Al Jaffee, Mad journal’s cartoon maestro, dies at 102

Al Jaffee, the ingenious Mad journal illustrator who was as adept at creating wacky cartoon gags as he was at producing caustic social commentary, and whose drawings, he cheerfully advised, helped corrupt the minds of generations of younger Individuals, died April 10 at a hospital in Manhattan. He was 102.

The trigger was a number of organ failure, mentioned his granddaughter Fani Thomson.

Mr. Jaffee was Mad’s longest-serving contributor and one of many defining voices of the journal because it grew to turn out to be a countercultural must-read from the Fifties, by the Vietnam Struggle period and past. He continued to attract for Mad into his 90s and was chargeable for a few of its signature options, together with the fold-in, “Snappy Solutions to Silly Questions,” and “Al Jaffee’s Mad Innovations.”

His innovations, together with the smokeless ashtray, multi-roll toilet-paper dispenser and a razor with an imposing variety of blades, rollers and motors — had been simply this aspect of implausible when he conjured them in an effort to lampoon Madison Avenue hucksterism. Mr. Jaffee mentioned he was delighted when “one thing that I assumed was a joke” — multi-blade razors, at the very least — “was actuality.”

Mr. Jaffee’s clear line work, inventiveness and depraved humorousness earned him a spot on Mad’s workforce of standard artists and writers (a.okay.a. the “ordinary gang of idiots”), in addition to the respect of his friends. He gained the Nationwide Cartoonists Society’s highest honor, the Reuben Award, in 2008. Arnold Roth, an illustrator whose work has appeared in Punch and the New Yorker, referred to as Mr. Jaffee “one of many nice cartoonists of our time.”

The month-to-month fold-in, Mr. Jaffee’s best-known Mad cartoon, is a one-page image with a query above and a caption beneath. When the web page is folded vertically into thirds, the 2 outer sections be a part of to type a brand new picture and a brand new caption, which solutions the query.

Conceived in 1964 as a poor-cousin parody of the multi-page foldouts that had been showing in shiny magazines resembling Life and Playboy, the fold-in grew to become a daily function and infrequently supplied the only be aware of direct editorializing within the pages of Mad.

One 1968 panel, completed on the peak of the Vietnam Struggle, confirmed college students outdoors a job middle and requested, “What’s the one factor most college dropouts are certain to turn out to be?”

It folded to depict a pupil in a cannon with the caption: “Cannon fodder.”

An image exhibiting 1972’s presidential candidates splashing round in a swimming pool promised to disclose what the general public might anticipate this election. When folded, the picture grew to become an enormous bathroom with a caption studying “The identical outdated stuff.”

Mr. Jaffee traced one other of his widespread cartoons to the day he was perched precariously on his roof making an attempt to repair an antenna after a storm. The artist heard footsteps developing the ladder after which his son asking, “The place’s Mother?”

Mr. Jaffee replied that he had killed her and was stuffing her within the chimney.

Thus was born “Snappy Solutions to Silly Questions,” during which an inane question is met with three attainable sarcastic responses.

“Are they twins?” asks a kindly outdated lady in a single panel, two similar little boys.

Their mom solutions: “No, they’re a pair of similar strangers”; “No, they’re 9 years aside. Smoking stunted the older one’s progress”; and “No, he’s an solely baby. Who’s your eye physician?”

A spirit of contrarianism additionally guided Mr. Jaffee’s non-Mad work. His syndicated newspaper sketch “Tall Tales” (1957-1963) subverted the horizontal type by producing a vertical cartoon whose gag is revealed as the attention strikes down the panel.

As an antidote to Superman, Mr. Jaffee conceived of Inferior Man, a hapless superhero who on the first signal of bother runs right into a cellphone sales space and places his civilian garments again on. This satirical impulse stemmed partially from his sense of being a perennial outsider.

Abraham Jaffee was born in Savannah, Ga., on March 13, 1921, to Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. His father managed a division retailer and embraced American life, drawing comic-strip characters for the younger Mr. Jaffee and bringing him in to work on Saturdays to run wild within the toy division.

