Monday, March 22, 2021

Happy 100th Birthday To Al Jaffee!

I post a lot of obits in this blog, typically of celebrities who touched my life in some way. So I thought it'd be nice to do the opposite for a change, and post a noteworthy birthday instead.

Happy Birthday to cartoonist/illustrator Al Jaffee, who turned a whopping ONE HUNDRED YEARS OLD on March 13, 2021. Holy cow!

Jaffee's work spanned an astonishing 78 years (!), from 1942 through his retirement in 2020! In fact he holds the Guinness World Record for the longest ever career as a comic artist!

Jaffee was born in Savannah, Georgia to Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. He studied at the New York's High School Of Music & Art in the late 1930s, along with future MAD alumni Will Elder, Harvey Kurtzman, John Severin and Al Feldstein (now THAT'S a senior class!).

Jaffee's career began in 1942, when he began drawing for Joker Comics, as well as Timely and Atlas Comics (the precursors to Marvel). When WWII broke out, he worked as an artist for the military. It was during this period that he changed his name from Abraham to Allan.

After the war Jaffee returned to Timely Comics, where he worked with Stan Lee, and edited the company's humor and teen books. He then wrote various newspaper comics for several years.

Jaffee was hired by MAD Magazine in 1955, one issue after the publication switched from comic book to its more familiar periodical format. He left when editor Harvey Kurtzman quit, but returned in 1958. He regularly worked for the magazine until it folded in 2020.

Over the decades, Jaffee created many of MAD's most popular regular features, including his Snappy Answers To Stupid Questions.

He also wrote and drew numerous MAD Inventions pages, which featured hundreds of humorous— yet oddly practical— contraptions and ideas.

Of course Jaffee's best known for his MAD Fold-Ins that graced the back page of the publication. As you no doubt are aware, the fold-ins reveal a hidden image when the page is creased. The very first fold-in was intended as a one-off gimmick— a satire of Playboy's centerfold pull-outs.

Readers reacted so strongly though that he was asked to do another, and before long it became a regular feature. It appeared in every issue but one from 1964 to 2020. According to Jaffee, each fold-in took him approximately two weeks to design and draw! Wow!

There was a period in my teens when I bought MAD religiously, and I vividly remember trying to gently bend or warp the fold-in, so I could see the hidden image without permanently creasing the page. I like my reading material to stay pristine, thanks!

So Happy Birthday, Al Jaffee! Here's to one hundred more!

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