Monday, April 10, 2023

Al Jaffee

Cartoonist Al Jaffee, best known for his decades of work on MAD Magazine, died today at the age of 102. That's a good long run but, somehow, not quite long enough. 

I was a fan. Aside from sharing that quality with everyone who knew his work, I only have one Al Jaffee story and one small insight into why he was widely beloved. 

At 2008's Comic-Con International in San Diego, I was scheduled to sign books at the Abrams booth right after Al. I showed up early. My memory is that surprisingly few people came to meet him. Fewer than a dozen. So he and I had about half an hour just to chat.

I don't remember many specifics of our conversation. I know I asked a lot of questions. But what I won't forget, and the small insight I have to offer, is that Al made me feel like a peer who deserved his full interest and attention. He was more than polite, genuinely curious about how the whole graphic novel thing worked because maybe he'd like to take a swing at it someday (while pushing 90!). He was great.

In my experience, the very best creators, the ones who have every right to stand atop Olympus and scowl down on mortals, share that generosity of spirit. Jerry Robinson, Gene Colan, Nick Meglin--all gone now--treated me like that. I doubt any of them had the faintest idea who I was or what I'd done, but there wasn't a hint they felt I didn't deserve to sit at their table. I was a cartoonist, so let's talk shop.

My big takeaway from meeting Al Jaffee: Be like Al. I do my best. 

(Photo by Editor Charlie, who published both Al and me and introduced me to most of the Olympians I've met.)

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