Tributes paid to US cartoonist Jack Davis

A young Jack Davis. Image: Jack Davis Foundation
A young Jack Davis. Image: Jack Davis Foundation

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.”

Jack Davis cartoon for Tip Top Comics
Jack Davis cartoon for Tip Top Comics

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.

Tales from the Crypt art by Jack Davis



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.

Cover for Panic #12 by Jack Davis January, 1956 issue
Cover for Panic #12 by Jack Davis January, 1956 issue

(Kurtzman and Davis also worked together on “Little Annie Fanny” in Playboy).

“We’ve been beatniks for thirty years…" Illustration by Jack Davis from Playboy, June 1962
“We’ve been beatniks for thirty years…” Illustration by Jack Davis from Playboy, June 1962

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.

One of Jack Davis' memorable ad strips, which featured on the back of many a US comic
One of Jack Davis’ memorable ad strips, which featured on the back of many a US comic
Jack Davis "Cookie Monster" cover for TV Guide, published in July 1971
Jack Davis “Cookie Monster” cover for TV Guide, published in July 1971
Get Smart by Jack Davis
Get Smart by Jack Davis
Jack David cover for the It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World score album
Jack David cover for the It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World score album

 

 

“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.”

Original pin-up by Jack Davis from Superman #400, published by DC Comics, October 1984
Original pin-up by Jack Davis from Superman #400, published by DC Comics, October 1984
One of Jack Davis' many album covers, based on on his film poster art
One of Jack Davis’ many album covers, based on on his film poster art

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

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.

Jack Davis and Harvey Kurtzman's follow up to their Lone Ranger parody from MAD #3, "The Lone Stranger Rides Again", featured in MAD #8 in 1953
Jack Davis and Harvey Kurtzman’s follow up to their Lone Ranger parody from MAD #3, “The Lone Stranger Rides Again”, featured in MAD #8 in 1953

“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.”

MAD #139 - Cover by Jack Davis
“He was the American caricaturist and cartoonist of the Baby Boomer generation,” noted Beano artist Nigel Parkinson. “He made the USA seem like a great place to be.”

“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

Obituary – Comics Alliance 

Obituary: Hollywood Reporter

Jack Davis Art on ComicArtFans

A gallery of Jack Davis’ album covers

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a “freelance comics operative”, currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY.

John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor.

He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY.

Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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