Al Jaffee, the Longest Working Cartoonist in History, Dies at 102: Discover How He Invented the Iconic “Folds-Ins” for Mad Magazine

Note: Yesterday, Mad Magazine legend Al Jaffee died at the age of 102. Below, we present our 2016 post featuring Jaffee talking about how he invented the iconic Fold-ins for the satirical magazine.

Keep copying those Sunday funnies, kids, and one day you may beat Al Jaffee’s record to become the Longest Working Cartoonist in History.

You’ll need to take extra good care of your health, given that the Guinness Book of World Records notified Jaffee, above, of his honorific on his 95th birthday.

Much of his legendary career has been spent at Mad Magazine, where he is best-known as the father of Fold-ins.

Conceived of as the satirical inverse of the expensive-to-produce, 4-color centerfolds that were a staple of glossier mags, the first Fold-In spoofed public perception of actress Elizabeth Taylor as a man-eater. Jaffe had figured it as a one-issue gag, but editor Al Feldstein had other ideas, demanding an immediate follow up for the June 1964 issue.

Jaffe obliged with the Richard Nixon Fold-in, which set the tone for the other 450 he has hand-rendered in subsequent issues.

Al Jaffee Mad

For those who made it to adulthood without the singular pleasure of creasing Mad‘s back cover, you can digitally fold-in a few samples using this nifty interactive feature, courtesy of The New York Times.

With all due respect, it’s not the same, just enough to give a feel for the thrill of drawing the outermost panel in to reveal the visual punchline lurking within the larger picture. The print edition demands precision folding on the reader’s part, if one is to get a satisfactory answer to the rhetorical text posed at the outset.

Jaffe must be even more precise in his calculations. In an interview with Sean Edgar of Paste Magazine, he described how he turned a Republican primary stage shared by Nelson Rockefeller and Barry Goldwater into a surprise portrait of the man who would become president five years hence:

The first thing I did was draw Richard Nixon’s face, not in great detail, just a very rough establishment of where the eyes, nose and mouth would be, and the general shape. I did an exaggerated caricature of Nixon and then I cut it in half, and moved it apart. Once the face was cut in half, it didn’t have the integrity of a face anymore — it was sort of a half of face. Then I looked at what the eyes were like, and I said, ‘what can I make out of the eyes?’ He had these heavy eyebrows. I played around with many things, but I had to keep in mind all the time what the big picture was. So there they (Goldwater and Rockefeller) were up on a stage somewhere, doing a debate, and I thought, ‘What kind of stage prop can I put alongside these guys that would seem natural there?’ I decided that I could make eyes out of the lamps, and as far as the nose was concerned, that could come out of the figures — their clothing. Then I figured the mouth; I could use some sort of table that could give me those two sides. That’s how it all came about. You have to have some kind of visual imagination to see the possibilities. I had to concentrate on stuff that looked natural on a stage.

Each Fold-In is a reflection of the zeitgeist. Past preoccupations have included Vietnam, feminism, illegal drug use and, more recently, the Jersey Shore.

via Gothamist

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

The March of Intellect: Newspaper Cartoons Satirize the Belief in Technological Progress in 1820s England

Before the Industrial Revolution, few had occasion to consider the impact of technology on their lives. A few decades in, however, certain segments of society thought about little else. That, in any case, is the impression given by the debate over what the English press of the early nineteenth century called the “March of Intellect,” a label for the apparently polarizing discourse that arose from not just the development of industrial technology but the dissemination of “useful knowledge” that followed in its wake. Was this sort of education an engine of progress, or simply of disorder?

The March of Intellect’s most vivid legacy consists of a series of newspaper cartoons published in the eighteen-twenties. They depict a world, as Hunter Dukes writes at the Public Domain Review, where “extravagantly dressed ladies window-shop for pastel finery and forgo stairwells in favor of belt-driven slides” while “a child is moments away from being paved into the road by a carriage at full gallop”; where “men gorge themselves on pineapples and guzzle bottles at the Champagne Depot” and “postmen flit around with winged capes”; where “even convicts have it better: they embark for New South Wales on a gargoyle zeppelin, but still have panoramic views.”

