Chicago Spanking Review

Polly and Her Pals Spanking #1

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Although Cliff Sterrett's Polly and Her Pals has been largely ignored by both readers and historians in the decades since it ended in 1958, it was an influential strip in at least two respects. First, its title was the model for the later strips Freckles and His Friends and Boots and Her Buddies. Second, its seeming focus on Polly, a pretty girl, and her adventures was a marked shift away from the "slice of life" approach of earlier strips, and led directly to a whole spate of "young woman" comics to come. Note that this went hand in hand with the growing independence enjoyed by young people in the 1920's - the "flapper" era. (Polly started back in 1912, but underwent considerable development in its early years). In truth, this youth-centered approach was an illusion wrought with considerable skill by Sterrett, and the real stars were Ma and especially Pa.

Let's get a feel for the strip with this example taken from Popular Comics #117 in which we meet not only Polly but her father, Samuel Perkins, and his pet cat Kitty.

polly and her pals from popular comics #117

Polly and Her Pals Sunday strip, original publication date unknown, reprinted in Popular Comics #117(November 1945). Written and drawn by Cliff Sterrett. © King Features Syndicate.

Sterrett was really quite a gifted cartoonist, as a careful look at these panels will reveal. Now, realism in comics was a long way off, but the earliest comics were done in a style that might be described as "realistic caricature". (Some time soon we're going to have to discuss early comics in more detail, and we'll search for a better term then, but to the best of our knowledge at the present time there is no generally-accepted term that describes the style of early comics.) Sterrett seems to have definitely broken with the past, using highly-expressive but far-from-realistic caricatures. We don't recall anyone else making this comparison, but the work of E. C. Segar (Popeye) comes to mind. Some critics have likened Sterrett's work to cubist paintings, but we have our doubts - for one thing, we like Sterrett better than Picasso.

Now let's get to the first of two spankings Sweetspot has discovered in the strip. The spankee in both isn't Polly but instead Sam's sister-in-law Carrie. The plot is pretty easy to follow here, but it is interesting that Sam calls out the old "This is going to hurt me more than it does you" routine for what it is - baloney - and to make his point he transforms Carrie from spanker to spankee! Because Carrie's spoiled brat daughter Gertrude is actually taken over Carrie's knee in one panel, we have regretfully censored that part of the drawing even though the "spanking" is so light as to be meaningless. No offense meant to Sterrett's memory; we're just trying to live up to our own "no children on the receiving end" policy here. Contact the Web-Ed if you want the uncensored version.

spanking from polly and her pals may 14, 1944

Polly and Her Pals May 14, 1944. After Carrie reluctantly gives Gertrude a few gentle pats, Sam hauls her over his knee to show her how a spanking should be given. Scan by Sweetspot. Posted by the Web-Ed on 09/23/2017. © King Features Syndicate.

polly and her pals spanking panel

The spanking panel. Scan by Sweetspot. © King Features Syndicate.

The spanking panel is quite satisfying in a humorous way. It is not, of course, erotic, despite the somewhat kinky aspect of a man spanking his sister-in-law (which we like, by the way. See My Secret Life #26 for a similar scene in which a man spanks his fianceé's sister). Sterrett's style, discussed above, prevents much eroticism. It is interesting to note that the most physically attractive character, Polly, is drawn slightly more realistically.

The OTK position seems satisfactory but is overshadowed by the expressions, by Carrie's spindle-shaped body, and by Kitty holding down Carrie's legs to assist Sam in spanking her laughing face. Good Kitty!

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