In October 2007, Running Press Book Publishers will be publishing “The Completely MAD Don Martin.” This 17-pound 1000-page volume will contain every comic that Don Martin created during his 30 years with the magazine. (Note that Amazon is taking pre-orders.)
As a cartoonist myself, MAD Magazine’s Don Martin was one of my great influences. In fact, he was a great influence on many cartoonists. All you have to do is turn on The Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon. Eyeballs bulge, oversized feet flop, and rubbery mayhem ensues. As grotesque as his characters were, the onomatopoetic sounds emitted from each cartoon box were just as grotesque and uniquely Martin. Example sounds include “Sizafitz!”, “Blort!”, “Oot greet”, and my favorite, “Cha-kunk-ding-rip.”
Martin’s characters were horribly grotesque almost to the point of ridiculing physical and mental deformities. Yet, as disturbing as these characters and their situations were, fans laughed and laughed hard (and still laugh) not AT these hapless characters, but at ourselves. I believe that deep down we are all hapless Don Martin characters.
My personal favorite Don Martin characters are Fester Bestertester and his huge idiotic sidekick Karbunkle (especially Karbunkle). My personal favorite Fester and Karbunkle comic is “The Man with the World’s Hardest Head”, a story of American hucksterism gone psychotic. Karbunkle has the world’s hardest head and Fester is his promoter. The story is Karbunkle’s rise and fall in the world of show business … and it is screamingly funny and terribly disturbing. (I worked in Hollywood for 30 years)
I recently met writer/artist Don “Duck” Edwing, Martin’s most frequent collaborator. Of course, I asked him many questions about Don Martin. To me, the most surprising fact about Martin, according to Edwing, was that he was “movie star handsome” and looked nothing like any of his grotesque characters. I was baffled. Every cartoonist I knew looked like at least one of their characters. So, I dug around the Internet and found some photos of Don Martin. Sure enough, he looked nothing like Fester Bestertester, Karbunkle, or Fonebone.
At the time of Don Martin’s death on January 6, 2000, he was no longer working for MAD. After a protracted dispute over reprint royalties with publisher William Gaines, he left MAD for its longtime and vastly inferior competitor, Cracked. In 1994, he left Cracked to launch his shortlived Don Martin Magazine.
While MAD Magazine is still going strong, Don Martin was the magazine’s last true spark of brilliance.
“Don Martin”, Steve Burgess, Salon, URL: (http://dir.salon.com/story/people/obit/2000/01/15/martin/index.html)
“National Gorilla Suit Day”, Mark Evanier, URL: (http://www.povonline.com/National%20Gorilla%20Suit%20Day.htm)