Saturday, November 19, 2011

And you readers don't think I live a normal, agony-filled life! Well I do, and considering the pain and turmoil I'm going through this weekend I'm positive it's probably a whole lot normal-er than anything you'll be up to with all the fun frolicking the average BLOG TO COMM reader likes to pack into his two days off! Yes, although I do not like to admit it I am subject to the pains and strains of everyday life, and right now I'm going through a pretty big 'un myself in the form of an abcessing tooth which is driving me battier than a Monogram-era Bela Lugosi flick!

Yeah, those voodoo darts aimed at my face sure did their job, and although this 'un ain't as painful as the abcessed tooth I had right next to this 'un back June of 1983 way lemme tell you it's still a smarter. Enough that I have been waking up countless times during the night usually by weirdo dreams brought forth by the jucily-pulsating throb taking place within my jaw so you know this pain is a killer! Some of these dreams have been rather vivid as well as entertaining in their own way...however for the sake of brevity I'll refrain from giving you all of the funny, if convoluted details regarding the rather realistic if bizarre goings on I've been conjuring up during my nightly snoozeathons. (Though the one where none other than a scruffy-looking JONATHAN RICHMAN was performing at a family gathering taking place in my uncle 'n aunt's old living room was a really winner even though I was flinching during one song he was wailing on regarding his adolescent days, especially the part where he mentions something about masturbating! Fortunately he slurred that word and my father couldn't understand what he was saying, thus saving a whole lotta agony on my part.)

I'm still digesting the latest Forced Exposure order and want to save my opinions re. that untamed and at this point mostly un-listened to booty I have received for a future post, though during my toothache travails I have had the opportunity to settle back and read a whole buncha the comic-related bookage (copyright 1985 Byron Coley) which has been making its way to my abode these past few weeks. Well, I did mention in an earlier post just how this autumn season brings out the pre-teen pudge in me, and frankly there's nothing like an overcast or downright rainy November day, a stack of silver/early-bronze age comic books and a bag of artificially-flavored orange "belly guts" to bring back the days when I knew what was best for me, and it wasn't more homework or learning the social graces I'll tell ya!

Lessee, which one shall I start with? Howzbout the Marvel Masterworks edition of THE AVENGERS, VOLUME 9???? Gotta say that considering the extremely jacked up prices on these hardcover and full-color collections of classic Marvel wares I've only been able to splurge for a few of 'em, but since this particular volume not only features the infamous superhero squad during one of their heights but the famed Women's Lip story "Come On In, The Revolution's Fine" (a tome which fit in snugly enough with the rest of the "relevant" early-seventies garb both Marvel and DC were puttin' on full display at the time) this was just one book that I wouldn't dare pass up on! And besides, trying to get a flesh and blood copy of AVENGERS #83 (the ish featuring the aforementioned feminist frenzy) was gettin' to be a costly affair, but for a few added shekels I could own a good ten ish reprint run so like, why piddle about on something I woulda murdered for when I was a mere thirteen?

The saga featuring the appearance of Valkyrie and her Lady Liberators was a good 'un...a whole lot less didactic'n the DC morality plays that National Perodicals was dumping on us long even after the entire "relevant" trend fizzled out 'round '72, and a winner mainly because it does a good ol' fashioned cop out to avoid digging itself in way deep! Really, don't you think we've had enough comic book controversy nigh on these past forty years already, what with the introduction of gay superheroes and many a story of questionable taste?!?!? Can't argue with taking the easy way out, and it's sure great readin' something that, while trying to be hip 'n uppa date in order to not look too L-7, still had that classic sixties-styled post-Jack Kirby artwork, action and attitude that drew me to these funny books inna first place!

