The Question Must Be Asked: Is Our Children Watching?

I have only ever seen this rare Wally Wood illustration for an article about Saturday morning television as a poor-register photocopy in books and old fanzines. I liked it enough to snag a pristine copy for myself and scan the art and the article. The art is classic Wally Wood and enjoyably cartoonish. The resolute and unafraid Mouse standing his ground against a tidal wave of Super-Heroes is a great sight-gag. The article is one typical of the era though a bit late in coming. It is from the perspective of the generation that is just beginning to become aware what the teens and college students already knew for several years, that comic books were not for children anymore.

Click the picture to give yourself some giant Wood.

The accompanying article complains mostly about the violence in the new generation of cartoons featuring the “weirdies”, the Super-Heroes. While the piece does mention both sides of the argument about the effects of violence on children it comes down in favor of the classic and presumably more kid-friendly characters from animation. The author seems to have forgotten how incredibly violent the old cartoons were. They were astonishingly brutal even with the heavy editing that was performed prior to network broadcast to ensure all the explosions and maiming of bunnies at the hands of crazed opera singers were not shown and all the horror occurred between scenes or off-screen.

Additionally, the heroes practiced a morality that the funny animal characters never did. More often than not the anthropomorphic critters are portrayed as amoral, homicidal manipulators and every bit as immoral as the villains the super-heroes battle. At the time of this article some groups may have been of the opinion that a rodent setting off a stick of dynamite in a cat’s mouth in order to steal a piece of cheese was harmless, but using a fist made of stone to stop Dr. Doom from conquering the planet was irredeemably damaging to the psyche of children.

Here is the entire hand-wringing article:

Mickey Mouse, Where Are You - pg 1- Tv Guide ( March 23-29 1968)

Mickey Mouse, Where Are You - pg 2- Tv Guide ( March 23-29 1968)

Mickey Mouse, Where Are You - pg 3- Tv Guide ( March 23-29 1968)

TV Guide ( March 23-29 1968).

Virginia Is For Prudes

I enjoy reading the letters pages and editorials of comic books and magazines. While a letter page does not have the immediate feedback of the internet forum of today it does allow insight into what the publishers are focusing on. The limitations of space forces them to discard the snark and cherry pick for good or ill the items they don’t want to acknowledge or keep the ones that would fit their goals. One exception to the letter pages would be those accompanying anything written by Kirkman. I’d like more story and less chat in his books.

On occasion you come across a gem or two among the dross like the the insights of a young fan who would become a force in comics years later or the ignorant bleats of the racist. Those are always interesting. For example, from way back in 1977 here is the letter that was sent in by one reader complaining about the illustrations that accompanied the classic Fredric Browne SF story Arena.

A few words of caution, don’t stare too long at the art below because you might catch the “sexual problems” the reader warned about.
Painting by Boris Vallejo, ink drawing by Rene from Starlog #4 (March 1977).

Letter published in Starlog #6 (June 1977).

A Month in Review

I’m kinda at wits end about data storage options. This is the second back up drive that crashed and wiped out all the stuff I’ve saved this year. Short of burning everything in ever-increasingly dis-organized volumes to CD I have no idea what I’m going to do. My backup drive failed, then another and now a flash drive I bought so I could carry stuff between two computers also crashed out. I just bought it. I’m sort of angry about it and some rare stuff is lost forever. I could duplicate some of the art I made but that would be a chore the second time around and not in the least bit enjoyable. I’m most upset over losing very detailed drafts of the apocalyptic tale Sacrilege Lands and Realms Apart, a short story of elder gods infesting San Diego. When the hard drive crashed I was glad I had the documents saved on the flash. Then that one quit working within a week. Rating: ☆

At the start of the month I was at work when a good citizen came into the store and let me know that some kids idling their car next to the outside produce stands were loading up watermelons into the vehicle. I looked out the window and saw that was indeed the case. I also noticed there was no license plate on the front of the car. I went outside to send them off. While walking towards the car I noticed they had no license plate on the back of the car, either. Apparently they had removed them prior to coming onto the property to steal stuff. Often when a shoplifter gets out of the store we just get the license plate of the car, make a police report and send off the video to the detective assigned to the case. The owner of the car will eventually get pulled over and there will be a warrant out for them. A lot of the time they are career criminals and we get a call asking if we want to press charges. We always do.

