R.I.P. Jack Davis 1924-2016

Jack Davis draws Gary Groth

We were heartbroken to hear of the passing of Jack Davis, legendary cartoonist and one of the original MAD Magazine artists. His instantly-recognizable cartooning style adorned everything from album covers, ads, film posters, trading cards, TV Guide covers, and, of course, comics. In 1950, he began freelancing for EC Comics — you can read some of the work he collaborated on collected in Fantagraphics’ The Living Mummy and Other Stories. And, in 2011, Fantagraphics released the ultimate collection Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture – A Career Retrospective.

In celebration of the release, the Fantagraphics Bookstore organized the art show Funny Valentines: A Tribute to Jack Davis. Inspired by the Topps trading cards that Davis drew between 1959 and 1963, Larry invited two-dozen contemporary cartoonists, illustrators, graphic designers, and fine artists to create their own interpretations. Exhibiting artists included Peter Bagge, Nikki Burch, Art Chantry, Tom Dougherty, Jesse Edwards, Ellen Forney, Art Garcia, Roberta Gregory, Charles Krafft, Jason T. Miles, Pat Moriarity, Tom Neely, Joe Newton, Ries Niemi, John Ohannesian, Augie Pagan, Eric Reynolds, Bob Rini, Johnny Ryan, Frank Santoro, SHAG, Matthew Southworth, and Jim Woodring. Original works by Jack Davis were also on display.

For the opening reception on February 11, 2012, we rigged up a laptop to a projection screen and “Skyped” Jack right into the store. (And, yes, I’ve already talked to Larry about reviving this concept!) Following a presentation on comics creation by exhibiting/visiting artist Frank Santoro, Gary led a Q&A online, and Jack even took some questions from the audience, charming everyone with his genteel Southern sweetness. Sadly, we didn’t take video of the whole night, but University of Washington documentary student Helene Christensen caught a bit of the evening in her short film about the store — skip to around 3:00 minutes or so for footage from opening night, or, heck, watch the whole dang thing, ’cause it’s a lovely profile!

There’s also some low-lit iPhone photos I took that night, including the shot above where Jack drew a portrait of Gary in mere minutes! (I hope he mailed that to you, Gary.)

R.I.P. Mr. Davis, and THANK YOU for decades of laughs and for influencing generations of cartoonists, past, present, and future.

Frank Santoro talks about the music of comics.
Our Associate Publisher Eric Reynolds stands on a chair to ask Frank Santoro a question during his presentation.
Gary Groth pops around the corner to call Jack.
We’ve made contact! Gary Groth and Larry Reid make our initial video chat connection with Jack Davis, from his home in Georgia.
During our video chat with Jack Davis, he did a quick drawing of our fearless leader, Gary Groth!
Mr. Jim Woodring in front of our gallery wall.
Jim made paper versions of his Jack Davis-inspired artwork to hand out to guests! (Not pictured: the less-flattering back of the card, ha!)
The lovely Ellen Forney makes an appearance.
A look at the exclusive signed bookplate that guests received free with their purchase!