Between 1973 and 1980, Penthouse presented a mixture of off-beat political satire and male beat-off fantasies in an oil-painted comic strip. Bob Guccione commissioned Oh Wicked Wanda! in response to Playboy's strip, Little Annie Fanny. It was based on the success of a multi-part story printed in the magazine in the late 1960s and early 1970s. That story was written by Frederic Mullally and featured illustrations by Bryan Forbes. Although the targets of the satiric comments were American, both the artist and writer of the Wanda comic strip were from England.
The writer, Frederic Mullally worked as a journalist for the Tribune. For a time, he had his own political column in The Sunday Pictorial. He co-authored Death Pays a Dividend with Labour MP Fenner Brockway and wrote Facism in England which became a best-seller. He wrote a number of popular suspense novels, including Danse Macabre and Man with a Tin Trumpet, and a young reader's alternate history called Hitler has Won. His novel Clancy was dramatized on the BBC.
The artist, Ron Embleton was a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. He worked as a commercial illustrator, though he also did the cartoon strip "Wulf the Briton" for the Weekly Express in the 1950s. It is one of the first comic strips to be painted, rather than drawn. His work included history texts, children's books, the Captain Scarlett comic and movie, and Michael Moorcock's Wrath of the Gods.
The comic strip starred Wanda Von Kreesus, a tall, raven-haired lesbian dominatrix and Candyfloss, her blonde bisexual teenage girlfriend. Her castle was filled with many young naked women. The only regular male characters were Grud, a fat, ugly servant, and Homer Sapiens, a dirty old man type mad scientist. This could be because male readers didn't want to see regular male competition in the strip. They could also be stand-ins for some of pornography's most loyal readers, the homely single guy and the over-the-hill old fart.
The pictures never stopped being sex-fixated and filled with perverted background details. But over time, the writing changed. Humor took a back seat to Mullhally's political comments. Penthouse replaced the strip with Sweet Chastity. The new strip was never as popular and did not last long.
The comic strip still has a following, though some people are put off by the dated references, the depiction of women, and the use of ethnic stereotypes.
Several of the strips were printed in one volume, now considered a collector's item
. Wanda can be found in old issues of Penthouse
and online. The Xena
site "Subtextopedia" has most of Wanda's adventures at www.subtextopedia.com/Wanda/. The site became interested in Wanda because many people have noticed similarities between the characters in "Wicked Wanda" and "Xena, Warrior Princess
" starring Lucy Lawless