Vintage Sleaze Seal of Approval! Marvel Comics, Seduction of the Innocent and the Open Letter to the Kiddies.
No vintage sleaze wiggles and jiggles today...instead a history lesson! (awwwwww!)
No less than Marvel comics were under fire in the late 1940s. Professional knuckle-smasher Dr. Fredric Wertham took his ruler to the national stage for an anti-comic book tirade. He was right, by the way...some of those cartoon babes where smoking hotter than the earth's core, and EVERY kid learned how to commit sexual mayhem and violence from them. Where do you think they learned it, from war, poverty and the empty reality of a shallow and meaningless life on the recently atom-bombed earth???
In 1949 this editorial letter to the kids appeared in Marvel comics (here from my own copy of "Georgie and Judy" March, issue #21) But just look...you can clearly see the rampant violence and a sultry babe hint that Georgie should drop trou in the same issue! Right under the shingle of Doctor Jean Thompson, who was hired to prove Marvel was in compliance with the recently established ACMP Publishers Code which, among other things, stated the following:
"Sexy, wanton comics should not be published" "Divorce should not be treated humorously and represented as glamorous or alluring" "Slang should be kept to a minimum" "Policemen, judges, Government officials and respected institutions should not be portrayed as stupid or ineffective"
Oh, if only the petroleum companies could police themselves as well.
If ever there was a vintage sleaze cartoonist from the 1950s deserving a retrospective showing at the Drawing Center, it would be Bill Kresse. As modern as a Herman Miller Eames chair and just as timeless, his early gag work for sleazy digests stands out for many reasons. Lush and creative, the women all sharp, angular shoulders and heavily detailed dress, the fellas all whirring, confused and excited motion, fevered and flushed. All players in a Kresse panel are happy to be alive and participating in this retro-human game. Fingers and heels like spikes on the dames, gunboats as wide as shoeboxes on the guys. Several things distinguish a Kresse cartoon from the 1950s...One, he always took time to put glass over the modern art on the wall (as if he aspired to the same treatment, which he now deserves) and the large, undulating ribbons of bold black ink which surround his characters in elegant swerves. Surprisingly, his work has not been anthologized much that I can tell. Bill Kresse published a book way back entitled "An Introduction to Cartooning" with the subtitle "It's a Magic World" and in his case, it must have been. Although drawn and sold to over the counter girly cartoon pulp digests, these figures are always clothed (in dresses Lady Gaga could only imagine, if that) and although emotions are at a peak, for the guys anyway, the gags are always harmless, human and honest. Great work from a great artist. Kresse went on to do panel work for New York Daily Papers and had a series for which he became well-known, "Super Duper" and even worked with Terrytoons. An under appreciated master who created work which looks better today than it did 50 years ago.
by Jim Linderman
A nice note from DEVLIN adds the following : Kresse also did work in ARCHIE'S MADHOUSE in the mid-'60s, which stuck out like a sore thumb stylistically. I never learned his name until reading an article about his newspaper work in an issue of HOGAN'S ALLEY.
Circa 1940 Keychain with Lenticular Dancing Girls (Hip action)
collection Jim Linderman
Dull Tool Dim Bulb BOOKS CATALOG
I am not keeping score, like the blond in bed...but it looks like I may be able to solve a vintage sleaze mystery here. Questions arose on the Jack Kirby Museum site about one Joe Albister, the Argentinian who worked for Simon and Kirby briefly in the mid 1950s. Was he the same as Joaquin Albistur, the sleaze cartoonist who drew for Humorama in the 1960s? Looks like it here. Signatures the same...I reckon Joe picked up some quick cash drawing some sexy gags.
Jack Kirby is, of course, comic legend. Can you say Captain America, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four and the X-men? No wonder he has a museum. Link to comic nerd controversy and the Kirby Museum HERE.
Original drawing by Joaquin Albistur, Printed 1959 and reprinted 1967 in Humorama Digests. Collection Jim Linderman
The bottom of the bin for a sleaze gag artist. Tiny little digests of crud with reproduction quality to match. The cartoons, reduced to the size of a quarter in some cases, were frequently racist, always sexist and with very little finesse. These little stapled books were given to your grandfather as he shopped for a car...you know....the equally sleazy salesman would slip it to you as the misses was circling the car. "Between you and me pal, just you and me" You won't find many of the masters in these, and if you do, the company probably forgot to send the check.
Okay, with this post I'm going to take a few days off to finish up a book. Feel free to browse the archives and shop the books! Dull Tool Dim Bulb Books.
Gag books, each 3" x 5" Premiums. Circa 1960. Collection Victor Minx
Dispensed from clunky machines from the 1920s on, Arcade Cards are postcard size, though often a bit thicker, and usually have no divided back like the kind you mail home. It seems to me the ones still floating around, by FAR, are fake cowboy stars and bad actors...I've even seen one of stiff newspaper gossip and toastmaster Ed Sullivan, though why anyone...ANYONE, would want a card of him is truly beyond my comprehension. The most beautiful are the Mutascopes...vibrant colored dames in garters Grandpa would sneak home. These fall in between...babes, but mere duotones. Still, I think one would hide them from the misses.
Set of Arcade Cards, circa 1930. Collection Victor Minx
Tomcat magazine was published by PURRsonality Publishing company (I am not kidding) and this is an issue from 1957. I don't think I have to add much more.
Tomcat Magazine 1957 Collection Victor Minx
Unfortunately, many, if not MOST vintage sleaze postcard illustrators are lost to history. Some achieved a degree of fame, but they were for the most part well-known pinup artists who just happened to have their images put on cards. Much less known are the souls who cranked them out specifically for cards by the thousands in the 1950s. Very few rose out of the postcard pack. I suspected Ed Bortz was from the Western side of Lake Michigan, as the company which printed his fantastic drawings was located in Milwaukee...and I speculated his cards came over to Michigan on the ferry as so many of his images were the type aimed at deer hunters who wanted to let the wife know they made it up north okay and weren't shot by mistake yet.
