Thursday, October 15, 2009

Women in Crime, April 1948 / Cheated Wives Make Merry Widows


Scrollable Image

Women in Crime v03n02 (1948.Hanro) (cover upgraded) (Darwin-Slinky-MW)
Get the scan here.

That's right boys, keep it in you pants, cuz mama don't take no mess. Continuing our examination crime mags of the forties, I offer an issue of one of the more collectible true crime pubs, a title that really gets to the crux of my particular fascination with these magazines, Women in Crime. Yes, it's true. I like bad girls. Just what is a bad girl? Well I'm not sure there's an exact definition but she's definitely a counterpart to the good girl or what ebay sellers like to label as GGA (good girl art). The good girl is usually a pin-up type - a friend tells me that true good girl art is drawn so that clothes are almost an afterthought, that the figure is the thing. The goodgirl tends to be a damsel in distress, menaced by any variety of characters - the mad doctor, the African tribesman, the indian attacker, the hoodlum, the red and yellow menace, etc. Often in the pulps or comics, our hero appears in the background, ready to save the poor lass. Wouldn't you?

But Bad girls don't need saving, at least in the physical sense. They can handle themselves, thank you very much, and can likely chump you out as well. Men are their playthings, sex is the promise, manipulation the game, and if need be the bad girl can always reach for that secreted gat or blade. The late 40s and early 50s are the heyday of the bad girl on true crime covers. It was before the market was totally over-run with photo covers (who needs to pay an artist that hefty $100 for a cover anyways?) and before the women on true crime covers would become mere victims, often bound and powerless mouth agape in terror. A certain sign of a bad girl? Why that cigarette dangling from her mouth of course. A casual and flippant transgression, I'm not sure we remember that smoking was once very taboo for women even up to this late date. If the bad girl is willing to break this taboo, well, who knows what other taboos she might cast aside? Maybe the right guy could mend her ways, or maybe you're just another sucker in a long line of suckers, lining up to be played by these women who know just want you want and what you'll do to get it. This issue's cover is another from George Gross who painted some of the all-time great bad girls for mags like Women in Crime and Smash Detective. Other magazines like Line-Up Detective, Detective World, All True Fact Crime, Crime, True Crime Detective, and True Crime Cases sported painted bad girls in this era as well. Perhaps in a time when the men came back from war and were marrying and assimilating into proper society, the bad girl held a special draw.

Since I'm talking about these covers I'm going to go ahead and post a number of them from my collection. I haven't gotten around restoring the images yet but can't let the discussion go without posting some examples. It is not unlikely that full scans of some of these issues will show up here in the future, so stay tuned if you are interested in seeing the insides as well.

All True Fact Crime Cases 1952-04


Scrollable Image

Police Detective Cases 1949-04

Scrollable Image

Special Detective 1951-04

Scrollable Image

Special Detective 1952-03

Scrollable Image

True Cases of Women in Crime 1953-01

Scrollable Image

True Cases of Women in Crime 1954-07

Scrollable Image

True Crime Cases 1951-11

Scrollable Image

True Crime Detective 1948-01

Scrollable Image

The recent and excellent Taschen book on true crime mags (there are some sample images from the book at the Taschen site here) splits the true crime mags up into decades and titles the 40s "Sex Rears Its Head". The authors argue that as the golden age of crime waned with the repeal of prohibition, the publishers tried to keep readers by taking a more salacious route. Your mother or wife might wonder what this trash you're reading is but you could always answer, "aw, it's just a detective magazine". Sure, crime was an avenue to explore prostitution, aberrant sexual behaviour, bondage fantasies,crimes of passion and adultery and often from a safe vantage point. Through the eyes of the reporter or the working detective. You could witness the crime from the safety of your reading chair, participate but judge all at the same time. Oddly enough a couple of the older comic scanners tell me that their grannies used to love reading these. Anyways, I'm not so sure that it's safe to paint in very broad strokes when talking about such a huge and varied genre. There were sooooo many titles and sooooo many issues over the years - I think I'll have to read a good number more of these from any given era before I can really
see the trends. Sure some titles are dripping with sex, but others seem to take a different approach. I daren't say wholesome but perhaps more concerned with violence or mystery or forensics than sex. And extricating sex from violence might be harder than it seems, hence the true creepiness of the some of the later directions these mags would take. But I'm rambling on again, exit stage left.

Bring on the contents and some samples from tonight's issue!


Scrollable Image

I like to see some of our slang pop up in vintage magazines, oftentimes you can find a word very close to its origin. A quick web search shows the term jailbait originating in the early 30s, so I'd guess the term was getting into popular usage at the time. I found a Buster Keaton talkie I've never seen called Jail Bait from 1937 but it looks like the term refers to a plot to capture some criminals. The Ed Wood film from 1954 of the same name looks like it refers to a woman that will land you in jail because she is trouble, but not because she is underage. Our story here has a similar connotation - so I'm not sure when the word took on the modern usage i.e. a lolita type that will land you in jail for fooling around with a minor.


Scrollable Image

An interior illustration from Gross, some of his illustrations in these mags are better than others. This one doesn't do anything for me.

Scrollable Image



Scrollable Image

Two mainstays of sexploitation. Catfights and girls in prison, oh yeah.


Big thanks to Slinky for the edit work on this magazine. Mike Ward from magazineart.org and myself also did some further touch up on the cover image, thanks gents.

Next time, our last stop on our tour of 40s crime mags. Color! Dude, you're getting a Dell...