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David Berg For more than 40 years, the American comic-book artist and writer David Berg, who has died of cancer aged 81, worked on Mad magazine, satirizing the foibles of suburban America. He also produced numerous paperbacks. Berg began contributing to Mad in 1956. One evening, he screened some comedy home movies, starring his family and neighbours, for Mad editor Al Feldstein, who suggested he adapt the idea into what became the magazines Lighter Side feature. The cartoon explored a different topic each month from Little League baseball to car maintenance with ideas from Bergs cartoonist wife Vivian, and their children and friends.
Feldstein insisted that if Berg was going to laugh at people, he should include himself in the feature. His alter-ego in large black glasses, pipe and sports jacket was the cranky, flawed liberal Roger Kaputnik. For four decades, he surveyed issues of race, class, sex and day-to-day living in US society with elegant, observant artwork and a subtle self-mockery. He wrote and illustrated 17 Mad books, including Mads Dave Berg Looks At The USA, which have sold more than 10 m copies and been translated into a dozen languages.
His humorous university lectures on religious themes were collected into two books, My Friend God and Roger Kaputnik And God. Born in Brooklyn, Berg studied at the Pratt Institute, and Cooper Union art schools. His first job, in 1941, was with the young entrepreneur Will Eisner, and he assisted on backgrounds for Eisner's moody noir newspaper strip, the Spirit. He was soon packaging complete comic book episodes of patriotic heroes Uncle Sam and Death Patrol. Berg never forgot Eisner's encouragement: Youre not a cartoonist, youre the director, the actor, the set-designer. The whole motion picture is you.
Before Berg went off to do war service, he wrote and drew Americas biggest-selling superhero, Fawcett Comics Captain Marvel. If other artists were struggling to draw an awkward shot of the character, Berg, who was well-built, would take off his shirt and strike the appropriate pose. Also for Fawcett, he drew the charming Sir Butch, about a Brooklyn boy transformed into a knight in a fantastical realm. After serving in the army air force and as a war correspondent in Iwo Jima, Guam, Saipan and Japan, he resumed working for Eisner, now helping to pencil the Spirit, and co-writing it with Jules Feiffer. Later, he drew for Archie Comics. For Stan Lee at Marvel, he produced horror teenage humour, and for five years the commie-bashing GI, Combat Kelly.
He is survived by his wife and two children. 038; # 183 David Berg, comic-book artist and writer, born June 12 1920; died May 17 2002
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