Book Review: Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture: A Career Retrospective

Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture - A Career Retrospective (2nd Printing) - front

Quick on the draw

Despite some quite silly editorial lapses I think this will end up as the definitive portfolio for Jack Davis fans and I've been one for decades. Thirteen by ten inches, 208 pages and with plenty of color. The eight chapters: Early years; Comics; Record covers and Movie posters; Gags and Illustration; Time and TV Guide; Advertising; Biography; Tributes to Jack Davis, more or less cover his creative life and each has a generous sampling of his wonderful work. You can always identify it because he always draws people with very long feet

'Gags and illustration' with fifty pages is the longest chapter with a range of work from past decades and nicely it includes some whole page illustrations with roughs on the facing page. The Time and TV Guide chapter unfortunately only has eighteen Time covers out of the many he painted although eleven of these are large reproductions without the logo or red border. TV Guide also has eighteen covers but only one large blow-up of the cover painting.

The editorial, especially the production, really should have been better though. The major fault for me was a complete lack of any captions under or near the illustrations. No dates or a bit of background information to explain anything. The Art of Jack Davis by Hank Harrison would have identified and dated most of the art. Amazingly there is some information in the last two pages of the book where it's called End Notes, thirty-three sort of caption-like material appears but it only refers to a small number of illustrations throughout the book. Why the publisher's thought the readers should flip backwards and forwards to find out about a particular image is beyond me. Flipping isn't too easy either because the page numbers are tiny (five point) and only appear on about two thirds of the pages. The last twenty-six have no numbers at all. This is really shoddy work by someone at Fantagraphics.

There is no Contents page or Index, both are editorial items I would expect to find in this sort of book. Other reviewers have commented on the paper and it does seem an odd idea to actually print a very light tint of yellow and red on every page instead of leaving it as white paper. The movie posters and TV Guide covers are printed on white panels fortunately.

Despite these weaknesses I think there is much to enjoy in these pages. Jack Davis is such a superb artist and to see this large collection of his work in one place is really something.

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