Thursday, December 08, 2016

BOOK REVIEW! KATZENJAMMER by Rudolph Dirks and Harold Knerr (Coachwhip, 2015)

Y'know, I wasn't that surprised when I discovered that King Features had discontinued THE KATZENJAMMER KIDS a good eleven or so year back (even though reprints are still flooding those small town newspapers where an audience for such strips thankfully remains)...after all the comic hasn't been funny one bit for over sixty years, or at least since longtime artist Harold Knerr died leaving it in the hands of a long succession of people of varying talents who still didn't really get it. I must admit that the Doc Winner era KATZENJAMMERS, or at least the ones I copped via some coloring book-sized repros that came out in the seventies, were rather dreadful what with their rather unfunny gags and less-than-true to the original vision art while the Joe Musial-era ones I grew up with, while quaint enough for my tastes, really paled next to the originals that were being done up during the days when combing through a comic strip section of any paper was a highlight of a true suburban slob's mere existence.

This book captures the KATZENJAMMERS at their height in the thirties and forties with not only some classic Knerr-era Sunday pages, but a whole slew of Rudolph Dirks-period CAPTAIN AND THE KIDS which is really great in case you are an anal retentive like me and wanted to compare both the creator's (in this case Dirks) version with the knockoff (Knerr's) side-by-side. Yes, you can judge for yourself who did the better job of presenting the dueling Hanses and Fritzes to a public confused by the fact that there were two strips with the same characters competing against each other.

After eyeballing this recent collection lifted from forties-vintage comic book reprint titles (complete with covers, some actually drawn by future strip artist Musial!) all I gotta say is that both takes on the same characters are good 'nuff especially in the light of the form as it stands now. However I gotta give Knerr the nod because his version was overall comic page copasetic what with the finer art, Machavellian intent intertwined into the scripts and of course the over-the-top violence the way I always liked my KATZENJAMMERS (and violent the strip was and remained for quite some time...I even remember a 1905 episode where the brothers beat up a classmate just to get his lunch basket!).

Not that creator Dirks' version for United Features wasn't dull, but he just lacked the grit and warmth of the Knerr take even though both strips were so identical in approach that it would be hard for a neophyte to tell them apart. Both of 'em take place on some African island (either "Weegee" or "Cannibal") and although the likes of Miss Twiddle, Rollo and Lena occupy the KATZENJAMMER universe there's a Chinese cook in the CAPTAIN AND THE KIDS take who bears a striking resemblance to the cook from KING KONG. The Chinese must have liked to get jobs on ships as cooks back in those days. One striking difference between the two is...in THE KATZENJAMMER KIDS the black natives speak perfect Queen's English (unless they're little kids like "Sepia" or somethin') while in CAPTAIN they enunciate just like Tonto!

Compare and contrast and all that fun stuff for yourself with this 'un! Whoever the winner may be this'll at least getcha back into enjoying the funny pages back when they really were a highlight of your day along with playing with your dinkies and tuning in for the early-evening reruns. Fun, wild, even edgy...you really can't get much laffs outta anything these days but these classic comics'll be pleasing your retinals 'stead of your rectum! And as you know we can use a whole lot more fun and deadly wholesomeness in our lives these sad 'n sorry times!

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

COMIC BOOK REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! DANGER #15 (Super Comics, 1964)

Super Comics was the 1960’s imprint of outsider comics publisher Israel Waldman, who’d previously worked in the 1950’s under the I.W. Comics banner (see our review of TOP DETECTIVE #9 in the October 10, 2016 BTC post). Waldman re-packaged previously published comics which he had printing plates for, but not necessarily rights to, and sold them at grocery and discount stores. He would come up with new names for the magazines and create new covers. While this practice was perhaps shady, it was probably not difficult to get away with it in the pre-internet age when everything was not documented the way it is today. However, as with the low-budget TV stations that aired z-grade 1930’s independent films in the early 1950’s and thus, by copying them to 16mm, saved them from permanent decay and loss, Waldman wound up getting a lot of interesting and little-known comics in a number of genres back into circulation, and with his non-traditional sales methods, probably getting them into hands of readers who would have never seen or even heard of the originals. 

The comics also lacked any visible sign of month or year, or in the books I’ve seen, any “masthead” with publishing info. As Don Markstein’s Toonopedia explains, “The vagueness of dates is a result of Waldman's publishing strategy. By not dating them, he was declining to set a time when they'd go off sale, thus (he reasoned) ensuring their perpetual salability. He also bypassed traditional distributors, and sold them non-returnably to retailers at a steep discount. Prices printed on the covers were generally ignored. In some areas, they were sold in bags of three (like Gold Key comics were in the 1970s); and in others, they were treated like used magazines and retailed at half-price.” Thus, I.W./Super Comics was using a business strategy not unlike a budget record label, or a film distributor like Astor Pictures, or a film entrepreneur like Jerry Warren. Waldman re-entered the comics world in the 1970’s with Skywald Publications, and thus had a nearly 20-year run (that we know of....who knows what under-the-radar activities he might have also been involved with) on the periphery of the industry, but moving a lot of product....like Crown or Alshire Records!


As I learn more about the I.W./Super Comics operation, dig out the old ones from my disorganized collection, and find more low-cost “reading” copies, I’m quite impressed with the raw appeal of the magazines. Waldman understood (as did Jerry Warren) the value of a good title and a good cover, and how it can act as a lens through which one would then view the product. Whether it be western, science fiction, war, crime, or spy, the product had a primal appeal, pushing the right buttons in the dime-clutching audience (either adolescents or adolescents-at-heart)....and more importantly, as these were budget-priced items, the VALUE-oriented, dime-clutching audience

Take this issue of DANGER, for instance----great title, of course, and look at that exciting scene on the cover. Unfortunately, no such scene is found in the comic (it’s certainly NOT in the story listed on the cover, "Beautiful But Deadly", but it does mirror what’s suggested by the title, so it works well as a cover). Who cares? Anyone sucked in by that cover would LOVE the comic’s content, as I do.

This issue is all Cold War spy espionage. In fact, ALL the content here comes from a 1950 comic called SPY CASES #26, published by Marvel-related Hercules Publications (see pic of that cover). Only the ads and the cover of DANGER are new. 1950 was the height of the Cold War, and that period produced some of the greatest over-the-top Red Scare films such as MY SON JOHN and THE WHIP HAND. With the revival of the Cold War in 1960’s spy films, 1964 was the perfect time to issue a comic book full of vintage spies-against-the-Soviets stories.

And ALL the stories in this magazine deliver the goods, like a lean, terse B-movie from Lippert or Allied Artists. "Smashing the Iron Curtain" is one of those classic plots where some agent is dropped by air into the woods in some communist country and manages to get some political prisoner or captured westerner out of a maximum security prison. "The Traitor" has a clever plot where an intelligence agent has amnesia and blackout spells.....or does he? "Beautiful But Deadly" is not what you’d think....it’s actually about how a girl who sunbathes on an urban roof communicates secret codes to the Russians by the positions of her arms and legs and where she is located on the roof, which corresponds to a map of Europe!!!! The relatively short "Trapped by the Reds" returns with the “dropped into a communist country” plot but heads in the different direction. Of course, we are also given a two-page filler short story, "Dangerous Delivery", which has an office boy in the intelligence agency who is used to transport important papers because....no one would ever believe they’d use such a lowly employee for anything important, and thus no one would pay any attention to him, and the real spies known to the enemy can be used as decoys!

