Interview: Al Jaffee [unabridged]

By DAN MAZUR  |  November 18, 2010

Did you publish any of them. Yes. I don't know how many, maybe four maybe five were printed in Military Comics. I don't have any samples because every time my family moved we left something behind and it was usually my stuff because what good was it? Art is dispensable. But it came to a point where Will called me and said, "You know it's not taking off," and I said, "I'm not comfortable with it, Will." I thought I'd maybe do to a takeoff in Superman, but now I'm sort of doing a take-off on some geek in the Army and I don't know the Army and I don't have a frame of reference for making fun of things in the Army. So Will sent me to a friend of his to continue working on it, but that didn't work out, so I wound up working for Stan Lee.

Was that the extent of your work with Eisner or did you do other stuff with him? No that's all I ever did with Eisner. That's all I ever did with him.

Did you work at his studio that he had, where everyone worked together. Yes, I was in the studio. Nick Viscardi was there, Bob Powell. Nick Viscardi became Nick Cardy. Bob Powell of course, he was doing a flying feature. Tex Blaisdell was there. A fellow named Frenchy who I think was assisting Will with the writing. Dave Berg was there who later went on to Mad. I was sitting right behind Dave Berg and he befriended me and we went out to lunch together. But he stayed on, he had a good feature — that was 70 years ago — "Death Patrol."

Death Patrol? "Death Patrol," by Dave Berg. And oh, I admired Dave's drawing. I mean my weakness at that time, and still today except I've become much better at faking it, is anatomical drawing. I'm basically a big-foot cartoonist, and I can fake illustration but I really don't know where the muscles are. Of course if I cared enough I would have found out, but I never cared enough. My interest was storytelling. And I could tell stories very well, as far as I'm concerned, with facial expressions and body movements, but the elbow didn't have to have a ripple in it, it's okay the way it is, so I got by with it. But I admired guys like Dave Berg, and Nick Cardy, and all the others who were doing it. Lou Fine was doing these fabulous beautiful drawings.

Do you draw with a crowquill pen or a brush or . . . Now?

Well throughout your career have you changed your instruments? I've had to change, because I started out with somewhat of a tremor. I don't think it was noticeable when I was a teenager, but where my brother Harry could take a one-hair brush and go 12 feet like this and there wouldn't be a ripple in it, I mean I'd be all over the place. I just couldn't do it. I mean, I'm literally the guy who couldn't draw a straight line — I'm the guy. And then I apprenticed with a guy by the name of Chad Grothkopf, and he was one of the stars of a technique that everyone was falling in love with, called the "thick and thin." And the thick and thin was taking a number-three brush or a Japanese-haired brush and being able to draw in one stroke a hairline that morphs into a quarter inch — well, not a quarter but an eighth of an inch — and back to a thin line. And literally you could make waves like this that would be thin and thick. And of course it had character and for drawing muscles and things it would accentuate the right part, come around the bicep it would get thick.

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