CATS—IN CARTOONS ABOUT HOOKERS
A Jam of Tarts, An Anthology of Pros, A Fanfare of Strumpets
and Barenekkidwimmin Galore
THE MOST ACTIVE PERIOD of my so-called cartooning career took place between 1978 and 1982. During that time, I freelanced single-panel gag cartoons to magazines. I produced a “batch” of 20 finished cartoons about once a month. I did the rough drawings during lunch hours at my desk in the office where I worked full-time at another occupation. On weekends at home, I’d convert the roughs to finished drawings. When I had 20 ready to go, I’d put them in an envelope addressed to a cartoon editor at a selected magazine, enclose a self-addressed stamped return envelope to make it easy for the editor to return the cartoons he didn’t buy, and ship the thing off.
Cartoonists with reputations in the business submit only rough drawings to editors because the editors know what the finished art would look like. With me, they didn’t; so I sent in finished art. If an editor bought one of my cartoons, he just held it instead of returning it and asking for finished art. The cartoons he didn’t buy, he returned to me, using the self-addressed stamped return envelope.
As all freelance magazine cartoonists do, I sent my batches of cartoons around to several magazines (in succession, not all at once), beginning with the ones that paid the highest amount and then going down a list from the next highest paying to the lowest.
The complete story of my freelancing career as a magazine cartoonist is belabored in tedious detail in Harv’s Hindsight for February 29, 2012, so I won’t do much more here except what I’ve just done to set the scene. Here, we’ll explore a single batch of cartoons I did on a very specific, if lascivious, topic—namely, the amorous life of prostitutes.
But before we get to those, a short interlude.
As I mentioned in the Hindsight piece, I did two kinds of cartoons: ”generals” (all topics, aimed at general interest magazines, of which there were still a few then) and men’s magazines (i.e., “girlie” mags, of which there were more then than there are now).
Here is a smattering of my favorite “generals,” which I’ve included here just to prove that I can draw something other than barenekkidwimmin.
I like the pet shop cartoon because the kid’s behavior is both extreme and logical. But the shop clerk’s panic in the distance is also highly comic. The atmospherics—the fish tanks in the background and baskets hanging on the wall—seem to suggest the locale. I like the hungry baby and the poet and his wife because it takes logic to an insightful extreme. I like the poet’s hands (which raises the question: which fingers get nails and which do not, and why). The blinds on the window add to the ambiance: no curtains, just blinds. A poor poet, surely.
The next two I like because I got to draw period costumes. The soldier’s posture—particularly his left hand—makes me smile even now. A convincing extension of the notion of standing at attention. The rafters in the chicken house seem a natural accouterment for the place. And in the last cartoon, the idea of royal romance being dependent upon an enchanted frog is, to me, amusing. Maybe because, over the years, I’ve drawn so many frog-and-kissing-damsel cartoons. I like the guy’s pouffy sleeves and his hat. Oddly, the girls have the same hair-do.
Despite the undeniable comedy of these generals, my cartoons in the “girlie” category sold better than the generals, so, obeying the supply and demand laws of marketing everywhere, I did more girlies than generals—reveling in it all the way: it was more fun drawing simmering little sexpots capering around the page in their altogethers than, say, juvenile delinquents pestering turtles in pet shops or poets living in barren rooms on mattresses without beds. And if you’re not having fun at what you’re doing, why bother? But all the fun fulfilled a function: every one of my bawdy beauties served the ribald purpose of a joke. Without that function, she’s just a wanton naked lady, lookin’ for work.
The cartoon we see next in our line-up features a workin’ girl, the first in a series that we’re showcasing here.
I worked with gagwriters who supplied virtually all of the jokes I drew. Over a period of a few months, I had inadvertently stockpiled a lot of gags having to do with professional women—“pros,” as they’re sometimes called. Also strumpets, ladies of the evening, street walkers, tarts, trollops, working girls, and so on. With an inventory of gags about hookers, I decided I’d do an entire batch of prostitute cartoons. An “anthology of pros,” so to speak (deploying a collective noun for a group; or maybe a jam of tarts; or, leering into the animal world, a pride of loins).
I realize that sex work is not suitable for joking. The work is often ugly and demeaning. There’s nothing “sexy” about it: it’s hard-core economics, nothing more. And a good deal less. Many of the so-called sex-workers are trapped into it; they’re virtual slaves and are as badly treated as slaves ever were.
But in doing girlie cartoons that are about canoodling couples, I had manufactured in my head a “universe” of happy babes and jolly lotharios, all enjoying sex for the fun of it. This universe is somewhat fictional. (But why should it be? we might ask, argumentatively.)
It’s a fantasy, an imaginary realm that I invented wholly for the sake of drawing jokes about the men and women in that world. This world is not unlike the fantasy universe occupied by superheroes and superheroines—except that my heroines are mostly undressed.
