'A Mad Look at Celebrities in Real-Life Situations' (MAD #133, 1970), showing billionnaire Aristotle Onassis and his wife Jacqueline Bouvier, widow of former president John F. Kennedy. 

John A. Johns was a mid-20th century American caricaturist and illustrator. He was editorial cartoonist of the Pittsburgh Press, specializing in caricatures of media stars for the paper's Sunday magazine TV Graphic. His only known entry in comic history was done for Mad Magazine in 1970, with a piece titled 'A Mad Look at Celebrities in Real-Life Situations', written by Larry Siegel.

Life and career
John Abraham Johns was born in 1921 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and spent most of his life in the town Whitehall. Johns drew pictures since the age of six. Among his graphic influences were Walt Disney, E.C. Segar and Alex Raymond. He studied at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, where he graduated in 1939. During World War II, he was a B-25 pilot, serving in China and Burma (nowadays Myanmar). He then worked at an advertising agency in Charleston, West Virginia. In 1969, Johns founded Whitehall Arts, an initiative to promote art in the South Hills and surrounding areas and to connect local artists. Between 1969 and 2000, Johns was an art instructor ("Director of Education") at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Between 1970 and 1982 he was president of the institute. He received a honorary doctorate from them in 2004 and died in 2005 from heart failure.

Cartoon depicting the 1971 U.S. GOP nomination, published in QED Renaissance. From left to right (clockwise) one recognizes governor of New York Nelson Rockefeller, mayor of New York City John Lindsay, a thus far unidentified politician holding his hands in the air, senator Robert Byrd, governor of California Ronald Reagan and U.S. President Richard Nixon. Note the 'I Like Ike' button on his suit, in reference to the fact that he was Vice President under Dwight D. "Ike" Eisenhower (1952-1960). 

Pittsburgh Press and other local publications
From 1952 until 1969, Johns was editorial cartoonist for The Pittsburgh Press. He made full color caricatures of TV stars for the Sundays magazine TV Graphic, and also drew over 500 covers. He also drew for their family supplement. Other caricatures appeared three times a week in QED Renaissance Magazine, which promoted the Metropolitan Pittsburgh Public Broadcasting, Inc. Since both magazines were only syndicated within the city limits, Johns' notability also remained limited within its borders.

TV work
Between 1969 and 1974 Johns often appeared on the TV show 'Newsroom', broadcast on WQED, to draw caricatures, portraits and cartoons based on current news stories. 

Caricatures of actors Chuck Connors and Dick York. 

Mad Magazine
However, in March 1970, Johns' drawings were seen by a larger audience than ever before, namely readers of the bestselling satirical magazine Mad. In issue #133 he illustrated some gag comics written by Larry Siegel, titled: 'A Mad Look at Celebrities in Real-Life Situations'. The episode depicts Jacqueline Bouvier (a.k.a Jackie Kennedy) shopping with her husband Aristotle Onassis, John Lennon and Yoko Ono taking a passport photo, Hugh Hefner being bugged around by his nagging mother, Sammy Davis Jr. being submissive to Sinatra, Sinatra beating up visitors, Richard and Pat Nixon avoiding a visit from "neighbor" and Vice President Spiro Agnew, while a doctor visits Dean Martin's wife who complains about his adultery.

These comics appear to be Johns' first and last step into the medium. They were also his first and final publication in Mad. It is unknown why Johns never reappeared in the magazine. In March 2012, Drew Friedman theorized on his blog that Johns' graphic style was possibly too similar to other regular cartoonists in the magazine. Indeed, his comics feel like a cross between Mort Drucker and Jack Davis.

In 1960 Johns won the Golden Quill Award for "Best Newspaper Art".

Photo © Jim Ruth.

Series and books by John Johns you can order today:


If you want to help us continue and improve our ever- expanding database, we would appreciate your donation through Paypal.