So far, so Victorian. One could argue more or less in favor of the world described above, as rendered by artist William Heath. But in the future as envisioned in the cartoon at the top of the post by Robert Seymour (now best known as the original illustrator of Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers), the March of Intellect takes on a flamboyantly malign aspect.

In it “a jolly automaton stomps across society,” writes Dukes. “Its head is a literal stack of knowledge — tomes of history, philosophy, and mechanic manuals power two gas-lantern eyes. It wears secular London University as a crown.” It sweeps away “pleas, pleadings, delayed parliamentary bills, and obsolete laws. Vicars, rectors, and quack doctors are turned on their heads.”

Nearly two centuries later, most would side instinctively with the participants in the March of Intellect debate who saw the provision of technical and scientific knowledge to then-less-educated groups — women, children, the working class — as an unambiguous good. Yet we may also feel trepidation about the technologies emerging in our own time, when, to name a current example, “artificially intelligent chatbots have fueled ongoing anxieties about the mechanization of intellectual labor.” Every day brings new apocalyptic speculations about the rise of powerful thinking machines running roughshod over humanity. If no artist today is illustrating them quite so entertainingly as Heath and Seymour did, so much the worse for our time.

via Public Domain Review

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Comiclopedia: An Online Archive of 14,000 Comic Artists, From Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, to Mœbius and Hergé

Nobody interested in comics can pass through Amsterdam without visiting Lambiek. Having opened in 1968 as the third comic-book shop in human history, it now survives as the oldest one still in existence. But even those without a trip to the Netherlands lined up can easily marvel at one of Lambiek’s major claims to fame: the Comiclopedia, “an illustrated compendium of over 14,000 comic artists from around the world.” Displaying the same kind of prescience that inspired him to open his store ahead of the comic-industry boom, Lambiek’s founder Kees Kousemaker launched this online encyclopedia in 1999, more than a year before Wikipedia first went live.

The video above offers a brief illustrated history of the Comiclopedia, but the project’s ambition comes across just as clearly in alphabetically organized index pages. American comic-book icons like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby get extensive entries, of course, but so do newspaper comic-strip creators from George Herriman and Winsor McCay (featured on this page) to Charles Schulz and Bill Watterson (whose entry features not just Calvin and Hobbes but such early work as a panel published in his college newspaper). There are even figures not known primarily as comic artists: the late Charlie Watts, for instance, whose artwork included the back cover of Between the Buttons, or David Lynch, who for nine years “drew” The Angriest Dog in the World.

For 23 years now, the Comiclopedia has maintained its commitment to both including deep cuts of that kind as well as constantly widening its international perspective. You’d expect its robust entries on Jean Giraud, better known as Mœbius, and Georges Remi, better known as Hergé, but you’ll also find introductions to the likes of Serafín Rojo Caamaño, creator of a host of characters beloved in twentieth-century Spain (including the perpetually drunken marchionesses), and Kim Seong-hwan, whose unflappable old man Gobau bore witness to half a century of tumultuous South Korean history.

Nor have Lambiek or the Comiclopedia ignored the comics of its homeland. “Kousemaker and his entourage wrote various essays, articles and books about comics,” says the page on the store’s own story, and without their work “much of the Netherlands’ comics history might otherwise have remained unexplored.” Batavophones can enjoy a thorough overview of the history of Dutch comics here; others can read a more condensed English version here, or set the Comiclopedia’s country filter to the Netherlands and sample the work of the 1,045-and-counting artists currently in the database. If you do make it out to Amsterdam, after all, you’re going to want to know Tom Poes from Eric de Noorman from Kapitein Rob beforehand.

via Metafilter

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

1950s Pulp Comic Adaptations of Ray Bradbury Stories Getting Republished

Growing up, there was always a special transgressive thrill in reading EC Comics, especially titles like Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear. That must have been even truer when they were first published in the nineteen-fifties than it was when they were reprinted in the nineteen-nineties, the period in which I myself thrilled to their distinctive mixture of grotesquerie, suggestiveness, moralism, and dark humor. By no means above indulging in either shock or schlock value, the publishers EC Comics also knew literary value when they saw it: in the work of Ray Bradbury, for example, to which they paid the ultimate tribute by swiping.