I was walking toward the kids when they jumped into the car and started shouting, yelling that I was out of luck in trying to identify them to the police. They all found great amusement in this fact and called me names like ‘bee-yotch’ and impugned my gender preferences. The car started to accelerate away so I took a couple of steps towards it and kicked the passenger side door really hard. The car screeched to a halt and I kicked the door again, this time denting it severely. The driver went absolutely bonkers and started screaming through the open passenger window about what I did to the car. I thought that took some nerve. I told him to have his Daddy call me about the dent and I’ll fill him in about how it happened. Then I said, being awesomely cool: “How do you like those melons?” He screamed some curse words and drove off. I decided to call it even. Rating:

Saw Terminator Salvation this week and while I didn’t outright hate it I agree that it would have been much better had it gone with one of the alternate screenplays where Christian Bale did not play John Connor. I also think the decision to cancel Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles over the execrable Dollhouse was directly linked to the expected box office prospects of the film. I speculate that it was common knowledge that there would be little future and revenue for the film past the opening weekend. Since the television show ratings would not be getting a boost from Salvation, the decision was made to cancel Chronicles rather than renew it and be on the hook for all the production money. I have little doubt if there was positive buzz in the studios that Salvation would be a huge smash then Chronicles would have been renewed for at least one more season. Rating:

Bully sent two books which I enjoyed immensely.

Even the most uninitiated who know of the Superman character are aware that he has been around in print for longer than they have been alive. Many people think he was the first superhero. Well, they are wrong. Supermen, The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941 is a fine companion piece to the Fletcher Hanks collection from 2007. The book showcases a number of characters that were around long before Superman jumped over his first skyscraper. All the comic book heroes were continuations of if not descendants of the Pulp Heroes of previous decades. Comic books, back then, where the replacement for the failing market and the more mature content of pulp magazines were being attacked by politicians and parents. Easy to read sequential pictures replaced text and a whole new and younger market was exploited. The book is a fine collection of early comic books and is a must-have for those interested in pulp heroes and the infant comic book industry.

Boody. The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers was the other book I received. This collection of Sparky Watts and Babe tales put together by Craig Yoe is just what the title claims: Bizarre. Rogers combined surrealism, zany excess, ‘Lil Abner and super heroics to create his stories. What’s missing from the volume though is the apocalyptic tale of Sparky Watts that started all the renewed interest in Rogers when it appeared on blogs a year or so ago. The volume is well-represented otherwise, particularly with the Babe stories, but the end of the world arc is really too good not to have been included. You can get Supermen, The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941 and Boody. The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers at Fanatagraphics. Rating:

Halfway through two weeks vacation. Did I need it. The last time I was on ‘vacation’ was a few years ago when I was looking for work. That wasn’t a very restful time. This time around I’m taking it easy and getting stuff I enjoy done. Reading, watching movies, getting caught up on things. Rating:

I’ve been spending a lot of time wandering around used book stores and thrift shops looking for old books. Found a few nice ones that I scanned and posted some of the images over the last few days. Southern California really isn’t the best resource for what I’m looking for. Most of the houses and families have not been around that long compared to other parts of the country. On the other coast boxes of books, records and other cool ephemera will be in some attic for 60 years or more and will eventually make it to a garage sale.

