Sunday, August 18, 2013

What Me Worry? Episode One of the Brunswick GA Saga......

            The year is hazy but I am guessing somewhere around 1980 or so, my older cousin gave me a stack of books she didn’t want anymore. As I type, I realize not one of them except for the copy of MAD magazine Digest stands out in memory. This was my introduction to MAD.

            I’d seen MAD magazine several times before at Northside Elementary. Chuck Carey was an avid reader and always getting his latest copy confiscated by Mrs. Johnson. In those days, MAD magazine was dangerous material to have in a fourth grade classroom comparable to sadistic threats against the principal. My mom was also not a fan and refused to have a copy in the house.

            “It is base humor, Robby,” my mother would say over her shopping list. “And one thing the Richardsons are not is base people.” This of course made no sense to a nine year old boy whose only concept of “base” was something to run towards in order to be safe.

            So after an interjection from the Big Guy, also a long time reader, first time caller, I finally discovered the joys of MAD magazine over a long ride from Claxton GA.

            Magic. Simply magic.

            Two things struck me right off the bat. First, it was funny. The humor made me laugh out loud several times. Some of it was even a little on the edge of dirty which was not allowed. I still recall a Mort Drucker cartoon of two dogs pooping on the sidewalk followed by their owners stepping right in the dog’s “calling card.” Pure comedy gold for elementary aged boy.

            Secondly, MAD magazine had amazing art work. The cartoons looked like the people MAD was mocking yet not exactly. To a budding artist like me, foundations were laid for hours of sketching favorite actors from movies and TV shows.

   That very first digest I read had a satire called The Milking of the Planet of the Apes which even I got a kid. I still recall laughing at the opening panel where Charlton Heston along with the other survivors have crashed their capsule and trying to paddle away. The female astronaut has not survived which is off panel but explained by one of the surviving astronauts saying, “Unless one of you guys can dance backwards, our social life is screwed.”  I still find this amusing at 44.

My horrible version of Jack Davis drawing Billy Murray in Ghostbusters'
            From years of comics, I had gotten in the habit of looking at the opening pages credits to see who wrote and drew the comic I was about to peruse. Even though I had no real idea of who Carmine Infantino, Gene Day, Sal Buscema where, I began to get an idea of artwork I liked and disliked. This would be my introduction to Jack Davis. .

            Jack Davis would be the artist who drew my Planet of the Apes parody. Future magazines would lead to more Mr. Davis as I read his version of The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Soap, Benson, M*A*S*H, this list can go on for pages.

            Jack Davis has a distinctive style and it soon became one which I could pick out easily. His subjects always had a kinetic energy like the panel was in motion. A character’s eyes always had that gleam which would bring it more to life. The young artist which I was picked up on Davis’s signature move of cross hatching and shadings. While I had some good art teachers to learn from, Jack Davis would certainly be an influence.

This was $2 at the Little Store back in 1981...
Davis also did more than MAD magazine. He drew TV Guide covers along with Time magazine. In January of 1981, the UGA Dawgs won their first Sugar Bowl. The AJC Sun edition had a special insert with You-know-who as the artist for the cover. I cut this out of the paper before the Big Guy had a chance to read it. It stayed on the wall until I left for college.  (Ed note: He was also responsible for the infamous Coke Bottle design for that year which I also had but have long since lost. Birthday’s coming, Kim. Hint, hint lol)

            I could go on about how much I dig Jack Davis but frankly, I sound the same as any other fan. And yes, this guy has a following. It’s a big one as I would discover after a phone call from my old YHC buddy, John Trotter.

Trotter, as I like to refer to him, is an old friend to the Tide. I wrote about him here during, oddly enough, a Jack Davis art contest sponsored by the Georgia Museum. Trotter won the contest which the winner was selected by Davis, himself. Extremely cool.
Artwork through the gracious courtesy of John Trotter, 2013 winner of the Jack Davis UGS Cup. All rights reserved. Offer not valid where prohibited. Ask you parents before voting, Wait one hour after eating before swimming. John Trotter artwork released through division of Paintmonkey Studios Inc. "Don't let just anybody draw your art, Let a Paintmonkey do the job. We're Paintmonkey Studios located near scenic Atlanta"
Trotter had an extra ticket to go see the Jack Davis Retrospective which was being presented by the Glynn Art Association down in St. Simons. It was only an hour away so how could I not go?
In addition to the art show, a panel was being presented comprised of a few folks associated with Davis and his work.   Nick Meglin, who has been a longtime friend and work associate of Davis’s not to mention a former editor of MAD. Tom Richmond who a current editor of MAD magazine. Jack Pittman who is the former president of the National Cartoonist Society.
It was an amazing night and one I am going to get back to you on in the next installment of what I’m going to refer to as the Brunswick GA Saga……


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