Cover for Mad About the Movies, by Mort Drucker
Front cover of Mort Drucker's book 'Mad About the Movies' (1998). Among the caricatured movie stars we recognize Mad's mascot Alfred E. Neuman on the movie screen dressed up as Humphrey Bogart in 'Casablanca', standing next to Ingrid Bergman from the same movie. In the upper corners we see Bob Clampett's 'Tweety' to the left and Tex Avery's Bugs Bunny to the right, with Daffy Duck in the left corner below holding the Maltese Falcon. In the center left corner we recognize Clint Eastwood as 'Dirty Harry', Whoopi Goldberg, James Dean, Barbra Streisand and Edward G. Robinson. Below them we recognize Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in 'What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?' and a young Marlon Brando holding a popcorn bag. In the lower left one can spot Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford in 'All the President's Men', Danny Glover and Mel Gibson in 'Lethal Weapon', Al Pacino in 'Dog Day Afternoon' and Malcolm McDowell in 'A Clockwork Orange'. In the upper right we notice Batman, Christopher Reeve as 'Superman' and a Gremlin. Below them Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty appear as Bonnie and Clyde with Errol Flynn running away as Robin Hood. In the row below them we spot Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Paul Newman and Jack Nicholson in 'The Shining'.

Mort Drucker was famous as one of Mad Magazine's "usual gang of idiots." He mostly illustrated their film and TV parodies, which allowed him to show off his immense talent for caricaturing. Together with Al Jaffee he was one of the magazine's oldest contributors, having joined the staff in 1956 and drawing his last comic for them in 2011. With a career spanning 60 years, he drew over 500 titles and that's just for Mad alone. During the 1950s and 1960s Drucker also drew war comics for DC and celebrity comics based on Bob Hope and Martin & Lewis. In the 1980s he was co-creator of Jerry Dumas' political newspaper comic 'Benchley' (1984-1986).

Early life 
Drucker was born in 1929 in Brooklyn, New York. His father was a Jewish-American businessman. While he showed a talent for drawing and was encouraged to take art classes at the Pratt Institute he was actually more interested in sports. Only after finishing high school he became more dedicated to exploring his artistic potential. Yet he never went to any art school, except a brief stint at the Parsons School of Design in New York City, and learned how to draw by studying great masters. In that sense he was completely self-taught. Among his main graphic influences were Norman Rockwell, E.C. Segar, Albert Dorne, Harold Foster, Robert Fawcett, Austin Briggs, David Levine, Al Hirschfeld, Ronald Searle and Charles M. Schulz. Drucker's grandfather was a friend of Will Eisner's grandfather. Thus the two future comics legends got to meet one another as a child.

Early comics
Eisner guided Drucker to his first job as a comics artist, assisting Bert Whitman on the newspaper strip 'Debbie Dean' in 1947. He then joined the staff of National Periodical Publications (DC Comics), where he worked as a retoucher. Among the titles he worked on as a ghost artist were Paul Webb's 'The Mountain Boys'. He tried creating his own comics. 'Hey Mac' never found a syndicate to be sold to, but his monthly pantomime western comics 'Rancho Pancho' and 'Little Wah'Hoppin' did. Drucker also worked on a more serious cartoon feature, 'Origins and Superstitions', which delved into the nature of popular superstitions and why people tend to believe them?

Around 1950, he began freelancing for comic books. All throughout the decade he contributed to mystery, war and science fiction titles, published by both DC and Stan Lee's Atlas line. He also drew for Dell ('Luke Short', 'Steve Donovan', 'Western Marshall'), ACG ('Lovelorn'), St. John ('Abbott and Costello Comics') and Better Publications. Additionally notable were his cover illustrations for DC's funny animal comic book 'Fox and the Crow' during the 1950s. Drucker also contributed to DC's 'War Stories', 'Sgt. Rock', 'The Adventures of Martin & Lewis' (1952-1957, based on the popular film duo) and 'The Adventures of Bob Hope' (1959-1963), based on the famous film comedian. 

Originally Drucker worked predominantly in black-and-white because: "I never owned crayons as a child." In reality he was colour blind.  When Time Magazine asked him to design a cover, he was so nervous that he asked Frank Frazetta for some professional advice. The final result came out so good that he felt more at ease making colour drawings afterwards.

Story from Battlefront by Mort Drucker
'In Enemy Territory' (Battlefront #29, March 1955).

