We’re sorry to report that legendary US cartoonist Jack Davis has died, aged 91 – one of the founders of MAD magazine and certainly one of the best-known and recognisable cartoonists in the world.
“Our hearts are broken,” a spokesperson for the Jack Davis Foundation commented. “He was a giant.”
A cartoonist from a very early age, his first published work appeared in Tip Top Comics in 1936 when he was 12. He moved to New York from Atlanta in 1949 and was hired by EC Comics to draw for Tales of the Crypt, Haunt of Fear and Two-Fisted Tales.
At EC, Davis met Harvey Kurtzman, who hired him to work on MAD magazine, which he worked on for two years before moving on to pursue his own projects – returning in the mid 1960s and remaining on the magazine for the rest of his career – and beyond.
(Kurtzman and Davis also worked together on “Little Annie Fanny” in Playboy).
One of the most sought-after illustrators and caricaturists in the US, his caricatures of public figures appeared on the covers of Time magazine and TV Guide, as well as advertising, record covers, movie posters (including It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Kelly’s Heroes and The Long Goodbye) and bubble gum cards.
“When it came time to assemble the Criterion release of Mad World, using Jack’s classic art was a no-brainer, ” recalled art director Eric Skillman, “and we were thrilled to find the man himself willing to revisit the film and provide new illustrations for the menus and packaging.
“Working with Jack was a particular honour and pleasure for me as art director — he is every bit the consummate professional his legend describes.”
Davis received the National Cartoonist Society’s Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996, the NCA’s Reuben Award in 2000 and was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2003.
Despite a publicised “retirement” in 2014, he continued to work right up to his death.
Jack’s final cover for MAD, depicting Howard Stern being plunged into a toilet bowl by Alfred E. Neuman, is beloved by Stern and remains a MAD classic.
“There wasn’t anything Jack couldn’t do,” said MAD editor John Ficarra, in a statement. “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.”
“More than any one piece, it was Jack’s immediately recognisable style that revolutionised comic illustration,” said MAD art director, Sam Viviano. “There is not a humorous illustrator in the past 50 years who hasn’t been influenced by him.”
“His work was everywhere when I was a kid, agrees fellow Beano artist, Lew Stringer.”Comics, bubblegum cards, magazine covers, film posters. So prolific. R.I.P.”
“One of my favourite cartoonists and biggest influences (a childhood spent reading MAD),” commented Jonathan Edwards. “… he had a hell of a run and has left an incredible body of work. I return to his work again and again whenever I need inspiration. Nobody drew feet quite like Jack! Thanks for all the amazing work, sir.”
• Jack Davis born 2nd December 1924, died 27th July 2016