There's nothing like the Aslan touch.
Here's something a bit different—a poster advertising an exhibition of work by the great French illustrator Aslan, also known as Alain Gourdon. It began today in 1977 in Paris at Art Concorde, a gallery of the era. There are probably still occasional exhibits of Aslan's work in France, but it's cheaper to see it on Pulp Intl. The better examples are here, here, here, and here, plus we wrote a little post when he died, which you can see here.
Cheapie tabloid shows the way to enriched health.
Above is the cover and below are some interior scans from National Informer Reader, an offshoot of the tabloid National Informer. It hit newsstands today in 1971. Generally the publication featured photographed models on its cover, but we've run across a few like this one with illustrations. There's another one in the same vein inside the paper, and of course both are uncredited, though they look like the work of Alain Gourdon, aka Aslan. Needless to say, if these drawings are the work of the famed French illustrator, the editors of Informer Reader are unlikely to have paid for them.
The centerpiece of this issue is the spread on Swami Sarasvati, a famous yoga teacher who was born in India but moved to Australia and in 1969 became the host of a yoga television show that aired five mornings a week. Informer Reader shares her “sexercises,” but this turns out to be the editors' salacious take on things—the Swami is merely offering relaxation and better health. It's interesting, though, that she posed in a bikini. Clearly she wasn't so zen a little self promotional skin was out of the question. You'll notice her Siamese cat makes an appearance. There's a video online of the Swami being interviewed, which you can see here, and amusingly, the cat makes an appearance there too.
Elsewhere in the issue readers get another installment of “I Predict” by seer Mark Travis. Never timid, this time around he warns that the U.S. and Soviet Union will develop lightning weapons to blast each other, that a member of the British parliament will be revealed as a modern Jack the Ripper, and that a famous Hollywood producer will be exposed as a drug kingpin. As a prognosticator you only have to be right one in ten times to impress people, but Travis isn't even giving himself a chance with these crackpot predictions. We have more Readers to upload, so we'll see if his anemic percentage improves. Scans below.
Even half covered and drained of color the art is easy to recognize.
The famed French illustrator Alain Gourdon, aka Aslan, saw his work reused in the unlikeliest places, including unlicensed on bootleg vinyl sleeves for The Cure and Joy Division. Today we thought we'd show you his art recycled in his native industry—publishing. The top cover for Ludwig Krauss's Les nuits bavaroises is from Éditions Les Presses de la Nuit and appeared in 1958, and the simplified second cover for Michel de Kerguen's Concerto pour un ange is from Les Éditions Gamma and appeared a year later. You can be sure the reworked Aslan was licensed, but none of the sites we visited seemed to realize it originated with him. So we're giving him official credit. Both covers are nice, but the first is truly brilliant.
In a New York minute everything can change.
Casanova à Manhattan is another novel in the dekobrisme style by the author for whom the adjective was coined, Maurice Dekobra. In this one a French count rescues a woman from a concentration camp, marries her, and spirits her away to New York City. He gets a job in a nightclub and she finds work as a chaperone of debutantes. Things go swimmingly until the count's sister-in-law turns up with designs to replace the wife. Dekobra was one of the most famous French authors of the 20th century. You can learn a bit more about him from our previous write-ups on him here and here, but the best way to know him is to read him. The cover art here was painted by Aslan, aka Alain Gourdon. He painted some of the most romantic covers and pin-ups of the last century, and some of the most erotic. We've been thinking about putting together a collection of his pin-ups, but have been hesitant because they're pretty explicit. Well, stay tuned. We may do it anyway. Meanwhile, check out our collection of paperback kisses here.
Sing? Are you serious? I can barely breathe in this outfit.
We never want to go too long without an offering from the great French pin-up and paperback artist Alain Gourdon, aka Aslan, so above we have his cover for Macadam Sérénade, a thriller written by Paul S. Nouvel for Éditions de l'Arabesque. Nouvel was a pseudonym. The man behind it was French journalist/author/translator/editor Jean-Michel Sorel, who also wrote as Larry Layne, Arnold Rodin, Silvio Sereno, Tugdual Marech, Jan Mychel, Jean-Michel, Yvon Brozonech, Swani Abdul Hamid (we love that one), and many other identities. In all he produced more than one-hundred forty novels—and probably could have squeezed in a couple more if he hadn't been so busy thinking of pen names. 1955 on this.
National Informer predicts a sex-crazed future but it never came to pass.
