Crazy World, Ain’t It?

I’ve always been fond of this oddball little ad, which appeared in mid-70s comic books (in this case, a late 1974 DC 100-pager). It certainly demonstrates the considerable influence that pioneers such as Thimble Theatre creator Elzie Segar had on many an underground cartoonist.

1974TShirtAdA

If the advertised products had been iron-ons (à la Roach Studios*) instead of finished t-shirts, they’d be easier to find today. The Mickey Rat shirt is still being produced these days, though likely a grey market item… same as it ever was. On the other hand, I can find neither hide nor hair of the Hebrew Shazam shirt. Anyone?

T-ShirtCatalogueA
A bountiful spread from The Natural Trading Company’s Mail-Order Catalog, which proposed T-Shirts – Posters – Art Prints – Buttons – Records – Comics… count me in!
RoyWizzardA
« Pinball Wizzard, you say? »

Here’s a bit of background on the Crazy World shirt, designed by (or swiped from) John Van Hamersveld, the genius behind the unforgettable The Endless Summer movie poster: « The face emblazoned across the chest of Mick Jagger in a 1972 New Musical Express feature on the Rolling Stones had a rich history according to its creator. The iconic image was the product of a mescaline and marijuana jag, after which Van Hamersveld was left with the enduring image of a man’s face with a big, toothy, wide smile. From a portrait of Jimi Hendrix he had made in 1968, Van Hamersveld came up with the Johnny Face logo the following year, which he used for promoting his own work. »

MickCrazyWorldA
And there’s Mick, just like the man said.
CrazyWorldTShirt
One of the current offerings. Oh, definitely a bootleg.

For me at least, it’s hard to look at Johnny Face without seeing in it echoes of The Face of Steeplechase, Coney Island’s widely-grinning mascot.

Trivia time: can you name the infamous individual behind the 1966 demolition of the beloved Steeplechase amusement park? Find the answer here.

SteeplechaseFaceA

… which in turn takes us farther down the rabbit hole in pursuit of MAD Magazine‘s mascot Alfred E. Newman, in his formative years and myriad of guises.

As for the artist who crafted the Natural Trading Company ad, I was drawing a blank until a few years ago, when the wonderful Jay Lynch (1945-2017) kindly lifted the veil on that particular mystery: Jerry Kay was the stylish culprit. Much appreciated, Mr. Lynch!

– RG

*not to be confused with the original Roach Studios, of course…

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