bachelor cartoonist: surreal sleaze

by Art Chantry (

one of things i really enjoy about sifting through old magazines – particularly trashy second and third string specialty magazines – is finding hidden treasure. among the many amazing things you suddenly trip across in old early jazz/hi-fi mags are illustrations by people like don martin and ronald searle and richard powers (and photos by the likes of lee freidlander). you dig around old “men’s” magazines, you find centerfolds of julie newmar photographed by russ meyer with articles written by jack kerouac. you rummage in old hot rod mags you find articles on ‘how-to pinstripe’ by von dutch alongside ed roth ads designed and illustated by robert williams next to articles about the ‘munster coach’ custom by george barris. amazing stuff in these magazines – all just for the looking. but, you also have to know what you are looking at.

---i think fanatgraphics either recently released (or is working on) a book about virgil partch. i just don't recall any details. if it exists, i should run out and buy it now.---AC

one of the things you constantly stumble across in ALL of these magazines (and seemingly a million other magazines as well) is a crazy cartoonist named virgil partch (also known as “ViP”.) vip was one prolific and busy guy. he did gag panels and adverts and spot illos and packaging and just about anything he could get his hands on – color, b&w, 3D. the man may be one of the most prolific cartoonists of all time. i have no idea, but i can’t imagine him NOT trying his hand at actual comic books or regular strip work – except he didn’t really seem to have the disposition to stay still (and tame) enough to actually do such a thing.

vip was one of those “adult” cartoonists.” his stuff was “naughty’, not ‘dirty’ (aka – pornographic). nude women, ‘nudge nudge wink wink’ jokes, bawdy humor, goofy sleazy guys, BOOZE and DRUNKS and overbuilt BUXOM broad-hipped babes abound. he was probably the ultimate “bachelor” cartoonist of that most ‘bachelor’ of times. he was the ‘mad men’ cartoonist of choice. i even had a beer can he illustrated (rainier beer.) i’d show it to you, but i gave it to a friend, stan shaw, who was doing an article about partch. sorry.

this is a little ad lifted from an old late 50′s issue of some middle-brow car magazine. it shows exactly what was so weird and wonderful about vip. the sleazy little driver is the exactly perfect ‘adult’ male stereotype you see in all his cartoons (i’ve always assumed it was a sort of self-portrait). and, typically, he’s placed into a low-brow surreal situation (no sex, this time. it was placed in a FAMILY car magazine. since it’s for shock absorbers, imagine what he COULD HAVE done with this concept?) you see, vip was a great concept guy. his cartoons are always thoughtful, reasoned and surreally sleazy. you didn’t have to be an intellectual white collar guy to ‘get it.” he had an incredible knack for taking dull obvious subject matter and triwsting into something from a bunuel film (except with big tits.)

i mean to say – this is an image for a crummy little ad for shock absorbers. really? this is what he drew? c’mon! but, the client was so teeny-weeny and probably run by a solo guy EXACTLY like virgil partch. they both likely thought this was brilliant. partch grabbed his money and ran giggling away to the next project. all play and no work makes vip a dull boy.

AC: …the reason i chose parch to write about (instead of many of brethren – and there so many) is that parch did so much AD work. he seemed to have great connections into (and a fearless ability to hustle) work from the ad world. most of this either guys you listed relied most heavily upon gag panels and the like. VIP was a “i’ll do anything for money” sort of guy. being graphic designer myself, i can relate better. that’s all.

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