Working for the Smut Mags

Working for the Smut Mags

By Antoinette Rydyr
weirdworldart.com

 

As a teenager in the 70s, I used to go to the newsagents in the quest to discover new and exciting magazines.

I gravitated to magazines about horror films such as World of Horror, Famous Monsters and Fangoria, the science fiction magazine Science Fiction Monthly and Omni, and the satirical National Lampoon. I also discovered weird comics in the pages of Heavy Metal but ultimately found the format of serialisation to be annoying.

On the top shelf above the mainstream magazines were the X-rated porn magazines. Often there were stacks of porn newspapers on the floor in front of the magazine racks. Nobody batted an eyelid. You couldn’t shock anybody in the 70s. If you showed them a piece of explicit art they’d simply retort, “Oh you’re just trying to shock me, but it won’t work.” That was the general blasé attitude of the time. Nobody was easily offended.

Today everybody is easily offended. I call it “fashionably offended”. They like to make a show of it. And it’s usually over nothing. Now, anything and everything is up for scrutiny and there is no genuine freedom of creative expression.

During our career creating comic strips for publication for the men’s magazines Steve Carter and I were mindful that every page had to be vetted by the OFLC – Office of Film and Literature Classification – before it could be included for print in the magazine.

We pushed the boundaries as much as we could and apart from a couple of warnings we never had a comic page rejected. And we never missed a deadline. Working at the same time as us in the industry was Dave de Vries and Glenn Lumsden. As commercial as they attempted to be they had a few occasions where they were forced to curb their enthusiasm and cover their art with sound effects and speech balloons.

CHARNEL HOUSE (1990)

We began working for the smut mags by accident. A literary group we were involved with was to be interviewed by a journalist from People magazine, (published by ACP-Australian Consolidated Press, owned by Kerry Packer). Steve attended the interview, (I was interstate at the time) and brought along a copy of his comic Charnel House.

Prior to Charnel House, Steve created Phantastique, Australia’s first horror comic magazine. The project was funded by a $20,000 loan and a $5,000 grant from the Office of Small Business. When the premier issue hit the newsstand it ignited a furore. Complaints from the conservative Right about misappropriation of public monies while the authoritarian Left spat slogans of “gratuitous violence” and misogyny.

Phantastique and its creators were condemned over the radio waves by shock jocks John Laws and Alan Jones, from the pulpit by the Reverend Fred Nile and vilified in parliament. Headlines of “torture comic” were plastered across newspapers and TV journalists were clamouring for an exclusive.

When it comes to horror, all publicity is good publicity and all the attention helped the magazine fly off the shelves. But it also resulted in Phantastique being banned in three States. Like a red giant, Phantastique burned brightly for a short time and was extinguished after four issues.

After the media frenzy surrounding Phantastique, Steve created Charnel House, which was designed to represent a pure vision of what Phantastique was supposed to be without all the meddling and interference that it had been subjected to. Charnel House went out onto the newsstand and although it was a heavy horror magazine, it was often placed next to Casper and other kiddie comics. Unlike Phantastique, Charnel House flew under the radar and did not stir up a controversy. It sold well and turned a profit, a rare feat in the Australian comics scene. We were later to discover that many people were aware of it.

When the journalist from People magazine arrived at the appointment, the first thing he said was, “Tits! I want tits!” There were no tits on offer but Steve had Charnel House and the journalist went wild over it.

LORENA QUASAR (1994-1997)

ACP was already producing People and Picture magazines and they were both newsstand available on a weekly basis. They were about to launch a glossy version called Sextra to be produced monthly. On the strength of Charnel House, Steve and I were approached by the editor Pat Sheil to contribute cartoons. The idea was that famous fairytales would be rewritten and a story would be featured each month in Sextra magazine. Ignatius Jones (Jimmy and the Boys) penned most of the stories and we provided the accompanying illustrations.

After about a dozen issues of Sextra, there was a parting of the ways and the editorship was taken over by Tony Lambert. The fairytale parodies were dropped and that’s when we started our on-going comic series called Lorena Quasar – Intergalactic Reporter. As our hearts belonged in horror and sci-fi, we always endeavoured to insert those elements and concepts into our stories, along with satirical commentary. Since Sextra was a men’s mag, in every episode Lorena had to lose her clothes somehow. There was also a running gag that her cameraman would always get killed necessitating a replacement in the next episode. Each episode was two to three pages in length and the series ran for three years.

SUE WIDEMOUTH’S NUDE REVIEW (1995-1996)

Books and videos were often sent to Sextra for promotion. As a trial we created Sue Widemouth’s Nude Review. The idea behind Nude Review was that one of those items would be humorously reviewed by the main character who was invariably naked. We wrote the review and drew the strip, then the cover image of the item would be inserted into the comic by the designer. Nude Review appeared intermittently for a limited time.

