Myrant Blue: Panting Panels & Adult Antics
Vintage Comics Not For Kids
WARNING: The following content, though non-explicit, may be offensive to some.
Proceed with Caution.
The SpiderBaby Archives are brimming with all kinds of rarities, and I thought I’d share some of the rarer “not for kids” fare to add some spice to this week’s kick-off of the all-new Myrant.
This is for mature readers only, folks, though I’ve been careful not to include anything too over the top. I know, I know—I’d say I’m getting soft in my old age, but that invites a pun about being harder in my youth, and I just don’t want to go there!
* I’ve managed to snag quite a few vintage Tijuana Bibles over the decades, and here’s just a sampler of a few of the less explicit covers from the collection. Some of my personal favorites are just too graphic to post on Myrant, but this will give you some idea of what the real McCoys looked like. I do bring a few into the Center for Cartoon Studies comics history classroom each year. Seeing is believing, and I always want my students to believe me.
I used to wonder why I’d heard a relative refer to these once as “smokers”—assuming, as a teenager, it was some oblique reference to “smoking” sexual antics—until I lucked into a plastic bag of them in an antique shop. As many purchases over the years have repeatedly demonstrated, many of these 1930s-1950s well-worn minicomics (that’s what they are, and most likely the first!) reek of cigar and cigarette smoke!
* Since Alison Bechdel has a great brand-new graphic novel just out (Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama, highest recommendation!), Bob Schreck and his partner just got married this week, DC Comics is making such a big deal about one of their central characters coming out of the closet now (reckon flagging sales+President Obama finally backing gay marriage=comics sales ballyhoo that doesn’t involve killing anyone, at last), and Marvel Comics is ballyhooing a fictional gay wedding—well, because of all that, it seemed appropriate to dig into the SpiderBaby Archives and share a few samples of the earliest gay comics I’ve come acro—oh, I mean, found.
What’s the first? As I tell my CCS comics history students, never trust any historical declaration in comics of anything or anyone being “the first.” Nine times out of ten, once you think you’ve nailed “the first” whatever in comics, you find an earlier claim to the title eventually.
Most contemporary histories cite Howard Cruse‘s Gay Comix (debuted 1980); those who dig deeper may tag Rand Holmes‘s Harold Hedd (specifically a 1971 one-pager), or S. Clay Wilson‘s “Captain Pissgums and His Pervert Pirates” in Zap #3 (1968), though Touko Laaksonen aka “Tom of Finland” predates all of those, drawing gay cartoon illustrations and comics (many featuring Kake) for private collectors as early as the late 1950s and for publication during the 1960s. But one must look back further: there were, after all, numerous Tijuana Bibles featuring explicit LGBT characters and activities.
I managed to track down a couple of examples of gay comics by “A. Jay” featuring “Harry Chess, That Man From A.U.N.T.I.E.,” dating from 1965 (though the first is copyrighted 1964—the year The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a huge hit on NBC-TV). I was alerted to its existence via ads in men’s magazines in the late 1960s, advertising a collected edition of Harry Chess comics—alas, that’s a rarity I’ve never seen, much less been able to purchase at any point for the collection.
Here’s scans of the first-ever Harry Chess intro, from the March 1965 issue of Drum: Sex in Perspective (Vol. V, No. 1, pp. 7-10; cover pictured here), above and below.
“A. Jay” was the nom de plume of Allen J. Shapiro, and that elusive collected edition of Harry Chess strips was entitled The Uncensored Adventures of Harry Chess 0068 7/8: That Man from A.U.N.T.I.E. (1966). If anyone has a copy they’re willing to sell or part with, it would be a great addition to the CCS Schulz Library.
Shapiro was also Art Editor of the gay leather magazine Drummer; along with Harry Chess, he also did posters, ads, and illustration work for numerous gay bathhouses in the Bay area, establishing himself as a Stateside “Tom of Finland” competitor. Later Harry Chess adventures were reportedly published in the Gay Meatmen series (Winston Leyland, publisher), though I’ve never sought nor seen copies.
