Cole's mid-fifties "Jake" cartoons are looser than his Playboy material, but no less remarkable for the astonishing visions of feminine beauty they capture. As always, there is a rich subtext in Cole's work, usually built on the chaos in men's souls that these estrogen confections cause.
Cole died in 1958. However, his cartoons continued to appear on the newsstands for years after his death -- usually reprints, but in some cases first publications of stockpiled inventory. I recently grabbed three lovely and funny Jake images from online auctions of 1963 "Humorama" digests.
The first is a back cover of a February, 1963 Laugh Digest. Cole's original cartoon is done in gray ink washes. The publishers have ham-handedly added in a semi-transparent red in the background and on the flower that sits in the woman's hair. Nonetheless, the gag is funny and the cartoon is fascinating for the portrayal of the terrified soldier. Our brave, tough men could face down commies, but when it comes to lustful beauties in low-cut dresses, that was another matter entirely!
|February 1963 - Back cover of Laugh Digest
A Cole classic appeared on the cover of a Humorama digest dated September 1963, making two very good points:
Everything in this clever composition (again clumsily colored by someone other than Cole) points to the woman's breasts: the gaze of the three figures, her arm and legs, and even the sign in the background. A looser Cole composition, with a typically offbeat gag, appeared on the first page of a Humorama digest dated December, 1963:
|December 1963 - Laugh Digest
This cartoon is supposed to feel a little looser, to help convey the gyrations and jounces of the dancer. Look at the study in contrast Cole gives us between the sexy dancer and the sexless women of charity. The dancer is all curves and decorative patterns -- the charity workers are sagging lines and dull costumes. The joke is read and felt in a second, as it should be.
The editor(s) of these pulpy, sex-drenched digests appear to have valued their stock of Jack Cole cartoons, judging by their prime placements on covers, back covers, and splash pages. Even five years after his death, Jack Cole was "Jake" with the public.
Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to check out my column at The Comics Journal, Framed! -- in which I pull together some of this blog's work on Jack Cole as well discuss many other interesting things.
- Paul Tumey