A cause of death was not immediately announced. However, CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted that it was not coronavirus. “A friend of Mort Drucker’s, cartoonist John Reiner, emails me: ‘I’m sorry to say that Mort passed away last night. I saw him last Friday-he was having trouble breathing – Was not the Coronavirus as he was quarantined for weeks with no other outside contact…”
Drucker is survived by his wife Barbara, whom he met in high school and married soon after they graduated, their two daughters, Laurie and Melanie, and his three grandchildren.
The legendary cartoonist, born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 22, 1929, got his first job with Mad after publisher Bill Gaines made a bet with him. Gaines told Drucker that if the Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series, he would get a drawing assignment. In the fall of 1956, the Dodgers clinched the title. However, years later Gaines admitted that he was planning to hire Drucker anyway.
While Drucker worked for Mad for over 55 years, he completed other high profile projects throughout his career. In 1970, he drew Time magazine’s “Battle for the Senate” cover, which is now on display at the National Portrait Gallery.
In 1974, Drucker illustrated the film cover for George Lucas’ film American Graffiti, which starred Richard Dreyfuss and Ron Howard. That same year, he wrote the script and drew the characters for the animated adaptation of Mad magazine’s TV special, which was inspired by “The Usual Gang of Idiots”—the people who worked for Mad.
In 2012, Running Press published MAD’s Greatest Artists: Mort Drucker: Five Decades of his Famous Work. George Lucas said, “Drucker’s caricatures are the best, and he is the artist that defines MAD for me.”
One of the main reasons that Drucker was so successful and beloved as an illustrator, other than his obvious artistic talent, was the fact that he never meant to be mean with his caricature drawings.
“If someone has a big nose and you focus just on that,” Drucker told the Saturday Evening Post, “then you’re really cheating because you’re not getting to the nitty-gritty of the person. You’re taking just a negative feature and building on that and I don’t see the point in it.”
Over his nearly six-decade career, Drucker never let fame relax his quality of work. Drucker said, “When you get adulation from people who want to be artists, you can’t let them down by not being the best you can be. Because they’re looking at you to be the artist that they can be. So you strive to be good to get that knowledge to them so that they will be the best they can be.”
Tributes To The Legendary Cartoonist Filled Social Media Following His Death
Drucker, who was the first winner of the National Cartoonists Society’s Medal of Honor in 2015, was remembered fondly by fans, friends, co-workers, and fellow collaborators on Twitter. In addition to drawing famous comic news strips, Drucker was famous for his movie parody drawings — Mad magazine published 238 of them throughout his career. A few favorites included “East Side Story,” playing off the musical movie West Side Story, and “It’s a Blunderful Life,” stemming from the holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.
In addition to actors, the illustrator drew lauded caricatures of musicians, politicians, and fictional characters. Users online called him nothing short of a “genius,” and he was respectfully heralded as one of the greatest and most influential cartoonists of the 20th century.