Shame on you if you don’t know Al Jaffee. He’s been a cartoonist for Mad Magazine going back to its founding in 1954. He is best known for the “Fold-Ins” which are hard to describe if you’ve never seen them. Click here to have a look. He also wrote the “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions” feature. At 89 he’s still going strong. Here’s the interview.
I found this part especially interesting:
Antonio Prohías (Spy vs. Spy) was a refugee from Castro’s Cuba, and Sergio Aragones’ (the margin art in Mad) parents fled to Mexico from Franco’s Spain. Considering your own situation, was it common at Mad to have political refugees or the children of refugees?
I don’t think it was, but there’s another thing that ties the three of us together, which is that we do a lot work in pantomime. In the case of Antonio Prohías, he had difficulty learning English. He never did really learn it. So it was very natural for him to come up with a wordless feature like Spy vs. Spy.
Sergio, also coming from Mexico, couldn’t speak English well, but he could trial like a wiz. Mad was immediately fascinated by his work. I’d describe him as someone who speaks in pictures. And he literally does tell complete stories without a word in it. And of course when I did my newspaper feature, Tall Tales, it was primarily without words, especially at the beginning. So we have that pantomime in common.
It really is the purest form of cartoon communication when you can get across complicated ideas with only the drawing doing the talking, not the caption underneath. There are cartoons that are just stick figures, and they have a funny caption, and it gets the gag across. But pantomime it is much more difficult. I’m proud to be grouped with Antonio and Sergio.
Prohias and Aragones, along with Jaffee, Don Martin and Mort Drucker were among my favorite artists at Mad when I read it as a kid. (Actually, I still read it from time to time.) Aragones’ marginal cartoons, which told a whole story in one, small panel, were brilliant. I remember at times having to study them for a while to figure out what was going on. I didn’t know he had such a compelling life story.
Having lost my extensive Mad collection in my recent flood, I was also excited to read this:
I still do. As a matter of fact, I’m on Fold-In #417 now. May I mention the fact that there’s going to be a box set of four books of Fold-Ins coming out this spring?
I can promise he’ll sell at least one set! (And let’s see people enjoy that on a Kindle!)