Dan DeCarlo at Humorama (1956-63)

« Discovering this girlie mag stuff was like expecting a bike for Christmas and getting a car. » — Jaime Hernandez on his personal DeCarlo epiphany

As assiduous readers of this blog may already know, I don’t rate Dan DeCarlo (1919-2001) all that highly as an Archie artist. Simply put, once he committed himself fully to the publisher (in 1963), he strapped himself onto a treadmill of exploitation for the next several decades, and on-model hackwork quickly became the norm. Archie consumers (can we truly call it reading?) didn’t know or care then, or now, who produced the stuff, nor how.

While grinding out sexy panel cartoons for Abe ‘Martin’ Goodman’s Humorama line of girlie digests also constituted exploitation (at 15 bucks a pop, sometimes less), the results were sturdier and far more expressive, which is surprising, given that DeCarlo produced hundreds of these (at the cited figure* of ten a month, it adds up to over 800!) over the course of a mere seven-year span. But then DeCarlo was at his peak, having acquired sufficient experience (he’d gotten his start in the field in 1947), and he was hungry and brimming with stamina.

DeCarlo buddy / biographer Bill Morrison, in his fine preface to Alex Chun and Jacob Covey’s The Pin-up Art of Dan DeCarlo (2005, Fantagraphics), sadly out of print and nowadays quite costly (though volume 2’s still available from the publisher, hint hint!), recounts the way things went down:

« According to Dan, Stan Lee wanted to make a little extra money, so he offered to introduce Dan to the editor of the Humorama line of men’s humor magazines. In return for the introduction, Stan would collect 10% of the fee for every single panel gag cartoon Dan contributed. Dan saw this as an chance to develop as a magazine cartoonist, and he decided to pull out all the stops. Dan recalled, ‘So I did five, and I brought them over, all black and white wash, you know. I thought they were beautiful, and he [the editor] loved them. He paid me $15.00 each, and I had to give 10% to Stan!’ Dan soon decided not to continue doing the cartoons, even when Stan declined to take his cut. So the editor offered a compromise. He said, ‘Well, would it be easier if you just draw the situations, and I put the gags in?’ Dan agreed that would help to make it worthwhile. He had been paying his comic book inker Rudy Lapick $3.00 a piece to come up with the gags, so with that cost eliminated, he could nearly clear a full $15.00 on each cartoon after buying supplies. Incidentally, Dan later learned that Rudy had been swiping the gags cold from a book of Peter Arno’s New Yorker cartoons, so it’s probably a good thing that this arrangement didn’t continue. »

Here’s a baker’s dozen samples of what I deem the cream of the DeCarlo crop…. visually, anyway.


You’ve got to love the utterly blasé impresario and the ebullient talent scout. It’s to his eternal credit that DeCarlo somehow managed to keep things… if not squeaky clean, then somehow innocent, whatever the situation.




The pillow is a nice touch, both for elevation and for comfort.
Another delightful characterization, a loveably blasé tattooist. Business as usual.
It would have been heresy to *not* feature at least one “spanker”. Care for more details on this striking sub-genre? Look no further, friend.


As you can witness, the gags are a bit of an afterthought, a side dish to stock situations. Over the years, these cartoons were endlessly recycled, and the captions updated, though rarely… upgraded.

– RG

*valuable info from Bill Morrison.

More Playboy Cartoons for a Festive Mood!

« … every idiot who goes about with a ‘Merry Christmas‘ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. » — Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843)

Whoa, is the accursed Holiday Season upon us again already? Given the rather baffling (but greatly appreciated) popularity of our previous brochette of Christmas-themed Playboy cartoons, which took off in… April and just kept gathering steam, we’ve chosen to just go with the flow and present you with a sequel. We’ve had more time and opportunity to dig further, so we’ve cherry-picked a dozen, both naughty and nice, with plenty left over for next year. We’ve taken pains to include some of the worthy cartoonists who were somehow left out of last year’s legendary Playboy Cartoons for a Festive Mood.

