AL JAFFEE,
1921-2023

The influence of Al Jaffee, the legendary Mad magazine cartoonist who died Monday at the age of 102, stretched far across comic books and the funny pages of newspapers. He was also key to the model of the publication you’re now reading.

Jaffee’s most important contribution to Mad was the inside-back-cover fold-in, the illustration-and-text feature that required the reader to fold the page in thirds to reveal the punchline to a joke, usually a joke poking fun at pop culture or an anti-establishment remark. Inspired to do the opposite of magazine fold-outs, gatefolds and Playboy’s centerfold, he did his first fold-in in 1964 and his last in 2019, the year Mad stopped physically publishing new material. The final fold-in was the only one done by another artist.

Jaffee's second-most-important contribution was the popular feature “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions,” launched in 1965, which he created, wrote and drew.

If you’re old enough to remember the heyday of Mad, you'll understand the profound influence that irreverent publication exerted on HITS from the start—its jaundiced but periodically affectionate take on popular culture, its groan-worthy puns, its delight in puncturing pomposity and, perhaps most of all, its relentless self-mockery. Mad was, among other things, antisocial media; it made countless nerds, dweebs, dorks and other losers feel understood. We idiots at HITS owe an incalculable debt to the “usual gang of idiots,” as Team Mad labeled itself.

We’ve even borrowed Mad artists Sam Viviano and Ed Steckley to cement the connection on the covers of our anniversary issues, which have frequently brought Mad mascot Alfred E. Neuman into the music-biz mix.

But enough about us.

As a youth, Jaffee was a comic-book fan. His artistic ability earned him a spot in the first class of the High School of Music and Art in New York, where his classmates included Mad’s founders.

His first creation was Inferior Man, which led to his working with Stan Lee. He began his relationship with Mad in 1955, then left for three years, returning in 1958. A lifelong freelancer, he also illustrated the syndicated comic strip Tall Tales from 1957 to 1963.

Jaffee was named the Reuben Awards Cartoonist of the Year in 2008 and was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Society of IllustratorsHall of Fame in 2014. He holds the Guinness World Record for the longest career as a comic artist, beginning with his first publication, in Joker Comics in 1942, and continuing through his time with Mad.

“Al was, at heart, a rascal,” said former Mad Editor-in-Chief John Ficarra, who worked with Jaffee for over 35 years. “He always had a playful twinkle in his eye and brought that sensibility to everything he created.”

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