‘Mad’ Magazine Cartoonist Mort Drucker Dead at 91

Prolific illustrator pioneered the humor mag’s signature film and television satires

Mort Drucker, the cartoonist and caricaturist who helped satirize decades of pop culture in the pages of Mad magazine, died Wednesday, The New York Times reports. He was 91.

A cause of death was not given, though Drucker’s friend, John Reiner, confirmed his death. The National Cartoonists Society also confirmed his death, with member and illustrator Tom Richmond writing in tribute, “Mort was a true master of the craft of visual storytelling, and his work transcended the boundaries of the different applications of the comic medium. He could do it all, from realistic comic book work to the silliest of cartoons to everything in between.”

Drucker was a self-taught illustrator and freelance cartoonist who joined Mad in 1956 and soon took a regularly recurring bit — film and TV show parodies — and turned it into a defining staple of the humor magazine. His first was a spoof of the Fifties court drama, Perry Mason, and over the next 50-plus years he illustrated a total of 238 of them, riffing on everything from Star Wars and Saturday Night Fever to Yentl and Forrest Gump. His last film parody was published in 2008, a send-up of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian titled The Chronic-Ills of Yawnia: Prince Thespian.

In a 2000 interview with The Times, Drucker said that he’d drawn “almost everyone in Hollywood.” In a 2012 book about his work, he compared his illustration methods to the filmmaking process, saying, “I become the ‘camera’ 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.”

Drucker was just as prolific outside the pages of the humor magazine. He illustrated coloring books (for both children and adults), came up with the movie poster for George Lucas’ American Graffiti and even caricatured the metal outfit Anthrax on the back cover of its 1988 album, State of Euphoria. He worked regularly as a political cartoonist as well, whether it was his myriad covers for Time (some of which hang in the National Portrait Gallery) or projects like The JFK Coloring Book or the syndicated newspaper comic he worked on with Jerry Dumas and John Reiner, Benchley, about a fictional assistant to Ronald Reagan.

But there was arguably no better testament to the extent of Drucker’s influence, as well as the respect he garnered even among those he parodied, than when Michael J. Fox appeared on The Tonight Show in 1985 — at the height of his popularity — and said he knew he’d made it “when Mort Drucker drew my head.”