Book focuses on comics’ “Good Girl Art”
From Friday’s The Oklahoman:
By Matthew Price
Many people thinking of comics from the 1940s would think of muscled supercharacters such as Superman and Batman. But writer Ron Goulart follows another trend, that’s continued from the early days of comic books until today.
“Good Girl Art,” the latest book by comics historian Goulart, traces the popularity of drawing pretty, often scantily-clad female characters back to the Phantom Lady, Torchy, and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.
Comics originally were reprints of comic strips from newspapers. But after the success of Superman in “Action Comics,” more and more publishers began requesting original material.
By 1941, “some of the more crafty publishers realized it wasn’t just kids (reading comics), it was teenage boys, it was young men,” Goulart said in a phone interview.
“The thing about GIs in the Second World War, they were kids, 18 or so,” Goulart said.
Rather than look solely at Superman, these teens and young men “might want to see somebody in a bikini, like Sheena,” he said.
Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, is described by Goulart as a “blonde, female Tarzan,” and was published in “Jumbo Comics,” from the shop of Jerry Iger and Will Eisner.
“What distinguished her from Tarzan, Ka-Zar and the other comic book jungle characters was that a great many readers found her a bit more interesting to look at,” Goulart writes in “Good Girl Art.”
“Her core audience was added to appreciably during World War II, when thousands of pin-up happy GIs joined the ‘Jumbo’ readership.”
The Good Girl style of art took a bit of a beating in the 1950s, as Dr. Frederic Wertham, senior psychiatrist of the New York Department of Hospitals, led a crusade against comics that caused the adoption of the Comics Code. This voluntary code slowed down Good Girl Art, but it came back in the 1960s and 1970s.
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