A Year in Reading: Al Jaffee

December 2, 2010 | 1 book mentioned 2 min read


coverI thought I would write about a graphic novel that came out this year and impressed me enormously. Its title is Market Day, written and illustrated by James Sturm. It particularly affected me because I spent my childhood between the ages of six and twelve in an environment that was very much like the one in the book. James Sturm, who was not old enough to have lived in these circumstances, somehow has managed to capture the day-to-day dealings in was a typical the market place in Eastern Europe. The atmosphere he has created in his drawings is entirely accurate. The architecture and the clothing of the people rings true. To me the characters became three dimensional and were living life as I remembered it.

The poignancy is underlined because most of this was wiped out by the Nazi invasion. It was a vibrant society which would have changed with the times but instead was cruelly destroyed in a heartbeat. The end of that era was predicted in the book but no one could imagine how fast it would be done away with in actuality.

The atmosphere created in the drawings, which are primarily in subdued earth tones, is extremely effective because it realistically recreates the drabness of such towns in that era. At the same time, it manages to show the vibrant, colorful lives led by the people in this society. Maybe it’s personal for me because of my own experience in such a town, but I feel that this story should have wide appeal because it is interesting and well told.

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has been a Mad magazine fixture since 1964 and is best known as the creator of the Mad Fold-in and "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions." A 2008 Reuben Award winner, the 89-year-old cartoonist is the subject of the recent Al Jaffee's Mad Life: A Biography.