Al Jaffee (1921-2023).

§ April 13th, 2023 § Filed under mad magazine, obituary § 4 Comments

So on the occasion of Al Jaffee’s 99th birthday (and my 51st) I wrote about getting this wonderful book:

…which remains one of my prize possessions. Like I said in that post, I was but a young Mikester and had to save my allowance a bit to afford this extravagant purchase. But it was money well invested, as the book was provided me many solid laughs over the decades, not just from reading it but simply from remembering it and the joy it brought me.

One of my favorite articles in that book, and one that still comes unbidden to my mind on a more regular basis than you might think, is the one where Jaffee built actual physical models of purported kids’ drawings:

It’s an odd example of Jaffee’s work, as it doesn’t showcase his illustrations (aside from those alleged kid drawings) but it’s memorable nonetheless.

And as per my last post, I found at least one of the MAD paperbacks pictured on Mark Evanier’s site, MAD Monstrosities:

Alas, nearly all my paperback books remain boxed up and not terribly easy to access, but I did manage to find this one. My MAD Book of Magic remains AWOL, but I know it’s around here somewhere. But Monstrosities is filled with great mostly full-page cartooning filled with delightful grotesqueries as only Jaffee can lay them down on the page. I don’t know how long I’ve had this, but I must have picked it up during my prime MAD reading age, so probably around 1979-1981.

Searching my shelves I found another book that, frankly, I’d forgotten I had:

Based on the price sticker in the corner, this was obviously a thrift store pick-up. I’m not the biggest fan of the “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions” gags…I mean, I like ’em fine, obviously enough to drop $1.99 on this book, but I always preferred Jaffee’s other efforts. But his artwork is always wonderful to behold, especially in this larger format (and no one does A Prance quite like Jaffee, as you can see on that person on the left of the cover there). Plus, I do have to say I did always like the added touch of an extra empty word balloon for you to add your own Snappy Comeback. Were they as snappy as Big Al’s? Probably not, but it was nice of him to offer you the chance.

Also, come to think of it, that’s kind of a Snappy Answer to a Stupid Question on the cover of that Monstrosities book, isn’t there? It’s also interesting that “Snappy Answers” is what’s referenced on the cover, and not “Fold-ins” but, as shown on the cover, you were likely to get more of one than the other in here, and why remind people of a feature that’s not present in the book?

What he’s probably going down in history for is the aforementioned Fold-ins, a play on the “Fold-Outs” you might find in, say, certain gentlemen’s magazines of note. It’s clever, it’s intriguing (as you try to guess the final image before folding and finding out), and a little annoying if you’re a comic shop owner dealing in old comics and magazines and you have to grade down most MADs you get in because the back cover is creased. But, such is the sacrifice for art.

And what art it was. I didn’t even mention his “Hawks and Doves” strips. Or the articles about new, needed inventions or how he drew the absolutely best vomit in the biz. Or that one issue of MAD where instead of a Fold-In he created a gag strip where if you held it up to the light, an image of Alfred E. Neuman would appear. Or his Tall Tales strips. Or the fact that he was drawing for several Golden Age books long before MAD was even around.

He was in all respects a legend. I’m glad he lived such a long life and see how much everyone loved him and appreciated his work.

So long, Al.

4 Responses to “Al Jaffee (1921-2023).”

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    Oh, man, I loved me some Snappy Answers. I was not a cool kid and always felt less mature than my peers. I knew I had no hope of ever breaking into the in-crowd. But I had aspirations that I could at least be known for a sort of sarcastic wit, and the Snappy Answers helped me so much with that more realistic goal.

    And the fold-ins. Plus, just the general Jaffee columns that appeared in nearly every issue.

    So glad Jaffee was able to enjoy such a long life.

  • Pal Cully says:

    I grew up on MAD in the 70’s. I remember the joy of a new Al Jaffee paperback being released. I had that collection as well and read mine to tatters. He is easily one the greatest humor artists ever. The fold-ins were such a highlight I went on to purchase the hardcover editions. His painting skills on display every month. His washes on his black and white art were perfect for the interiors. Aside from the obvious art skills was the humor. He could write a pantomime gag as well as Sergio; and script some of the most memorable and inventive articles in the magazine. There are things I read 50 years ago that stick with me today. Al Jaffee was an incredible talent. I’m so happy he was there for all of us.

  • Rob S. says:

    This sends me right back to my next-door neighbor’s basement, where we pored over his copy of this book. Jaffee was a treasure, and definitely for more than just the fold-ins.

  • Sean Mageean says:


    That’s a very nice tribute to the late, great Al Jaffee.

    It also got me thinking how many Golden Age greats are still among us? I thought about Lily Renée, who had done some great art for Fiction House Comics back in the ’40s on the “Señorita Rio,” “Jane Martin,” and “Lost World” strips in Fight Comics, Wings Comics, and Planet Comics–but I checked it out, and it appears she passed away in August 2022, aged 101.

    Ramona Fradon is still with us at age 96. And I believe Tatjana Wood is 97. Both are major talents whose careers and contributions to comics deserve to be celebrated. I know Fradon was interviewd by Howard CHaykin for a book in the last decade or so…I’m not certain if there has been an interview with Wood in recent years on her