My Scrapbook: Original Artwork for “Peter Goon” by Jack Davis

My Scrapbook

Original Artwork for “Peter Goon” by Jack Davis

What? You thought MAD Magazine had a monopoly on snotty, adolescent parodies of television private eyes? Or that the work of the “usual gang of idiots” was exclusive to William M. Gaines’ “What, Me Worry?” periodical?

Nope. In its day, MAD had a slew of rivals and competitors (Panic, Humbug, etc.), but by far the most successful and longest running was Cracked, which began in 1958 and limped along into the new millennium. Artists and writers frequently bounced back and forth, including Will Elder, Al Jaffee, and Basil Wolverton, but perhaps the most famous of all the double-dippers: Jack Davis, whose work (full of bulging eyes and size 22 feet) appeared not just in MAD and Cracked, but almost everywhere else you went from the fifties through the eighties. He was ubiquitous, his work appearing in comic strips (The Saint), comic books (Marvel and EC, mostly), movie posters (It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Long Goodbye, etc.) and advertising, while his covers often adorned such magazines as TV Guide, Time and Sports Illustrated.

One of Davis’ appearances in Cracked was his three-page riff on Peter Gunn, the snazzy jazzy TV show starring suave, sophisticated Craig Stevens as the smoother-than-smooth private eye.

The parody first appeared in the January 1960 issue, and this is the original, much-yellowed artwork for the first page, with assorted scribbles, white outs, stains, production notes and blue pencil markups that bring me fondly back to the thrilling pre-desktop publishing days of yesteryear, when artists, graphic designers, layout editors and lowly schmucks like me actually got our hands dirty, rather than marinating them in Purcell before tapping a few keys.

The three pages of this parody sold for over two grand at Heritage Auctions a few years ago, and Lord knows what they’re worth now, but here’s the description they published in their catalogue at the time:

Jack Davis Cracked Complete 3-Page Story “Peter Goon” Original Art Group (Major Magazines, circa 1959). “Peter Gunn” is parodied here, but Davis gets to do much more than draw likenesses of star Craig Stevens. There are enough people crammed into three pages to make Sergio Aragones proud, and every one of the background people is just plain funny. Add in some beautiful women, and, in the last panel, James Arness and the whole “Gunsmoke” cast, with the authentic Wild West uniforms that were a Davis specialty. Ink on board. Each page has an approximate image area of 10″ x 14″. Some toning, and all pages have foxing around the edges. Good condition. From The Cracked Vault Collection.

You can check out all three pages, complete with production scribbles, at Heritage Auctions, or view the finished version, as it originally appeared in Cracked at Michael Sporn Animation Inc.


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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