Mort Drucker, Master of the Mad Caricature, Is Dead at 91

The Four Percent

Mort Drucker, a longtime contributor to Mad magazine known for his caricatures of actors, politicians and other celebrities, died on Thursday at his home in Woodbury, N.Y. He was 91.

His death was confirmed by his daughter Laurie Bachner.

Mr. Drucker, who specialized in illustrating Mad’s movie and television satires, inspired several generations of cartoonists. “To me, he’s the guy,” the caricaturist Drew Friedman said. “I used to imitate his work in Mad when I was a kid. I wanted to be Mort Drucker; I even loved his name.”

Mr. Drucker’s facility was best expressed in multi-caricature crowd scenes. His parody of the 1986 Woody Allen film, “Hannah and Her Sisters,” opened with a panel depicting a Thanksgiving dinner that, in addition to most of the movie’s ensemble cast, included caricatures of Mr. Allen’s former wife, Louise Lasser; the film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel; Mayor Ed Koch of New York; and Mad’s mascot, Alfred E. Neuman. His drawing for a 1970 Time magazine cover, “Battle for the Senate,” now in the National Portrait Gallery, featured a pileup of 15 individually characterized political figures, including President Richard M. Nixon and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew. Mad’s takeoff on the MGM retrospective feature “That’s Entertainment,” published in 1975, required Mr. Drucker to caricature more than two dozen stars.

“I think I’ve drawn almost everyone in Hollywood,” he told The New York Times in 2000.

Credit…Mort Drucker

Some of Mr. Drucker’s most inventive works were double satires. The 1963 Mad piece “East Side Story,” written by Frank Jacobs, is a parody of “West Side Story” as played out by prominent international figures. Nikita Khrushchev, Fidel Castro and Charles de Gaulle are among the many world leaders drawn cavorting against photographed backdrops of New York City streets. “It’s a Blunderful Life,” written by Stan Hart and published in 1996, updated “It’s a Wonderful Life” to star Richard Nixon as Bill Clinton’s guardian angel.

A self-taught freelance cartoonist who had worked on war, western, science fiction and romance comic books as well as personality-driven titles like The Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and The Adventures of Bob Hope, Mr. Drucker came to Mad in late 1956, soon after Al Feldstein succeeded Harvey Kurtzman, the magazine’s founder, as editor. Mad had run only occasional TV and movie satires, but Mr. Drucker’s arrival “changed everything,” the pop-culture critic Grady Hendrix wrote in a 2013 Film Comment appreciation of Mad’s movie parodies.


“No one saw Drucker’s talent,” Mr. Hendrix wrote, until he illustrated “The Night That Perry Masonmint Lost a Case,” a takeoff on the television courtroom drama “Perry Mason,” in 1959. It was then, Mr. Hendrix maintained, that “the basic movie parody format for the next 44 years was born.”

From the early 1960s on, nearly every issue of Mad included a movie parody, and before Mr. Ducker retired he had illustrated 238, more than half of them. The last one, “The Chronic-Ills of Yawnia: Prince Thespian,” appeared in 2008.

Mr. Drucker compared his method to creating a movie storyboard: “I become the ‘camera,’” he once said, “and look for angles, lighting, close-ups, wide angles, long shots — just as a director does to tell the story in the most visually interesting way he can.”

Mr. Hendrix called Mr. Drucker “the cartoonist’s equivalent of an actor’s director” and “a master of drawing hands, faces and body language.” Mr. Friedman praised Mr. Drucker’s restraint: “He wasn’t really hung up on exaggerating. He was far more subtle and nuanced — interested in how people stood and so on.”

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