Frank Jacobs, ace Mad writer, dies

007, a “James Bomb” stage musical by Mort Drucker and Frank Jacobs, 1965

Frank Jacobs, a long-time writer for Mad magazine has died, the semi-dormant publication announced on Twitter.

One of Jacobs’ specialties was devising musical parodies. One of his best was published in 1965. “007” envisioned a James Bond (or “James Bomb”) stage musicial.

As written by Jacobs, all of the songs were sung to the tune of songs from the stage musical Oklahoma! Artist Mort Drucker provided a James Bomb drawn to resemble Sean Connery.

In the story, Bomb confronts ICECUBE, an organization that is dragging Great Britain to the North Pole. The leader of ICECUBE is revealed to be Mike Hammer, who is angry at Bomb for taking away all his book sales. Drucker drew Hammer to look like author Mickey Spillane.

Jacobs made his first sale to Mad in 1957, debuting with five pieces in the June issue, according to his biography in Wikipedia. Mad’s editors quickly requested more. Jacobs also wrote 13 paperback books under the Mad imprint.

Below is Mad’s announcement about the death of Jacobs.

Mort Drucker, ace Mad artist, dies at 91

Part of the Mort Drucker-drawn parody of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Mort Drucker, one of the best artists to grace the pages of Mad magazine, has died at 91, The New York Times reported. He died Thursday at his home in Woodbury, N.Y., according to the newspaper. (The Times originally said Wednesday and corrected the story.)

Drucker specialized in parodies of movies and television shows. His caricatures bore dead-on resemblances to actors, while making exaggerations for comic effect. He began working at Mad in the 1950s and lasted well into the 21st century.

Ian Fleming, drawn by Mort Drucker, from the collection of the late John Griswold.

The artist, naturally, had pencil and pen ready during the spymania of the 1960s and beyond.

Among his work:

–007 (April 1965 issue), showing what a stage musical featuring “James Bomb” would be like. Naturally, there was a Connery caricature. The villainous organization ICECUBE is towing the U.K. to the North Pole. The head of the organization is revealed to be Mike Hammer, angry that Bomb had taken away his book sales.

The parody, written by Frank Jacobs, included songs were all sung to the tune of songs from Oklahoma! For example: “Poor Bomb Is Dead,” instead of “Poor Jud Is Dead.”

–A parody of The Man From U.N.C.L.E,, titled The Man From A.U.N.T.I.E. (July 1965 issue). Besides caricatures of Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, the story included an appearance by a Sean Connery caricature dressed in a tuxedo with a “007” button. The Illya Kuryakin takeoff has hired 007 to do away with the Napoleon Solo takeoff. There were also cameos from the White Spy and Black Spy from Mad’s Spv Vs. Spy feature.

Image from The Man From A.U.N.T.I.E.

–The Spy That Came in for the Gold (September 1966), parody of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

Why Spy? (June 1967 issue), parody of I Spy with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby.

–Mission: Ridiculous (April 1968 issue), parody of Mission: Impossible. The letters page of the issue had a letter from Martin Landau and Barbara Bain asking why Mad hadn’t yet parodied M:I. The letter came complete with a photo of the actors looking at an issue of Mad.

–The March 1974 issue of Mad that parodied the first eight movies in the 007 series produced by Eon Productions. The parody titles were Dr. No-No, From Russia With Lunacy, Goldfingerbowl, Thunderblahh, You Only Live Nice, On His Majesty’s Secret Shamus, Dollars Are Forever and Live And Let Suffer.

Mort Drucker in a 2015 video by the National Cartoonists Society

Drucker also drew later 007 parodies, including takeoffs of The Spy Who Loved Me (June 1978 issue) and For Your Eyes Only (March 1982 issue). With the latter, the White Spy and Black Spy of Spy Vs. Spy again make a cameo.

Drucker was also in demand for projects other than Mad. One of his most prominent was the poster for 1973’s American Graffiti.

Part of the Mort Drucker-drawn 007, Mad’s version of a “James Bomb” stage musical. The villain reveals himself to be Mike Hammer, who is angry at 007 for taking away all his book sales.

Mad magazine, an appreciation

Cover to an issue of Mad magazine containing a parody of Moonraker, with Mad mascot Alfred E. Neuman in place of Roger Moore.

One thing about Mad magazine — it never was never pretentious.

Long-time publisher William M. Gaines (1922-1992) appeared more than once in its pages as the butt of a joke.

The premise of one 1960s Mad feature was to ask if 007 had a license to kill, what licenses did other 00-agents have? Agent 000 was Gaines himself. He had a license to steal because he published “trash” such as Mad magazine.

In 1962, artist Wally Wood drew Gaines with a little girl on his lap. “Daddy is a crook, child!” Gaines says in the word balloon accompanying the illustration. “He publishes MAD magazine.”

And, of course, the masthead listed Mad’s contributing writers and artists as “the usual gang of idiots.”

The news emerged this week that Mad will soon end publishing new material. It will only publish reprints after that at until subscription commitments are met.

Many expressed sadness and regret. One, who had been the target of Mad parodies himself, took to social media.

