Retro Heaven

Death of Mort Drucker

Remembering Mort Drucker…

The death of Mort Drucker at the age of ninety one serves as a reminder of one of the great institutions of satire; the American MAD magazine of which Drucker was one of its greatest contributors.

Before joining the magazine in 1956 Drucker had already illustrated many comics of various genres, he quickly impressed MAD’s Associate Editor Nick Meglin who showed Drucker’s work to the magazine’s founding father Bill Gaines and editor Al Feldstein. Both were engrossed in a football match at the time and Gaines told Drucker that if the Brooklyn Dodgers won he would get the job! Fortunately for both parties the Dodgers won and Drucker was hired on the spot.

What followed was a wonderful relationship with the magazine and some of its finest work. Drucker had an incredible eye for detail and comedic characterisation, his movie parodies were glorious and his classic cover for the M*A*S*H edition opposite is testament to his ability.

MAD was a staple of my childhood years, I was engrossed in the artwork, some of the humour went over my young head but the illustrations captivated me and still do. Such was his talent, actors and politicians knew they had made it once Drucker had drawn them and that keen eye for spotting a characteristic would inspire generations of cartoonists to follow.

Movie parodies would feature in almost every issue from the 1960s onwards and Drucker was responsible for more than half of them by the time of his retirement. He modelled his work on movie storyboards and took the eye of the director in his composition of angles, stances and characterisations. Both MAD and Drucker took the art of the satirical comic to another level and coupled with some of the best writers in the business they were untouchable for decades.

Self-taught, Drucker began drawing professionally at the age of eighteen and by the end of his fifty-five year association with MAD he was the longest, uninterrupted serving artist in the magazines glorious history. His work could also be found on the covers of Time magazine which now hang in America’s National Portrait Gallery.

Drucker’s contribution to the success of MAD and its mark on twentieth century culture should not be understimated, he and the magazine were at the forefront of cutting satire. Nobody was off limits as they poured scorn on politicians and situations deserving of our ridicule and venom. Too much of today’s comedy finds itself stuck with a predilection for bad language to mask a failing punchline whilst others pander to society’s penchant for taking offence for the sake of claiming to be offended. What, I wonder, would those early pioneers who trailblazed the golden era of political and social satire make of today’s social media apologists fearing a savaging from a Twitter minority group of the faux-offended? I am sure Drucker would have let his pen and brush do the talking. We need that back, and fast.

Mort Drucker 1929-2020



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