Stanley Rayon was one of the great girlie pin-up gag cartoonists of his generation, but he has been neglected by cartoon scholars. Seriously neglected. With dozens of magazine covers, hundreds (probably thousands) of works in print, there was still virtually NOTHING available on the artist when we started looking and asking several years ago. Even the International Animated Film Society has had a long standing request for any information on the artist. Vintage Sleaze had posted no less than three requests (linked below) to no avail. One of those artists who sold work to Humorama but far more, and all with a characteristic "goofy" look with splendid, seemingly effortless lines clean lines. A major talent lost.
Good news arrived not long ago from a relative of the artist, his great-niece Kirsten Cook. Even better , Kirsten has done what should have been done decades ago! She has created a beautiful, authoritative, well-researched very colorful website devoted to Stanley Rayon. It is lovely. If only every major talent from the early days of pulp had such an advocate. A magnificent job, and we are very pleased Kirsten agreed to fill us in on her search for the story of Stanley Rayon!
Ms. Cook is a graphic designer (which will be more the evident when you click to the site she has created) and she also claims to be a trouble-maker. We need more of them. The cartoonist would be very proud of her work and to know he has not been forgotten. Ms. Cook, and her story searching for Mr. Rayon is below.
How did you first hear of Stanley Rayon?
I first heard of Stanley Rayon when helping my mother digitize all of her family photos for her ongoing genealogy research. I came across a photo of my Great Aunt Yvone and asked about her husband because I didn't have any memories of him. When she started to describe Stanley and his cartoons, I thought what a shame it was I never had the opportunity to meet this man. I think we would have gotten along marvelously! When I asked what happened to all of his cartoons and artwork, she had no clue. She said, "I think I have something in the attic" and sure enough she pulled out a cute cartoon of a bare bottom baby hanging up clothes with a puppy pulling at the apron strings. (this image can be seen on the website under private works).
I have always been a very curious, determined person and I just had to find out more about Stanley. So of course the first thing I did was Google him. What do I find but the "Vintage Sleaze" blog and the pleas for more information. I did not think this was the same Stanley Rayon, but the drawing style matched. I've taken years of art and there is no denying someone's line style and line weight. Also, the signature matched exactly to the one example of his work I had in my possession.
Was it a surprise that some of his work was a little risque?
Discovering his most prominent work was risque WAS news to me and everyone else currently alive that knew him!
Maybe he would have shared the cartoons with his brothers, but they all died in their late 50's. His nephews (now in their 80s) might have been privy to the content, but if so they sure are really good at faking shock. Now his nephews are big fans of the risque stuff and are very interested in thumbing through the vintage magazines I've purchased.
I'm sure his wife was aware of the content of his cartoons because it appears that she continued to submit some of his drawings after his death by way of the cartoonist Jack Lohr. I have found several cartoons with the Jack Lohr stamp on the back and has Mrs. Stanley Rayon as the person to remit payment to.
(Vintage sleaze note: We wondered about that relationship in an earlier post)
Why do you think Mr. Rayon's work has become more obscure than some of his contemporaries?
His obscurity has a great deal to do with his short life. Had he lived to a ripe old age, I believe his talent and the changing of our culture would have brought him to the forefront. You also need a champion, and I think his work was not something that his wife or anyone else for that matter wanted to shout about from the rooftops, especially in the 1940s and 1950s. Also, the work was published in magazines most men at the time would not admit to buying. I can only imagine the whispers and looks you would get being a girlie magazine cartoonist, or wife of one in that time.
Why take the time to do all the research and create a website?
I've always had a love of history and felt that maybe I was born in the wrong time. I guess I felt a kinship with Stanley, I get his sense of humor and love that he was brave enough to tackle some of the subject matter he did at the time. I love the artwork, I have incredible respect for how simple he makes it look and I know how difficult it is to make something look so simple. Finally, I felt it was a shame that his memory wasn't being honored. Frankly, I might be in trouble by some relatives for bringing this to the surface, but I'll take the heat. I'm not necessarily the black sheep, I'm more of a dark horse. I think Stanley was the same.
If you take a moment to check the links here, you will see Kristen has not only created a fitting tribute to the work of Stanley Rayon, but one so good it should become a model we can only hope will be followed as other artists from the 1950s are documented.
Stanley Rayon the Website is HERE
The biographical portion of the site is HERE and numerous examples of his work and bibliographical material is HERE and HERE.
(Posts from Vintage Sleaze on the artist are HERE and HERE)
On one cover, spanking, a crew cut and a string of Kelp. Humorama!
Humorama's third best artist shows how to Scratch a Match. A bunch of folks have reprinted the book, but apparently without stealing the cover, so here you go.