Al Jaffee, record-breaking Mad Magazine cartoonist, dies age 102
Al Jaffee, the legendary cartoonist renowned for his work with the satirical Mad Magazine, passed away at 102 due to multi-system organ failure. His granddaughter Fani Thomson confirmed the news to the New York Times. Jaffee was an award-winning and record-breaking artist, holding the Guinness World Record for the longest career as a comic artist, which began in 1942 with his first publication in Joker Comics. He retired from Mad in 2020 after contributing to the magazine for over 50 years.
He introduced several of the magazine’s most significant elements, such as “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions,” where seemingly harmless queries are met with unexpected sarcasm, and the Mad fold-in, an innovative feature on the inside back page that transforms one image into another when folded.
Created in 1964 to satirize the centerfolds of magazines like Playboy and National Geographic, the fold-in gained widespread popularity and became an iconic representation of chaos.
Mad said in a statement on Monday that Al was a humble and kind creator whose presence, astute social commentary, and endless amusement at life’s ups and downs shaped the fabric of the magazine. According to Jim Lee, Chief Creative Officer and Publisher of DC, Al Jaffee’s incredible talent touched the hearts of many and never failed to make them laugh. Throughout his illustrious career, Jaffee was recognized with numerous accolades for his clever parodies and satire, including the Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year at the Reuben Awards in 2008.
According to the magazine, he was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2013, followed by the Society of Illustrators’ Hall of Fame in 2014. Columbia University holds an archive of his work. John Ficarra, former Mad editor-in-chief who collaborated with Jaffee for over 35 years, described him as a naughty personality who infused a playful spirit into his creations.
In 2016, Jaffee was awarded the Guinness World Record for his longest career as a comic artist. Reflecting on his time at Mad Magazine, he expressed his affection for the things that he grew to love over the years, particularly the Mad staff. Despite being challenging, they were also fair and talented.
Being told that a particular aspect of my work was only 90% effective and needed improvement initially drove me crazy. However, I couldn’t argue with the fact that they were right. Despite this, it was a delightful experience, and I didn’t have to worry about my baggage during the journey.
According to Sam Viviano, the former art director of Mad, the cartoonist Al Jaffee was highly esteemed and regarded. Viviano paid tribute to Jaffee in the magazine on Monday, stating that Jaffee’s visits to the Mad offices to drop off a Fold-In were significant events. Viviano recalled that the entire staff would gather for an hour to hear Jaffee speak about his remarkable life and career.
“Al was the epitome of Mad’s essence, and his legacy will continue to inspire humorists, cartoonists, and creatives for generations. Working alongside such a gifted, compassionate, and remarkably imaginative talent from the Original Gang of Idiots was a great honor and learning experience. He was a national treasure, and his passing is a great loss.” remarked Suzy Hutchinson, Mad’s current art director.