Into that fantasy universe in my head, the strumpets, the working girls, entered as joyfully as the rest of the female population therein, except that their portion of that world was almost entirely fictional. A happy fiction but it masked an unhappy, grim truth about sex workers. Which, as a girlie cartoonist, I chose to ignore. I was, after all, in the business of making jokes about sex, and we don’t laugh at grimness. So—happy hookers.
As I concocted the cast for the cartoon at hand, I gave the trollop a pet dog, a cute reason for her to be out strolling the sidewalk. And after I did this cartoon, I did several others in which the bimbo was accompanied by her shaggy dog. Then as I did some more trollop jokes but with indoor settings, in brothels, the pet was a cat (a cat in a cat house, of course).
An aspect of this batch of cartoons, then, is that they all feature either the shaggy little mutt or a lethargic feline, depending upon whether the hooker was a street walker working outdoors or a whore working indoors in a brothel. I enjoyed finding a place for dogs and cats in each setting almost as much as drawing the bountiful bouncing ladies themselves.
In the cartoon we’re examining, despite the guy’s remark about her eyes, he had to be posed so as to suggest it was, after all, not her eyes that intrigued him. A gross idea, of course—but the tart herself is well into the game, as we can see, unveiling her “eyes.” I like his expression, not quite a leer—more like pleasant anticipation than leer—and the tilt of his hat, all very jaunty and carefree.
She was fun, too. I like particularly her left foot, turned slightly out of plumb so I had to draw the back view of a high-heeled shoe. Not as hard as it sounds. And the dog is in a quite separate drama of his own, straining at the leash to get to the object of his affection.
THE PENCIL ROUGH is the second of two images of the cartoon nearby, tagged Tart-1b in the upper left-hand corner.
Altogether, the three images depict the process by which I did cartoons in those distant days of yesteryear before computers made all this so much easier. The pencil rough was the first serious step. After doing one of those, I put a piece of tracing paper over the rough and traced it, carefully picking the lines to trace.
I traced with a pencil, and as I traced, I “scrubbed” to produce a raggedyline. The tracing is the other image before us, tagged Tart-1a.
I took the tracing to a photocopying machine and copied it. Instant inking. Then I added shading and solid blacks to the photocopied image, producing the third—and final, finished—drawing that we started out with, tagged Tart-1.
This procedure saved a good deal of time (I’m a slow inker), but it did more: it left me with a “master copy” of the cartoon—the pencil tracing. Since the U.S. Postal Service had a reputation for losing mail and since girlie magazine cartoon editors were rumored to be similarly careless, the master copy I had on file permitted me to easily replace any “lost” cartoons without having to re-draw them completely. I’d just pull the instantly inked photocopy, copy it again, and finish it off with shading and solid blacks.
Another bonus: if the cartoon editor liked the cartoon and asked for it in color, the pencil tracing copy on file gave me the basic linework (with no solid blacks or shading that might interfere with coloring) for a color version without my having to do any re-drawing.
I invented this process partly because of rumors I’d heard about how editors sometimes mangled cartoons before returning them. Or lost whole batches. So my method was a safeguard against such an eventuality. But I never had to resort to the safeguard: no editor ever lost a batch or ruined a drawing. And one editor even wrote to ask if he could buy the original of one of my cartoons for his private collection. So my method was fighting a phantom, not a reality.
I developed this process in that primitive age long before computers arrived. Now in the ethereal digital age, I’d store finished art in a computer and have it ready to replace anything lost or damaged.
The rough (Tart-1b) shows that I thought of what the dog was doing late in the game, too late to have room for the fire plug on the left, where it belongs; so I drew it on the right, and put it on the left when I traced the rough.
IN OUR NEXT EXHIBIT, tagged Tart-2, 2a, and 2b, our lady of the evening is evidently applying for some other job.
The thing I like most about this cartoon is that I left most of the desk un-drawn. Nice effect, I thought. On the other hand, the cartoon as a whole is too sterile. The office has nothing in it—no pictures on the wall. And the desk is barren: it should have a stack of papers on it, or an in-box. Something other than the simple phone.
I’d started giving the girls in my cartoons the simple frizzy hair-do. Although it looks complicated, it’s pretty easy to do. And fashionable in those days. She’s cuddling the shaggy dog; there’s ab in-joke there, probably a “shaggy dog story.” I’m not sure I have her hand right, the way it’s supporting the dog. Maybe the hand’s right, but we shouldn’t be seeing any of her forearm. It’s a confused corner of the composition, but the dog’s face and legs rescue it from complete incomprehensibility. The bimbo's pose is perfect, I think. Just the right come-hither, looking over her shoulder at the guy, hand on her knee, legs crossed, slit skirt.
The second version of this cartoon that appears here, tagged Tart-2a, is the instantly inked pencil tracing I made from the rough. It’s identical to the final version except it lacks shading and solid blacks.
