Clean Cartoonists’ Dirty Drawings Review
Yoe is really the editor of this volume, but he’s credited as the author. Admittedly, he did write all of the text (except for a foreword by R. Crumb), but the art is entirely by other hands. And the art, of course, is the whole point of this book.
As you can guess from the title, Clean Cartoonists’ Dirty Drawings collects pin-ups, gag cartoons, convention sketches, private commissions, and other various bits of risqué art from artists not generally known for such things. The artists run the gamut of comic book, comic strip and animation names, from Carl Barks and Chuck Jones to Milton Caniff and Dan DeCarlo. And the art itself is mostly mild: there are some sex gags, but the art is mostly just nudes rather than anything like a Tijuana Bible. For some that will be a positive and for some a negative; I’m just reporting it. Crumb’s foreword touches on this aspect of the book, seeing it as a gap between what’s promised and what’s delivered – and declaring, if anyone could disagree, that he knows just what a “dirty” cartoonist is, since he is one. (And Crumb’s full-page drawing by his foreword is probably the most sexually explicit piece in the book.)
There are seventy cartoonists included in all – many with just one page, and none with more than five pages of work – in this book’s 160 pages. Some of them are somewhat out of place – such as Dean Yeagle, best known for Playboy cartoons, and Adam Hughes, whose work often looks like pin-ups anyway and doesn’t really add nudity here – but most of the guys (and a tiny handful of gals) included here are regular mainstream sequential art folks who only very rarely did anything risqué. (But Yoe has ferreted it all out from its various hiding places, and assembled it all for the ages.)
There are some very nice drawings here – for several definitions of “nice” – and some things that were only collected because of their oddity value (such as a “nude self-portrait” by Charles Schulz, as if he were Charlie Brown being clobbered by a line drive, or Billy DeBeck’s full-page drawing of Snuffy Smith peeing in the snow). All in all, it does feel like more was promised than is delivered; there are a number of merely suggestive ‘50s gag cartoons (some very well drawn, but not appreciably “dirty” these days), and a few 18th century works included for no clear reason I can see.
There is one thing I do have to complain about: the cover image, which is one of the most interestingly lurid works in the book, isn’t credited anywhere I can see. I think it’s another Joe Shuster piece, but I can’t tell. Shuster’s work in the book is very much “exploitation” art of its time, but it’s quite good; others with some good stuff here include Jack Cole, Walt Scott, Barks, Caniff, Al Capp, and Bruce Timm.
So, if you’re looking for particularly dirty drawings, this isn’t the book you want. If you want to see what a whole bunch of reasonably famous cartoonists got up to in their spare time, or to make a quick buck, or when they didn’t think anyone was looking, then you’re in luck.
Clean Cartoonists’ Dirty Drawings
Last Gasp, 2007, $19.95
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
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