SAVAGE BITCH (1996 – 1999)

Following the success of Lorena Quasar, we pitched a cave girls idea to the editor of Picture magazine, Brad Boxall. He immediately became excited at the concept. This was to become Savage Bitch, wherein all the characters were called Savage Bitch, Big Bitch, Wild Bitch, Blood Bitch, etc. as a fun reference to the Spice Girls who were popular at the time. However, the main premise of the strip was that only a truly “savage bitch” can survive in such a dangerous and hostile world.

Again we inserted our horror and sci-fi themes by setting it on another planet and included heaps of evolutionary creatures and monsters that we are famous for. This time our comic was a serial which we produced one page every week.

Around this time, the OFLC created a policy for the girlie mags to submit their content before publication to ensure that they met a perceived “public standard”. We suggested to the editor that as it is only voluntary at this stage, they should not comply because if they did, it would soon become mandatory. Despite our warning, all the content of the girlie mags was submitted, and our prediction became a reality: the voluntary policy became mandatory.

ACP was experiencing other problems with the OFLC, which had determined that certain words could no longer be used on the cover of their publications. These were words that were now deemed to be offensive and derogatory. To get around this ban, the creative journos at Picture invented words to replace the banned ones. For a while the covers of Picture were graced with nebulous words such as “smoo” and “nunga” until the OFLC clamped down and banned those too! An entire list of banned words, real and invented, was issued by the OFLC to the offending magazines.

Many of the staffers at Picture magazine disliked Savage Bitch as they found the strong portrayal of women too challenging. But the editor loved it and when the first story wrapped up he gave it a second run. The Savage Bitch jungle adventures have since been compiled into one graphic novel. Comics legend, Stephen R. Bissette provided an insightful Introduction and the book is now available on Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes & Noble, etc., or direct from us! Even now, people come up to us at events saying they remember it and that they bought Picture just to follow the adventures of Savage Bitch! High praise indeed.

After Savage Bitch ended in Picture, a new adventure started in Sextra. Soon after, the editor was replaced by Boris Mihailovic. We received a gruff phone call informing us that Savage Bitch was “unacceptable” and that it was axed from the magazine. I tried to renegotiate and organised a meeting in his office. During the meeting, one of the female staffers entered with some information for the editor. He bawled her out. The poor staffer left in tears. Then he turned back to us and demanded to know if we can draw like Frollo?

We felt awkward after the episode with the staffer but tried to explain what was involved in drawing comics and that we had our own original art style. After a lengthy discussion, topics began to go around in circles. He didn’t really seem to know what he wanted and the discussion was starting to become exacerbating.

I started to think that this guy was a fucking wanker. Now, this editor was a huge brutish biker and I didn’t dare express that, but as I thought the words in my head, I heard Steve utter the very same words. Boris inflated to twice his size, his face turned purple and veins bulged from his temples. Through gritted teeth he demanded, “Get out of my fucking office!”

Later, greed reared its ugly head and it was decided by the higher echelons that Sextra would cease production. Although Sextra was turning a profit, it “wasn’t enough of a profit”.

HELLON EARTH (1996)

We were sitting in the office of Simon Firth, the editor of Australian Hustler and he was describing the sort of comic strip he wanted to run. He said he wanted something that was “gross” and “grotesque”. “You’ve come to the right people for that!” we said enthusiastically. We discussed terms and went away to draw up ideas.

Hustler was a very hardcore porn magazine and anything goes. Or so we thought. We came up with an idea called Suzi Uzi, which was set in a post-apocalyptic world with feminazis battling rape-apes! Typical SCAR, eh?!

We drew some sample pages and showed them to the editor and he was absolutely gobsmacked. He thought it was too extreme for Hustler! Confused, we looked around to check that we were indeed in the offices of Hustler. We reiterated that he requested “gross” and “grotesque”. Eventually, we realised that his definition of “gross” and “grotesque” did not correspond with that of the dictionary.

After more discussion, we went away and came up with a milder version, called Hellon Earth. Hellon Earth was a satirical horror-fantasy serial in which the world is overrun by demons from Hell. The editor liked this idea although he did insist that we remove the word “violence” from a character’s speech balloon! We complied, but it was a bit of a nuisance as it was a time before computers and all our comics were hand lettered.

Two pages of the Hellon Earth serial appeared every month in Australian Hustler magazine. Steve and I wrote Hellon Earth and we roped in Dez Waterman to provide the main pencils. We did additional pencils, inks, lettering and colouring. Hellon Earth was axed after a revamp of Australian Hustler and the story remains incomplete.