Mad Magazine
In 1956 Drucker joined Mad Magazine through Nick Meglin who had recognized his talent. The magazine's original founder Harvey Kurtzman had left and Al Feldstein and William M. Gaines became the new chief editors. Drucker immediately learned that Mad had a different approach than most magazines. When he applied for a freelance job there, Gaines told him he would be hired if the Brooklyn Dodgers won a particular game they were following on the radio. Since their team won Drucker was instantly hired, though Gaines later admitted they were going to hire him anyway and just wanted to keep him waiting “for fun”. Drucker debuted in issue #32 (April 1957). His earliest works were basic parodies. He mostly illustrated articles written by professional comedians Sid Caesar and Bob & Ray. He was also the first artist to illustrate the long-running series 'TV Ads We'd Like To See', which first popped up in issue #46 (April 1959) and featured cynical twists on tired formulas in advertisements.

Mad: film and TV parodies
It wasn't until Drucker drew a comic book parody of the TV series 'Perry Mason' in issue #48 (July 1959) and the film 'The King and I' in issue #61 (March 1961) that he, in his own words, "realized his destiny". Films and TV shows had been spoofed before in Mad, namely by Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Davis and Will Elder. But it was Drucker who really put his stamp on it. He made it both his trademark, as well as one of the magazine's major selling points. Countless people have discovered Mad through one of their movie or TV parodies. These comics instantly caught their interest as it was something they were familiar with. By paging through the rest of the issue they fell in love with the rest of Mad's comics, articles and general humorous attitude.

Flawrence of Arabia by Mort Drucker
'Flawrence of Arabia' (Mad #86, April 1964). Script by Larry Siegel, Stan Hart and Frank Jacobs. 

Among the many film classics Drucker lampooned are 'Lawrence of Arabia' (issue #86, March 1964, written by Larry Siegel, Stan Hart and Frank Jacobs), 'Easy Rider' (i#135, June 1970, written by Larry Siegel), 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' (#136, July 1970, written by Arnie Kogen), 'Dirty Harry' (#153, September 1972, written by Arnie Kogen), 'The Godfather' (#155, December 1972, written by Larry Siegel), the entire 'Planet of the Apes' (#157, March 1973) and 'James Bond' (#165, March 1974) franchise up to that point (both with Arnie Kogen),  'The Exorcist' (#170, October 1974, written by Larry Siegel), 'Jaws' (#180, January 1976, written by Larry Siegel), 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' (#184, July 1976, written by Dick Debartolo), 'Rocky' (#194, October 1977, written by Stan Hart), 'An Officer And A Gentleman' (#238, April 1983, written by Stan Hart), 'Rambo II' (#259, December 1985, written by Dick DeBartolo), 'Casablanca' (#300, January 1991, written by Arnie Kogen for Mad's 300th issue), 'Jurassic Park' (#323, December 1993, written by Dick DeBartolo) and the first 'Harry Potter' movie (#412, December 2001, written by Desmond Devlin).

TV shows pastiched by him are 'Dr. Kildare' (#74, October 1962, written by Lou Silverstone), 'The Fugitive' (#89, September 1964, written by Stan Hart), 'Batman"'(#105, September 1966, written by Lou Silverstone), 'Star Trek' (#115, December 1967, written by Dick Debartolo), 'Dallas' (#223, June 1981, written by Lou Silverstone), 'The A-Team' (#242, October 1983, written by Stan Hart), 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' (#303, June 1991, written by Stan Hart), 'Seinfeld' (#327, May 1994, written by Stan Hart), 'NYPD Blue' (#329, July 1994, written by Stan Hart) 'Friends' (#339, September 1995, written by Josh Gordon), 'The Sopranos' (#389, January 2000, written by Arnie Kogen), 'Sex & The City' (#407, July 2001, written by Josh Gordon), and 'Prison Break' (#465, May 2006, written by Dick DeBartolo), among others. Out of all the parodies he drew, Drucker was most proud of his spoofs of 'The Godfather', both the first as well as the second part. Naturally he picked out this spoof when Mad Magazine created a TV special in 1974 and wanted to animate one of Drucker's film parodies. Sadly, this pilot never aired because network executives felt its style of comedy was too crude and non-family friendly to air on television.

