Angelo Torres is duly famous for his nearly four decades with MAD magazine illustrating some of the most hilarious and brilliantly drawn movie and television parodies. What may be less familiar is what came before and what he has created since. And in his ninetieth year, Torres is producing some of his best work ever, often with a nod to his illustration roots.
Torres moved to the Bronx from Puerto Rico at the age of 14. A voracious consumer of the Sunday Funnies, he saw Milton Caniff, Hal Foster, Alex Raymond and Burne Hogarth as teachers. His talents led him to the School of Industrial Art (today’s High School of Art and Design) and after military service in Korea, he enrolled at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School (now the School of Visual Arts). His career took off after winning a contest sponsored by Stan Lee, then publisher of Atlas Comics (which later became Marvel).
He and his creative friends, dubbed the Fleagle Gang by the EC Comics staff – Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, Roy Krenkel, Nick Meglin and George Woodbridge – often collaborated with one another, sometimes credited and often not, to create some of the most beautiful illustrations in comic and fantasy art history.
When Torres was offered the opportunity to illustrate a story entirely on his own, the Comics Code Authority ruled it in violation of its standards of decency and refused to let it be published. The book it was to appear in, Incredible Science Fiction #33 (January-February 1956), turned out to be the last comic book that EC ever released, and it took more than 15 years for his story finally to see print.
On his own (or sometimes working with Williamson), Torres drew stories for Atlas, Charlton, Harvey, Classics Illustrated, DC, Marvel and many other publishers during his career. His work for Warren’s Creepy, Eerie andBlazing Combat in the sixties showed his fans what he might have done if EC had continued its comic book titles. With the more illustrative style of the Warren magazines, Torres was finally able to demonstrate his mastery of composition, mood and expression like no other.
At the strong urging of Torres’s old friend Nick Meglin, MAD editor Al Feldstein asked Torres to join the magazine in 1969, where he remained until he retired in 2007. Torres has been widely lauded for his biting satirical work and his contributions in general to the field of comic art. He is a recipient of the National Cartoonists Society Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award, the Comic Con International Ink Pot Award and the Southeast Chapter of the NCS Cartoonist of the Year Jack Davis Award.
Since his “retirement,” Torres has embarked on a broad range of projects, including commissions of familiar and beloved characters, re-imaginings of “might have been” comic book covers, and devising and designing artwork for a soon-to-be published Fantagraphics graphic novel adaptation of science-fiction and comic book legend Otto Binder’s The Unwanted.