Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Mad Artist of the Month Club

Bob Clarke, longtime artist for Mad magazine, died in March of this year at age 87.

Clarke was an artist who joined Mad soon after the original editor, Harvey Kurtzman, left and took artist Will Elder with him. Clarke had been an advertising artist, and had a light touch. A little too light, I thought at the time. I found his uncluttered and ad-like artwork lacking, and it wasn’t until many years later, as I looked back at the history of the magazine, that I began to appreciate what he’d done.

This article from 1958, published in Mad number 40, is a satire on the successful “Of the Month Clubs” that popped up in the fifties in the wake of the popularity of the original, Book of the Month Club, in 1926. When I was growing up in the fifties my mother belonged to the Book of the Month Club, and I belonged to the Science Fiction Book Club. There was always something to read in our house, and that included Mad, which I bought faithfully, every issue.

Copyright ©1958, 2013 E.C. Publications, Inc.


Kirk said...

I've always thought Clarke was underrated, but then I probably think every MAD artist was underrated since growing up I never saw their art anywhere else (I later found out the artists were EVERYWHERE, they just muted their styles somewhat when working elsewhere.

Within the pages of MAD itself, Clarke seemed to be one of the most versatile artists in that he could do both pen and brush (as could Elder)

Postino said...

Interesting observation, Kirk. Yes, I don't believe Clarke was ever anyone's favorite Mad artist, but in looking back, I can see he may have been one of their most versatile.

I see he used a more "free" cartooning style for page one; then he had architecture (Eiffel Tower), then portraits of the Mad gang, including Albert Feldstein, Nick Meglin, Jerry De Fuccio and John Putnam...and even publisher Bill Gaines as the masked burglar.

On the last page he had the very pretty wife and the funny reaction of the husband.

It was when Clarke took over Spy Vs. Spy that I developed my appreciation for him. You could still see Clarke in the drawings, but his art was a very good transition from Prohias to Peter Kuper's much more stylized version.