Editor’s note: Ever since nerd icon William Gaines (of “Tales from the Crypt” fame) founded Mad magazine nearly 50 years ago, it has inspired the likes of Terry Gilliam with its absurdist humor, eye-catching art, and geeky jokes – after all, it was one of the first publications to parody comic book heroes. Its mascot, Alfred E. Neuman has been a symbol of geekdom for nearly as long.
Todd Leopold recently caught up with one of the most beloved MAD cartoonists, Al Jaffee, and shares more about his experience with CNN Geek Out!
As Mad magazine art director Sam Viviano observed, generations of Mad readers have looked at the magazine’s contributors as “gods on Olympus.” But it’s not just the readers who admire the Mad Men – they also have a healthy respect for one another.
Al Jaffee, the subject of CNN.com’s Monday profile, was asked for his thoughts on some of the other members of the Usual Gang of Idiots. Here’s what he said:
Jack Davis : “He is an absolute master. He brings a unique intelligence to every assignment. He captures the action better than anybody I’ve ever seen. When he does sports, you can feel the boxer’s glove hit the other guy’s body. And his attention to detail is just great, especially when it comes to intricate uniforms, helmets, shoes – every part of the uniform is alive in a Davis drawing. … His drawings are full of energy.”
Paul Coker Jr. : “Paul’s sense of humor, which is very special, wry and just so winning, I think comes through in every drawing that he makes. With very, very, seemingly simple lines, he captures very sophisticated emotions and actions.”
Sergio Aragones: “The best way to describe Sergio’s work is that he speaks in drawings. He doesn’t need a single word to convey the subtlest of feelings and emotions in a drawing. You will get the message just from the drawing without having any balloons to muck up the thing.”
George Woodbridge: “A very, very intelligent fellow. He was obsessed with military uniforms. … On all the Mad trips, the first thing he did was to go some military installation – whether it was in Russia or Denmark, it didn’t matter – to collect badges and medals and whatever was for sale in the military. And he could draw military uniforms beautifully – he knew the stuff inside-out.”
Antonio Prohias: “A master at design. The fact that he designed two simple little characters like ‘Spy vs. Spy’ that have captivated people all over the world is remarkable. … He was a very affectionate person. The minute he would get a check he wanted to pay for everything when we were on a trip, and we had to force him to put his money back in his pocket. One of the nicest people I ever met.”
Mort Drucker: “Mort was one of my first heroes in the area of portrait caricature. They weren’t really caricatures, and they weren’t really portraits, but they were a combination of both. In a serial strip he would do involving lots of caricatures, he paid as much attention to walk-ons in a movie as he did to the main characters. You knew every single extra that was in a movie or a television show when Mort did a scene.”
The rest of the Gang thinks the world of Jaffee. In a Mad questionnaire, Drucker was asked to pick a Mad contributor and describe him in one word. He picked Jaffee.
The word? “Genius.”