The pencil rough, tagged Tart-2b, shows my concern about perspective. I’d read somewhere that proper perspective “anchors” everything in a cartoon. Puts its feet on the ground, as it were. So after the first few batches I did, I started ruling perspective lines on almost all my cartoon roughs, just to see that the picture “worked.” You can also see how I worked out the guy’s hand touching his spectacles, trying a couple possibilities at the upper left.
In our next cartoon, a worn-out strumpet is visiting a doctor to find out why she feels poorly.
And he offers a prescription that plays on the usual medical advice but turns it on its head because of her profession.
In setting the scene here—a vital ingredient because without the proper scene, we don’t know it’s a doctor she’s visiting—I let a white jacket and the stethoscope do all the work. The picture on the wall seems to be a medical certificate (the seal in the corner), but it’s not clear enough to do the whole job. And there’s nothing else in the scene that says “doctor’s office”; too barren. So it’s all stethoscope.
Things I like about the drawing include the doctor’s pose and his desk chair. When portraying someone sitting in a chair, particularly an upholstered desk chair with arms, it’s vital to get it right. I think I managed it here—and, in fact, I grew quite competent over the years at putting people into chairs like this one. He looks quite comfy, hand on one chair arm, leaning on the desk with his other arm, legs akimbo, one foot turned on its side slightly—all very natural, I’d say. And he’s leaning forward, demonstrating a proper medical engagement with his patient.
The bimbo’s pose, tying her top on, suggests she’s been undressed for his examination, again, all very proper given the circumstances. Bags under her eyes are the only indication of her having the puneys.
I like the empty chair, too. All four legs in proper perspective, and the seat sculpted in that bum-fitting way older chairs have.
The trollop’s pet dog is also an actor in the scene. He’s not just standing there. I thought it important that he behave as a dog might, and so he’s become interested in the dangling stethoscope—just as a dog might.
The second version of the picture (Tart-3a) is the tracing I made of the pencil rough, which is the third and fourth pictures (Tart-3b and 3c). The pencil rough reveals that when I started, I put the doctor and his desk too far to the right on the paper, leaving no room for the babe. Dumb mistake but not unprecedented. So I put another piece of paper over the first and added the bimbo.
Or maybe it was done the other way around—first the bimbo, then the doctor. The bimbo rough (Tart-3c) reveals that I was tinkering with other, perhaps more intimate, poses for her examination in the doctor’s office.
The doctor rough (Tart-3b) shows the perspective lines I used to get it all grounded in cartoon reality. I think I failed with the desk, though. Looking at it now, it seems too sharply angled upward. It looks almost as if it would take off. It works but just barely.
NEXT, we have a lady of the evening applying for unemployment compensation.
She’s “between tricks,” as she says. Casting here was easy: all I needed was the strumpet and two guys behind the counter—two because the one speaking needs someone to talk to. One guy is standing up; the other, sitting down. A foregone situation. The standing-up guy had come to the sitting-down guy at the latter’s request to help him deal with the trollop’s application.
The thing I like best about this one is the extraneous guy standing behind the babe. He’s only half-depicted, which I like, but the ambiguity of his gaze is another object of my affection. Is he looking at the tart’s pet dog? So it seems. The dog is looking back at him. Or is the guy eyeing her derriere? Who can say. Not me, for sure; I’m just the typist.
The shaggy dog appears as he does in all the cartoons with the ladies outside rather than indoors in their brothel (of which we’ll see more later). Cute dog, I think.
The pencil rough (Tart-4a) has all the perspective lines carefully laid out. And you can see the guy in line was never more than half-drawn. At the upper right, just over his head, is a barely visible rough of the girl’s pose.
The marginal note tells me to “raise the dog” when I traced the rough. I did raise it—not much, but a little. In the rough version, he was in an impossible position with respect to the hooker’s feet. It’s better, I ween, in the final art.
In the next exhibit, we again encounter the street walker with her little shaggy dog.
She’s responding to a poll-taker’s question. The joke isn’t much, alas, seeming to rely entirely upon the rude impact of spelling F-U-C-K aloud. It doesn’t make sense either. Why would a hooker find fornicating a “relief”? To her, it’s a business.
But that’s not the joke. The joke is in the echo of a then-popular tv commercial advertisement for Rolaids, the antacid tablet. The commercial blared out “How do you spell relief?” Then answered its own question: R-O-L-A-I-D-S. The poll-taker was doubtless in the employ of the Rolaids corporation and expected the bimbo to respond with the tv commercial’s response, thereby proving how pervasive an influence the tv commercial was.
Hence the comedy in the cartoon. Maybe you had to be there.
Regardless, the drawing is okay. Cute dog in the trollop’s grip. I like her feet at different angles, very naturalistic, I think.
But the real visual treat is the pollster, his earnest expression. This guy’s hard at work, kimo sabe. I like his hands, too.
