Captain Billy And His Whiz Bang

w1929As a guy who
still pines
for his monthly
National Lampoon
subscription fix,
even though
it’s been defunct
since 1998 ….

you’ll probably
not be all
that surprised
when I say that
I’m a big fan of
humor magazines…….

Humor magazines
printed in Englishw4
have a long,
storied history –
— going way back
to “Punch”,
started in 1831.

The modern trend
toward humor
was actually
started in Poland –

in 1816 —
by the
“Society of Rogues” ,
followed by the
“Philanderer” in 1830-wnice

they were printed
in Polish, of course.

In the United States,
humor publications were
first oriented toward the ‘college’ crowd —

The Yale Record
and Harvard Lampoon
both started in the 1870’s.

Although American
adult-oriented humor Magazines probably owe
a good deal of their lineage
to a publication called
” Judge”, printed from w3
1881 to 1953 —

( and to a more
short-lived one
called ” Vanity Fair ” )

And this month
so happens to
be the 100th anniversary
of the founding of a
pioneer in the genre —
it was called:
Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang “.

A collection of
snarky cartoons
and semi-dirty jokes….

It was started in 1918
by a retired Army Captain
and veteran of the Spanish
American War,
named Wilford
“Billy” Fawcett.

Captain Billy’s
Whiz Bang was
variously self-described
as an :

” Explosion of
Pedigreed Bunk (or Bull) “ ,

” Farm Yard Full of
Fun and Filosophy “

” America’s Magazine of
Wit, Humor and Filosophy ” .

Fawcett explained
what he was
trying to do with
Capt. Billy’s thus:

” This little publication
was created
with the idea
of giving the former servicemen

a continuation of the pep and
snap we got in the army,”

And the magazine
did cause quite a stir,
—- especially in
polite society .

David Sloane,
in “American Humor Magazines
and Comic Periodicals” notes:

Few periodicals reflect the post-WW I cultural change in American life as well as Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang. To some people [it] represented the decline of morality and the flaunting of sexual immodesty; to others it signified an increase in openness. For much of the 1920s, Captain Billy’s was the most prominent comic magazine in America with its mix of racy poetry and naughty jokes and puns, aimed at a small-town audience with pretensions of “sophistication”.

Naughty and racy —
how could you
go wrong, right?

Of course,
it’s way back
before my time,

— and the first time
I’d ever even heard
about it, was in
the movie
“The Music Man” —

when Robert Preston
was describing
the moral decline of w1
children in the year

“Is there a nicotine
stain on his index finger?
A dime novel hidden
in the corn-crib?
Is he starting to
memorize jokes
from Captain Billy’s
Whiz Bang

Of course,
I was hooked
from that point.

Sure, the humor is dated,
and can offend peoplew1928
who don’t remember
to consider the times
and culture in which
it was produced.

So, it’s not
for everybody,
but then, what is ?

It’s absolutely precious
as a historical reference,
and fun, too.

Captain Billy employed
a number of very
skilled artists
like Frank Tashlin,
and Norman Saunders….

It also spurred a
number of imitators,
some of whom really
couldn’t maintain
the same levels of
quality in terms
of content,
art, and print

and it
influenced others —

“Joy Book”,
“Charlie Jones’ Laugh Book”
“Eye Opener”w2
“Bally Hoo”
and “Esquire”
( founded in 1933).

Even Captain Billy
got into the knock-off action
with “Smokehouse Monthly”.

By the mid 1930’s,
Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang’s humor
seemed old-fashioned and
out of step with the times,
and the publishing empire
(Fawcett Publications)
that it had created started focusing
on other types of periodicals,

comic books –
” Captain Marvel ” ,

paperbacks –
” Gold Medal Books “,

technology –
” Mechanix Illustrated ”

movie mags –
” Movie Story ”

noir fiction –
” Daring Detective”

men’s action –
” Cavalier ”

household advice-
” Family Circle”

Time marches on, a1
I guess…..

But to me,
any opportunity
to laugh
makes the world
a happier place,

and so the passing
of the Whiz Bang,
like the later passing
of the National Lampoon,

still fills me with
a feeling of loss.

we still have plenty
of old copies
laying around.