Al Jaffee, at 99, is Interviewed

When you worked for Eisner and then when you got out of the service and worked for Stan Lee, were all of your colleagues obsessed with comics? Did you talk a lot about comics and the artists in the field.

I think in the back of the minds of everybody who could draw straight figures — you know, Captain America, Spider-Man, and Superman and all that — they all yearned to go into syndication. Because you could work wherever you wanted. You could move down to Florida and send your stuff in by express mail or whatever. And everyone dreamt of that. But there were very few spots in newspapers so reality set in and we realized that we’d either make a living in comic books or we would spend our entire life going to syndicates and getting rejected. I did some syndicate features myself, one of which was sold — Tall Tales [1957-1963]. But I did a lot of others and I couldn’t get them off the ground. Satirical, not realistic ones. I think I had some good ideas I could’ve developed, but I was very happy to have Stan Lee say to me, “Create a couple of animal characters and you can put them in your own comic book.” And that was Ziggy Pig and Silly Seal.

Did you try to break into newspaper syndication in the ’40s?

I had a friend who was the syndicate editor at the Herald Tribune, and he’s the one who bought Tall Tales. And he kept after me. He said, “Why don’t you create a comic strip for me?” And I did create a bunch of them but I wasn’t satisfied with them. I didn’t think I could maintain it. It’s very funny in a week’s samples, but then how do you go on for a year?

Do you have these strips that you did, these samples?

I wonder… I’ve moved so many times and I’ve left stuff in my houses. I can check with my niece and she might have saved some of them, it’s possible.

The Comics Journal and Gary Groth interview Al Jaffee on the occasion of his early retirement.