Davis has passed away at the age of 90.
There’s plenty of visual work online of Davis’s historic covers and books available on his art. For a better understanding of his impact, his legacy and his style, start here.