Monday, August 31, 2009

Starfire

Also serialized in the Saturday Evening Post as Moon Pilot and made into a movie of the same name by the Walt Disney Company.

Story by Robert Buckner (1960).
Artist uncredited, seems familiar but not enough to declare with any certainty.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

You've gone to infinity and beyond, baby

Illustration for Underestimation, from Rocket Stories (September 1954).
Story by Alger Rome with art by Eberle.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Porny Mason

Throughout the two decades prior to the 1970s publishers had pretty much saturated the market with reprinted science fiction, adventure and mystery and were searching for new consumers. The 1970s offered a new opportunity in marketing. Continuing the practices of the 1950s and 1960s previously published stories were repackaged and some cases edited to take advantage of the perceived growing culture of sexual adventurism.

Sex and sexuality was explored as never before in popular culture media as cinema, television and print added eye-catching imagery to their products. One of those franchises that took advantage and one might say suffered from the advertising culture were the Earle Stanley Gardner Perry Mason collections of the 1970s. The Perry Mason character had been in nearly continual print and produced in other entertainment forms since the first story was published in 1933.

The photographic covers of the 1970s re-issues of the Perry Mason stories are a perfect example of recognizing, understanding and exploiting pop culture. Gone were the bombshells and hard-boiled dames of previous years. Now the books attracted a new audience by taking advantage of the pornography industry's emerging though short-lived legitimization.

Thematically most of the photographs would not be out of place if transferred to the film box covers of 8mm skin flicks. They were unapologetic come-ons. While the sexy covers may have generated some sales I recall that my mother and grandmother, who were ESG and Perry Mason fans from way back and read mystery novels on a regular basis, would not touch these books when they debuted. The idea put forth by the covers of Perry Mason, a mental image undoubtedly influenced by years of exposure to Raymond Burr, boinking his clients during huge orgies must have been a turn-off for them. I know that it is for me.

As far as I know new scenes of swinging, weed-fueled bacchanals were not edited into the old stories, though that was not true for all of the work in other fields. Sex scenes were often added semi-randomly to many reprints, most predominately for the science fiction crowd. Often I was surprised to discover SF stories that I had read in old collections when reprinted had several paragraphs tossed in devoted to sex scenes. Undoubtedly in order to keep the interest of a reader and hook them for future sales.

If Diamond Bomb had existed to have her adventures reprinted in the early 1970s then her artistic covers may have been similar to all the others on the news stands and would have been just as exploitative. One exception to the sexy themes of the covers would be the intent of the art. Being a female character it would be unlikely that Diamond would be portrayed as dominant a character as Perry Mason had been. In diametric opposition to whatever established characterization existed, Diamond would almost certainly be depicted not as strong or an aggressor but as being submissive, willing and sexy, a toy for the other characters and an intriguing tease for the prospective buyer.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I'm the only Darb here

Diamond Bomb - Dalliance Is Murder (May 1939)

I'm having a blast with the my new mystery-thriller-pulp character, Diamond Bomb. It may not be worth a visit here to anyone else but there are no comic books featuring Krypto out this week yet and as much as I enjoy Green Lantern there isn't anything I can add to the discussions that are already out there. All the Diamond Bomb posts are is provenance, anyhow.

Here's a wiki page mock-up about the character featuring actor Joan Blondell as the character.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes

Red Obama

Swallow the tablet for printer-friendly pdf file.

Knot A Bad Girl

In the 50s and 60s and even well into the 70s old pulp series found new audiences as the relatively inexpensive and in some cases, public domain, stories of the 30s and 40s were repackaged as cheap paperback books. While considered to be disposable entertainment by both the industry and consumers many of these books featured the work of artists who were masters of their craft and examples of their work are much sought after by collectors. The nature of the industry and the readers of the time ensured that mint copies of the books are exceedingly rare and in many cases the original art is lost forever.

One of the more popular artists of the era was R. A. Maguire, who specialized in his depictions of sexy, dangerous women. Maguire typically turned in a classic work no matter the theme, whether it be crime, adventure or sleaze.

If Diamond Bomb had existed to have her fictional Pulp adventures reprinted in the 60s boom of crime novels then I would definitely would have insisted she be envisioned by Maguire.

Original art The Brass Halo by R. A. Maguire. Check out his gallery at R. A. Maguire Cover Art , you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Diamond Bomb

Female lead characters were poorly represented in the Pulp Era of magazines. For the most part any magazines that featured women in the lead were usually written for titillation for male readers or the young adult female audience. Unless the book was aimed at the homemaker, no pulp titles with a woman carrying the series comes immediately to mind. So in a flash of inspiration that struck when I was browsing through some Pulp and Noir art I made one up.

