al-jaffee, Crazy magazine‘s innovative and influential cartoonist, has died. As confirmed by his granddaughter Fani Thomson, Jaffee died of multisystem organ failure On Monday. He was 102.
Jaffee’s contributions to cartoons, comics, and American comedy can’t be overstated, but they can be summed up in one compound word: fold-in. The cartoonist redefined how magazines can be read with the invention of the fold-in, a 1964 parody playboy And Life‘s center folds. Of course, magazines have encouraged readers to unfold their images and give viewers a longer look at the subject. But Jaffee’s innovation embodied the spirit of Crazychallenges the reader to participate in this visual gag, to re-contextualize the original meaning and invert the world around them into something as true as it is funny.
But that was only part of Jaffee’s story. Born in 1921 to Jewish immigrants Mildred and Morris in Savannah, Georgia, Jaffee moved to her hometown of Zarasai, Lithuania at the age of 6 with his deeply religious mother and three brothers. His father, a department store owner in Savannah, stayed in the US and sent his boys care packages of comics every few months. “We just sat there and read them for days.” said Jaffee vulture in 2009. “My brother Harry, who was also an artist, took these Sunday comic pages and we cut them up and turned them into little books. We would provide our own dialogue, maybe with a Lithuanian joke or two.”
Jaffee stayed in Zarasai reading Annie and Roy Crane’s Wash Tubbs until he returned to the United States in 1933, just as Hitler was coming to power. His youngest brother did not return until 1940 as tensions escalated while his mother died in the war.
After returning to the States, he attended the High School of Music and Art in New York City, where he met many Crazy‘s original Gang of Idiots: Harvey Kurtzman, Al Feldstein, John Severin and Will Elder all went to high school with him. Unfortunately, drawing cartoons wasn’t allowed in her fine arts school, but that didn’t stop Jaffee, who sold his first comic Spirit Creator and future luminary Will Eisner fresh out of high school.
Jaffee’s early career was filled with stories like this one. After working with Eisner, he moved to Timely Comics, later known as Marvel. There he worked under a 19-year-old magician named Stan Lee, who pitched him the script for the police spoof Squad-Car Squad. “If you can do that, you can work for me,” Jaffee recalls of Lee’s challenge. He continued to work with Lee on numerous titles in Marvel’s pre-superhero pantheon, including Ziggy Pig And Silly Seal and Patsy Walker, which contained one-page strips of Jaffee’s old schoolmate and future Crazy Editor Harvey Kurtzman. The old friends stayed in touch. It was around this time that Jaffee’s schoolmates, including Kurtzman, Elder, and Severin, published the first issue of Crazy for EC. In 1955, Kurtzman invited Jaffee on board. Jaffee would spend much of the rest of his career in the pages of Crazy.
In 1964, Jaffe changed the shape of magazines with the invention of the seminal Crazy collapse. Inspired by the “intricate full color fold outs” on the pages of playboy, LifeAnd National Geographic, asked Jaffee if he could “mutilate the magazine” with a “cheap, black-and-white fold-in.” Editor Al Feldstein, who was successful Crazy‘s original EIC Harvey Kurtzman, loved it. “‘Do it, and if it garbles the magazine,'” Jaffee recalled Feldstein’s words, “‘the boy buys a second one for his collection.’ Always the money man.” The success of the fold-in became a curse. About three weeks after delivering the first foldable device, Feldstein wanted more. The fold-in became one of them Crazy‘Signature Features, along with another Jaffee creation from the mid ’60s, Snappy Answer To Stupid Questions.
Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, the Gang of Idiots continued to deepen their relationship. As an incentive, publisher Bill Gaines invited staff to travel to meet publishing goals. So in 1960 they went to visit Haiti Crazy‘s sole Haitian subscriber and in 1971 to the offices of crocodilethe humor magazine of the Soviet Union.
In 1967, Jaffee divorced his first wife, Ruth Ahlquist, whom he married in 1945, and fathered two children, Richard and Debbie, together. About a decade later he married Joyce Revenson. They stayed together for 45 years until her death in 2020.
Awarded the world record for longest career as a comic book artist by Guinness World Records 2016, Jaffee contributed fold-ins for another three years. 2019, The magazine exhibited new material and drew on older work and special issues to keep the brand alive. Be The final fold-in appeared the following year in the All Jaffee Issue special‘, which featured reprinted and previously unpublished work by Jaffee.
“I’ve had two jobs my entire life,” said Mr. Jaffee New York Times in 2020. “One of them was making a living. The second was to entertain. I hope that I managed to some extent.”