Born in 1931 and lasting in this crazy, mixed-up world until the year 2000, Don Martin was a mixy, crazed-up cartoonist for Mad Magazine who would come to be billed as “Mad Magazine’s Maddest Artist.” His greatest work was done during his Mad years, from 1956 (the year I was born… not a coincidence, I firmly believe) until his retirement in 1988. (*** I was reminded by Martin’s wife that he did not retire then. He just left Mad Magazine for places like Cracked where he was treated better.***) And I learned a lot from him by reading his trippy toons in Mad from my childhood until my early teacher-hood.
His style is uniquely recognizable and easily identifiable. Nobody cartoons a Foon-man like Don Martin.
The googly eyes are always popped in surprise. The tongue is often out and twirling. Knees and elbows always have amazingly knobbly knobs. Feet have an extra hinge in them that God never thought of when he had Adam on the drawing board.
And then there is the way that Martin uses sound effects. Yes, cartoons in print don’t make literal sounds, but the incredible series of squeedonks and doinks that Martin uses create a cacophony of craziness in the mind’s ear.
And there is a certain musicality in the rhyming of the character names he uses. Fester Bestertester was a common foil for slapstick mayhem, and Fonebone would later stand revealed by his full name, Freenbeen I. Fonebone.
And, of course, one of his most amazingly adventurous ne’er-do-well slapstick characters was the immeasurable Captain Klutz!
Here, there, and everywhere… on the outside he wears his underwear… it’s the incredible, insteadable, and completely not edible… Captain Klutz!
If you cannot tell it from this tribute, I deeply love the comic genius who was Don Martin, Mad Magazine’s Maddest Artist. Like me he was obsessed with nudists and drawing anatomy. Like me he was not above making up words with ridiculous-sounding syllables. And like me he was also a purple-furred gorilla in a human suit… wait! No, he wasn’t, but he did invent Gorilla-Suit Day, where people in gorilla suits might randomly attack you as you go about your daily life, or gorillas in people suits, or… keep your eye on the banana in the following cartoon.
So, even though I told you about Bruce Timm and Wally Wood and other toon artists long before I got around to telling you about Don Martin, that doesn’t mean I love them more. Don Martin is wacky after my own heart, and the reason I spent so much time immersed in Mad Magazine back in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.