Balls of Death, by Duck Edwing

Don Edwing, nicknamed "Duck" Edwing, was one of Mad's "usual gang of idiots". He worked half a century for the magazine, from 1962 until 2012, both as a writer as well as an illustrator. His gag comics are instantly recognizable due to his bulbous-nosed characters and black comedy. Despite his long career, Edwing was somewhat of an unsung hero. Most of his contributions to the comics universe and Mad in particular were done as an anonymous scriptwriter. Only in the 1980s did he start to draw and write more of his own comics on a regular basis. But even then his work is fondly remembered by any longtime Mad reader in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. 

Early life
Don Edwing was born in 1934 in Brooklyn, New York. Like many cartoonists he enjoyed drawing as a child. He published his first cartoon in Harvey Kurtzman's short-lived magazine Help! (1960-1965), but it was in Kurtzman's former magazine Mad, where his career really started to blossom.

Mad Magazine
In April 1962 Edwing made his debut in Mad's 70th issue. He would stay there for five decades, even though the majority of his work was done as a writer, rather than a comics artist. He penned gags, ideas, stories and articles for many of Mad's regular illustrators, such as Joe Orlando, Wally Wood, George Woodbridge, Bob Clarke, Jack Davis, Paul Coker, Frank Frazetta, Jack Rickard, Sergio Aragonés, John Pound, Bob Jones, Dave Manak, Richard Williams, Irving Schild, Peter Sun, Tom Bunk, Michael Paraskevas, Monte Wolverton, Desmond Devlin, V.J. Mercado, James Bennett, Peter Kuper, Angelo Torres, Mark Frederickson, C.F. Payne, Sam Viviano, Hermann Meija, Al Jaffee, James Warhola, David P. Levin, Mark Stutzman, Gary Hallgren, Sam Sisco, Arie Kaplan, Patrick Merrell, John Caldwell, Ray Alma, Harry North Esq. and John Kerschbaum


'Three Days of the Condom' (Mad #366, February 1998).

From issue #157 (March 1973) on Edwing wrote many advertisements for subscriptions to Mad, usually under the title "Why KILL yourself... just because you missed the latest issue of Mad?" The cartoons typically featured people attempting suicide in far-fetched and humorous ways, like dressing up as a banana and then entering an ape cage. 1975 proved to be a turning point in Edwing's career. In July of that year he drew his first comic strip for the magazine, 'A Mad Look at Sea Burials', which appeared in its 176th issue. One issue later he also started a collaboration with Mad's "maddest" artist, Don Martin, for whom he would write many of his most classic gags. Martin had a strong impact on Edwing's own comics, both in goofy characters, odd onomatopeia, mad situations and his one-page gag format. By the time Martin left Mad in 1988 over a pay dispute, Edwing was his natural successor. Edwing also sometimes illustrated scripts by Frank Jacobs. 

Spy vs. Spy
Around the same time he also emerged as the new scriptwriter for 'Spy vs. Spy' after the original artist Antonio Prohias quit in 1987. Edwing left the artwork to new artists like Bob Clarke, Dave Manak and Peter Kuper, though. With Manak, he also made a 'Spy vs. Spy' Sunday comic, which ran for 39 weeks through Tribune Media Services in 2002.


'A Rascally Religious Ruse' (Mad #328, June 1994).

Tales From the Duck Side
Most of Edwing's cartoons in Mad started to increase from the 1980s on, where they ran under the header 'Tales From the Duck Side', a reference to his nickname 'Duck'. Edwing always drew a tiny little duck next to his signature or in the final panel of his gags. Continuing this running gag he also nicknamed his wife Clair "Cluck". Starting with issue #443 (July 2004), Edwing became a regular gag artist for Mad's Fundalini pages, where his contributions eventually received the subtitle 'Duck Droppings' from issue #463 (March 2006) on. He had used this pun for the first time in issue #417 (May 2002). 

Edwing's comics had no recurring characters, except for the Ventriloquist Priest. Like his name implies he fools churchgoers by acting as if God or some religious statue spoke to them, while in reality he is a skilled ventriloquist. Between issue #353 (January 1997) and #376 (December 1998) Mad furthermore irregularly featured 'The Masked Mountie and His Wonder Dog Biscuit'. The masked crusader always came up with a plot to defeat the villain of the week, but usually ended up dismembering himself or suffering other painful torture. Other than these two most of Edwing's characters remained nameless. They are all near identical-looking chubby little men and women with big round noses. Edwing had a penchant for black comedy and many of his gag comics revolve around executioners, cannibals, blind people and human-devouring monsters. Another favorite target were superheroes, whom he ridiculed by the score. 

His work was collected in several paperbacks, namely 'Don Edwing's Mad Bizarre Bazaar' (1980, with a foreword by his mentor Don Martin), 'Mad Book of Almost Superheroes' (1982), 'Mad Variations' (1984), 'Don Edwing's Mad's Bizarre Biz' (1987), 'Mad's Sheer Torture' (1988), 'Mad Fantasy, Fables and Other Foolishness' (1989), 'Duck Edwing's MADventures of Almost Superheroes' (1990), 'Duck Edwing's Mad Bizarre Blast' (1991), 'Mad Disasters' (1992) and 'Mad's Creature Presentation' (1993). He illustrated scripts by Dick DeBartolo for 'Mad Murders the Movies' (1985), a paperback full with parody comics of 'Gone With The Wind', 'The Exorcist', 'The Maltese Falcon', 'The Phantom of the Opera', 'Mutiny on the Bounty', 'Frankenstein', 'Robin Hood' and 'The Wizard of Oz'. 

Lancelot
Apart from Mad, Edwing also wrote some gags for Frank Ridgeway and Paul Coker Jr.'s daily comic 'Lancelot' (1970-1972). Distributed by the Newspaper Enterprise Association, 'Lancelot' revolved around a lazy husband who lets his wife do all the hard work. 

Horace and Buggy
Edwing and Coker also created 'Horace and Buggy' (1971), a newspaper gag comic distributed by the McNaught Syndicate. It had bugs and insects in the starring roles and only lasted about six months. 

Other publications
Edwing also wrote gags and ghosted some episodes of Bob Thaves' newspaper comic 'Frank and Ernest'. Edwing's own cartoons also appeared in Look, The Saturday Evening Post, Hugh Hefner's Playboy and the Swedish comics magazine Herman Hedning, based around Jonas Darnell's popular comic character of the same name. In this foreign magazine Edwing drew the superhero parodies 'The Ball of Death', 'Super Sock' and 'The Super Family'.

Final years and death
Edwing's final contribution to Mad appeared in issue #515 (June 2012). Health problems forced him into early retirement. He passed away in 2016. 


'Scenes so bad they didn't even make the dvd: Spider-Man' (Mad #424, December 2002).

Series and books by Duck Edwing in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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