Diamond Bomb is a tough, practical dame from the mean streets of the city who isn't afraid to use a gun. Her past is hidden in mystery but some whisper she was the favored gun moll of notorious bank robber and cop-killer Michael "Boatswain" Sweeney.

Rumor has it when she fell out of favor with the ultra-violent "Boatswain" Sweeney the former Moll was marked for death. The hard-boiled blond went on the run, determined to gain revenge for the murder of her sister by single-handedly taking down the greedy criminal empire of the "Boatswain" Mob.

The Diamond Bomb pulp magazine mock-up is based on the classic July 1947 Black Mask magazine cover by Norman Saunders. The Black Mask pulp cover was used because it featured a blond packing heat and was easy to manipulate. Ideally though, in my mind the character resembles a "Maguire Girl". I have one of the Robert Maguire paintings specifically in mind that I feel perfectly represents the character of Diamond. Once I get the book of his collected art out of storage I'll post it up.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I beg your pardon

Been on a bit of a 50s, 60s and 70s kick for my music for the last few weeks.



Just about every line in this song is quotable.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dog Pwned

Krypto featured in Wednesday Comics AND the new Adventure Comics series? Oh, heck yes! I'm all about any story featuring the Legacy Dog. More!

Adventure Comics #1 (October 2009)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Not shown: Nursing bottle filled with cola

A long time ago someone at Disney had the great idea that old American folk tales done in an animated style would make a great movie. The result was the 1946 live action and animated film Song of the South. Unfortunately, Hollywood and America of the 1940s was hardly a positive example of racial sensitivity and the execution of the Uncle Remus tales the film was based upon was, in hindsight, terribly managed. The main and wholly accurate complaints with the film is the depiction of African slaves as being happy, content and grateful for their subjugation. Caricatures that were fashionable and acceptable in popular entertainment of the era are numerous. Because of the way people were depicted and in spite of any artistic merits the film may contain it has not been fully released for the home audience in the intervening decades and only appears in the United States in heavily edited versions.

One of the more popular sequences was The Tar Baby, a tale in which the character of Brer Rabbit escapes from predators using reverse-psychology. For the uninitiated and anyone who grew up outside of the South after 1970 the term "Tar Baby" is a pejorative in relation to African-Americans. As a child in the late 60s watching this film in the drive-in I had no idea that the sticky trap represented anything other than what it appeared to be. In the Disney universe of walking, talking intelligent animals I didn't see anything unusual with Brer Rabbit engaging an inanimate object in conversation and expecting a reply. It is unlikely that the creators and audiences of the 40s thought the same and knew exactly what the sticky trap was supposed to represent, which is only one of the reasons the film was eventually pulled from syndication.

The marketing and exposure for some some sequences continued unabated. Stripped away from negative associations the fun and bouncy song Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah has regularly appeared in music collections and on various video releases since it was originally issued. Yet the mistakes of the past had a way of repeating into more contemporary times in spite of the decisions to suppress the less enlightened and insulting aspects of the film.

In 1958 Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies #8, under the Dell imprint, published a recipe for a "Tar Baby" treat as a one page fun feature. The snack, which kids could make at home or (I shudder to think) school, was a marshmallow creation covered with dark chocolate that resembles the sticky trap that Brer Rabbit ran afoul of in the Song of the South feature. In 1946 sheer ignorance and marketing inertia could explain the promotion of stereotyped caricatures of African-Americans though it would have been a little harder to justify in 1958. It could only have been utter stupidity when the decision was made to include the one-page recipe feature and reprint it in 1975 in Walt Disney's Showcase #28. By the 1970s everyone involved should have known better.

In the interest of parity I changed the recipe to make it more representative of the contemporary South and included it in this post, which you can click on to make double-wide size for easy viewing. For those who prefer the "warts and all" approach to history the original can be viewed here.

Note for people with IQ equal to their shoe size: Original recipe for educational purposes only. Please do not print out and share with your
Cousin-Spouses, pals in the unemployment line or distribute at Sunday school gatherings.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Insert obvious tasteless joke here

Sometimes corporate art and design is baffling. I'm all for unique and interesting art and architecture, particularly when it deviates from the shallow corporate template of the cookie-cutter-franchise. But these cut-out sheet-metal exterior panels for a Pacific Beach Jack in the Box are a mite odd.

Off hand I'd have to say the central design is supposed to represent the Jack-Sun shining Jack-Rays down on the world or maybe some sort of godhead beaming out waves of beneficent Jackness throughout the Universe. But what the design really looks like is an image borrowed from the Sex Ed course materials at Hamburger University.