Here’s the earliest Harry Chess strip I’ve found in my travels, below.
It’s scanned from Tiger No. 2 (1966), published by DSI Sales out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and featuring articles credited to Drum—which, no doubt, is where this episode of Harry Chess originally appeared, too. The copy I have of Tiger No. 2 sports two covers: a tame inside cover (shown here, right), obviously intended for public display by removal of the explicit nude photographic color cover (not shown here; again, too explicit for blog display).
Enjoy—and note the ad at the bottom of the final page of this 3-page entry. Yep, it was just $1, and it predated Gay Comix by at least 14 years.
* Another early gay cartoonist was Joe Johnson, whose “Miss Thing” and “Big Dick” one-panel gag toons were fixtures of The Advocate beginning in 1970. I’ve only found, and read, the first-ever Joe Johnson paperback collection, …And So, This is Your Life, Miss Thing (1973, Funny Bone Press)—and it’s even signed by the cartoonist. I don’t want to split the spine scanning the interior pages, so you’ll have to be satisfied with this front cover scan, featuring both of Joe‘s characters. Take my word for it, Johnson was an accomplished pen-and-brush cartoonist, with as expressive and fluid a brushline as any mainstream cartoonist of the era, and his art had more vigor and life than “A. Jay” mustered with his blockier, cruder style.
* Given the voracious, expansive, all-encompassing scope of my comics collection, there’s ample examples of all manner of sexual preferences & proclivities amid the rare adult comics in the long white boxes, shelves, and flat files, including every underground comic I ever laid my hands on (I love the undergrounds; they’re what prompted me to pursue a career in comics!). There’s also a few choice Eric Stanton publications I’ve lucked into over the decades.
Given the summer movie blockbusters busting out of the Marvel Comics empire (now a corporate umbrella/acquisition of Disney), it seems timely to share one of the many early 1960s Eric Stanton adult comics that clearly show the hand and handiwork of a certain co-creator of The Amazing Spider-Man. This one has been reprinted (as have been all the Stanton works, it seems) in multiple formats, under multiple titles.
The copy I have in my collection is in an uncopyrighted booklet entitled Winner Takes All! and Other Stories, a digest-sized chapbook featuring only one of the infamous Eric Stanton/Steve Ditko collaborations, reprinted under the title “No Holds Barred.” Another story in Winner Takes All!, entitled “Don’t Pick Up Strangers!,” suggests possible Ditko collaboration, though it’s not as blatantly apparent as in “No Holds Barred” (perhaps Ditko pencils, in part, only? Who knows—Steve isn’t saying, and I’m not asking, even if I could).
I’ve seen the following strip reprinted under other titles, too. The first time I saw one of the Stanton/Ditko collaborations was in the Joe Kubert School, in 1977—no, it wasn’t part of our studies. One of John Totleben‘s classmates, Mike Wallster, brought a copy of one of the Stanton digest-sized adult comics pamphlets in one day, and he was going apeshit over it. It was quite an eye-opener, and Mike couldn’t stop laughing over it—for days.
According to The Art of Stanton: Master of Bizarre: Book One (edited by Stefano Piselli & Riccardo Morrocchi, Glittering Images, 1993), this strip was originally entitled “Letter ‘A’” (published with the Stanton fan/fetishist’s letter, requesting this scenario by illustrated) in Stantoons #7 (1962).
Since there’s no explicit nudity in this strip (pun intended), and it’s really about as transgressive today as the Angelique roughhousing Barnabas coupling scene in the PG-13-rated Tim Burton movie Dark Shadows (see my review in the previous Myrant post, below), I reckon it’s OK to post these pages here without busting any taboos.
I saved the best for last: you’ll have to agree that the staging and delineation of the action in this strip is as vivid and beautifully executed as any action sequence in any of Steve Ditko‘s Marvel or Charlton comics of this period!
Next Week: Tame, Inoffensive, Tasteful Myrant Posts Only.
All artwork appearing in today’s post ©year of original publication & 2012, their respective copyright proprietors; all art is posted here for archival and educational purposes only. Really. Hey, I’m a comics history teacher.