Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Gun Moll

Every Clyde needs his Bonnie... but in crime fiction in the mainstream magazines of the 50's, gun molls were rarely depicted.

And when an artist did paint a lady with a tommy gun, as Ken Riley did for "Hollywood Calling" in the January '55 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, she came off looking like a younger, hotter, deadly June Cleaver.

Norm Saunders, veteran of a million billion pulp illustrations probably got it right. His depiction of Ma Barker from this undated, unknown publication is likely a far more accurate example of a real life gun moll.

I don't have a lot of pulp magazines to check through - but based on my search through The Post, Collier's and American magazine, I get the feeling that the the tommy gun-totin' female never really made it onto many top ten lists of "Bad Girls We Like to Fantasize About" - otherwise there would be more examples to show you.

Some interesting developments regarding yesterdays illustrations...

TI list member, Armando Mendez sent this note:

"This is a swag--a super wild ass guess--but I think the unknown pulp artist is none other than Al Williamson or perhaps a group effort or assist those EC guys were famous for. I think it is possible that many hands could be involved."

"In the early 50s ('51-53), young buck Williamson would've all over the place, every corner of the publishing industry. Most of his stuff was for science fiction and westerns but he did do other things."

Armando sent along this scan of a 1969 strip by Williamson for comparison and adds,

"Panels 2, 6 and 13 are especially evocative of Secret Agent Corrigan, the tight close ups of the hands holding the rifles chest high and the stark high contrast inking approach."

And another TI list member sent this scan below from Jim Steranko's 1976 graphic novel, Chandler: Red Tide, and writes:

"I thought the latest posting looked kinda familiar, eh?"

Looks like Wally Wood wasn't the only great classic comic artist who was willing to drop the occassional swipe into his work, huh?


  1. These last coupla posts are pretty yummy ;)

  2. Okay,here's a Steranko swipe for you.
    Way, way back in the 70s I bought a pulp facsimile issue of the one and only CAPTAIN HAZZARD book ever done.
    Dated 1938 it features a beautiful Norm Saunders cover. Jump ahead some twenty-years and I'm hired to write to new Green Hornet comic book series for Now Comics out of Chicago. Although Jeff Butler was the book's artist, Steranko was hired to do the cover. It's absolutely stunning, showing the Hornet hanging off a building with a beautiful redhead in his arms while the bad guys are on the roof above him. Cool. Book sold like gangbusters. Now jump ahead another seventeen years and I'm in the process of rewriting that old Captain Hazzard novel. I pull out my old dog-eared copy and all of a sudden it looks very familiar to me. I lay side by side with the first Hornet cover by Steranko and it is the same exact composition.
    Two years ago, at a pulp convention I met Saunder's son David and told me this story. He in turn told me he had once been a guest of Steranko's at his home and while he was being shown around, Steranko showed him his Hornet painting and of course David immediately recognized his father's composition. There was a awkward moment, until David said, "My father always said swipe from the best and then make it better."
    You gotta love it.

  3. Ron; that's a great story - thanks for sharing it. I have nothing but the greatest respect for Steranko - and it would be the rare commercial artist who hasn't used a swipe on the odd occassion. I like the conclusion David Saunders presented to that awkward moment very much. He sounds like a real gentleman - and his dad was, I think, absolutely correct.

  4. my problem with REALLY blatent swipes is that it brings all of the artists other work into question for me. I end up wondering if there are just other sources that I don't know about that they are getting everything else from ;)
    Like when I found out that Brian Froud's "unique" take on fairy creatures was a knock off of some other golden age European illustrator his stock dropped dramatically in my book.