Monday, July 18, 2011

Mercer Mayer: The Newly Re-Discovered 70s Penthouse Magazine Illustrations! A Book 'em Bob exclusive!

As  – what I assumed to be – a gag gift last year, I received a group of Penthouse: The International Magazine for Men magazines most of which were released during the year of my birth, 1975.  I flipped through them and I put them away for awhile.  While discussing some authors online, it was mentioned that some of my favorite writers had works in these magazines and that was why they were given to me (WilliamKotzwinkle, Nick Tosches, J. G. Ballard, Cameron Crowe, Peter Benchley, and more).  So, they came out of storage, and I started reading them (really, for the articles, ha ha).

While reading, I discovered that I enjoyed the humor of a semi-regular columnist named Henry Morgan ("The Original Bad Boy of Broadcasting").  Henry Morgan, who was born in March of 1915 and died in May of 1994, was a humorist.  He was an actor, a comedian, a game show host, a radio personality, and a writer.  He wrote about 50 or more humor columns for Penthouse magazine from 1970 to 1976.  I do not have all of these issues (not even close, ha ha), but I went through the ones that I have in order to read these articles and most are pretty darn funny.

Now, why am I mentioning this?  Well, it turns out that Mercer Mayer illustrated some of Henry Morgan’s articles! THE Mercer Mayer!  The “Little Critter” and “Little Monster” children’s author/illustrator Mercer Mayer!  I found four illustrations in the magazines I have, and he may have done many more for all I know.  This information isn’t anywhere on the internet (until now)!  What’s that you say?  “Why isn't it out there, Robert?”  Well, I haven’t put it out there yet, that's why!  Ha ha.  Just kidding (sort of).  Actually, the illustrations are not credited at all to anyone except for Mercer Mayer’s signature in or around each illustration).  He isn’t mentioned in the credits of the magazines at all either. His name isn’t even in small print near his illustrations (like it is on most of the other illustrations in these magazines).   I only caught that they were him immediately upon seeing the pictures, because I’ve studied his works so much and I recognize his style from this time period.

Most of Henry Morgan’s articles are illustrated by other people, and I found only four that are definitely illustrated by Mercer Mayer out of the magazines I have.  As I've said, there may have been more because I certainly don’t have every issue of this magazine from this time period, and I don't really want to buy every 70's issue just to flip through and see if there are more Mercer Mayer pics.  Keeping the dozen I have locked away from the kids is hard enough.

In each case, Mercer Mayer’s illustrations are based on the articles they accompany.  So, I assume that Mr. Mayer was sent a copy of the Mr. Morgan’s write-up, and then he drew the picture.
"Okay Tribesmen..." top right part (cut off)

"Okay Tribesmen..."almost bottom, left part (cut off)

Illustration for “Okay Tribesmen, Now Hear This” by Henry Morgan in Penthouse: The International Magazine for Men, Vol. 5, #10, June 1974.  Illustration on page 98.   Now, while this picture is great, it does contain nudity and eroticism.  So, I am not going to post most of the picture (sorry, you will have to get the magazine on eBay or at Amazon if you want to see how Mercer Mayer draws panties, naked butts and breasts).   His signature is on a rock at the bottom right of the whole picture (not in this picture).   Like many children’s illustrators, even Mercer Mayer has one or two “naughty” illustrations in his past.  When I first saw this one, I was a little shocked, but not appalled.  He shows lust and native nudism in a very fun way and there is nothing overtly "nasty" about it.   Art wise, it is much better than most of the “naughty” cartoon illustrators of this time period.

"Good Eats"

Illustration for “Good Eats” by Henry Morgan in Penthouse:The International Magazine for Men, Vol. 6, #5, January 1975.  Illustration on page 80.   This is a great picture filled with everything I love of Mercer Mayer’s 1970s work (his signature is on the table at the bottom right-hand side).   Just look at that snooty waiter!  Awesome!   That (freshly killed? Yikes!) polar bear looks delicious! There is even an octopus that looks like he’s been waiting 35 years for a color change in order to reappear in Octopus Soup 35 years later.  Ha ha.  Also, like in the others, Mercer Mayer doesn’t pay full attention to the frame and goes over it on purpose.  This makes the older woman in the front really pop out and it gives the work some more depth (along with her ample cleavage, ha ha).

"Another Damn Year is Under Way"

Illustration for “Another Damn Year is Under Way” by Henry Morgan in Penthouse: The International Magazine for Men, Vol. 6, #6, February 1975.  Illustration on page 82.   Another humorous gem of a drawing!  That housewife looks tired but unfazed while cooking and ironing at the same time!  The Newspaper says “The News,”  “Arabs Bomb Yonkers,” “Flash,” “No Swedes Left in Sweden,” and “After All…. Tomorrow is Another Day” (the book at the bottom is “Gone With the Wind”).  While looking in the dark corners of this room:

I find myself searching (fruitlessly) for the spider and grasshopper that are hidden in the Little Critter books. Ha ha.

"The Irish"

Illustration for “The Irish” by Henry Morgan in Penthouse:The International Magazine for Men, Vol. 6, #7, March 1975.  Illustration on page 80.   The baby makes this one a personal favorite:

that and the demure pig: 

Plus, you have got to love that cable knit sweater too! The “Mickey Go Home” sign and title of the article can give you an idea of what Henry Morgan’s write-up is about.  

I have written Mercer Mayer twice (once last year and once this year) asking him about his Magazine work and what magazines he was in (I only mentioned three of the four that I had found at the time), but the only response he could give me recently was, "I can't add anything more right now, but who knows what the future will bring?"  I don’t want to bother him by pushing the subject with further emails, but I hope he kept some kind of record.  I’ve seen his work for Harper’s Magazine in 1967 (children’s book illustrator Roy McKie has illustrations in a lot of the same issues).  Mercer Mayer also did book cover work for Harper & Row and Dial in 1967 (like the 1st American printings of Logan’s Run and The Master and Margarita).  There’s probably a lot more magazine and book appearances by Mercer Mayer that I don’t know about (see his bibliography on Wikipedia for what I do know, and I will be adding these magazines to that list too).   Feel free to tell me about them if you see them... PLEASE!

Have you ever wished you could go through an illustrator’s rough draft pile? *Sigh* That is a dream my heart yearns to do.  I hope Mercer Mayer gives his originals and roughs to a museum somewhere so they can tour it all around for fans everywhere or at least have a “Mercer Mayer Archive” or “Mercer Mayer Collection” that can be perused.  Can you imagine how many unpublished pieces of art he must have from the last 45 years!  I can only pray he didn’t “recycle” them! YIKES!

It is lost masterpieces like these Penthouse works that really make me wish there was a Mercer Mayer Art Book that collected them.  Maurice Sendak has a couple of great ones (The Art of Maurice Sendak and The Art of Maurice Sendak: 1980 - Present).  Why not Mercer Mayer?  I’d gladly put it together!  I’m volunteering here.  So, if there are any interested publishers out there, contact me, please!  Of course, Mercer Mayer would need to be interested in such a project/product too.   

With that:

Goodnight, sleep tight, and don't let the Zipperump-a-zoos bite,

Robert Brouhard


B. Streetman said...

Man, this is brilliant! How freakily serendipitous that you would end up with those magazines!

Antmusic said...

I totally agree with you! My squeal of delight upon discovery could be heard throughout the house... which isn't necessarily a good thing when your wife knows that you're reading one of "those" magazines.

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