Style
Drucker made so many film and TV parodies for Mad that some people incorrectly assume he made each and every one of them. This is not the case. Artists like Will Elder, Jack Davis, John Severin, Bernard Krigstein, Don Martin, Paul Coker, Harry North, Jack Rickard, George Woodbridge, Al Jaffee, Bob Clarke, Bruce Stark, Tom Bunk, Drew Friedman, Walt F. Rosenberg, Timothy Shamey, Bill Wray, Ray Alma, Grey Blackwell, Gary Hallgren, Anton Emdin and especially Wally Wood, Angelo Torres, Sam Viviano, Hermann Meija and Tom Richmond have also taken this task upon them. But Drucker is without contest the most iconic. Nick Meglin famously said: "Drucker is able to caricature somebody from the back and you'd still be able to recognize him." While his caricatures exaggerate people's faces, he always kept an eye on their anatomic proportions. Drucker studied hands, wrinkles, costumes and people's body language in order to understand how humans are "constructed". He strove for capturing the essence of their personalities; not just how they looked, but also how they moved and talked. This was also necessary because he had to portray them as characters in comic strip narratives. They had to be shown from different viewpoints and angles, but also taking on many different expressions. Above all, he wanted to make his characters look appealing, no matter how ugly or despicable they were in real life.


'Bore of the Worlds', a spoof of Steven Spielberg's 'War of the Worlds'. written by Arnie Kogen (Mad #458, October 2005).

Lay-out was just as important. Drucker strove for mimicking the overall atmosphere of the original. He imitated the cinematic style by composing his panels in a similar way. He picked out just the right poses and camera view points. As a result, both the characters as well as the comic strip panels resemble a genuine movie or TV adaptation, making the spoof elements all the funnier. In the early decades Drucker had to acquire most of his documentation personally. He cut out photographs from magazines, newspapers or promotional stills, because Hollywood and TV studios refused to send him images. Many were distrustful of Mad and didn't like the fact that their pictures and series were ridiculed. From the late 1960s on, when the first generation of Mad readers had grown up, it became easier to find old fans willing to grant him the desired documentation.

Despite his fondness for realism, Drucker also made his film parodies deliberately silly. In the best Mad tradition he often snuck in funny background gags or odd cameos of his favorite comics characters, including Ronald Searle's cats and the cast of Charles M. Schulz' 'Peanuts'.  

Who in Heck is Virginia Woolfe? by Mort Drucker
'Who in heck is Virginia Woolfe?' a spoof of 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?', written by Larry Siegel (Mad #109, March 1967).

Celebrity fans
The article 'Music Report' in Mad issue #43 (December 1958), written by Tom Koch, Bob & Ray and illustrated by Drucker, was praised by pop singer Pat Boone (who was ridiculed in the article) in the first episode of his variety show on ABC. He named "making Mad Magazine one of my greatest  accomplishments." Drucker recalled a time when LucasFilm tried to sue him for parodying 'The Empire Strikes Back' (1980), particularly because his spoof spoiled many key plot elements . As a counterattack he mailed them a copy of a letter George Lucas sent him, in which the director thanked him for his amusing spoof and added a request to obtain the original document. Lucas even wrote: "Special Oscars should be awarded to Drucker and DeBartolo, the George Bernard Shaw and Leonardo da Vinci of comic satire. Their sequel to my sequel was sheer galactic madness. (...) Keep up the good Farce!" Decades later Lucas even hailed Drucker as "the artist who defines Mad for me." Other celebrities who bought original artwork were Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who purchased his comic strip parody of their movie 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' (1966). 

In 1987 Drucker spoofed the TV series 'L.A. Law' and drew a cover depicting all the characters. The cast liked it so much that they sent back a photograph where they mimicked the poses their caricatural selves took on that cover. On the cover of Mad issue #364 (December 1997) Drucker made a caricature of Jerry Seinfeld, which Seinfeld declared to be the "greatest thing that ever happened to him", during a 6 February 2014 interview with Howard Stern. Film critic Roger Ebert claimed he "learned his profession from reading Mad's film parodies, which taught him all the clichés and formulas underneath the pictures." As such, he was honored to write the foreword to Drucker's compilation book 'Mad About The Movies' (1998).

Hollywood actor Michael J. Fox once said in an interview with Larry King that he knew he had "made it" when "Drucker drew his face". Film director Joe Dante compared Drucker to Al Hirschfeld as "the master American caricaturist", while fellow director J.J. Abrams confessed that he tried to imitate Drucker's caricatures and even signature when he was still at school. Steven Spielberg praised Drucker for making him "aware of the culture of our generation": "(...) Mort's irreverent and historical caricatures have never been nor will they ever be equalled. He poked fun at all my favorite movies when I was a teenager and when I was a filmmaker, he started going to town on the ones I was making and I loved every frame of his." 

