If you’ve cracked open a comic made at any point since 1950, you’ve seen Jack Davis’ work. The ubiquitous illustrator, famous for his work in EC comics, Mad magazine, TV Guide, movie posters, and ad work passed away yesterday at 91.
Davis got his start at Will Gaines’ EC Comics where his detailed and highly textural style quickly became a definitive look for the company’s horror titles. His work was both gruesome and cartoonish, exaggerated enough to get away with depictions of gore that would be impossible to publish from a more photorealistic delivery.
After EC’s horror titles folded in the mid-’50s, Davis went on to work extensively with Mad magazine, who honored his numerous contributions. The strength of Davis’ caricatures was their loose energy. He worked in a loose, expressive line that never came at the expense of recognizable characters and he was equally adept at creating elaborately staged covers and posters as he was with dynamic, multi-page movie and TV parody strips. His ink washes and watercolors further softened his illustrations, creating an approachability and diffusing the rigidity that caricature illustration often suffers from.
Jack Davis was both prolific and wide-ranging in his work. Comic culture site The Beat put together a brief collection demonstrating just how wide-ranging, including a Mad magazine parody of Sesame Street Davis did alongside his officially licensed Sesame Street calendar.
Twitter account Lost Drawings posted a block of Davis’ work today as well, showing off character studies and some Playboy work.
Jack Davis worked so frequently for so long, it’s impossible to archive all his illustration and there’s bound to be plenty that hasn’t surfaced online yet. Take 10 minutes to browse through any old comic books, Mad magazines or Playboy. Something new of his is bound to come up.