tough year, the world needed more
It's too bad that somebody who graced us
with his wonderful humor and art decided to
hang up his pen for the final time... at age
For nearly 80 years, Al Jaffee was one of
the true masters of making our days brighter
and, well, snappier. Sixty-five of those years
were with Mad Magazine,
where he was its longest-serving
Abraham Jaffee was born in Savannah, GA to
Lithuanian parents. However, his parents were
in a feud over where to raise their four sons
with Al being the oldest. Throughout his
childhood, Al would sometimes live with his
father, a department store manager in Savannah
and sometimes with his mother in Lithuania.
Finally in the 1930s, Al's father would take
his sons to Queens, NY while his mother ended
up dying in the Holocaust.
In the late 1930s, Al and his brother Harry
(1922-1985) - also an occasional Mad cartoonist -
studied at the High School of Music and Art.
There, he met future Mad vets
Will Elder, Harvey Kurtzman, John Severin and
Al Feldstein. In 1942, Al's career officially
began at Timely Comics, which later became
Marvel Comics. He created the comical Ziggy
Pig and Silly Seal and Inferior Man. From 1957
to 1963, he drew a pantomime strip, Tall
Tales. A collection of the strips with a
forward by Stephen Colbert was published in
In 1955, Jaffee started drawing and writing
for Mad, but left
only after three issues when Harvey Kurtzman
left. He joined Kurtzman in two comics: the
Hugh Hefner-owned Trump in
1957 - which only lasted two issues - and
which folded after 11 issues. Jaffee returned
to Mad in
1958 and stayed there until his retirement.
In its heyday, Mad sold
two million copies per month. One huge reason
was because of Jaffee's Mad
Fold-in, which debuted in 1964. His
first Fold-in lampooned Elizabeth Taylor and
her many husbands. After his first Fold-in,
publisher William M. Gaines threatened to fire
him if he couldn't do one each month.
According to Gaines, the Fold-ins were
creating creases in the back cover, causing
readers to rush to the store to get a fresh
copy for their collections.
Jaffee also created Snappy
Answers to Stupid Questions and
other various articles for the magazine. In Mad's
first 550 issues, his work appeared in 500.
Between 1964 and 2013, Jaffee's work did not
appear in just one issue.
Of course, like other magazines, Mad has
seen better days from a circulation
standpoint. In 50 years, they've gone from two
million issues sold per month to only 150,000
issues monthly. The magazine was rebooted in
2018 when it moved its offices from New York
to Burbank, CA as part of restructuring at
parent DC Comics. However, later that year,
DC's owner, TimeWarner was sold to AT&T.
Starting with issue #10, Mad would
now be a hybrid of 75% reprinted material and
25% new content from new and legendary
artists. Each magazine would be a theme issue
as opposed to talking about current and recent
events. Not only that, Mad is
no longer sold at newsstands, but rather just
comic book shops.
(And BTW, a MAJOR shout-out to Tardy's
in Grand Rapids for ordering the last two
issues of Mad
me! You guys rock!)
Thanks to COVID-19, I was scared that I
would miss the last two issues because of
stay-at-home orders (I don't subscribe because
I don't trust USPS to jam and destroy a
magazine to get it into my mailbox).
Thankfully, DC changed distributors and was
able to get them to comic sellers. Well, their
latest issue is a tribute to Al, complete with
his final Fold-in ever. Al even helped to
design the front cover, which is a self-image
of him as a doctor examining Alfred E. Neuman.
Sergio Aragones even drew "A Mad Look At Al
Jaffee"; one of the strips shows Sergio
visiting Al, but he needs to use the restroom.
While taking a dump, Sergio notices that Al's
toilet paper is folded like a fold-in. The
magazine was also loaded with reprints of Al's
work, including a parody of the 1969 film
"Bullitt" as "Bullbit" (obviously, this was
1969 and "Bullshit" wasn't, well, allowed).
The parody was drawn by Mort Drucker, who died
earlier this year. The magazine republished
the piece as a tribute to the beloved
Now with Al's retirement, Mad will
either reprint his old Fold-ins or
new ones will be drawn by 46-year-old Johnny
Sampson. Jaffee himself gave Sampson the
blessing of continuing with the Fold-ins;
Sampson himself drew a picture of Jaffee on
his first edition with him saying, "This
Sampson kid ain't half bad! He ain't half
good, either!" Sampson's first Fold-in was
published for the magazine's annual "20
Dumbest Things" issue late last year.
Upon his retirement, Al started a website
and social media accounts (his Twitter handle
was "og_aljaffee"), which have all shuttered.
In January, his wife of 43 years, Joyce passed
away. But, the laughter from the reprints of
his work and old magazines will live on. If he
makes to 100 - and God I hope he does - he'll
be proof positive that having good humor is
the true meaning of a long, fruitful
And that would be a snappy answer to a good
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