Aug 25, 2013

It's Jake With Me - Stretching PAST Playboy in 1963

Here's three of Jack Cole's sexy vintage girlie cartoons, signed as "Jake." These were drawn in the mid-fifties, either just before or in the first years that Jack Cole provided cartoons to Playboy magazine.

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:
September, 1963 
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


  1. This is such an amazing site--thank you so much!! So much to go through, but I have a very basic question (and if this is covered in an article, please point me to it):

    Is there any original Cole Plastic Man art in existence? If so where, and is it viewable?

    1. Thanks for your kind comment. That's a good question about original Jack Cole Plastic Man art. It's possible there might be a tiny bit stashed in a collector's archive -- but I have never ever seen any evidence of this. COle did Plas for Qualitry Comics, which was owned and run by Everett "Busy" Arnold, who was said to have destroyed the original art to his books to prevent it from being stolen and published by competitors. This is a sign of how little they valued the original art for comic books in those days. It's said that Arnold would cut the pages up with scissors and throw them away in front of his artists! I don't know if any of that is true, but it makes for a colorful story and could possibly explain why not a single page of Jack Cole Plastic Man art has ever surfaced. Now -- a few years ago, Quality artist and editor Gill Fox (a friend of Cole's) in his old age sold several pieces of his own original art from Quality that he had managed to spirit away and kept for decades. I suspect that Jack Cole very likely kept a lot of his originals including Plastic Man -- but he had a flood in the early 1950s that apparently destroyed most of his archives and art. A few years later, when he took his life, his wife refused to have anything to do with promoting her late husband's work and vanished, possibly with some of Cole's art -- but that is pure speculation. This would make a good blog post -- there's more to tell. Anyway, thanks! Somewhere on this blog I posted the original hand-colored page to a Silver Streak story --


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