Just for Laughs #7 : Oh, Wicked Wanda!

Wicked Wanda was a strip that appeared in Penthouse throughout the seventies; popularized enough to appear on the nose of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and enshrined in an Air Force museum (Egland AFB) in 1975.  Naturally, the nose was repainted to mark the beginning of a more conservative time during the Reagan years.

Basically, it was Penthouse's answer to Playboy's Little Annie Fanny.  It was written by a respected British journalist and novelist, Frederic Mullaly and illustrated by Ron Embleton, who had done the artwork for the popular UK comic TV Century 21 (which primarily featured comic adaptations of Gerry Anderson TV series).

Wicked Wanda was a humor strip which poked fun at the establishment.  It was pretty R rated stuff ; so, there's not much fit to print in Retrospace.  However, I can't help but admire the thrilling art of Embleton and the surprisingly erudite text of Mullaly.  A comic strip team to be reckoned with.

The Cast of Characters: J. Hoover Grud, German Grrr, Walter von Kreesus, Wanda, Candyfloss, and Homer Sapiens.

Hundreds of famous faces pop up in the Wicked Wanda strips.  Indeed, one of the best things about the strip is simply trying to identify every caricature.

Lee Majors, Columbo, Burt Reynolds, Lorne Green, Kojak, Babs,.... it's a regular Sgt. Pepper's in every panel!

I'm a sucker for the comedic details.  Little tidbits sprinkled throughout that you could easily pass over. Some rather obscure and scholarly.  This from Wikipedia:
The strip was replete with inside jokes and references to popular and classical culture. For example, a member of Wanda’s entourage lay naked reading William S. Burroughs’ novel Naked Lunch while a second fornicated with a swan, recalling William Butler Yeats' poem, "Leda and the Swan", based on the myth about Zeus’s fornication, in the guise of a swan, with Leda.

Mullaly's stance, whether politically or culturally, was plainly evident in the comics, and it was often rather severe.  Mullaly was definitely guilty of having his opinions expressed at the expense of the humor, and this could become tiresome.  And evidently, Bob Guccione, Penthouse's Hefner, felt similarly and let Mullaly go in 1980, after an unabated 11 year run.

Guccione replaced the strip with Sweet Chastity, which he wrote himself, and kept Embleton on as illustrator.

Mullaly had a successful career as a novelist, so it's not as if his feelings were hurt.  Mullaly had an exceptional record as a journalist as well (he was the first to be granted a rare interview with the Prince of Monaco and his new wife, Grace Kelly).  Wicked Wanda was hardly the tent pole of his career.

Wanda dedicates herself to destroying normal society and replacing it with a bizarre sex-oriented permissive anarchy.  You can't help but wonder if this was Mullaly's dark side coming out in the comics.

The title or "splash" pages were always very captivating with a lot going on.  If there was ever anything that could lure your attention away from Penthouse's primary attractions, it was Wicked Wanda.

Bob Guccione was the ultimate 70's douche bag: full of himself, shirt unbuttoned, lecherous, slimeball.... or was he?  His record on supporting science and publishing Omni magazine perhaps testifies to another side of Bob. 

Apparently, Guccione had plans to translate Wanda to film; perhaps, after the spectacle that was Caligula, he'd had enough of film.  No idea. 

And whether you love it or hate it, you have to admit Wanda was a stronger female character than the Playboy counterpart (Annie Fanny) and didn't have that creepy misogynistic edge as in Hustler's comic (Chester the Molester).  That's not to say this was a paragon of feminism... just that it may have been a tad better.



  1. Many politically related depictions in Wicked Wanda were pointed and stinging. I remember a recurring vignette had a soaking wet Ted Kennedy emerging from underwater holding a sign that simply said '76, a reference to his aspirational presidential primary bid for that year. His inclusion in the story line was usually a total non-sequitur, but was included to make it quite clear that the artist/writer, for one, was not going to let the legacy of Chappaquiddick be forgotten or forgiven. Interesting insight, for a skin mag.

  2. Noticed in the Bicentennial panel "defence" spelled correctly; sure enough, the artist's English.

  3. I know you like to pin everything on Reagan but you forget two important things: 1- The worst of the thought police was Al Gore's wife, and 2- It wasn't Reagan or anyone associated with him who ruined sexuality, it was the forceful implementation of political correctness that did it in.

    1. Let's see... A 'parental warning' affixed to music marketed to 13 year-old boys when the album contains swear words, etc. vs the intellectual double-speak of the Laffer Curve, which became US policy and is biggest economic lie of the last 100 years...?

      Thanks, but when it comes to the thought police, I'll put $50 on Reagan's lasting influence of intellectual dishonesty and public manipulation.

  4. The culture in the US had been in palpable decline for at least five years before Reagan.But he really did set the tone for the uptight,mercenary commerce atmosphere that characterized the 80s.Of course AIDS,crack,and general fatigue from the 60s and 70s were huge factors.Tipper Gore was just a publicity hound political wife;she didn't really affect much of anything...except the evening news for a couple of weeks in 1985.

  5. Do you have pearl diving? I have used this line with friends since high school in 77 looking at girls asses to present day girls asses "Rather admirable rear wouldn't you say rear admiral?" I think it was in 75 same edition as "The Duel" They were cruising into japan wit the crew and the local ladies were pearl diving naked.