Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mad's Maddest Unknowns

Thursday Story Strip Day.

Very little is known about the artists that made Mad magazine great. They were called Mad's Maddest and that must have seem an honor, but in fact it was that name and the fact that they were always presented as a group, that prevented journalists and fans to look beyond that. None of them were ever interviewed seperately. There were books written about Mad, of course, but none of them got any attention seperately. So we know very little about the question where Don Martin got his unique style. Or what Bob Clarke did before he became Mad's goto man for any sort of funny production art. Or what side-projects Paul Coker did, or any of them. Only Sergio Aragones and Al Jaffee seem to have gotten some attention, but that is mostly because of the fact they did things outside of Mad as well. And they lived long enough to get their turn to speak out. There was a great book done about the EC artists, which gave an overview of their careers before, outside and after EC by Grant Geissman. He also did the book on everything you can collect about Mad. Someone should ask him to do a book on the artists who made Mad magazine great. And the writers too, if he is at it. It's only in recent years I have found out some of those had television careers as well. And who knew that King Aroo's Jack Kent designed covers for Norman Mingo?

Most of the Mad artists tried their hand at newspaper strips at some time. Some are better known than others. Al Jafee's Tall Tales was a moderate succes. Mort Drucker's political strip got a bit of attention. Jack Davis didn't do bad for himself. Don Martin's post-Mad newspaper efforts have been reprinted by Dark Horse. But there were others. And probably more than I am aware of. Paul Coker did at least two attempts at a newspaper gag strip. Bob Clarke worked on a satirical panel with a writer (whch I will show some other day). And jack Rickard did a funny adventure strip which I can only describe as a cross between Get Smart and the later comedy series Soap. Pauline McPerill told the (mis)adventures of a blondhaired secretary, who gets kidnapped and tied up and saved by her boyfriend over and over and over again. It's not so much funny as it is over the top. But artwise it is pure Jack Rickard and what qualifies it for a turn here is the fact it has remained so u known all these years. As has the comic book work of Mort Drucker, Angelo Torres and George Woodbridge. Or the illustration career of Norman Mingo. Or the cartoon background of Duck Edwing. Or the life and sudden disappearance of Harry North.

The story starts in Holland, at Madurodam, a real life miniature village in The Hague. And it doesn't really end. It just goes on and on...

Strip missing.

Strip missing.

3 comments: Syung Myung Me said...

Mark Evanier did a pretty good book called "MAD Art" which has bios on a lot of the artists -- sadly, not long enough (since you could write a book on each of 'em), but it's a start.

Paul Coker, actually, had a big career at Rankin Bass, designing characters for most of their great specials (like Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty The Snowman). Jack Davis did a bit of that too. (Rankin Bass also put out the film Mad Monster Party written by Harvey Kurtzman).

Jack Davis did a lot of advertising art, too -- he created the Raid bugs from those TV ads (I don't know if they ever went abroad, though, so you might not know what I'm talking about), and Bob Jones created the Exxon/Esso Tiger.

Frank Kelly Freas, of course, has had a long career doing Sci Fi covers, which are pretty dang cool.

The Mad Men are all really interesting, and I'd love to hear more about 'em. Like what DID happen to Harry North?

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Mark Evanier's book was well written, but it did not have the illustrations of depth of Grant's book on the EC artists. I agree you can see it as a start, but I see it in the next in a long line of efforts to block any serious look into the life and art of people like Angelos Torres, George Woodbridge, Dave Berg, Mort Drucker, Don Martin and all the other unknown Mad artists.

Did you know Harry North worked for the French Pilote magazine?

The Seditionist said...

Last I knew, North was going back and forth between England (where he was a citizen) and NYC, where he was banging (sorry; tasteless, just slipped out) a woman I knew and working on something cinematic -- maybe with the woman, IIRC. So maybe he just never returned from the UK. Also, the sense I got was that he was actually ambivalent about Mad in a way a lot of contributors were not; it was just a gig and the time passed.