“EC Comics writer-editor Al Feldstein combined two science-fiction stories he’d read into a single tale, adapted it into the comics form, and assigned it to artist Wally Wood,” writes J. L. Bell at Oz and Ends, apparently “working on the belief that stealing from two stories at once wasn’t plagiarism but research.”

Bradbury’s response came swiftly: “You have not as of yet sent on the check for $50.00 to cover the use of secondary rights on my two stories THE ROCKET MAN and KALEIDOSCOPE which appeared in your WEIRD-FANTASY May-June ’52, #13, with the cover-all title of HOME TO STAY,” he wrote to EC. “I feel this was probably overlooked in the general confusion of office-work, and look forward to your payment in the near future.”

Bradbury’s “reminder” resulted in not just payment but a series of legitimate adaptations thereafter. His other stories to get the EC treatment include “A Sound of Thunder,” “Mars Is Heaven,” and the classic “There Will Come Soft Rains…” All of these stories are included in Fantagraphics’ new single-volume Home to Stay!: The Complete Ray Bradbury EC Stories, which you can see reviewed in this video. The book includes not just the 35 original comic-book stories (one of which you can read free here), but also “essays by leading scholars, EC experts, some big-name fans,” says the reviewer, whose channel EC Fan-Addict reveals him to be no casual enthusiast himself. Generations of kids have found in EC comics a gateway to “higher” reading material, Bradbury and much else besides, but those who get the taste for EC’s lighthearted grimness and earnest irony never really lose it.

You can pick up a copy of Home to Stay!: The Complete Ray Bradbury EC Stories here. It will be officially released on October 18.

via BoingBoing

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

“When We All Have Pocket Telephones”: A 1920s Comic Accurately Predicts Our Cellphone-Dominated Lives

Much has been said lately about jokes that “haven’t aged well.” Sometimes it has do to with shifting public sensibilities, and sometimes with a gag’s exaggeration having been surpassed by the facts of life. As a Twitter user named Max Saltman posted not long ago, “I love finding New Yorker cartoons so dated that the joke is lost entirely and the cartoons become just descriptions of people doing normal things.” The examples included a partygoer admitting that “I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve downloaded it from the internet,” and a teacher admonishing her students to “keep your eyes on your own screen.”

All of those New Yorker cartoons appear to date from the nineteen-nineties. Even more prescient yet much older is the Daily Mirror cartoon at the top of the post, drawn by artist W. K. Haselden at some point between 1919 and 1923. It envisions a time “when we all have pocket telephones,” liable to ring at the most inconvenient times: “when running for a train,” “when your hands are full,” “at a concert,” even “when you are being married.” Such a comic strip could never, as they say, be published today — not because of its potential to offend modern sensitivities, but because of its sheer mundanity.

For here in the twenty-twenties, we all, indeed, have pocket telephones. Not only that, we’ve grown so accustomed to them that Haselden’s cartoon feels reminiscent of the turn of the millennium, when the novelty and prestige of cellphones (to say nothing of their gratingly simple ringtones) made them feel more intrusive in day-to-day-life. Now, increasingly, cellphones are day-to-day life. Far from the literal “pocket telephones” envisioned a century ago, they’ve worked their way into nearly every aspect of human existence, including those Haselden could never have considered.

