Book Review The Pin Up Art of Humorama by Alex Chun Jacob Covey Fantagraphics Books
The best part of Alex Chun's new book Humorama is that it brings back Jefferson Machamer. That is not the only good thing, but it makes up for decades of neglect and he is certainly deserving contemporary attention.
My review will be biased as I both collect and write about the same cartoonists on Vintage Sleaze often, and I have linked to some of my pieces here.
The less than best part is the lack of biographical material on the artists. A brief essay by Howard Chaykin is nice enough and mentions a few of his favorites, but the notes by Alex Chun add so little to what we know about these pioneer penmen. I was hoping for more. The book is not slight, as there are 215 pages, but some research and artist notes would have been much appreciated. Fantagraphics is not about words, but still.
There is one significant error. Chun refers to Stan Goldberg as "...the only surviving member of the Humorama fraternity" when I received a letter from the brilliant Bill Kresse, who fortunately also has splendid work included in the book, a mere two weeks ago. His modern drawings for Humorama rank among the best, and in my opinion of all the artists was one of the most interesting.
There are other artists who sold work to the Humorama line of digests still living as well, so that sentence clearly should be struck.
It is nice to see so many forgotten artists...Louis Magila, whose bizarre collage pieces are reprinted here certainly for the first (and last) time, Homer Provence, Stanley Rayon, Kirk Stiles, Ramon Henri, Vic Martin, Lowell Hoppes (ALL of whom I have profiled on Vintage Sleaze the Blog) and even Camill, who I haven't yet tried to trace. There is some Lynn Harrison work, who later went on to do the most accomplished work for Sex to Sexty magazine. There is also work by the mysterious "STARK" who I believe is also still living but changed his style considerably.
As the original cartoons (and as they were printed in the magazines) were black and white, designer Jacob Covey adds color. It does not hurt the now yellowed originals, and I like it fine. It is in keeping with the spirit of the originals, and it is likely they would have been so treated if cheapskate Abe Goodman had been willing to pay for it. Covey does a good job of creating the Humorama shades...bright primary colors now pale from age.
As with Chun's earlier volumes in the series, it is fantastic to see this work brought back. The original digests were pervasive and invasive...they once arrived by the pallet to newsstands all over the country, but because of their risque and sexist slant, they've been Orwelled right out of our world. It is nice to see them presented here as the art they were. Other than their super-busty raunch (and the occasional spanking) the girly gags of Humorama have aged well because they were hidden for some fifty years. They are also harmless, sometimes woman-friendly and FUNNY.
Alex Chun has published similar volumes for Fantagraphics on Bill Wenzel, Jack Cole, Bill Ward, Dan DeCarlo and Dan Flowers. All are recommended.
(Jim Linderman writes about forgotten sleaze artists of the 1950s and 1960s on VINTAGE SLEAZE the blog, and his newest book TIMES SQUARE SMUT will be available soon)