On July 27, 2016, Jack Davis, one of the most prolific and influential cartoonists and illustrators of the second half of the twentieth century, passed away in St. Simons Island, GA at age 91. Like many of my generation, I first encountered his work in the pages of MAD magazine and my world view was never the same. His frenetic, satirical style skewered and lambasted the politicians, movie stars, and pop icons of the day, setting the tone for television shows such as Saturday Night Live and Second City TV in the 1970s.
A master of several genres, Davis began his career at EC comics providing art for their horror and war lines. Following the Congressional hearings in 1954 concerning the supposed relationship between juvenile delinquency and comic books, the company and Davis turned to humor with MAD, first in comic book and then in magazine form, the later to avoid censorship by the newly established Comics Code Authority.
Throughout the next several decades Davis’ art appeared everywhere: on movie posters, magazine covers, ads, packaging, album covers, and more. He was awarded a lifetime achievement award from The National Cartoonists Society in 1996, and in 2005 was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame. One thing his work always produced in the viewer was a smile. Or a guffaw.
MAD when it was still a comic book.
Movie poster, 1963
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About Steven Brower
Steven Brower is a graphic designer, writer, and educator and a former creative director/art director of Print. He is the author and designer of books on Louis Armstrong, Mort Meskin, Woody Guthrie and the history of mass-market paperbacks. He is director of the “Get Your Masters with the Masters” low-residency M.F.A. program for educators and working professionals at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. You can follow him on Twitter: @stevenianbrower.