The MCU isn’t the first time a bunch of existing Marvel solo acts became a full-fledged group. But you’re only off by half a century… Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Showgirls #1 awaits!
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Dan DeCarlo
Inker: Dan DeCarlo/Sol Brodsky
Letterer: Joe Letterese/Sam Rosen
Editor: Stan Lee
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $140.00
Previously in Showgirls: The end of World War II meant a pretty big change in the comic book business. The superheroes that had dominated the early years were becoming less and less popular, signaling a shift to other genres. Westerns and horror comics came to the forefront, but a focus on teens and especially female readers. Even adult readers got into comics, leading to the rise of Patsy Walker and her friends at Marvel/Atlas/Whatever They Were At Any Given Time Comics. Patsy’s older counterpart, Millie The Model, went through stages of romance and wacky slapstick before becoming a gag strip featuring Millie and her friends. Pearl Dimly, the star of ‘My Girl Pearl’ followed a similar path to romance and such, with the added “joke” of being a truly dumb blond. Sherry The Showgirl searched for fame on the stage, while aspiring actress Patty Powers did the same in the burgeoning world of TV. What did they all have in common?
The art of a young Dan DeCarlo.
Bringing together a number of proto-Marvel’s young female stars, this issue is very obviously borne of 50s morality and ideas on gender roles, but it’s Dan’s art that maintains whatever charms it had. (Also, I spent much more time than anyone really should have verifying that Child Seven, the redhead in this one-page gag, was the same Chili as Chili Storm from ‘Mille The Model.’ In case you were burning to know, she is. It’s unclear as of yet whether she’s related to Sherry Storm, the titular Showgirl of ‘Sherry The Showgirl’, the book that predates this one.
This issue also features the gimmick of having readers design various elements, outfits and accessories for our characters, which I always associate with Archie’s ‘Katy Keene‘, soon to be a CW star. In any case, this issue’s series of one and two-page gag strips is chockful of “Dress designed by Beck Lou Freebish of Jerkwater, Alabama” notes, which for some reason makes me weirdly happy. The longest story in these pages features Sherry’s parents visiting from the town of “Slow Motion, Kansas”, which I’m taking as a personal attack, and features her rivalry with Hazel, the theatre’s cigarette girl, who gets her own shot at the limelight.
The scripts are all the work of Stan Lee, but it’s DeCarlo that makes this more than just another funnybook, providing his trademark beautiful women without ever falling into the realm of cheesecake or prurience. Even Pearl’s boyfriend’s shirt gets a “designed by” credit, while close scrutiny of the various characters will find caricatures of Clark Gable, Dean Martin, Sinatra and more than a few red-haired boys who look like that Andrews kid. Readers are even encouraged to cut out the best pin-ups for display purposes, which offends my comic-collecting soul to the core.
And don’t forget, every book has to have a build-in jerk…
I’m also fascinated by this book’s history, serving as it does as a microcosm of publisher Martin Goodman’s “Throw It At The Wall” publishing strategy. The first three issues are “Sherry The Showgirl’, followed by a rebranding of issue #3 as ‘Showgirls’, then Sherry #4 through #7, followed by this issue, the first of Showgirls Volume Two. In any case, Showgirls #1 serves as both time-capsule and showcase of DeCarlo’s work, and while it’s got moments that haven’t aged well, none of it is awful, retrograde or cruelly sexist, leading to an amused and impressed-with-the-art 3 out of 5 stars overall. Within the next five years, Stan would transition into superhero Marvel and the shared-world mentality of this book, with characters crossing in and out of one another’s lives would be one of the keys to Silver Age Marvel’s success.
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It's very retro, but mostly harmless, pretty to look at and metatextually features shadows of the coming Marvel Universe. Plus, you can send in your own fashion designs!