SIDESHOW ALLEY (a.k.a. Sui Generis) (1999-2000)

It took about six months of negotiations before we could strike a deal with Phil Abraham editor of Australian Penthouse magazine. On the occasion of our first visit to his office, he was perusing our folio and mentioned that our work reminded him of a great comic that he’d bought at the newsstand several years ago and wondered if we’d heard of it. It was called Charnel House! Steve and I looked at each other and said that not only had we heard of it, we created it!

We tossed around ideas and eventually the editor settled on a series of one-page, fictional accounts depicting peculiar people and freaks of nature, which he wanted to call Sideshow Alley, although our preferred titled is Sui Generis. Our comic strip was presented in the form of a mockumentary similar in tone to Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The first episode depicted Siamese twin girls who lived during the time of the Nazi occupation. Around the time that our comic strip appeared in Australian Penthouse, Bruce Mutard also debuted with his comic strip about a lonesome trucker.

A couple of months later, Phil was replaced by Libby Noble. Meeting her for the first time she immediately went on the attack saying that the first comic strip that the previous editor published was offensive and that she’d received numerous complaints about it. We asked to see those complaints but she could only produce one email. The email mentioned the use of Nazis and bizarrely inferred that by referencing that period in history was akin to condoning the holocaust!

We discussed a possible replacement. One of our black and white comic strips we showed her was The Socialite, a satirical story about a spoilt rich girl. She flipped through the pages disinterestedly then suddenly stopped at page four, pointed to the cartoon and shouted, “That’s mutilation!” Drawn in a very cartoony style, the scene depicted people with various severe injuries waiting to be treated in a hospital waiting room, while the rich socialite is rushed to emergency surgery to remove a pimple on her nose!

We tried to present other ideas to Libby Noble but it was a fruitless exercise as we were to discover that she actually hated comics and her initial attack had been a tactic to disguise that fact. All the comics in Australian Penthouse were unceremoniously dumped.

SLUGMAN (1994 – 1995 and 1999)

Another magazine to venture into the scene of sex and satire was World. While ACP was based in Sydney, World was Melbourne based and published by New Day Publications owned by Mark Day, and edited by Paul Toohey.

We noticed World on the newsstand and were excited to discover comics within the pages such as the bizarre tales by Mack White. We had just drawn up some samples of a new one-page strip called The Adventures of Slugman. Slugman was a socio-political satire, which took issues of the day and turned them into slimy, slithery parodies. We sent Slugman to Paul Toohey and he in turn showed it to the rest of his staff. They all hated it! That was good enough for him to publish it! Mucho kudos!

Slugman was our only comic strip to be published in black and white. All the others were in full colour.

In 1995, World magazine folded, but in 1999 The Scoop began and was published by Next Media in Sydney, which published Rolling Stone Australia magazine. Again Pat Sheil took the reins as editor and we were called on to provide comic strips. Slugman had created a fan following while at World so it was a natural fit to transfer to The Scoop. And this time it would be in colour.

CHERRY BOMB and LESBIAN LOUNGE LIZARDS (a.k.a. Hell’s Belles) (1999 – 2000)

Along with Slugman, The Scoop published our satirical strip The Socialite, previously rejected by Australian Penthouse. They loved the biting satire of the misadventures of a hapless debutante and totally understood it. It was retitled as Cherry Bomb and as The Scoop was a weekly magazine, it was serialised in colour. When Cherry Bomb ended, the two main characters were used in another comic strip, which the editors wanted to call Lesbian Lounge Lizards, although our preferred title is Hell’s Belles. This was a one-page humorous series, which incorporated mythological and sci-fi elements, and was the most fun to write and draw.

Although The Scoop was a men’s magazine the aim was to also include more variety of content than its competitors. One of those competitors was Picture, which had reduced its content over the years and focused mainly on depictions of female nudity. The Scoop tried to push the boundaries and this was when we learned that ACP’s voluntary, then mandatory, submission to the OFLC was, in fact, used as a strategy to wipe out the competition.

The maiden issue of The Scoop was not submitted to the OFLC and 250,000 copies were printed. Now that it had become mandatory to submit all magazines that were “mainly concerned with sex” to the OFLC, the OFLC determined that the model on the cover was exhibiting a bit too much “breast flesh” and the entire print run had to be pulped!

The image was modified, resubmitted and approved but The Scoop never quite recovered from that initial costly error, especially when ACP also went on the attack.

LUST FRONTIER (1999 – 2000)

Although The Scoop was in direct competition with Picture, as an added effort to push the competition out, ACP decided to take up more newsstand shelf space by creating Dingo magazine.

When we were first approached by Pat Sheil to be in The Scoop we had informed Brad Boxall at Picture of our intention to freelance there. At the time, we didn’t have any major strips running in any ACP magazine, except for the odd cartoon here and there.