Above, some scans from the sex obsessed U.S. tabloid National Informer, published today in 1968, with stories on penis size, nude models, spouse swapping, teen sex, and more. In fact, the editors seemed to believe the world was entering an era of sexual utopia. Which just goes to show people never appreciate the age in which they're living, because 1968 looks a lot more like sexual utopia to modern Americans than anything going on today. There are three highlights in this issue—Swedish actress Janet Agren, who we've memorably featured before, on the cover, an Aslan pin-up on page three, and visions of the future from Informer's resident soothsayer The (not so) Great Criswell. His craziest prediction is as follows: “I predict that African brides can be bought in the open market thru mail-order. These 12-year-old brides have been trained how to be a good, dutiful wife, a good mother, and a good black magician, fortune teller, and witch doctor. Over 18,000 are now in England alone!” There's really not much we can add to that. Except to say that if these 12-year-old fortune tellers actually existed we wish one of them would have taken Criswell's job. You can see plenty more from Infomer by clicking its keywords below.
I look ridiculous, I know, but it’s cheaper than a chiropractor.
Above, the cover of Lewis Simford's Mon cœur est à moi from Éditions Les Presses de la Nuit's Collection Les 4 Vents de l'Amour, or 4 Winds of Love Collection, 1958. Simford was an alias used by Jacques-Henri Juillet. But of course the reason we're sharing this is because of the art from the always brilliant Aslan, aka Alain Gourdon. See more from him here.
Sleeve from seminal gloom band gives fans plenty to be happy about.
This is the last of our rare bootleg record sleeves with art by Aslan, aka Alain Gourdon. The previous two were for records by The Cure, and we showed you those here and here. This one was made for Joy Division, and though undated—the blue vinyl and inner sleeve have no text at all—probably appeared in late 1980 as a rush release after lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide. As far as we know, no other bootleg records with Aslan art were ever made, though Fontana released a series of very nice licensed Aslan covers during the 1960s. All three Aslan bootlegs are somewhat racy, this one perhaps most so, but it’s a brilliant piece of art.
Vintage paperback violence gets up close and personal.
We have another collection today as we prepare to jet away on vacation with the girls. Since the place we’re going is known for rowdy British tourists (what place isn’t known for that?), we thought we’d feature some of the numerous paperback covers featuring fights. You’ll notice, as with our last collection, the preponderance of French books. Parisian publishers loved this theme. The difference, as opposed to American publishers, is that you almost never saw women actually being hit on French covers (we’d almost go so far as to say it never happened, but we’ve obviously not seen every French paperback ever printed). The French preferred man-on-man violence, and when women were involved, they were either acquitting themselves nicely, or often winning via the use of sharp or blunt instruments.
Violence against women is and has always been a serious problem in the real world, but we’re just looking at products of the imagination here, which themselves represent products of the imagination known as fiction. Content-wise, mid-century authors generally frowned upon violence toward women even if they wrote it into their novels. Conversely, the cover art, stripped of literary context, seemed to glorify it. Since cover art is designed to entice readers, there’s a valid discussion here about why anti-woman violence was deemed attractive on mid-century paperback fronts, and whether its disappearance indicates an understanding of its wrongness, or merely a cynical realization that it can no longer be shown without consequences. We have another fighting cover here, and you may also want to check out our western brawls here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1950—Althea Gibson Breaks the Color Barrier
Althea Gibson becomes the first African-American woman to compete on the World Tennis Tour, and the first to earn a Grand Slam title when she wins the French Open in 1956. Later she becomes the first African-American woman to compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
1952—Devil's Island Closed
Devil's Island, the penal colony located off the coast of French Guiana, is permanently closed. The prison is later made world famous by Henri Charrière's bestselling novel Papillon, and the subsequent film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
1962—De Gaulle Survives Assassination Attempt
Jean Bastien-Thiry, a French air weaponry engineer, attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle to prevent Algerian independence. Bastien-Thiry and others attack de Gaulle's armored limousine with machine guns, but after expending hundreds of rounds, they succeed only in puncturing two tires.
1911—Mona Lisa Disappears
Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, aka La Gioconda, is stolen from the Louvre. After many wild theories and false leads, it turns out the painting was snatched by museum employee Vincenzo Peruggia.
1940—Trotsky Iced in Mexico
In Mexico City exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky is fatally wounded with an ice axe
(not an ice pick) by Soviet agent Ramon Mercader. Trotsky dies the next day.
1968—Prague Spring Ends
200,000 Warsaw Pact troops backed by 5,000 tanks invade Czechoslovakia to end the Prague Spring political liberalization movement.
1986—Sherrill Goes Postal
In Edmond, Oklahoma, United States postal employee Patrick Sherrill shoots and kills fourteen of his co-workers and then commits suicide.
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