Al Jaffee's MAD Magazine Superman Fold-Out Original Art At Auction

Al Jaffee is one hundred years old as of last month. Born in 1921, he is best known for his work in the MAD Magazine including his trademark feature, the Mad Fold-In. H contributed to the magazine for 65 years, the longest single comic book artist ever. With a career running from 1942 until 2020, Jaffee holds the Guinness World Record for having the longest-ever career as a comic artist. Between April 1964 and April 2013, only one issue of Mad was published without containing new material by Jaffee.

And as part of this weekend's Heritage Auction comic book artwork lots is Al Jaffee's take on Superman trying to get a new suit – revealing that all he wants is one with a zipper.

Al Jaffee's MAD Magazine Superman Fold-Out Original Art At Auction

Al Jaffee Superman: The Man of Steel Gallery Complete 1-Page Story "DC Fold-In" Original Art (DC Comics, 1995). Jaffee applies his famous "MAD Fold-In" technique to a view of Superman in a tailoring shop, being fitted for a new superhero costume. And so much for the established notion of an indestructible Superman suit. A uniquely Jaffee-style Superman, here, in a variant on MAD's wildly popular "Fold-In" feature. This piece graced the inside rear cover of a one-and-done spinoff issue of the Superman family of titles. Ink over graphite on Bristol board with an image area of 10" x 15". Excellent condition, with light adhesive shadow-seams around the typeset areas.

And there's another from 1999 looking at what the year 2000 might bring.

Al Jaffee's MAD Magazine Superman Fold-Out Original Art At Auction

Al Jaffee MAD Inside Back Cover Illustration Y2K "MAD Fold-In" Original Art (EC Publ., 1999). Jaffee's folding puzzle poses a mystery as to what disasters the Year 2000 might bring. It is unusual to find a "Fold-In" painting without accompanying text, inasmuch as Jaffee customarily applied the typeset areas himself, as part of the finished artwork. Issue specifics are undocumented. Gouache on illustration board, measuring 17" x 15". Slight toning, acetate overlay and red-effect overlay taped at the top, text paste-ups, tape along the sides of the image, corner dings. Signed at lower right. Excellent condition.


The MAD Fold-In is one of the most well-known aspects of the magazine. The feature was conceived in response to centerfolds in popular magazines, particularly Playboy. Jaffee stated "Playboy had a foldout of a beautiful woman in each issue, and Life Magazine had these large, striking foldouts in which they'd show how the earth began or the solar system or something on that order — some massive panorama. Many magazines were hopping on the bandwagon, offering similar full-color spreads to their readers. I noticed this and thought, what's a good satirical comment on the trend? Then I figured, why not reverse it? If other magazines are doing these big, full-color foldouts, well, cheap old Mad should go completely the opposite way and do an ultra-modest black-and-white Fold-In!"

A Mad Fold-In consists of a single drawing, with a paragraph of text underneath, and a panel across the top with a question. Each Fold-In also features instructions on how to manipulate the Fold-In, as well as a picture illustrating the procedure. Under the instructions are two arrows labeled "A" and "B". When the paper is folded so that points "A" and "B" are touching, the remaining unobscured text underneath the picture becomes the answer to the question, and the picture itself changes into a fresh image reflecting the new text, as the middle 50% of the drawing vanishes.

For example, a 1969 Fold-In asking, "What is the one thing protest marches have greatly improved?" depicted a stream of placard-carrying marchers, but folded into the image of the underside of a worn-out sole and the answer, "SHOE SALES." A drawing of a fearsome panther stalking a variety of jungle animals accompanying the question "What predatory creature most threatens the survival of endangered species?" contracted to the image of a lavishly swaddled woman and the solution "FUR LOVERS." (In the larger drawing, the two halves of her fur coat had been the foliage of trees.) Following the 1991 Tailhook scandal, a Navy war room became a female officer being sexually molested by a gauntlet of her comrades.

Mad publisher Bill Gaines joked that he was a fan of the Fold-In because he knew that serious collectors valued pristine, unfolded copies, and would therefore be inspired to purchase two copies of each issue: one to fold and another to preserve intact.


About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.