Last-minute alterations
Together with Norman Mingo Drucker created the cover of issue #122 (October 1968), which featured Mad mascot Alfred E. Neuman with a bunch of balloons depicting all the candidates for the upcoming presidential elections, while holding a needle nearby. One of the politicians was Robert Kennedy, who unfortunately was assassinated a few months before the next issue was due. Drucker was asked to remove RFK's caricature and replace it with one sporting Alfred's face. Issue #429 (May 2003) featured a parody of the TV series '24', written by Dick DeBartolo and clearly drawn by Drucker, though he had taken his name of the credits and replaced it by the pseudonym "Bob Julian", because he was unsatisfied with the digital colouring and the grayscale shading supposed to replace it. 

Benchley by Mort Drucker
'Benchley'.

Benchley
Between 1984 and 1986, he made the syndicated daily gag strip 'Benchley' in cooperation with Jerry Dumas (writing) and John Reiner (assistant artist). The comic strip spoofed U.S. president Reagan through his supposed assistant Benchley. It required some restraint since the creators were not allowed to be too biting in their political commentary. Drucker too had to keep his artwork simple in order to "read" properly in newspaper prints. 'Benchley' was quite popular and gave Drucker the opportunity to caricature many famous politicians and media celebrities, including Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Henry Kissinger, Walter Mondale and Prince Charles and Diana. He also received many complimentary letters, including from White House speaker Tip O'Neill, politician Geraldine Ferraro and even President Reagan himself!

Book illustrations
Drucker has illustrated children's books, as well as the covers of the political satires 'John F. Kennedy Coloring Book' (with Paul Laikin, 1961), 'The Ollie North Coloring Book' (with David Duncan, 1987) and 'Farewell Tribute to Ronald Reagan Coloring Book' (with Lee J. Ames, 1988). Another project was the horror comic 'Christopher Lee's Treasury of Terror' (edited by Russ Jones, 1966).

Album cover designs
Drucker designed the album cover of 'The Bears' (1988) by The Bears and the back cover of 'State of Euphoria' (1988) by Anthrax. 

TV animation
In 1974 a Mad animated TV special was made, complete with an adaptation of Larry Siegel and Drucker's 'The Godfather' parody, from issue #155 (December 1972). Unfortunately the special was never broadcast, because network executives found the comedy too family unfriendly for prime time. Drucker's artwork was also featured in the opening credits of the sitcom 'Syznick' (1977-1978). 

Advertising artwork
He also created advertisements for Heinz ketchup, Vita herring, Whirlpool refrigerators, the U.S. Postal Service and Seagram's vodka. His artwork was featured in a one-minute public service commercial for the Heart Fund on how to prevent heart attacks. Drucker additionally created the "Frugies", characters who promoted the United Fruit and Fresh Vegetable Association. In the same vein he made the comic book ads for The Shrunken Head Apple Sculpture Kit. 

Film poster artwork
Naturally it was only a tiny step for him to design film posters too, including 'Casino Royale' (1967), 'It's Alive' (1974), 'Finders Keepers' (1984) and he one for George Lucas' 'American Graffiti' (1973). Lucas later said that Drucker was his "first and only choice" to illustrate that poster. Not afraid to bite the hand that fed him Drucker also drew Mad's parody of that film, under the name: 'American Confetti' (issue 166, 1974).

Art by Mort Drucker
Showcase of Mort Drucker's ability to draw beautiful women, featuring actor Burt Reynolds. The bespectacled woman on the left, looking on in disgust, is famous feminist Gloria Steinem.

Recognition
Mort Drucker received many accolades over the years. In 1987 he obtained the Reuben Award. In 1995 the Art Institute of Boston gave him the honorary title "doctor of fine arts". His covers for Time Magazine have been exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian Institution. In 2015 Drucker received the National Cartoonists' Society's Medal of Honor. 

Legacy and influence
Mort Drucker retired in 2011. His last exclusive artwork in Mad appeared in issue #509 (June 2011). He passed away in Woodbury, New York, on 8 April 2020 at the age of 91. His work has been an influence on John Kricfalusi, Rick Tulka, John Reiner, Angelo Torres, Sam Viviano, Tom Richmond, Everett Peck, Bruce Stark,  Frank Cho, Jason Seiler, Eric Heuvel, Daan Jippes and Theo van den BoogaardCharles M. Schulz once claimed that Drucker "draws everything the way we would all like to draw". 

Books about Mort Drucker
His work has been compiled in 'Draw 50 Famous Caricatures' (with Lee J. Ames, 1990) and 'Mad's Greatest Artists: Mort Drucker' (2012). The latter features written essays about Drucker's art, written by film directors like J.J. Abrams, Frank Darabont, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and actors like Michael J. Fox.

Mort Drucker

Series and books by Mort Drucker in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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