This is a drawing I did in 1970, an assignment from Jay Lynch that was published on the inside front cover of Jay's underground comic book Roxy Funnies
(1972). It was originally supposed to be for Jay's Bijou Funnies,
which regularly ran an illustration on the inside front cover to summarize the interior, a sort of visual contents page, but in this case, Jay held it for two years and then eventually used it in Roxy
. It seems related to Jay's Roxy
back cover which also shows feminist literature plus a JoBo. (Only now do I see that I misspelled "squeamish".)
The JoBo had eyes that popped out when it was squeezed. Steve Allen called it a "goo goo doll" when he used it as a prop on his 1962 television show. However, the name of the product as it appeared in novelty company ads was JoBo the Rubber Boy. Today, it's known as the Martian Popping Thing, sold by Archie McPhee
Jay explained how he began to draw the toy into his comics: "At that time I was in touch with this guy in Texas who ran a novelty company called Elbee. The Jo-Bo toy was something that hadn't been made for the last decade or so. This guy got the rights to it or the molds for it, and he was making new ones in China. So the Jo-Bo toy appears in a lot of strips I did then, just as the propeller beanie, invented by Ray Nelson, started to appear in strips in the 1950s."
Jay recalled giving me the assignment in 1970 and seeing Avon's Robotmen of the Lost Planet
(1952): "I probably just told you to draw a sexy woman with a Jo-Bo toy, and all the rest you came up with. There is a lot of stuff that I kind of plugged in the comics that caught on big. I think the first modern reference to Bettie Page was in a strip that Kim Deitch and I drew somewhere. Jeff Rund was in touch with her then and planned to do some books on her. I mentioned her in some strip to subconsciously whet the public's appetite, but the books (the Bettie Page Private Peeks
series, I think it was called) didn't come out until several years after that strip was published. I used JoBo on the back cover of Conspiracy Capers
and in a Nard n' Pat
strip in Gothic Blimp Works
. I kind of liked the old guy from Texas who ran the toy company. In the 1950s, there was that comic that has Martian JoBos attacking Earth."
Was Robotmen of the Lost Planet
an offbeat experiment in product placement? One has to wonder: What kind of deal led Avon to draw the toys as science fictional comic book characters? And why the change in packaging?
Jay responds, "The toy itself was around from the l930s to the l950s, when it temporarily disappeared. I take it that Archie McPhee must have been familiar with the Robotmen
comic book when he started calling it the Martian Popping Thing. In the early incarnations of the toy it was a circus freak character. Now it's a Martian. It's gotta be the comic book that was responsible for the change."
For an illustrated synopsis of the Robotmen of the Lost Planet
storyline, go to Clea's Cave
. Here is an interview with Ray Nelson
about the invention of the propellor beanie. For Jay's children's books, Mo and Jo
and Otto's Orange Day
, go here
Labels: archie mcphee, avon, bettie page, bijou, elbee, goo goo, jay lynch, jobo, mars, memoir, propellor beanie, ray nelson, roxy, steve allen, toon books