Jack Davis Meets Abraham Lincoln

by Derrick Bostrom


Cartoonist and illustrator Jack Davis first came to prominence in the pages of classic EC comics like "Tales From The Crypt" and "Two-Fisted Tales." He is probably best known to early readers of "Mad" magazine and its comic book predecessor. But once he graduated from the world of funny books into mainstream publishing, his career exploded. In the sixties and seventies, his work was literally everywhere: on movie posters, magazine covers, record jackets and just about every other type of mass merchandising detritus you might name.

Georgia native Davis' interest in the Civil War era crops up throughout his career. In addition to his EC war comic output (where his occasional stories about the Civil War included one about Abraham Lincoln), he also took a later stab at a humorous war daily about a Confederate soldier named Beauregard. His work for the 1965 "Step Up" book, "Meet Abraham Lincoln" reflects his passion for the period as well as his extensive research. His attention to detail is found everywhere, from the intricate backgrounds to the exquisitely rendered interiors. The detailed pen and wash drawings are much more ambitious than the flamboyant brush work more commonly found in his canon, but they none the less display a playfulness of caricature indicative of a book aimed at young readers.

Lovers of Lincoln lore will enjoy these illustrations just as much as comics fans. They trace the myth of America's greatest president: his humble origins and his nascent talent for public speaking, his early ambitious pursuits and the courtship of his wife, his elevation to the highest office in the land, the war precipitated by his election, the historic tracts which cemented his place in history and, ultimately, his demise. Davis lovingly illustrates the story with the energy and sense of drama that betrays the hand of a true believer. His stirring battle panoramas are marred only by my rather clumsy attempts to edit out the binding gutters.

"Meet Abraham Lincoln" is still in print. However, the Jack Davis illustrations no longer accompany Barbara Cary's text. They have been replaced by new drawings, which, needless to say, in no way match the vision of one of this country's greatest and most prolific illustrators. But take heart, Davis fans! All you have to do is scroll down and get to clickin'.

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