Ask Morgana 094: Meet Sally Forth!
The reason I have headed this post ‘Meet Sally Forth’ rather than headlining her creator Wally Wood, is that the creation seems bigger than the creator. This is strange, because Wally Wood (1927-1981) was one of America’s most skilful comic-book artists. Sally Forth, a blonde, usually naked young woman with large breasts, was created in 1968 to entertain members of the US military. She is designed, therefore, to appeal exclusively to a male audience, and indeed her appearance is that of the Playmate-of-the-Month, the Pet-of-the-Month, the centre-fold. Her environment is full of soldiers, ape-men, spacemen, pastiches of All-American super-heroes like Flash Gordon and their dastardly enemies, mad scientists, and so on. Danger always looms, clothes – almost exclusively hers, and those of any other stereotypically-curvaceous female – are apt to come apart and fall off at moments of crisis, as Sally finds herself spreadeagled over a log, on an altar, or on some Frankensteinian gurney. It comes across as soft-porn for the Vietnam generation, and icon to be painted on the side of a gunship. It ought to be awful stuff, but you find yourself grinning.
There is a coyness to it all. The danger never becomes dire, the spreadeagling never leads to violation, although nipples are on view there is always a strategically placed shadow, hand, or physical prop protecting what remains of Sally’s maidenly modesty below the Queensbury line. There is quirky humour in the comic strip – see below where a voluptuous adversary balances an eye-patch with a nipple-patch, for example. I think Wally Wood realised he was simply taking the mickey, and if guys were turned on by Sally’s sexuality then the joke was on them.
Sally is a product of her time – or rather she is old-fashioned, because by the time of her creation, all-American coyness had been rocked by the exploratory liberalisation of sexuality in the late 1960s, and pubic hair had become part of the marketable commodity of ‘men’s magazines’. These days her coyness seems arch. I would like to claim her as a feminist Icon – let’s see if I can get away with that – for the way she manages to evade terminal danger, for the way she can actually defend herself, even if she then bends down in a low-cut blouse to apologise. I rather wish I could do the same!
What do you think? Drop me an email with your thoughts.
Images reproduced under ‘fair use’ provisions.