When Dingo was created, Tony Lambert was appointed editor and contacted us with the idea that we should do a comedy cartoon and Lumsden and de Vries would do a serial. We soon set him straight on that score. Lumsden and de Vries were ideally suited to the single gag comedy routine, while Steve and I turned a weekly serial comic strip into an opportunity to depict a sinister and saucy alternate hell reality in a strip called Lust Frontier.

So now we were in two competing magazines with three weekly strips on the go. We later learned that other freelancers such as photographers were blacklisted from ACP because they did work for The Scoop. We were the only ones to get away with being in both magazines at the same time because we had been honest from the start.

The other tactic ACP employed was to take legal action over the name “Scoop”. They found another tiny publication in a remote region of Western Australia called The Scoop and began proceedings regarding breach of copyright over the title. Eventually, the mounting legal bills were enough to push The Scoop over the edge into publishing oblivion. And when The Scoop folded, so Dingo was buried, as it was no longer needed, and Lust Frontier remains incomplete.

—–

Eventually we hope to finish the stories that were not completed and compile them into graphic novels. The most important aspect of working for the men’s magazines was that we created our own original titles and maintained copyright of our ideas. Although the humour magazine Australian MAD is not considered a smut mag, I’d like to share this story, too. In the early 1990’s we attended a comic convention and talked to the editor (I can’t remember his name) of Australian MAD Magazine. We discussed the possibility of contributing original ideas and asked about the copyright issue. The editor gave us a puzzled look and in all seriousness said, “Why would you want to maintain copyright of your own work?”

—–

Nowadays the newsstand is dead boring. There is not much to be discovered and there is not the variety there used to be. Most of the comics are aimed at children, while the shelves are filled more with greeting cards than interesting magazines. Special interest groups seem to be catered to such as needlecraft, Sudoku, car enthusiasts, yachting and hunting, etc, but the newsstand shelf is mostly dominated by women’s magazines.

It only takes one overly concerned mother to complain that little Johnny might glimpse a boob on a cover to get a magazine banned from the newsstand. Although the men’s magazines were often seen as exploitation they would, at least, experiment with a variety of content and include art and writing in the genres of horror and sci-fi. There were no opportunities for experimentation at women’s magazines and they now mainly concentrate on trivia and sensationalism. They have deteriorated into gutter journalism concerned with bogus articles about celebrities and gossip-sniping.

To me – they are the true smut mags.

 

weirdwildart.com

About Antoinette Rydyr

Antoinette Rydyr
Antoinette Rydyr has been working in the genres of horror, sci-fi, fantasy and satire with Steve Carter since 1991 and they are known by the acronym, SCAR. They have recently published graphic novels, including “Phantastique – Tales of Taboo Terror” “Savage Bitch”, “Weird Worlds – Subversive Science Fiction Stories” and “New World Disorder – Rise of the Neofem”. They also write fiction under the name of Carter Rydyr and their novel, Weird Wild West, co-written with Ethan Somerville is being published in 2018 by Bizarro Pulp Press, USA.

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10 comments

  1. Danny Nolan

    That was a great little history lesson, That first paragraph brought back some memories. The local Milk Bar and the magazine rack just bursting with content and all the porn on the top shelf, Glory days hahaha. Glad to see you guys fighting the good fight and maintaining the rage.

    • Antoinette Rydyr

      Thanks Danny, hope you enjoyed your trip down memory lane! It’s a totally different world now. Although the internet is an important tool, at times I kinda miss the quiet of the past.

  2. Wow, I was obviously more out of the loop in the ’70s than I realised. This is all new to me, though
    i have fond memories of the Pussy Willow strip in RIBALD.

    Local shops hardly carry comics these days. I asked a few newsagents about this, but they didn’t seem to think their distributors even handled comics now. Sigh! Bring back the 1960s.

  3. Great article Antoinette. Great to read the history of SCAR with all the ups and downs. Well written!

  4. Great article. I made many attempts to get weekly gigs in these magazines throughout the 90s since I saw that as a way to make a modest living. I admired your ability to get so many gigs. I admit there’s a few rags there I have no memory of, but it wasn’t the part of the newsagent rack I really bought from much. Now there’s utterly zero opportunities on the racks to give hope to new comics makers and cartoonists – aside from the odd gig in MAD and Phantom. We are living in an anodyne world when it comes to print to be sure. I guess online webby world of stupid has taken over, but it’s not doing a lot of good for cartoonists, or writers, artists or anyone. Sure, you can become visible more easily, but only in very rare instances, can you make a living at it.

  5. Some selective memory going on here, but MOST of what you’ve written is relatively accurate, guys.

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