Wednesday, July 09, 2014
Obscurity of the Day: Queenie
I'm a bit too young to be a member of the original Playboy-reading generation, but I did sneak peeks at my dad's collection often enough to be intimately familiar with the work of Phil Interlandi, who was a regular in their pages. Just Google "Phil Interlandi" and "Playboy" and select the Images option and you'll be treated to plenty of his bawdy (and beautifully drawn) cartoons.
Being in the know regarding Interlandi's deviant mind, the first time I saw the panel series Queenie, my reaction was, I imagine, similar to every Playboy reader's, "Oh my god, the newspaper's gone mad -- they're printing Playboy cartoons!!!!"
But no. While Phil's unmistakeable style is there, the nymphomaniacs and Casanovas are missing in action -- in fact the whole sexual revolution seems to have gotten a stiff dose of saltpeter. The cartooning style that is so inextricably associated in my mind with wanton women in all their nude, sex-hungry glory here is so chaste that I'm not sure the other characters have even noticed that Queenie is a buxom blonde in a mini-skirt.
Reader(s), I have a philosophical question for you. Let us take as our assumptions that
(1) I find Phil Interlandi's Playboy cartoons pretty darn funny
(2) I find his Queenie cartoons to be pallid, formulaic and a downright bore by comparison
The question is what can we draw as our conclusion from these two pieces of information. I see some possibilities:
(1) the Stripper is so emotionally stunted that he automatically finds anything to do with sex funny
(2) our society is so uncomfortable with sex that the humor mines therein are rich and practically bottomless, making it easy to make funny cartoons
(3) Phil Interlandi put a lot more work into his Playboy cartoons; after all, Hef paid very well
(4) Phil much preferred drawing sex cartoons, and the Queenie series were basically just a job that he'd gotten stuck with, and he put in the minimum of effort
I think the overarching question of whether cartoons about sex have a (figurative) leg up on 'straight' humor is an interesting one. We certainly hear of people looking down at comedians who "work blue", as if they don't really have to work very hard for laughs because of it. I imagine the same can be said about cartoons.
Sheesh. That was quite the digression. I need to get back on track. Here's are Queenie's vital statistics. She was first syndicated by King Features on April 11 1966, and her long but never particularly popular run came to an end on May 10 1986, a full two decades. The feature was daily-only, no Sunday was ever offered (which is a shame considering Phil's color work is delightful).
I have come to the conclusion that their best gags were reserved for the better paying magazines and their syndicated work was where the lesser (or rejected) gags ended up.
Mort Walker and Hank Ketcham quickly gave up their magazine work to concentrate on their strips/panels. Did that make their syndicated work better, or did their successful syndicated work enable them to give up gag cartoons?
While I agree with you that gag cartoonists generally slough off their weakest work on the newspapers, I can sympathize with them. When you are in business for yourself, having only one client will keep your stomach in knots and make it hard to sleep at night. I can imagine Interlandi keeping up Queenie as a hedge against a time when Playboy might say, "no more, thanks, been nice knowing you."
That being said, when cartoonists who have mega-successful newspaper series keep throwing additional features on the wall, apparently in some desire to have the whole darn comics page to themselves, I think it is very bad form, not to mention dilutive.