Friday, November 25, 2016


Ebay, as with the internet in general, has been both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it’s great to be able to pick up that obscure Swan 45 you’ve never seen a physical copy of before, or that Dutch picture sleeve Troggs single that’s unlikely to turn up at your local used record store in Tulsa even if you check weekly for 20 years--all you need is a credit card. However, the damage that Ebay has caused rarely gets commented on. In the world of old records or old books or old comics (and surely all areas of collectibles, whatever they are), it’s been a total transformation. The evil combination of scavenger-dealers who “work” every flea market, junk store, used record and book store, etc. to find items to sell on Ebay, and who usually have “arrangements” with the owners so that they get access to things BEFORE they ever get seen by the general public....and also greedy owners of these places who check prices against Ebay and then mark up the stock to reflect what a top-condition price online is. In the old days, owners would price something so they could sell it in a few months. Sometimes they’d under-price it, so it would sell quickly and some lucky person (hopefully, yours truly) would luck out; sometimes they’d over-price it, and it would sit there for a year or two and then they’d mark it down. Pricing was an art, but those in that business were professionals. I have always hit junk stores, flea markets, antique malls, etc. when I travel, and in the pre-internet age, you could always count on finding things on the road that would not be seen in your home area. I still hit them regularly, but rarely do I buy records anymore. Mostly I’ve been buying lesser-condition (in other words, NOT candidates for sale on Ebay) comic books and magazines. If you’re willing to wade through boxes and boxes of junk, you may well find something of interest for fifty cents or a dollar. Such is today’s item under review. It’s dog-eared, mildewed a bit, and shredded at the edges, but it’s a document of a world long gone and only a dollar--it also provides some laughs.

Charlton Comics was just one segment of the larger Charlton Publications empire. The music-oriented magazines such as HIT PARADER and COUNTRY SONG ROUNDUP were the cash cows of the organization, but they also had publications of all kinds to entice the bored person looking for something to read....and also offered a wide-range of crossword puzzle magazines and booklets for the person looking for something to do. Then there is CARTOON CARNIVAL.

This is not really a comic book, but an adult humor magazine. The cover of each issue promises OVER 200 GAGS AND GALS(borrowing the old catch-phrase of cartoonist Jefferson Machamer, whose comedy shorts at Educational Pictures in the mid-1930’s are revered here at the plush BTC offices-- I just noticed that Machamer died in 1960 and this series started in 1962....I have a feeling no payment was made to the Machamer estate for the use of JM’s tagline--we’ve included some vintage Machamer for your enjoyment--a shame Charlton did not put together a magazine of his old would have blown CARTOON CARNIVAL away!), and if you count each comic panel and each printed joke, it probably adds up to 200.

According to Comic Vine, the first issue of CC appeared in 1962, and the latest one I see listed online, #112, is dated 1984. However, as with some of Charlton’s comic book series, it seems to have been run for a while, then dropped for a few years, then revived for a while, etc. Each run seems to have been given a new volume number, but the issue numbers were consecutive. My issue is Vol. 8 and issue 33, dated May 1970.

--The only thing more dangerous to a bachelor than a jealous husband is a single girl.

--Then there’s the showgirl who likes to have her boyfriend order her around....a round of drinks

--He: “When did you meet that sexy blonde.” Him: “About fifty check stubs ago.”

You can almost hear the drummer in the Burly-Q pit band do a drum roll and cymbal crash after each one of these. As for the comic panels, when I said “sex” earlier, I meant “sex” as seen in a Leon Errol comedy short or in the tamest 1950’s Playboy cartoon----meaning infidelity, impotence, stepping out and the like, but treated in an indirect manner. Clearly, the cartoons in Playboy----done by first-rate illustrators and caricaturists-- were the model this magazine aimed at, but they have a casualness and crudeness that would be more likely found in a third-rate men’s magazine....or a small-town newsletter or circular. There are some topless women in some of them, but there are no nipples or any other details. 

I don’t remember seeing CARTOON CARNIVAL back in the day. It was probably sold at news-stands near the “men’s magazines,” not where children could thumb through it.

The cover promises A CIRCUS OF FUN, and I have to agree with that. For the dollar I spent, I got wall-to-wall burlesque-era comic panels and one-liners that take one back to an age long gone. An age when THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS was all the rage, and that kind of tame but mildly “naughty” comedy is what’s on offer here (“but wait,” I can hear some readers saying, “wasn’t THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS out in 1959, and this magazine is from 1973?” Yes, but it’s totally rooted in the 1950’s....and I have a feeling that whoever bought this in 1973 was STILL rooted in the 1950’s!). I’m also reminded of the comedy sequences on those late 60’s Dean Martin TV shows with his Golddiggers and Ding-A-Ling Sisters----those were live-action examples of the kind of comedy found within CARTOON CARNIVAL.

Keep an eye out for these when you are looking through boxes of old yellowed magazines at some backwater junkstore or low-end antique mall. While most of the humor is of the groan-producing variety, a few of them are somewhat clever, in that they require you to think for five or ten seconds before you “get” the joke.

I should of course close this review with a typical joke or two:

--Know how to catch a rabbit? Stand behind a bush and make a noise like a carrot.


--Then there’s the Hollywood showgirl who never kisses her dates goodnight. By the time they get home it’s good morning.

CARTOON CARNIVAL might be the perfect read after viewing Phil Tucker’s 1954 burlesque film BAGDAD AFTER MIDNIGHT----the Shriner after a few drinks at an out-of-town-convention world-view and the baggy-pants comedians in that are quite in keeping with this magazine.

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