In a setting with almost no details (a street for a street walker), I lavished attention on the lamp post, giving it a base that’s slightly more, er, ornate than posts usually get. And you can tell from the rough (Tart-5a) that I changed the color of the girl’s hair.
WITH THE NEXT FANFARE OF STRUMPETS (Tart-6), I’m afraid I no longer get the so-called joke.
There must’ve been a topical allusion; otherwise, this gag makes no sense. Well, maybe it does. Just doesn’t seem very funny to me anymore.
But I like the drawing. Variety in attire. Appealing shaggy dog. And the angle of the feet with the gal on the left.
And you can tell from the rough (Tart-6a) that I made the sketches on lined notebook paper. No reason: that was the paper that was often most handy. It helped establish the horizontals, though.
As I said at the outset of this essay, I realize that prostitution is no laughing matter—that the women involved are probably not having a good time. They’re sex slaves, after all. And in real life, they’re not treated well.
But in the cartoon world, they are all having a good time. This is a fantasy, of course—as much a fantasy as that which pervades all girlie cartoons.
So I dipped into that fantasy, pulling together all the hooker cartoon ideas I’d been sent by gagwriters to make a whole batch (15-20 cartoons) on the subject. As a marketing ploy, this scheme didn’t work at all. None of anthology of pros sold. That means none of the girlie magazines I was submitting cartoons to thought any of these cartoons were funny. The editors had better sense than I did. And they obviously didn’t want to encourage selling sex. Odd: that’s exactly what they were themselves doing with their magazine featuring naked wimmin. The human mind is a wonderful thing.
PROLONGING our pride of loins series depicting the life we fantasize about hookers, we venture, this time, inside a cat house.
For a reason that doubtless needs no elaboration (but gets it here anyway), I depicted the inside girls in various states of nudity. That, after all, is how they advertise—in the fantasy. For the sake of the fantasy, they are also eager to go to work, salivating over their clients. Sometimes, as in this cartoon, the brothel manager (the madam) appears; and when she does, she’s older than the girls and not just a little dumpy-looking. With a cigarette dangling from her lips.
Continuing to amuse myself by giving the working girls a pet animal, I shifted from a shaggy dog to a cat (a cat in a cat house—how appropriate). Drawing a cat is entirely different than drawing a dog: cats are elastic and seem to have no bones when they sprawl in their peculiarly relaxed way. Or they’re all bones and sharp edges when they hiss and display hostility, arching their backs and digging in their claws as the cat in this picture is doing (upset, no doubt, by the presence of so many strangers in its domicile).
I like the girl on the couch: I think I caught that curled-up pose pretty well. And her facial expression captures the fantasized eagerness of a working trollop that I was aiming for. About her other features—yes, they’re too much. But this is a fantasy, remember?
I needed more than one girl in the picture: more than one suggests visually that we’re in a brothel not just someone’s home. I like the second girl’s flowing hair and the tilting of her right foot. A nice touch of naturalism, I think, and I’ve used it often.
The madam is sufficiently worn-looking, but she has attended to her hair with enduring pride. I like that she’s wearing house slippers.
The gag calls for several “clients” to be depicted. The gagwriter specified sailors, and that seems logical. But how to do a bunch of them without giving them too much space in the drawing? I’d already crowded the picture by putting two tarts, a cat, and the madam into it; not much room left for the gobs.
I opted to suggest a crowd rather than to draw one, of course—a cartoonist’s favorite dodge (suggest as much as you can, draw as little as possible—and move on to the next cartoon). I drew two sailors and indicated the rest of the bunch with heads in the background. The two sailors look tipsy, just the sort of encouragement they needed to visit a brothel: they’ve got their hands on each other’s shoulders, and the one on the right seems to be indicating he’ll take two not just one.
Apart from the attention-getting deployment of solid blacks (which are there for the color of sailor suits not for drama), the drawing has a nice array of textures: vertical lines for the wall and the curtain (but closer together on the curtain, for variety), curving lines on the couch. And then there’s that homey touch—a braided rug on the floor.
On the rough (Tart-7a), I noted “raise” and “lower” in places to indicate the adjustments I needed to make when tracing the rough for the final drawing. The raising and lowering re-positioned the characters in more convincing relationship to the other objects/persons in the picture.
WITH THIS OLD REMNANT of my anthology of pros, we’re still in a cat house rather that on the boulevard with all the street walkers.
This specimen reminds me immediately of Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood mogul who intrigued the public prints last fall with his oddly unsavory sexual inclinations. One of his amusements is to get women to watch him masturbate, so I imagine him walking around with his pecker in his hand, showing off his pride of manhood while also looking diligently for a place to put it or someone to admire it with a fervor equal to his own.
When he’s unable to find either, he just jerks off into a convenient potted plant, saying, as I imagine him, “There! See that? Notice the marksmanship, sweetie. And all that could have been yours.”
Pretty weird, you must allow.
Having discovered the use of his hand, what need has he of women?
