April 2, 2014 | Posted in Editorial Features by
We can say without hyperbole that Wallace Wood was a man. He was also a cartoonist, perhaps best known for his satirical work for EC Comic's Mad and superhero adventures for Marvel's Daredevil. But he was also a patriot who wrote and drew a comic strip for the Overseas Weekly, a newspaper distributed exclusively to military bases around the globe, called Cannon. The strip, not restricted by commercial codes of common decency, features a Cold War warrior, action and enough sex and naked babes to spill your Indian ink.
Now those forgotten gems of comic-strip art are collected in a hardback edition called, aptly, Cannon by Wallace Wood (Fantagraphics), with all the thrills, chills and sexual ills of an American James Bond movie directed by Russ Meyer.
As described by Fantagraphics, Cannon was "initially brainwashed by the terrifying, voluptuous, and always at-least-half naked Madame Toy to be 'the perfect assassin' for the Red forces, Cannon was eventually rescued and brainwashed (again) by the CIA until he had no emotions whatsoever. Under the employ of our government's Central Intelligence Agency, Cannon experiences action like no other agent! Undercover and under the covers, Cannon endures nude torture by beautiful women, explosive gunplay, naked catfights, bone-crunching plastic surgery, nudity, Hitler, nihilistic lovemaking, Weasel the spy, naked women, death from above, and more naked women."
Besides the pages of black-and-white newspaper strips, there's an introduction by cartoonist extraordinaire Howard Cheykin and some color comic-book stories, written by Wood and drawn by Spider-Man originator Steve Ditko.
If you're not familiar with the tight rendering of Wood's masterful penmanship, then you're in for a treat. We'd recommend starting with Wood's intense art from the EC Comic's era, Came the Dawn and Other Stories (The EC Comics Library), which is also published by Fantagraphics.
Don't think comics are just fantasy play for little boys, they're also fantasy play for big boys, too. In the early 1980s, Wood made a couple of pornographic comic books, titled Gang Bang. Most notorious of the bunch was a sexually explicit version of Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, called So White and the Six Dorks. He also parody classic comic strips Terry and the Pirates as Perry and the Perverts and Prince Valiant as Prince Violate.
Even the Man of Steel wasn't safe from Wood's pen. Superman and Wonder Woman finally do what we knew they always did, but were never privy to in Stuporman Meets Blunder Woman. Other superheroes were equally exposed, such as Flash Gordon who became Flasher Gordon and Tarzan who was retitled Starzan.
His magnum opus Malice in Wonderland, first published in the sadly short-lived glossy adult publication National Screw magazine from 1976 to 1977, was reprinted posthumously with material from Wally Wood's Weird Sex-Fantasy from 1977.
Wood pushed the envelope of sexual satire to the breaking point with an unsigned Disneyland Memorial Orgy poster, which first appeared in Paul Krassner's magazine The Realist. Wood's keen draftsmanship rendered many of the most famous of Walt Disney's copyrighted characters in explicit sex act and participating in hedonistic drug use, all with huge dollar signs radiating from Cinderella's Castle.
Like we said, the poster was unsigned, but the telltale craftsmanship of the art was a dead giveaway. Wood, however, even years later, was cagey. "I'd rather not say anything about that! It was the most pirated drawing in history! Everyone was printing copies of that. I understand some people got busted for selling it. I always thought Disney stuff was pretty sexy... Snow White, etc."
Surprisingly, Disney took no legal action against either Krassner or his magazine, but did sue a publisher who printed a black-light version of the poster, who used the image without permission from Krassner. That case was settled out of court.
But back to the story at hand, which no better artist or authority on comic books than Love and Rockets' co-creator Gilbert Hernandez says, "Cannon is like a punch in the face with a cement-filled giant salami."
No American library should be without this volume, and as we flirt with Russia towards the possibility of a new Cold War, we can only hope that some young talented up-and-coming cartoonists finds inspiration in these pages and carries on the legacy of daring doing and doing darlings.