with a foreword by Nick Meglin
(Running Press, $30)
Reviewed by Larry Cox
Don Martin, perhaps more than anyone else, defined the zany madness that was Mad magazine. Martin’s work appeared in virtually every issue of Mad until 1988. In addition to his work for the magazine, he also illustrated record jackets for such music legends as Miles Davis and Stan Getz.
Martin was born in Patterson, New Jersey, in 1931. He studied at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art before eventually graduating from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1952. He worked at various jobs before getting his first real break when a submission was accepted by Mad magazine and published in its September 1956 issue.
In this latest installment in the Mad’s Greatest Artists series, more than 200 strips of Martin’s work are featured, including such classics as his “Guide to Some Very Obscure Comics Sound Effects,” “Spider-Man,” “Conehead The Barbituate,” and, of course, “Scenes We’d Like to See.”
As Nick Meglin, longtime editor of Mad magazine, points out in his foreword, Martin’s coloring-book approach “was amazing visceral, and leapt from the page in a way that defied passing over it, especially when sandwiched between other Mad articles featuring caricatures of real people: depictions of movie and TV stars by Mort Drucker, athletes by Jack Davis and politicians by Jack Rickard.”
Meglin adds that it wasn’t Martin’s art alone that catapulted his work to the top of readership popularity, but also his zany humor that delighted magazine’s nearly 3 million regular readers.
Humor, really good humor, is timeless, and Martin’s work is perfect proof. Much of it is just as amusing today as it was when first published decades ago. If you aren’t familiar with Don Martin, grab this book, make yourself comfortable and prepare to laugh out loud.