The above is a drawing I did for Vintage Sleaze, a blog dedicated to showcasing the work of “forgotten, anonymous, and neglected sexy artists of the 1950s.” The site is an exhaustive, authoritative, and lovingly-compiled catalogue of risque art. It’s also a lot of fun to read. If you’re looking for someplace to start, my piece is here.
How I came to contribute to Vintage Sleaze is actually kind of an interesting story. A month or so ago, I was contacted by the site’s author, Jim Linderman. He had found my blog during a search for an (even more) obscure cartoonist by the name of Paul Swartz*. Lucky for me, Paul Swartz the Elder did his cartooning in the 1920s and 30s (when he was a lot less obscure), so I don’t have to worry about picking up a pen name…or driving him to do the same! Anyway, Jim liked my work enough to ask me to contribute to his new series “Contemporary Vintage Sleaze,” in which cartoonists of today channel early and mid-twentieth century smut, producing risque works that are retro in style, substance, or both. It’s an honor to be numbered among accomplished contributors like Vanessa Davis, Gary Panter, and Antonio Lapone (who I’ve only just discovered through this series). When you’re reading back through the archives, be sure not to miss the debut entry by the lovely Lena Chandhok!
I’m not exactly sure what my illustration is supposed to be. It’s got a Deco sensibility, with a heavy infusion of Swartz, and is meant as an homage to 1920s poster work. I’m undecided, though, on whether it’s supposed to be a poster for a patriotic burlesque that might have been, or an allegorical cartoon about the ravenous lust/blinding love that the men of the world felt for America (personified here by Lady Liberty). Also, is the cartoon Nativist (cruelly caricaturing the immigrants as ravening wolves, set to defile the New World), or does it sympathize with them; Lady Liberty’s sly smirk portending trouble for her suitors? Maybe it’s just a goofy drawing that reminds us that the fantasies, promises, conquests, and betrayals by which we build nations are the same tools we use in the pursuit of romance.
One weird thing I did learn while working on this drawing is that I have a preoccupation, apparently, with the Statue of Liberty. This is not the first sexy Statue of Liberty I’ve drawn. She also appears in “Jaws of Defeat,**” stonewalling a giant JFK on the prowl. I also have a “Mockingbird” chapter cover that features Irving’s face on the famous statue. So that’s weird. When he spoke at our school last year, Vermont’s first Cartoonist Laureate, James Kochalka talked about the self-knowledge you gain by, in his case, drawing daily diary comics for a decade. One of the weirdest discoveries he made was that, over the years, he had drawn two unrelated strips in which he mused (not eagerly, I should be clear) about having sex with trees. That talk stuck with me and it was fun to suddenly have a quirky discovery like he did. Still, I’m glad that mine was mine and his was his.
Finally, on another note, if you live anywhere near Northampton, Mass., or anywhere in the Upper Valley, really, you should come see Lena and me at the Paint and Pixel Festival on April 16th. It’s only $4 for adults and $2 or free for kids (depending on their age). We’ll be there with our own table, but a slew of other CCSers will be there too, manning a school booth and leading workshops. Even if you’re not in the area, check out our slick profiles on the site’s main page! Just click on the image displayed to see more pics and a bio.
* Jim was kind enough to send me five original pages by the original Paul Swartz, which are a lot of fun and surprisingly relevant to my interests. They tend to portray forgotten Vaudevillians of the 1930s, which is what my “Mockingbird” comic is all about. I’ll be sure to scan them and post them sometime.
** I’ve really got to post the rest of this.