Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Mad Magazine Cartoonist Al Jaffee Dies at 102

From The New York Times.

Al Jaffee at work in 2010 in his studio in Provincetown, Mass.

Al Jaffee, a cartoonist who folded in when the trend in magazine publishing was to fold out, thereby creating one of Mad magazine’s most recognizable and enduring features, died on Monday in Manhattan. 

His death, at a hospital, was caused by multi-system organ failure, his granddaughter Fani Thomson said.

It was in 1964 that Mr. Jaffee created the Mad Fold-In, an illustration-with-text feature on the inside of the magazine’s back cover that seemed at first glance to deliver a straightforward message. 

When the page was folded in thirds, however, both illustration and text were transformed into something entirely different and unexpected, often with a liberal-leaning or authority-defying message.

For instance, the fold-in from the November 2001 issue asked, “What mind-altering experience is leaving more and more people out of touch with reality?” 

The unfolded illustration showed a crowd of people popping and snorting various substances. But when folded, the image transformed into the Fox News anchor desk.

The first fold-in, in the April 1964 issue (No. 86), mocked Elizabeth Taylor’s marital record. 

(Unfolded, she is with Richard Burton; folded, she has traded him in for another guy.) 

No one, especially Mr. Jaffee, expected that fold-in to be followed by hundreds more.

“It was supposed to be really a one-shot,” he said in a 1993 interview with The Kansas City Star

“But because of the overwhelming demand of three or four of my relatives, it went on to a second time, and on and on.”

That “on and on” turned into a career that included other memorable contributions to Mad, like a “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions” feature, and that in 2007 won him cartooning’s top honor, the Reuben Award, putting him in the company of Charles M. Schulz, Mort Walker, Gary Larson, Matt Groening and other luminaries of the trade.

With the fold-in, Mad was turning an industry trend on its head. 

“Playboy, of course, was doing its centerfold,” Mr. Jaffee told The Star

Life, in almost every issue, was doing a three- or four-page gatefold showing how dinosaurs traversed the land, that kind of thing. 

Even Sports Illustrated had fold-outs.”

Mad went in the other direction, literally, although Mr. Jaffee said in a 2008 interview with The New York Times that he initially didn’t expect the magazine’s editor, Al Feldstein, and publisher, William M. Gaines, to go for the notion. 

“I have this idea,” he recalled telling them. 

“I think it’s a funny idea, but I know you’re not going to buy it. But I’m going to show it to you anyway. 

And you’re not going to buy it because it mutilates the magazine.”

The men did buy it, and then asked for more, and the inside back cover quickly became Mr. Jaffee’s turf. 

Although other regular Mad features changed artists over the years, no one but Mr. Jaffee drew a fold-in for 55 years.

Abraham Jaffee (he later legally changed his name to Allan) was born on March 13, 1921, in Savannah, Ga.

His parents, both Jewish, had immigrated from Lithuania, his father, Morris, arriving in New York in 1905 and his mother, Mildred, in 1913.

In 1977, Mr. Jaffee married Joyce Revenson, who died in January 2020. 

His first marriage, to Ruth Ahlquist, whom he had met and married while in the Army in World War II, ended in divorce.


Al Jaffee by Jason Chatfield

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