When I posted the classic Kingsmen song "Annie Fanny" a while back (HERE), it brought back fond memories of "the chick in the magazine we all know," and I developed a yen to read some of the stories. I'd seen a few in the mag, of course, but my main interest stems from the great comic strip parodies Harvey Kurtzman and Bill Elder did for MAD (when it was still a comic book) in the '50s. Along with such other mind-warping influences as Heckle & Jeckyl and The Three Stooges, those MAD stories made me the weirdo I am today.
The most obtainable edition of the Annie saga, I learned, was published in two volumes by Black Horse back in the year 2000. So far I've examined only Volume 1. And I have two main observations: The artwork is gorgeous, but the stories aren't as funny. At least, they're not as funny to me.
The MAD stories worked for me because the strips they lampooned were all familiar, and I understood every nuance of the humor. The Annie Fanny stories were aimed at a narrow - if not mythical - audience. They were designed to appeal to the Playboy reader we all heard about, but rarely encountered: the man who read the magazine for the articles.
These stories poke fun not only at the Playboy lifestyle, but the broad range of American society in the sixties. Most are extremely topical, and were no doubt to hilarious to intelligent gents tuned in to the worlds of politics, business, art and entertainment of the times. The problem is most people who were old enough to fully appreciate the stories then are now in their seventies and eighties.
Thankfully, this edition features a fine appendix, explaining what each story was about in the context of the time, and identifying many of the no-longer-familiar faces populating the panels. But having the humor explained to you ain't nearly the same as feeling it in your gut.
Still, there was plenty here to entertain me. There's a fine introduction explaining how the strip came to be. It was cool seeing such folks as Russ Heath, Al Jaffe and Jack Davis pop in to lend an artistic hand. And I did recognize a lot of faces, and got some of the jokes. But more than anything, it made me want to haul out my MAD comics (the EC Library kingsize full color hardcover reprints) and re-read the stuff I really love.