Here we go, then. Season’s greetings and all that rot!

One from adorable bon vivant Eldon Dedini (1921-2006), previously spotlighted here.
A late-career entry from Rowland Bragg Wilson (1930-2005), from Playboy’s January, 2002 issue.
It was bound to happen: for a change, Santa decided to indulge in a little *taking* of his own. This mutely eloquent cartoon from the pages of Playboy is by the steady hand of Smilby, pseudonym of American blues-loving Englishman Francis Wilford-Smith (1927-2009).
Here’s a Dink Siegel piece I’d saved for this occasion, once more featuring his “roommates”. It debuted in Playboy’s December, 1969 issue. Feast your jaded eyeballs upon our recent Dink Siegel spotlight right here.
A lush yet understated œuvre by pioneering African-American genius Elmer Simms Campbell (1906-1971), from Playboy’s December, 1962 numéro.
Austrian künstlerisches Genie Erich Sokol (1933 – 2003), who for my money packs the strongest erotic charge of all the Playboy cartoonists, painted this marvel for the December, 1969 issue of Playboy.
We couldn’t, in good conscience, leave out Buck Brown’s famously naughty ‘Granny’. This undated cartoon is likely a marker preliminary.
Noted comic book artist Frank Thorne provides this whimsical quote from Clement Moore’s perennial The Night Before Christmas, featuring a gorgeous aurora borealis night sky. The candy cane keepsake is a lovely signature, Not-so-Saint-Nick.
For a change of pace, here’s an unctuously cynical one from Liverpudlian stunner Mike Williams (b. 1940); from Playboy’s January, 1982 issue.
A more colourful specimen of the lush artwork of Robert “Buck” Brown (1936 – 2007), another brilliant African-American whose Playboy work was but a single facet of his incisive, multifarious and socially-engaged œuvre.
I must confess that my fellow Canadian Doug Sneyd‘s (b. 1931 in Orillia, ON, birthplace of Gordon Lightfoot and Mitch the Ferret) style isn’t really my cup of tea. But my partner ds enjoys his work, and that’s good enough for me.
And last but not least, our dear Gahan Wilson, who just recently left us. Here’s our earlier salute to this macabre maestro. This bittersweet creation appeared in the October, 1964 Playboy.


Dink Siegel’s Swingin’ Roommates

« I have the best roommates in the world! It creates a fun sense of family… and that’s really important to me. Things can get so lonely without it. » — Kristen Bell

It’s late November, and, to quote John, the Wolfking of L.A., « All the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray ». Outside my window, just about everyone’s dressed for a funeral and there’s a traffic jam in dire shades of monochrome.

How did we come to this? Bah.

I think it first struck me how afraid of bright colour* we’d become, as a society, from years of ads for Bose’s odiously-designed Wave® sound systems, as consistently expensive are they are hideous (so they must sound fantastic!), circa the early 2000s.

Available in all your favourite colours, neither of which is technically a colour: Platinum White or Graphite Gray.
Be still my fluttering heart: in 2009, Bose figured “what the heck, let the paint chips fall where they may!” and introduced a new “colour”: yes baby, Titanium Silver!

Today, I’m going to (gasp!) restore some colour to your lives. This may lead to a sudden jolt, so avert your eyes if necessary.

Strictly speaking, I don’t have a favourite Playboy cartoonist — honestly, how could I, with that sumptuous, half-century-plus embarrassment of multifarious riches? Ah, but I certainly hold Leo ‘Dink’ Siegel (June 30, 1910 — Dec. 28, 2003) in quite lofty regard, thanks to his fantastic sense of design, his bold, delicious colour palette and his fastidious attention to detail (pay and treat your cartoonists well, and see what you get!). Today, I’ll concentrate on Siegel’s ‘roommates’ series; there’s generally a black pussycat hanging about, a fine furry bonus.

Here we go!

