Mort Drucker, Iconic MAD Magazine Artist, Dead at 91

His work bridged MAD Magazine and the Smithsonian

Mort Drucker
Mort Drucker receiving an award for his work.
Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images

MAD Magazine, George Lucas’s film American Graffiti and the heavy metal band Anthrax have little in common on the surface,  but there was one person who served as the unlikely bond between all three. That was cartoonist Mort Drucker, who died on Thursday at the age of 91. Drucker was a longtime contributor to MAD, frequently drawing parodies of movies and television shows for the magazine. He also created poster artwork for Lucas’s 1973 film, and was behind the artwork for Anthrax’s album State of Euphoria.

Drucker was born in Brooklyn in 1929, and began drawing professionally at the age of 18. He began contributing to MAD in 1956; in 1959, his skill at drawing parodies of film and television became apparent — and helped earn him a reputation that extended far beyond the pages of the aforementioned publication. As J. Hoberman wrote at The New York Times:

Mr. Drucker not only satirized popular culture; he also became a part of it. Appearing on “The Tonight Show” in 1985, the actor Michael J. Fox told Johnny Carson that he knew he had made it in show business “when Mort Drucker drew my head.”

An article at Newsweek collected some of Drucker’s best-known comics — and featured reactions to his death from numerous figures from the worlds of comics and journalism. He also had a penchant for drawing the exploits of wrestlers. “Drucker’s exaggerated and larger-than-life style was all too fitting to spoof the already massive wrestling icons like Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin, which he did for a number of Mad covers,” wrote James Crowley.

Several of Drucker’s illustrations are also in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery. There aren’t a lot of artists whose work overlaps between MAD and the Smithsonian; Drucker offered a master class in how it could be done.

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