Every story is full of double agents and triple agents, people communicating in codes, heroic locals working under deep cover for the underground, evil commissars and Russian military and intelligence officers, and their various lackeys in the occupied countries. The fear of being caught behind enemy lines and being executed or tortured at any time is captured well. Ads include THREE pages of different toy soldiers...and also mini-binoculars (in case you want to check out sunbathing ladies on a neighboring roof and do your public service by seeing if they are spelling out codes for the Russians with their body contortions).

If you enjoy the bread-and-butter unpretentious Cold War Espionage thrills you might get in a Republic Pictures B-movie....or later in a NICK CARTER, KILLMASTER quickie novel, then DANGER #15 is right up your alley....an alley that might well lead to a nest of spies! 

Monday, December 05, 2016

BOOK REVIEW BY BRAD KOHLER! TOTAL CHAOS: THE STORY OF THE STOOGES by Jeff Gold (editor), Iggy Pop and Five Others (Third Man Books, 2016)

In conjunction with the GIMME DANGER documentary it seems there is a rush to record history before the Grim Reaper is not foiled again in his attempts to pluck the highest profile Stooge from the earth. So, yeah, Iggy lays it all out and I am sure if not for him those irascible Asheton boys would have done nothing but get fired at bag boy jobs for putting the bread at the bottom and squashing it. And yes, Iggy's myth-making with the mental picture of Ron Asheton traipsing down the steps in the band house to snatch lit cigarettes from the mouths of comatose junkie co-Stooges before the place caught fire.

At one point Iggy tells of getting off on acid with Dave Alexander and checking out the trees as they walked along a road. It was the first trip for both, and Iggy remembers Dave saying "things should always look this way" or words to that effect, which shot a psychic shudder up Pop's spine what with the vestige of straight lower middle class upbringing still anchoring him deep within. He knew intuitively that a comment such as that almost always comes from someone not long for this world.

Amidst other recollections triggered by the generally on-target author, some stirred by rare photos presented to Iggy, there are lots of old posters (Stooges, Chubby Checker and lost-to-time openers Lobotomy anyone?) and ephemera like Electra contracts and correspondence. And look! There's Scott Asheton playing that fifty-pound oil drum at a Psychedelic Stooges gig when Iggy was still rocking the white face and perm. A letter from Danny Fields to Electra pleads for them to spare no expense in trying to break the first LP big time. Contracst this world beater optimism with the Fields who would soon enough be receiving calls like the one informing him all the band's equipment was destroyed when the twelve-foot van tried to go under a ten-foot underpass. Fields wasn't even with Electra at that point, but was still trying to plug ever-widening leaks in the dam that threatened to break and deluge the band he believed in so much.

My favorite photos are from a gig in a high school gym. Iggy's down in the audience natch, and the front of his jeans are open to expose bright red underwear. The kids around him are mostly trying to look cool and non-plussed, but you can detect bug-eyed disbelief.

Looking at the photos, I was struck by the following imaginary scenario: What  if one of those students, a kid from a strict family who forbade rock 'n roll in the house had snuck into the gig under the guise of staying after school for debate team practice? (Which, ironically, Iggy took part in once.) Of course this kid osmosed all the clandestine rock he could, sneaking a transistor radio into bed at night with the volume turned low. One time his parents were gone and he got to see American Bandstand and some flavor of the month band politely answer some questions from  Dick Clark. What could he have made of the almighty Stoogian roar--amplified by typical gymnasium acoustics? What could he have made of this front man who seemed on the lam from an asylum?

Years go by, and, out in the boonies, he starts a family, lives paycheck to paycheck. He doesn't have money for non-essentials like records. Oh, he listens to rock 'n roll on the radio, but he's never going to hear the Stooges there. Unlike his classmates, who also had never seen or heard anything like the Stooges that day, he has no context to put them into, never hears the records, where some sense can be made of the blitzkrieg attack. Decades alter, as an old man, he tries to tell someone about the show, which has stuck with him all these years. How it gave him the courage to smoke some dope, feel up some chick he had his eye on, grow his hair over his ears and run away when things got too heavy. I can picture him...gesturing with his hands, trying to put into words how liberating that crazy noise was, and finally trailing off. It would be like trying to describe a U.F.O. encounter.

Yeah, what with the documentary and the book it feels like the epitaph is being carved into stone, and that may soon enough come to pass, but THERE AIN'T NO GRAVE DEEP ENOUGH TO HOLD THE STOOGES!

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Ya heard of "fake news"??? Well, here's some more of that "fake rock criticism/journalism" that this blog has been well known for these past umpteen years! Honestly, if you can't dig this reality then you just can't be a part of the FAKE ROCK BLOG SET like you most rightly should! Besides, like fake news fake rock criticism is a whole lot less mainstream, more focused on the meat and less on the gristle and best of all doesn't kowtow to prevailing flavors of the week and big hypes being passed off as new and innovative by the same shills we've known and hated lo these many years. Leave that manure mangling to the "real" music blogs out there, and believe-you-moi there are many!!!
***
Not that much to gab about this week. Lemme just put it this way, and that's with even the free time I have I'm occupied and it ain't like I have the opportunity to take a trek down to the basement to spin some of those Feeding Tube freebies etc. that have been gathering dust in my vinyl collection. Not even the miracle package that Brad Kohler sent. Will try to do better next week not only with the bountiful beauts I've received vinyl-wise but with more of those Bill burns as well as some items that I've actually purchased with my my own hard-begged! Time will tell the tale, but don't expect a happy ending.


Gregg Turner-CHARTBUSTERZ LP (Feeding Tube, available via Forced Exposure)

Hokay, I managed to get one freebee platter reviewed this week, and it turns out that my pick of the litter was no runt that's for sure! The former BACK DOOR MAN scribe never did any music listener wrong from his sojurns with Vom and the Angry Samoans to the Vampire Cows, and on this solo jaunt he does just as good as he was doing back inna eighties when the master was creating that innovative music while everyone else was out lazing about in the good vibes of the day.

Some pretty hot trackage here that points towards many of the Turner favorites from Jonathan to Roky (former Roky pal and Vampire Cow member Billy Bill Miller plays autoharp dontcha know!) while subject matter here and about. I mean. there's even a song about Franz Kafka here and I didn't even rip the record off the turntable because of it! Hit of the week: "The Box", a sequel to the Velvet Underground classic tale o' woe "The Gift" which is just as good as that Fleshtones one where they patched up an early VU riff to Shakespeare (!) and it worked out a whole lot better'n if your group thought it up! A late contender for the year's best...we'll see.
***
Xavier Cugat-BANG BANG CD-r burn (originally on Decca)

Sheesh, no wonder the Who were flailing about on Decca the way they did what with this sorta sound getting the big publicity push! But if Older Generation rhumba bumba toned down for anglo consumption is your game like man, go for this longplayer where the former Mr. Charo  whumps up a whole buncha the hits (and other flotsam) of the day for the benefit of your old boss who always used to go to the matinees at the mooms with a plastic liner in his hat ifyaknowaddamean... Play this one and those memories of Saturday afternoons stuck in the car with your dad'll come back a whole lot clearer, y'know.
***
Various Artists-ELECTRIC ROCK '71 CD-r burn (originally on Liberty Records ,Germany)

Oboy, yet another europeon sampler of hotcha hip rock just custom made to ooze even more marks outta your typical stoned lumpenprole who's still ashamed over what his parents might or might not have done during the gory days of Addie. Considering that United Artists/Liberty had a rather solid youth market roster at the time you would expect this 'un to be chock fulla the non-hits by the biggies on the roster, and naturally the likes of Sugarloaf, Canned Heat, Eric Burdon and Johnny Winter are prominent. Thankfully (and because of its decidedly euro nature) ELECTRIC ROCK also has a smattering of local flavor to keep this from being a West Coast Rock excursion what with tracks by Hawkwind, Amon Duul II and "the" Can. I'm sure that more than a few young German kinder were buying albums like this because of the scarcity of money during those days, and given these were usually sold at budget prices I would say they were getting a fair amount back on their investment. Not much but hey, those were the seventies.
***
Esquival-LIVE IN LAS VEGAS AT THE STARDUST HOTEL 1969 CD-r burn

While we're on a Spanish groove (see Cugat review above) howzbout this offering from the bachelor pad prince himself Esquival?!?!? Recorded live in Las Vegas you can just feel the lushes and horny businessmen inna audience looking over ugly female specimens who look good after ya get a few in ya. Sound quality might not be so hotcha but Esqueval and band really put a lot into this show which features a whole lotta the adult contemporary faves of the day like the theme from A MAN AND A WOMAN and THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM done up in a way suitable for any proud member of The Silent Majority fed up with those raucous teenage records clogging the airwaves. Pretty masculine stuff ya got here Mr. E, the next best things to etchings if I do say so myself.
***
Bill Black's Combo-SOULIN' THE BLUES CD-r burn (originally on Hi/London)

I like cheezy instrumental rock of the pre-Beatle stratum just like I ass-oom all of you readers do, and the cheezier (Johnny and the Hurricanes, Rock-A-Teens) the better in my book. Fifties heavyweight Bill Black does pretty good with this still stuck inna past (even with the psychodayglo cover!) platter of instrumental bloozers, and altho this ain't as cheezoid as I sure woulda hoped I gotta say that it serves its purpose rather well. This is the kinda music that I, at age eight mind you, woulda called "grown up" because it didn't have the mop top or soul appeal that the kidz went for, but as far as the last gasps of a genre that hadn't really been big on anyone's top 40 once the British Invasion got into gear it's pretty solid jamz. And I do mean that from the bottom of my pit!
***
Bob Bailey as YOURS TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR CD-r burn

A coupla more classics to keep me company on these long December nights. Two hotcha cases here, the first dealing with a warehouse heist and the second the swiping of a Lincoln manuscript, all solved with as much action-packed pow'r that can be dished out by your favorite and mine insurance investigator. If you (like me) go for that old time hardboiled tough guy police/private eye/investigator television programs and moom pitchers of the fifties then give this li'l excursion of theatre of the mind a go...you'll be surprised at the reception you'll get!
***
DEPUTY DAWG CD-r burn (originally on RCA Camden)

Who amongst us (well, at least the suburban slobbier amongst us) didn't grow up with DEPUTY DAWG cartoons blarin' outta the tee-vee! Didn't know that there was an album of stories featuring the characters from the series but there was, and if you're in more of a mood to recapture those high-falutin' early-sixties days you're bound to go for this platter even more'n than you would for a bowl of Kellogg's Stars. Yes, re-live those days when the likes of Dawg, Muskie, Vincent Van Gopher and Ty Coon entertained your turdler mind within the sanctity of your sitting room and yeah, if you have a stick horse and Play Dough factory handy the effect will be much greater. And skid marks do help.
***
Various Artists-STRIDER PANDA BINDU BRINE CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

Bill's usual yet unusual batch of internet-sourced once-rarities that can now be found with the mere click of a mouse. The standard garage band rarities mingle with the self-produced new-unto-gnu wave single sides (we're not quite into "gnu" by this time and Bill should know, he coining this term) and there's a little avant garde fudged in as well. Some of the acts like Teddy and the Pandas not to mention Tymon Dogg might/should already be familiar to you while the oddball tracks from the likes of Prana-Bindu et. al. did make for a nice diversion from just staring out the window watching the trees blow in the wind. Personal fave was the weirdie from Exit Out called "She Relies on Books" which I thought was just some Roxy Music wannabes having a go at it but turns out to be a 39 Clocks side project of sorts! Sure I coulda done without Orange Colored Sky (who sound too early-seventies AM pop for the iron haired girl crowd for my tastes) but the rest was...shall we say...boff!

Friday, December 02, 2016

COMIC BOOK REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! ADVENTURES OF THE BIG BOY #126 (1967 promotional giveaway comic)!


I’ve never lived in an area with Big Boy restaurants, so I can’t tell you much about the persona of their corporate mascot. The first drawing of the Big Boy character came in the late 1930’s, a few years after the burger chain’s founding, although the character as we know it today (and at the time of this comic) dates from the 1950’s. Evidently, the Big Boy burger concept was operated under different names in different parts of the country (and one of these eventually was spun off to become Shoney’s!), and there was even an East Coast Big Boy mascot and a different West Coast one. According to Wikipedia, in 1979 there were 1000 (!!!!) Big Boy restaurants in the US and Canada. You may have seen one of the massive Big Boy statues in front of one of them in your travels, as I have. The California-based Bob’s Big Boy is perhaps the best-known franchise using the Big Boy moniker (Johnny Carson used to joke about it on the Tonight Show, as I remember), but there were dozens of other regional variations, including the Pittsburgh-based EAT’N’PARK which was Big Boy-related from 1949-1974.

This particular comic (regular in size but only 14 pages) belongs to that taken-for-granted part of the comics industry, the giveaway (and one would also assume throwaway) comic given to children or with a kid’s meal. These are still given out today at various restaurants, though often they include a coloring book section and some crayons. I’d guess 95% of them are thrown out within a few days of acquisition....or get food stains on them during the meal and are discarded with the burger wrappings and paper soda cups before the family leaves the restaurant.

This particular comic, dating from 1967 (and one of 466 issues published over decades), hails from the Knoxville, Tennessee area, where I’m guessing Fritch’s was the operator of the Big Boy restaurants, though that’s not stated anywhere on the comic. The only regional identifier on this is a big ad for Channel 10 in Knoxville, which proudly lists its Saturday children’s programming, including Tom and Jerry, the Road Runner, the Lone Ranger, Space Ghost, Underdog, Superman, Mighty Mouse, and Leave it to Beaver! Boy, if that is not a BTC-approved TV lineup, I don’t know what is (all that’s missing is a Bowery Boys film).


Besides the comic stories, there are of course word games, puzzles, and the like, as well as letters from juvenile fans of previous issues (or, more likely, their parents).

I think you can imagine what the Big Boy character is like. He’s a grinning, amiable guy, a kind of man-child with an “aw shucks” manner, and I can almost imagine him saying “gee whiz!” and calling to some adult, “hey, mister!”

There are only two multi-page stories in this--one before the word games and puzzles in the middle section, one after. The first one, “Facing The Deadly Monster,” has Big Boy heading to Florida to find his older cousin who has sent a cryptic letter. Turns out Big Boy mis-interpreted the letter, and the cousin is doing just fine, a scientist investigating mosquitoes (I’m not worrying about spoilers here as I doubt any of you will ever read this). In the second one, “The Miraculous Cape,” Big Boy sees someone with a Bat cape and buys it from him....only to discover anyone over a few pounds cannot fly in it. Oh, well!

There’s also a “State Of The Union” section, where Big Boy tells us about different states. This issue features Mississippi (and we’re told the next month’s state will be Rhode Island).

The Big Boy crew also includes his female friend Dolly and the dog Nugget.

I often find giveaway children’s comics from previous decades mixed in with old Archie comics and unwanted yellowed magazines in junk stores and flea markets. This one was slipped in free with some Abbott and Costello comic books I purchased--I’m glad it made it through all these years. One wonders if there were also Big Boy comic paper placemats put under the kid’s meal back in 1967 Tennessee. Now THAT would be a collectible....though for whom, I don’t know.

The most interesting thing about this giveaway comic is that except for some minor aspects of the artwork and some of the wording of the dialogue and the letters section, this could be given out today.

Frankly, when I take my grandsons out somewhere for a kid’s meal, I’m often more interested in the giveaway booklet or comic than they are!

Silent film fans (which means pretty much everyone reading BTC) also know that there was a juvenile comedy actor named Malcolm “Big Boy” Sebastian, who made a number of shorts at Educational Pictures. He was a child who wore over-sized adult clothing (see pic). Grapevine Video issued a collection of these shorts, and one of them also appears on Volume 2 of Ben Model’s excellent ACCIDENTALLY PRESERVED series. Other than the name, however, the restaurant character doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the silent film comedian (or for that matter, with western star and character actor, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams).

There are still a number of Big Boy outlets, and on their website, you can even buy items such as their special sauce (pictured). Next time I’m in an area with Big Boys, I’ll order a kid’s meal and let you know what if any comic booklet I get with it

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

BOOK REVIEW! ELLA CINDERS COMIC STRIPS COLLECTION (B&W) 1925, 1926, 1927 and ELLA CINDERS SUNDAY COMIC STRIPS COLLECTION 1937, 1938, 1939, 1943 by Bill Counselman and Charlie Plumb (available via GOLDEN AGE REPRINTS)

I'll bet yer just sick of reading these writeups of comics that were done up by a whole load of craftsmen who are so daft that they don't even mention rectal itching and menopause in their obviously non-relevant reads now, aren't you! Well tough turds tootsie, because I've got a load of these boff comic collections to tell the world about, and if it ain't gonna be me spillin' the beans about some great and long-gone strip that seemed to be created for us more...shall I say...less kultured readers then it's gonna be Bill Shute gabbing on about some comic book find he picked up in some Salvation Army while waiting for them to pass the doughnuts out. And as Big Vito once said, you better like it!

Y'know, I'd rather snuggle up with a good collection of comic strips, a bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper (or Moxie if available) and some early-seventies post-Velvet Underground drone on the boom box than I would with just about anything else. And frankly these recent ELLA CINDERS collections have really filled a gap in my oft-suburban slobbian deprived life. As far as long-forgotten mid-twentieth century comic strips go ELLA had a whole lot going for it from gripping scripts, badskis who were cruel enough for you to downright loathe, really good artwork and a general care and detail to it that I haven't seen in a comic strip in years. I mean, I coulda see just about anyone throughout the twenties and thirties, young or old, rich or poor down the ol' line tuning in to the funny pages to see just what was going to happen to Ella just like they did with the adventures of Andy Gump or Dick Tracy back in those particularly mass media starved times. Yeah there wasn't as much frivolity to take up your precious time back then, but in many ways those depression-era kiddies had a lot more goin' for 'em with the likes of Ella to follow, and I do mean that in the most sincere way possible!

The collection of daily strips covers CINDERS' early years setting the pace for what was to be during the years when it continued on as a fairly entertaining if not quite upper echelon comic. We are not only introduced to the title character (who looks more like Ann Frank here rather'n a miss old enough to get married!) but her typically incorrigible younger brother Blackie, not to mention her downright evil stepmother and stepsisters who make the characters in Cinderella (in case you haven't gotten the pun yet) look rawther chahming (and I mean it the way the Mother actually steals Ella's savings and gives it to her spawn to squander---that's not forgetting the money owed to Ella by friends which she casually claims as "rent" or payment for a broken dish!). Ella's father makes a brief appearance in the story as the head of a failing moom pitcher studio but even he chickens out and skedaddles to China when things get tough leaving Ella and Blackie in the lurch. And then there's Ella's other bigtime nemesis O. Watters Neek, the studio publicity man  who not only looks like John Waters but equals the stepfamily in treachery to the point where at one point he even kidnaps Ella and Blackie. Neek obviously gets away with this capitol offense because he continues to pop up in and outta the storyline when frankly he shoulda been hanged, but if Steve Rogers could only get KP for desertion during his World War II Captain America days 'stead of the firing squad maybe Neek could get away with a few things that woulda earned him a lynching back in those justice-minded times!

It's a good collection and all but Golden Age Reprints people...next time please print the stories in chronological order because these can be hard to follow when one storyline is presented on the left page and another on the right. Also it might be smart to get a better source for strips other than off the internet...those digital dots can be really hard on the eyes y'know.

The Sunday book is pretty hot even if some of the strips used might not have passed muster had Fantagraphics been involved in this effort. Still these color comics (which are not part of the weekday continuity) are good gaggers perhaps one or two steps about a classic Bushmiller-era NANCY. Many of these tend to involve Blackie getting into various kid mischief adventures like inventing skis made of ice which happen to melt off halfway down the slope, but Ella can be found within plenty of the badgags as well. Personal favorite of mine is the one where she gets arrested on some beach for wearing an immodest bathing suit, a subject matter that I wish would have also been explored in such strips as DIXIE DUGAN!

Of course I gotta say that I really like these funnies since by that time (mid-thirties) artist Charlie Plumb gave Ella that delicate and slightly curvy figure that I like in a female. However I must say that I don't particularly like the later strips because not only is Ella's cute bobbed hair done for (at first replaced by some slightly sexy curves before going the curly forties route) but the lass eventually gets a more buxom build which certainly doesn't do her any good! I like 'em kinda thin and slightly curved with a cute girlish face (sorta like the Japanese image of womanly wowzers, only without the sick stuff I've heard about) so I guess that there was a certain point where the strip just might have lost my interest had I been pouring the papers back then. Oh well, it certainly wasn't as bad as when BEETLE BAILEY cowtowed to feminist temper tantrums (and by that phrase you can tell I REALLY LIKE TO MILK A SUBJECT THAT STICKS IN MY CRAW FOR ALL IT'S WORTH!!!!) and I had about as much fun reading these as I woulda age ten laying smack dab inna middle of the parlor floor with the entire fambly traipsing all over me. And maybe that is saying something that should be said a whole lot more often these days!

Monday, November 28, 2016

COMIC BOOK REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! MONSTER HUNTERS #3 (Charlton Comics, December 1975)

I have always been a sucker for cheap combo-packs----of baseball cards, of 45 rpm records, of comic books----where you get a sealed stack of them for a low price, but all you can see is the front one and the back one (and sometimes the back one is covered). During the period of 25-cent comics, when this issue of MONSTER HUNTERS was published, you would get, say, 10 comics for a dollar. Given the choice of four comics I could select for a dollar at 25 cents each, or 10 random comics for the same dollar, only a fool or someone who played it very safe would not go for the stack of 10, unless you were just buying one and knew exactly which one you wanted. However, by 1975, I was more likely to have a dollar in my pocket than just a dime, so I bought many of these combo packs. MONSTER HUNTERS was exactly the kind of thing you’d find there. I remember that you’d sometimes have all-Charlton combo packs at lower-rung department stores and even supermarket magazine racks.

MONSTER HUNTERS ran for a few years, beginning in 1975 and continuing 18 issues until fading out in 1979. The early issues (such as this one) featured new material, but as the series went on, it became primarily reprints from older Charlton horror/mystery titles. In fact, according to Comic Vine, issue #17 is an exact reprint of #3, under review here, but with a new cover (which we’ve reprinted for you....#17 is the one with the big GARRR on it). Considering that on the subscription offer page Charlton has almost 50 different comic publications available, and no one would read even a fifth of those, it’s unlikely that most people who bought the issue 17 would remember the issue 3. Charlton always had the refreshingly unpretentious budget-label mentality regarding re-use of material: hey, it’s just a comic book, it’s a throwaway product, who the hell cares!

The title MONSTER HUNTERS was well-chosen, with the then-recent success of both Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter and Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and would sound just the right echoes in the mind of the adolescent comic book buyer (or in my case, the person who found this in the middle of a sealed combo-pack stack). Each of the stories in this issue would vaguely qualify as monster hunting, although to be honest, any story with a protagonist and an evil creature of some kind could fit under that broad banner.

On some level, MH is a ripoff of the well-regarded and very popular comic BORIS KARLOFF: TALES OF MYSTERY, which ran from 1962 through 1980 and was inspired by the THRILLER TV series that Karloff hosted and sometimes acted in. Karloff served the same function in the TALES OF MYSTERY comic, host and sometimes participant, as he did on the TV show. Here in the MH comic, we have a similar host, named Colonel Whiteshroud, who somewhat resembles Karloff’s “Colonel March of Scotland Yard” in appearance, though not enough to generate a lawsuit (interestingly, in the issue under review, the character is not named! He just appears and narrates....). 

This issue features three comic stories--one about a doctor doing experiments with apes somewhere in that mystery continent that exists only in comic books and pulp stories and Sam Katzman-produced serials and jungle films who is threatened by the local political dictator, another which is a clear knock-off of Kolchak and features a newspaper man working parallel to but separate from a cop in investigating a “vampire” case, and finally a story about another mad doctor who has created a kind of Frankenstein “Plant Man.” Each of these stories starts off with a bang, creates a lot of excitement and intrigue, and then finishes kind of abruptly, with either a gimmick ending or a quick and unsatisfying resolution. It’s as if the creators were going along just fine after six pages and then realized that it was supposed to be a seven-page story. Ooooops! Better wrap this baby up quickly! Considering Charlton’s low pay and minimal editorial supervision, that may well have been what happened. That kind of roughness is both the strength and the weakness of Charlton Comics, depending on your perspective, and mirrors in content the jagged page-cuts and imprecise Warhol-esque printing of the comic art. As someone who likes low-budget movies and quickly-written genre fiction, to me it just adds another level of interest, a level that a slicker, more closely edited comic would be lacking. Hey, I’ve got a doctor doing experiments with apes, I’ve got a ripoff of Kolchak, and I’ve got a “Plant Man” on the rampage....and let’s not forget the two-page short story filler at the end, The Key To Magda’s Heart, which is a caffeine-fueled knockoff of The Picture of Dorian Gray and some gruesome fairy tale I can’t remember (and which is set in Transylvania, of course). What more could you want for 25 cents....or in my case, a dime.

It’s all about killing time in an entertaining manner--and smart phones and internet surfing cannot compete entertainment-wise with a throwaway 70’s Charlton comic book buried in a ten-for-a-dollar multi-pack. When I was at the County Tax Office the other day to get my annual car registration, I was the ONLY person of the 50+ in the waiting room NOT hooked up to some portable device. And it’s not just my age. Surely 40% of the folks there were older than I am, and they were all sitting like zombies being fed corporate and military-industrial-complex-filtered news and Yahoo “trending” stories and various clickbait “lists”, while the younger people were listening to sh*tty hip-hop or checking tweets from B-list celebrities of the month or reading about the fucking CMA Awards. All of them killing time separately while rubbing elbows in tight seating, not chatting with each other about the coming of Winter or the latest Dallas Cowboys game--the older ones weren’t even showing off pictures of their grandchildren, as I do whenever I get the opportunity. They were all just sitting there, glazed-eyed. Where the fuck is the Monster Hunter who can track down the fiend who created this virtual mental-vampirism that has everyone under its spell? Where is the Kevin McCarthy who can break up this Invasion of the Body Snatchers? No, it’s too late. Trying to fight this off has as much of a chance as a legion of Amish trying to fight off electricity and those other nefarious 20th Century influences. Let it go. Let it all swirl down the toilet.

Charlton’s buildings and presses in Derby, Connecticut, were destroyed in 1999----and as they came down, so did a lot of whatever worthwhile was left elsewhere. However, don’t give up.....BTC is here to remind us all of what’s useful that survives, and maybe when this phony “virtual” age dies off, we can re-build on a more-solid foundation, one where MONSTER HUNTERS matters, where Jim Varney is still alive, where the cut-out racks are full of Flamin’ Groovies, Good Rats, and Kim Fowley albums, where Colonel Bruce Hampton and Captain Beefheart are the ones reviewing the troops, where I can turn to a still-active-and-recording Lightnin’ Hopkins for social commentary and life wisdom, and where I can see an Al Adamson double-bill at the drive-in. It’s no surprise that third-rate zombie TV shows and movies are so popular now----it’s the defining metaphor of the age. Just ask sociologists or historians of popular culture 75 years from now as they sift through the ashes. Zombies looking at themselves mirrored in their smart-phone screens! Those zombies can have this world where the late, once-great Lou Reed recorded with Metallica and then praised a Kanye West album. I certainly don’t fucking want it!!!


Saturday, November 26, 2016

So how have you been spending your Fangsgiving holiday anyway??? Probably watching a whole lotta useless tee-vee sports and moom pitchers I hope (not). Well, once again credit memeME with bucking the usual trends (other'n a time inna late sixties when I rushed home from a fambly meal to watch a lousy marionette presentation of either RIP VAN WINKLE or TREASURE ISLAND [prob'ly the latter since I recall some one-legged guy innit toppling over] that was being hosted by none other than Bill Harris aka Barney Bean, this time in his Ronald McDonald guise I kid you not!) because what did I do during those crucial hours of food digestion??? None other'n hole myself up in my bedroom, spin a buncha cee-dees (some which are actually reviewed below!) and read a whole slew of comic strip collections that I have acquired as of the past month or so! Well, I thought it was the best thing I could do to channel my inner thirteen-year-old, other'n lock myself inna bathroom with a copy of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (the hula girl issue) that is.

Most of the day was spent going through a box of recently acquired via ebay BEETLE BAILEY paperback collections. Fifty-one in all, although there were about ten or so overlaps with a previous BAILEY cache of books which Bill Shute is gonna receive one of these days but still, that's a walloping bunch of books and some might majestic reading if I do say so myself!

It's funny---back when I was a huge comic strip fan during those slip into the double-digit days I couldn't find a BAILEY book anywhere but in flea market piles which is where the only one I've owned for years came from! Now I'm up to my lobes in these and after going through about 3/4th of the box all I gotta say is sheesh, in these days of puritanical scolds and humorless sitcoms ruling the media roost boy were these strips pretty good (and perhaps even dirty in the good ol' schoolboy sense) reading! Even the eighties comics which make up a bulk of the material for these books were pretty boff in that army jokes sorta off-color way, and for me NOTHING after the original SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE that was being created from the late-seventies onward was worth the effort to even have a giggle at! So in the long run of things that's really sayin' somethin' about a comic's lasting humor power in an era when it just darn shouldn't have been!

Long after they were supposed to be, these BEETLE BAILEYs actually were that guffaw-inducing even when a good recycled corny gag dating back to the fifties was being thrown into the mix for the umpteenth time. I know that you more socially astute readers (if in fact they haven't all retreated) loathe this type of humor, but as the old prayer went "Give us this day our daily groan" and between the classic Bushmiller-era NANCY and BAILEY how could one miss out on a strip that might or might not have the kinda joke to make you gag or even yuk it up a bit in your own pre-culturally conscious way????

With a label like that, I don't care if it don't work!
Remember, the eighties were the days of the feminist onslaught against everything that seemed demeaning to "women" (remember their tirades against the old and rather innocuous Whisk "Ring Around The Collar" commercials?) and the General Halftrack/Miss Buxley comics surely fit into their baggy eyesights in that never-ending attempt to make men as boring and humorless as feminists are. Also don't forget all of the other "offensive" aspects of BEETLE that these modern day uplifters have tried to squash, such as the Zero character who a few wags along the way have deemed mentally retarded for some strange reason or another. But if bored housewives and ugly ladies wanna get their tits all in an uproar about something well I guess that BAILEY was an even handier target than Larry Flynt!

You might not agree with me, but considering just how it was those upstanding citizen types who eventually ruined the strip by toning it way down these early BEETLEs come off really radical and risque for today's totalitarian tastes. It's funny how the obviously humorless women's lip types just didn't get the running gag that the General was being the obvious buffoon when it came to his behaviour towards Miss (now "Ms"---shee-yit!) Buxley or that Zero was far from being retarded and in fact had his rather surprising spurts of genius, but I never did expect things like irony to work on such thick-skulled types who still fret about glass ceilings and the myth of unequal pay. And I can add to that all of those creampuffs who would write into newspapers aghast that Sgt. Snorkel would beat up Beetle and that this is no laughing matter considering all of the privates who do get beat up by their superiors!  Sheesh, its now like we can't laugh anymore other'n what we're directed to laugh at, and it's all on COMEDY CENTRAL fercryinoutloud!

Do you remember that mid-nineties-vintage John Stossel segment from ABC's 20/20 where the man was complaining about how we can't laugh at anything we used to, from the speech impediments of the Warner Brothers cartoon characters to BEETLE BAILEY itself? Strip creator Mort Walker was even interviewed for the segment telling the world that even his own sister told him that BAILEY wasn't funny now that the General went to a sensitivity seminar and the whole lecherous angle of the strip was jettisoned for good! Twennysome years later, and all I gotta add to the fray is that the new prohibition only makes these old comics, along with those seventies-vintage NATIONAL LAMPOONs and early-twentieth century movies with stereotypes galore all the more tasty for me. I have nothing against a whole load of people in this world of ours, but I do have a special loathing for the new breed of teacher's pets and evil scolds that have sprung up in a strange attempt to make this world a "better place", and after being around the Pee-Cee block a few times I get the idea that this "better place" is one that doesn't have any use for old Educational Pictures shorts or PEBBLES albums. If there were to be a fuhrer for this reich it probably would be none other than Anastasia Pantsios preaching at us from the pulpit of the Trinity Church of Those Better Than Thou.

Back to Walker---in some---no---many ways I'm not that keen on Walker for kowtowing to a group of smug humorless members of the female gender who couldn't elicit a catcall even if they passed by a hog farm...at least his rebuttals re. Halftrack and Buxley in the eighties were what any normal person would have uttered in a more sane environment, but doing a 180 like he eventually did (maybe with some arm-twisting from higher up) makes it a little hard to like the guy the way I used to. Talk about making irreversible wrong turns in life!

Ah, but these classic BEETLE BAILEY comics, complete with the old gags that have been milked over and over again for, are as fresh and as potent as they were the day you wrapped your dog's turds in them. How can anyone with a sense of guffaw not laugh at these gags including the Lt. Flap racial jokes where the white soldiers, especially the tres-cube Lt. Fuzz, can't seem to come to grips with his hip style, not to mention the typos on various orders leading to funny results and of course the ones where Miss Buxley drives the General wild with her short skirts, plunging neckline and bending over to file something. And hey, if I were a grade school teacher and a boy student of mine wouldn't wanna zing a gal's butt with a rubber band gun I'd call the school psychiatrist on him!


Let's just conclude this soapbox editooreal  with the plain and simple comment that at its best BEETLE BAILEY was one of the better comics to appear on the post-WW II comics page, and it's too bad that it too had to become re-shaped and re-vamped for a new ball-less society that couldn't laugh at a cripple if it were run over by a steamroller. And come to think of it, even DENNIS THE MENACE ain't what he used to be back when the kid would walk in on his mom in the bath and skin Mr. Wilson's head right down to skull...oh wait, that was MAD magazine, right???
***
This week's blog is pretty hotcha if I do say so, and that's not only because of the BAILEY blast I started this romp out with either (way too long but necessary in today's cyborg world)! Got some nice circles to encompass you here, some from Bill Shute, none from Paul McGarry, and some direct from the labels themselves! Thanks to ya all for your kindness because now I don't have to go without shoes for the winter! 



AK MUSICK CD (Mental Experience Spain, available via Guerrsen)

Leave it to Mental Experience to dig up this ultra-rare avant garde spinner recorded back 1972 way. Being of German origin it does have that European remote feeling to it, kinda reminding me of a number of platters that BYG-Aktuel were putting out when they weren't diving into the New Black Music. Not really jazz but close enough as they used to say, AK Musick dwell into what seems to be the post-serial movement that people more attuned to the whole 12-tone thingie might appreciate, and I'm positive that fans of everyone from the Sea Ensemble to John Cage can find something to stammer their hammers with here. And besides, those used bins that were FILLED with such outta-the-loop wonders have been flushed out years ago, so where else are you gonna get your doo-wah classics anyway???

***

Bile Svetlo-DELNICI BILEHO SVETLA CD (Guerilla Records, Czech Republic)

You (well, at least some of us) have grooved to the sounds of the seventies Czechoslovakian underground whether it be the Zappa-cum-Velvets post-psych of the Plastic People of the Universe,  DG 307's industrial free sound and the punk rock rumbles of the Umela Hmotas. Now it's time for a little WHITE LIGHT (or in this cast Bile Svetlo) in your life!


With a name like that I guess you'd be thinkin' that Bile Svetlo woulda been yet another one of those Velvet Underground tributes (at least in gutter drone spirit) that were spawned in the wake of Vaclav Havel's acquisition of a copy of their first spinner during a traipse to New York City, eh? Well wrong again Pongo, for these guys actually captured the spirit of prime-era Captain Beefheart and the Magic Ones in their overall approach, at least when group founder and former PP Pavel Zeman (drums) wasn't lodging in a nearby mental institution. Also in the act was Jiri Fryc on flute and vocals, he once being a member of Umela Hmota which must make these guys yet another Underground Czech Supergroup considering all of the past historical ref. pts. that was being poured into it.

Half-rehearsal and half-live, this platter really does capture that down and dirty Iron Curtain rock feeling that must have permeated the entire region at the time. There's more than just an "air" of desperation in these mostly minor chord musical mutters, but the Beefheartian free jazz blues drive really does suit the situation well. I also detect more than a scad of Canterburian Soft Machine style between the Ratledge-esque organ and the Elton Dean-ish horns which should suite more'n a few mid-seventies import bin watchers out there.

You're in for a mighty hotcha music listening session with this, especially if you were one who spent the seventies gobbling up the whole Zappa/import/new jazz movement that was so prevalent you could even find these kinda albums in actual record shops! I guarantee that more'n a few of you will be satisfied with this, and for those who aren't well...the year isn't over yet and I still wanna stick to my 2016 resolutions as best I can!
***

The Music Asylum-COMMIT THYSELF CD-r burn (originally on United Artists)

Without trying to look all haughty and knowledgeable by googling this 'un, lemme just lay down some prima facie opinions on these Music Asylum guys. Hmmm, they sound kinda smart, like a little progressive rock in the old Lester Bangs even liked it fashion here 'n there with some So Cal seventies flash and Todd Rundgren pseudointellectualism here not forgetting a whole load of Zappa freakiness there. Even some traces of early fusion! Not forgetting a cover of the as yet not legally released Dylan toon "Million Dollar Bash" (which Fairport Convention did a good year before on their second spinner---that GREAT WHITE WONDER album really must've gotta around)! For being one of those outta nowhere platters that sunk like a turd in the toilet of the record industry this is a pretty decant release that captures the rock zeitgeist of the sixties/seventies cusp as good as all of those save-the-world platters we continue to cherish. If I were one of those cheap freeform FM deejays back during them days this mighta gotten a choice AM play, right before I got fired that is.

***
Brinsley Schwarz-FIFTEEN THOUGHTS OF BRINSLEY SCHWARZ CD-r burn (originally on United Artists, England)

I guess this is the sampler that UA put out in England for all of those Stiff Records fans who weren't around to pick up the originals when they were out, and for a quickie cash in job this one's probably just about as good as the Can one where they got Pete Shelley to do the liner notes. Yeah there is a li'l bit of that laid back sound which old time compadres warned me would be too SF/Grateful Dead for my tastes, but thankfully that don't last long. Overall the pop/country stylings really do lead the way towards alla that Nick Lowe/Elvis Costello punk rock that was just too wild and gnarly (really!) for the AM pop fan in your life (and I should know...I should REMEMBER) and if labels could regurgitate old Can, Pink Fairies and Stooges albums for a new audience why not these guys? If you were part of the English pub rock collective here in the United States of Whoa and followed all of the weaklies and TROUSER PRESS coverage extant, I'll bet you had more'n one Brinsley Schwarz album in your collection, hunh???

***
Various Artists-JUSTAFIXATION CD-r burn (originally on Funny Records, England)

A collection of commercial psychedelic jinglings from late sixties England that might just be your cup. Some familiar names cozy up with a batch of forgotten faves to make for a pretty interesting collection of what was vying for the precious pennies of young English gal-hood what with the at-times lush production and patented yet potent pop moves that these tracks exude. Personal fave...Legay's "No One" which has this kinetic guitar line that kinda reminds me of a bumble bee that would have snuck into the gaping space between my ears...a good enough one to have appeared on one of those PERFUMED GARDEN samplers but so rare that I don't even think that John Peel knew they existed!

***
Big Jay McNeely-PLAYS A RHYTHM AND BLUES CONCERT CD-r burn (originally on Savoy Records)

Dunno if you go for these early r 'n b honkers but I kinda find 'em suitable enough for these lonely Sunday Afternoon kick up the feet times. Of course it ain't "exactly" rock et roll the way you probably like it but it'll do what with McNeely's beefy tenor sax blurting out those heavy tones to those patented if expressive r 'n b patterns that have been milked to all high heaven these past few eons. Actually this is downright impressive jazzy stuff that doesn't deliver on any jive-y pretension nor sophisticado airs unlike what passes for jazz in the mainstream these (and other) days.
***
MORE VINTAGE CYLINDERS CD-r burn

Blasts from the past, and I'm talking like over a hunnerd years here! William Jennings Bryan and William Howard Taft give the democratic and republican view respectively, while the sermon to be heard it so boring it makes that chaplain from BEETLE BAILEY's sound invigorating. The ethnic (mostly Jewish) humor is rather dated, but it does give you an idea of what people found funny back during the turn of the century and perhaps you can even find some har-har moments lo these many years later. Well, I got more enjoyment outta those lighthearted ethnic romps than I do from anything to be found on Comedown Central so maybe them people really did know how to yuk it up in a good way unlike in today's comparatively cyborg world.
***
Various Artists-OTHER NAMES FOR NOWHERE CD-r burn (Bill Shute

As usual...interesting. Of course the single by Driver was a pretty good all out rocker (too bad more of these local seventies acts didn't get their music preserved like this) and the obligatory avant garde track good enough even though these Arcane Waves people were probably about as beret and stale Doritos as you can get (well, at least I get that impression!). The Ellington air check pretty historical and all, the Pulsating Big Band Sounds about as sixties spooky spy as you can imagine, and Don Gibson sorta straddles the country and pop realms not really hitting either of 'em. And I always thought Wynder K. Frog was a prog rock band...here they do straight ahead jazz which really surprised me! And yeah, there's also a CBS radio broadcast from July '40 stuck here and after listening to it all all I gotta say is...sheesh, all I gotta say is wasn't that a boring day!

Friday, November 25, 2016

COMIC BOOK REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! CARTOON CARNIVAL #33 (Charlton Publications, May 1970)


Ebay, as with the internet in general, has been both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it’s great to be able to pick up that obscure Swan 45 you’ve never seen a physical copy of before, or that Dutch picture sleeve Troggs single that’s unlikely to turn up at your local used record store in Tulsa even if you check weekly for 20 years--all you need is a credit card. However, the damage that Ebay has caused rarely gets commented on. In the world of old records or old books or old comics (and surely all areas of collectibles, whatever they are), it’s been a total transformation. The evil combination of scavenger-dealers who “work” every flea market, junk store, used record and book store, etc. to find items to sell on Ebay, and who usually have “arrangements” with the owners so that they get access to things BEFORE they ever get seen by the general public....and also greedy owners of these places who check prices against Ebay and then mark up the stock to reflect what a top-condition price online is. In the old days, owners would price something so they could sell it in a few months. Sometimes they’d under-price it, so it would sell quickly and some lucky person (hopefully, yours truly) would luck out; sometimes they’d over-price it, and it would sit there for a year or two and then they’d mark it down. Pricing was an art, but those in that business were professionals. I have always hit junk stores, flea markets, antique malls, etc. when I travel, and in the pre-internet age, you could always count on finding things on the road that would not be seen in your home area. I still hit them regularly, but rarely do I buy records anymore. Mostly I’ve been buying lesser-condition (in other words, NOT candidates for sale on Ebay) comic books and magazines. If you’re willing to wade through boxes and boxes of junk, you may well find something of interest for fifty cents or a dollar. Such is today’s item under review. It’s dog-eared, mildewed a bit, and shredded at the edges, but it’s a document of a world long gone and only a dollar--it also provides some laughs.

Charlton Comics was just one segment of the larger Charlton Publications empire. The music-oriented magazines such as HIT PARADER and COUNTRY SONG ROUNDUP were the cash cows of the organization, but they also had publications of all kinds to entice the bored person looking for something to read....and also offered a wide-range of crossword puzzle magazines and booklets for the person looking for something to do. Then there is CARTOON CARNIVAL.


This is not really a comic book, but an adult humor magazine. The cover of each issue promises OVER 200 GAGS AND GALS(borrowing the old catch-phrase of cartoonist Jefferson Machamer, whose comedy shorts at Educational Pictures in the mid-1930’s are revered here at the plush BTC offices-- I just noticed that Machamer died in 1960 and this series started in 1962....I have a feeling no payment was made to the Machamer estate for the use of JM’s tagline--we’ve included some vintage Machamer for your enjoyment--a shame Charlton did not put together a magazine of his old work...it would have blown CARTOON CARNIVAL away!), and if you count each comic panel and each printed joke, it probably adds up to 200.

According to Comic Vine, the first issue of CC appeared in 1962, and the latest one I see listed online, #112, is dated 1984. However, as with some of Charlton’s comic book series, it seems to have been run for a while, then dropped for a few years, then revived for a while, etc. Each run seems to have been given a new volume number, but the issue numbers were consecutive. My issue is Vol. 8 and issue 33, dated May 1970, is not really a comic book, but an adult humor magazine. The cover of each issue promises OVER 200 GAGS AND GALS(borrowing the old catch-phrase of cartoonist Jefferson Machamer, whose comedy shorts at Educational Pictures in the mid-1930’s are revered here at the plush BTC offices---I just noticed that Machamer died in 1960 and this series started in 1962.

I have a feeling no payment was made to the Machamer estate for the use of JM’s tagline--we’ve included some vintage Machamer for your enjoyment--a shame Charlton did not put together a magazine of his old work...it would have blown CARTOON CARNIVAL away!), and if you count each comic panel and each printed joke, it probably adds up to 200.

--The only thing more dangerous to a bachelor than a jealous husband is a single girl.

--Then there’s the showgirl who likes to have her boyfriend order her around....a round of drinks


--He: “When did you meet that sexy blonde.” Him: “About fifty check stubs ago.”


You can almost hear the drummer in the Burly-Q pit band do a drum roll and cymbal crash after each one of these. As for the comic panels, when I said “sex” earlier, I meant “sex” as seen in a Leon Errol comedy short or in the tamest 1950’s Playboy cartoon----meaning infidelity, impotence, stepping out and the like, but treated in an indirect manner. Clearly, the cartoons in Playboy----done by first-rate illustrators and caricaturists-- were the model this magazine aimed at, but they have a casualness and crudeness that would be more likely found in a third-rate men’s magazine....or a small-town newsletter or circular. There are some topless women in some of them, but there are no nipples or any other details. 


I don’t remember seeing CARTOON CARNIVAL back in the day. It was probably sold at news-stands near the “men’s magazines,” not where children could thumb through it.


The cover promises A CIRCUS OF FUN, and I have to agree with that. For the dollar I spent, I got wall-to-wall burlesque-era comic panels and one-liners that take one back to an age long gone. An age when THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS was all the rage, and that kind of tame but mildly “naughty” comedy is what’s on offer here (“but wait,” I can hear some readers saying, “wasn’t THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS out in 1959, and this magazine is from 1973?” Yes, but it’s totally rooted in the 1950’s....and I have a feeling that whoever bought this in 1973 was STILL rooted in the 1950’s!). I’m also reminded of the comedy sequences on those late 60’s Dean Martin TV shows with his Golddiggers and Ding-A-Ling Sisters----those were live-action examples of the kind of comedy found within CARTOON CARNIVAL.


Keep an eye out for these when you are looking through boxes of old yellowed magazines at some backwater junkstore or low-end antique mall. While most of the humor is of the groan-producing variety, a few of them are somewhat clever, in that they require you to think for five or ten seconds before you “get” the joke.

I should of course close this review with a typical joke or two:


--Know how to catch a rabbit? Stand behind a bush and make a noise like a carrot.

OR

--Then there’s the Hollywood showgirl who never kisses her dates goodnight. By the time they get home it’s good morning.


CARTOON CARNIVAL might be the perfect read after viewing Phil Tucker’s 1954 burlesque film BAGDAD AFTER MIDNIGHT----the Shriner after a few drinks at an out-of-town-convention world-view and the baggy-pants comedians in that are quite in keeping with this magazine.