Ever heard of any number of women who regard watching some stranger masturbate as an enthralling spectator sport? Me neither. (Although I’m sure there are some—after all, it takes all kinds.)
And the guy in this cartoon is of the appropriate ilk: his whole personality seems incarnated in his swollen dick. (Swollen dicks will do that: rampant, they become the male ego inflated.)
The trollop is a delight all by herself. Apart from a couple of obvious reasons, she has her left leg curled underneath, and for that to work, she had to shed her shoe. And I like her hands, crossed over her leg, the fingers of one “walking” along her thigh.
The cat adds another element to the comedy: like the girl, the cat is eyeing the guy’s pride.
I made a mistake on the shading, though. The part of the background that’s a brushed solid black is too overwhelming. I think I found that out by the time I had applied it as far into the drawing as the girl’s head. Looks like I stopped there and went to linear shading.
Looking at the rough (Tart-8a), you can see, I hope, that I initially put the cat on the bed behind the girl. You can see penciled-in at the upper left above the headboard the face of the cat in that position. The rest of the intended pose is smudged just behind the girl. I decided that part of the picture would be too crowded by putting the cat there, so I erased that cat and moved the creature to the left, where it would not clutter up the visual.
Thinking, again, of Harvey Weinstein, you know that he’s molested a lot more women than those who’ve complained: he wouldn’t have kept on with this practice if he weren’t having some success. Probably a lot of success. And those who were willing “victims” were the ones he remembers when he claims all of his sexual adventures were consensual.
He’s still a despicable guy. And the whole scandal has revealed something about how our culture views male-female relationships—and it ain’t something admirable.
BACK ON THE STREETS to continue my jam of tarts, the street walker is, as usual, walking a shaggy dog.
The caption dictated that the setting be an alley where you could find a garbage can. After that, the pictorial was all invention.
Our trollop is fairly brazen, with half her bosom falling out while she pulls up her dress in preparation. She’s all business but the dog is clearly looking for a good time, striking a minor comedic note.
But the comedy prize in this cartoon goes to the guy. Given the setup, he could have been drooling at the strumpet in anticipation of glories to come. That, however, seemed to me too cliche. Moreover, the caption suggests that she’s taking charge of this encounter; she’s pulling the john along. She’s the forceful personality here. By contrast, then, he is the opposite of forceful. And with that as a cue, he became even a little anxious. He is obviously worried about whether they’ll be seen when they’re on top of that garbage can, and every aspect of his pose underscores his anxiety.
The hand she’s grabbed has a thumb and it has a thumbnail. To answer my earlier, long-lost question, I tend to be sparing in the use of fingernails. I use them only when I think the digit adorned might be mistaken for something other than a finger. A fingernail identifies it. And here, with only the thumb of his fingers visible, it would be possible (admittedly, only in my wildest imagining) to see it as a hotdog or some kindred shape.
But you don’t have to put a fingernail on every finger: once you’ve identified one, the rest fall in, obediently.
After sketching the locale and the postures of the principals, it remained only to trash the alley—a few stray tin cans, newspapers, and scraps of paper.
One of the things I like most about this one (apart from the guy’s furtive attitude) is all the texturing. Here, I used not only different thicknesses of strokes but different patterns.
The rough sketch (Tart-9a) shows my usual preoccupation with proper perspective. Otherwise, it’s just the same drawing in a somewhat more primitive state.
BACK IN THE CAT HOUSE, where, as you can see from the lap of the trollop on the couch, the cat reigns supreme.
As I mentioned before, I included an animal in each of this batch of cartoons mostly to amuse myself. The rate of sales in freelance gag cartooning being what it was—abysmal—amusing myself was the chief reason for doing the cartoons.
I made the cat house a nice, homey old-fashioned Victorian place with doilies and shawls draped on the couch, elaborately embroidered sign on the wall (that’s the punchline), shag rug on the floor, and curtained doorway. In doing this series on the escapades of hookers, I decided to adorn the drawings of interiors (that is, inside the brothel) with as much texturing as I could muster to the task.
All that texture gives the image a somewhat fustian “Victorian” (or, at least, “old fashioned”) look, implying also fussy propriety, a mildly comical contrast to the presumed licentiousness of the business being transacted by the bosomy babes. Seems to enhance the comedy.
I like the guy’s body language, his posture expressing a kind of reluctance as he contemplates the sign on the wall. His left foot, alas, is larger than his right foot. (How did I miss this when doing the final art?) He’s being led by the bimbo, she being the more commanding of the two. I also like her hand parting the curtain—a nice, realistic detail, I ween.
The best visual gag here is the cash register on the table in front of the couch. It wasn’t part of the gagwriter’s submission: I made this joke myself. Hoo-ha.
The pencil rough (Tart-10a) doesn’t offer much insight except to show how concerned I was to get the perspective right.
STILL IN THE CAT HOUSE, we have a bevy of bountiful bimbos in scanty undies.
