Interview: Al Jaffee [unabridged]

By DAN MAZUR  |  November 18, 2010

He created the graphic novel, and he did a lot for comics as an art form. In those years was there any sense among artists that comics could tell more stories than just superheroes — any sense that someday it could be more, or frustration? Or pretty much just people doing their work and happy to be doing it? I don't know. I think most people who are freelance, they work from job to job, except those who are anointed like Jack Kirby. Because of Jack Kirby's superior talent he didn't have to worry about where his next job is going to come from, because any comic-book house in the country was going to grab him. So there were outstanding people who never had to worry about a thing. But the rank-and-file working-man cartoonist, myself included, just wanted to keep working. We didn't have time to conquer new worlds. We also didn't have enough of an inside track, where I could go up to someone like Eisner or Stan Lee and say, "You gotta listen to this — I've got a brilliant idea, here's the direction we need to go in." I mean, I wouldn't get an appointment. So the only way I could, if I had what I thought was gonna be the next great idea was to go out and do it on my own. I'm not going to get anyone else to back me on it.

I did have a little bit of a premonition, I suppose. Stan Lee gave me Super Rabbit to do. I didn't create Super Rabbit, somebody else did. And whoever it was wasn't doing it anymore, and he said, I want you to do Super Rabbit. And Super Rabbit kind of appealed to me because it was so utterly ridiculous and I hadn't been doing satire up to that point. I try to be innovative. The first thing that I did for Stan Lee, Squat Car Squad, which was about two bumbling cops. I had an episode where my characters go on strike because they didn't like the story I was writing, so y'know, I broke a wall, and one of the cops reaches up, yanks the panel down and there I am behind it, and then he pulls me into the panel and hauls me over to Stan Lee — I drew him into the thing — and complains about me and my lousy story, so I had an interactive thing.

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