Sometime in mid-2008, I decided to send a copy of the MOONIE comic to PLAYBOY, to see if I might drum up any interest in myself as an artist/illustrator. I happened to mention this to Nick Cuti, who just about flipped out. He told me he'd been trying to get into PLAYBOY for around 20 years, and had never managed it. He quickly hatched on the idea of doing a series of one-page cartoons. He'd come up with the concept, name, a story or "joke" ideas, and even draw them up in rough layout form, and I'd do the illustrations. Sort of like Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood on MAD.
Well, Nick quickly knocked out 3 cartoons, then passed the ball to me. I decided, to save some time, to re-use the "pirate ship" model I'd designed & bult for the MOONIE book (after giving it a different color scheme), as well as several other models I'd built over the previous years. I also spent some time designing the logo for "BABES IN SPACE". I decided to use my regular style, and hit on the idea of "casting" a number of my all-time favorite PLAYBOY Playmates as the ship's crew! Considering this was a proposal for PLAYBOY, why not?
And yet, before I sent the package in, things already began to disintegrate with Nick. He seemed completely incapable of putting aside his "editorial mindset" and found it impossible to think of what we were doing as an equal collaboration. He kept complaining about some of my inking, as if a couple of lines here or there would make any difference in whether something might get accepted or not. I had to tell him, "You WRITE 'em, I'll DRAW 'em." And he didn't seem to like that at all!
Naturally, BABES IN SPACE was turned down, but I wasn't surprised, given what i've read over the years about Hugh Hefner's attitude and behaviro concerning cartoonists. I once read an interview with someone who'd had work published in the magazine, which described a situation I found maddenning. It seems this person submitted cartoons to PLAYBOY and was turned down. He kept submitting and kept being turned down. Finally, after submitting 50 cartoons, Hefner got in touch and bought ALL lf them. When the cartoonist asked WHY, Hefner told him, he loved what the guy did from the beginning-- he just wanted to see if he had longevity. Frankly, as much as I admire Hefner for his work and achievements over the years, that's the kind of behavior that would inspire me to wanna go after someone with a baseball bat.
In a way, considering Nick's incessant attitude problems, I was kinda relieved to have this turned down. I'd have hated to find myself involved in something that would totally get on my nerves-- no matter how successful it might be.
Here's Nick's original sketches for comparison!
Finished Art (C) HENRY KUJAWA
Special thanks "...to all the girls I've loved before..."