Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on July 28, 2016
Artist and pop culture chronicler Jack Davis passed away this week at age 91 after a long and productive career that spanned decades and traversed many mediums. Throughout his life, Davis won numerous awards and was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2003. Today the prolific illustrator is probably best remembered for his work in comic books but he also designed some iconic movie posters and worked hand-in-hand with Rankin/Bass productions on some of the company’s most beloved animated movies and TV shows.
Davis began drawing cartoons when he was just a kid and he pursued his artistic interests through high school, a brief stint in the Navy and college, where he began refining his skills. After graduating, he worked with a number of high-profile employees including the Atlanta Journal, Coca-Cola, and several newspaper syndicates before he was hired by EC Comics in 1950.
During his years with EC, Davis illustrated and inked many popular comic books including Frontline Combat, Two-Fisted Tales, Piracy, Incredible Science Fiction and Crime SuspenStories but his most recognizable work can be found in the company’s horror and suspense comics. Titles like Tales from the Crypt, The Haunt of Fear, Shock SuspenStories and Terror Illustrated all greatly benefited from Davis’ distinct vision, sense of humor and macabre sensibilities. Besides his comic book work with EC, Davis illustrated horror tales for Harvey Comics, western stories to Atlas Comics and even created his own humor series for Dell called Yak Yak.
When Editor Harvey Kurtzman launched Mad magazine in 1952, Davis was brought on board immediately and worked with the satirical magazine on-and-off for decades. Davis’ caricatures of famous faces were instantly recognizable, which made him a great asset to a publication that generated laughs from its humorous parodies of popular culture. Along with Mad, he also provided Kurtzman with content for Cracked, Panic and Humbug among other funny books.
Davis’ varied talents and limitless imagination allowed him to branch off in many different directions. Beside comics, Davis’ lent his skills to designing covers for TV Guide and Time magazine, album sleeves, books and advertising materials which included numerous movie posters. Besides designing posters for movies, Davis also regularly worked with the beloved animators Arthur Rankin & Jules Bass developing characters and promotional materials for their popular line of children’s movies, TV shows and holiday specials. Some of the Rankin/Bass productions Davis worked on include Willy McBean and his Magic Machine (1965), Mad Monster Party (1967), Mouse on the Mayflower (1968), The King Kong Show (1966–1969) and The Jackson 5ive series (1971–1972).
Some examples of Jack Davis’ work for Rankin/Bass productions
Davis’ movie poster design frequently encapsulated the wild, crazy and mad-cap spirit that pervaded comedies in the sixties and seventies. The kinetic energy on display never fails to make me smile. He seemed to have an unabashed love of life and the joy his work exudes is contagious. To celebrate Davis’ life and work, I’ve compiled a gallery featuring some of his movie poster designs and I hope you’ll find his work as joyfully contagious as I do!
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