NEW YORK – Mort Drucker, the Mad Magazine cartoonist who for decades lovingly spoofed politicians, celebrities and popular culture, died Thursday at 91.
Drucker’s daughter, Laurie Bachner, told The Associated Press that he fell ill last week, having difficulty walking and developing breathing problems. She did not give a specific cause of death and said that he was not tested for the coronavirus. He died at his home in Woodbury, New York, with his wife of more than 70 years, Barbara, by his side.
“I think my father had the best life anyone could hope for,” Bachner said. “He was married to the only woman he ever loved and got to make a living out of what he loved to do.”
Mad magazine was a cultural institution for millions of baby boomers, and Drucker was an institution at the magazine. A New York City native, he joined Mad in its early days, the mid-1950s, and remained well into the 21st century. Few major events or public figures during that time escaped Drucker’s satire, whether “Star Trek” and “The Godfather” or Steve Martin and Jerry Seinfeld. In large strokes, Drucker took in every crease, crevice and bold feature. The big jaws of Kirk Douglas and Jay Leno bulged even larger, while the ears of Barack Obama looked like wings about to take flight. Being drawn by Drucker became a kind of show business right of passage, with Michael J. Fox once telling Johnny Carson that he knew he had made it when he appeared in a Drucker cartoon.
Drucker’s admirers also included “Peanuts” creator Charles M. Schulz and “Star Wars” filmmaker George Lucas, who in the 1970s wrote a fan letter to Mad even as his lawyers were threatening to sue over a magazine caricature. (The lawsuit was never filed.)
Besides Mad, Drucker drew for Time magazine, DC Comics, for an ad campaign for fruit and vegetables and for the heavy metal band Anthrax, which commissioned him to design art for its “State of Euphoria” album.
Some of Drucker’s illustrations, include a Time cover drawing of Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong playing table tennis, ended up in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. In 2017, Drucker was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.
“As Mad Magazine became an established (albeit absurd) voice in the nation’s cultural mainstream, many of the visual masters who showcased the magazine’s written content eventually became icons in and of themselves,” the Hall’s citation reads. “Indeed, Mort Drucker proved to be one of the most popular artists of the group that collectively came to be known as the ‘Usual Gang of Idiots.’”