Browsing my favorite bookstore this morning I was happy to come across a big new beautiful collection of Don Martin's work. Martin was a key part of the mystique and delight of Mad Magazine for me as a kid, and he is the only cartoonist who I actually tried to imitate, though briefly. It didn't bring me the glory my friend Melvin Jung got for drawing perfect Snoopys for anybody who asked, but I enjoyed penciling hairs sticking out of long scrawny Martiny legs.
He was billed as Mad's Maddest Artist, and reading through this new full-color book made me realize how many times I must have read my Don Martin mass market paperbacks, as so many of his drawings are deeply and precisely burned into my memory -- like this dentist drill image. Characters like Fester Bestertester and Karbunkle and Fonebone were familiar friends.
I see that his widow Norma Martin has a good website going here, and there's a terrific shot of Martin's studio -- accompanying a Martin-interviews-Martin piece -- here. It alludes to his struggles with Mad publisher William Gaines over copyright issues.
While looking around for biographical information and images I was delighted to find out that shortly before his work first appeared in Mad in 1956, Martin did album covers for the Prestige label, for such artists as Art Farmer, Sonny Stitt, Bud Powell, J.J. Johnson, Stan Getz -- and Miles Davis. He did the cover of Miles Davis and Horns.
Which makes Martin even cooler than I already thought he was...