Yet this wasn’t the first time anyone had imagined such a thing. “Rumors of a ‘pocket phone’ had been ringing around the world since 1906,” writes Laughing Squid’s Lori Dorn. “A man named Charles E. Alden claimed to have created a device that could easily fit inside a vest pocket and used a ‘wireless battery.'” In the event, it would take nearly eight decades for the first cellphone to arrive on the market, and three more on top of that for them to become indispensable in the West. Now the “pocket telephone” has become the defining device of our era all over the world, though the social norms around its use do remain a work in progress.

via Laughing Squid

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Enter the Franz Kafka Caption Contest for a Chance to Win a New Book of the Author’s Drawings (Until June 13)

Imagine if Franz Kafka were charged with picking the winning entries in The New Yorker’s weekly cartoon caption contest.

The punchlines might become a little more obscure.

If that idea fills you with perverse pleasure, perhaps you should toddle over to Yale University Press’s Instagram to contribute some possible captions for eight of the inky drawings the tortured author made in a black notebook between 1901 and 1907.

The intended meaning of these images, included in the new book, Franz Kafka: The Drawings, are as up for grabs as any uncaptioned cartoon on the back page of The New Yorker.

In Conversations with Kafka, author Gustav Janouch recalled how their significance proved elusive even to their creator, and also the frustration his friend expressed regarding his artistic abilities:

I should so like to be able to draw. As a matter of fact, I am always trying to. But nothing comes of it. My drawings are purely personal picture writing, whose meaning even I cannot discover after a time.

Kafka seems to have gone easier on himself in a 1913 letter to fiancée Felice Bauer:

I was once a great draftsman, you know… These drawings gave me greater satisfaction in those days—it’s years ago—than anything else.

Artist Philip Hartigan, who referenced the drawings in a journal and sketchbook class for writing students nails it when he describes how Kafka’s “quick minimum movements … convey the typical despairing mood of his fiction in just a few lines.”

You have until June 13 to make explicit what Kafka did not by leaving your proposed caption for each drawing as a comment on Yale University Press’s Instagram, along the hashtag #KafkaCaptionContest.

Winners will receive a copy of  Franz Kafka: The Drawings. Entries will be judged by editor Andreas Kilcher of and theorist Judith Butler, who contributed an essay that you might consider mining for material:

Was it a muffled death? Or perhaps it was no death at all, just a tumbling of intercourse, a sexual flurry?

Yes, that might go nicely with Kafka’s drawing of a seated figure collapsed over a table, below.

Some alternate proposals from contest hopefuls:

I needed to bathe my battered knuckles with my tears.

He studied his newly acquired rare stamp with a powerful loupe.

How can I make sure that all my letters and papers will be destroyed after my death? I know – I’ll ask my closest friend to take care of it!

This last is a reference to Kafka’s literary executor, Max Brod, who defied Kafka’s explicit wish that all of his work be burned upon his death, save The Metamorphosis, and five short stories: The Judgment, The Stoker, In the Penal Colony, A Country Doctor and A Hunger Artist.

Brod cut Kafka’s drawing of the standing figure, above, from his sketchbook and kept in an envelope with a few others. Some of the current caption suggestions for this haunting, never before seen image:

my face is an umbrella to my tears

I couldn’t face myself.

I am the Walrus goo goo g’joob

Of the eight drawings in the caption contest, Drinker, may offer the most narrative possibilities. A representative sampling of the inventiveness that’s come over the transom thusfar:

I, period

Angered by the impudence of the cabernet, i had only the courage to berate its shadow

Waiter! There’s a roach in my wine.

Enter Yale University Press’ Kafka Caption Contest (or get a feel for the competition) here. Entries will be accepted through June 13. Full contest rules are here. Good luck!

Explore the drawings and other contents of Franz Kafka’s black notebook here.

Purchase Franz Kafka: The Drawings, the first book to publish the entirety of the author’s graphic output, here.