From Playboy Magazine (Mar. 1966). From what I can discern, Siegel mostly worked in gouache and coloured pencils.
From Playboy Magazine (Nov. 1966).
From Playboy Magazine (Dec. 1966). One can’t help but wonder whether Mr. Siegel had a sideline in interior design.
From Playboy Magazine (Aug. 1967). I see art students were always fairly blasés.
From Playboy Magazine (Sept. 1967).
From Playboy Magazine (Jun. 1968).
From Playboy Magazine (date unknown).
From Playboy Magazine (Mar. 1970).
From Playboy Magazine (Apr. 1970). I love that the girls seem to have an existence beyond the confines of the jokes: they have jobs, various hobbies and interests and, obviously, active social lives.
From Playboy Magazine (Aug. 1971).

– RG

*Oh, do check out this pseudo-scientific cluster of twaddle and pop-psych claptrap!

Tentacle Tuesday Masters: Rich Larson

American artist Richard Larson has had his ink-smeared fingers in many pies. He has drawn ghost stories for Charlton Comics (see our posts dealing with that here and here), followed by some underground comics, followed by Marvel super-hero portfolios, followed by his own series Demon Baby, followed by…. He often works in tandem with other artists, most notably with Tim Boxell and with painter Steve Fastner (see a gallery of their collaborations here).

« Steve Fastner and Rich Larson have been working in concert since 1976, and together they create one entity of staggering abilities. Rich will lay down the structure of an illustration in pencil form, and then Steve will attack it with army of airbrushes – and when the dust clears – a magnificent painting stands proudly. For over a quarter of a century, they’ve been able to do this, working for comics, book publishers, advertising agencies, movies and television, and now the web. » (quote from Fastner and Larson Gallery, 2002)


tothesurface-Rich Larson-Steve Fastner
Have you ever seen anybody looking so smug after having stabbed some creature to death?
Does the wild, groping beard of the old sea pirate count for tentacles? Indubitably. So does at least one of his hands.
This may be just a sea-serpent, but there are no pedants in this audience, right? Besides, those suckers are distinctly tentacle-like.
Fastner & Larson’s Beauties & Beasts (2010)

I would be remiss in not including a collaboration between Larson and underground comix artist Tim Boxell, whom I mentioned at the beginning of the post and then proceeded to neglect.

Art by Rich Larson and Tim Boxell

Speaking of beautiful women in varying states of undress… if I mention Haunted House of Lingerie to you, does it ring any bells? Does it sound like an intriguing concept? Then the first thing you should do is visit our Tentacle Tuesday: a Day at the Beach. Nothing like shameless self-promotion! But afterwards, you might want to seek out the three volumes published so far before the whole thing goes completely out of print.

~ ds

Donald McGill, King of Saucy Postcards

« Won’t you have a little rest when they turn out the lights
A nice cup of tea and you’ll be feeling alright
Don’t fret, you’ll recover yet you’ll see
So keep on sending dirty postcards back to me
Back to me, back to me » — James Warren/The Korgis (1980)

London-born Donald McGill (Donald Fraser Gould McGill, to be more precise, 1875-1962), was known for his risqué seaside postcards, sold mostly in souvenir shops in British coastal towns.

He painted the usual figures of fun in the noble tradition of British titillating humour: attractive young ladies, obese men, respectable drunks in the throes of a midlife crisis, cantankerous old ladies, religious personnel, courting couples (a lot of courting couples!), and so on. He painted well, he was prodigiously prolific… and he was not afraid of making jokes so off-colour they could possibly make a sailor blush. (I only have a vague idea of what sailors were like back then, you see.)

McGill ranked his own work according to its vulgarity, classifying it into “mild, medium and strong”. It goes without saying that the “strong” category sold in far greater numbers! Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), McGill’s postcards got him into trouble with upholders of the Moral Good (spoilsports!), culminating with McGill being dragged into court in 1954, when he was almost 80, for breaking the Obscene Publications Act of 1857. The result of this hearing was a hefty fine for McGill, and disaster for the companies producing saucy postcards, with several smaller companies going bankrupt as sales plummeted, cards were destroyed and retailers cancelled orders.

