Thursday, October 26, 2017

Fotoboekies: South African Pulp

In addition to providing an introduction to Hindi pulps, Paul Bishop at Bibliorati also shines a light on South African pose-books, also known as poseboekies or fotoboekies, a mix of pulp, comics, and photography:
Recently, I came across an interesting short documentary on YouTube celebrating South African fotoboekies kultuur—which translates as pulp photo story culture. I also came across a trove of covers for a photo-book series named after its gorgeous title character, Tessa, a platinum blonde who battled evil in the jungles of urban South Africa clad only in a bikini and high heels. Clashing with sinister looking individuals wearing bad suit and sunglasses, Tessa always came out on top, with not a strand of her bottled blonde hair out of place. 
To her ardent continent-wide fans, Tessa, the bikini-clad, Karate kicking government agent, was akin to a goddess. Every 30,000 copy issue of Tessa sold out almost instantaneously on the newsstands—creating a lucrative secondhand market. Those 30,000 copies in today’s Internet savvy market would equal numbers to put the Kardashian’s Twitter followers to shame.
The South African publishing company Republican Press was the low-budget force behind the phenomenon of the photo comics Tessa and Kid Colt, as well as the Playboy knockoff Scope. At its zenith, Republican Press was printing 20 different fotoboekies a month. Grafting Western influenced literary myths onto African settings, fotoboekies were most often written by authors based in Johannesburg—many of them black South African students working for minimal pay—then photographed by white professional shutterbugs using a team of black actors in Swaziland. 
 The actors were mostly locals from working-class neighborhoods. While the top poesboekie models were paid 25 to 30 rand a day—which at the time was a lucrative way to pay your rent—most appearance fees were negligible. The recognizable main male actors were generally consideredeccentric, hard-living, womanizers. Working quickly, an entire book could be shot in one to three days depending on the complexity of the simple sets. 
There were also army heroes—Swart Luiperd, Wit Tier, Kaptein Duiwel, Grensvegter (Black Leopard, White Tiger, Captain Devil, Grantsman) and others. They were most often depicted out in the jungle clutching their wooden machine guns, killing cigar smoking Cuban clones. Almost always, the villains held the proverbial disheveled damsel in distress captive after her convoy/aircraft/helicopter/hospital was invaded/crashed/broke down. The real South African soldiers who read these outrageous tales figured they could go back to civilian life if only these heroes existed outside their fervent imaginations.
Make sure to check out that documentary.

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