Al Jaffee, record-breaking Mad Magazine cartoonist, dies age 102
Award-winning and record-breaking cartoonist Al Jaffee, best known for his work with revered satirical publication Mad Magazine, has died.
He died aged 102 in a Manhattan hospital on Monday due to multi-system organ failure, his granddaughter Fani Thomson told the New York Times.
A prolific artist, Jaffee holds the Guinness World Record for the longest career as a comic artist, beginning with his first publication in Joker Comics in 1942. He retired from Mad just three years ago, in 2020. He had contributed to the magazine for more than 50 years.
He pioneered some of the magazine’s most influential features, including “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions,” where a benign question leads to numerous unexpected sarcasms, or the Mad fold-in, the magazine’s inside back page, which when folded, cleverly turned one work into another previously hidden image.
Started in 1964 to parody the glossy fold-outs of Playboy and National Geographic, the fold-in became a hit, and an influential symbol of mayhem.
“A humble and kind creator, Al’s presence, his astute social commentary, and his endless amusement at life’s ups and downs shaped the fabric of the magazine,” Mad said in a statement Monday.
“Al Jaffee was an incredibly gifted man who touched our hearts and never failed to make us laugh,” said Jim Lee, chief creative officer and Publisher of DC. “He garnered the highest accolades and praise in the world of illustrations and comics.”
Jaffee collected several accolades for his clever parodies and satire throughout his long career, including Reuben Awards’ Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, awarded in 2008.
He was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Society of Illustrators’ Hall of Fame in 2014, and an archive of his work is held at Columbia University, the magazine said.
“Al was, at heart, a rascal,” said John Ficarra, former Mad editor-in-chief who worked with Jaffee for more than 35 years. “He always had a playful twinkle in his eye and brought that sensibility to everything he created.”
‘A national treasure’
Receiving his Guinness World Record in 2016 for the longest career as a comic artist, Jaffee said of his time at Mad Magazine: “There are so many things in this place that through the years I grew to love, the Mad staff in particular was very tough, but very fair and very good.
“When they told me that something that I was doing was only working 90% and something has to be done about the other 10% it literally drove me crazy but I couldn’t argue with them because they were right. So it’s been one of the most pleasant trips I’ve been on and I didn’t have to check my luggage.”
Former Mad art director Sam Viviano said in the magazine’s tribute on Monday that the cartoonist was revered and respected.
“It was an event when Al would visit the Mad offices to drop off a Fold-In,” Viviano said. “The entire staff would gather for an hour just to listen to him talk about his amazing life and career.”
Suzy Hutchinson, Mad’s current art director, added: “Al embodied the true spirit of Mad, and so many humorists, cartoonists and creatives will find inspiration in his work for generations to come.”
“He was a national treasure, and it was an honor to work with and learn from such an ingenious, caring, and wholly creative soul, the best of the Original Gang of Idiots.”
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