One of my favorite comic strips is V.T. Hamlins Alley Oopbut admittedly I’m picky; I love the time travel adventures and can barely tolerate the characters Stone Age antics. And while there are now quite a few legitimate reprints of the strip a lot of it has yet to be collected, which is how I’m justifying posting the bulk of the contents of Alley Oop#1
Along with being a #1 this is a fortuitously good jumping on point for anyone not already familiar with the character as it contains a rousing time travel adventure as well as an appearance by recurring villain/character Oscar Boom who will lead an expedition to the planet Venus by way of flying saucer (if you haven’t guessed from the description, this is from the 1950′s). For longtime fans we’ve apparently just missed the moment when Oop gave us cigars, theoretically for health reasons, though it makes me wonder the actual explanation was. Letters to the editor? The growing awareness of smokings effects on health? I love a mystery but would much prefer an answer so, if any of you out there happens to know the why, you also know where you can reach me.
Next for African American History Month, we have both parts of “The Adventures of Johnny Newcome”, by cartoonist William Elmes. Published in 1812, they involve an idealized (from the white perspective) depiction of the life of a British slave & plantation owner in the West Indies.
Note how happily the slave receives his flogging in panel six of Plate 1, above. This was the kind of imagery that slave-owning society used to placate their conscious’ (for those persons that had any). Such myths of “happy slaves” were disseminated and absorbed by the white culture, to justify the massive serial kidnapping, serial rape, and serial murder (to name just a few crimes) that so many participated in, saying to themselves and indoctrinating others with the conveniently false belief that Africans were a sub-species compared to Europeans, and that their lives as slaves in the Americas was better than what they would have had as “uncivilized heathen savages” in unconquered Pre-Colonial Africa.
Contrast these, with an 1830 strip on British Slavery in the West Indies that we’ve previously shown (click here to see). Here, the slave owners are again privileged, but the concentration of the strip is on their crime, and society’s white-washing of it.
Click on the above & below pictures, to view the cartoons in detail, and read their captions.
In time for the Day of Love, we have (above) a set of small late 19th century Vinegar Valentines, and (below), “Everything Comes to Her Who Waits”, extracted from the same April 27th, 1895 issue of The Standard, from which we’ve posted previously.
Click on the above & below pictures, to view the pictures in detail, and read their captions.
Click here to view previous years’ Valentine’s Day postings.
For the past few Tuesdays I’ve been exploring the possibility that when it comes to songs about comic book characters, Spider-Man runs a close second to Batman. This week is no exception. And I have a new theory about all this.
What makes a good song? Catchy melody, memorable lyrics, infectious rhythm, yadda, yadda, yadda. But to be truly great, a song has to be flexible. Adaptable. Such a strong song that it can be performed fast or slow, with a vocalist or as an instrumental… folk, classical, rock ‘n’ roll or punk. Certainly the theme from the 1966 Batman TV show fits in this category. Although it was written by jazz composer Neal Hefti, it can be performed jazzy or not.
I think the Spider-Man TV theme from 1967 has this quality as well. Submitted for your approval is this version, done as an a cappella vocal in the smooth style of a certain bubbly singer. What do you think?
Captain Conquestwas yet another British “Captain” from the 1950′s (Atlas, Phantom, Universe, Vigour, Zenith, etc.) during their strange, weird, brief original superhero boom. None of them was even slightly successful, but that didn’t seem top stop other publishers from trying their hand at the genre. I have no idea where he first appeared, or if in fact this was the first and only appearance of this stylish Captain Marvel imitator . For the record, Captain Conquest was a newspaper reporter who used the magic word “Kagaran” (which, leave us face it, is a terribly sad attempt at a magic word) to become Captain Conquest, “conqueror of time and space”, which only just justifies using the word “conquest” in a superhero context. None of which stops me from liking it.
For this year’s round of African American History Month postings, we open with cartoonist David Claypoole Johnston‘s Civil War-era broadsheet, “The House That Jeff Built”. Johnston is remembered mainly for his collections of non-sequential single panel images, “Scraps”, beginning in 1828. This is one of but a few times Johnston instead arranged his page to tell a unified multi-panel comic strip story. Johnston died in 1865, after the War’s conclusion.
Click on the above picture, to view the story in detail, and be able read its text.
Watch later this month, for a second Civil War-themed “House that Jack Built”-inspired parody.
If you thought Spider-Man was amazing, wait until you see Italian Spiderman!
Continuing the theme of the last few weeks, we’re sharing another Spider-Man-oriented song this Tuesday. This one comes to us by way of Italy which has its own Spiderman, apparently. Who knew? And you can’t have a Spiderman without a Spiderman theme song, so that’s exactly what we have for you.
I don’t know if this theme is better than the American theme. That’s not the point. The point is that there’s a heckuva lot of songs about that nexus of spiders and men (similar to the amount about bats + men) and that’s our stated purpose here, to share the joy of comics and music.
So without further ado, click the link below and prepare to be amazed.
When I was a young boy, I wanted nothing as much as I wanted to draw my own comic strip!
That would have been in the late sixties. Little did I suspect at that point that Jack Mendelsohn had already done what I wanted to do, and a full decade earlier at that…AND with the added perspective of being 31 and 1/2 when he wrote and drew JACKY’S DIARY in the style of a small boy.
JACKY’S DIARY ran as a Sunday only strip, beginning exactly 2 days after I was born in 1959! It would run until the very end of 1961 but if it was in my local paper, I was still too young to remember it. In fact, those who do remember it most likely do so because of the unique Dell one-shot comic book that ran in the FOUR-COLOR series.
With its purposely juvenile artwork and schoolyard puns, many find JACKY’S DIARY to be an acquired taste but good humor is good humor and trust me, Jack Mendelsohn knows good humor!
After his comic strip ended, Jack went on to do work for Jay Ward. He did the Beatles cartoons. He wrote for ROWAN AND MARTIN’S LAUGH-IN. He wrote for Carol Burnett. He was a Story Editor on THREE’S COMPANY. He did the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES cartoon. And…he was the main writer on the almost immediately legendary 1968 animated feature, YELLOW SUBMARINE!!!
So I was suitably impressed when packager Craig Yoe drafted me (and my usual colleagues) to help Jack behind the scenes with proofreading and fact-checking on this just-out complete collection of JACKY’S DIARY by Jack, now age 86 and 1/2.
Got my copy in the mail today and I repeat, it is non-stop hilarity. Unlike many Sunday strips where the panels all lead up to a final punchline, every single panel in JACKY’S DIARY is a gag within itself and part of a larger theme that lasts the whole strip and, sometimes, several Sundays!
With its innocent tone and subversively simplistic art, Jack Mendelsohn’s JACKY’S DIARY is going to be a tough sell in today’s market of steroid-plagued super guys and gory zombies but the strip is lionized by many “in the know.” Hopefully they can help get the word out.
If you like to laugh and appreciate unique comics art, then you owe it to yourself to give JACKY’S DIARY a try. Without a doubt, being associated with this volume has been one of my proudest book experiences! Thanks Craig! And a special thanks to Jacky, himself!
As must be clear by now when it comes to comic books and comic strips my tastes can be as wide as they are eclectic, but that having been said I’m mostly a middlebrow; I tend to skew more towards the pedestrian and mainstream rather that the outre and avant-garde. Which probably explains my inexplicable affection for the all but forgotten comic strip.Mickey Finn which even in it’s heyday was never a top-tier strip, either creatively or when it came to popularity. But it was popular enough to last a remarkably long time, starting in 1936 and ending in 1976, especially given it’s thin premise; a mostly light-hearted look at the work and home life of a uniformed policeman named Michael Aloysius Finn that lived with his mother. Mickey was a good-natured, big kid at heart type and like a lot of comic strip protagonists of this era was a paragon of virtue and all-around role model for kids, hence, not a lot of laughs. So the comic relief was mostly relegated to his Uncle Phil, the living embodiment of every vice and failing ever ascribed to the Irish save one; though he regularly featured a tavern he was not a habitual drunk. He was, however, a fantastically stupid shiftless, stubborn, argumentative blowhard and know-it-all who had the aspect of a shaved ape, all of which inexplicably proved popular with readers and his repetitive low-rent antics soon took soon took over the Sunday strips. As demonstrated here in this Sunday page reprinted from an issue of Feature Comics.
So basically these were the endless “adventures” of a complete imbecile screwing up but for some reason they became my favorite feature in Feature Comics. I enjoyed the “topper”, a comic strip term for “the short strip that ran at the top of the main feature” Nippie about a know-it-all kid who, as the subtitle established was “often wrong”. It likewise was endless variations on a single theme, but it resonated with me, perhaps because I’m so often wrong myself.
Mickey Finn appeared in the pages of Feature and Big Shot Comics as well as 15 issues of his own comic which reprinted the dailies. #6 is a good place for those unfamiliar with the strip to starts as it’s a complete sequence focusing on Mickey that shows that when given the rare opportunity he’s actually fairly capable of actual police work. It also features the introduction of Sunny, the blonde, supernaturally well behaved little kid whose presence in the Sundays always kind of puzzled me as he bore no familial resemblance to any of the other Finn’s and yet was treated like one of the family.