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Spy vs. Shpy

Al Jaffee, of ‘Mad’, has a side-job

by
Marc Tracy
October 05, 2010
From the strip.(City Room)

From the strip.(City Room)

For more than a quarter century, right under our noses, the legendary Al Jaffee—who has drawn cartoons for Mad since 1955, most notably inventing the Fold-In (yup, he invented it and draws it)—has been producing a regular comic for a Chabad-connected bimonthly in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. In every issue since 1984, readers of The Moshiach Times have enjoyed the tales of Shpy, a bearded agent, as he battles the evil Yetzer Hora (“Evil Inclination”).

With a closet full of disguises and more gadgets than 007, the Shpy volunteers his services when innocent people or ancient traditions are imperiled. He escapes from a giant Mixmaster when investigating a case of stolen hamantaschen, and thwarts a mysterious bee infestation that nearly spoils the fall holiday of Sukkot. In one installment, he invents a repellent to keep the sinister Yetzer Hora at bay, complete with a catchy slogan: “Let us Shpray.”

Jaffee, 89, who was born to Lithuanian Jews in Savannah, Georgia, is the subject of a new biography, Al Jaffee’s Mad Life. You can read the prologue at Heeb.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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