Every year, Cracked takes a few minutes to look back and reflect on the lives of the recently deceased whose deaths didn't necessarily make headlines, despite the fact that they each changed your life in some small way. So let's take a moment to remember ...
#13. February 12 -- Cracked Royalty
John Severin, one of the fathers of the original Cracked magazine, way back in the day.
From being 90.
You're reading it. John Severin was one of the original creators of MAD Magazine, then helped launch Cracked, the granddaddy of the website you're reading right now. He continued as the lead artist there for 45 freaking years.
Born in 1921, Severin started selling comics at the age of 10 to The Hobo News -- a publication for, by, and about hobos. Hobos had their shit together back then. Severin went on to draw and ink for Marvel and EC Comics, and he gained a reputation as a stickler for historical detail. By the time Cracked the magazine was up and rolling, Severin was their go-to guy for covers and parodies, and he also invented their Alfred E. Neumanesque mascot, Sylvester P. Smythe. Among his last projects was reimagining the Rawhide Kid as a gay gunslinger -- that's what the guy was drawing in his 80s.
#12. February 19 -- Pinball (Creating) Wizard
Steve Kordek, inventor of pinball machines as you know them.
Natural causes: The dude was 100. (High score! MULTI-BALLLLLLLL!)
One of the great innovations in gaming history would have never happened if it hadn't been for a fateful rainstorm in Chicago. Twenty-six-year-old Steve Kordek was walking around without an umbrella during a downpour and decided, "Fuck this" (paraphrased). He slipped into Genco, a pinball machine manufacturing company, to escape the wet. Because it was 1937, the assumption was that everyone was unemployed, so the receptionist asked Kordek if he was looking for a job. He wasn't, but hey! Why not!
Back in those days, pinball players were forced to literally shake the entire game table to manipulate the ball into the cup or the hole, kind of like when you're God and you play that game where you pick which humans fall into earthquake cracks. Steve Kordek is the guy who said "What?!" and introduced two simple flippers positioned at the end that would let a person, you know, play pinball.
#11. February 29 -- The Creator of Batman's (Non-Joker) Villains
Sheldon Moldoff, comic book artist, co-creator of Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Clayface, and Bat-Mite.
We're just going to skip over Signalman.
Natural causes (dude was 91).
You know the old story: A talent scout spots a young girl in a mall, and suddenly she's America's favorite covergirl supermodel. Moldoff's the comic book artist equivalent of that. We don't mean that his cold, dead eyes stare at you from a billboard selling face cream to spotty teenage girls. We mean that he was discovered as a teenager, while doodling with chalk on the sidewalk outside his apartment.
From there, he went on to become one of the most prolific artists of the Golden Age. Yep, if we keep typing away at Starbucks, eventually a publisher will look over our shoulder and give us a job. It's happened before, damn it!
#10. March 3 -- The Real Genius Behind Star Wars
Parkinson's disease, age 82.
There is a 99.9999 percent chance that Star Wars would not exist if it wasn't for Ralph McQuarrie, which puts him right up there with George Lucas, Frank Herbert, and Joseph Campbell in that respect. Here's why: Back in the 1970s, McQuarrie was just a guy doing some technical art for Boeing, and George Lucas was just a guy who couldn't get his space opera financed, no matter how hard he tried. That is, until he commissioned McQuarrie to sketch some of the concepts he was trying to get across. McQuarrie said "Sure!" and went to work inventing the look of:
Darth Vader's breathing apparatus, helmet, and cape
Just ... all of it
Except for the prequels. Good man.
With McQuarrie's detailed, beautiful drawings in hand, Lucas had the big picture he needed to sell his story. And those designs became some of the most recognizable artistic creations in the history of human civilization.
#9. March 8 -- Austin's Weirdest
Albert "Leslie" Cochran, cross-dressing street hero and Austin mayoral candidate.
Albert, or "Leslie," as he preferred to be known, was a fixture of Austin streets, and was considered the poster boy of the "Keep Austin Weird" movement. Cochran was frequently seen in women's clothing, most often a leopard thong and heels.
He also ran for mayor three times. And came in second place in 2000, earning 7.75 percent of Austin's vote. So when Austin picked the flamboyant homeless person as the champion of the "Keep Austin Weird" movement, they weren't just whistling Dixie. Over 7 percent of them wanted to make him their king. And what a fancy king he would have been. Godspeed, Mr. Cochran.
#8. March 9 -- The First Ronald McDonald (Maybe)
Terry Teene, supposed inventor of Ronald McDonald.
Teene led an unusual life. Things got off to a strange start even before he was born -- his father's name was Kermit. Teene soon became a rockabilly star, most famous for the vaguely terrifying songs "Curse of the Hearse" and "Just Wait Til I Get You Alone." So, what next for a strange young man so obviously obsessed with death and stalking? Why, he became a clown, of course, performing under the name "Clownzo." In the course of that gig, he may have created the second most recognizable character on planet earth behind Santa Claus. See, in the early days, Ronald McDonald looked like this:
GAH! But "Clownzo, son of Kermit" says he worked with another man named George Voorhees to create the world-famous Ronald McDonald character design as you and every other human knows it today, claiming that they threw it together for an appearance at an LA area McDonald's in 1963, presumably because they didn't want to traumatize children with the monstrosity above. McDonald's doesn't give them credit for the design, but we can say that A) Keene was working as a clown at the time and B) he did his makeup like this:
We'll let you be the judge.
#7. April 5 -- The Father of Loud
Jim Marshall, the inventor of Marshall amps, aka the things you see in the background of every concert and music video:
"When you see it ..."
In his youth, Marshall was a drummer in the English music scene. He also owned a London drum store. Musicians would come in and urge Marshall to stock guitars and amps, including the Who's Pete Townshend, who was "demanding a more powerful machine gun ... [to] blow people away all around the world ... I wanted it to be as big as the atomic bomb had been." Marshall came up with an innocent-looking black box with a speaker inside and controls on the top -- this was the prototype for the "Marshall stacks" that would become a mainstay of rock stages around the world.
Although the more expensive Fender amps had a more precise sound, scores of musicians wanted something bigger and louder. Marshall stacks were used by Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, "and almost every other major rock guitarist in the '60s and '70s."
On Twitter, Motley Crue bass player Nikki Sixx claimed that Marshall was "responsible for some of the greatest audio moments in music's history -- and 50 percent responsible of all our hearing loss."