Hey all you Hot Tamales of Los Angeles. Astor here, your grand-poobah of niche vaguely art historical blog topics here at Speakeasy Tattoo. So I don’t usually talk about my apprenticeship here but this week as part of my apprenticeship I ended up having to do some research on the origins of flash tattoos and two beers later I’m deep down a wikipedia rabbit hole that eventually spat me out on this week’s topic.
Anyone know this guy?
I used him in a post two weeks back and didn’t really touch on who he was then so today I’m going to atone by giving him the moment in the sun he deserves.
This lil’ chubster is ‘Hot Stuff’ and it turns out he has quite a history. Created by Warren Kramer, Hot Stuff the Little Devil (to call him by his full title) debuted in October of 1957 as part of Harvey Comics. For their part, Harvey Comics was, prior to the 50’s, mainly focused on publishing serials from the defunct Speed Comics including Shock Gibbson, The Black Cat, and the inspiringly titled Captain Freedom. However by the end of the 40’s the publishing house began actively recruiting fresh artistic talent to help them develop original, unique characters and content. Warren Kramer joined Harvey in 1948 and with his keen eye for composition began improving projects he was put on by leaps and bounds. Some comic innovations we can still see employed today were pioneered by Warren during his time at Harvey, including including a more lively panel layout, and a more dynamic depth of field, bringing comics more in line with animation storyboards than they had been in the first half of the 20th century. Also during this time, Warren began developing characters specifically for Harvey. Unfortunately he didn’t create anything too memorable… only Casper the Ghost, Richie Rich, Little Audrey, and of course, our man Hot Stuff.
So what’s Hot Stuff’s whole… deal? Hot Stuff is a mischievous little twerp who, obviously, is a devil, has the ability to create fire, and possesses a sentient pitchfork called “trusty trident.” He also wears a fireproof diaper made from asbestos… oh the 50’s, why are people nostalgic for you? Being a devil he enjoys getting into trouble, but like a certain big eyed ghost, he is also friendly and does good deeds, though he usually only does them to piss off his demon comrades so he might just have a one up on Casper there for weaponizing…I don’t know, charity? As a side note don’t you just love the idea of Hot Stuff torturing Ritchie Rich in Hell? Don’t feel bad, Rich’s middle name is a dollar sign, you can’t tell me you wouldn’t enjoy it, just a little bit.
Now here’s where I would put some info on when and where Hot Stuff first made his way onto tattoo flash sheets the universe over but honestly, I have no idea. There doesn’t seem to be any concrete timeline or even evidence for when this happened. I would absolutely love to find the shop that first appropriated Hot Stuff because for such an icon of the tattoo world his entry into that world is a mystery. And he really is a tattoo icon, like run a google image search ‘cartoon devil tattoo’ and he appears in the first, second, and fourth results. Conversely Bugs Bunny doesn’t make an appearance until the laughable fourth result when searching ‘cartoon bunny tattoo’ or ‘cartoon rabbit tattoo’. Pathetic. So yeah, I think it’s safe to say that the tattoo world is enamored with Hot Stuff, and while we might not know the origins to when he became a part of tattoo culture, we are certainly glad he is sticking around…just maybe lose the asbestos.