Monday, February 07, 2011

MAD Genius Nearly 90!

Mad Magazine cartoonist and all around sweetheart/funny man Al Jaffee is approaching his 90th birthday! Don't have a panic attack if you don't immediately recall who Mr. Jaffee is or why he is a genius of visual gags. All you need to know is that he began working for Mad in 1964 and remains one of the longest running and most consistently excellent cartoonists in the magazine's colorful history. He is also the inventor of the amazing back page fold-in gags that influenced generations of nerdy artist types (and probably your stoned older brother). I'm convinced Jaffee's obsessive eye for detail, meticulous rendering and occasionally barbed- but always fun- style was an unconscious influence on Joe Coleman. Just look at the symmetry, bruised hues and swirling strokes of both painters' best work (the similarities are particularly evident in their renderings of clouds). If you're too young to remember, Jaffee's fold-in paintings were optical illusions that often took satirical aim at current events and pop culture trends. Like his harsh statement about class and war in the July 1968 issue which shows a group of young high school drop-outs standing in line at an unemployment agency and the fold-in reveals their future career option: cannon fodder. Jaffee is a technical master and a hilarious storyteller who "wrote" most of his own weird invention gags and visual fold-in narratives for much of his nearly five decade career. There's a really great interview showing Jaffee at work in his studio and explaining the process for creating his work here. I certainly wouldn't mind growing old like ol' Al Jaffee: laughing gracefully at the drawing table and diving into the next project. Mad is currently collecting 90th birthday cards for him and I highly recommend all of you cretins send something (cards, letters, presents, drawings). His birthday is March 13th and the deadline for sending birthday wishes on his behalf is March 1st. Get busy:

The Big Jaffee
c/o Mad Mag
1700 Broadway
NY NY 10019

Photo courtesy of New York Times.


BIRTH A.D. said...

Jaffee is awesome. I hope he lives to be 1000!

Invisible Oranges said...

That was my favorite part of MAD! Hails to this comic genius!

Lucio H. said...

The Little Miss' birthday is March 1st too! And I always thought, for an artist, planning out those fold up back covers would be a PAIN. What do YOU think, Herr Dread?

Anonymous said...

You should check out the biography on his life "Al Jaffee's Mad Life". Goes into his early life in lithuania and his mum being an evil crazy bitch.
Some dark and depressing experiences he had as a kid. Preview pages here:
Al Jaffee did the art of course. awesomed!