Friday, December 29, 2017


When I was a boy, there was something about Playboy's comic strip, Little Annie Fanny, that mesmerized me.

I first discovered the strip in old issues of Playboy that I'd smuggled into my room.  Before I'd heard the names Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Jack Davis or Frank Frazetta, I studied the pictures so intently, they're still burned into my consciousness today.     

Revisiting the strip, I see that its message remains relevant.  Fifty years ago, the brilliant Harvey Kurtzman wrote an episode with an island where the population became bored by conventional politicians so they elected a vulgar brute to shake things up. 

Kurtzman offers us his view of "populism" at work:

We've elected an ape, indeed.

The character Annie was simple minded, yet Kurtzman always managed to put words of wisdom in her mouth:
"When people are so mean and selfish, they deserve to be led by an ape."
Wishing you all a 2018 that is a little less mean and a little less selfish.


Anonymous said...

If this was the end of 2008 I could see a lot of Obama parallels in this short.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we elected a brute, no argument. But after the primaries we only had a choice between the brute or the continuation of a crime family who seeded corruption throughout government. And the Brute's recent tax cut puts money back in the pocket of middle class families rather than in the pocket of the Clinton Foundation.

Anonymous said...

Trump's not a brute, he's a mentally ill ignorant racist and a lying sack of shit disgrace to our country. Apparently some of your readers are Appalachian coal miners who never learned to read.

Tom said...

Happy New year David!

Anonymous said...

David - thanks for the Frazetta -Annie underwater ass - as a young man with my hidden PB , I spent hours entranced by those underwater shadows without yet knowing who FF was.

Anonymous # 3 - not a big Hannity fan I'd wager !?

Al McLuckie

chris bennett said...

Happy new year David and to all the contributors to this excellent blog.

vanderleun said...

"We've elected an ape, indeed."

We're you making some kind of deeply racist remark about Obama?

Or were you just being an ignorant piece of shit who is now going to have the country you hate made much, much, much better by Trump?

Anonymous said...

"We've elected an ape, indeed."

At least you acknowledge the ape was elected, and it wasn't Russian hacking. Progress.

Keep looking to those old Playboys for wisdom.

David Apatoff said...

Tom, Chris Bennett and Al McLuckie-- Thanks very much-- Happy New Year to you as well, and here's wishing you all good things for 2018. I very much appreciate your contributions to the ideas exchanged here, and hope you will continue to chime in next year.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter about any candidate's crimes, Democrat or Republican. Anybody who still voted for Trump after he led that birther lie for 5 years is too poisonous and stupid to vote in the US.

Anonymous said...

Amazing and predictable the reactive venom thats triggered by political debates/comments .

My wish for 2018 is for Rob Howard to get his hands on some of Stallone's HGH and and return for some epic throwdowns with Ferrara !

David Apatoff said...

Most recent anonymous-- Obviously you go way back. I'd forgotten about those early "clashes of the titans" between Rob Howard and Kev Ferrara-- two knowledgeable, articulate and hot blooded participants. But the cracks in the structural foundation still remain from their artillery shells. At some point, for reasons unclear, Rob decided to withdraw.

Since you are obviously a long time reader, happy new year to you!

Aleš said...

Happy New year everyone!

kev ferrara said...

Happy New Year everybody! (Even to our wily Hegelian in the Fuhrer Bunker.)

I'm not going to address politiocy, except to say that there's enough of it to go around. Politics is the worst religion ever devised. In that light, I would remind everybody that the more dopamine you seek, the less serotonin you make.

At some point, for reasons unclear, Rob decided to withdraw.

Ultimately I would credit our old friend and illustration sleuth, Arjuna Jishnu for that. He's the one who first found and cracked open Al Capone's vault, so to speak.

Donald Pittenger said...

Seeing that this is a blog about art of many varieties, I'll bring up Scott Adams, the "Dilbert" cartoonist who notably in 2015 predicted that The Donald would be elected president. Adams has an undergraduate degree in economics (Hartwick College), an MBA (Cal Berkeley), and a longtime interest in persuasion techniques. For those readers who get 99% of their Trump information from the NY Times, the Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, etc., etc., I suggest Adams' new book "Win Bigly" for a deeper look into how Trump ticks. Adams' thesis is that Trump is a world class master persuader, and that many of his tweets, etc. are carefully crafted in terms of his longer-term goals, outrageous as they might seem at first glance. Adams aside, Trump is no idiot, having an elite Ivy League education. (Disclosure: Trump and I overlapped at Penn for two years. Didn't know each other, but probably passed by each other many times in the halls of the Wharton School, our base of operations.)

I don't expect readers to change their views on public policies, but it would be nice if the Trump-hate I see all too often would be dialed down. As those bumper stickers remind us, it's not supposed to be a family value.

David Apatoff said...

Aleš , kev ferrara, Donald Pittenger-- Thanks, and happy new year to all of you. I look forward to your wisdom in the coming year.

