Pin-Up Art of Dan DeCarlo, The: by Alex Chun & Jacob Covey, 216 pgs. By Norb

Jun 04, 2007

Dan DeCarlo was/is to Archie Comics what Jack Kirby was to superheroes or Carl Barks was to Donald Duck: THEE undisputed quintessential guy; the King; the be-all and end-all, forever and ever, amen. DeCarlo’s style was/is so endemic to Archie-ness that i don’t think i even ever realized that it was just one guy drawing all those stories year after year, i kinda just thought that that was the way “they” drew them, sorta like with Disney stuff or something. This book collects the best of his work for the Humorama line of digest-sized men’s magazines from the ‘50s and early ‘60s, and it is magnificent on a number of levels. First off, there’s The Chicks. Imagine 216 pages worth of faux-raunchy cartoons, one to a page, all featuring one or more impossible dolls manufactured from the same die as Veronica Lodge, but a few years older, a lot bigger boobs, and a lot more skin. Just Imagine! The girls of Riverdale, a year or two removed from Mr. Weatherbee and Miss Grundy’s domain, now dancing in fishnets and pasties; being undressed, willingly or otherwise, by lecherous old codgers; bent over and spanked. I’d be a little “hard” pressed to think of one good reason why that don’t rock, if ya get my drift. Secondly, there’s The Guys: Drawn one level more “cartoony” than the girls, they’re obviously not the material’s selling point, yet each and every one of these perverted Mr. Lodge-ass bastards are really wonderful examples of cartooning, if you’re into that sort of thing. Thirdly, there are the captions themselves: Sometimes, the one-liners actually sort of work as gags (“What’s with Louie? I’ve never known him to take so long to pick a pocket!”); usually, they serve better as unintentionally amusing insights into, as the book’s introduction said, “a version of the 1950s never seen in comics, on TV, and only rarely in the movies.” Finally, as stupid as this sounds, the actual coloring (rendered by Jacob Covey, a “Seattle-based graphic designer and purveyor of limited-color design”—well LA de frigging DA!) is, if you look at it a little while, really amazing as well. I mean, the guy only uses two colors of ink—red and black—but i can just leaf thru this book and gaze at the way the things on the page are colored and i’m pretty visually satisfied (“are you reading that lurid Pin-Up Art of Dan DeCarlo book again?” “Well... yeah, but i only read it for the colors!”). I recommend this book strongly to anyone who thinks they might be interested in this sort of thing, and about half the people who think they aren’t (only drawback being price—$18.95 for an 8” x 6” sized paperback might price a few folks out of the market, but it’s worth it, trust me). I had the pleasure of meeting Dan DeCarlo in 2000, the year before his death, and, by looking at him, i would not have guessed in a million years the guy was in his 80’s. The moral is implicit: Drawing half-nekkid chicks with big hooters is good for you! Draw some today! IF YOU LIKED THIS, MIGHT I ALSO RECOMMEND: Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits by Art Spiegelman and Chip Kidd. –Rev. Nørb (Fantagraphics, 7563 Lake City Way NE, Seattle WA 98115)