The Great Unknowns: Jack Davis

This is a series about great artists that you may not know about (If you're under 30 that is). Most of the artists I profile are dead, some are still kicking and doing amazing work. But they've long fallen out of the mainstream to make way for The Hot Artist. he great thing about the old guys/gals is that they are like a glass of cold water on a hot day. These people knew their craft, not Photoshop. They used brushes and quill pens to create their masterpieces. Their only undo button was a bottle of Pelican White and a steady hand.

From Wikipedia:

Jack Davis (born December 2, 1924) is an American cartoonist and illustrator, known for his advertising art, magazine covers, film posters, record album art and numerouscomic book stories. He was one of the founding cartoonists for Mad in 1952.[1] His cartoon characters are characterized by extremely distorted anatomy, including big heads, skinny legs and extremely large feet.[2]

Early years[edit]

Davis saw comic book publication at the age of 12 when he contributed a cartoon to the reader's page of Tip Top Comics #9 (December 1936). After drawing for his high school newspaper and yearbook, he spent three years in the U.S. Navy, where he contributed to the daily Navy News.[1]

Attending the University of Georgia on the G.I. Bill, he drew for the campus newspaper and helped launch an off-campus humor publication, Bullsheet, which he described as "not political or anything but just something with risque jokes and cartoons." After graduation, he was a cartoonist intern at The Atlanta Journal, and he worked one summer inking Ed Dodd's Mark Trail comic strip, a strip which he later parodied in Mad as Mark Trade.[3]


His style of wild, free-flowing brushwork and wacky characters made him a perfect choice when Harvey Kurtzman launched Mad as a zany, satirical EC comic book in 1952. He appeared in most of the first 30 issues of Mad, all 12 issues of Panic and even some work in Cracked. Davis contributed to other Kurtzman magazines—TrumpHumbug and Help!—eventually expanding into illustrations for record jackets, movie posters, books and magazines, including Time and TV Guide. In 1961, he wrote, drew, and edited his own comic book, Yak Yak, for Dell Comics. In 1965, he illustrated Meet The North American Indians by Elizabeth Payne, published by Random House as part of their children's Step Up Books line. (ISBN 0-394-80060-5). He returned as a regular contributor to Mad magazine in the mid 1960s and appeared in nearly every issue after that for decades. He also drew many covers for the magazine, especially in the 1970s.[1]

Davis also had a regular comic strip feature in Pro Quarterback magazine in the early 1970s entitled Superfan, which was written by his Mad cohort, Nick Meglin.[1]