Interview: Al Jaffee [unabridged]

By DAN MAZUR  |  November 18, 2010

I did that in 1941. So I was going in those directions too. And when I took over Super Rabbit, I just couldn't see writing straight stories about Super Rabbit fighting crime. I mean there was Mighty Mouse doing that — the ridiculousness of it was not novel. So I decided the only way to rescue Super Rabbit was to go off in other directions and write stories that break through to a new dimension of some sort. I started with Super Rabbit, y'know, he's so super he takes on six or seven criminals at once and dispatches them. When he gets home, he finds that his uniform is torn, terrible, rips all over. So he takes it to a local tailor to have it fixed. And he's getting very nervous, because crime is due any moment and he's not hearing from the tailor. Finally he goes to the tailor and the tailor says, yes, yes, it's ready. So he doesn't have time, there's a crime announcement, and he swoops out. I do that in silhouette, and when he lands, we don't see him when he lands, we see the criminals laughing hysterically, and when you finally see Super Rabbit, his clothing had been patched with polka dots and female designs, and he shrinks away in shame. I don't know how it ended, happily or not. But the thing is there was opportunity to break down some walls, and if you had a lenient editor . . . I mean another editor other than Stan Lee might have taken a look at this and said, "Al, we can't — I mean y'know Walt Disney wouldn't let them do that to Mickey Mouse, I'm not going to let you do this to Super Rabbit."

Super Rabbit is not Mickey Mouse! [laughs] Yeah, right. In any case, I know that I'm ranting about this stuff, but in trying to stick to the question, people like Will Eisner and Stan Lee and many others, they didn't just accept the status quo and go on and redo the same thing over and over again, they were always looking for something new to add to the genre, to just break thru a wall into another space. I think if I had the opportunity, that's the way I would have gone.

Kurtzman? Kurtzman did it.

And you worked a little bit with Kurtzman on the early Mad, the comic book Mad? I never worked on the comic book Mad. But I did work on the first and maybe second issues of Mad, when it turned from a comic book into a magazine.

And that was Feldstein as editor. No, that wasn't Feldstein, that was Kurtzman. Kurtzman got the transformation from comic book to 25-cent magazine. And I wrote a piece and illustrated it called "Ben Hogan's Secret." At that time it was a very big deal that Ben Hogan had revealed his secret about why he was winning all the tournaments, and I did a piece on it. It's in the book.

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    Al Jaffee has been a Mad man for 55 years, practically since the beginning.
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