Sunday, 3 February 2008

62 -Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder: Little Annie Fanny

Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder in “Playboy”, January 1976

A relatively early cartoon about the burgeoning gay scene. And in the pages of “Playboy” no less! Each instalment of “Annie Fanny” was a comic investigation of some new social scene or trend. Annie was always the unwitting stooge, largely oblivious to the effect that her pneumatic charms had on all the other characters. While she naively went about interrogating anyone and everyone about this instalment’s new fashionable milieu, others were trying to divest her of her clothes and attempt a completely different kind of social intercourse. And again in the all gay environment of the bathhouse, Annie is still the only character getting any. Other than one kissing couple tucked away in the shadows of the last horizontal panel, none of the other gays are doing anything more suggestive with each other than dancing or holding hands. There is a weird conflict in this cartoon between gays being sexless so as not to actually disturb any of the readers and yet also trying to cram the panels with as many kinky and perverse images as possible. Homosexuality being the gateway to new realms of freewheeling perversity, we get diesel dykes, transvestites and transsexuals (the penis is particularly unexpected –none of the other gays have one, so the penis in “Playboy” is actually representative of a totally abnormal sexuality that has to be removed. Hmmm.) Indeed, this carton desperately needs the lesbians if we are to get the traditional “Annie Fanny” ending. This bathhouse is not a scene for sexual expression or hot and sweaty man-on-man activity, and all the gays here are limp-wristed, skipping, mincing, coquettish, lisping and fey. At the very moment that gays are creating a new forthright sexual identity/stereotype, while Kurtzman can recognise that this new scene exists, he can only exercise the old weak, almost unsexual, gay stereotype. “National Lampoon” at least always did homosexuals the favour of recognising that at the bottom of all their weird kinks and feyness, they were also strongly sex-motivated.
Of course, this being a Kurtzman and Elder comic, it’s worth looking in all the corners to find all the “eye-pops” – hidden gags.

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