Drawing barenekkidwimmin is an artistic tradition that goes as far back as at least Rubens; and, of course, it continues today for all the obvious reasons. Obvious to the male of the species anyhow.
For this gag, I needed at least two actresses, one to speak and the other to be spoken to. I added a third for sheer naughty fun of it. And I also added the superfluous cat. The cast needed a reason to be all together for this portrait, so I put them on a sofa, relaxing.
Why they are all as undressed as they are is a circumstance that needs no excuse, but the challenge in these whorehouse settings is to find garments that are just scanty enough to advertise the produce, that look like something just “thrown on” but don’t obscure the view.
In this example, I’ve continued the elaborate textured shading that, to me, suggested a Victorian setting, and enhanced the effects with visual accouterments—the stained class shade on the lamp overhead, the scarfs and doilies on the sofa back.
I like the texturing best of all. Particularly the wide-spaced horizontal lines on the girl at the left, suggesting just a little shadowing. I also like the cat—which is raising its back as cats do when you pet them on the back and curling its tail about the bimbo’s arm. And I like the detail of one trollop’s shoes being on the floor: she’s obviously just kicked them off, so they have to be there, somewhere on the premises.
Our next specimen was more fun to do than most.
In this one, the ladies of the evening are obviously enjoying themselves—telling jokes and laughing at them. The image is fraught with sexual overtones. The strumpet on the right is nearly fondling herself, and the girl prone in the middle is astride the back of the couch in a nearly coital position. The lady on the left has thrown her head back in a fit of laughter—but she’s also gripping the cat by the phallic tale, and the cat is lying in a suspicious place, and the girl has also grabbed her right boob, ostensibly in a spasm of ecstasy brought on by the cat.
Well, probably not. But you can see where my overheated imagination takes me as I compose and pose the actors in my dramas.
In addition to the doily and the wall lamp, the rattan chair contributes the requisite ambiance.
The third image in this line-up is badly obscured by what appears to be an overly dark gray wash. But that’s not what it is. It is instead a photocopy of a colored version of the cartoon. Notice that I’ve removed most of the linear shading on the wall and substituted wall paper with a simple pattern.
Unhappily, at the time I made this photocopy, I didn’t have access to a color copier, so all the colors came out as shades of gray. Too bad.
But the existence of this cartoon in the file suggests that someone had purchased it and wanted it in color. Alas, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I consulted my records (such as they are), and found no notation about this cartoon’s ever being sold. Admittedly, my notes are sometimes mysterious if not just illegible. But it doesn’t seem that this cartoon, even in color, ever sold. Why it’s in color, then, is a mystery. Did I color it as a gift to a friend? Unlikely: I’ve almost never given away any cartoons.
In any case, consulting my records coughed up a fact that until now has been furtive. I said none of the jam of tarts cartoons sold, indicating that even girlie magazines, in the business of selling sex, didn’t approve of cartoons about selling sex.
But I was wrong: my records reveal that three of the cartoons from this batch sold. That’s 16%. And the reason I believed, until now, that none of them sold is probably because in my last year freelancing, I was selling about 46%, and some batches, 50% or better. So 16%, while thoroughly respectable in this spec biz, was too paltry to stick in the shallow memory of my banal brain pan.
So now we know: I sold three. Two, at $50 each to a magazine with the incriminating name Beaver; Tart-3 and Tart-5. The third, Tart-17 (which appears here down the scroll), for $25, to Cavalier, where I would eventually be selling a 4-page comic strip (about which, more at some future date).
THE MADAM RETURNS in the next display.
Even with one fugitive hooter, she’s an imposing figure, flowered house coat and fuzzy-ball slippers and all. The cat betrays its affection, and in so doing, suggests that the madam is kinder to animals than she appears here to an elderly customer.
I suggested the john’s age with baldness and a toothless mouth. Otherwise, he could have been any john. But then why would he have food stamps? He needs to be elderly, one of the impoverished elderly.
Otherwise, the cartoon isn’t particularly remarkable, except, perhaps, for our frizzy-haired trollop who’s resting one boob on the customer’s shoulder.
The setting, except for the curtained doorway, isn’t as embellished as other settings in the brothel have been thus far. We didn’t need a crowd for the gag, and without a crowd, we don’t need much in the way of setting.
The old guy shows up again in our next cartoon.
The gag is funny enough in itself, I think—the thrill of fellatio being too much for the old codger, who it would seem suddenly needs oxygen to survive. Don’t think about the mechanics too much: how does the oxygen mask know it’s needed? On airplanes, a change in air pressure presumably turns the trick (so to speak). But here? Dunno. If you don’t get a chuckle with a quick glance, the comedy will forever evade you.
The drawing is a model of discretion, all the naughty bits masked from view by carefully arranged anatomy.
