Monday, November 28, 2016

Sick #127, 1 of 4

I've been posting humor magazines here every week, mostly from Sick. Here's one of the final issues from June 1979. It had seen better days at this point, and had already been on a steady decline for some time. They'd gone through several publishers, eventually being part of Charlton Publications, itself on its last legs. Rumor had it they were mob-run and were the lowest-paying company in the business, supposedly paying in contributor copies in its final years.

They started out in the twenties publishing Song Hits and Hit Parader, reprinting song lyrics to popular songs transcribed from the radio. The publisher did time in prison, not knowing that you needed permission to print song lyrics. Unlike most publishers based in cities like New York, they were located in Derby, CT and did mostly work in-house. The printing was done in the same building most of the comics were written and drawn in, using a printing press meant for packaging. It showed with registration marks, serial numbers, and sometimes perforations in the newsprint.

You could tell the writers and artists of the comics were sometimes overworked, since names of characters often changed in the middle of stories. Because they chose not to be located in a big city, the entire town was flooded, and the comics staff was required to take a decrease in page rates. They took ads out on the front covers. Except for a few years following the 60s Batman craze, they eschewed the dominant genre of comics, superheroes, since most of their product was sold at military PXs rather than newsstands.

But enough about Charlton and back to Sick. Most of the work was done by editor Jack Sparling, who probably did most of the pages himself because he was unable to pay for many contributors. (More on evidence of a low budget later). Much of the decline can be attributed to the staff moving on to higher paying and more prestigious venues, particularly longtime editor and contributor Paul Laikin, who was already writing for every other humor magazine.

The mascot, Huckleberry Fink, was now hidden in a knight outfit, since they had a cease and desist order from main competitor Mad who claimed he looked too much like Alfred E. Neuman, himself a public domain character that Mad managed to make a registered trademark.

Behold the cover by Sparling.
This was a wraparound cover. Here it was with the back.
One of my first printed works was a letter to Sick in 1980.
Part of the magazine's low production values were typed lettering rather than typeset, and lack of watercolor tones. It was likely they never saw Mork and Mindy, the object of parody, and it was sad to see that George Kashdan, one of the main writers for DC Comics in the mid 50s and 60s, credited here.
The artist here, Bill Burke, (presumably not the same one from Wizard of Oz) who as far as I know never did any work for anyone but Crazy and Sick.

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