McGill very much died in the saddle: he continued to work until his death in 1962 (and with cartoons for 1963 already prepared). He certainly recycled some jokes, but I think it’s safe to say that he was not about to run out of material. The “king of the saucy postcard” is estimated to have produced around 12 thousand (!) paintings during his career, resulting in the sale of around 200 million postcards… and no royalties for McGill, mind, just his earnings of three guineas per design.

These days, he’s credited with an astute power of social observation and impressive artistic skill. He’s worthy of that praise, but what touches me most is that McGill gave people who surely needed some cheer in their lives a reason to smile, giggle and perhaps even daydream. Hell, some of these postcards made *me* daydream.

Okay, enough theoretical discussion! On to the indecency. I’ve roughly sorted these out by degree of (increasing) “vulgarity”. I honestly didn’t think the jokes would go beyond the “not indecent, but suggestive as hell” category, as per a definition my college best friend coined for something else altogether, yet some of them make surprisingly direct references. Isn’t it lovely to know that our great-grandmothers had their minds in the gutter, too?

In the category of “social commentary”.


I can’t decide whether this is just sweet and innocent or makes a reference to something far more lewd.




This particular postcard holds the world record for selling the most copies (a little over 6 million).





For further, ahem, study, view (or even purchase!) 24 banned (sauciest!) postcards right here, or visit the Saucy Seaside Postcards resort.

« McGill’s family was steadfastly respectable. He said of his two daughters: ‘They ran like stags whenever they passed a comic postcard shop.’ »

You can also take a gander at some sketches, which were unearthed in someone’s attic in 2015. As the article explains, « drawings feature fat old ladies, big busted women and lusty men. » While you’re at it, brush up on your Brit slang for the bedroom (entirely unnecessary for the current post, but fun!)

~ ds

Playboy Cartoons for a Festive Mood

With every passing year, I have more and more trouble getting into the spirit of Christmas (especially since all the snow has now melted). An early present of Rodney Crowell’s Christmas Everywhere helped a bit, but to speed things along some more – and before Christmas Eve takes me by surprise – I’d like to titillate everybody’s taste buds with this spread of Playboy Christmas cartoons.

Cartoon by Buck Brown (real name Robert Brown), an African-American cartoonist and painter, creator of the naughty (and adorable!) Granny.
Cartoon by Austrian Erich Sokol. A little linguistic tidbit: “sokol” means “hawk” in Russian.

And on the topic of bedding Santa Claus…

Cartoon by Canadian Doug Sneyd.
Eldon Dedini! (We ran an earlier exposé about him here.) Who needs naked women when you have the (slightly grabby) three magi?
Cartoon by the ineluctable Jack Cole! Don’t forget to take a peek at my mate’s post, The Unforgettable Jack Cole.
Cartoon by Phil Interlandi.

And, on a slightly morbid note, three cartoons by Gahan Wilson (who paints what he sees!)




~ ds

Newsflash: check out this post’s sequel, the imaginatively-titled More Playboy Cartoons for a Festive Mood!

Georges Pichard: Throwing Curves

In 1946, Georges Pichard (not sure who he is? Visit our Pichard’s Distressing Damsels for an overview of his later work), heretofore toiling in a marketing agency, started his career as an illustrator. He worked for various French magazines and newspapers (like Le Rire, Fou-Rire and Les Veillées des Chaumières), providing them with covers, cartoons and pin-ups in black-and-white or gorgeous watercolour until the mid 70s, when he switched gears somewhat and dedicated himself to erotic bandes dessinées.

I left image imperfections (due mostly to yellowing of paper over time) and hand-written captions (when available) as is, as I find they provide pleasant texture and context. The jokes are really lame, but we translated them, anyway.

The following three cartoons were published in Le Rire sometime in the early 60s:



« I’m the sort of guy who’s kind of like an iceberg, the main part is beneath the surface. » The man in question looks very much like a V.I.P. type.