The comedic bonus is the cat, prone on its back on the bed, a posture that imitates to some extent the posture of the old guy. On the rough (Tart-14a), you can see where I experimented with the cat’s posture at the upper right. And you can also see my note to myself to shorten the bimbo’s waist, with two parallel lines on her waist indicating how much to shorten it.
No background detail. None of the actual bedroom scenes in the batch have much in them except the bed. And (sob!) no texturing either.
ANOTHER BEDROOM SCENE is next, with Harold so intent on his pleasure that he’s neglected to watch the time.
Our tart, however, is all business. The comedy here arises from contrasting the preoccupations of the two characters. The gagwriter’s instruction is simply “gal in bed with guy, an eggtimer is nearby and she says ... etc.” To the gagwriter, the hourglass eggtimer is essential to the gag. And I recognize that it adds a dimension—the timer’s capacity, three minutes, doesn’t give john Harold much time—but an ordinary bedside table clock could also serve.
The gagwriter offers nothing about how the characters should appear, but I had to give them an appearance. In drawing it up, I had to depict the two somehow. “In bed with guy” could mean he is actively humping her, but that seemed a little crude, even to me. So the guy had to be engaged in some less intimate activity, and massaging her hooters seemed—to me, having given her the kind of bountiful mammaries that obviously needed massaging— a logical choice.
Her complete detachment and obvious boredom despite the intensity of Harold’s interest (he’s talking with his hands) —she’s even casually smoking a cigarette—seemed an equally logical choice when it came to depicting her. She could have been excitedly exclaiming, in alarm—“Harold! God—your time is up! We need another $25!”—and that could’ve been funny, but then I’d have to show them doing something. Fornicating, probably. And I liked massaging better. And the comedy of the vividly contrasting interests.
The anatomical complexities of the pose offered another challenge. Where to put hands, arms, legs, etc. But once I’d decided on the massaging and a blatant way of depicting it, the rest sorted itself out—how she was going to be portrayed determined how he would be shown. In the final art (Tart-15), she looks like she might be sliding off the mattress, but in the rough (Tart-15a), the guideline for the edge of the mattress clearly shows her sitting on it.
The cat, meanwhile, adds virtually nothing to the scene. But I had fun drawing it. Not as much fun as drawing the bimbo and her jugs, but fun, still.
THE GAGWRITER for our next exhibit didn’t give me much to go on pictorially.
His instruction—“Call girl on phone to client”—was all the setup that was necessary for his caption. And to him, the hilarity was in the double entendre of her remark. But I needed to conjure up an image.
The bimbo could be depicted simply sitting at her dressing table, I suppose. But that seemed somehow pedestrian to me: drawing a dressing table didn’t seem like much fun. Part of the pleasure in doing single-panel cartoons is in the variety of imagery one can experiment with, and I must’ve done several dressing table scenarios and wanted something different. “Different” in this case was simply an almost classic pin-up pose for a healthy anatomy. Even that seemed a little dull, so I gave her an activity—fondling part of her bazoom.
The cat, as usual, offered better material for comedy. It’s performing its ablutions, as cats are wont to do under almost any condition—in other words, a typical cat thing, just as, by the implication of proximity, the babe is doing a typical babe thing.
The cat is again a principal player in our next visual aid.
This is the third cartoon in the jam of tarts that sold, and its imagery is determined entirely by the needs of the caption. How are the principals to be depicted that will (a) supply the visual information that makes sense of the words without (b) offending people who don’t want to be shown flaccid peckers? Positioning the john’s knee solved the second of these necessities, and once his pose was determined, hers was likewise strenuously suggested. I show her kneeling on the bed and bending over to see his disaster because (a) where else would she be? And (b) her pose enabled me to depict hangers hanging, which I hadn’t done for some time, and, as always, I was looking for variety in pictorial challenges.
The cat adds its own comedic dimension—its stiff and erect tail (nothing sexual in that: it’s a common cat thing) and the intensity of its attention to what the bimbo is staring at with alarm.
I particularly like the way I drew the guy’s hand, only a couple fingers necessary.
In the rough (Tart-17a), you can see how I construct female faces. First, a circle for most of the head; then appending cheeks, jaw and mouth below the edge of the circle.
WITH OUR NEXT EXHIBIT, we’re back in the brothel waiting room where a trio of strumpets lounge around, waiting for customers while, at the same time, advertising their wares.
The challenge, as usual, was in giving them each something to do, to occupy their hands, so to speak. The gal on the right is petting the house cat (whose tail we can see waving in the distance beyond the bimbo’s knee). The gal in the middle is resting her diary farms on her arm which is resting on the back of the love seat while she flourishes a cigarette in her other hand. The last of our trio is idly flicking her nipple, perhaps in an attempt to get aroused. I’m a little leery of this pose: it seems a trifle too suggestive of my own interest in the picture. But—what the hey—a cartoonist who draws lots of barenekkidwimmin has already betrayed his interests to a farethewell so what can this picture reveal that hasn’t already been revealed?
