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RIP Bob Clarke

Bob Clarke

I just found out that longtime MAD artist Bob Clarke passed away on Sunday from complications from pneumonia. He was 87.

I only met Bob once, at an NCS Reubens weekend in 2000 when it was held in New York City. He was pretty spry and sharp, and a gracious and humble guy. His work in MAD was always terrific, and while he didn’t get the kudos and attention of guys like Mort, Jack, Sergio, Don or Antonio, he was quietly one of the mainstays of the Usual Gang of Idiots and one of my favorites. Interestingly, he was one of several artists that were intrigued by, and came on board the magazine thanks to, an ad in the New York Times placed by Bill Gaines Al Feldstein, which also netted Norman Mingo and Mort Drucker. Bob was an example of an illustrator that could do it all, and quite literally did it all. He seemed to be able to work in any style effortlessly, and that ability made him invaluable to MAD, as he could spoof almost any subject or genre from comic strips to children’s books to movie posters to advertising. He even did a number of Spy vs. Spys for the magazine. I always thought his work had an elegance to it that seemed to barely contain a very animated, zany style bubbling just under the surface. He did the sketch above for The Lovely Anna at the Reubens that year, and you can see his hands were not as steady as they were back in the day. Below is a picture of him drawing it. I wish I could have met him more often, and gotten to know him.

A true pro, a great talent… he’ll be missed but his legacy of work is one to be envied. RIP Mr. Clarke.

clarke2

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11 Responses to “RIP Bob Clarke”

  1. Annie Gaines Ashton says:

    Sad to hear about Bob. He was such a talent, and as you said, could copy any style. Bob and his body of work will be remembered for a LONG time to come. Rest in peace, Bob.

  2. Grant Geissman says:

    I’m sad, too! I talked to Bob a quite a bit over the years, most recently interviewing him for my FELDSTEIN book. He even did a great recreation of Kelly Freas’s LIKE, MAD paperback cover for me. Correction, though: Bill Gaines didn’t place the ad in the New York Times, Al Feldstein did!
    Rest in peace, Mr. Clarke.

  3. Paul Dushkind says:

    Ca. 1966, Wallace Wood submitted a substandard job to Mad, about what popular comic strips (Steve Canyon, Peanuts, Mickey Mouse and others) would be like if they were in publications that didn’t print comic strips (Wall Street Journal and others). It was rejected. Wood quit Mad in a huff. Bob Clarke was assigned to redraw the story.

    In a recent year, Alter Ego printed parts of both versions, together with remarks implying that Wood was the sentimental favorite. Russ Jones said, “Yes, the job was covered in liquid paper, but it was great compared to what Bob Clarke produced.” A blurb at the end said something like, “We don’t mean to disparage Bob Clarke.”

    I’m sorry, but anyone could plainly see that Clarke’s version was better. He was better at imitating the styles of the original cartoonists, especially Charles Schulz. He had a more modern sensibility, with variety in the compositions: different angles, more close-ups, and so on. He was better at facial expressions.

    We have lost an underrecognized artist. We can belatedly acknowledge him.

    • Tom says:

      Couldn’t agree more that Bob Clarke was underrecognized as a MAD artist… not by the guys at MAD, who knew he was an important part of the magazine, but by the public.

  4. Paco Pincay says:

    It’s a huge shame. I grew up laughing with this beautiful magazine and today, its pages turn gray by the tears of those who remember him.

  5. Brian O. says:

    Paperbacks opened my eyes to his earlier Mad work. His techniques were beautiful and obvious he poured a lot of effort into each panel for silly readers like myself. He didn’t hold back.
    Miss that slick signature and we’ll all miss the man.
    R.I.P.

  6. Yekimi says:

    Oh man, I’m feeling so old. Started reading Mad back in the mid 1960s. Still have a lot of them collected; bunches were stolen from me in the 70s but recovered them at a used bookstore, owner wouldn’t give them back, one threat to call the cops and have him arrested for receiving stolen property made him see the error of his ways and I got them back! As much as I appreciate the current crop of “the usual gang of idiots”, it just seems like you develop favorites early in life and a lot of the artists/writers of the old Mad were my favorites and they are slowly slipping away. So to Bob Clarke, so long, thanks for all the GREAT artwork and laughs & R.I.P.

  7. Stan says:

    Shocked and sad to read about Bob’s passing. As a kid reading MAD in the 80s, he was always recognized by our circle of neighborhood kids as one of the top talents. He was a personal favorite (right alongside Jaffee and Aragones); his style was elegant and beautiful. It’s a shame that he’s gone, thankfully his brilliant work will never be forgotten.

  8. Bob Clarke was always one of my favorite Mad guys even if he didn’t have that edge of insanity required to excite the fan-nerds. Or maybe because he was fluidly facile…anyway, one of a kind.

  9. Zeb says:

    Bob Clarke was always one of my favorite MAD artists! His work was impeccably done. I had no idea he had passed on until I read it in your blog. He will be missed. One of the all time greats!

 

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