Considering the roll Marvel was on at the time these sagas undoubtedly rate as the best the company was putting out back when they were riding a good four or so year tide that unfortunately would come to an end that fateful day in '73 when Stan Lee decided to hang up his editorial cap and push Marvel into a wide variety of new vistas and markets. TRANSLATION: by 1978 all the Incredible Hulk really was was a green variation of Snoopy product tie-ins and all, but between these stories and the upcoming Kree/Skrull War saga the Avengers were at their hotcha best'n only a stick-inna-mud Charlton fan woulda said otherwise! Hmmmm, methinks that I'd better dig out my nineties-era collection of that famed K/S battle in order to resensify myself, perhaps reading the final installment on New Year's morn around two thirty in order to re-live past comic book accomplishments to the fullest!
Changing gears slightly, here's a collection of comic panels that shame-filled me'll admit that I never even knew about before, but now that I have read, digested and spewed these funnies out all I gotta say is howcum nobody mentioned this'un to me before??? Not that MR. TWEEDY was exactly a upper-echelon panel but sheesh, I woulda thought that at least somebody out there in comic strip loverland'd mention this to me at least in passing! Of course it's easy to see just why the standard comic strip fan woulda upped nose regarding these sitegag-laden comics...I mean, look at the stiff art, the definitely pre-seventies silent majority stylings, the decidedly non-CATHY reflections on a modern workaday world. In other words...JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING THAT I LIKE IN MY NEWSPAPER FUNNIES, and to be totally honest about it the downfall of the funny page began when comics of this caliber were being jettisoned by space-conscious editors and young upstarts trying to make their comic sections just as modern and as monochrome as the rest of the paper which is one good indication as to why these fishwraps are going the way of the Edsel!

Yeah, I gotta admit that I sure miss that old style of comic fodder that I grew up with and sure hated to see cut loose oh so long ago, and MR. TWEEDY definitely ranks with such long-ignored faves as OFF THE RECORD and THEY'LL DO IT EVERY TIME as one of those reads you always thought your Uncle Ferd 'n Aunt Gladys woulda loved the same way they used to rave about OZZIE AND HARRIET and how that song the Browns did about the bells and Jimmy Brown always gave 'em a lump in the throat. Kinda old-timey 'n hokey 'n all that but sheesh, it still makes me feel sad to think about my long-gone relatives and how they used to like these things and how they mourned for years about the loss of their grandparents as well as pets in a down-home, quite humble way. Yet they enjoyed old movies and comics like this in their own innocent, definitely anti-decadent smarm kinda way and I have the feeling that had they known about MR.TWEEDY they would have had fond memories of him as well.

Not to say that MR. TWEEDY was some kinda cornball strip that only appealed to the yokels (who come to think of it need something to appeal to them, though the yokels of today who drool over Thomas Kinkade sure ain't the same kind of yore who used to at least settle in for fun frolics like THE REAL McCOYS or Norman Rockwell) fact I would call MR. TWEEDY a downright sophisticado comic in its own way. Creator Ned Riddle might not have been a Milt Gross, but his use of those aforementioned sightgags and surreal humor worthy of GREEN ACRES made for some pretty whacked-out situations as you can see from the samples (admittedly not the best) that I slipped in. And hey, I gotta say that I really enjoy the antics of Tweedy, a guy who has drawn comparisons to MR. BEAN (or at least the blurb regarding this recently-issued collection on the Ken Pierce Books website sez so!) not only because of the crazed humor (ranking up there with MR. MUM in the bizarreness dept.) but due to the simple, unassuming style which would never "make it" with the new breed of comic strip snob who tend to go for the fast and loose style with none of the meat 'n substance!

Like the best comics old timey and not the gags in MR. TWEEDY catch you off-guard and can either be so heavy you feel like you've been slammed with a sledgehammer or they could be so sublime you feel like somebody knocked you over with a feather. Either way they hit you pretty good, kinda in the same way a good old NATIONAL LAMPOON gag panel would only without the references to sagging boobs, genital warts or race riots.

Anyway, like I said Ken Pierce is sellin' this nice hardbound collection that was done up by the same people who were also puttin' out those ELLA CINDERS and SQUIRREL CAGE collections I was writin' up last year. I believe a good portion of the comics reprinted herein were lifted from a "legit" TWEEDY paperback collection that came out in 1960, but a whole slew of 'em are actually of an early-eighties vintage which seems strange considering the post-WW II/pre-hippie generation look and appeal of these panels. Some might call these out of place/time, but I call 'em the last gasp of hotcha, to-the-point and funny comics that you just can't find anymore outside of maybe the new DENNIS THE MENACEs or even BC now that Johnny Hart and those overbearing bible-based strips he was churning out are a thing of the past.
The arrival of the latest COMPLETE DICK TRACY volume is always cause for celebration here at BLOG TO COMM hindquarters, and the latest (#12) is certainly no exception. Even though the Golden Era of Tracy was probably over by this time (or at least you would get that impression after reading various "nostalgia"-oriented comic histories written by the usual old-timey suspects for whom life seemed to end somewhere around 1949) it's clear that TRACY was still popping on all cylinders with all of that stark art, the bizarrely convoluted story lines, and best of all loads of gratuitous, gory violence! The kind we ALL love!

