I learned how to draw nipple shadow on areolas from Dan Iverson in ninth grade art class. Why I hadn’t discovered how to build definition for one of my favorite art book quest items is beyond me, perhaps I had shied away from drawing breasts for fear of letting others in on my personal fantasies or hang ups.
Some of the fist comic book boobs I ever saw were by Sergio Aragones in one of the Mad Magazine compilation novels I’d rescued from a garage sale box during fifth grade, a box my Dad had put out for sale on Tom and Julie Repenning’s lawn as they sold off belongings to make their impending move to Pennsylvania easier. The couple had hoped to downsize enough to fit what remained into the back of their battered old powder blue rust flecked Volvo station wagon.
When I confronted my Dad with fistfuls of Son of Mad and Monster Mad and Mad Rides Again, he shrugged, hadn’t thought I’d have been interested, they were old, and in black and white, and made fun of movies and TV shows from when he’d been growing up. I’m not sure why I felt betrayed and woefully misunderstood, and for the heaping stack of Mad novels I’d snatched up, I had it in my head that the best ones had been sold and were being read by some kid in a tree house somewhere chuckling to himself as he turned the pages, having a warm belly laugh at my expense for what he could enjoy at leisure and that I would never know.
Perhaps the discovery of that box of novelized Mad magazines on the yard, a veritable Pandora’s Box of prospective influences and inspirations, had all that much more appeal because I discovered it, and perceived come conspiracy behind the motives of selling the books over sharing them with me outright. Regardless, I reread every one of those books innumerable times, and the impact on how I drew and wanted to pack every page I constructed with details and quips and sight gags wherever and whenever I possibly could.
And Sergio’s book, filled with single and double page gags, almost invariably without text to stay consistent with his bits hidden in the margins and seams of the normal monthly magazines, present me with the first cartoon boobs I’d ever seen. Simple, nipples merely black dots, yet I felt the early thrill, the humming pee shiver of puberty imminent, Sergio kept his gags simple, though they were regardless effective, and while a far cry from the martini glass cartoon girl from Playboy, his pair of bare breasted babe panels were personal favorites for fifth grader me.
After that I began questing for art books in the Milligan College library, though not to see drawings of nude women. Initially I thought that if I studied and learned the tricks of the trade, I could someday work for Mad magazine like Sergio. Remember that I’d collected and immolated editorial cartoons as a kid, so the jump from those to Mad magazine style satire made sense like the leap from Miracle Plays to Vaudeville.
Soon after leaving the card catalog with a list of Dewey Decimal identifiers chicken scratched onto a yellow slip of paper with a golf pencil, I discovered that most available learn to draw books were dedicated to drawing the nude body, particularly concerned with the female form, generally rendered with charcoals and / or pastels.
There were three books particularly burdened with beautiful bounty and I scrutinized those with particular interest, for intellectual reasons of course. And while I should and could have begun drawing the magnificent splendor of the female human form, for some reason I still couldn’t fathom but hazard a guess might have had Catholic School prudish underpinnings, instead I drew super heroes, monsters, aliens, obnoxiously large explosions, weapons of mass comic book scale destruction, rocket ships, and airplanes. Perhaps I reflected some sort of indoctrination most Americans seem to have about the human form and sexuality as taboo while weapons and violence can ravage center stage. Muscles, guns, violence all work fine for prime time, however flash a book and expect public outrage.
Travelling in Europe, I’ve seen a far healthier attitude about sex and nudity versus war and violence, particularly in Prague and Paris. Blood and guts gets the adult rating, sexuality and nudity teen at most, because the general consensus is that a boob never killed anyone. Unless that boob ran the country, however I digress.
More on why I can’t draw pretty women next post.