I was given the distinct honor of meeting and sharing some laughs with legendary Mad writer, Frank Jacobs, in October 2010. He was kind enough to sign some stuff, share some Mad memories, and pose for photos and video. The first page of his first article for Mad back in issue #33, June 1957 can be clicked and magnified above (photos too). Writers like Frank didn't stand out like the artists, but the value of their contributions is boundless nonetheless.
A major Thankyou! goes to John and Lillian for the introduction to Frank and for some great pizza.
A Note from Mad's Art Director, Sam Viviano:
Just caught your interview with Frank, and it was very nice to see. I couldn't help but notice a couple of minor slips, however, and wanted to bring them to your attention. First, the guy ogling Frank on the back cover of MAD #80 is Nick Meglin, not Jerry DeFuccio. (Incidentally, I believe that ad parody made it onto the Silver Screen in the movie "Down With Love." We were asked to put together a 1963-vintage MAD cover for a scene in which Ewan McGregor is reading the magazine in a barber shop. While the front cover was created for the film (with art by Richard Williams), I picked that ad parody for the back cover, not only because it was era-specific but also because Nick could finally say he'd appeared in a Hollywood movie.
As for Frank's comments about the current state of MAD art, I am of course gratified that he (or anyone!) noticed. It must be pointed out, however, that the specific piece he mentioned -- the "stained glass window" from last year's MAD 20 -- was not "done in Photoshop" (with the exception of the lettering on its base). On the contrary, master illustrator Mark Stutzman created it like everything he does: by hand, using paints and pencils and inks on real, honest-to-goodness illustration board. If anything, the original is more impressive than its reproduction on the crappy paper our magazine is printed on.
One last point -- although Photoshop is extensively used not only by us, but by the entire publishing industry, there is still not a simple "Photoshop Button" that creates great art when it's pushed. Even those who use the program exclusively -- cover artist Mark Fredrickson may be the best example -- are extraordinarily skilled craftsmen who use it as it should be used: as just another tool, implemented to achieve the artist's vision. It is definitely not the visual equivalent of AutoTune, believe me.
That's it for my rant. Thanks again for remaining such a staunch fan of the magazine. I can't tell you how much we here at the magazine rely on your site. By the way, extra kudos to you for updating your site with more extensive contents and back cover scans. I sometimes wonder when you find the time!
Your buddy, Sam
After I picked myself up off the floor, I replied:
Thanks for the kind words. That really means a lot. Glad to know you guys happen upon the site now and then.
I'm horrified that I let "DeFuccio" slip instead of "Meglin". I actually know better. I'll make a mention on my site in some way. (I've since added some text to the video to point out the oversights.)
Was Frank talking about the Michael Jackson stained-glass piece? Yes, I think the general public thinks there is a magic photoshop button. Undoubtedly, some things have to be easier with the advent of computer assistance, but you either have it or you don't as an artist, and no amount of computer magic will help those without that special artistic ability.
Worth noting that the above article, Why I Left the Army and Became a Civilian, appears in the first issue Frank contributed to (#33), but it comes after his other writing contribution Baseball's Hall of Shame and before Vending Machines of the Future and Ticket Stubs in that same issue. Why I Left the Army and Became a Civilian was the first piece he sold to Mad. Here's a complete list of Frank's contributions!