Dave Berg (Brooklyn, June 12, 1920 – May 17, 2002) was an American cartoonist, most noted for his five decades of work in Mad.
Berg showed early artistic talents, attending Pratt Institute when he was 12 years old, and later studying at Cooper Union. He served a period of time in the Army Air Corps. In 1940, he joined Will Eisner's studio, where he wrote and drew for the Quality Comics line. Berg's work also appeared in Dell Comics and Fawcett Publications, typically on humorous back-up features. Beginning in the mid-1940s, he worked for several years with Stan Lee on comic books at Timely Comics (now known as Marvel Comics), ranging from Combat Kelly and The Ringo Kid to Tessie the Typist. He also freelanced for a half-dozen other comic companies.
Berg began at Mad in 1956. In 1961, he started the magazine's "Lighter Side" feature, his most famous creation. It usually included caricatures of Berg's own family, headed by his cranky, hypochondriac alter-ego, Roger Kaputnik. His visual style made him one of the more realistic Mad artists, although his characters managed to sport garish early-1970s wardrobes well into the 1990s. The lightweight gags of "The Lighter Side" were satirized by the National Lampoon's Mad parody, but it had a long run as the magazine's most popular feature. Mad editor Nick Meglin often did layouts of "Lighter Side" panels. Sixteen original collections by Berg were published as paperbacks between 1964 and 1987. His other work included the comic strips Citizen Senior (1989–93), Roger Kaputnik (1992) and Astronuts (1994).
Berg held an honorary doctorate in theology. He produced regular religious-themed work for Moshiach Times and the B'nai Brith newsletter. His interaction with Mad's atheist publisher Bill Gaines was suitably irreverent: Berg would tell Gaines, "God bless you," and Gaines would reply, "Go to Hell."
His characters occasionally made their way into other artists' works, such as Kaputnik finding himself a patient in a Mort Drucker spoof of Saint Elsewhere, tagged "with apologies to Dave Berg".
Berg contributed to Mad until his death, a total of 46 years. His last set of "Lighter Side" strips, which had been written but not penciled, were illustrated after Berg's death by 18 of Mad's other artists as a final tribute. In recent years, Berg's Lighter Side strips were rewritten for Mad with updated humor by long time Mad writer Dick DeBartolo and others.
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