BEYOND the Spinning Rack of Comics

I guess the thing I miss most about comics is the newsstands and druggists that once carried the 4-colored treasures I eagerly plucked from spinning racks or wooden shelves. I would spend what was probably an inordinate amount of time checking and rechecking the racks making sure I didn’t miss a single serialized issue otherwise I would never figure out what I missed and something would ultimately be missing from my life.

Did Aunt May really marry Doctor Octopus?

Was Ben Grimm going to change back into The Thing or was he going to remain human? Again?

Was the Hulk going to escape Thunderbolt Ross’ Hulkbusters?

I’d never be the same if I missed out. I had to have my comics! Pocket change bought a stapled pamphlet containing PURE JOY!SHOW • November 1956

BUTfurther down the rack was some unseemly publications that called out siren-like and caught the eye. Not Time, Newsweek or Sports Illustrated which actually focused on sports back then, but magazines meant for mature if lowbrow readers, usually men. There seemed to be a line of magazines three yards long with flashy and lurid covers featuring damsels in tattered clothing; burlesque joke books full of lasses and LAFFS! or true detective publications usually featuring a dead, partially nude woman lying prone on a bed as a grim faced detective stands over her. Was there more of the scene on the inside? Did they show more? I wanted to know, but I didn’t dare touch them. I was afraid of what the lady at the cash register would think. I’d gather my comics and get out!

Splashy trash ruled the stands when publications were priced to move as impulse buys. (Of course, my comics were more of a compulsive buy.) Print was king and publishers wanted as much of that loose change as they could get. It’s hard to believe somebody was making a profit on something that cost 15¢, but they did! My love of comics may seem to be the long way around to a magazine like SHOW which came and went long before I was reading comics, but it was the ads within this oddly tiny, pocket-sized (roughly 4-inches by 6-inches) publication that spawned this post. They are very much like the “too good to be true” or just downright weird ads in the comics.

Walking Dancing Doll

Odd ad for a girlie mag. Maybe for grief stricken traveling salesmen who forgot the kid’s birthday again.

Sadly the cheesy advertisements inside of SHOW are the best things in the magazine. Despite the bosomy brunette on the front cover and the salacious headlines promising a monochromatic Roman orgy within, SHOW doesn’t show very much. This issue dates from November of 1956, and Playboy was in print at that time and was showing considerably more all in color. SHOW is all sizzle and barely any steak. There’s nothing wrong with a gal in a towel particularly if it’s Diane Webber, but this and a few anonymous strippers in pasties are as raw as this rag gets.

In order to give the magazine a veneer of acting in the public interest, SHOW presented tawdry stories with no byline and scant details alerting readers of the latest scandal or moral panic. Below is a story about college sex clubs and perverse sorority initiations which reads like it was written in five minutes and takes less time to read, but it does contain a lot of pictures that looked like they were borrowed from detective magazine and whatever else was lying around the office’s filing cabinets.

The other weird thing is that SHOW bills itself as The Magazine of Entertainment so it ran the occasional article on Hollywood stars and celebrities. So who is the next James Dean?

Anthony Perkins? 

I’m surprised Perkins’ agent thought SHOW would be a good place for a promotional piece of a kid in his stable. It certainly wasn’t Life or Look! It was a rag, but the agent got his 10% from his client and the magazine got an article to pad out the issue to 64 newsprint pages.

On the cover it asks “Who’s the Next Jimmy Dean?” Did they mean the “Big Bad John,” pure pork sausage guy? No?

It probably didn’t matter. I don’t think the guys who bought this along with a racing form and a pack of Luckies really cared one way or the other about college kids, James Dean or Anthony Perkins. They were looking for a little something they couldn’t see at home.

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2 Responses to BEYOND the Spinning Rack of Comics

  1. OldNFO says:

    Ah yes, the ‘rest’ of the story… with pictures… 😉

  2. Joe_Williams says:

    Mere prose is not going to sell even at 15¢!

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