Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Review: Lover Boy

Check out the artists who created Lover Boy: Stanley and Janice Berenstain. We know them better as Stan and Jan, the creators of the Berenstain Bears. The couple turned to children's books after they had kids of their own, but leading up to it they were part of a group of popular illustrators for mainstream magazines like Collier's. Lover Boy is actually pretty funny, and rather on the fringe in its frank view on sex between couples. First written in 1958, it was a bit ahead of the sexual revolution, so the comic about a guy reading his Playboy, then grabbing his wife lustily, is quite removed from the Leave it to Beaver ideas of how spouses behaved with each other. Today, that Playboy-leads-to-sex comic has probably been used as a subplot in a King of Queens episode, but for the time it was awfully naughty.

Stanley and Janice's couple throughout the book — not necessarily the same couple throughout, but drawn similarly — are obviously a loving couple, but as you might guess from the title, the male psyche is more on trial here. The whole book isn't sex and naughtiness, though: the guy tries a mustache, he meets a talkative woman on the bus and appreciates his wife all the more, he tries home improvements and fails miserably, he tries to put the kids down for a nap. The naughty parts are probably the funniest in their honest humor. The guy isn't a rogue, he isn't cheating on his wife, but he's surrounded by sex all day, at the office, on the street, in movies and at the beach, that he simply can't help but enjoy taking a look whenever he can. The only times it seems the wife storms out or punishes him is when he drinks too much and makes a fool of himself. The wife is the sympathetic one throughout, but she's well aware of what kind of guy she's got, flaws and all. It's no wonder Stan and Jan stayed together for so many years: it's clear, in this early collaboration, that they understood what couples have to put up with.

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