Tuesday, March 13, 2018

COMIC BOOK REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! DANGER #16 (Super Comics, 1964 available via Golden Age Reprints)

During my junior high/senior high years, I lived right behind the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, so as a 14 year old, I was able to earn pocket money there doing odd jobs such as working in horse stables, cleaning up after midget car races, putting up or taking down temporary fences, etc., but my first REAL job was as a 15 year old (you could work at age 15 in Colorado) at the Burger King on West Colfax, near the western edge of Lakewood and the unincorporated parts of the county. I lived a few miles west of there in Golden. My high school, Golden High School, had what was called a “modular schedule,” meaning it was like a college schedule, where you would take one class two days a week for ninety minutes, another class three days a week for fifty minutes, etc. The end result was that I had to attend high school only two and a half days a week, and I also actually got school credit for working at Burger King. Thus I was able to open the store myself (they did not serve breakfast back in those days….we opened at 10:30 a.m…so I would show up at about 7:30 a.m. to “open”) a few days a week and had a key and would handle the bread deliveries, etc., before the alcoholic manager (who was a great guy!) came in around 9.

The daytime crew consisted of a mix of people—high school students such as myself, along with people who’d dropped out of high school and worked full time to pay for their Firebird or Camaro, and some older people in their late 20’s or 30’s, who were re-entering the job market or who just preferred a low-stress, relatively easy job. Yes, it was demanding during rush hours, but it took no thought and you could do it in your sleep. Back then (this policy was changed decades ago, unfortunately), you could also get ANYTHING on the menu free if you worked at least a four-hour shift, and that would include a double-meat Whopper, large fries, a shake, etc. If you worked an eight-hour shift, you could get a full meal during your break and then a smaller sandwich later, so some of these folks, myself included, would have TWO meals a day at Burger King and really would not have to buy much food at home. Although I was probably the youngest person there, I found myself becoming friendly with and chatting with the older employees more than my fellow high school students. They were far more interesting and had far more life experience—I could actually learn something from them, and since some of the other teenagers kind of looked down on them for having to work at Burger King as an adult, they appreciated the fact that I appreciated them.

I especially remember two of the ladies who worked there….both probably in their early-to-mid 30’s…quite well. One was named Della, freckled and with dark red hair, and I hit it off with her immediately when within the first two days of my meeting her she casually dropped the name Bo Diddley in conversation. Turns out she must have owned a dozen Bo albums, and she was also a blues fan. Life is SO much more enjoyable when you are working alongside someone who knows who Billy Boy Arnold is, who knows what is meant by “an Elmore James riff,” and who can compare Roy Buchanan albums at length and quote the monologue from “The Messiah Will Come Again” (from Roy’s first Polydor album) from memory with just the right pauses and inflections. As I remember, she was also heavily into the films of Terence Hill and Bud Spencer. Not only had she seen each of the Trinity films multiple times, she’d also seen films they’d done separately, when they’d hit a local drive-in or show up on late night TV. I can’t tell you how much that impressed me! She had a great sense of humor about everything and was always the voice of calm and reason during a heavy lunch rush or when things started to fall apart. She had two children who were at elementary school while she worked lunches, and her husband had a good job as a master electrician or plumber or whatever, so she worked more to get out of the house than for the money.

The other lady I remember was named Diana. While Della worked in the kitchen alongside the rest of us guys, Diana worked the counter, so I never really got the chance to chat with her while working much, except when the store was empty in the early afternoon after lunch and before people got off work, and of course on our breaks. Because she was working the front counter and with customers, and also because she was the kind of person who paid attention to her appearance, she did wear make-up to work, did her hair, etc. She was a blonde and teased her hair out to make it thicker and fuller, and she had her hair in the style of what the female lead in a 1967 Elvis movie would have had. This being 1974-75, that was a bit out of date, but she worked it well. She also drove a lime-green 1968 Ford Mustang, which impressed me. As I remember, she had a soft Southern accent and might have been from Tennessee or some state along the Mason-Dixon line. She had the kind of generous legs and thighs you’d see in a Robert Crumb artwork and usually wore relatively sheer white stretch-pants with her Burger King uniform top. When she went out into the restaurant to take out the trash or stock the napkin-holder, the male customers surely noticed her.

I would often chat with her over lunch breaks, and because I was not someone who would ever potentially be hitting on her or wanting to date her, she was quite open with me. She was certainly a person of discretion, though, and a very classy individual, with the kind of inner resolve that comes from a poor background. She had a daughter in junior high, and she was supporting them solely through the Burger King job. She worked hard every day, sought extra hours when she could get them, and was really a pro. I admire people who take their job seriously and try to represent well the company that pays them. They shared a small apartment, and she actually slept on a fold-out bed in the living room, with her daughter getting the bedroom. She had a lot of life experience, and I learned a lot about dysfunctional families and divorce and child custody and that sort of thing from her. She’d also been a cocktail waitress at some sleazy lounge over on East Colfax, and that had been her job prior to Burger King. Sometimes I could tell that she wanted to be alone during her break—she was considered haughty by some of the employees, so they would avoid her—and of course some days we did not work at the same time, so on those days I’d often bring a comic book to read over my lunch break or my second break were I working a long shift. I also noticed that on some days she would sit with an older customer, maybe in his late 60s or early 70s. He would come during down-times when we weren’t crowded, so he could linger at the counter and chat with her. I also noticed that he would come around the time of her post-lunch break, so after he’d ordered his food and eaten it, she’d come out on break, and she’d allow him to come sit with her.

