Comics Fan #1 by Mark Heike

young Jerry DeFuccio by cousin John SeverinJerry DeFuccio was a unique and interesting character. To people who have only heard the name, he was a longtime Associate Editor at Mad Magazine. To those of us who had the privilege of getting to know him a bit, he was someone very special. The son of a prominent New Jersey physician, Jerry grew up at almost exactly the same time as the American comic book did. When Eastern Publications launched Famous Funnies in the mid-1930′s, Jerry was a kid who bought it off the newsstand. When Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson started National Publications, Jerry read those early Pre-DC Comics. As the original Chesler publications were bought out by Everett “Busy” Arnold, Jerry was there. Through the evolution of the 1930′s Cook-Mahon comics into Joe Hardies’ Centaur Publications, Jerry was reading, and became hooked As some have said (and I certainly won’t deny it) Jerry became THE greatest comic book fan of all time. As a youngster, he made a pest of himself by visiting the offices of the Golden Age comic book publishers, trying to track down the artists and writers of the day. (If you’ve ever seen the Jerry Lewis-Dean Martin film “Artist’s and Models” which is actually set against the comic-book industry of the 1950s, you may notice a frog-voiced young comic book fan as a character in it. I’ve never gotten corroboration on this, but I speculate that MAY have been a lampoon of the young Jerry DeFuccio of a few years earlier!) By the mid-1940s, he became good friends with Alex Toth and Joe Kubert, who in turn introduced him to many of their artistic peers. Just about the time Jerry reached adulthood, he broke his father’s heart byHeadless Horseman pastiche quitting premed to take a job as an editorial assistant to Harvey Kutzman at EC Comics that eventually led to a three-decade association with Mad Magazine. Working in the industry never dampened Jerry’s enthusiasm for comic books, and throughout his life he was constantly researching creators, and seeking them out for firsthand interviews and reminiscences. At various times he talked of book projects where he would collect this knowledge to share it with other historians, but he was not on the quest to produce a publication to sell and make money off of, but mostly because HE himself wanted to know everything there was about comic books. Consequently, he never got around to writing that book. But Jerry became known far and wide as a true expert in the field of comic book history, and it’s doubtful that there was a serious book or article on the subject written between 1960 and 2000 that didn’t have input from Jerry. Unfortunately, we at AC Comics didn’t get up with Jerry until late in his life. Sometime in the late 1990s comic art maven Hames Ware put us in contact with Jerry in trying (unsuccessfully, I might add) to line up an interview with Bob Fujitani. Jerry quickly realized we were all kindred spirits, and put himself-and his knowledge at our disposal in helping us put together our Men Of Mystery Golden Age reprint title and other publications on comic book history. Though his health was not good (he was undergoing chemotherapy on and off for some time), he was a frequent correspondent. It was not unusual to get 3-4 letters a week from Jerry; sometimes more than one in a single day’s mail! And, every few weeks the phone would ring, and Jerry would call the office to regale us with stories; some from the comic book industry in general, his days at EC/Mad, or sometimes just his own life. Albert Einstein drawingAnd though his “comic book roots” went back to the beginning, he always kept up with the medium. He certainly gave us his critique of what we did, including on our new material like Femforce. He just loved the concept of telling stories with words and pictures, rendered in ink. For his own amusement (or perhaps to help supplement my income- I was never sure which) he would several times a year commission me to create artwork for him, paying me a decent professional rate (highly generous of him, since he didn’t charge us for the info he provided or the articles he wrote for AC.) to illustrate incidents from his childhood, updated versions of some of his favorite long-defunct comic book characters, or recreate favorite Golden Age covers he remembered, like this Dollman St Peter's Prep School drawingcover that we later used as the cover to AC’s Men of Mystery #64,  Occasionally, these commissions were things he “art-directed” for publications related to favorite charities or causes he supported, but mostly they were simply for his own collection, for his amusement and enjoyment. Mind you, I was not the ONLY artist he so honored, as others who regularly produced “private commissions” for Jerry included Mort Leav, Frank Kelly Freas and Drew Struzman. How I ended up being among a group like that I’ll never know, but it sure was an honor to occasionally receive a compliment on my art from a guy who was a personal friend (and admirer) of the likes of Wallace Wood, Jack Davis, Will Elder, Reed Crandall and George Evans, not to mention Toth and Kubert!! And although Jerry was not much of an artist himself, it certainly did run in his family, as he was a first cousin of John and Marie Severin!. It’s Men of Mystery #64 Dollman coveralmost ten years now (this November) that Jerry has passed on, but my wife Stephanie (who became a great favorite of Jerry’s in phone calls to the AC offices in 2000 ) and I think and speak of him often. Though we never met him in person, we considered him a great friend. We know he was a great person. I’ll never forget one of his favorite sayings; I’ve adopted it myself and often quote it to young artists I work with on AC projects: ” We’re looking for perfection, but we’ll take more.”