Post-war Britain. A nation needing to forget the horrors of the blitz and the battlefields. One antidote: new magazines featuring cartoons about women drivers, voyeurism, infidelity, curvy secretaries, leering drunks, dizzy blondes, the 'battleaxe' wife, and newlyweds. Yes, it's the boom period of the 'joke book' for men that proliferated in the late 1940s and 1950s. Not the pornographic and illegal 'Tijuana Bibles' comics that were secretly exchanged in pubs, but professionally produced mags that were just a little risqué. This was the humour of the seaside postcard and 'end of the pier' show turned into a format for national distribution.
The joke books were well distributed to newsagents and bookstalls and, for a modest price these slim pocket-size periodicals would contain a mixture of anecdotes, cartoons, and pin-up photos of glamour models in various states of undress. (But only a hint of a nipple, if that.) The cartoons would often feature glamourous women too, with as much ample cleavage and bare thigh as the publishers could get away with.
Men in the cartoons didn't get off lightly either, often shown as drunk, incompetent, stupid and unfaithful, and receiving their comeuppance for it, but more often than not it was women who got the raw deal. Not all the cartoons involved women, but many did, and usually as sex objects.
One of the earliest magazines of this type was Blighty, which launched in 1916, long before the 1950s boom in such publications. Blighty was quite innocent in the beginning but, like its rivals, gradually shifted its tone to move with the times, and in the late fifties became the top shelf 'glamour mag' Parade, with jokes eventually making way for photos of nude models.
These 'joke books' may seem very chasté and innocent today, but they were considered a bit daring at the time; swapped amongst readers with a nod and a wink, or read under the bedclothes by teenage lads. The humour was risqué but not explicit or vulgar. That said, the editorial in Basinful of Fun No.72 (Nov/Dec 1951) asking 'lady readers' to send in glamour shots of themselves borders on the sleazy. "Remember ordinary snapshots do not always do you full justice". In other words, we're not interested in your face, luv.
Some well known UK comic artists contributed to these mags, such as Sparky's Les Barton and Phil Millar. However, from what I've seen, a lot of the joke books featured American reprint, no doubt to save on costs. Such was the case with Laugh Magazine and Carnival in the 1960s. Another budget mag was the Weekend Book of Jokes, which recycled gags from Weekend magazine. The coy 'glamour' shots decreased and vanished in the sixties, probably because if that's what readers were looking for they could find more revealing poses in plentiful supply in Fiesta and Mayfair.
All of these images are scanned from my collection with the exception of the two full colour Blighty covers which were sourced from other websites.