Chicago Spanking Review

Frontier Romances #1

spanking from frontier romances #1

From Frontier Romances #1 (Nov - Dec 1949). © Avon. Posted by the Web-Ed on 06/04/2010. (Replaced by newer scan 02/27/2015 - click to enlarge).

You see here perhaps the most infamous comic-book spanking of all time. This infamy (which we'll explain shortly) resulted in its becoming the third of a group we call "The Seven Spankings" - comic-book spankings which were known to a small group of us back in the 70's. For over thirty years all we had was a low-quality black & white xeroxed copy of the spanking panel and the knowledge that it had come from Frontier Romances #1 (Nov - Dec 1949). Then recently we found the complete page, and by a coincidence we also found out something about it no one had ever suspected, and which we're going to reveal here for the very first time anywhere.

First, let's take a look at the spanking on its own terms. At first glance it seems unexceptional, following a pattern similar to some other Western comics spankings we've already seen. An obstreperous female is brought under control when the tough-guy hero takes her over his knee: "This'll maybe help you grow up faster'n anythin' I know about!" he drawls. Two things bothered us right from the beginning, though - the girl's outfit, which looked like shorts and a halter top, were contemporary and obviously not in keeping with the fashions of the Old West; and she's not really positioned OTK but rather just sort of bending over, suspended apparently in mid-air. We now have a little more information about the clothes, and we can finally explain the positioning.

full page from frontier romances #1

The complete page. © Avon.

Putting the panel into the context of the complete page doesn't help much - the scene reminds us a little of the famous Elvis Presley / Jenny Maxwell spanking in Blue Hawaii, but of course could not have been inspired by it since this one took place a number of years before that movie was made. As to Laurie's outfit (which was also remarked upon in the CSR Forum by Tanner), we can now see that it's a two-piece swimsuit, which doesn't tell us much. Since we don't have the rest of the story, we can only conjecture that the setting was supposed to be contemporary.

cover of frontier romances #1

© Avon.

Here is the issue's cover. Something that further confused things was that back in the 70's, we knew this comic had been reprinted, but we weren't sure where. It mattered because it meant there was another possible avenue to obtaining a copy. The rumor was that it was in Campus Loves #5, which seemed an odd place to be reprinting Western Romance comics, and in fact turned out not to be true, although there was a different spanking in that issue! (For any comic-book scholars out there, it is now known that Frontier Romances #1-2 were reprinted by a different publisher, I.W. Publishing, in 1958 - and with different covers!) Any readers who haven't fallen asleep by now will begin to appreciate just how difficult it was to identify and locate comic-book spankings in the pre-internet era.

cover of book, seduction of the innocent

Now let's get back to why we called this "the most infamous comic-book spanking of all time." Dr. Fredric Wertham, a child psychiatrist, had been concerned with the high rate of juvenile delinquency and searched for its cause. Noting that most JD's (we're really dating ourselves by using that abbreviation) read comic books, Wertham concluded that comics were to blame. If this sounds familiar, it's probably because in more recent years, video games have been similarly pilloried and accused of being responsible for today's bad seeds. The "monkey see, monkey do" theory of human behavior apparently dies hard, no matter how many times it's proven wrong.

Over a seven-year period (1947 - 1954), Wertham collected many comic books he considered harmful to children, including Frontier Romances #1. Many things in these comics disturbed him, for example protruding breasts (which were code-named "headlights" by the boys he spoke with). In his book Seduction of the Innocent (New York, 1954) he reproduced a number of the offending covers and panels with explanatory captions. His opinion of Phantom Lady #17 (seen at right) was "Sexual stimulation by combining 'headlights' with a sadist's dream of tying up a woman." Our own disappointed reaction is, "What - no spanking?" Although if you look carefully, you'll see that one of the stories named on the cover is "The Stinging Whip"!

cover of Phantom Lady #17

Phantom Lady #17 (April 1948). Art by Matt Baker. © Fox Feature Syndicate, Inc. (click to enlarge)

again, the spanking panel

"Erotic spanking in a children's comic book."

With Wertham's death in 1981, we were reminded of his book and borrowed a copy from the library. There was the spanking panel, with no attribution (Wertham never indicated what specific comics his excerpts came from) and a caption reading "Erotic spanking in a children's comic book." As we remember, Wertham further discussed the subject of spanking by noting "Graphic depictions of sexual flagellation upon the buttocks is frowned upon by the Post Office" (positive proof of depravity if ever we've heard it).

The interesting things from the spanko's point of view are that the erotic aspects of adult spanking were recognized and more or less openly discussed (at least by Wertham and the Post Office), and the effect this and other criticism was to have upon the comics industry. The complete history, which includes hearings in the U.S. Senate, is too lengthy even for us to try to detail here, but faced with mounting public concern and fearing outright censorship by the government, the publishers adopted the Comics Code Authority. In order for them to display the Code's Seal of Approval on the cover of a comic, it had to meet certain standards. Again, to spankos the most interesting of these was "All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted." [Emphasis added].

comics code authority seal of approval

The Code's Seal of Approval.

As you might expect, the reaction of comics fans to Wertham and the Comics Code Authority (CCA) was uniformly negative. They accused both Wertham and the CCA of censorship (not technically true in either case, as the CCA lacked the power to prevent publication and Wertham, who certainly desired comic-book censorship, never got more than the Code). They were still being derided more than twenty years later, prompting comics scholars to try to find Wertham's source material. This is how it was discovered that the "erotic spanking" Wertham complained of came from Frontier Romances.