I eliminated all background detail from this cozy scene, simply putting in shading. But the shawl on the back of the love seat and the rattan chair and throw rug and the round-top table all seem to me to suggest the atmosphere of a homey Victorian house of ill repute, which houses, as we all imagine them, are profoundly homey.
The third of the images here (Tart-18b) is a visual clue that I did a version of this cartoon in color. Because I didn’t at the time have access to a color photocopier, the copy was in black and white—and shades of gray. For the color version, I simply made another black-and-white copy of the pencil tracing (Tart-18c)—in which no shading or solid blacks had yet been added. In place of shading, I ladled in color. Dunno what the color was. Just as I don’t know why I did a color version: there’s no record of my having sold a color version of this cartoon.
I like the treatment of the table top at the right, reflecting the glass. Ahhh, the things you can do with color.
THE LAST CARTOON IN OUR LINE-UP is, sigh, more grossly sexual than any of the others and therefore an offense against civilized decorum.
In the interests of preserving some self-respect, I thought about leaving it out altogether. But then my journalistic conscience clicked in, and I decided to plunge ahead in a spirit of rampant honesty and full disclosure not to mention naked nudity. At this stage of this posting about sex in its most commercial aspect, why am I suddenly concerned about self-respect? Moreover, there are a couple funny things going on in the cartoon, and the process of its development is likely to be instructive.
The cartoon proposed by the gagwriter was somewhat different: “Prostitute exits room with 4 or 5 clients. She tells another: ‘My trouble is I can’t eat just one’”—referring to the fellatio she’d doubtless just performed 4 or 5 times. The gagwriter, by the way, is female.
Probably, for the sweet sake of decency, I should have gone with her idea as she submitted it instead of tinkering with it. But tinker I did. I suppose I was put off by the necessity of drawing 4 or 5 johns—plus another hooker. That’s a high population for a single-panel cartoon.
The first tinkering shows up as a pencil notation on the gagwriter’s submission, “occupational hazard” with an arrow pointing to the caption. So the occupational hazard is that she couldn’t eat just one? I guess I couldn’t elaborate that into a final product; I gave up on it.
But once I’d decided to tinker with the idea, I evidently went off in a wildly different direction. And I can’t remember how it went from “occupational hazard” to one gal grabbing two guys where it counts while they grab her by the headlights. The gagwriter’s joke was certainly far less lascivious than what I eventually made of it.
Steps in the gag’s progress show up on the left side of the rough, Tart-19a. I toyed with the notion of “doubles”: “You see how doubles works, fellas: nobody has to eat just one.” But that doesn’t make sense because each of the guys is nibbling on just one. I’m accustomed to illogic but this was too much for even me.
The “doubles” notion quickly deteriorated into the final caption.
Eating “just one” or more than “just one” became the pivotal notion, and it is evident in two ways. While our bimbo is grabbing for more than one lollipop to suck on, in contrast, each of her two clients is contemplating nibbling just one. So she’s more expert than they? In some bizarre fashion, maybe anatomy helps determine appetite. Or so we would think from this yoking of words to picture.
But what clearly motivated me in concocting this scenario was the challenge of drawing it. Two guys playing with her boobs simultaneously is something her anatomy permits, and I had some fun engineering that. On the rough, Tart-19a, you can see to the left of the figures faint attempts at depicting the grips the guys are using. The guy on the right seems hilariously comic in the excess of his enthusiasm: he’s using both hands to cradle the object of his affection; the guy on the left strays with one hand into another area of interest.
If you find it all amusing, you’re a kindred soul; if not, not. But no one here at Rancid Raves will hold it against you.
In the last analysis, the picture, for all its unseemly excesses, makes sense of the caption, just as the caption makes sense of the picture. Classic cartooning— even if tasteless in the extreme.
The cat, as usual, is bored. But cats always are.
The last image in line, Tart-19b, is the four-poster bed in front of which our trio is cavorting. I think I used this art several times as background for cavorters, and that’s why it’s separate—so I can use it again.
IN CLOSING, let me leave behind the heavy-breathing part of my cartooning career by posting a couple more “general” cartoons that I like, cartoons with no barenekkidwimmin in them. At the top of this exhibit is a cartoon that I think is one of my funniest. The idea that an encounter with a lawn chair’s recalcitrance would be interpreted by a frustrated man to be a sexual act is hilarious in itself. But in drawing this idea, I tried to amplify the comedy with an exaggerated expression on the guy’s face—and his obvious panic, which, in turn, has summoned his wife, whose headlong dash is yet another element of visual comedy. Devising the lawn chair was the big challenge here. And I did it all from memory.
The other cartoon invokes our fond recollection of the fairytale of Jack and the beanstalk. The challenge was drawing the kid’s teeth. But I like it because of the period costumes and the cow. I’ve never drawn a better cow. I love it.