Frank Jacobs – RIP

MAD writer Frank Jacobs has passed away.

Franklin (Frank) Jacobs
May 30, 1929 – April 5, 2021


The Jacobs family broke the news on social media:

I’m sad to announce that my father, Frank Jacobs, passed away this morning.

From a 2009 Los Angeles Times article:

Just out of the Army, where he wrote for the newspaper Pacific Stars and Stripes [during the Korean War], Jacobs landed a job in public relations. But boredom set in, as he wasn’t as busy as he was at the newspaper.

According to Frank:

Before I started contributing to MAD, I was in a public relations company that bored the hell out of me because there wasn’t enough to do. I just sat around most of the time … But a week after the PR firm folded, I picked up a copy of MAD, said, “I can do this stuff,” and discovered that I could.

And for 57 years he did. Frank Jacob’s first contribution to MAD magazine was for issue #33 (June 1957), the last original contribution (his work is a big part of the current mostly reprint MAD) appeared in the October 2014 issue (#529).

“My top year, I sold 60 pages in one year, so you get an idea of the roll I was on,” Jacobs said.

Frank in 2006:

I’m doing a few things for MAD, but not nearly as much as I used to. I’m not always on their wavelength, although we have mutual regard for each other. I talk mostly with John Ficarra, the Editor, who’s doing a brilliant job holding things together and keeping up with the new pop culture, which I’m not particularly interested in, but which the magazine has to be interested in.

MAD material © EC Publications; MAD covers from Doug Gilford's site

Though Frank was a versatile writer he is most famous for his parodies of songs and poetry. That talent put MAD in court when he and Larry Siegel created a 20-page parody songbook that led a few music publishers to sue for copyright infringement.

The courts sided with MAD in an important ruling for parodists by allowing them to use the meter structure of popular songs with the suggestion of “sung to the tune of.”

Paperbacks were an important revenue stream for MAD artists and writers. From 2006:

My favorite MAD paperback is “MAD Goes To Pieces,” and “MAD’s Talking Stamps” isn’t bad, either. I knew from my royalty statements that there were too many MAD books out. And then when NAL stopped distributing the books and Warner took over, I remember when I went to a store and saw the space that the various paperback publishers had, and Warner books had a very small amount, and of that amount, a very small amount were for MAD paperbacks. So, they weren’t seen and sales went down. In addition to the original paperbacks that all of us did, they were competing with the paperbacks that contained old MAD material…you know…like “The Inflatable MAD,” “The Portable MAD.” Sales plummeted. There were too many—well over 100 — competing against each other. Moreover, Warner didn’t have the clout or the sales force to get enough books in enough places for people to see and buy.

Frank’s favorite books were public domain images to which he added humorous captions, something he would use beyond MAD. While his biggest benefactor was Bill Gaines Frank’s humor was not limited to that magazine.



Comic Book Resources has an obituary up.

Among the early tributes are those by Mark Evanier and Tom Richmond.

Frank Jacobs’ MAD index at MAD Trash and the MAD Cover Site.

Many are remembering Frank on social media.

Frank claims that he was just “in the right place at the right time.
We contend his genius for humor may have had something to do with it.