Legendary ‘Mad’ And EC Comics Artist Jack Davis Retires At 90
Try to picture the prototypical Mad magazine cover in your mind. There's a good chance that whatever you're imagining is in the style of cartoonist Jack Davis, who announced his retirement today at the age of 90.
It wouldn't be a stretch to call Davis the quintessential Mad artist (though Mort Drucker and Al Jaffee would certainly have to be near the top, too). This massive list of his contributions to the magazine dating back to 1952 -- including covers, ads, movie parodies, and regular pieces such as "The Lighter Side of..." -- would seem to prove it.
Mad wasn't Davis' only work, though. Not by a long shot. The Atlanta-born artist kicked off his career when he was 12 years old, winning a contest to be featured in Tip Top Comics. Later, he contributed to The Navy News during his military service. After doing odd jobs inking comic strips and drawing a Coca-Cola training manual, Davis began freelancing for William Gaines' EC Comics in 1950, working on titles including Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror.
Davis contributed to the very first issue of Gaines' Mad in October 1952, and drew the cover to the second issue. He had some sort of contribution in each of the first 30 issues.
In the early 1970s, Davis' art got so popular that he did covers for Time and TV Guide. He was a cultural powerhouse. From Wired's profile of the artist:
Whereas Norman Rockwell’s images represented Americana of the 1940s and ’50s with his Boy Scouts and pigtailed girls, Davis’ work epitomized the ’60s and ’70s—the smirking, sardonic face of the emerging counterculture. By the time the Beats and the Hippies (who came of age reading Davis cartoons) took over, he was doing movie posters for Woody Allen’s Bananas, The Long Goodbye, American Graffiti, and others.
Davis' announcement comes 18 months after IDW published an Artist's Edition volume of his EC work.
Davis told Wired that he plans to spend his time sitting on his porch and watching the river go by. The issue isn't that he can't draw, he said, but he's just not satisfied with the work anymore.
What he didn't mention is that he has produced enough great art for three lifetimes. Get some rest, Jack.