Thursday, March 9, 2017

On Old Porn

It never really turned into anything, but during my first year of grad school, I ordered a microfilm of Fleischer's Animated News. This was a newsletter circulated privately within the Fleischer Studio in the mid-1930s. The studio was in financial distress, and the production of the newsletter was an attempt to increase morale and fellow-feeling among employees. The pages of the magazine were filled with homey mini-biographies of figures at the studio mixed with pornographic images of Popeye and Betty Boop, all designed to turn the subtext of the films into text on the page. One image combined the head of Popeye and the body of Betty Boop. The employees really got off on black jokes and they threw "fag" around like giggly middle schoolers. A young Jack Kirby wandered into the studio for a short stint around this time, and I wondered if one of these unsigned drawings came from his hand. In the third issue, the editor wanted everyone to know that the New York Public Library now subscribed to the newsletter, a hint that all their inside jokes were leaking out into the public world. The New York Public Library saved Fleischer's Animated News for posterity, so it could be read by people like me.

I had a fun afternoon yesterday rifling through Dušan Vukotić's papers at the film archive. Vukotić is best known as the director of Surogat / Ersatz (1961), the only Zagreb School film to win an Oscar, but he also directed feature films, documentaries, and commercials. He drew a B.C.-like comic in the early 1950s. In an undated folder marked "Drawings for a Book," I found a pile of pornographic ink sketches. A cupid descending on a naked women reclining, offering her crotch. The figure of a naked woman shaped out of cigarette smoke. Naked men and women near Roman architecture. The breasts were so very Bakshi. It was very punk.

Everyone likes the Tijuana Bibles and the Superman/Lois Lane/Lex Luthor porn pseudo-parodies Joe Shuster produced for Jewish mobsters in the 1950s. (Read all about it!) Your grandfather's porn is a lot more fun than your porn, because it reminds you that your sex life, no matter how good, will eventually end, along with the rest of your life.

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