Tuesday, July 6, 2010
The De-Evolution of Nellie the Nurse: Part IV of VI
As the 1950s gets under way, Nellie the Nurse artwork is provided by Howie Post. Howie's young women are all boobs and butts, reduced to those components of womanhood which are of most interest to males. Nellie is advertised across the top of the cover as 'America's Red-Headed Riot'. Along with her accentuated female bodily features, Nellie is not much of a thinker. She's a dumb red-headed provider of visual stimulation for the opposite sex. Stan Lee has obviously pushed the title over into straight gag humor. It not longer seems to qualify as good girl art because it's too cartoony, although the mammary glands and hourglass figure are still there, even the odd lingerie panel. Doesn't have the same effect as, for example, Bill Ward's Torchy, though.
I wonder if Nellie wears one of those bras with the stiff, cone-shaped cups to give her that bust line, or if she's just naturally endowed with such prominent female attributes. I guess we'll never know. Again, there's no longer much to do with the work of nurses or hospitals in the book. It was eventually canceled with the October 1952 issue, to be resurrected in 1957 for one issue with art by none other than Bill Everett. In the next post in this blog series we'll take a look at how Bill interpreted Nellie, before going on to her final demise at Dell. With Howie Post's degenerative female figures I see a parallel with the devaluation of women after World War II, with their enforced departure from the jobs they had held during the war and their return home to suburban domestic bliss. The de-evolution of Nellie the Nurse, with nurses always at this time being the prominent example of the career woman, is the decline of woman's status following the war, the reassertion of male dominance and the re-establishment of full patriarchy in society. Nellie gets dumber and dumber as the series progresses, and more and more reduced to breasts, buttocks, thighs, tiny waist, and a pretty face.
On the topic of good girl art, if Howie Post's Nellie fails to retain sufficient criteria to qualify as GGA, there were certainly good examples in earlier issues of the title, as we've already seen. Many were 52 page comics, containing other Timely career girl humor features, such as Tessie the Typist, and here, Hedy DeVine.
Plenty of lingerie panels in that one, and along with Stan Lee's Hedy as an example of how women stereotypically behave, we've got a nice picture of what women were supposedly about in the 1940s and early 50s.