Jack Davis is one of the greatest cartoonists ever. He's incredibly prolific, he's worked for everyone and he has an immediately recognizable (and often imitated) style. So, if you wanted to know more about him, it should be pretty easy to find a good book that presents a career retrospective (even though, at the age of 86, he's still working). Unfortunately, it isn't so easy. It's not difficult to find collections of Mad or Humbug, or EC Comics featuring his work, but if you want a book that specifically presents the work of Jack Davis, you're out of luck. You can probably find a copy of the out-of-print book The Art of Jack Davis if you look hard enough, but it seems to be sort of an oversight that a well-done book about his art isn't more readily available.
Luckily, that's about to change. Fantagraphics Books has a book on their schedule of releases for August 2011 (download a .pdf of the catalog here) that looks very promising. Right now, it's called Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture: A Career Retrospective, but you know how those things change. It could become a different title with even more colons before it actually sees print. I am very excited about this book. I'm sure that one of more difficult parts of editing a project like this is deciding exactly what to leave out, because with an artist like Davis who just has so much stuff out there, this book could easily stretch to over 900 pages.
When you think of the "early work" of Jack Davis, you probably think of EC Comics, or maybe his work on BullSheet when he was in college, or maybe you want to impress everyone with how much you know about comics and stuff and talk about his work on Mark Trail (I learned it from Wikipedia). What you may not think about is the work he did for his high school yearbook. So, here are all of the pages from the 1943 edition of North Fulton High School's Hi-Ways that feature art by (or a photo of) Jack Burton Davis. You can click on these pictures to make them bigger. It's worth it.
There's no art by Jack Davis on the cover, but it's a great cover and worth seeing. Here it is:
Yes, I did ask Jack Davis to sign his 63 year old high school yearbook in 2006. I'm only now thinking about how weird that probably was.
Jack Davis' senior picture:
Some kind words about Jack Davis (and others) in the "Seniors As We See Them" section:
A few small spot illustrations are featured in the two page spread about the senior class play, "The Case of the Laughing Dwarf":
The yearbook staff:
A cartoon for the "Stunt Night" page that's just full of indecipherable (to me) inside jokes. Also, check out Charles Thrash!
Jack Davis was the manager of the football team:
He was also the Captain of the basketball team:
And, he drew a cartoon of the girls' basketball team, too:
Most Versatile, indeed: