Interview with MAD's Jack Davis about his Tales From the Crypt comic book days

Ben Marks of Collectors Weekly says: "We just published an exclusive interview with MAD magazine cartoonist Jack Davis, who spoke to us about his Tales From the Crypt years in the early 1950s. Our article, which features a new drawing by Davis of MAD publisher William Gaines posing alongside the Crypt-Keeper, coincides with Mondo's Tales From the Crypt exhibition opening on October 25, 2013, in Austin, Texas.

It was Bill Gaines who gave Davis—recently honored in a 2011 Fantagraphics retrospective book called Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture — his first break. The young artist, who’d been drawing since kindergarten, had published comic strips in middle school and high school, in the Navy, and at the University of Georgia. When he graduated in 1950, he hoped to land his dream job working on the newspaper funny pages so he could afford to marry his college sweetheart, Dena Roquemore.

“I wanted to be a cartoonist and get syndicated,” says Davis, who worked as an assistant to Ed Dodd, creator of the syndicated “Mark Trail” comic strip, while he was in college. “I figured I had to go to New York City because that was where everything in publishing was, including the comics syndicates. I took a year at the Art Students League in New York, and I’d look for work. I’d go up and down Madison Avenue, where I was rejected at the syndicates and at a lot of the publishers.”

But not all of them. “I saw a comic book one day and went down to the offices of Entertaining Comics, where I met the publisher, Bill Gaines. My work was bad, and they liked it,” he says, laughing. “They gave me some stuff to work on right away, and I was very excited about that.”

Soon, Davis, who was sick of being a starving artist, developed a reputation for speed, as an artist who could sketch and ink sometimes three pages in a day. “I’d have to be fast, because when you turned them in, that’s when you’d get your money,” Davis says. “The faster you drew, the faster the money came in.”

Interview with MAD's Jack Davis about his Tales From the Crypt comic book days