Sure enough, I heard from a member of Mr. Bortz family! I won't mention his name, but Ed Bortz was indeed based in Milwaukee. He did menu images, ads and other interesting commercial work, including drawings for Usingers meat (sponsors of the Milwaukee Brewers) and also painted the numbers on automobile race cars! It is always nice to receive feedback from folks who can provide even tiny bits of information on these under-appreciated and often unknown artists.
As for the work, his subjects and gags were standard postcard fare, but boy, could he draw a dame. The red and black duotone cards certainly stood out on a rack, and I suspect Ed could have been far better known had he sent drawings to the tons of cartoon based digest sleaze magazines of the time. Good stuff, with a far more individualistic signature style than most illustrators of "risque" cards.
Collection of Ed Bortz Postcards 1954-1955 Collection Victor Minx
Amatory adventures and Oriental Love!
Panurge Press was run by Esar Levine, who served time in prison for selling obscene books in 1926. He is today best known for his efforts representing the writer Frank Harris, who was also a victim of censorship. Today, the Esar Levine papers and correspondence with Frank Harris are deposited at the Princeton University Library Manuscripts Division. The books Levine published were small editions with print runs of some 2000 at most. More information on the publisher is included in the highly recommended Bookleggers and Smuthounds book written by Jay Gertzman (shown below). Purient Panurge publications included the following:
• A Strange Love: A Novel of Abnormal Passion by Georges Eekhoud • The Erotic History of France by Henry L. Marchand • The Sotadic Zone by Sir Richard Burton • Black Lust by Jean de Villiot • Chastity Belts by Esar Levine • Eunuchs, Odalisques and Love by Nicholas Fromaget • Madame Sex by Dr. Isaac Goldberg • The Gods of Generation by J.-A. Dulaure • Erotic Fairy Tales by the Abbe de Voisenon • The Arabian Art of Loveby Carlisle E. Viman • The Merry Nights of Straparola • Bestiality: An Historical, Medical, Legal and Literary Study by Gaston Dubois-Dessaule • Les vies des dames galantes
Curiously, I found this obscure advertisement in, of all places, Railroad Stories Magazine October 1934. I guess Esar thought conductors only needed one hand on the throttle.
NOTE from the author. Two wonderful comments on this post, one from a prominent author, the other from the child of a longtime railroad family. THANKS to BOTH.
"Jim: thanks for the link to your vintage sleaze blog. Great stuff. I collected the Panurge Press, and Falstaff Press, books and adverts at one time. Actually, I think I saw one of their larger ads in the opening shot of the film "Four Rooms." The old bellhop had it pasted to his wall. It doesn't surprise me that these "sexology" presses advertised in mags like Railroad Stories. Any material men bought would bring in some coupons. Any magazine that would be found in a barber shop or cigar store, let alone a cat house, or a newsstand, was fair game."
A throw away comment, I know, but until very recently conductors never touched an engine throttle. That's what engineers did. Completely different career paths, different unions, different responsibilities, etc. As far as I know, from growing up in a family of railroaders (my dad was an engineer), conductors didn't have a clue how to operate a locomotive and wouldn't have known a throttle from a johnson bar.Since cabooses were removed from most US railroads, things have changed and now conductor is the middle step in the three step "brakeman-conductor-engineer" careeer path. Otherwise, as always, very interesting. I'd love to read some of these gems.
Reverse the words in the title and you might have the intention of the publisher. You see, this was one digest with a brilliant, if misguided and devious idea...to separate themselves from the pack of detective fiction magazines on the stand, they added gruesome, violent and brutal sex. The formula worked for a few years, 6 issues per. This issue from 1961 fits right in the middle, the title appears to have gone to off beat pulp hell by 1963. The authors used pseudonyms (duh...I would too) but included Harlan Ellison (!) Robert Silverberg, Ed Hoch and Lawrence Block. Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine was the same size and sat right next to this on the newsstand cover. Which you YOU pick? The portly filmmaker rendered somewhere on the cover, or this demented fellow with two babes strapped to stretch boards, not yet satisfied, and after a third? The rather primitive subscription pitch and that the few ads which usually run 1 inch in most magazines take up a full page here are indications of the shaky ground Off Beat rested on.
Off Beat Detective Stories September 1961 Collection Jim Linderman
For over 50 years, the extraordinary Hand-Painted Original Photographs of Bettie Page and nude models of the 1950s taken by Rudolph Rossi lay hidden. Now, for the first time, over 100 have been published in Camera Club Girls by Jim Linderman. 114 pages, 35 pages of text and 180 pictures, the book tells the story of the informal groups of early camera enthusiasts in New York City who paid ten dollars each to photograph naked women, including Bettie Page, in dingy studios and outdoor excursions. As much the history of early erotic photography and Times Square smut as it is the story of the exceptional personal vision of an artist, master photographer and painter which has not been told until now. The photographic find of the decade, and an amazing story which combines passion, painting, photography and early porno in a tale never told. Preview 15 pages of the book at HERE
Okay, now I do not have a "thing" for feet. In fact, I prefer women in hiking boots. But some do, and it is de rigueur for any sleaze cartoonist to know how to draw them. Early primitive painters had trouble accurately representing hands and feet, so they usually hid them. It worked, and it made the paintings cute and charming too. But today's (and yesterday's) dirty comic fan wants to see the toes sticking out of shoes with heels a foot tall. Get it? A "foot" tall. Just repeat the vintage sleaze cartoon foot mantra "Smaller and Taller" and you'll be fine.