Seminal Fetish Art By the Neglected Cartoonist Gene Bilbrew
Gene Bilbrew (1923-1974) was an African-American cartoonist and fetish artist who almost exclusively worked in the femdom and bondage genres, and ruled the “soft-core hardboiled” pulp fiction community of 1950s Times Square.
Fig.1. Self-portrait of Gene Bilbrew
The Bronze Bomber
After failing to make it as a singer for the R&B one-hit-wonder Basin Street Boys, Bilbrew made a name for himself as the creator of the first black superhero, the Bronze Bomber that was published as a comic strip in the Los Angeles Sentinel.
Fig.2. Paperback cover of Rubber Goddess (1 Jan 1967) by Lana Preston (author)
Madame la Bondage
Through his mentor, the fetish art pioneer Eric Stanton whom he met while attending Cartoonists and Illustrators School, he came into contact with fetish illustrating. He was sold immediately and from then on completely dedicated himself to this "bizarre art", producing work for many of the most notable underground publishers Leonard Burtman, the Sturman Brothers, Edward Mishkin Stanley Malkin and Irving Klaw. For the company of the latter he created timeless characters like Princess Elaine and Madame la Bondage (Fig.3)
Fig.3. Illustration from Captives of Madame La Bondage (published and released from June 1951 to August 1953)
Like Stanton and many artists working in the erotic genre, Bilbrew drew under a range of pseudonyms, including Van Rod, G.B., Bondy, and the reflected nom de plume of Eneg (“Gene” spelled backwards). In his in-depth study on this seminal fetish artist, in the biography Gene Bilbrew Revealed, Richard Pérez Seves describes Bilbrew as 'a man whose unique vision redefined cutting-edge art of the 1950s and '60s'. He completed his art and still got it published while violating many of the taboos of the time.
Hooked on Heroin
In Tim Pilcher's Erotic Comics A Graphic History, Volume 1, the author describes the latter part of Bilbrew's career and life, starting in the mid-1960s, as follows , "Sadly, Bilbrew’s work was in serious decline by this stage. Between 1972 and 1974 he produced several paperback covers for Spade Classics. Spade published gay fiction with titles such as Stud Farm, Men Into Boys, and Lust for Leather, but Bilbrew’s black-and-white covers were scrappy and it was clear that he was past his prime. Drink, drugs, and a hedonistic lifestyle were evidently taking their toll on the artist. At the age of 51, hooked on heroin, he passed away in 1974 in the back of an adult bookstore where he was living; a tragically ignominious end for one of the great fetish artists of the 1950s."
Fig.9. From Midnight Masquerade (c.1960)
Fig.10. From Midnight Masquerade (c..1960)
Fig.12. From Panty-Clad Boy (1969)
Fig.13. From Panty-Clad Boy (1969)
Fig.16. From Torture Stories (1960s)
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Click HERE for an article on the sadomasochist comics of Bilbrew's mentor and colleague Eric Stanton
Sources: twitter.com, vintagefetishart.com, Tim Pilcher, Erotic Comics A Graphic History, Volume 1 From Birth To The 1970s (2008), hyperallergic.com