By Leroy Douresseaux
March 10, 2008 - 12:11
THE PIN-UP ART OF DAN DECARLO 2
SUBJECT: Dan DeCarlo
EDITOR: Alex Chun
DESIGNER: Jacob Covey
ISBN: 978-1-56097-897-4; paperback
216; 2-color, $18.95
In relative terms, even when considering comic books, one may consider Dan DeCarlo to be a nobody or no more than a well-regarded professional and talented nice guy. The problem is he worked in an industry that for most of its history has not respected the talents, skills, and craftsmanship of its artists and illustrators beyond using them as hired hands. However, a recent book by journalist, Alex Chun, and inspired book designer, Jacob Covey, brings to light the exceptional artistry of DeCarlo.
Dan DeCarlo is best known for his definitive rendition of Archie Comics' Betty and Veronica, two of comics' most beloved female icons. Before joining Archie in the late 1950s (where he worked for more than 40 years before being dumped), DeCarlo honed his skills as a good girl, pin-up artist for the Humorama line of digest magazines, where he worked from 1956 to 1963. The Pin-Up Art of Dan DeCarlo is the second volume from Fantagraphics Books to collect and display some of DeCarlo's sexiest Humorama pin-up cartoons.
Few people may ever consider pin-up, good girl art to be art with a capitol “A,” or even fine art or high art. Still, the examples in The Pin-Up Art of Dan DeCarlo reveal the work of illustrator who delivered outstanding work for relatively low pay, drawings to be displayed in fringe publications aimed at the… lower classes. However, these pin-up drawings are the good life itself. They are bold and brash, full of energy and exuberance. Gold diggers and opportunistic women – usually on the prowl for a sugar daddy or at least a man who can take care of them – square off against horny older gentleman, lustful sailors and young office workers.
These racy good girl cartoons aren’t portrayals of sex so much as they are representations of the anticipation of gettin’ it on. With his almost haphazard design, Covey presents a catalogue of DeCarlo’s vivid imagination and celebration of the pursuit of physical love – a catalogue best viewed at a torrid pace to match Covey’s presentation. Chun selects art that celebrates DeCarlo’s imagination in drawing thick, curvy women in a time before the way-too-skinny anorexia trollop and heroin bimbo became the standard for female bodies. DeCarlo’s conception of an endless array of lingerie, swimsuits, evening wear, etc. puts scantily next to clad. The nipples, the near nudity, and frank afterglow of sex make this an art book to be enjoyed.