In Southern California the pickings are far more slim and neat stuff will often get thrown out rather than dragged from home to home until it sells at a yard sale. The other aspect of this area is that quite often people are aware of what their old stuff is worth and won’t part with it unless they get top dollar. Not that I’m looking to make a steal or rip someone off, I don’t care about that. The problem with people wanting 50 bucks for an old book is that there really isn’t much market for it. It isn’t even that there is a speculation boom. Typically some owner looks up a book on the internet and see it’s worth $100 someplace and they want that much for it, regardless of the condition or whether they can actually sell it or not. Travel north a bit and there are plenty of garage sales you can find cool stuff at without taking out a loan. I just look for neat stuff to purchase at a reasonable price. I’ve got some family camping up north this month and they usually find good stuff to bring back. Rating:

My son got a notice to serve on a jury a few weeks back and went in today. He didn’t get picked so he won’t be called for a year at least. Personally, I despise jury duty. I’m not in a job where I get paid if I am not working. Serving on a jury means no paycheck which means not paying the bills which means I lose my car and then have no job. I went through that in Maryland and I’m not ever being in a position where that happens again. Juries also scare me. The prospect of being tried by a ‘jury of my peers’ keeps me on the straight and narrow. I’m terrified that I will get arrested in some Kafkaesque nightmare of a situation and going to trial. Not being wealthy I’m totally screwed if that happens. My peers are probably rampaging dumbasses. I imagine I’ll get the chair because my jury will consist of twelve wingnuts who would consult the bible for their jury instructions and pray for guidance in the best way to make me pay for my sins so my eternal soul can be saved. Rating: Zero stars.

Please ignore the hot pink and black rubber (that melts in the heat of a closed car and gets sticky blobs all over) 2 Fast 2 Furious steering wheel cover that came free with the car and check out those tire tracks on the road ahead. The off-ramp I’m driving down is leaving the 805 above Mission Valley towards Interstate 8. On the other side of that mound of iceplant the tracks lead through is a drop of about 100 feet. That must have sucked to go flying off the edge. Hope everything was okay. Rating: (For schadenfreude).

My White Heaven

Wonderfully retro and absurdly ethnocentric art depicting an idealized American empire on Earth and in Heaven from Bible Readings for the Home (Pacific Press Publishing Associates, 1963). The art of these books was incredibly sanitized and differed greatly from the Basil Wolverton style, who for his work with the Worldwide Church of God insisted on a “warts and all” approach to scripture.

The PPPA Bible series of books were ubiquitous and were to be found in just about every home, doctor’s office and transmission repair shop customer lounge in America back in the 1960s. Anywhere there was a waiting room or lobby odds were good one of the PPPA volumes and a copy of Highlights for Children was on a table nearby. As a child I recall getting one of these volumes at the supermarket for the low, low price of 68 cents every time the family bought laundry detergent. One of the more morbidly humorous and shocking (to anyone not looking at life through the Unreality Filter) themes that run through the books is the death of a child. Typically, a young child would be portrayed about to experience horrible death while an all-powerful Angel looks on, presumably choosing not to intercede and only being present to escort the dead soul of the child to Heaven.

While today some people look back on the imagery of the PPPA series with amusement it should not be dismissed that the series represented, however intentional or through obliviousness, a very real difference about modern life in what was reality versus what was perceived as real. The series has been accused of being exclusionary to the point of being racist. If you were white, middle class and lived in the upper Midwest from 1954-1956 then these books probably closely reflected your actual life experience. Outside of that narrow demographic the real world was noticeably different and far, far harder to manage.

This volume also addresses the Cold War, Nuclear Armageddon and has lots of other images worth posting. More to follow.

Like A Brick Outhouse

You know what’s hot? Chicks who were those short, too small t-shirts that expose the bottom part of their breasts and a whole lotta cleavage. Dude. You know what I mean?

I mean, DAMN. Lookit that. Strata is fine. She’s so good, the usually too cool Querl Dox just had to have a piece of that. In a way Strata covering up the goodies just a little and teasing everyone is way hotter than when she ran around topless for a couple of years.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #4 (July 2009)