Columbia University acquires Al Jaffee archives

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1373402755352 Columbia University acquires Al Jaffee archives
Anyone who has ever met him knows that they want to be Al Jaffee when they grow up. The master of MAD’s fold-ins is vital and witty well into his 90s, with a vocal delivery that would make hims a great voiceover star if he didn’t have his cartoonist skills to fall back on.

And Columbia University—under the consultation of the dynamic Karen Green—has of late been acquiring the archives of several notable comics figures, including, Chris Claremont and Wendy and Richard PIni.

And you can now add the archives of Al Jaffee to that list.

1373377806359 Columbia University acquires Al Jaffee archives

The continuing acquisition of historical comics materials by top-notch institutions like the Library of Congress, OSU, and Columbia is another signal of the growth of the comics medium. Storing these irreplaceable treasures is everyone’s business.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services’ (CUL/IS) Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML) is pleased to announce the acquisition of the archives of cartoonist Al Jaffee, best known for his long affiliation with Mad magazine.  

Al Jaffee fold-in sketch
This acquisition is the latest development in CUL/IS’s support for research, teaching, and learning with comics and graphic novels.  Since its beginning in 2005, a growing circulating collection of such graphic novels at CUL/IS has inspired scholarly inquiry, as well as academic writing and coursework, including The American Graphic Novel, a course co-taught by Columbia University Professor Jeremy Dauber and former DC Comics president Paul Levitz.  The donation of the Claremont archives by Chris and Beth Claremont in 2011 marked the beginning of CUL/IS’s push to acquire such special collections.

Jaffee’s career at Mad has spanned 58 years and counting; during this time he created the features “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions” and, most notably, the Mad fold-In, which debuted in1964.

“I feel privileged and honored to have my work added to Columbia University’s collections,” said Jaffee, who donated his archives together with his wife, Joyce. “Columbia is a jewel in the crown of New York City; keeping my work here is my way of giving something back to the city in appreciation for all that was given to me.”

Jaffee was in the first graduating class of the LaGuardia-founded High School of Music & Art, where he met his long-time colleagues Will Elder, Harvey Kurtzman, and Al Feldstein.  Jaffee began his cartooning career working for Stan Lee on comic books such as Patsy Walker and Ziggy Pig and Silly Seal, and his Tall Tales comic strip appeared in the New York Herald Tribune for six years.  He was also involved with other Kurtzman humor magazines such as Trump and Humbug.

“Al Jaffee, like the Mad magazine fold-in he invented, has always done two things at once,” said David Hajdu, Columbia University professor and author of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America.  “He is a first-rate cartoon gagman and a fine social critic; both jobs are precious and rarely companionable.”

The archives will arrive in several stages; the first phase will include artwork for Esquire and Playboy magazines, notebooks of ideas for Humbug and Ziggy Pig and Silly Seal, press clippings, tracings for cartoons in The Moshiach Times, fan mail, photocopies of strips never offered for publication, biographical materials used for Mary-Lou Weisman’s biography Al Jaffee’s Mad Life, photographs, and more.

“These archives reveal the range of Mr. Jaffee’s work beyond what most people know of him, as well as the nature of his process, both of which are of invaluable use to researchers,” said Karen Green, librarian and developer of the CUL/IS comics and graphic novels collection.

Sam Viviano, Mad art director, adds that Jaffee’s “many contributions to comic books, the funny papers, magazines and advertising, as well as his long relationship with Mad, add up to a monumental critical analysis of American society, politics and culture in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as well as a compelling argument for the significance of the retching jackal as a potent symbol of modern angst.”

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services (CUL/IS) is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 12 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers, including affiliates. CUL/IS employs more than 450 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.

Comments

  1. “Dynamic”! Thanks so much, Heidi!

  2. Jeff Trexler says:

    Kudos to Karen for making NYC the hub for comics-related archives that it should have always been.

    Y’know, we should be able to re-claim archives that went elsewhere in the lawless pre-KG era (Stan Lee, Wyoming) the same way that museums in various countries re-claim appropriated art!

  3. Karen Green is the Archive Queen! Way to go, Karen!

  4. John Shableski says:

    Karen is an amazing force of nature. Not only is she changing the profile of Columbia’s library, she’s taken academic collection development of comics to an entirely new place!

  5. Karen says:

    Oh, man, Jeff, that would be amazing. New Yorkers really do belong in New York, don’t they? But, alas, that’s not how it works. The important thing, really, is that the stuff is archived at all. We owe a real debt of gratitude to OSU, Wyoming, Northwestern, the Library of Congress…and everyone who’s preserved comics history.

  6. Kudos to Karen and her fine work with special collections…
    I feel a few Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions may be in order!
    To Al, the Jaffee family, and comics history, indeed.

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