The Komic Kamera

By | Monday, June 24, 2013 Leave a Comment
The image here is a "Komic Kamera" from the Russakov Can Company circa the early 1930s. Looking through the eyepiece on one end, you could see an enlargement of a filmstrip backlit from a hole on the opposite end. The knob on the top cranked the filmstrip forward one frame at a time. It essentially acted liked a ViewMaster but without the stereoscopics to produce the 3D effect.

Judging by the images on the unit itself, it was mostly used to present comic strips. (The back side features Krazy Kat, Dagwood Bumstead and others poorly drawn versions of comic strips characters popular around that time.) The only strip example I've seen featuring illustrations; I'm guessing the black and white linework was cheaper to produce in this format than photos and/or color? But as near as I can tell, you could swap the film strips out almost as readily as you could a ViewMaster reel, so even though I've only seen the one, I'm sure there would have been others available.

Now, here's the interesting bit. The one strip that I've seen is currently up for auction on eBay here. Here's the title image...
The story, from what I can tell, is basically just a sex romp with no appreciable differences from a Tiajuana Bible! There's some pretty lewd imagery and a variety of celebrity appearances like Jimmy Durante and Samuel Goldwyn (of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer fame). The story is a little over 30 frames long, so substantially more detailed that a typical Tiajuana Bible, and the art at least in this particular one seems of considerably higher quality.

The steroescope was around long before ViewMaster came into being -- the earliest ones date back to the 1830s! But ViewMasters' big revolution was in using them to present stories instead of just scenic images. I argued back here that this made those reels comics. But evidently, ViewMaster wasn't the company to come up with the idea in the first place. This Russakov Can Company was doing comics and comics porn decades before!

And what I find really amazing is that these ever existed. Compared to a Tiajuana Bible, these must have been incredibly highly priced just to cover the basic costs. I was always under the impression that smut from that era was produced as cheaply as possible because it was all under the table. Evidently, though, there were several socio-economic levels in that particular black market!
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