The following are all from Fou-rire:

Cover of Fou-rire n°12, mid-50s. « It’s not because I’m playing the bagpipes that you have to take me for a gallant shepherd! »
GeorgePichard- LERIRE76- janvier 1958.
Cartoon from Fou-Rire n° 76, early 60s. « Please be assured, my dear friend, that we are all here quite touched by your wife’s endeavours to set a mood… ».
Cartoon from Fou-Rire n° 118, early 60s.  « It would be prudent to seal up your chimney, because when I tell the boss about this… »
Fou-Rire n° 118, mid 60s. « And to think that I’ve mislaid the key to this chest full of outfits, each more decent than the last… »

Finally, a couple of pretty loose ends:

Original art from Le Rire magazine, 1960s. « But the funniest part happened before I ran into the police officer! »
Early 60s.

~ ds

Helen Case: Girlie Cartoonist With a Twist

« At one time, I sold general cartoons to some of the men’s magazines, the girlies — until I went into a newsstand one day and looked at one. » — Betty Swords

If female cartoonists were fairly uncommon in the American mainstream magazine field for much of the twentieth century, they were doubly so within the so-called girlie mags.

« During the 1950s, Abe Goodman — brother of Marvel Comics publisher Martin Goodman — was the largest buyer of cartoons in the world. Publishing out of New York City under the Humorama banner, Goodman churned out scores of cheap digest-sized magazines boasting inventive titles like Romp, Stare and Joker that featured hackneyed jokes, cheesecake photos and the publications’ bread and butter, single panel pin-up cartoons.

These magazines were an unlikely proving ground for neophyte gag cartoonists as well as a welcomed alternative to the daily grind of comic book sweatshops. In the 1950s and 1960s, these digests featured the likes of Playboy’s Jack Cole, Archie’s Dan DeCarlo and glamour girl legend Bill Ward. »

While I can unreservedly recommend Alex Chun and Alex Covey’s The Pin-Up Art of Humorama (Fantagraphics, 2011), I’m frankly puzzled as to its wholesale snubbing of Helen Case, who might have brought a welcome bit of variety to the all-male revue. God knows some lesser lights did make the cut.

While feminist cartoonist Betty Swords would likely have dismissed Case’s protagonists the way she did Barbara Shermund‘s, as « gold diggers, dames — amateur prostitutes », Case’s cartoons (I’m afraid I don’t know whether she wrote and illustrated, or simply illustrated… at Humorama’s pauper’s rates, the former is somewhat preferable) provide a refreshing female perspective to the battle of the sexes. To quote Betty Swords again (from R.C. Harvey‘s excellent Insider Histories of Cartooning (2014, University Press of Mississippi): « I remember one editor who shuffled through my cartoons then tossed them on the desk and said, ‘You gal cartoonists are all alike — you don’t attack and hit hard enough! »

While scant information is available regarding Ms. Case (she appears to have lived in Kingston, New York in the early 1960s), at least online, much of her work survives, which surely has to count for something. We present some of the finer cuts, and if the gags aren’t transcendentally great, they are a brace o’ notches above the average knuckle-dragging drollery pervading the pages of  Breezy, Snappy or Eyeful of Fun. Most of these gags were drawn and initially published (Humorama’s cheapskate policy was to print, reprint, and reprint again) between 1960 and 1964. Enjoy!



Shel Silverstein: Without Borders

« I’m not content when I’m traveling, but I’m not content when I’m not traveling. So I guess I’ll keep traveling. » – Shel Silverstein

Another one of those nice Jewish boy geniuses, Sheldon Allan Silverstein (1930-1999) was born eighty-eight years ago, on September 25, 1930, in Chicago, Illinois. Uncle Shelby lived life to the fullest, creatively in every respect. He tried his hand at many things, and what do you know? He succeeded at every often-unlikely turn, sometimes artistically if not commercially, but generally on both counts: cartoonist, singer, songwriter, screenwriter, poet, actor, playwright, children’s book author, bon vivant, raconteur and lover… yet his dad was never impressed. Old man Nathan wanted his son to join him in selling furniture. Some obstacles are just plain insurmountable.

