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Art Spiegelman: The Playboy Years
11.26.2014
03:23 pm

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Art
Media

Tags:
comics
Playboy
Art Spiegelman


January 1982
 
Art Spiegelman is about as close as you can come to an eminence grise in the comix game. As the co-editor of Raw in the 1980s (his wife Françoise Mouly was the other co-editor), Spiegelman injected the U.S. underground comix scene with a healthy dose of intellectual experimentation, introducing such talents to the country as Chris Ware, Joost Swarte, Mark Newgarden, and Charles Burns. In 1991 Spiegelman completed his autobiographical years-long project Maus—if you haven’t read it you really should. Not for nothing did it become the first “graphic novel,” as the terminology had it and fitfully still has it, to win the Pulitzer Prize. Since that time Spiegelman spent several years as art director for the New Yorker and published several high-quality works like In the Shadow of No Towers, Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps, and Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*! He has the credibility that only roots in the underground scene can give you, he’s blended high art and low art (he was also involved with the creation of Garbage Pail Kids, for instance), and he’s generally a walking encyclopedia of comix history and lore. In 2008 I saw Spiegelman give a presentation on “Comics 101” as part of the New Yorker Festival, and it was a delight.
 

 
Raw existed from 1980 through 1991, and it must have been quite a challenge for Spiegelman and Mouly to pull off the publication of such an ambitious and infamously large-format book in Soho, one that surely had a host of printing issues most magazines don’t have to worry about (having their own dedicated printing press surely helped with that). Fortunately, to help pay the bills, Spiegelman was doing freelance work for Playboy from 1978 to 1982. I’ll bet those checks with the little rabbit in the corner (??) sure came in handy. 

His first cartoon for Playboy was a wordless 12-panel item called “Shaggy Dog Story” in the January 1979 issue about a woman having sex with a dog. Maybe not content-wise, but visually at least it wouldn’t look out of place in Raw, which isn’t necessarily true of his other work for Playboy—it has a jagged look that evokes ... something earlier and continental, not art nouveau but something similar. Most of Spiegelman’s cartoons for Playboy came in the form of a running series called “Edhead,” which depicted the adventures of a poor fellow who consists of a head but no body—that ran through most of 1979, then stopped until two further strips in 1981. In the January 1982 issue Spiegelman and Lou Brooks did a large panel of “Teasers” full of sophomoric jokes. My favorite thing he did for Playboy was a one-off four- (or eight-)panel strip called “Jack ‘n’ Jane/Rod ‘n’ Randy,” which is so elegantly complex that you can practically see the germ for Chris Ware’s entire future career in it. The idea is that every frame is divided into two; in the top frame a man and a woman converse, and in the bottom frame you get a parallel dialogue between the man’s penis and the woman’s vagina. OK, so maybe it isn’t exactly Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary—it’s still pretty impressive for a few square inches of real estate in the back of a nudie magazine…..

(Click on the images for a larger version.)
 

October 1979
 

December 1978
 

February 1979
 

March 1979
 

April 1979
 
Several more “Edheads” and a rejected Playboy parody for Wacky Packages, after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Send your sweetie one of Art Spiegelman’s ‘Nasty Valentine Notes’
02.14.2014
12:52 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Art

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Art Spiegelman

Nasty Valentine Notes
 
Long before he was winning Pulitzer Prizes as America’s most critically adored comix practitioner, Art Spiegelman cut his teeth as something far closer to a R. Crumb-ian “freaky” underground cartoonist. Spiegelman would eventually blend highbrow and lowbrow more thoroughly than perhaps any other comix figure, bringing a whole generation of talented avant-garde European artists to contribute to his self-published zine RAW on the one hand while coming up with the idea behind the Garbage Pail Kids (with Mark Newgarden) on the other. Crumb, Spiegelman, and all the rest were heavily influenced by the “usual gang of idiots” at Mad Magazine, and that lineage shows very strongly in a 1971 edition of Topps cards Spiegelman spearheaded called “Nasty Valentine Notes.”

To be clear, Spiegelman didn’t execute the art on these cards, or at least not all of them. According to Jay Lynch:
 

Art Spiegelman did the art on the wrapper and box. He also did the finished art on some of the pieces themselves….and he wrote most of them and did roughs. So he is the main guy behind this series. Some of the final art on the pieces are by Ralph Reece. Jeff Zapata was only 5 years old then…Len Brown and Woody Gelman had the Jobs running the creative Dept. that Jeff Zapata and John Williams have today. So Jeff is of a whole other generation….He edits the Topps stuff that comes out now. Woody and Len edited it back in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

 
Every card had an, ahem, “witty” quatrain with a rim-shot punchline that would have felt stodgy in the days of vaudeville. These “sick” and satirical anti-Valentine’s Day cards do much more than lampoon the sickly sweet sentiments that govern most of the holiday. 1971 was a prime moment to stick it to the hippies, and boy, does it do that with a vengeance. Woodstock, Easy Rider, yoga…. all of them take their turns as whipping boy. My favorite is the fourth one below, which not only makes fun of men with long hair but also assumes that the only sexual option is hetero. Well, they do say satire often has a conservative bent….

The cards are a little convoluted. They had to be sold in the same format as baseball cards, so every card necessitated being unfolded three times and had five images on two sides. If you’re trying to read along, suffice to say you should be reading from small type to large type. I’ve put the “front” image for each card on its side because trying to read upside-down text makes my brain bleed.

There were 30 cards in the entire set, and you can download almost all of them—in the correct size to be printed on both sides of a page, should you have a yen to do that—at this tribute site to the series.
 
Nasty Valentine Notes
 
Nasty Valentine Notes
 
You’re really into yoga
You’re really into zen
But why study Eastern mysteries?
You can’t even count to ten!

 
Nasty Valentine Notes
 
Nasty Valentine Notes
 
More ‘Nasty Valentine Notes’ after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Kids with guns: Almost 20 years later, Art Spiegelman’s New Yorker cover seems oddly prescient
01.09.2013
06:42 am

Topics:
Art
Current Events

Tags:
gun control
Art Spiegelman

kids with guns
 
As the “arm the teachers” rhetoric surrounding the Newtown shootings refuses to go away, I remembered this old New Yorker cover by Maus author and illustrator, Art Spiegelman.

For a guy whose opus was about his father’s experience during the Holocaust, he managed to outdo himself in disturbing imagery with this one. And yet it doesn’t seem that far from what’s being suggested in 2013…

 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment