I hope you’re enjoying this week of scanned ephemera from the basement bins, because A) I am and B) it’s all you’re going to get. I’m still surprised by the things I find. Sometimes I recognize the person I was; sometimes I don’t. The childhood stuff all looks familiar – found a compendium of Pooh & Christopher Robin stories that made me pause; all of a sudden I was six again. All the college stuff is embarrassing. I flick through the fiction with a wince. Found the photos of my first trip to New York: that I remember. Found a cache of DC stuff I’d completely forgotten but recognized as if I’d seen it yesterday. Everything is sorting itself into categories: birth to high school, college to 1987 (when I got a real job and met my wife, after which we bought a house and the etch-a-sketch got turned upside and shaken for the first time, really), the wandering 90s (DC era, back home) and Internet / Star-Tribune / Child. There’s an actual plot here. But I still want to burn all my diaries. Solipsistic kvetching nonpareil.

Back to the comics. I found an issue of Space Family Robinson tucked in a stack of old Disney and Caspar books. Those would have come from my Grandma’s house – she kept a few comics around for the kids. Since she dind't know what kids really wanted, she bought Gold Key comics and Archie knockoffs. Gold Key was a publishing house that turned out some high-profile titles based on Star Trek, the Twilight Zone, and an original character named “Magnus, Robot Fighter.” The last example was actually rather nifty – set in a far-distant future where men wore leotards that ended above the knee, and women wore flowing tunics from neck to ankle. Ohhhkay. The robots were mostly good, but when they went bad Magnus was called to take ‘em out. Lots of fisticuffs, which seems ill-advised when you’re going up against creatures with metal skulls. Anyway: the Space Family Robinson comic had a letters page, and they listed the names of the kids who wrote letters that didn’t make the cut. I googled a batch of them. No hits - except one: Alan J. Gudaitis. Heh.

Some other finds: Spiderman appeared in several episodes of the PBS post-Sesame kid show, “Electric Company.” This led to a regrettable comic book full of “urban” kids who said things like “Spidey’s here? Solid!” The back cover:

If you know the show, you know who these people are. On the left, Rita Moreno. On the right, of course, Spidey. The African-American gentleman? Morgan Freeman. Really.

Shove Vaseline in your eyes and squint – yes, that’s him, alright.

I have four DC comics, which suq. Dig this craaaazy DC in-house promo: looks like it came directly from 1947.

A coverless Dennis the Menace annual from 1966 yielded this image. The entire book is surprising to those who know only the sloppy jangly Dennis that pops up in papers today; back then Ketchum had the cleanest lines in the business. Maybe he just had a good inker. But it’s quality draftsmanship, and the lettering is superb.

Finally, I give you a comic that didn’t last very long:

A “Note from the Bullpen” said this was the first Jewish superhero in comics, but now we know that’s not true. Ben Grimm (the Thing) is Jewish. Reed Richards? Episcopalian, I’d bet. Silver Surfer? Unitarian.

Hey, this is a Wednesday Bleat, which is supposed to make whiny noises about overwork and link to a site update. This has been a busy day – finished two columns this morning while Gnat was at the community center, came home, wrote the update while she watched her beloved Olie Polie. Went downstairs and sorted through bins for two hours, taking time out to paint, do math lessons, learn the piano, etc. Went to the grocery store, came home, made excellent lime & tequila chicken, greeted wife, walked the dog, played 30 minutes of “Call of Duty, wrote Sunday newspaper column while scanning material for Bleat, prowled the blogs and learned that Chris Onstad has sold Achewood to a publisher. Huzzah. Nowadays I open the big wide comics section of my paper, and my eye skates over everything. I read Get Fuzzy, and that’s it. Nothing in the dino media is as good as Achewood. I know, I know – some of you won’t get it, and I understand; I fought it for a week or two as well, because I was supposed to think it was funny, and at first it just looked like this inert thing saturated with that fatal “it’s so unfunny it must be funny” spirit you find in overhyped web comics. But it grew on me quickly. Onstad is not an artist who can write funny – he’s a naturally brilliant comic writer, period, an utterly unique talent who can’t draw very well. See also, Thurber. He deals in deadpan understatement, which is why some people don't get it right away. You have to read the blogs he writes for his character to grasp the full extent of his talent: he can write in six different voices and you still detect his tone and style. In three years I expect there will be Korean animators working feverishly on the Achewood cartoon show, which will air briefly on Cartoon Network, die after 37 episodes, and be ever after revered like the Honeymooners.

Anyway, I have to finish my column, so it’s back to work. Check the “new now” button below for the weekly update. It’s a new addition to the Gallery of Regrettable Food. Have you bought the book yet? Yes? Thank you. Thank you very much.


Amazon Honor SystemClick Here to PayLearn More
c. 1995-2004 j. lileks