Look what I found

I found this piece that I had written about Don Martin about five years ago. I don’t recall what it was for. Here it is:

When I was a kid I was crazy about comic books. MAD was just a child as well. I believe I started buying it at about the third issue. It was a comic book. It had parodies of other comic books and movies. Superduperman! Bat Boy and Rubin! Ping Pong! Will Elder! Jack Davis! Wally Wood! Absolute geniuses. Then in one terrible issue I read that MAD was going to change. No more parodies. It would now be more like a magazine for pubescent boys. I was devastated. At that time I had a subscription. I opened my first issue. Oh No! I leafed through it. Boring. Boring. And then I turned to that magic page. There was the funniest looking cartoon I had ever seen. There was a man sitting on a park bench. He had a huge, huge chin, and he was feeding pigeons. I laughed myself sick. With every issue that came, the first thing that I did was to find the two stories by MAD’s Maddest Artist. One story was in the middle, and one was on the inside back cover. I was a Don Martin junkie.

Now flash forward 35 years or so. There were hearings before Congress about the rights of cartoonists. (We don’t have many, by the way. Publishers take our work, own them, and pretty much do what ever they want to them.) Don Martin was testifying about how he was treated by William Gaines. I waylaid him after the session. Me, the fawning fanboy. Guess what! He knew about my work and was, at least, a bit of a fan of mine! Unbelievable! We became friends. Oh, by the way, I also met his second wife Norma.

Don was very mild mannered and soft spoken. He didn’t have much to say. Maybe that was because Norma did all the talking. She was the one who forced him through wifely persuasion (No. That’s wrong. She probably browbeat him into it.) to leave MAD and draw for Cracked. Don had dated her when he was in college. When he was divorced from his first wife, she swooped in and gathered up the remains. She was very bossy. Once when Frau Grace and I were in Miami, she swooped in on us, and planned our evening over my objections. She dragged us away from the party of cartoonists that we had been attending, we went to dinner, then to ice cream, then back to their modest home. She told us to take our shoes off before entering, and I had no problem with that. But I noticed that while I and the Frau were barefoot, Norma and Don left their shoes on. Very strange. But, for about five minutes, Don and I were able to sneak into his little studio and get away from her overbearing dominance. Then he was able to talk.

He was so very modest. He told me about his career, and most poignantly, how he came to create his wonderfully funny style. He had drawn a story, and while the story was good, the drawings just didn’t have what it took. (May I interject here, a good cartoonist knows that for a cartoon to be really funny, the drawing style and the humor need to complement one another. A silly joke must have an equally silly drawing. More subtle humor must have a more restrained drawing. The glove has to fit the hand.) Well, Don went home and started sketching. Sometime around midnight, from out of nowhere, that wonderful style of character magically appeared on the paper. He said “It just happened.”

That was the last time I saw Don. Not long afterwards he succumbed to lymphoma. He was only 68. What a terrible loss. In contrast, out of the blue, about ten years ago, Norma called me up. She was old, and now, as far as I could tell, totally crazy. If Don were alive, I’m sure he would draw her with that big chin, bitching and nagging at her poor, wimpy husband.

Thanks, Don. Rest in peace.


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9 Responses to Look what I found

  1. AndyW says:

    Great story, Bud.

  2. tylerfan98@hotmail.com says:

    I used to love Don Martin and MAD when I was in my pre-teens and teens. My mother used to buy me copies when she was working. We loved his sound effects. I had some of his pocket book collections, but unfortunately I took them to school when I was in Grade 8 and some miscreant stole them. When Don Martin died, I remember reading that his licence plate read “shtoink”.

    • Bud Grace says:

      When I was ten or eleven, I came home and my huge box of comics was gone. My old man deniede it, but I can understand. We lived in a tiny trailer. There was just no room.

  3. Divad says:

    There were a few compilations of Don Martin sound effects in Mad. One of my favorites was sound effects for superhero comics. The two I always remembered were “Plastic Man giving the finger to a guy on the third floor – ‘geeeeeeeen'”, and one for Wonder Woman. I can’t find an image for Plas, but here’s the Amazonian princess.


    Here’s another from that page, which I didn’t remember, but the look that Don got on Aquaman’s face is sheer perfection.


  4. Divad says:

    Looks like the links have problems. Here’s the Don Martin thread that has them, and more.


  5. marc thorner says:

    Hey Bud,
    That is a great story!!! For some reason, recently my pals and I were looking at past work of Don’s and what was amazing is how they his work still holds up. Hope all is well up there with you and your family…

    • Bud Grace says:

      Darn right. Norma Martin really took over his life. I was with him one time when we were signing autographs. She wouldn’t let him sketch any pictures. She had made simple Xerox copies. He would sign the copies for the fans. My first comic book publisher in Sweden, Pandora Press (Peter Sparring) had a Don Martin Comic. Norma insisted they send her a crate of the comics every issue for approval. Evidently she would take the comic to her hair dresser who was Swedish, and let her review them. They only printed a few issues. She was impossible to deal with.

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