So okay, I’m going to pass by the opportunity for a vulgar chuckle from the previous post’s title, and jump right in medias res, the res being
my bizarre obsession with Milton Caniff cheesecake as an art form in the funnies!
It’s a cliché that geeky teenage guys draw to create girls they’re too shy to meet. Their older selves fill the funnies, like those notebooks, with heroic-proportioned, implausibly-architected women draped and stretched to the limits of a censor’s patience. June, Edda, Blondie, Abbey, Trudi, . . . most of us can recite the list one-handed.
Cheesecake strips have a special tradition in military publications, possibly to “remind our boys what they’re fightin’ for” or maybe just because they appeal to the narrow reader demographic. Here’s Milton Caniff’s WWII contribution:
Male Call, 1943
This started as an unauthorized weekly spin-off from Caniff’s successful Terry and the Pirates, reformulated as Male Call when a paying T&P customer complained. Caniff, master of narrative compression, put a complete story arc in every strip. Link on over to Humorous Maximus to see the colorized banner. Really — do that. By the way, the indispensible Web source on this — and comic history in general — is Don Markstein’s Toonopedia, with which you should plan to spend a rainy day sometime soon.
Sally Forth, 1978
And here’s a mind-bender: yes, this is Sally Forth, as she appeared in Overseas Weekly for years, starting in 1971 — check out Toonopedia for the full history, and a look at Sally’s nominally heterosexual but clearly underequipped male sidekick — an oddly apt foreshadowing. Sally Forth combines ’50’s gender roles with ’60’s (post-Annie Fanny) sexual tolerance and hallucinogenic plot elements that are all ’70’s.
Now, I know I can’t say “cheesecake” without somebody saying “Fritzi Ritz.” (Also Brandy from Frank Cho’s Liberty Meadows, but c’mon — that’s a zombie strip.) Far be it from me to disputare anybody’s gustum, but today’s Fritzi just doesn’t ring my bell — too heavily inked and larded up with sexual signifiers. And the constant “shout-outs” in this strip — three in the first panel — betray an author’s lack of confidence that the material can stand on its own.
In the ’50’s and pre-3G ’60’s, Aunt Fritzi was one of the few unattached young adults in comics (Mr. Tweedy was another). Her phone calls from suitors or preparations for an evening out gave a peek into a hidden world — now that was sexy.
Okay Okay Okay! So here’s the question, and I’m not the first to ask it: where are the hot guys in today’s newspaper comics? 9CL‘s Seth, got it. Surely not A3G‘s Alan/Eric/Gary/ . . . /Joe, or anybody in Mary Worth. There are plenty of examples from comic books, or Web comics, or in the past, but here? Now?
Has the TV sitcom big-slob-hot-chick trope invaded the funny pages? Or have we guys just lost it, and the comics reflect our diminished state? Let’s hear it!
— Uncle Lumpy