Just about everyone who came of age during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s was influenced by MAD MAGAZINE, and no one at MAD was more influential than "MAD's MADdest Artist," Don Martin. His immediately recognizable style--featuring bulbous noses, wild sound effects, and the legendary "hinged feet"--was filled with broad and daring slapstick and routinely broke new ground. A surprisingly quiet man, Martin's work spoke volumes as he left an indelible mark on several generations, influencing the style of many illustrators while shaping the sense of humor of countless misguided youths. He was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2004. Says Gary Larson, creator of The Far Side: "Don Martin was the one who really stood out."Now, it is with great pride that Running Press, in collaboration with MAD, launches the MAD's Greatest Artists: The Completely MAD Don Martin (MAD's Greatest Artists Series). For the first time ever, here is the complete collection of every piece of art Don Martin published in MAD throughout his extraordinary thirty-year tenure (1957-1987). With all of Martin's strips, covers, posters, and stickers--presented in chronological order--it is nothing less than a masterpiece of comic genius. Complementing Martin's opus of published works are letters, sketches, and rare photos providing an in-depth look at the artist at work. Plus, scattered throughout are notes and original illustrations--commissioned for this volume--paying tribute to the artist and penned by MAD's most-notable personalities, including Al Jaffee, Mort Drucker, Jack Davis, Sergio Aragonés, and more. There are also notes by the likes of Jim Davis (Garfield) and a foreword by Gary Larson. A collector's item and object d'art in its own right, this deluxe two-volume slipcased edition will be the season's must-have gift book for the millions whose childhoods--and subsequent adulthoods--would not have been the same without MAD MAGAZINE and Don Martin.
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Don Martin (1931-2000) was known as "Mad's Maddest Artist" during his 30+ years with the magazine. His wacky sound effects, memorable characters and signature style made him an icon, and a key influence on the generations of artists who followed him.From The Washington Post:
Reviewed by Michael Dirda
Back in the early 1960s, any young boulevardier between the ages of 10 and 15 knew that the greatest publication in all the world was Mad magazine. Oh, Sick and Cracked might have their aficionados, but for the true connoisseur of humor and satire these Mad wannabes functioned largely as backups, temporary palliatives to tide one over until next month's Mad appeared at the corner drugstore. In those days an issue cost 25 cents (cheap!) and featured not only the smiling freckled face of Alfred E. Neuman, but also the double-crossing antics of Sergio Aragones' Spy vs. Spy, parodies in verse by the ingenious Frank Jacobs, and the ever-popular send-ups of current television shows and popular films. Best of all, the 1960s were also the heyday of Don Martin, the comedic draftsman celebrated in these two weighty and essential volumes.
Essential, that is, for boys, even those boys who through some strange, fiendish twist of fate worthy of "The Twilight Zone" now find themselves in their 40s, 50s and 60s. It must be admitted that few girls, of whatever age, have ever fathomed the delirious appeal of Mad humor. Obviously, one's dopey sisters could hardly be expected to grasp the sheer genius of a name like Elwood Pleebis, Fornis J. Plebney, or Horace Veeblefetzer. But even those girls one kind of, sort of, liked might actually fail to roll on the ground with uncontrollable laughter at a political poster that proclaimed: "Help the mentally incompetent. Re-elect your congressman!" Of course, no girl, and certainly no mother, could be expected to appreciate the risqué insightfulness of "Snap Ploobadoof" -- the sound of "Wonder Woman releasing her Amazon brassiere."
Don Martin made up that sound, and that poster, and those names. But, as Gary Larson emphasizes in his foreword to The Completely Mad Don Martin, the man most truly dazzled in his drawing. His jowly, cross-eyed characters stare at us from the page with an utterly sublime imbecility, unaware of their smug silliness, confident that they are in control, the captains of their destiny and the masters of any situation, no matter how complex or improbable. In fact, Martin's characters -- half of them named Fonebone -- resemble and behave like the Three Stooges, but Stooges without the least modicum of intelligence. Martin's naively stupid fairy-tale princes, incompetent surgeons, hapless Tarzans and demonic dentists generally end up with cracked skulls and dazed what-hit-me grins. Whatever happens to them, though, they never, ever see it coming. But the reader does -- and this is part of the pleasure of Martin's humor: Like silent-era comedians, his characters toss a banana onto the sidewalk, then slip on it.
In these bountiful pages, one can duly enjoy variation after variation of Rapunzel, discover dozens of dismaying outcomes when the Princess kisses a frog (in one, a frog kisses the new prince back into frogginess), and return again and again to a firing squad or a medieval dungeon or an innocent-seeming encounter at a park bench. Many sets of drawings bear generic titles: "One Fine Day at the Corner of South Finster Boulevard and Fonebone Street" or "Early One Morning on a Desert Island" or, less simply, "One Night in the Acme Ritz Central Arms Waldorf Plaza Statler Hilton Grand Hotel."
My favorite single drawing -- one I remember from boyhood -- is "An Evening in the City." A stubble-bearded guy with rolled-up shirtsleeves peers out of an office window and says, "I tell you, Mrs. Frimp, I'm getting sick and tired of this Rat Race!" At the next window the blowsy Mrs. Frimp answers, "I know what you mean, Mr. Eck! We're all getting sick of it!" Below the couple, one sees the street: full of large, very determined rats, in track suits, running a marathon through the city. Mrs. Frimp then adds, needlessly, "Besides . . . a 7-day Rat Race is such a stupid idea in the first place!!"
In a great many of Martin's multi-paneled features, a character will eventually achieve a moment of almost epileptic self-destruction. (See, for instance, the boggle-eyed gentleman wearing a green zoot suit on the poster titled "Fight Demeaning Plebney.") These frenetic epiphanies are usually accompanied by Martin's endlessly inventive sounds -- "Durp," "Faglork," "Kloonk," "Thwop," "Skroinch," "Glong," "Ook Ook" and many others. (In the final panel, the frazzled and wide-eyed character often looks directly out from the page, as if asking the reader to share in his bewilderment and discomfiture.) Martin's colleagues and admirers revere his onomatopoeic diction almost as much as they do his drawings of slack-jawed urban yokels.
The Completely Mad Don Martin has only one drawback: It doesn't reprint the artist's non-Mad paperbacks, starting with Don Martin Steps Out. These usually contained three pictorial "novellas," most memorably the DeMille-like epic of Fester Bestertester and Karbuncle in "The Hardest Head in the World." But apart from that lacuna, all fans of Don Martin's genius will rejoice in this double-decker omnibus. Yes, it's $150, but for what you're getting, it's $150 (cheap!).
Copyright 2007, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.
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