thrift store finds: office lover boy

I am not often shocked by the books I find in the thrift store. There are certain types of books that people willingly donate to Goodwill, just as there are books that bibliophiles keep treasured and would never give away. Similarly, when I’m looking for comic paperbacks, I expect to find certain types and kinds of these trades.

As a fan of comics, I already know which books I’m likely to come across in a thrift store, either due to popularity of the comic or the noteriety of the cartoonist. Although I stress emphatically I am no academic when it comes to comics, I generally know what to expect. For example, I will find a lot of Family Circus comic paperbacks, because they are inoffensive and many children buy them, read them, and their parents donate them after they’re grown up. A Family Circus paperback is easy to anticipate.

That’s the long way around saying I was pleasantly shocked when I found this book.

Office Lover Boy by Stan and Jan Berenstein, published in 1962 by Dell Publishing.

I am sure the majority of you immediately recognize the names of the authors of this book.

Stan and Jan Berenstein are prolific cartoonists and authors, most famously known to children all over the world for their series of books featuring The Berenstein Bears. I read the Bears’ series of picture books like crazy when I was a young’un. Their colorful mix of pro-social values and gentle good humor was a favorite in my house growing up. In fact, Office Lover Boy was published the same year as the very first Berenstein Bears picture book, The Big Honey Hunt.

…which is part of the reason I was so shocked to find that Stan & Jan spent the early part of their career drawing comics about oversexed men and women with gigantic tits! I don’t expect that children’s book authors ONLY write for young tykes, but I frankly had not considered the Berensteins doing any work outside of the Bears’ series.

Office Lover Boy seems to be the third part of the Lover Boy series, Some light Googling shows two other books released in the series; Lover Boy, published in 1958, and Bedside Lover Boy in 1960.

The majority of the comics collected in this volume are one panel gag strips. I can’t find any evidence that these Lover Boy strips were published anywhere before being collected in this volume, although the tone and tenor of the majority of these strips makes me think they wouldn’t have been out of place in a men’s magazine like Playboy. Case in point:

Interestingly, most of these gags go on for pages and pages, so the “girls stuck in elevator/guys look up their skirts” gag gets extended into the next couple of comic strips. I’ve never seen that concept done before in a comic paperback collection like this. If this really was an original collection rather than a reprint book, it makes sense that the Berenstains would have that kind of freedom to expand into their gags a little bit.

That isn’t to say that the comics collected here are lewd, even by the standards of the Sixties- the tone of Office Lover Boy is more of a tittering, snickering teenager than an out-and-out horndog. In other words: these aren’t porn comics, they’re just comics where the authors are slightly bemused about the prospect of drawing big ol’ boobies and butts on women.

Office Lover Boy deals in the politics and stereotypes of the office environment of the 1960’s- the voluptuous secretary, the adulterous businessman, the killjoy wife. For sure, these stock characters have real and legitimate basis in reality; the television show Mad Men is basically build upon them!  Looking at Office Lover Boy from 2011, and some of the strips and punchlines seem a little rote to me. Like the authors didn’t want to go in for the kill and instead decided to play with their food for awhile.

I thought this section of the book was pretty successful- in “Patterns” the word balloons are characteristic of the unspoken intent of the character’s words. It’s an easy gag, but it’s plenty clever. I’m surprised I haven’t seen reused too often.

Again, what’s most fascinating about this book is not the actual content of the strips, but the inherent weirdness of them. Seeing two beloved children’s authors go dirty was something of a headtrip!

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4 Responses to “thrift store finds: office lover boy”

  1. I love the things that you find and love even more hoe you review them.

  2. I love the stuff you find st thrift stores, I love the way you review what you find even more. Based on this find maybe you should fleck into Dr. Seuss too.

  3. […] news: Jan Berenstain passed away yesterday. I recently wrote about one of Jan and her husband’s earlier collaborations, a bawdy comic coll…. She and Stan were a big part of my childhood and she will be missed. Like this:LikeBe the first to […]

  4. I recall the “Mrs. Clean vs. Mr. Dirty” book and it was an equal time book, flipping half way through, as I recall. They weren’t offensive, but a little suggestive in the centerfolds that Mr. Dirty wanted to read.
    I think I’ve still got it somewhere.
    I thought it was the same artists who did the “wordless workshop” cartoon/project plans in Popular Mechanics.

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