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

On Art Speigelman’s Maus: Should Comics Expose Kids to the World’s Horrors? Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #122


In light of its being recently banned in some settings, we discuss Art Spiegelman’s Maus (1980-91), which conveys his father’s account of living through the Holocaust. We also consider other war-related graphic novels like Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (2000) and George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy (2019).

Your host Mark Linsenmayer is joined by comics scholar Vi Burlew, comics blerd/acting coach Anthony LeBlanc, and comedian/graphic novelist Daniel Lobell.

Are comics particularly effective in changing hearts and minds when they display people’s hardships? Should kids be exposed to the horrors of the world in this way? What about the complexities of social justice and gender identity? We also touch on Gilbert Gottfried and the relationship between humor and tragedy, learning history vs. reading one person’s experience, the ages at which became political, and how comics may have aided that.

Read Vi’s Washington Post editorial about censorship that inspired this episode.

Other relevant sources include:

If you enjoyed this discussion, try our episodes featuring Vi talking about the trope of the heroine’s journey in film, Anthony talking about blerds, i.e. black nerds, and Daniel talking about the comic Peanuts.

Follow us @ViolaBurlew, @anthonyleblanc, @DanielLobel, and @MarkLinsenmayer.

Hear more Pretty Much Pop. Support the show at or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

Explore a Big Archive of Vintage Early Comics: 1700-1929

The popularity of graphic novels (and more than a few extremely lucrative superhero movie franchises) have conferred respectability on comics.

Handsome reissues of such stunning early works as Winsor McKay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland, George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, and Frank King’s Walt and Skeezix suggest that readers’ appetite for vintage comics extends deeper and further back than mere nostalgia for the Sunday funnies of their youth.

Artist Andy Bleck’s Andy’s Early Comics Archive is an excellent resource for those seeking to discover early examples of the form that have yet to be reissued in a collected edition. (Fair warning: reflecting the attitudes of the time, the collection does inevitably contains some racist imagery. Such imagery won’t be on display in this post.)

Bleck, the creator of Konky Kru, a beautifully simple, wordless series, as well as several self-published mini comics, takes a historian’s interest in his subject, beginning with the William Hogarth engravings A Harlot’s Progress from 1730:

The famous ‘progressions’ by Hogarth were not actually comics. The images don’t lead into and don’t interact with each other. Each shows a distinct, separate stage of a longer story. However, because of their great popularity, they established the very notion of telling entertaining stories with a series of pictures and so became a highly influential stepping stone for future developments.

He also cites the influence of British political cartoons, Chinese woodcuts, illustrated fairy tales and nursery rhymes, and Heinrich Hoffmann’s Struwwelpeter, a book that terrified children into behaving by depicting the monstrous consequences befalling those who failed to do so.

Ironically, Franz Joseph Goez’s Lenardo und Blandine, an actual graphic novelette from 1783, “probably had little influence:”

 It was too ahead of its time as far as the comic structure is concerned. In content, it was delightfully very much of its time, full of outrageous melodrama.

Things continued to evolve in the second half of the 19th-century, with picture broadsheets for children, such as the ones starring Wilhelm Busch’s wildly popular Max and Moritz. (See an English translation here.)

Bleck traces the birth of modern comics, whose storytelling vocabulary continues today, to the beginning of the 20th century, with American newspaper strips and particularly, the Sunday funnies:

The newspaper format was much larger and cheaper, providing a lot more empty space to fill. The audience was less sophisticated, but (possibly because of this) more open to a particular type of experimentation, despite the dumb and lowbrow humor… these American Sunday pages became the breeding ground for something new. Weirder, rougher, slapdashier. Also easier, for children, but not childish. More popular. More … somethingier.

Maybe it was that new type of human being, the urban immigrant, who was most prepared and eager to pay for all this new visual goings on.

Andy’s Early Comics Archive can be searched chronologically, or alphabetically by artist’s name. Enter here.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.


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