Cover illustration from 'Drawing from within'

Nick Meglin was an American comics writer, theatre lyricist, screenwriter, illustration teacher and magazine editor, who worked for Mad Magazine from 1956 until his death. Together with John Ficarra he was Mad's editor-in-chief between 1984 and 2004. Meglin is often credited as the unsung creative soul of the publication. He wrote scripts, ideas and humorous verses for countless comics and magazine covers. The man kept an eye on the lay-out and functioned as a talent scout and mentor for several of their cartoonists and writers. As an illustrator he scribbled the wacky letterboxes in some of Mad's readers' letters sections. Outside Mad, Meglin also scripted Jack Davis' sports comic 'Superfan' (1970-1974) and was an accomplished writer of several books about illustration.


Crimson Avenger - Hostages of the Blackfeet (Masked Ranger #9), by Torres and Meglin

Nick Meglin was born in 1935 in Brooklyn, New York City. Meglin began his career in the early to mid 1950s, assisting Angelo Torres on his work for Premier Magazines ('Crimson Avenger'), among other things. He was also involved in writing and inking chores for Panic, the companion title to Mad by EC Comics, which lasted only for twelve issues (1954-1956). He joined Mad in 1956, around the time when Harvey Kurtzman resigned as chief editor and was replaced by Al Feldstein, who transformed the magazine into the shape it is most famous for today. Meglin began as a scriptwriter and gag man. Over half a century he'd make countless contributions to the magazine, both in content (articles, comics, advertisements) as in lay-out and design. He often took charge of the lay-out of Dave Berg's 'The Lighter Side of...' and occasionally thought up puns for Paul Coker's 'Horrifying Clichés'. On the content page of each issue he wrote many one-liners in the guise of Mad's mascot Alfred E. Neuman. Meglin thought up some of Mad's most classic magazine covers, like issue #68 (January 1962), illustrated by Don Martin, where two Santa Clauses fight over their corner spot. Another of his ideas was the cover of issue #171 (December 1974), illustrated by Norman Mingo, which parodies the poster of the gangster movie 'The Sting' (1973), but with President Richard Nixon and Vice-President Spiro Agnew as the two crooksters. His best known cover with Alfred E. Neuman was issue #245 (March 1984), where Alfred urinates the new year in the snow.


Cover ideas by Meglin, artwork by Don Martin and Norman Mingo

Meglin's contributions to the world's maddest magazine have been numerous, but often remained uncredited. Therefore it will probably never be possible to list each and every one. Even Doug Gilford's Mad Cover Site, otherwise the definitive collection of every graphic and written contribution in Mad's pages, apologizes for the small amount of articles he has been able to attribute to him. What is known is that Meglin satirized the western TV series 'The Rifleman' (issue #53, March 1960) and the film 'The King and I' (1956) as 'The Producer and I' (issue #60, January 1961), both illustrated by Mort Drucker. 'The Producer and I' kicked off a long parade of song parodies, which soon became one of his specialities. Meglin wrote the classic parody of 'My Fair Lady', 'My Fair Ad-Man' (issue #54, April 1960), satirizing the advertising industry. Some of his funny verses were collected in the paperback 'Rotten Rhymes and Other Crimes' (1978), which was illustrated by Al Jaffee. He was also the lyricist behind 'The Theme Song from Captain Klutz' in 'Don Martin Presents Captain Klutz II' (1983). He wrote for actual comedy vinyl records too. 'A Mad Look At Graduation Day' (1981) by Mel Danis and the Mad Idiots, for instance. Along with Al Feldstein he was the creative supervisor of 'Mad Magazine Presents Gall In The Family Fare' (1973), a comedy record based on Mad's parody of the TV sitcom 'All In The Family' (issue #147, December 1971), written by Larry Siegel and originally illustrated by Mort Drucker. The voice impressions were done by Allen Swift, Pat Bright and Herb Duncan.


Two letterbox illustrations by Nick Meglin

Meglin was involved with the publication of many of Mad's paperbacks. He wrote 'The Sound of Mad' (1980) and two paperbacks satirizing the 1950s and 1960s, namely 'A Mad Look at the 50s' (1985) and 'A Mad Look at the 60s' (1986). All three titles were illustrated by George Woodbridge. He also worked with Sergio Aragones on 'Sergio Aragones Is Totally Mad' (1991). In 2014 he provided the foreword to the compilation book 'Mad's Greatest Artists: Don Martin: Three Decades of His Greatest Works' (2014). As an illustrator Meglin's own contributions to the comics world have been scarce. But he did occasionally draw small cartoons of a letter box in Mad's reader's section. The letter box would be stuffed or decorated with wacky stuff in each issue. Just like other running gags in the magazine, like John Putnam's Mad zeppelin and Arthur the potted plant, these letterboxes would occasionally make a cameo in some of their comics.