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Mad began in 1952 as a comic book. It was part of Gaines’ EC Comics, which also published horror and crime titles.

Mad’s founding editor was Harvey Kurtzman, who wrote all of the first issue, according to the forward of Mad About the Sixties, a 1995 collection of Mad features from that decade.

“Comic books, comic strips, movies, television shows, literature and various aspects of modern living became grist for the MAD mill,” Grant Geissman, who had written books about Mad and EC, wrote in the forward.

With issue 24 in 1955, Mad became a 25-cent magazine. By 1956, Mad was all that was left of EC. The horror and crime titles were canceled because of criticism that comic books caused juvenile delinquency.

Part of a Mad parody of For Your Eyes Only, drawn by Mort Drucker

Kurtzman departed in 1956, hired away by Playboy. Yet, Mad continued on, selling 1 million copies an issue by 1958 and more than 2 million in the early 1970s.

In the 1960s, Gaines sold Mad but cut a deal where he’d run with it without interference. That kind of agreement is hard to maintain over time.

“The ‘hands off’ part of the agreement slowly but surely went away,” Tom Richmond, a Mad artist, wrote in a detailed blog post on July 4. “Once Bill died, the slow but unstoppable taking over by the suits began.”

By the time of Gaines’ passing, circulation had slipped to 800,000. Still, the publisher’s passing was noted in an editorial in The New York Times:

Mr. Gaines’s improbable world, the spiritual antecedent of shows like ‘Saturday Night Live,’ now seems almost tame. Indeed, there are moments when it seems almost real. Ross Perot for President?

Indeed, almost one-fifth through the 21st century, there are plenty of outlets and television shows that parody and comment upon modern life. Mad’s circulation is a fraction of its peak. Meanwhile, the world has only gotten crazier since Gaines died in 1992.

On social media this week, I saw some express surprise that Mad still is publishing. Another common sentiment was a variation of, “I haven’t read it in years but I’ll miss it.”

Nothing last forever. Yet a legacy remains, including art by Wood, Mort Drucker, Don Martin and more recent cartoonists such as Richmond.

Dick DeBartolo, who has been writing for Mad for decades, continued coming up with gags on Twitter as the news circulated. He maintained Mad’s tradition of not taking itself too seriously.

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Mad magazine may be shutting down

Part of the Mort Drucker-drawn parody of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service from the 1970s

Mad magazine, the humor publication that debuted in 1952, may be shutting down later this year.

David DeGrand, a writer and artist for Mad, said Wednesday night via Twitter he could “confirm” the upcoming end of publication.

Another cartoonist, Evan Dorkin, also took to social media to talk about Mad.

Goodbye, MAD Magazine,” Dorkin wrote in a separate post on Twitter. “As a youngster I was a huge fan of the 70’s era, as a young adult I rediscovered the 50’s comics, as an old nerd I somehow became a contributor…Getting the e-mail today was crushing.”

Neither Mad nor DC Comics had made an announcement Wednesday night. Both Mad and DC are part of AT&T’s WarnerMedia unit that also includes Warner Bros.

The Vulture blog of New York magazine said it obtained an email sent to freelancers by DC saying issue 10 of Mad will be the last one with original content. Mad will reuse features until subscription obligations are complete, Vulture said.

Mad had published 550 issues from 1952 to 2018. It went back to No. 1 in 2018.

The publication began as a comic book. It switched to a magazine format in 1955.

Over the decades, Mad published many parodies of James Bond and other spies.

They included “007” (April 1965 issue), showing what a stage musical featuring “James Bomb” would be like. The villainous organization ICECUBE is towing the U.K. to the North Pole. The head of the organization is revealed to be Mike Hammer, angry that Bomb had taken away his book sales.

The parody, drawn by Mort Drucker and written by Frank Jacobs, included songs were all sung to the tune of songs from Oklahoma! For example: “Poor Bond Is Dead,” instead of “Poor Jud Is Dead.”

The March 1974 issue of Mad that parodied the first eight movies in the 007 series produced by Eon Productions. The parody titles were Dr. No-No, From Russia With Lunacy, Goldfingerbowl, Thunderblahh, You Only Live Nice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Shamus, Dollars Are Forever and Live And Let Suffer. Mad later parodied other Bond films.

Mad in the 1960s also did parodies of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (which included Sean Connery’s Bond as a henchman), Mission: Impossible, I Spy and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

UPDATE (12:45 p.m., July 4): Tom Richmond, another Mad artist, confirms everything in a detailed post on his website. An excerpt:

I could go on and on about the end of an era and a true American original, about how MAD had an incalculable influence on satire, comedy in general, and the humor of the entire planet, how its pages regularly featured some of the greatest cartoonists who ever lived like (Harvey) Kurtzman, Jack Davis, Mort Drucker, Wally Wood, Will Elder, Al Jaffee, Sergio Aragones, Don Martin, Paul Coker… too many to list really. I could go on and on but all that is meaningless with respect to today. None of that history can be taken away, and none of it is a reason for the next issue to come out. In the end in this day and age, the only reason anything is allowed to exist comes down to money. If something is profitable, it continues. If it is not, it ends.

