Ball Point Boxers


The Backstory

In 1950, LIFE Magazine published photos from an event dubbed "Ball Point Bathing Suits"... a racy cocktail party / fashion show at which popular strip cartoonists were invited to draw all over models in white swimtanks.  The photos were brought to our attention in 2009, courtesy of the Beat.  ("The Happiest Cartoonist of All Time," original article.)

"All that’s missing is a bunch of those cartoon sweat drops ('plewds') surrounding the heads of these guys as they try to get a ballpoint pen to draw over the nylon-encased curves of the models’ 'hites,'”

wrote Heidi McDonald, setting off a small re-post virus.

A year later, comments from

  1. nancy simone Says: 03/15/10 at 4:02 pm I am the owner of these swimsuits since 1950 when this event was held! Ot was a fashion show held by the swimsuit manufacturer in their showroom in manhattan to present the new line of swimsuits. This was a kitschy kind of bathing suit which was entitled “the autograph suit.” It could be drawn on or signed and would not erase in the water! markers or sharpies in 1950!!!! Photos were in Kife Magazine, I believe.
  2. nancy simone Says: 03/15/10 at 4:03 pm sorry..that was LIFE magazine!

The Brainstorm

We all agreed that the event looked like more fun than a barrel of monkeys... except for one thing.  All the artists are men.  And all the models are women.  (Oh, and look, they're all white.)

How fun would it be, we said, to turn "Ball Point Bathing Suits" inside out?  (We being Stephanie Mannheim, Tom Hart, and I.)

How about inviting women to draw on men?  Sara Varon was down.  Where were we going to get the men?  Sara had connections... to Gleason's Boxing Gym.


Located at 77 Front St, right under the Brooklyn Bridge in Dumbo, Gleason's is the oldest active boxing gym in in the United States.  It's a trove... of classically masculine men (and badass ladies like Sara).  Muscles.  Sweat.  Concrete.  POUND POUND POUND.

Gleason's is also "a media haven," says owner Bruce Silverglade.  "A day doesn’t go by that I don’t get some type of media request from somewhere in the world." [full article]  According to the website's "Location Shoot" section, a photoshoot normally costs $300/hr.  But when Sara Varon explained the project to Bruce, he granted us free use of the location for the afternoon of May 19th.

The Artists

From top left to bottom right:

Sara VaronLeela CormanJoan Reilly,

Emily FlakeHilary Allison (me)

Jungyeon Roh

The Photographer

Photographer Margarita Volfson

Margarita Volfson

The Boxers

These three guys were the best sports we could have asked for. John



The Shoot

I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

A few of the drawings

Boxing T-Shirt Drawings

What's the Point?

First, we wanted to celebrate.  In fifty years, we've come this far from zero in recognizing - in publishing - female cartoonists alongside their male colleagues.  Do the men still outnumber us?  In the professional field, absolutely.  At SVA... female students make up slightly more than half of the cartooning department.

Will my generation push that 50/50 ratio up the career ladder?  I'd like to think so.  What it WILL do is control the variable that is "percentage of people interested in making comics who are female."  If that doesn't soon equal "percentage of paid cartoonists who are female," then we'll know that there IS still a problem, and we'll know what the root of it is not.

Anyway, "Ball Point Boxers" (let it be called!) was as much as about having a laugh as it was about making a statement.  A grand and goofy time was had by all, including our beautiful volunteers (and we didn't even give them cocktails).  Afterwards, everyone took lunch to the park.

Now we're yoking this shenanigans, and our feminist cause, to a second cause... the Sequential Artist's Workshop.  If you're reading this blog, you probably know all about it.  If you found your way here from another blog, here's my synopsis...

Tom Hart is cartoonist, and possibly the best teacher I've ever had.  He's poised to leave New York City for Gainesville, Florida, where he and Leela Corman will start their OWN school, the Sequential Artists' Workshop (SAW).  Starting a school costs money, money that is now being raised.  Donate a few dollars to SAW's upstart, and we'll send you a poster of the drawing-on-boxers stunt.

Check 'em out, folks!  Take your pick!  That one would look lovely on your office wall.  Or over your bed.

Click here to donate $25 and grab a poster!

Next Time:

Throwing Gender Aside.  (Everyone Draws on Everyone).  Who's down?