I’d be sitting across the dining room, also on my break, stuffing my face with my free double-meat and double-cheese Whopper, and reading some cheap comic book I got used for next to nothing. A comic book is a comic book—who cares if it’s new or three years old? I certainly did not. And making just over the minimum wage, I certainly did not want to waste much of that precious money on full-priced comics that I’d read once and then toss into a box in the basement, to be re-discovered five years later and re-read. Something like DANGER #16 was exactly what satisfied me then (as it does now, 40 years later)—a random assemblage of older comics from fly-by-night publishers, thrown together for the low-end of the comics market by Israel Waldman’s I.W. Comics/Super Comics, which we discussed last year in a few reviews here (I reviewed Danger #15 in the 6 December 2016 entry here at BTC). Super Comics was the comics equivalent of a budget label. Old product no one cared about was re-purposed to fill books to sell at cut-rate prices in multi-packs at low-end stores in poor neighborhoods or to be moved through the murky used-periodical marketplace. Before the internet and the amazing websites such as the Grand Comics Database, I had no idea what old comics were being foisted off upon me in something like DANGER. Yes, the stuff looked old, but publishers such as Charlton re-used old material too, so I didn’t really know or care as long as it wasn’t something I’d read within the last year. This particular issue has a mind-bending combination of failed super-heroes (Yankee Girl), funny animal stories, crime stories, and a group of patriotic adolescents who right wrongs against our nation called the “Young Americans,” another failed concept from the past which no doubt dated back to the post-World War II era.

Something as cheap and random as DANGER somehow was the perfect complement to my life as I would glance over at Diana and the older man and see her brushing her hand against him. At first, I thought it might have been her father or her uncle or something, but no uncle would look at his niece the way he did, and while I’ve hugged relatives before, I never did caress them, the way she did him.

I knew not to ask who he was, whenever we’d chat. I did notice, though, that on some occasions he’d slip her something in a small envelope or wrapped in a folded piece of paper, and on other occasions, she’d give him a small bag with something in it. They’d meet maybe once a week, and this went on for maybe six months. It clearly wasn’t a drug transaction.

Near the end of that period, during the down time after lunch and before dinner, I’d been called out one day to the dining room area to clean up after someone who’d vomited all over the floor (he or she should have known better than to order one of our YUMBOS, the microwaved ham-and-cheese sandwiches BK was pushing at that time), and I had to go right past the booth where the two of them were sitting. He did not see me coming as I approached from his rear, and when I got near the table I saw him slip her, inside a folded piece of paper, what must have been three or four twenty-dollar bills. She saw me observe this, established eye contact with me, and I moved on, looking forward and acting oblivious. I cleaned up the mess, washed up, and went back to work. That afternoon, after she finished her shift, she came back to the walk-in freezer, where I was pulling frozen meat to thaw for the dinner shift, and where she knew we’d be private, walked over to me, and said in a very straightforward and business-like manner, “he’s widowed…he’s lonely…no one is being hurt…I have a child to feed and clothe and house on this cheap-ass salary….it’s just like getting a tip.” She smiled, turned around, departed, and left me to my work in the walk-in.

Obviously, this was never mentioned again, and I really don’t know why she felt the need to inform me….because it actually raised more questions than it answered.

She eventually moved on to another job that paid more….in an insurance office, as I remember. We remained friendly at work, but I always kept away when she’d meet the older man. Some weeks after Diana left, I mentioned the older man to Della, in between her conversations about Bo Diddley or Bud Spencer or different lineups of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Evidently, Diana had told Della, woman to woman, what was going on, and then Della told me. The older man would tip Diana $20 or 30 to sit with him for 5 or 10 minutes and she’d touch his hand once or twice and rub her leg against his. Then once a month or so, she’d give him a pair or two of soiled panties in a bag, and he’d give her $60 or $70 for that. They never met outside of Burger King, and she never even told him her real last name.

One morning around that period, some strident Libertarian who waited at the same bus stop where I waited, pontificated about how “every area of your life, including your personal life, is a marketplace.” He was probably right.

No one was hurt. They both got what they wanted and needed. Like Super Comics product and like life, it was tacky, random, and temporarily satisfying as long as you didn’t think about it too much. And then you moved on.

1 comment:

Bill S. said...

Wow, I can't believe that Golden Age Reprints has republished this! You can still get an original copy for a dollar or so....