MAD is ending for the same reason anything ends… it’s all about the Benjamins.

Richmond writes that the company still owns all that artwork he cited. That’s still valuable content for future reprints and collections. Essentially, the company really doesn’t need new material the way Mad is selling.

Jack Davis, extraordinary artist, dies at 91

Jack Davis promotional art for Get Smart

Jack Davis promotional art for Get Smart

Jack Davis, a talented artist known for his work on Mad magazine and various commercial artwork, died Wednesday at the age of 91, the University of Georgia said in an announcement.

The university released the news because Davis, a Georgia native, often did caricatures of the school’s bulldog mascot.

Besides Mad, Davis frequently got work commercial art jobs promoting movies and television shows. Perhaps his most famous was the movie poster for 1963’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, with caricatures of Spencer Tracy and the film’s mammoth cast.  Davis then parodied his own work for the cover of It’s a World, World, World, World Mad, a paperback collection of Mad reprinted features.

With the popularity of spy shows in the 1960s, Davis did illustrations promoting The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart and I Spy. The artist also illustrated an U.N.C.L.E. lunchbox.

Davis also drew an intricate illustration promoting NBC’s 1965-66 television lineup. To appreciate it better, click on the image below.

Jack Davis' epic illustration promoting NBC's 1965-66 television lineup

Jack Davis’ epic illustration promoting NBC’s 1965-66 television lineup

 

 

Merry Saltzman says planned 007 musical is a parody

Skyfall's poster image

Will 007 sing yet?

The woman behind a planned James Bond musical says she’s pushing on with the project.

Merry Saltzman TOLD PLAYBILL, that her production doesn’t need to be licensed from Danjaq LLC and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which control the film rights and say they also control the stage rights.

The reason? Saltzman says the play is a parody and that it “does not require permission from the owners of the intellectual property being parodied,” according to Playbill.

Copyright law includes “fair use” provisions where parts of copyrighted works can be used. Parody is an example of fair use. Mad magazine, for example, deals in parody. Mad has parodied 007 on a number of occasions, although he’s usually called “James Bomb” or another name to make clear it is a parody.

On July 8, Danjaq (holding company for the Broccoli-Wilson family 007 interests, including Eon Productions) and MGM issued A STATEMENT in response to Saltzman’s announcement about her stage production, to be called James Bond: The Musical. Danjaq and MGM said “no James Bond stage show may be produced without their permission.”

Saltzman issued her own statement to Playbill that said, “We are producing a parody, no permissive rights are required from Eon, Danjaq, MGM et al to produce our show; it will not infringe on their intellectual property. James Bond: The Musical will go on as planned.” Saltzman told Playbill that a reference in her original announcement to having secured rights, referred to acquiring “rights to a James Bond musical parody written by Dave Clarke with music and lyrics by Jay Henry Weisz.”

From a distance, this would appear to be an aggressive utilization of parody/fair use. It’s one thing for a half-dozen pages in Mad or a short 007 skit on Saturday Night Live. It’s another to do a complete stage musical. We’ll see.

Merry Saltzman is the daughter of Harry Saltzman, co-founder of Danjaq and Eon. Harry Saltzman sold his 007 rights to United Artists in 1975 because of personal financial troubles. MGM acquired UA in the early ’80s. To read the entire Playbill story, CLICK HERE.

A James Bond musical?

Skyfall's poster image

Coming soon to a stage near you?

The website BROADWAY WORLD.COM said June 29 there’s a planned James Bond stage musical in the works and that a daughter of Eon Productions co-founder Harry Saltzman is involved.

The title is simply James Bond: The Musical and, according to the website the curtain may rise in 2017 on the production.

Here’s an excerpt with more details:

(Merry) Saltzman, daughter of legendary Bond film producer and impresario Harry Saltzman, said the world’s favorite spy will soon be singing, dancing, and laughing his way into audiences’ hearts in an original production with songs and lyrics by Jay Henry Weisz and a book by Dave Clarke.

The spelling of Merry Saltzman is correct. Documentaries about the making of James Bond movies included interviews of Saltzman children Steven and Hilary but Merry Saltzman didn’t participate. You can see Merry Saltzman referenced in THIS 1994 OBITUARY BY THE NEW YORK TIMES.

To read the entire Broadway World.com story, CLICK HERE.

In 1965, Mad magazine presented a parody of a 007 stage musical. Mad’s version, written by Frank Jacobs and drawn by Mort Drucker, had songs all sung to the tune of classic Rodgers and Hammerstein songs from Oklahoma! (“Ohhhhhhhhhhhh-07! Is the greatest spy there is today! Though the Empires’s gone, He keeps right on…So you’d better not get in his way!”)

To view that parody, CLICK HERE for a 2012 post by the James Bond 007 Dossier website. It has PDF images of the Jacobs-Drucker work.

UPDATE (July 4): A June 30 story in PLAYBILL has some additional details.

Ms. Saltzman is quoted as saying the stage production will use “several Bond villains, plus some new ones.” She also told Playbill the show will feature ” our own Bond girl.” She also told Playbill the stage production might not start until early 2018.