In anticipation of Matt Madden’s upcoming Oulipo event at the Wexner Center here in Columbus, we’re highlighting works from our collection this week that display the use of constraints in comics and cartoons. Today, the inimitable Al Jaffee’s original sketches and process drawings from one of his MAD Magazine Fold-Ins!

Al Jaffee original for a MAD magazine fold-in. Note the fold line indicators in blue pencil. From the Mark J. Cohen and Rose Marie McDaniel Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

After it’s inception in 1964, nearly every issue of MAD had one of Al Jaffee’s brilliant fold-in gags incorporated into the magazine. As with all things MAD, the content satirized everything from politicians to parents, internet culture to poor product design. What really drove Jaffee’s genius home though, was the fact that the physical design of the fold-in was a satire in itself. At a time when popular magazines like LIFE and Playboy had high quality, full color centerfold-outs, Jaffee struck up the idea of MAD having a spread that instead folded-in, and was printed in black and white (at least in its earlier years).

The result was a single page depicting a scene like the one seen above in the first image, and a question: “What new form of addiction threatens to enslave our youth?”

The text at the bottom of the page, when fully open, would elaborate further on the spread. As we can see in Jaffee’s preliminary sketches below, our sample says “Perspiring, strung-out junkies conjure up sensational images for parents. They fear any form of compulsive behavior that enslaves their sons and daughters.” As if creating an image that folds into another image isn’t challenging enough, the text of Jaffee’s captions that run along the bottom of the page also folds into itself to spell out the answer. Once folded in, the two sides of the larger image meet to reveal the punchline: “Personal Computers”

Two Al Jaffee original layout sketches for a MAD magazine fold-in, notes and captions included. Mark J. Cohen and Rose Marie McDaniel Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

For those not familiar with Jaffee’s fold-ins, the New York Times has created an interactive collection of some of them online that can help you get a better understanding of how they work.

Having created hundreds of these since the 1960s, Jaffee is a true master of working under creative constraints. To find more original artwork from MAD Magazine that we have in our collection at the Cartoon Library, visit our Art Database.

If you’re in Columbus this weekend, remember to check out two Oulipo events, headed by Matt Madden!

Friday, May 11th be sure to attend Matt Madden’s talk: Obstacle Course: Oulipo and the Creative Potential of Constraints. 4:30pm, and free!

Saturday, May12th 1pm-4pm: Oulipo Workshop with Matt Madden at the Wexner Center! Advance registration is required and space is limited. Register here.  Call (614) 292-6493 for more info.