Once more, faced with the daunting prospect of discussing a prolific and versatile creative soul, it seems well-advised to concentrate on a tiny area of his roadmap. And so…

In 1957, Playboy magazine founder and esteemed patron of cartoonists Hugh Hefner entrusted Shel with a special assignment, that of roaming the Earth and recording his special impressions. The results, published between 1957 and 1968, were twenty-three travelogues brimming with the gregarious Silverstein spark and spirit. But he first had to be sold on the approach. According to Hefner, in his foreword to the definitive collection “Playboy’s Silverstein Around the World” (2006), « I envisioned something along the travel letters Ernest Hemingway submitted to Esquire — A sort of personal diary that would be dispatched from around the globe. Shel was uncomfortable in that role. He didn’t want to include himself, but I persisted. And I’m glad I did. What we got back in those drawings was narrative storytelling of a very personal manner. We saw Shel establish himself as a character.»

From “Return to Tokyo” (May, 1957).
From “Silverstein in Paris” (January, 1958).
From “Silverstein in Moscow” (March, 1958).
From “Silverstein in Greenwich Village” (September, 1960).
From “Silverstein in Hollywood” (January, 1968).
From “Silverstein Among the Hippies” (August, 1968).
Shel at work in Italy (1958); photograph by John Reid, Jr.

Let’s leave off with these revealing words from Playboy photographer Larry Moyer: « He was one of the funniest guys I ever knew — and it was never at anybody’s expense. A lot of humor is based on putting other people down. I don’t remember one time Shel ever put anybody down in his work — and that’s something. » That’s something indeed, now more than ever.

– RG

Don Flowers, Sadly Neglected Cartoonist

« …the finest line ever to be bequeathed to a cartoonist. It dances; it snaps gracefully back and forth. » (Coulton Waugh in “The Comics”, 1947)

That description was written à propos of Don Flowers (1908 – 1968) and his art. Some of you may remember seeing Glamor Girls in your favourite gazette – at the height of its popularity, this syndicated strip ran in about three hundred newspapers. This story goes thus: Flowers, working for AP Newsfeatures, created a few strips, namely Oh, Diana!, Puffy the Pig, and Modest Maidens. The first two achieved very modest success, but the third one was a huge hit, so much so that newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst (displaying his usual impeccable taste in comics) offered Flowers double salary if he came to work for Hearst’s King Features. Since AP owned the rights to Modest Maidens, the strip was renamed into Glamor Girls. Flowers drew Glamor Girls, both dailies and Sundays, until his death by emphysema in 1968.

His art is quite lovely – but I don’t expect you to take my word for it. Here are some examples. (All strips below have been published by King Features syndicate between 1958 and 1963.)


« That Flowers is not better known is both a pity and a surprise, especially given his technical expertise and the recent renaissance in the popularity of the pin-up genre. Whether blondes or brunettes, showgirls or housewives, Flowers rendered them flawlessly and elegantly, and always with equal aplomb. » (Alex Chun in Glamor Girls of Don Flowers, Fantagraphics, 2006).


«…There are things that never change, especially the early foundations. For better or worse they become part of your style. And as I continue to draw, every time I look at a page I think to myself, that nose is an Oski nose, that body is a VIP body, and every time I draw a beautiful woman, I think – no, I wish – she is as beautiful as a woman drawn by Don Flowers. » (Sergio Aragonés in his introduction to Glamor Girls of Don Flowers, Fantagraphics, 2006)



Flowers’ art looks as good, if not better, in old-fashioned black-and-white, which is often the case with artists who have a fluid inking line. The original art for some Glamor Girls strips allows us to admire details:




After his death, Flowers’ son self-published Standing on Ceremony, a collection of marriage-themed cartoons plucked from his vast collection of his father’s original art. You can see some of them here.

~ ds