It is true that the Code tended to retard the development of comics as an art form, but it was hardly the only factor, nor, as we remarked above, did it have the power to suppress publication. When Stan Lee wrote an anti-drug story for The Amazing Spider-Man, the CCA disapproved it because the Code did not allow any mention of illegal drugs. Lee, to his credit, simply left the Seal off the covers of those three issues (#96 - 98) and went ahead and published them anyway.

The Code certainly affected comic publishing standards, but did it reduce the number of spankings? At the time we first wrote this page (June 2010) it seemed doubtful, but in 2012 a careful investigation of the data and the CCA's internal history proved conclusively that the Code had a devastating effect on spankings from 1956 - 1965, producing a virtual ten-year drought that was only relieved by Batman spanking Marcia Monroe in 1966. (For the full story, consult our article The Effects of the Comics Code on Spanking, Part 3.)

Before leaving the subject of Wertham, we should at least say a word in his defense: the violence and gore in some comics was truly excessive, and Wertham was right to condemn it on aesthetic and moral grounds if not medical ones. We always thought that pre-code horror comics in particular were absolutely reprehensible, well-drawn though some of them undoubtedly were.

larry welz's parody of the code seal

Larry Welz's parody of the Code's Seal, taken from his series Cherry (which would never have been approved by the CCA!), expresses the contempt many felt toward the Code.

again, the spanking panel photo of man spanking woman very similar to comics panel

Lastly, we promised (what must seem to the patient reader like an eternity ago) a new revelation about this spanking, so here it is: we have discovered it was based on a reference photograph! Neither Wertham nor the comics scholars who investigated his source material and found Frontier Romances had any reason to suspect there was such a thing, nor would they have known where to look for it, but a side-by-side comparison of the two leaves no doubt. We have cropped the photo at left to align it more closely with the comics panel. And since no one but a spanko would have "reference photos" like this one lying around, it proves that the artist was one of us - so who was he?

Consulting various sources, we came up with a list of possible artists: Kim Bartley, Cliff Hanson, Walter Johnson, Curt Langdon, Howard Larsen, John Starr (possibly an alias), Ed Waldman, and Maurice Whitman. Looking at each of these in turn, we have reached the tentative conclusion that it was Walter Johnson, who also probably wrote the story. We can cite three pieces of evidence to support this.

First, one source, the Grand Comics Data Base, specifically attributes the story (reprinted version) to Johnson. Second, we have found out that Johnson was a contributor to The Saint #7, and issue #5 (which we have seen) had a spanking panel also.

rick's head head shot from cover of target vol5 #6 by Walter Johnson

Third, there appear to be stylistic similarities between the FR story and some of Johnson's known work. On the left, we have Rick Dennison's head from FR. On the right, we have The Cadet from the cover of Target Comics Vol.5 #6. The comparison is difficult because of the relatively low resolution of the FR scan, but the hair and the shape of the head are very similar. What's needed to really nail this down is a good-quality scan of the complete story, which might reveal Johnson's signature (he generally signed his work) and more stylistic clues.

08/02/2010 update: After this page was written, we discovered the final proof we needed to vindicate our conclusions in the form of some very high-quality scans (one of which revealed Johnson's signature) at

uncropped version of the photo above

Here is the full-size reference photo. We found this in February 2010, and immediately recognized the similarity to the spanking in Frontier Romances, which proves we're alert, knowledgeable - and just a little weird. But it's worth being a little weird in order to make an original contribution to comic-book scholarship!

The position is bent over with hands on a chair, but at an angle which suggested the classic OTK pose. When the artist copied the pose into the comic panel, he had to leave out the chair since the scene took place outdoors on the shore of a lake. But because he didn't show us either her foot on the ground or her hands on the boulder, it looked like she was just floating there, bent over for Rick's convenience in spanking her. At last we can answer the question of why the artist drew her the way he did.

The magazine and exact date it appeared is unknown, but the fashions are consistent with it being roughly contemporaneous with the comic. Ripley speculates that it may be from "one of Robert Harrison's 'girlie' magazines from the 1940s ie Beauty Parade, Wink, Titter, Flirt or Whisper, or one from his competitors like Night And Day." The typeface and reporter's style ("Judge O.K.'s Spanking") seem to us intended to disguise the presentation of spanking fantasies as straight journalism. We certainly don't blame the publisher for doing this, since publishing straighforward erotic spanking material could have gotten him into trouble.

12/24/2010 Update:   We found some further evidence supporting Ripley's idea in the form of a retro magazine catalogue description - it now seems likely that the source was indeed Harrison's Beauty Parade and that the year was 1948, which dovetails perfectly with the 1949 publication of Frontier Romances #1.

02/27/2015 Update: Two sources made some really nice new scans available to us, Soothsayer and Fanz123 - our thanks to both of them. Since we've said so much about this comic already, we'll simply present the story, "Tangled Love," in its entirety for readers' enjoyment. (We also replaced the old scan of the spanking panel with a new one).

frontier romances #1 tangled love page 1
frontier romances #1 tangled love page 2
frontier romances #1 tangled love page 3
frontier romances #1 tangled love page 4
frontier romances #1 tangled love page 5
frontier romances #1 tangled love page 6
frontier romances #1 tangled love page 7

Another happy ending that came about because of a good spanking! (Posted by the Web-Ed on 02/27/2015).

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