Good Girl Art

Good girl art (GGA) is found in drawings or paintings which feature a strong emphasis on attractive women no matter what the subject or situation. GGA was most commonly featured in comic books, pulp magazines and crime fiction. When cited as an art movement, it is usually capitalized as Good Girl Art.

The term describes the work of illustrators skilled at creating sexy female figure art; it is ‘girl art’ which is ‘good.’ Popular culture historian Richard A. Lupoff defined it as: ‘A cover illustration depicting an attractive young woman, usually in skimpy or form-fitting clothing, and designed for erotic stimulation. The term does not apply to the morality of the ‘good girl,’ who is often a gun moll, tough cookie or wicked temptress.’

The term was coined in the early 1970s by veteran comic book dealer and ‘The Comic Book Price Guide’ advisor David T. Alexander, formerly co-owner of the American Comic Book Company. Alexander inserted the term in his company’s sale lists to highlight specific panels and covers with sexy women in comic books from Fiction House and other publishers. It was during this era that the terms Good Girl Art and Esoteric Comics became widely used by the collecting community. Use of the phrase has since expanded to indicate a style of artwork in which attractive female characters of comic books, cartoons and covers for digest magazines, paperbacks and pulp magazines are rendered in a lush manner and are shown in provocative (and sometimes very improbable) situations and locations, such as outer space. The artwork sometimes involves bondage or damsel-in-distress situations.

A strong influence on the movement was illustrator Rolf Armstrong (1889–1960), labeled the ‘Father of Good Girl Art’ because of his creamy calendar art for ‘Brown & Bigelow’ and iridescent illustrations for such magazines as ‘American Weekly,’ ‘Photoplay,’ and ‘Woman’s Home Companion,’ along with his advertisements for Hires Root Beer, Palmolive, Pepsi, Oneida Silverware and other products. During the peak period of comic book Good Girl Art, the 1940s to the 1950s, leading artists of the movement included Bill Ward (for his ‘Torchy’) and Matt Baker. Arguably the king of Good Girl Art, Baker was one of the few African Americans working as an artist during the Golden Age of Comics. Today, Baker’s rendition of ‘Phantom Lady’ is considered a collectors item, and much of his GGA is sought after.

During this period, GGA also found its way into newspaper comic strips. One of the early examples was Russell Stamm’s ‘Invisible Scarlet O’Neil,’ a superheroine who was regularly shown in her lingerie. Two of the leading creators of GGA for science fiction magazine covers were Earle Bergey (‘Startling Stories,’ ‘Thrilling Wonder Stories’) and Harold W. McCauley (‘Imagination,’ ‘Fantastic Adventures’). In the ’70’s pulp fiction, Hector Garrido drew the GGA book covers of the ‘Baroness’ spy thriller series by Paul Kenyon and ‘The Destroyer’ men’s adventure pulp novels by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir.

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