The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (May 24, 2002 7:58 a.m. EDT) - Dave Berg, who affectionately spoofed what he called "the human condition" in the pages of Mad magazine for more than 40 years, has died of cancer at the age of 81.
Berg, who created the satirical magazine's enduring "The Lighter Side of" comic strip, died May 16 at his home in Marina del Rey.
He began working for Mad as a free-lancer in 1956, introducing "The Lighter Side of" in 1961.
"They were satirizing commercials, movies and TV programs," he once told Contemporary Authors. "I added something new - people. That's when 'The Lighter Side' was born. It was more than just gags, it was a psychological and sociological study of the human condition, and truth in humor."
He often put friends, family members and colleagues into his cartoons, among them Mad's late publisher William M. Gaines, whose head appeared mounted, like a deer's, on the side of a wall.
He also drew himself into the strip regularly, as Roger Kaputnik, an everyman with an always-present pipe.
"Dave was a visual critic, but a warm-spirited critic, not a hard-nosed critic," said Nick Meglin, co-editor of Mad. "He saw the American scene as a wonderful example of our culture, our society and our life, and did comments on that."
Born in New York City, Berg attended Cooper Union Art School in New York, landing a job inking backgrounds for the newspaper comic strip "The Spirit" when he was 20.
Later, he worked under Stan Lee at Timely Comics (now Marvel Comics), before moving on to Mad, which he described as "the main attraction, the big event, the grand opening."
During World War II, he was a member of the Army Air Corps and served as a war correspondent in Iwo Jima, Guam, Saipan and Japan.
In addition to his magazine work, he wrote and illustrated 17 books for Mad, including "Mad's Dave Berg Looks at Living," "Mad's Dave Berg Looks at Things," and "Mad's Dave Berg Looks at the USA."
He also produced two humorous books on religion, "My Friend God" and "Roger Kaputnik and God."
His final "Lighter Side" panels are scheduled for the September issue of Mad, marking the magazine's 50th anniversary.