Al Jaffee's Mad Life: A Biography

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9780061864483: Al Jaffee's Mad Life: A Biography

“One of the great cartoonists of our time.” –New Yorker cartoonist Arnold Roth

The remarkable story of one of America’s most prolific and beloved cartoonists, Al Jaffee, with dozens of original color illustrations. Jaffe’s career in cartooning stretches back to 1941—with early humor pieces for Timely Comics, a precursor to Marvel Comics—but the iconic artist remains best known for the brilliant Fold-In cartoons he invented at Bill Gaines’s Mad magazine in 1964. The cerebral and sardonic illustrations have inspired generations of Mad readers—including Stephen Colbert, R. Crumb, Gary Larson and Charles Shultz—to embrace a firm and healthy irreverence towards the status quo. New York Times columnist and bestselling author Mary-Lou Weisman (My Middle-Aged Baby Book) helps Jaffe tell his remarkable story.

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From the Back Cover:

Jaffee’s inventive work has enlivened the pages of MAD since 1955. To date he has pickled three generations of American kids in the brine of satire, and continues to bring millions of childhoods to untimely ends with the knowledge that parents are hypocrites, teachers are dummies, politicians are liars, and life isn’t fair.

Jaffee’s work for MAD has made him a cultural icon, but the compelling and at times bizarre story of his life has yet to be told. A synopsis of Jaffee’s formative years alone reads like a comic strip of traumatic cliff-hangers with cartoons by Jaffee and captions by Freud. Six-year-old Jaffee was separated from his father, uprooted from his home in Savannah, Georgia, and transplanted by his mother to a shtetl in Lithuania, a nineteenth-century world of kerosene lamps, outhouses, physical abuse, and near starvation. He would be rescued by his father, returned to America, taken yet again by his mother back to the shtetl, andonce again rescued by his father, even as Hitler was on the march.

When he finally settled back in America as a twelve-year-old wearing cobbled shoes and speaking his native English with a Yiddish accent, schoolmates called him “greenhorn.” He struggled with challenges at least as great as those he had met in Europe. His luck changed, however, when he was chosen to be amember of the first class to attend New York City’s High School of Music and Art. There his artistic ability saved him.

He would go on to forge relationships with Stan Lee, Harvey Kurtzman, and Will Elder, launching a career that would bring him to MAD magazine. There he found himself at the forefront of a movement that would change the face of humor and cartooning in America.

A cliff-hanger of a life deserves a page-turner of a biography, and that is what Mary-Lou Weisman and Al Jaffee have delivered.

About the Author:

Award-winning journalist and bestselling author Mary-Lou Weisman’s books include My Baby Boomer Baby Book, Traveling While Married, and Intensive Care: A Family Love Story. Her essays, feature articles, interviews, and film and book reviews have appeared in many publications, including the New Republic, Atlantic Monthly, and the New York Times, and she has contributed essays and commentary to Public Radio International. She lives in Westport, Connecticut, with her husband.

Al Jaffee is an award-winning cartoonist whose work has appeared in more 440 issues of MAD magazine—a total unmatched by any other writer or artist—including his trademark, the MAD fold-in, which has been featured in almost every issue since 1964.

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