Alfred E. Neuman's Childhood Chums (Mad #32, 1957), written and illustrated by Nick Meglin

Over the decades Meglin moved up the ladder as Mad's associate editor and co-editor. In 1984 he and John Ficarra succeeded Al Feldstein as editor-in-chiefs and kept this position until their collective retirement in 2004. Meglin acted as a mentor and talent scout of many of Mad's longest-running contributing writers and artists. His colleagues remembered his sarcastic sense of comedy, but he was equally admired for his erudite knowledge. A veritable renaissance man, he was interested in a huge variety of topics. This was particularly useful considering the huge amount of topics Mad had to satirize. Because of his particular love for tennis, Meglin's business card jokingly described him as a "tennis editor". Meglin shared his intellectualism and talent for writing outside Mad's pages too. He wrote about tennis in Tennis Magazine, impressed opera fans in Opera News and talked about various other topics in The New York Sunday Times, American Artist Magazine, Ideas and the monthly American football publication Pro Quarterback. The latter magazine also featured 'Super Fan' (1970-1974), a comic strip written by him and drawn by Jack Davis. It tells the story of Y.A. Schmickle, a geeky boy who receives sporting powers of many great football players of the past by saying a magic spell. The comic satirizes much of early 1970s culture and society, while many well known football players of the day have a cameo. When the comic strip was published in paperback format, legendary journalist Howard Cosell wrote the foreword.


Superfan, with artwork by Jack Davis

Meglin also wrote humorous lines and parody lyrics for David Martin's political comedy album 'Richard the 37th: The Agnew and the Ecstasy' (1969), which satirized U.S. President Richard Nixon and his Vice President Spiro Agnew. He furthermore wrote material for The Crazy Gang's audio play 'Everything You Always Wanted To Know About The Godfather, But Don't Ask' (1972), which spoofed the popular gangster saga of the same name. Meglin went deeper into maffia parodies with the humorous book, 'Honor Thy Godfather' (1976), which was illustrated by Anthony D'Adamo, and the compilation book 'Mad About The Mob' (2002), a collection of several maffia-related comics and cartoons in Mad's history. The latter book had a foreword by media critic Joel Siegel.

Meglin worked as an art instructor at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He published several books about drawing and illustration over the years. The most often reprinted work was the instruction book 'The Art of Humorous Illustration' (1973), which featured chapters on mostly Mad cartoonists, but also artists like Gerry Gersten, Johnny Hart, Norman Rockwell, Arnold Roth and Maurice Sendak. The book was updated and reprinted in 1981, with a foreword by Federico Fellini, and reprinted again in 2001 as 'Humorous Illustration: The Top Artists of Our Time Talk About Their Work'. Chapters on other artists like Donald Reilly and Jules Feiffer were added over the decades. In 1976 Meglin published 'On-The-Spot-Drawing', where 12 famous illustrators talk about their methods, namely Tom Allen, Alan E. Cober, Tom Feelings, Robert Frankenberg, John Gundelfinger, Franklin McMahon, Bill Negron, Anthony Saris, Noel Sickles, Tracy Sugarman and Robert Weaver. A collection of his own artwork could be found in 'Fountain Pen Drawing' (Pitman Publishing, 1973) and 'Drawing from Within: Unleashing Your Creative Potential' (2008), which he co-created with his daughter Diane.

Fountain Pen Drawing

The man was active as a scriptwriter for animated cartoons too. He wrote two episodes of Hal Seeger's 'Batfink', namely 'Mike the Mimic' (1967) and 'Bowl Brummel' (1967) and, together with his son Chris Meglin, various episodes of 'The Pink Panther', based on Friz Freleng's eponymous character. The man was furthermore active in musical theater and a member of the Dramatist Guild, ASCAP and the Writers Guild of America. The Mad editor wrote the libretto and lyrics of 'Tim and Scrooge', based on Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol', with music by composer Neil Berg. The musical won the Best New Musical Award in 2016. He, Berg and librettist Dan Remmes furthermore wrote a musical based on the buddy comedy film 'Grumpy Old Men' (1994). More serious work by Meglin's hand were various audio plays which he recorded for the American Cancer Society.

Nick Meglin passed away from a heart attack in 2018 at the age of 82.

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