Donald Pittenger-- I've heard Scott Adams talk about his book at length ( and I think he's more demented than the characters in Dilbert. He claims that "truth" and "morality" are irrelevant to persuasion, so the poor deluded saps who chain themselves to facts and who believe in reality will always lose to people who (like Adams and Trump) have trained themselves to be "shameless." I agree with you that Adams is bright, but I'm unimpressed with bright people who believe their intelligence places them above the great human struggle with normative content. In fact, I think it's a waste of IQ.

Besides, Adams is not quite as bright as he thinks he is. His legal explanation of the case of Judge Gonzalo Curiel was a layman's perspective, slightly twisted to axchieve the desired message. He clearly hasn't been to law school.

Putting aside Adams' "science of persuasion," I suspect at least part of the explanation for his worship of Trump is that Adams' career ended when his boss told him a white male couldn't be promoted. All of his training and hard work was for naught because the company wanted more diversity in management. Adams recounts it today with an engaging smile, but one could be forgiven for concluding that was the point when Adams joined the ranks of the angry white man.

MORAN said...

Forget politics, I like every year that you pick an awesome butt picture for the "end" of the year.

Rigadoon23 said...

Thanks for a great 2017, David. And a Happy New Year to everyone!

Paul Sullivan said...

David— Happy New Year! I join the rest in thanking you for an excellent year of Illustration Art.

vanderleun said...

" I think he's more demented than the characters in Dilbert. He claims that "truth" and "morality" are irrelevant to persuasion,"

That kind of jerk of the knee thinking is probably responsible for the vastly much more successful and lucrative career you've h ad in the art of illustration.

Life is hard when you draw, putz. Even harder when you draw stupid.

David Apatoff said...

MORAN-- I'm glad you noticed. My favorite so far is probably the Bellows drawing at the end of 2008.

Rigadoon23 and Paul Sullivan-- Thanks very much, it's good to hear from you both. Have a great 2018!

vanderleun-- Not clear what you mean. Does "That kind of jerk of the knee thinking" refer to what Adams said about truth and morality being irrelevant to persuasion? (For example, in the interview I linked he says that when it came to Trump's name calling and labeling his opponents, "It doesn't matter if any of it's true; it doesn't matter." (21:28). And later he says, "Facts don't matter." And a little later he says, "I don't have shame like regular people." Etc., etc.) I'm not sure why you think Adams' philosophy is "knee jerk," or why you think that would be relevant to whether Adams or I had more successful careers in illustration, since we obviously work in different fields. If your point is that Adams tried to make it in business and failed, while I succeeded, that is no reason to rub the fellow's nose in it. I'm even more baffled by your line, "Life is hard when you draw, putz." Is it really? I tend to think life is far more enjoyable when you draw. And that leaves us with your closing line, "Even harder when you draw stupid." Another puzzler. What does it mean to "draw stupid"?

If after refection you think you really do have a message to impart, I'd urge you to take several deep breaths and start over.

Many thanks.

David Apatoff said...

Al McLuckie wrote, "I spent hours entranced by [Frazetta's] underwater shadows."

I did too. Did you notice that those rippled shadows on her legs end just before her buttocks, then start again right above her buttocks? There's no scientific explanation for that gap. I think Frazetta was smart enough to know when to take artistic liberties with reality; he wanted the buttocks to look full and round, so he eliminated those shadows. It's unrealistic, but we never notice because he successfully implies the ripples from other parts of her body. One more way that art can be superior to photography.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for another year of enlightening and thought provoking posts and images of illustrative art..
Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Well , Meltzoff was probably the ultimate renderer of underwater shadow , but I bet he would have smiled seeing that panel . I agree that it was one of Frazetta's tasteful choices leaving the rump unshadowed - my favorite touch is the cool reflected light on her right ankle . He was really knowledgable with feet , something so many artists fail to catch the grace of .

I commented on Doc Daves blog that I hope there are alternate universes , and that in one of them , Frazetta was more motivated and skipped 9 years of LilAbner - can you imagine what he might have done ?

Al McLuckie

vanderleun said...

Yours be the knee that is jerking if you think any chain you're pulling is other than your own.

Robert Cook said...

Without having read Adams' remarks in context, I will propose that he is stating a reality without necessarily agreeing that this reality is a good thing. After all, as we have seen, Trump's name-calling didn't matter, if by that we mean sufficient numbers of voters were repelled by it to have guaranteed his loss in the election. And, given the decades of advertising to which we have been subjected, (propaganda by another name, as my uncle, a conservative Republican and founder of a major southern advertising company, once agreed), it is regrettably true that facts don't matter. The consensus reality has been smashed and many people believe what they wish to believe, rejecting all else as "fake."

Let's hope we have a happy new year!

David Apatoff said...

D.H.-- Thanks very much, and thank you for participating.

