Sunday, April 2, 2006

Mort Drucker

Mort Drucker
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.

I link to Drucker’s official site below. You can also find his work on his rep’s sites: here and here.

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.

18 thoughts on “Mort Drucker

  1. David Apatoff

    Great posting, Charley– as you noted, I absolutely love Mort Drucker’s work too. When it comes to raw talent, I think Drucker is even better than Herschfeld or Levine. I agree that Drucker’s image suffers from having Mad Magazine as his primary showcase and that’s a shame, but on the other hand he probably played more of a role shaping the leaders of the future at Mad than Herschfeld or Levine will ever play at the New Yorker or the NY Times. Mad gets them at a much more formative stage.

    David

    PS– I have a bunch of other Drucker images scanned from the originals that you might enjoy at another posting on my blog: http://illustrationart.blogspot.com/2005_04_01_illustrationart_archive.html

  2. steve

    Dont discount the power of Drucker to much. Drucker was a much bigger influence in my life much earlier than Levine. Having grown up in the seventies, I cut my teeth on the likes of Drucker and Gerorge Woodbridge. Another underrated great, by the way. Nice blog. You write well.
    Steve

  3. tim

    I know seventies movies like Dog Day Afternoon or Paper Moon better by their Mad Magazine parodies than by the actual movie. I know Scatman Crothers was an orderly in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest because I can remember him standing at the edge of the opening panel of the parody.

    Many of my magazines were saved in a box in my mother’s attic. I’d still get them out just to study the Drucker drawings. No other aspect of the magazine is interesting to me anymore, but those drawings are amazing. The best is That’s Entertainment, with amazing caricatures of people like Mickey Rooney and Frank Sinatra both as their young and older selves.

    I’ve looked for a long time on the web for some shrine to his work, but there’s nothing. If only someone would scan it all to present all the variety he had in his portraits. Like here’s the 236 ways he drew Al Pacino, always instantly recognizable. And look at all the bit players and supporting actors that he drew as well, who you immediately recognize in the background of his drawings as easily as you do when they have their couple lines in a movie. Link the names to their IMDB profiles.

    There was a 7 CD set made of all the Mad Magazines from its birth until sometime in the eighties. But it too was discontinued and is now a collectors’ item. I’d buy it just to have access to all the Drucker movie parodies. Best study guide ever.

  4. Charley Parker Post author

    Thanks, all for your comments. Thanks particularly to David for your insightful posts about Drucker (which other readers should note contain some choice Drucker art.)

    Readers should also note that the link for genge from hoboken nj (comment above) is to the current official site for Mad Magazine.

  5. Kate

    I am looking for an unpaid internship for a student interested in a career as a concept artist doing backgrounds and characters..ion central NJ. Any suggestions of companies or organizations that might need an intern?

  6. steve spencer

    Im 99% sure Mort Drucker did an album cover in the 60s or 70s that Id love to find. It shows a field of horses breaking from a starting gate, with the jockeys looking less than respectable. I have no idea whose album it is, but it was probably pop.
    thanks

  7. Mr. Adisa Ben Achaki

    No question: Mort Drucker is the great master of caricature. His work is enjoyable far and above all others. One never tires of return looking at his blilliant compositions. He is delightful in every element of the business of drawing famous faces and everything else within an everyday scene. To King Mort: Thanks for a million laughs!

  8. John Reiner

    Greetings-Abrams Books has asked Mort Drucker (and me, as co-author) to write a definitive and comprehensive book on Mort Drucker’s art and career, planned for release in 2010. It will be an overview of his phlosophical as well as technical approach to illustration, with countless samples of previously unpublished (non-MAD) art as well as step-by-step, start-to-finish examples. Mort would like to hear from those interested in submitting questions and topics you’d like answered in the book. Please send your queries to: email hidden; JavaScript is required and we will try to provide the most complete and substantive book on what we all agree is the most influential caricaturist and humorous illustrator of our time. Thanks!-John Reiner

  9. Dan Young

    Mort was the artist which showed me that a caricature didn’t have to be a monstrosity. Fun, yes – lively- yes-

    Ugly?

    Don’t have to be.

    Even Bats-Man was as handsome as Adam West.

    ‘Make it fun – NOT ‘funny looking’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>