and Spider-Man co-creator, Steve Ditko,
shared a working studio from 1958 to 1968 off 42nd Street,
and it was during this time that the original incarnation
of Eric Stanton's "Stantoons" appeared. These
were story fragments really, episodes of longer comic narratives
with titles like "The Kinky Hook" and "Bound
Beauty" and "Confidential TV." And if you're
thinking these sound a bit like kinkster comics, you'd be
right, because that's what they are.
was a fetish artist. That's not to say he was a pornographer.
Yet. It wasn't until the 1970s and the end of the sexploitation
era with the birth of (XXX) hardcore, that he would begin
to stray in that direction (and then never in a conventional
way); at this time, while sharing working space with Ditko,
the comics and illustrations were really just PG-rated.
The only thing that suggested they might be pornographic
were the themes, which might venture into exploitation
territory ("exploitation" as it's often used
to define movies), themes that were then considered taboo
by more mainstream comic publishers (who were, after all,
in the business of providing "entertainment for kids").
These scenarios leaned toward various subdivisions within
the sub-genre of sexploitation that first emerged from
cheesecake magazines like BEAUTY PARADE and WINKall
specific fetishes that have long since broken into the
mainstream (some dated and silly, some not): "battling
women" or girlfighting/wrestling, psychodramas involving
femme-fatales or dominatrices (the leather-clad/armed
variation which could have easily doubled as prototypes
for future comic book super-heroines/villains), "damsels
in distress" aka rope-'n'-bondage scenes (a favorite
of overheated pulps since the beginning) and finally transvestitism
(a la Ed Wood).
These early Stantoons were soldlike Irving Klaw's
original Bettie Page fetish pics and bondage serialsvia
mail order. The price was high for each 4-page installment:
$2.00 or most often $3.00 (at a time when 32 page Spider-Man
comics sold for $0.12).
Who was responsible for publishing/distributing these
earliest Stantoons? Stanley Malkin, no doubt,
Times Square bookshop owner and publisher
of the short-lived digest called BOUND and primary operator
of Satellite Publishing Co.; although they can also be
linked with the material published by mob-connected Times
Square book store owner Eddie Mishkin (who would
also buyout Irving Klaw's back catalog).
(Malkin's Liberty Book Shop, 598
in 1963, Malkin would publish a line of so-called sleaze
paperbacks with imprints like First-Niter, After Hours,
Wee Hours, and Unique Books.
And the catalog address of the earliest Stantoons matches
the address of these sleaze paperbacks for a brief time
(1966-1967): the Prudential Building in Buffalo, New York.
The first appearance of a Stantoons advertisement was
in 1966, First Niter (or FN) #226.
(FN #225, on the left, has no such advertisement.)
(The first Stantoons advertisement: back page of MASK OF EVIL ~ FN226, 1966)
The Buffalo address
appears embedded throughout the earliest Stantoon comics.
Why Buffalo and
not New York City? It's likely that this NYC publisher
(Malkin) didn't want the material traced directly back
to him; after all, the stuff was likely to incur
the wrath of US Postal Inspectors who served as censors
then. In the 1950s and 1960s, anyone connected to kinkster
art would find himself in court; and all three publishers
mentioned (Irving Klaw, Eddie Mishkin, and Stanley Malkin)
would eventually find themselves arrested, multiple times,
and put on trial. There was no XXX content or even nudity
in any of the material published, but the stuff was "kinky"
or somehow foreign to mainstream sensibilities then, and
evidently that was bad enough.
(The ads would continue through 1967, with a slight variation.)
all the earliest Stantoons would carry the influence of
his studio mate, Steve Ditko (a master inker). In fact,
much of the artwork was a collaboration, with panels completely
contributed by Ditko. Evidence of collaborative artwork
under the umbrella term "Stanton" goes at least
as far back as Lenny Burtman's Selbee magazines (which
existed as a corporate entity from 1960- 1963). And I've
even seen evidence of these earliest Stantoons printed
on photographic paper, much like the Irving Klaw bondage
serials, which might date them further back still.