He described his mom as an eccentric who missed the outdated nation and was dismayed that her husband labored on the Sabbath. When Mr. Jaffee was 6, she uprooted him and his three youthful brothers, taking them again to her childhood shtetl in Zarasai, Lithuania. Their father stayed behind.

The younger Mr. Jaffee discovered himself in a world of mud streets and horse-drawn wagons. He realized Yiddish and gained over the native kids by drawing comic-strip characters, typically with a stick within the dust when paper was unavailable.

The instability of his childhood years inspired in Mr. Jaffee a lifelong suspicion of authority that helped form the Mad journal ethos. “I grew to become conscious that I couldn’t belief adults,” he mentioned. “My father let me be schlepped to Europe. My mom did the schlepping. . . . I developed my very own model of anti-adultism.”

Within the 2010 biography “Al Jaffee’s Mad Life” by Mary-Lou Weisman (with illustrations by Mr. Jaffee), he recalled a childhood not solely of poverty, starvation, antisemitism and maternal neglect, but additionally of journey and resourcefulness. He and his brother Harry designed and made their very own toys. A few of their contraptions, resembling a stick fitted with a wire hook and basket for stealing fruit from orchards, presage the loopy innovations he got here up with in Mad.

After Hitler’s rise to energy in 1933, Mr. Jaffee’s father reappeared in Zarasai to take the kids to America. Their mom remained within the shtetl, and Mr. Jaffee by no means noticed her once more. He mentioned she was in all probability killed within the Holocaust together with many of the city’s Jews.

In the US, Mr. Jaffee’s creative talent gained him a spot at Manhattan’s newly created Excessive College of Music & Artwork. Two of his buddies and schoolmates included Wolf Eisenberg, who grew to become the comic-book artist Will Elder, and Harvey Kurtzman, who grew to become the primary editor of Mad.

Throughout World Struggle II, Mr. Jaffee used his illustration expertise to assist develop art-therapy packages for shellshocked troopers. He bought married and had two kids and was dwelling a suburban life in Lengthy Island, drawing the teenager humor comedian Patsy Walker, when Kurtzman contacted him.

Mr. Jaffee’s first piece for Mad — a few golfer whose secret to a profitable swing lies within the additional fingers he sprouts — appeared in 1955. Two years later, he adopted Kurtzman to his new journal, the short-lived Trump, financed by Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, after which to Humbug, which additionally folded.

Fearing he had burned his bridges at Mad, Mr. Jaffee contacted Al Feldstein, Kurtzman’s alternative as editor. On the contrary, Mr. Jaffee grew to become one of many journal’s common contributors, developing along with his best-known options underneath Feldstein’s editorship.

His first marriage, to Ruth Ahlquist, resulted in divorce. In 1977, Mr. Jaffee married Joyce Revenson. The couple divided their time between Manhattan and Provincetown, Mass. She died in 2020. Survivors embrace two kids from his first marriage, Richard Jaffee of Sebastopol, Calif., and Deborah Fishman of Petaluma, Calif.; two stepchildren, Tracey and Jody Revenson, each of Manhattan; 5 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Mr. Jaffee continued to attract for Mad by latest years. He additionally contributed cartoons for the Moshiach Instances, a kids’s journal put out by the Hasidic Lubavitch motion.

A lot of his work has been collected in ebook type, together with “Mad’s Vastly Overrated Al Jaffee.” In distinction to the self-deprecating title, Mr. Jaffee was broadly thought to be an eminence of humor. On his Comedy Central present, the comic Stephen Colbert paid homage to Mr. Jaffee’s eighty fifth birthday with a fold-in cake.

In 2013, Columbia College acquired Mr. Jaffee’s archive. Regardless of the Ivy League imprimatur, the cartoonist was nonetheless joyful when individuals referred to as him “the retching jackal man,” a reference to his Mad illustration exhibiting that animal mid-vomit.

“It could be my most profitable drawing,” he informed his biographer. “It’s completely foolish, I do know, however I’m completely foolish. Severe individuals my age are lifeless.”

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