Friday, May 18, 2012

Gloria Steinem's 1961 photo-funnies

Famous writer and feminist, Gloria Steinem, wrote this satiric photo-funny (or "fumetti") for Harvey Kurtzman's Help! magazine, issue number 12, in 1961. At the time she was an editorial assistant at the magazine. Like most of Kurtzman's creations, Help! wasn't around long (twenty-six issues over five years), but amongst fans of his is a highly desirable collectible. Steinem wasn't around that long, either, only lasting a short time on staff. She had a talent for satire and wrote for the early '60s television show That Was the Week That Was. In 1972 she co-founded Ms magazine.

"Fumetti," (plural, the singular is "fumetto") as they called their photo-funnies at Help!, is named after Italian comics. The word fumetto means "little puffs of smoke," a reference to the speech balloons. In American usage it refers only to comics made from photographs, but in the Italian it means all comics. In this particular strip, a funny and contemporary look at the beat culture and its relation to police, Roger Price stars as "Peerless Fosdick." Price, a humorist and writer who created the popular Mad-Libs and Droodles series' books, was an admirer of Kurtzman and Kurtzman's work on Mad.

Kurtzman and Price are deceased, but Steinem is still working and writing at age 78.


Kirk said...

Peerless Fosdick is obviously a parody of Al Capp's Fearless Fosdick, which itself was a parody of Dick Tracy. So it's a parody of a parody!

I caught Gloria Steinem on Charlie Rose not too long ago. I don't know if she'd take this as a compliment or not, but she's still a fairly attractive woman and one who looks a good 15 years younger than her actual age. Rose asked her about the "humorless" label some have tagged her with. She protested that she started out as a humor writer. And really, there's always been a touch of humor to her activism (read "If Men Could Mestruate" sometimes.) What I like about the early piece you have here is that it starts out ostensibly spoofing beatniks and ends up satirizing survelliance. Not hard to figure out where Ms. Steinem's sympathies lie.

Postino said...

You nailed it, Kirk. Steinem had a great sense of humor, but she also worked for a genius of satire, Harvey Kurtzman, and it seems she learned something from the master.

She wrote the foreword to a collection of Wonder Woman stories and those stories almost seem parodies of themselves.

I think Gloria Steinem would be proud to read that you thought she looked 15 years younger than she is.