Playboy 50 Years: The Cartoons

May 3, 2004 | Trades


Playboy 50 Years: The Cartoons
Chronicle Books
$50 US (Hardcover)
**** 1/2 (out of five)

While the indelible image of Playboy magazine is surely lithe, nude women, an argument can be made that the cartoons that have graced the pages of the world’s most famous men’s magazine have left just as strong a mark.
And though there is a temptation to write off many of these often risqué illustrated japes as “just dirty jokes,” this new collection of some of the best of the past 50 years shows that this is both art and cartooning as its finest.
There is a level of refinement and sophistication to the strips, which is exactly what Playboy founder Hugh Hefner wanted for his publication when drafting its guiding principles.
Perhaps the most surprising thing in reviewing five decades worth of these cartoons is how innocuous they are. A good number don’t contain nudity, they rarely include profanity, heck, some don’t even use sex — there is a level of subtlety and nuance that may rarely get noticed but for a collection of this nature.
Another fascinating element of this book is the number of high-profile cartoonists who’ve worked for Playboy over the years. From Shel Silverstein, best-known for his classic children’s books, including Where The Sidewalk Ends; to Jack Cole, creator of super-hero Plastic Man; to more modern artists such as Art Spiegelman, creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning illustrated novel, Maus; and Beavis & Butthead and King Of The Hill creator Mike Judge.
This volume gives these strips the royal treatment: a hardcover with dustjacket and heavy, archival-quality glossy paper. It is a fitting golden jubilee remembrance from one of the most influential magazine’s of the 20th century.

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