Al McLuckie-- I agree with you 100% about Meltzoff. He was a brilliant illustrator who found a way to combine his passion for art with his passion for scuba diving. I hadn't noticed that ankle, thanks for flagging it. I also notice that Frazetta played games with the water effects, eliminating both the waves and the color to create a white halo where he wanted the eye to go.

One could easily drive oneself mad dwelling on what might have been if Frazetta (or other excellent artists) hadn't been waylaid by financial considerations, alcohol, or just the weight of circumstances.

vanderleun-- Sorry you feel that way.

David Apatoff said...

Robert Cook-- Like you, I hope we all enjoy a happy new year (although I'm not sure it will become happy all by itself-- it may require some hard work and good will).

Anyone who cares can follow my link to Adams' interview, to see and hear him say those things. They can make up their own mind what he intended based on his demeanor and tone of voice. My own view is that he was admiring amoral persuasion skills without regard to reality or social consequences. To be specific, Adams didn't say that "Trump's name-calling didn't matter," he said that the truth of the names Trump invented didn't matter. (In other words, if you call someone "crooked" or "low energy" or "born in Kenya," the only test is its effectiveness in manipulating its audience.)

Adams is proud of his own cleverness, but he's hardly the first philosopher to come up with this bit of value-neutral sophistry. In my opinion, someone with Adams' advantages owes humanity better than that. In the words of Bob Dylan, "Let us not talk falsely, now-- the hour is getting late."

Studio39artist said...

I like what Donald Pittenger had to say about this "End of 2017" post. I think David Apatoff's comments in that post was a cry baby stupid move on his part.

David Apatoff said...

Studio39artist-- Dear, dear. If "wishing you all a 2018 that is a little less mean and a little less selfish" is a "cry baby stupid move," then we are definitely in for a rugged year.

Not a Real Black Person said...

The world is becoming a meaner because we have a bunch of people competing for a finite amount of non-renewable resources. Civilization is ultimately unsustainable.
The lifestyle you have all become accustomed to since the Industrial Revolution is unsustainable and as things get worse building walls and trade protection will make sense. One of the reasons why these things will make sense even if they are not effective is that some cultures are incompatible. . People with different life experiences and values will never agree on anything. Multiculturalism and diversity, historically, have flourished among the affluent. Today, that has meant major urban areas in developed countries.

Outside of those urban areas in developed countries, mulitculturalism and diversity makes less and less sense whether we are talking about Middle America or most of the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The are plenty of people much worse than Trump out there. Plenty of Hitlers, of all creeds and colors, out there and people who live hand-to-mouth who support them. The only thing that makes Hitler memorable are the way history books are written. In places where people are barely getting by, no one can't afford bleeding heart policies.
The politics that I suspect you endorse are related to your lifestyle, the lifestyle of the affluent, jet-set. It's my impression that people like you like to sample lots of different cultures but never belonging to any of them. No country or culture is worth defending, unless it is perceived to be a victim of white male aggression.
(Middle East, the many cultures of Africa). I suspect the interest in the Arts among the jet-set is related to this need for sampling. Appearing multicultural is a huge part of upper class culture, if not a defining feature.

Unfortunately, as the world becomes poorer, and the amount of wealth we can create becomes smaller, the ideal of a diverse cohesive society will become harder and harder to maintain because diversity does not lead to great decision-making when times get tough.

The sad thing about what's coming up ahead is that much worthwhile art will get destroyed.

Anonymous Not a Real Black Person said...

The people who are upset with Trump and Brexit and refuse to how the rise of fundamentalist Islam is part of the same phenomenon, don't understand that making everyone get along will require bringing everyone up to their standard of living. Ivy league educations, good jobs, attractive spouses, etc. People get along when they have similar experiences and values.

That is what makes diversity and multiculturalism work (better but not perfect. Plenty of alienated affluent people or upper middle class people.)in wealthy enclaves.

Good luck doing that. Hasn't worked ANYWHERE on this planet yet.
I'd love to see David go to the hood and teach art appreciation to ghetto kids.
They will tell him, "this is not our culture, this is the art of people who treated our ancestors badly, of our current oppressors, this art means nothing to us! Show us something we that is a reflection of us or gtfo".

Anonymous said...

Happy belated New Year David and thank you for all your hard work. I love this blog.

And to all you brown shirts commenting on this post - If you can't handle someone having a more enlightened world view than you, you can always tighten up your jackboots and goosestep on back to your safe cave at the Daily Caller.

Anonymous said...

I always thought this blog was a rare place on the internet for smart people to gather. Did somebody leave the barn gate open and let some Trump animals in?


Pete said...

Great post. Thanks!

vanderleun said...

Don't be such a Hillary whore. Admit it when you've made a big ass mistake.

David Apatoff said...

Vanderleun-- Sounds like you are ready join Melania Trump's campaign to combat cyber bullying with "encouragement, kindness, compassion and respect." Well done, sir.

Unknown said...

Love the art;hate the constant political references.