- By Dan Veaner
So it was a relief when my eye caught a BBC tribute to Jack Davis, who recently died Wednesday at age 91. Not that I was glad that Davis died, of course. Quite the contrary, Davis leaves an enormous hole in the fabric of the universe that will never be filled. But the article brought back a simpler time in our lives when just about anything could be seen as absolutely ridiculous. Jack Davis, of course, was one of the original contributors to Mad Magazine when it was launched in 1955, and for decades he drew Alfred E. Neuwman and some of the key satires that are arguably responsible for sparking millions of junior high-schoolers' interest in politics, popular culture, and the world. He is part of a lost era of silliness.
Who doesn't remember such spoofs as 'A Fist Full of Lasagna' or 'West Coast Story' or 'Raiders of a Lost Art'... he illustrated nearly 6% of all the film spoofs the magazine produced in its six-plus decades (and counting). His style of drawing became iconic with oversized heads and feet and very thin legs. It became a major influence for R Crumb, whose 'Keep on trucking' comics had more edge than silliness.
And all those pictures of Alfred inserted into whatever happened to be in the public eye at the moment -- Mad is still doing it. Last December's cover featured Alfred and Donald Trump, both with Trump's hair.
The greatest thing about Mad was that it found absolutely everything ridiculous, and somehow that made the world a lot easier to stomach. When it was founded in 1955, the first decade of the Cold War wasn't done yet. School children practiced hiding under their desks to protect themselves from Russian nuclear bombs in school drills conducted on a regular basis. I remember those drills. They were called 'Duck and Cover' drills. Nobody laughed at them except Mad.
Today it seems silly to duck under a desk and look away from the blast to avoid a nuclear bomb explosion. Back then we needed Mad to keep these things in perspective. People felt helpless, as well they should because if a nuclear bomb hits your school there is pretty much nothing you can do about it. Laughing was something we could do, and in some small measure Mad made us feel more in control. We might get blasted to smithereens, but we could do it with a smirk on our faces.
It is a great shame that silliness has gone out of fashion. I defy you to name a modern comedy funnier than 'I love Lucy' or a cartoon sillier than George of the Jungle or Super Chicken. Or the old comics like Jack benny and Bob Hope... something, anything that is funny enough in a just plain ridiculous way to make you forget Hillarald (I know if I keep merging their names in enough combinations I'll come up with something clever... Clintump? There's GOT to be something!) for a few minutes and lose the feeling of despair one can't help feeling these days any time one reads the news.
So it with a heavy heart that the world loses Jack Davis this week. No doubt he is sketching the angels with enormous heads and feet and little tiny wings. Now back to Trumpary (I kind of like that one). **sigh**