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Thursday, January 06, 2005
Playboy: 50 Years The Cartoons
Bet you never thought you'd see this book reviewed here, did you? Well, if it weren't for Hugh Hefner's sense of humor, this page probably wouldn't even be here. Let me back up and explain that a bit.
As a kid, the only comics I ever read were Disney comics bought in the three-packs that the local grocery store carried, and some tabloid sized reprints of Disney comics and EC science-fiction comics. Very rarely a Batman or Wonder Woman comic would be bought for me, on the basis that I liked the television shows so therefore I must like the comics as well. And, eventually, I found my grand-father's Playboys. Unsurprisingly, I was bored to tears by all the naked ladies that kept interrupting the articles and the cartoons. But those cartoons could keep me fascinated for hours. Through Playboy I was introduced to the best cartoonists and illustrators working. Playboy introduced me to Gahan Wilson, Jules Feiffer, Harvey Kurtzman, Doug Sneyd, Eldon Dedini, Will Elder and Jack Davis. It didn't take me long to learn to go through an issue and pick out different artists by their distinctive styles and learn which were executing their craft with the most wit and talent. In other words, Playboy trained me to have some taste and discrimination in my choice of artists, or at least was an important step along the way.
This book collects the best of the single-panel gag strips that have appeared in Playboy during it's first fifty years of publication, along with selected comic strips that have appeared in the magazine. Sadly no "Little Annie Fanny" is included, though Dark Horse has an excellent two-volume collection reprinting the entire run of the strip. Most of the cartoons are reprinted full-page, and on these glossy, over-size pages they are truly marvelous to behold, with strong clarity and color. What's also noteworthy is how timeless most of the cartoons feel. Very few of them feel aged or quaint, and the occasional bites of satire at moral hypocrisy and narrowness still strongly resonate. And the cartoons that do occasionally feel to be "of their time" stand as testaments to the longevity of the magazine. One in particular bears pointing out. A boy at a boarding school refuses to take down an old pin-up from Playboy off of his wall. The model is his grandmother, you see.
There was no update this morning because I over-slept. I over-slept because I forgot to set my alarm clock. I forgot to set my alarm clock because City of Heroes updated on Tuesday, and so Rum Red and the rest of his team on Victory have been busy; averting a gang war between the Tsoo and the Family, stopping a mage war between the Circle of Thorns and the Banished Pantheon, recovering all the pieces of the legendary Wheel of Destruction before it can fall into the wrong hands, and trying to stop The Council from taking over complete control over Striga Island...