Once upon a mystery comics dreary,/In between Creeps and Eerie,/Came a quaint and curious brand/Of comics flare. (Carl Gafford)
That happened 45 years ago, when National Periodical Publications printed the September/October issue of “DC Quality Magazine” Plop! The New Magazine of Weird Humor, edited by Joe Orlando. Its cover had the notice “Approved by the Comics Code Authority”, and included the issue hero Arms Armstrong, created by Basil Wolverton, the iconic American Producer of Preposterous Pictures of Peculiar People who Prowl this Perplexing Planet, and winner of Lena the Hyena Contest.
American comic book creator Steave Skeates revelead that the whole concept for the magazine came from one of his humorous horror stories, „The Poster Plague”, illustrated by Sergio Aragones and published in House of Mystery #202. The story won the Shazam! Award for best short story of 1972. One thing was sure: “Klop is coming! (…) There’s something really weird going on around here!”
And from Klop to Plop was but a short step ahead. Although initially the name changed from Black Humor to Weird Humor and to Zany, and a series of cartoons included the prefix ZA, publisher Carmine Infantino was the one who came up with the final title. The first Plop! issue tells the name story in short: “Later, Carmine Infantino, our very own publisher, took both Joe and Sergio to dinner; they discussed the idea for the new magazine. ‘I want something different – like that story you just did-Plop.’ ‘PLOP!!?? You mean The Poster Plague, don’t you, said Joe. ‘No! Dammit! I mean Plop!’, screamed Carmine, ‘like that story’. But, Carmine, that was just a sound effect that was used throughout the story, and it was Klop, not Plop!’. ‘That’s it! THAT’S IT!!’, screamed Sergio, ‘You’ve got it, Carmine – the title of the new book – PLOP!’ ‘It’s what we’ve been suggesting all along!, said Carmine. And so – PLOP was born!”
The first issue provides a couple of sweet info behind the magazine: “How about a special comic book with nothing but Sergio Aragones cartoons? They’re the funniest thing since Laurel and Hardy!” Surely, the magazine had many contributing “artists, writers, troublemakers and weirdos”, but that was just the initial idea, because Sergio Aragones was the first man Joe Orlando turned to in his search for people talented enough for this sort of material. Sergio Aragones was already “a living legend because of his work for Mad magazine” and Joe Orlando chose his style to set the tone for Plop!.
Basically, Plop! was born because Orlando was ‘’intrigued by the idea of a humorous approach to mystery mags ever since the early fifties when, as a young lad, he was one of the artists of the EC Comics line. (…) This Orlando is really a NUT! (…) He decided to take the idea of a humor element in mystery one step further – by creating a magazine that would laugh at the most gruesome stories ever told in mystery comics.”
From the first September/October issue in 1973 to the last 24th issue in December 1976, the magazine featured all the weirdness a comic book fan could possibly dream about: frame stories with devilish characters (Cain, Abel and Eve), historical plops (it seems only natural, since we are informed from the very first issue that plops “existed since the beginning of time”), strange escape stories, ridiculous execution requests, confused vampires, Kongzilla emerging from the primeval slime and muck, fish ghost stories, tales of dungeon life, ghoul tales, Inquisition jokes, absurd world records, prison plops, monster plops, gourmet plops, famous firsts, PLOPular poetry, etc., etc. The magazine also featured welcome, didactic columns about its mission, plus “love letters to PLOP!” from fans (the “PLOP Drop” column).
Most issues had covers created by Basil and Wallace Wood, with weird and grotesque characters briefly introduced to the readers: Arms Armstrong (with arms outgrowing his legs), Art Arteries (having the world’s largest arteries), Nooly Nostrildamus (with enormous nose openings), Nails Nittle (the toenail digger), Weird Josephine, Byron Bigbrain III (in a continuous state of amazement), Billy Buttin (the man with the world’s most celebrated navel), Feets Fleagle (a former tap dancer who became a super cockroach stomper), Ashur, Crasher and Basher (the smash recording group playing rocazzoul, a mix of rock, jazz and soul), Messy Tessie (“Make everything you have count”, she advises), Multiple Mouth McCardy (suffering from malnutrition), Darlin’ Daisy Dallyrimple (who loves to double her famous movie stars in close-up smile shots), Roarin’ Rodney Roadrunner (Plop’s pacesetter), Tonsils Thompson (a medical mystery) and Smokin’ Sanford (Plop’s prize piper). The last three covers were made by the awesome Dave Manak.
Although the magazine got a series of awards, such as the Shazam Award for Best Humor Story of 1973, and received many love letters from fans, saying “you’re off to a great start”, “it was absolutely priceless”, “it was GREAT!”, “I can’t wait till the next issue comes out!”, or “it’s the funniest mag since MAD”, its sales were very bad, and, after some failed attempts to save it by using advertising, it was forever canceled in 1976, after only 3 years of existence. I choose not to think of this as a sad story. The magazine was too awesome to be regarded as a pitiful unsuccessful project of the past. I choose to remember it as one of the funniest, most ingenious comic mags ever and still enjoy reading it all again from time to time.
Monica works as a writer and translator, and is a passionate researcher of pop-culture, anthropology and cinema. In her spare time she also enjoys toy photography and often searches for old Japanese art toys to enlarge her collection. She also loves to discover monsters from old movies, folk tales, myths and legends of various cultures.