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Remembering Al Jaffee and the time that I met the artists from Mad Magazine

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

In 1973 I was a 16-year old boy drawing cartoons on an airplane. My family was flying to Acapulco for a short vacation. My dad was an airline pilot in those days, so we could fly pretty inexpensively. I had been an artist and musician since I was about 4-5 years old, and I frequently entertained myself by drawing either serious pictures or cartoons in my various sketch books.

An artist from MAD magazine (Sergio, who drew the little cartoons in the margins, among other great things) was also on the plane, and he saw what I was doing as he passed by my seat. He asked me if I wanted to be an artist, and I said YES. Five minutes later I was sitting among most of the staff of MAD magazine, including Jack Davis, Jack Rickard, Sergio Aragones, Al Jaffee, Dave Berg and more - plus some editors like John Putnam and Nick Meglin. The magazine sent their artists and staff on a company paid vacation each Summer, and they were all headed to Mexico for that. What a coincidence!

Of course I read MAD magazine whenever I could, marveling at the creativity and humor that filled every page. And there were no ads in the magazine, which I appreciated. It was 100% good fun and sardonic humor. There are a few bromides that I read in MAD 50 years ago that I still use today, like the somewhat sarcastic "Don't go away mad ... just go away!" and "Summer is the time of year when they close the regular roads and open the detours." Being a teenager, I totally appreciated the humor.

Al Jaffee drew this picture of himself for me on the airplane. I lost this picture for decades, which is why it isn't framed like the other ones. I will have it framed soon, to match the others.

We all drew pictures for each other, and I treasure the ones that they made for me and of me. It was quite a long flight and it seemed to go on for hours, and maybe it did. I didn't want it to ever end. I was surrounded by successful artists and editors who were paying attention to me and complimenting me on my (young) skills. Heaven.

Today, I especially treasure what Al Jaffee drew for me, because he recently passed at 102 years old! He was a legend and an American treasure. He drew for MAD for more than 50 years. He was so nice to me when I was only a teenager. All of the artists were.

They invited me to their offices in Manhattan, and I went the following year, meeting publisher Bill Gaines and even more of the team. It was absolutely amazing.

I took this picture of Bill Gaines when I visited his office on Madison Avenue. His office was an amazing collection of all the things that he loved, including King Kong, Zeppelins, and his Tales of the Crypt memorobilia.

Jack Rickard was especially kind, and he invited me to visit his studio in New York when I was in town, so I did that, too. He showed me his big drawing board and all of the pens and colored markers that he used to create his drawings. He encouraged me to stay in school and get a degree before coming to New York to be an artist. He was a great man.

Jack Rickard drew this great caricature of Sergio Aragones for me on the plane.

Jack Davis drew this picture of me on the plane. I was 16 years old. Jack was an extremely successful artist beyond MAD magazine, having illustrated the covers of magazines like TIME and many more, with his very distinctive style. For years after I'd be at a news stand and I would see his covers - they were instantly identifiable.

Each one of these artists had a distinctive style. Antonio Prohias is best remembered for his classic Spy vs. Spy cartoons. He drew one for me:

And Dave Berg was similarly well-known for his humorous and instantly recognizable work:

Editor in Chief at the time John Putnam was very nice to me on the plane and when I visited their offices the next year. He spent some time showing me around and showing me how they put together each issue.

Editor Nick Meglin did the same. He drew me a tongue-in-cheek art lesson extolling the virtues of learning how to place your work on the page. It was a self-portait placed painfully poorly on the page:

Godspeed and rest in peace, Al - and the other MAD artists who have passed. They were so nice to me when I was just a kid. I treasure these memory, and I am eternally grateful for the kindness and generousity of these men.

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I read MAD magazine along with my other comic books, It had slap stick, cynical, and irreverent humor. I watched Popeye, Warner Brothers Cartoons, Abbott and Costello, the Marx Bros. and the Three Stooges. The comedy was on two levels, one for kids and the double entendre was something I grew into. I am so glad and jealous that the guys from MAD were so good to you. I went to the Comic Art Convention in New York over the July 4th weekend, every year ( in NYC), and I got to meet Curt Swan, Superman and Steve Ditko, Spiderman several times. They were always very gracious and encouraging of kids looking for pointers. Seems like in that industry, many…


I remember seeing all of the drawings , What a great experience that was . I still have some of my Mad

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