It may be hard to sit back and justify a book full of pin-up art of scantily clad women often in suggestive attire or making sexual comments, but there is more than meets the eye in this collection of works by Bill Ward. Having worked in comic books for much of the 1940s and 1950s, Ward escaped the medium and leapt into a different foray as the comic industry began to implode as a result of the infamous Wertham accusations about the negative influence comics were exuding upon youth, which let to a self-imposed censorship within the industry. Ward left comics to make his way into drawing one-panel comic art for a variety of magazines such as MAD, Cracked, and many others. During a six-decade career, it is believed that he drew over 10,000 pin-up pieces.
He consistently drew voluptuous women wearing various lingerie in suggestive poses, with taglines that evoked humor. Often these lines reinforced sexual stereotypes about men and women, and while some may be humorous, others may ruffle feathers. Perhaps what is most interesting about this book is understanding Wardís drawings as a subcultural observation of men throughout the second half of the twentieth century. These pictures display a cornucopia of themes that access trends among males. Some drawings elicit ideas of sadomasochism, gold-digging, cheating, begging, distraction, and immodesty as well as many others.
Wardís drawings are certainly attractive in the conventional sense, with hourglass figures, large bosoms, long flowing hair and sensual lips on a cherubic face; with almost all of the women don stockings and a garter belt or high heels and a skirt. The background and secondary characters (read, men) adequately fill in the panel, though eyes are almost certainly drawn to the female.
The introduction gives a brief description and explanation of who Ward is and how he got into drawing some of the more famous comic depictions of women of the last fifty years. It also contains some colored pictures from Wardís vast and prolific career. While sufficient for an introduction, the works themselves are presented without any indication of where or when they were published, which is unfortunate. By mere fact they appear on the magazineís cover, some of the strips can be identified, but most cannot.
There is certainly much to call sexist and misogynist in Wardís work. His portrayal of women is pernicious and stereotypical. Yet even in this, he does not deny women their agency, showing them to be quite talented and perceptive in dealing with men.
As a snapshot of Wardís work, this collection reveals his consistency and talent through the decades of his career. It also proves an interesting study of menís perceptions of women through this period. Readers seeking to explore this particular method of survival in the post-Wertham age of comics might also be pleasantly entertained with this collection.