(Steve Ditko shot taken by Eric Stanton)
Inc. Collectors Cartoon Classics" was the second
manifestation of Eric Stanton's idea and this time it
appeared in the form of a bound (stapled) 5.5 x 7"
sized booklet, which included various artist's work alongside
his own, work originally done for a publisher/distributor
called "Peerless Sales," headed by Max Stone,
who shared space in the same building where Eric and Steve
Ditko had their studio. The Peerless Sales comics originally
were much like Irving Klaw's kinkster comics (illustrated
stories, essentially) only centering more on hyper-athletic
combative women or comic female domination scenarios (yet
still without nudity) and usually 4 pages in length (two
pages/two sides: or the weight of what originally would
fit in a single-stamped business envelop when these comics
were originally sold via mail order).
It's difficult to pin-point
the publishing date of the first (or even later) Collectors
Cartoon Classics booklets. No date or copyright year was
printed inside: in fact, there was no publisher listed
either -- only a PO Box, this time New York City, with
the zip code 10001. As they later advertised Stanton work
commissioned by Eddie Mishkin (the mob guy, who generally
liked rougher stuff), I'll say Mishkin was primarily involved with these.
(Yeah I like it rough. So what?)
Much of the
same work by Eneg (Gene Bilbrew) and an artist called
Glen (who also originally worked for Peerless Sales),
would also be featured through Eric Stanton's own catalog
after he ventured into self-publishing, in 1975.
(First "Stanton Archives"catalog, 1975)
Eric acquired much of
this material (as well as a substantial mailing list to
start his own business) from Stanley Malkin after Malkin
retired from the business (with the final sexploitation
pulp paperbacks, which by then only carried yellow covers
with ink illustrations, published circa 1969).
This brings us to the
final and in many ways most notorious version of the Stantoons
incarnations, published directly by Eric Stanton under
his own "Stanton Archives" banner (which amounts
to his home in Connecticut, at the time), and they were
a series of digest sized (8.5 x5.5") booklets that
he began producing in 1982 (see below). A series of later
heavily pirated booklets that he would continue to self-publish
and self-distribute, mostly via mail order, until the
time of his death in 1999, when there would be a total
In the beginning, much
like the "Collectors Cartoon Classics," these
featured other artists along with Eric (Ram,
Marculeta); and were sometimes "serials," (i.e.
"Blunder Broad," "Princk-Maidens,"
"Family Affair") continuing (and sometimes morphing
into variations of the original narrative) for numerous
issues. But the art and stories were mostly new. (Older
pieces would be sold individually through Eric Stanton's
second catalog, which appeared in 1980.)
At this point
Eric never had to worry about censorship, so the sexploitation/fetish
content of these Stantoons, judged by current politically-correct
standards, is wild, often explicit, and even shocking.
( interior pages from Stantoons #5)
A parallel could be drawn
between Russ Meyer's later work (his final films were
called "Bustoons") and Eric Stanton's Stantoons,
which usually featured women of hugely exaggerated proportions
engaged in over-the-top sexploitation antics.
Surviving completely outside
the mainstream -- long ago divorced from its sensibilities
-- it may be that Eric Stanton, much like Russ Meyer
to some extent, spiraled into a sexploitation/fetish
kingdom all his own.
But a final point regarding
Stantoons that might obscure things: stories and scenarios
(as well as a variety of the kinks portrayed) were not
entirely Eric's own. As with earlier incarnations of Stantoons
dating back to his Ditko days, they were often suggested
by readers/enthusiasts/kinksters or directly commissioned
by them. It's not always possible to define who Eric Stanton
was by these narratives, in other words. Often readers
would write in with specific suggestions, offering cash.
(This was how Irving Klaw worked too when he would "take
requests" via classified ads; or even at his shop's
Sunday bondage photo-shoots.)
In the case of Eric's
Stantoons, "reader's requests" inevitably guaranteed
a certain degree of overlap or repetition in the themes
portrayed as fetishists obviously tend to be fixated --
even obsessed -- with playing out (and compulsively repeating)
certain very specific, seemingly universal themes.
The earliest Stantoon
serials were finally collected in a series of "adult" comic
books published by Eros in the early 1990s.
printing of The Kinky Hook, on glossy paper, with subsequent
printings on regular porous comic book paper.)
A Few Stantoons
From My Collection....