Classic Cartoons: Martin Plimmer on E Simms Campbell

FOR A time, America's favourite cartoonist was a black man, though few realised it. Race was not something an established commercial success advertised, when segregation was still practised in the South.

The joke was on the racists, because Elmer Simms Campbell had his way with gorgeous, semi-naked white women every week. The star of his cartoons was Cutie, a lusty redhead whose insouciant tendency to perform cartwheels and the like landed him more work than he could handle.

Between 1933 and 1958, he didn't miss a single issue of Esquire; when its rival, Playboy, appeared in the 1950s, he drew for that as well, turning out some 500 finished drawings a year. Many of them far exceeded the cheeky titillation expected of him. Often, as here, the evocative atmosphere threatened to take over from the punch line, which of course was his well- judged intention.

"So that made it our ball on Army's five yard line"

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