Honey West #1-2

I wasn’t expecting much from this private eye comic, especially given the boob-focused photo cover of issue #1. I had heard of the 1965 TV show starring Anne Francis, but all I knew about that was that she wore a black leotard and had a pet ocelot. I thought the revamp of “the first female private detective in popular fiction” was going to be an excuse for pinup poses and a body-part focus.

Honey West #1

Honey West #1

I was wrong, as I’d have known if I checked the creative credits. There is some of that, but we’re kept aware of Honey as a character, not just a visual. This two-part storyline is all about the female body, but in a playful manner, as I’d expect from comics her-storian Trina Robbins.

Honey is hired by topless singer Mimi Malloy to find out who murdered her accompanist and a waitress. It’s the 60s, so Honey goes undercover as a go-go dancer in a fringed bikini, requiring a nude fitting by a “hippie seamstress” named Velvet. It’s not exactly enlightened, but it has the nudge-nudge-wink-wink charm of the sexism of another age. This kind of “women as men’s entertainment” approach is much easier to take when it’s set 40 years ago and seems quaint. Robbins plays with expectations of the time period. As well as the nightclub, we get an anti-war demonstration and a well-meaning cop friend who thinks “private eye is no job for a girl.”

Honey West #2

Honey West #2
(alternate photo cover)

The clothes are lovely, suitable for the antique setting. The women are attractive, but almost cartoony when emphasizing their exaggerated bodies, thanks to the art of Cynthia Martin. Honey does trade on her looks a lot, relying on people underestimating a blonde “with the body of Marilyn Monroe”, as she’s described. (I wonder if readers realize that that would make her fat by today’s standards?) The setting provides for an environment of female jealousy, leading to a catfight in bathing suits and boots. We also get a shower scene and various characters being slipped hallucinogenic drugs against their will. This isn’t highbrow entertainment, but juicy pulp.

Still, I enjoyed the humor and the mystery. To get a female lead, one often has to put up with reading about a woman judged on her looks and put into these kinds of “undercover” situations. At least it feels like an old-fashioned relic of “cocktail culture” instead of modern-day sleaze. And for every scene where Honey’s rescued by her pet big cat, there’s another where she takes care of herself with judo.

The next three-issue storyline, by Elaine Lee and Ronn Sutton, begins in issue #3, due out next month. In it, “Honey goes undercover on the set of low-budget sci-fi film Amazons of Mars to investigate the mysterious death of Zu Zu Varga, queen of the B-movies.” Sounds like they’re using Honey’s original 60s setting to play with various female pop culture archetypes. I’ll be looking for the next issue. Find out more at Moonstone’s website.


12 Responses to “Honey West #1-2”

  1. dcwomenkickingass Says:

    I’ve really enjoyed the first two issues and I’m glad to see you giving it some visibility. It’s a smart, fun series.

  2. David Oakes Says:

    Trina Robbins?

    Why doesn’t somebody tell me these things!?!

    Now I have to try and convince Diamond to ship two months in arrears from a “back of the book” publisher.

    But for Robbins, I will at least try.

  3. Johanna Says:

    I am telling you, with this post. Good luck with the back order — you may find Moonstone’s web shop easier to deal with.

  4. Grant Says:

    Wow, Trina Robbins? I’ve always dismissed Moonstone stuff because 99% of their stuff is absolute dreck. Their “Domino Lady”, a character that I am a fan of was bloody awful. But I’ll definitely check this out. I really loved her “Venus” segment in Girl Comics. I wish she would do more of that.

  5. JRB Says:

    “Honey does trade on her looks a lot, relying on people underestimating a blonde “with the body of Marilyn Monroe”, as she’s described. (I wonder if readers realize that that would make her fat by today’s standards?)”

    Marilyn Monroe was not fat. Yes, she wore a size 16 at points in her life, but a size 16 dress in 1950 was a heck of a lot smaller than a modern size 16. (It was originally defined as the size that would fit the average 16-year-old girl, although that was no longer true by the 1950s.)

  6. Johanna Says:

    Interesting link. It says that she was size 8-10 in modern sizing — which compared to today’s models that wear a 2 or 4, is still larger than the Paris Hilton skinny-boy-with-breasts type.

  7. Kat Kan Says:

    I’m old enough that I watched Honey West on TV, which is part of the reason I am getting this comic. The other reason is Trina Robbins, she’s such a cool person and writer. And I’m one of those people who carefully read Previews cover to cover every month and pre-orders everything. I try not to leave anything to chance, if it looks interesting, I pre-order it. I still miss out on a few titles, mostly because who could afford to buy so many comics nowadays? Anyway, thanks for featuring Honey West!

  8. Johanna Says:

    I know what you mean — after going through Previews monthly, I still see other people talking about something I’ve missed. There’s so much in there, and the stuff I like best aren’t the works getting the promotion.

  9. Jason Snyder Says:

    Jrb… I don’t think the implication was that Marilyn was fat. It’s that she would seem fat in contrast with the ridiculous and unappealing skinny models of today.

  10. Kristy Valenti Says:

    The original Honey West pulps were written by a husband and wife team, and have recently been republished in facsimile editions; I checked a couple out at the library. I’m sort of a sucker, personally, for the female spy/detective genre, so I think they’re pretty fun. Bit like a sexier version of the lesser Nancy Drews.

  11. Johanna Says:

    Oh how neat to know that the stories are available again. Thanks for pointing that out.

  12. Tam Says:

    Actually, Ocelots aren’t really big cats. They’re small enough to pick up and haul around without getting a hernia. Well, if you’re on good terms with them.

    *ends nerd moment*

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