When I was 25, a ganglier, dorkier version of my current self (if you could imagine that) flew to New York for the second time.
I took the train up to Long Island where my friend Adrian C. Sinnott generously arranged to drive me to meet to one of mine -and literally thousands of other artists’- heroes; Mort Drucker.
To give you some idea of my admiration for Mort, he is my "Larry David of Cartooning."
I had the surreal privilege of sitting with Mort in his home studio and watching him draw. He showed me his Time Magazine covers, his MAD Covers, some advertising work he had on the drawing board that afternoon -it was
like watching one of the old masters at work.
Having him tell me about how hands, if drawn the right way, can be just as expressive as the face was an invaluable lesson. He has this amazing ability to inject humour and motion into these otherwise bland scenes- anyone who was a fan of his MAD Parodies knows what I’m talking about. Everything he was drawing, he was explaining to me as he did it. Every line had a purpose to it, a reason for it being there.
You know when someone shows you how a thing work and it just ‘unlocks’ something in your brain? That happened. I learned more about drawing that afternoon than in the whole time I’d been a cartoonist before that. My style and approach to cartooning fundamentally changed from that day forward, thanks to Mort’s time and generosity.
I look at artwork I did even last week and all I see is mistakes (I’m not alone on that), but I look back at the artwork I was turning out “Before-Mort” (BM) and I get stomach cramps. I look at the stuff ‘After Mort’ (AM) and it’s almost as if it were drawn by someone completely different.
At the end of the visit he took out an issue of MAD that he’d drawn the cover for -a Spider-Man parody- and signed it for me. It has hung on my studio wall ever since. (He didn’t even know how big a Spidey fan I was when he picked out that cover of all covers to sign…)
His MAD book, “Mort Drucker, 5 Decades of His Finest Works” was one of the few things I kept in my suitcase when I moved to New York. To this day, it’s one of the greatest references I own.
This weekend, Mort will be the inaugural honouree of the “NCS Medal of Honour” at the 69th Annual NCS Reuben Awards in Washington D.C. The Medal of Honor is a lifetime achievement award bestowed upon a cartoonist “in recognition of a long and distinguished career of continued excellence in cartooning that has set the highest of standards and inspiration.”
I can’t think of a more fitting award for one of the most humble, generous and influential artists of the last century.
To read more on Mort’s career and his being honoured this weekend, read on: