Sunday, December 21, 2014

A COMICS-SATURATED HIGH SIX FOR ONCE!

You've noticed too eh? Y'know, how this slimy fanabla of a blogschpieler would rather peck away about his favorite comic book 'n strip reads 'stead of the worth and value of a Wooden Shjips platter (frankly I've heard wonderful things about 'em but that's just the kinda thing that gets my b.s. detector clicking away like that Geiger Counter Kingfish was using on some old AMOS 'N ANDY episode). Well all I gotta say is YES I am really heavily into them old comics (even animation, and I ain't talkin' pixel!) just like I was back when I was a single-digit suburban slob spread across the parlor floor reading the latest antics of my favorite characters acting like a modern day equivalent of a bear skin rug. Maybe it's the time o' year...after all visions of kiddoid Christmas breaks as well as snowed in winters always stirred up the pre-teen comic spirits in me with visions of settling back in a snug bedroom reading the latest BATMAN while my sister was shoveling the driveway, and although I'm older and supposedly know better I just can't help but wanna relax during the cold season with a comic---dredging up all of those old and happy memories of getting outta school 'n work. Well it's either that or come across some other long forgotten pasttime that vividly pops into my mind whenever I chance upon that certain issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC with those Japanese pearl-diving gals who were at least smart enough not to hang heavy weights from their boobs!

So right now it's comics and that's all I wanna read (other'n old fanzines) and watch onna tee-vee (the good ol' ones natch!). I figure that with all of the stress and strain I got in my life only a good comic strip or book can make me revert back to age ten, and although I was being treated like a doormat even then at least those comics helped mold and shape me into the unrepentant jerk that I am and shall remain!

So in keeping with the spirit of a pre-adolescent ranch house upbringing here's a HIGH SIX (so called because another certain blog runs a HIGH FIVE list 'n I wanna do you all one better) where I discuss a whole slew of my current favorite comic strip/book reading (and watching) material that reminds me of all the fun I had back when I knew that things were more important than people (take that you UP WITH PEOPLE hippies!). And if my kiddoid self could only SEE his adult version reading up alla the old comic collections and watching the cartoons on tee-vee (though admittedly the good old ones are becoming scarcer and scarcer) boy would he wanna gobble down a bottle of grow up pills and do it like now!


ARCHIE'S CHRISTMAS LOVE-IN #478 (January 1979), VERONICA IN INDIA #5 (December 1989)

Like I said many-a-time, the Archie comic books just weren't as top-notch snide sightgag guffaw-inducing as the Bob Montana-penned comic strip, but they're still good for a once-in-awhile perusal if you were a fan of the Archie Empire as a kid and wanna relive old-timey memories of your skidmarked underwear and stinkola sweat socks days (which, come to think of it, might still be upon you!). Dunno about the current batch of comics what with Kevin Keller (wretch!) making up for years of overboard wholesomeness with a faggoty vengeance, but these relatively old titles do conjure up some of the magic that I got from 'em in between Marvel-styled annihilation and DC-approved social concerns.

Never bought any of the Archie X-mas titles either on the stand or via the garage sale/flea market trade, admittedly a peculiar thing considering how much I used to like them holiday vacations and that these titles would have added to my enjoyment of those once-uberfuntime times. So it was nice that Bill slipped this 'un into a recent package, and even nicer now that the holiday season is in full fanabla gear and I can finally experience something I missed out on the first time 'round.

Frankly I was expecting a sugar-coaty sweet saga bound to up the glycerin levels to Tom Hanks level but the saga printed here ain't that bad despite being vaguely based on the ever-popular A CHRISTMAS CAROL premise (remember, this title came out in 1978 and the IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE credo had yet to be milked to it's nauseating conclusion). Archie's boss is the greedy and skin-flinty Uriah Scourge who dresses up like a bum in order to scam a free meal at the rescue mission...he gets his well-deserved comeuppance when a crook tosses the loot from a stick up at his store into the mission's Santa Claus kettle and he can't get it back! Archie also mistakes the garbage for Betty's Christmas gift (a theme worked out much better in a four-panel 1962 daily) and Veronica acts her rich bitch self when dragging Archie along for a day's shopping. Standard ARCHIE comic book fare true, but a whole lot better'n things to come once the company began targeting the adolescent girl trade at the expense of us feral boys.

What really gets me is that this "Giant" comic that was going for a whopping thirty-five pennies only houses TWENTY-EIGHT PAGES!!!!! Really, what kind of a rip-off is that, calling a standard-sized comic book a "Giant" which used to mean anything from  80 or even 100-pages then eventually 64 once the early seventies started rolling around and prices really began getting out of control! Makes me wanna get into a time machine, scoot back to the late-seventies and yell at a buncha kids YOU'VE BEEN RIPPED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As you may recall, I called Veronica a rich bitch and that's one statement I will stand by no matter how much you "women can do no wrong" types may stamp and holler! 's funny, but she never was like that in the original comic book stories, and throughout the Bob Montana run of the strip the gal even came off sweet and lovable even if she was constantly being showered with luxuries and living an existence that would make Richie Rich look like Sluggo. I guess that the Archie Comics people had their female readership pegged with this character...after all why would some twelve-year-old sassy type just sprouting suckems want to be sweet and adorable gal next door Betty when they could be the mean, vindictive and spoiled rotten Veronica! Good move on your part, MLJ!

This solo Veronica series, at least judging from this particular title featuring our heroine in India, tones the bitchiness down a tad but I think the teenbos reading it still get the sordid message of it all. Frankly I kinda wonder how Veronica would manage in a nation where public defecation is the norm and feminine hygiene ain't exactly flowing outta the local vending machines the way the blood is flowing outta the volcano, but the gal manages to keep at least a decent face of respectability up while she and billionaire pop see the sights and get involved with some business intrigue in the interim. The usual redeeming educational bits you'd expect to appear are tossed in but as usual there is that one big flub up that shows the artists weren't doing their homework...in India, people drive their vehicles on the left side of the road (steering wheels adjusted to local driving customs) and really how could anybody make such a gigantic goof as that!

It's always nice to check up on these later on sagas just to see what these comics were up to ever since you "outgrew" them, or they outgrew you for that matter. It gives me a feeling that maybe there are a few things from my past that remain meaningful, more or less, even if it is only to brats a good thirty-plus younger than you (or forty-plus than me!) who never were in on the original snide punch of the Bob Montana strips. Then you get to thinking about the way the comic has turned out these days, and feel like puking your guts out because too many demons have popped outta that Pandora's Box called kultur and there's no way gettin' 'em back in!

Well, we can always console ourselves thinking about what Veronica's gonna be like thirty years from now, with more tattoos and body piercings than your standard gutter-pus trollop could stand! Well, hope always springs eternal that maybe she'll get caught in an electrical storm, and with all of those doohickeys on her man, will that be one lightning-strike that'll light up Riverdale for miles around!
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PRISCILLA'S POP (comic strip, 1946-1983)

Here's a comic strip that never did hit it big with all of the big time funny paper readers of the day. Yes, while everyone from Queen Elizabeth to Hugh Hefner were busy pouring through the papers to see the latest installation of LI'L ABNER, the only ones who were out and about looked forward to the latest edition of PRISCILLA'S POP were suburban slobs the likes of you and I. Yep, it was more'n obvious that this strip certainly wasn't gonna be winning any Reuben Awards though the fact that this sometimes loathed comic lasted thirty-five years is testament to something many people would like to overlook, and that is that there are more'n a few everyday Joe and Jane Blows out there who eat comics like this up while avoiding the likes of DOONESBURY the way most DOONESBURY readers avoid a bar of soap!

Got hold of a few of the earlier PRISCILLA (as they were known in the local paper) strips and really was amazed at how different they looked from the ones that I grew up with. Even when compared to the early-sixties version these were finely delineated with a special care and detail that hasn't been seen in the comics for quite some time  I guess in the days before it was discovered that doing one strip could take ten instead of twenty minutes to produce an artist like Al Vermeer didn't mind taking the extra time to give the reader a little more finely-hewn art, and as with the early ARCHIE strips it's always nice to let the eyes linger awhile at the detail and fine shading just like some old coot looking at the painting of the nekkid lady at the museum always seems to do (please pardon some of the cockeyed reproductions---I've been experimenting as to how to make these strips larger and the things do tend to flop about a bit when I close the scanner):











Notice some of the unique differences in the strip besides the omission of various soon-to-be established characters like Stuart (who reminded me of a young Joe Flynn for obvious reasons), the grandparents and the Reverend Weems. Most striking (at least for me) is the absence of Priscilla's short 'n pudgoid pal Hollyhock who I always had a soft spot in my heart for---however we do get an early version of Priscilla's other long-time friend Jenny Lu who I gotta admit just doesn't pack the same sorta sidekick fun 'n jamz as she did after she became a boy-hungry proto-slut who was always after big brother Carlyle. Also note that the fambly dog Oliver ain't around either, but I will mention that mom Hazel looks very nice here in her forties frocks 'n hairdo! The way she's drawn with that sad look on her face really does something to me more'n those paintings of the kids and pup with the big eyes ever could (gets me right inna kishkas) to the point where you actually do see her smiling you feel a hearty relief and glad that one of your favorite comic strip moms can have a good time despite having a daughter who has been begging her father for a horse for nigh on twennysome years!*

I've also included some of the final PRISCILLA strips from the summer of '83 to compare the earlier ones with, these being drawn by NEA "troubleshooter" Ed(mund) Sullivan, a guy who had been known around the syndicate for taking over long-running strips after the guy who had been doing 'em was either retiring or had died. Although it took awhile for Sullivan to master the old Vermeer style he eventually got a pretty good grip on it, and looking at these final PRISCILLAs are, I must admit, a rather tear-inducing experience given that the strip was on its final legs and the era which begat such everyday folk kinda titles was beginning to be replaced by various hippie-generation crud that never did induce a hearty guffaw in anybody other'n someone who thinks he's doing the world a big favor by owning a solar powered buttplug. You can see how the strip was straining to become modern and while it might have worked with BLONDIE (which PRISCILLA was considered to have been a swipe from---c'n you believe that???), but I'm sure that many of the regular readers who were tuning into it did so with their mid-twentieth-century ranch house sense of fun 'n jamz intact so why quibble! And really, is there any other way this strip could truly have been appreciated?

Reading these old strips really is like visiting with some old relatives only better. After all, it ain't like they're gonna bring up all of those past indiscretions on your part which ruined the family name now, eh?



***

 SUPERNATURAL THRILLERS #1 comic book (December 1972)

Did you ever wonder where the idea for all of those Heaps and Man-Things that cluttered up the comic racks way back when really popped up? Well, it wasn't exactly from the fertile mind of Roy Thomas and as Roy himself would tell you (and if you don't believe me just check his introduction to the HEAP anthology). In actuality, the original muck monster was first espied in the pages of the long forgotten (by me, anyway) science fiction magazine UNKNOWN in the very early forties! That was a few short years before the arrival of comicdom's first human/hay hybrid and the story came via the typewriter of none other'n SciFi heavy Theodore Sturgeon as well.

Maybe in homage to the original (or perhaps the guilt over using a variation on the idea for one their latest anti-heroes), Marvel re-did the story up nice and proper in the first issue of their SUPERNATURAL THRILLERS title. "It!" was the name of the piece, and as you would have expected this hulking swamp pile was born in pretty much the same way alla the other and of course he's vicious just like his spawn...I mean what would ya expect him to do...start spouting heart-warming New York better-than-thou cliches straight out of the Dave Berg handbook?!?!? However, although unlike those Heaps and Swamp Things  It! doesn't have any redeeming qualities that would have warranted his own title for Marvel because let's face it, unlike the rest this guy's especially nasty! Which  I guess is why I kinda like this animated shrub.

Of course it's done up in that overly wrought and flowery early-seventies Marvel style that came off kinda pretentious (it was as if the company was actually swallowing the whole comics as art hype hook line and Glade Air Freshener) but it should settle well with fans who were in on the whole Marvel experience since at least Fin Fang Foom. If you're one who is deeply nostalgic for the Bronze Age of Comics and would fight to the death for a complete run of SON OF SATAN man, this is the one for you!
***
TUMBLEWEEDS (comic strip)

Like I said a few weeks back I never could stand this 'un throughout its twennysome year run, but here in the dusking days of 2014 I find myself snatching up every TUMBLEWEEDS paperback being made available which I know is something that really woulda surprised even my thirty-year-old self. Here in the post-post-post FUN AND JAMZ era a strip like this really does pack the punch I need to make it through the real world (Give us this day our daily groan) and considering how even the once-mighty like BLONDIE and BEETLE BAILEY are mere shells of their former mid-Amerigan selves a comic like TUMBLEWEEDS shines all the more! Frankly I'll take a strip like this not only over the moderne-day unfunnies seen in the dying (I wonder why!) newspapers of this land of ours, but even the rest of the late-sixties slapdashes like BROOM HILDA which never did get my jollies up even when it was a fairly easy thing for even an iffy episode of HENRY to do just that!


Considering that there's only a slight chance that these strips are gonna be gathered up in smythe-sewn hard-covered form I've been snatching up the seventies paperback reprints at relatively depression-era wage prices via various online and flea market dealers. Of course the prices might just scoot up once this post hits the blogosphere (heck, look what my writings on fanzines did to that market!) but right now I'm content in the notion that TUMBLEWEEDS ain't exactly one of those strips that is near and dear to the comic strip lover's heart. But at least at this very nanosecond I an content in the knowledge that whatever paperback I do snatch up it ain't gonna cost me a fistfulla lasagna having to bid it out with some STONE SOUP fan, and in these budget conscious times that is something nice to go to sleep knowing.

Since I blabbed about this strip in a previous post it ain't like I'm gonna rehash all of the gritty details to be found therein, though I will mention a few addendum-like things...for example I must admit that I prefer the antics of the Poohawk Indians more than I do the whiteys, while my favorite characters in the strips are (for the whiteys) Deputy Knuckles (who might be too much of a Zero from BEETLE BAILEY swipe but wha' th' 'ey!) and Lotsa Luck (the one-time mute Indian who used to jot down his snarky bon mots for the rest of the tribe to groan over) for the First Nations crowd. Favorite second-string characters...Ham and Beans the muleskinners even if their entire schtick seems built on the timeworn overgrown lunk Lenny routine from OF MICE AND MEN, only this time he's paired up with Yosemite Sam 'stead of Burgess Meredith. But hey, when you gotta swipe you best swipe from the best already swiped ideas in the biz, right?

One interesting aside, I've read that TUMBLEWEEDS was a popular comic strip in the Soviet Union of all places! If this in fact is true I gotta wonder...was there something changed in the translation or were there passed around Samizdat-style???
***


THE STORY OF MENSTRUATION (1946)

When I was in grade school they used to round up the older girls in the gym, tape up the windows with paper so nobody could peek in, and show them some film about how they were flowering into full blown womanhood or something along those rather disturbing lines that would disgust any self-respecting kid fed up with the amount of slobbering movies seen on tee-vee. Back then I used to conjure up the worst things about these educational films, thinking that they somehow were quite pornographic in nature with detailed descriptions of multiple orifice lovemaking and various barnyard hijinx, but as this 1946 Walt Dizzy in cooperation with Kotex production reveals, these films were actually pretty tame in comparison to all of the triple-penetration and multple orgasmo hoo-hah that was certainly fermenting in my mind!

This warning salvo about a girl's upcoming entry into the world of "Tick Tock Time" is certainly done nice and dainty, perfectly aimed at the same gals who MYSTERY DATE as well as the ARCHIE comics mentioned above were created for. Nicely animated (in the cheap sense---this ain't no FANTASIA big budget brouhaha you know), we get the inside story about what's gonna happen in each and every one of them gals' plumbing once the gears o' womanhood start cranking away, along with the outward behavior that they exhibit which has always warned us guys to STEER CLEAR of 'em! And gee, I really didn't know that femmes had such a bad time of it---from what I can tell I'm surprised the whole lot of 'em haven't committed suicide en masse considering all of the agony and grief they have to go through during those times of trial.

It's funny as well as educational too, like the scene where the little ladies are told that it's OK to bathe while Miss Monthly Visitor is around but don't make it too hot or too cold (ice cubes popping outta what was a shower head hitting the nekkid adolescent who, although her sprouting boobs can be seen, bears no bullseyes). Kinda makes me wonder just how much misery it woulda been had, as in the past, the gals didn't scrub themselves up...I mean some gals smell bad as it is w/o the odor of a vagina running amok to worry about!

But still it is a nice and sweet film that has a sentimental tone to it even when the female reproductive system is being presented to us like an old Pepto Bismol commercial. It sorta puts into the mind of the young and impressionable types the idea that maybe they were put on this earth for a special reason and that starting families and having babies isn't the strange and evil thing that quite a few people have told ALL of us both male and femme for far too longer than any of us can imagine.  I know that may sound foreign to some of you casual observers, but that's the way it goes no matter how many of you angry and bitter liberated types may stomp your feet to the indignant beat.

And hey, for a minute I must admit that I thought Minnie Mouse was going to do the honors, like talk about her own period problems with Daisy Duck perhaps with a guest appearance by Goofy for comedy relief. Well, anyone who's seen that UN film persuading people in India to defecate into toilets instead of on the ground (again, see the VERONICA review above) would know that stranger animated educational films have happened!
***

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MAKE MINE FREEDOM (1948 cartoon)

One version of the above educational cartoon floating about on youtube is filled with editorializing subtitles claiming, with recent legal cases being trotted out to prove the point, that we've bypassed the ideals of freedom for security loooong ago! Considering how more 'n more people out there seem to want to stay home 'n goof off at the expense of us suburban turdfarms who gotta work I can see their point but hey, even in 1948 at a time when the idea of a strong government (which will provide for you and your not-so-basic needs, and oh yeah we can confiscate your property when it suits us and you men better put your lives on the line for us when we so desire) was riding high I'm surprised this cartoon wasn't totally banished into some deep pit of forgotten Old Right faves along with the comic book version of THE ROAD TO SERFDOM. This is one cartoon that'll be sure to make the standard BLOG TO COMM reader of a paleocon slant sit up and think about the concept of rights and where they stand these days, as it will be sure to make the standard BLOG TO COMM reader of the left-leaning or "mainstream" variety think what a knuckle-dragger I gotta me what with all of this talk of personalism and people earning what they work for w/o being forced to dole it out to anyone on the public titties whether it be the usual lazybone suspects or the latest haute artiste of a non-starving variety (the same thing, really!). And it looks like it's all here to stay, and although I sure ain't glad I know that YOU are, you lazy loafers you!

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*though in some ways don't you think that when Priscilla finally did get that horse of her dreams the strip was all over in the same way that Charles Schulz thought that LI'L ABNER jumped that fabled shark when Abner married Daisy May? Sure it's kinda tough comparing the two strips but after years of pleading for a horse and finally getting one a certain dimension to PRISCILLA kinda went the sewer route. Thankfully I will admit that the strip wasn't ruined in any major way shape or form....just that Vermeer really didn't know HOW to draw a decent horse!

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