Jack Davis, a cartoonist and illustrator best known for being one of the founders of MAD Magazine, has died, the humor publication confirmed Wednesday. He was 91.
The artist — whose work also appeared in numerous editions of TV Guide and Time magazines, in addition to posters for the movies It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Kelly’s Heroes and The Long Goodbye — went from a career in the U.S. Navy to illustration with early jobs including a Coca-Cola training manual and a short-lived humor strip for newspapers called Beauregard.
In the early 1950s, Davis found regular work on William Gaines’ infamous EC Comics line, with his art appearing in titles including Crime Suspenstories, Frontline Combat and the original Tales From the Crypt, with one of his shorts for the publisher — “Four Play,” which appeared in 1953’s Haunt of Fear No. 19 — being specifically referenced in Dr. Frederic Wertham’s controversial anti-comic book Seduction of the Innocent.
As part of the EC Comics stable, Davis produced artwork for MAD for two years following its 1952 launch, as well as a number of similar magazines from MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman. After a break for a number of projects that included writing, drawing and editing his own comic title Yak Yak as well as illustrating children’s books for Random House, he returned to MAD in the mid-1960s, where he remained for the rest of his career, juggling that commitment with additional endeavors.
One such additional project demonstrated Davis’ gleefully subversive sense of humor: When asked to design a stamp for the USPS in 1989, he broke official postal policy by sneaking a self-portrait into the image, despite the fact that stamps aren’t supposed to include images of living people.
Davis received the National Cartoonist Society’s Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996, the NCA’s Reuben Award in 2000 and was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2003. Despite a publicized “retirement” in 2014, he continued to work right up to his death.