To mark the occasion, the humor publication is announcing that its “Mad Predicts the Future” edition, on sale next month, will salute its eldest statesman. The issue’s center-spread article, titled, “Amazing All-Seeing Al Jaffee’s MAD E.S.P.,” will note how the artist’s ever-inventive mind foresaw such ideas as the multi-bladed razor and the “autocorrect” function — once described and drawn in the artist’s wry style.
Jaffee, who made his Mad debut 65 years ago, is best-known for the magazine’s iconic back-page Fold-In — he has created more than 450 of them — and the running feature “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.”
“The most impressive thing about Al and his work is his seemingly bottomless well of great ideas for features, and how varied they are,” says caricaturist Tom Richmond, who rendered the new center-spread piece. “If all he did was invent the Fold-In and write and draw it for 55 years, that would already be deserving of legend status. But he did so much more: comic books, comic strips and features for Mad that were completely different from one to the next.”
When Jaffee retired last June, Mad published a tribute edition that included his final Fold-In. (When the back page is folded inward, the condensed image and wording reveal a “hidden” answer that satirizes politics, pop culture and social trends — born as Jaffee’s winking twist on magazine fold-outs.)
“Al represents the peak of achievement in humorous cartooning to me,” says Johnny Sampson, who inherited creating the Fold-In directly from Jaffee. “He has carved out his own unmistakable space and forever left his imprint on the medium. What he has done seems almost unachievable nowadays, but it's still something that inspires me on a daily basis.”
Jaffee launched his career in 1942, beginning with Joker Comics, and worked continuously until last year. In 2016, Guinness World Records awarded him its title of “longest career as a comic artist.” Says Sampson, noting that Jaffee was never on Mad’s editorial staff: “I’d venture to say he also holds the title for longest-working freelancer, as well.”
Jaffee has received the National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben Award and was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame. Five years ago, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio declared March 30 Al Jaffee Day.
Last year, The Washington Post posed its stupidest question to the cartoonist: “Are you proud that your work with Mad endures?”
Jaffee’s snappy answer: “I would be stupid to say, ‘No.’ ”
Yet beyond the jokes, Jaffee believes in the power to viscerally reach the reader through cartoon art, saying Thursday: “There’s a certain personality in the drawings that can affect emotional reaction.”
Jaffee, who has drawn just for fun at times this year, is still reaching generations of cartoonists he has inspired. And warmth rumbles through his commanding voice as he looks toward the next tribute and says: “See you next year.”