Jack Davis was born on December 2 1924 in Atlanta, Georgia. He took to art when he was very young. When he was twelve one of his cartoons was published on the reader's page of Tip Top Comics #9 (December 1936). In high school he provided art for the school paper. After graduating high school he joined the United States Navy and served in Guam. While in service he contributed the comic strip Boondocker to The Navy Times. Following his stint in the Navy he enrolled in the University of Georgia. He drew cartoons for the campus newspaper and also contributed to a local humour magazine titled Bullsheet. In the late Forties he spent one summer inking the newspaper strip Mark Trail.
Following his graduation from the University of Georgia, Jack Davis worked as an intern cartoonist at The Atlanta Journal. It was in 1949 that he illustrated an in-house booklet for Coca-Cola. He used the money from that job to move to New York City. Once there he enrolled at the Art Students League. From 1949 to 1950 Mr. Davis worked as an inker on The Saint comic strip. He illustrated his own short lived comic strip, Beauregard, which was carried by the McClure Syndicate.
|The opening page of "Foul Play"|
When Mad was launched by E.C. in 1952, Jack Davis was among its original contributors. Jack Davis remained with Mad for its first thirty issues, seeing it through its transition from comic book to a more traditional magazine format. He also worked on E.C.'s other humour comic book, Panic. Afterwards Jack Davis would contribute to other humour magazines launched by Mad creator Harvey Kurtzman, including Trump, Humbug, and Help!. He even did work for Mad's rival Cracked. Harvey Kurtzman returned to Mad in the mid-Sixties, and continued to contribute to the magazine for the remainder of his career.
In addition to E.C. Comics, Jack Davis also illustrated Western comic books for the company later known as Marvel Comics in the late Fifties and early Sixties. In 1959 Jack Davis illustrated humorous bubblegum cards under the title "Wacky Plak" for Topps Chewing Gum Company. In 1961 he wrote, illustrated, and edited the comic book, Yak Yak, for Dell Comics. He later contributed to Warren Publishing's black and white magazine Creepy, including the cover of its first issue published in late 1964.
|An ad for The Monkees from fall 1966|
Jack Davis would also illustrate several movie posters. His very first movie poster was for the 1957 film The Smallest Show on Earth. He created art for the movie Sergeants 3 (1962) that was not used for its poster, but was used in much of the promotional material for the film. Possibly the most famous poster and promotional art he created for a film was his work for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). Over the years Jack Davis would create posters for several films, including The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming (1966), The Impossible Years (1968), Viva Max! (1969), Bananas (1971), The Long Goodbye (1973), American Graffiti (1973), The Bank Shot (1974), and many others.
|One of the posters for It's a Mad, Mad,|
Mad, Mad World
Jack Davis also illustrated the covers of several record albums, starting with the back cover art of Alfredito and His Orchestra's Crazy Titles For Dancing Cha-Cha and Merengue in 1958. Over the years Mr. Davis illustrated the covers of such albums as Bob and Ray's Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular (1958), Johnny Cash's Everybody Loves a Nut (1966), several Ben Colder albums, The Best of The Cowsills, The Greatest of The Guess Who, and many others. Jack Davis also did a good deal of advertising art. In addition to his work for NBC cited above, he also illustrated advertisements for Ralston Purina, Spalding, Slim Jim, Michelob, and others. In 1989 he designed a stamp celebrating letter carriers for the United States Postal Service, sneaking in a self portrait of himself. He also created the bee mascot for Bee-Line Bus System that runs from Westchester County, New York to New York City.
Jack Davis also did a good deal of work for his alma mater, the University of Georgia. Over the years he did many illustrations of UGA bulldogs. He also designed the mascot for the College of Coastal Georgia, Captain Jack.
|A bit of Jack Davis's Georgia Bulldog art|
Given the extremely high quality of Jack Davis's work, what made him all the more remarkable is that he was highly prolific. Jack Davis didn't simply work for Mad. He didn't simply create movie posters. He also illustrated magazine covers, album covers, paperback covers, and much more. Jack Davis did so much that to discuss every single of his works would take a very large book indeed. Of course, Mr. Davis was able to get so much done because he was capable of producing high quality work in a very short amount of time. William M. Gaines, Albert B. Feldstein, and Harvey Kurtzman of E.C. Comics all said that Jack Davis was the fastest artist at the company. He was known for being able to produce three pages, fully pencilled and inked, in one day. Given the speed with which Jack Davis was worked, it was perhaps no surprise that he would be very prolific.
Despite the fact that he was well known for his work on E.C.'s horror titles (including such graphic stories as "Foul Play") and he was a fan of ghost stories and horror, Jack Davis did not particularly care for the sort of gore that E.C. often published. In some respects this should not surprise many who met him, as Jack Davis appeared to be a truly gentle soul. When meeting fans he was known for being friendly, gracious, and polite. Jack Davis was one of the greatest cartoonists of the 20th Century, but he was also a warm, friendly human being and a true Southern gentleman.