TRACY creator Chester Gould must have sensed the sorta zeitgeist that was about to befall the latter portion of the twentieth century with the big bang he produced with these particular storylines! First off, longtime Police Chief Brandon's forced to resign from the force after unwittingly being involved in (and thus responsible for) the murder of Diet Smith's adopted son! Lotsa shades of the Joe Paterno situation that's happening even as we squeak can be found in this particular segment, and like in the Paterno case I get the feeling that Brandon was gettin' treated unfairly for something that wasn't entirely his fault and one thing we don't need on the police force is a scapegoat, especially the chief! But as the Mayor told Tracy, this wasn't the first goof up that Brandon had made so out he went in yet another surprise move from the mind of Gould! Funny, if he was making lotsa errors as of late, I wish Gould would have at least told us what these other indiscretions were because frankly, I was caught off guard!

It's clear that a new day's a'dawnin' in the strip, with longtime sidekick Pat Patton getting kicked upstairs to chief and the easygoing Sam Catchum introduced as Tracy's new partner, and with the marriage of Tracy and his fiancee of eighteen years Tess one would think the strip was gonna fall into the same aura of mush that ruined a great number of once-hotcha reads that settled into domestic duh. Wrong again puzz, for the storylines in TRACY remain just as hard-edged and the product of a sick mind as ever. I especially liked the episode dealing with the disgusting Wormy, a willy-nilly murderer worthy of the forties TRACY villains deformities and all, but your personal fave might be the ones with Pearshape (who surprisingly looks like Chet Gould himself [above the waist, that is!] making me wonder...) or Sketch Paree,  a pretty sickoid fellow in his own right and don't say it's because he's French (a people who I kinda admire!). Really liked the way Gould worked a thinly-disguised parody of none other than Spike Jones into the story, and come to think of it that radio personality who hires Wormy does bear a passing resemblance to Arthur Godfrey without the ukelele! Sheesh, if Wormy stayed on the radio show a li'l longer I think he woulda gotten fired faster'n you can say "Julius LaRosa!"

Also included in this volume's an eye-opening rarity, a limited run story tied into a real-life contest which  TRACY's home paper THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE and eventually a number of local papers were publishing in order to boost circulation! The deal with this open-ended saga was that you had to help Tracy solve a mystery regarding the whereabouts of a satchel filled with a million dollars in bills, and not only that but any reader who could do so in fifty words or less was privvy to some pretty hefty monetary reward! It's a wild saga too, with Tracy trying to find out what happened to the briefcase (as well as the situation behind the strange death of a rich widow) complete with the strange twists, turns, and even comedy relief courtesy the B. O. Plentys that were usually found in a classic Gould-era TRACY story. Unfortunately the winning answers were never revealed to the public which makes me wonder...who was responsible for running off with the loot anyway??? Personally I think it was the secretary who is in cahoots with the president of the bank, but how they actually tie in with each other has me stumped at this point. (Volume 13'll print the best response from you, the modern-day reader, though unfortunately no reward money is in sight so like I ain't gonna bother sending my answer in!)
In closing, perhaps a small note regarding the death of Laura Kennedy, whom most all of you reg'lar readers remember as the bassist for the infamous Bush Tetras (an act that never did grab me by the kajoobies, though I must admit that a good majority of the post-no wave groups who were rising from the ashes of the original generation didn't), but was first and foremost to me a member of Tender Buttons during her Cleveland days along with the likes of Serena WilliamS Burroughs, CLE-editor Jim Ellis and Carol Rutz. Dunno if any of the obituaries popping up across the web mention this important fact, so I thought I would stickler for Cleveland underground details that I am.

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