Al Jaffee, the legendary cartoonist behind the MAD magazine fold-ins and the "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" feature in the magazine, has retired at age 99. Jaffee was one of, if not the, longest-working cartoonist in American comics. He began his career in the 1940s with Timely and Atlas, the precursors to Marvel Comics, and has worked at MAD since 1955. Last summer, when news broke that MAD was planning to cease publication on most new content, the magazine said that Jaffee's fold-ins would continue as the magazine was retooled as a reprint anthology. Jaffee's work has been collected in reprint anthologies and is some of the most celebrated work in the magazine's long history.
Tomorrow, MAD will release #14, which will include new artwork from Groo and MAD veteran Sergio Aragonés, as a tribute to Jaffee. The issue will also include his final MAD Fold-In. When the magazine decided to stop publishing new content, they promised that special issues like this will allow for new MAD content.
The venerable humor magazine, which launched in 1952 at EC Comics, relaunched in 2018, going bimonthly in a move that many fans suspected spelled a short lifespan for the magazine. Like DC's 2018 Vertigo relaunch, it seemingly did not bring in enough interest or revenue to revitalize the flagging brand. Two years ago today, to the day, MAD hired Bongo Comics co-founder Bill Morrison as its new editor-in-chief following the departure of veteran editor John Ficarra and other key members of his staff, who declined to make the cross-country trip from New York to Los Angeles with the rest of DC's editorial team.
The 2017 reorganization and subsequent 2018 reboot both struggled with finding an identity for MAD in an increasingly satire-saturated world. Between websites that can deliver topical comedy in real time and a fiercely divided American populace who cannot agree on what comedy is because their preferences break down along party lines, MAD struggled to find an elusive niche. When political humor seemed to work, MAD doubled down on lampooning the Trump administration, which earned some critical praise but likely alienated conservative readers as well as putting the magazine in direct competitions with late night shows that were delivering content nightly rather than once every two months.
Recent years have seen MAD increasingly focused on high-profile special projects, such as the recent compilation of Donald Trump parodies for MAD About the Trump Error and special projects like parody Batman- and Superman-themed children's picture books.