Mort Drucker is one of the finest caricaturists and cartoonists of our age. He is often overlooked for a couple of reasons. One reason is that he is overshadowed by the attention paid to people like Al Hirschfeld and David Levine (both of whom I admire, but not as much as Drucker), along with editorial cartoonists and other caricaturists who work in more literary and cultural venues. The other is that Drucker’s main venue, aside from occasional Time and TV Guide covers, has been Mad magazine, and you don’t get much more culturally disrespected than that.
Drucker has been creating splendiferous move and TV parodies in the pages of Mad since the late 50′s, for a time appearing while the great Wally Wood was still plying his visual magic at the magazine. For my money, Drucker is the only one of the post-EC Mad artists who is in the same class with Wood, Will Elder and Jack Davis (and that class is within the all time top echelon of comics artists).
Drucker is the absolute best ever at combining consistently brilliant caricatures with comics, i.e. sequential storytelling; in this he even surpasses Wood and Elder. Unlike Herschfeld and Levine, he doesn’t just create a likeness in a single image, he draws multi-page comics stories in which the caricatures are consistent, recognizable and hilariously dead-on through the course of a story, requiring a wide range of position, action and expression!
On top of all of that, Mort Drucker has one of the most wonderfully realized humorous comic drawing styles I’ve ever encountered. Every line, every figure, expression and background element is a visual treat. His lively, springy lines are full of energy and a loose, comfortable feeling that makes Drucker’s drawings just vibrate with visual fun. You get the impression that his pen just dances across the paper, leaving its marvelous marks almost as a residual effect of the joy of drawing. David Apatoff’s Illustration Art blog has a wonderful post dedicated just to the way Drucker draws hands (from which I borrowed the image above).
Angelo Torres and other Mad caricature artists have tried to do a fair job of walking in Drucker’s footsteps, basically by imitating his style, but none have ever matched him.
There was a book published in ’98 devoted to his work, Familiar Faces: The Art of Mort Drucker by David Douglas Duncan. Unfortunately, it’s out of print and demanding high prices as a collectable. For an easier (and perhaps better) way to get a look at Drucker’s genius, pick up some of the Mad collections that feature his work. Some good ones would be Mad About the Sixties : The Best of the Decade, or Mad About the Movies: Special Warner Bros Edition and Mad About TV. Another would be Mad About the Fifties, which doesn’t contain as much Drucker, but has the bonus of including brilliant work by Wood, Elder, Davis and Harvey Kurtzman.