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Al Jaffee, the cartoonist who gave Mad magazine its iconic back page by creating the publication’s fold-in feature, died on Monday. He was 102.
According to the New York Times, Jaffee died of multiple organ failure in a Manhattan hospital.
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In April 1964, Jaffee’s fold-in was featured for the first time in Mad magazine, marking the start of the methodic flip-through that Mad readers would do for decades. The fold-in played into the magazine’s satirical humor, giving readers a hidden, comical image that revealed itself when the cartoon was folded into thirds.
For over 50 years, Jaffee created fold-ins featuring the Beatles, Elizabeth Taylor, presidents and other topics in pop culture. He even went on to become a marker of pop culture himself, breaking the world record for the longest-running career as a cartoonist.
In the 2013 book “Inside Mad,” fellow Mad magazine writer Desmond Devlin called Jaffee “the irreplaceable embodiment of Mad Magazine’s range: smart but silly, angry but understanding, sophisticated but gross, upbeat but hopeless. He’s uncommonly interested in figuring out how things work, and exasperated because things never work.”
Born Abraham Jaffee in Savannah, Ga. on March 13, 1921, Jaffee grew up in both Europe and Far Rockaway, Queens, attending the High School of Music & Art in New York. Before landing a full-time gig at Mad, Jaffee worked for Stan Lee and as an artist for the Pentagon, where he took advantage of the military’s free name-change service, going from Abraham to Allan (Al for short).
In addition to the fold-in, Jaffee contributed other features to Mad magazine, like “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions,” a running segment where characters posed queries such as, “Are you going to have a baby?” and received responses like, “No, a full grown adult. Babies require too much care.”
In 2007, he received the Reuben Award for outstanding cartoonist of the year, which has also been given to icons like Mort Walker and Charles M. Schulz.
Jaffee is survived by his two children, Richard Jaffee and Deborah Fishman; two step-children, Tracey and Jody Revenson; five grandchildren; one step-granddaughter; and three great-grandchildren.
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