31 August 2012

Acting Out OIP Derangement Syndrome

I had another topic in mind, but last night actor-director Clint Eastwood made a surprise appearance at the Republican National Convention. And his performance provided an embodiment—or perhaps a caricature—of OIP Derangement Syndrome. Eastwood offered us the spectacle of an old angry white man feeling glee at being able to speak contemptuously to a wholly imaginary version of President Barack Obama.

Addressing an empty chair, Eastwood delivered remarks that almost every observer called “rambling,” with a steady emotional line but no internal logic and significant omissions and misstatements. Here’s the transcript, courtesy of National Public Radio.
Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Save a little for Mitt.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, what's a movie tradesman doing out here? You know they are all left-wingers out there, left of Lenin. At least that's what people think. But that's not really the case. There's a lot of conservative people, a lot of moderate people, Republicans, Democrats, in Hollywood. It's just that the conservative people by the nature of the word itself play it a little more close to the vest. They don't go around hot-dogging it. So, uh ... But they're there, believe me, they're there. I just think, in fact, some of them around town, I saw Jon Voigt, a lot of people around here in town.

John's here, an Academy Award winner. A terrific guy. These people are all like-minded, like all of us.

So I — so I've got Mr. Obama sitting here. And he's — I just was going to ask him a couple of questions. But, you know, about, I remember three-and-a-half years ago, when Mr. Obama won the election. And though I wasn't a big supporter, I was watching that night when he was having that thing and they were talking about hope and change and they were talking about, yes we can, and it was dark outdoors, and it was nice, and people were lighting candles. And they were saying, you know, I just thought, this is great. Everybody's crying. Oprah was crying.

I was even crying. And then finally — I haven't cried that hard since I found out that there's 23 million unemployed people in this country.

Now that is something to cry for because that is a disgrace, a national disgrace, and we haven't done enough, obviously — this administration hasn't done enough to cure that. Whatever interest they have is not strong enough, and I think possibly now it may be time for somebody else to come along and solve the problem.
OIP Derangement Syndrome prevented Eastwood or his audience from acknowledging that our high unemployment is the result of the Bush-Cheney recession, that most economists agree that President Obama’s stimulus policy kept the job losses from being worse, and that Republicans in Congress have stymied further measures to fuel the economy.
So, so, Mr. President, how do you, how do you handle, how do you handle promises that you've made when you were running for election and how do you handle, how do you handle it?

I mean, what do you say to people? Do you just — you know — I know — people were wondering. You don't? You don't handle it.

Well, I know even some of the people in your own party were very disappointed when you didn't close Gitmo. And I thought, well, closing Gitmo — why close that? We spent so much money on it. But, I thought maybe as an excuse.

Oh, What do you mean shut up?

OK, I thought it was just because somebody had the stupid idea of trying terrorists in downtown New York City. Maybe that was it.

I've got to, I've got to hand it to you. I've got to give credit where credit is due. You did finally overrule that finally. And that's so, now we're moving onward. I know, in the, you were against the war in Iraq and that's OK. But you thought the war in Afghanistan was OK.

You know, I mean — you thought that was something worth doing. We didn't check with the Russians to see how they did there for 10 years.

But we did it, and it was, it's something to be thought about and I think that when we get to maybe — I think you've mentioned something about having a target date for bringing everybody home and you give that target date, and I think Mr. Romney asked the only sensible question. He says, "Why are you giving the date out now? Why don't you just bring them home tomorrow morning?"
Is Eastwood actually against fighting the war in Afghanistan? If so, he was going against his candidate and most of the Republicans in that hall. Or was he just grabbing any excuse to complain about President Obama?
And I thought — I thought, yeah — there's, I'm not going to shut up. It's my turn.

So anyway, we're going to have, we're going to have to have a little chat about that. And then, I just wondered, all these promises and then I wondered about, you know, when the, What? What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. That. He can't do that to himself.

You're crazy. You're absolutely crazy. You're getting as bad as Biden.

Of course we all know Biden is the intellect of the Democratic party.

Just kind of a grin with a body behind it.

But I just think that there's much to be done and I think that Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan are two guys that can come along. See, I never thought it was a good idea for attorneys to be president anyway, because ... Yeah.
Mitt Romney has a degree from the Harvard Law School.
I think attorneys are so busy. You know, they're always taught to argue everything, and always weigh everything and weigh both sides and they're always, you know, they're always devil's advocating this and bifurcating this and bifurcating that. You know all that stuff. But, I think it is maybe time. What do you think for maybe a businessman? How about that?

A stellar businessman. Quote, unquote, a stellar businessman. And I think it's that time. And I think if you just kind of stepped aside and Mr. Romney can kind of take over.

You could still use the plane. Though maybe a smaller one. Not that big gas guzzler when you're going around to colleges and talking about student loans and stuff like that.

You're an ecological man. Why would you want to drive that truck around?

OK, well, anyway. All right, I'm sorry. I can't do that to myself either.

But I'd just like to say something, ladies and gentlemen. Something that I think is very important. It is that, you, we, we own this country.

Thank you. Thank you.

Yes, we own it. And it's not you owning it and not politicians owning it. Politicians are employees of ours.

And, so, they're just going to come around and beg for votes every few years. It's the same old deal. But I just think that it's important that you realize and that you're the best in the world.

And whether you're Democrat or whether you're a Republican or whether you're Libertarian or whatever, you're the best. And we should not ever forget that. And when somebody does not do the job, we got to let 'em go.

Let 'em go.

OK, just remember that. And I'm speaking out for everybody out there. It doesn't hurt, we don't have to be ...

I do not say that word anymore.

Well, maybe one last time.

We don't have to be — what I'm saying, we don't have to be metal masochists and vote for somebody that we don't really even want in office just because they seem to be nice guys or maybe not so nice guys if you look at some of the recent ads going out there. I don't know.

But OK.

You want to make my day, huh?

All right.

Go ahead...

(AUDIENCE: Make my day!)

Thank you. Thank you very much.

29 August 2012

Mogo Doesn’t Plagiarize

A colleague in the Boston Comics Roundtable told a story of someone seeing his Green Lantern T-shirt and asking, “Hal, John, or Kyle?” To which he was pleased to answer, “Guy.”

Evidently that’s how Green Lantern fans talk. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to make head or tails of the conversation. But now I could answer: “Mogo.”

Mogo is the planet-sized Green Lantern who debuted in the six-page story “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize,” published in Green Lantern, #188 (1985). That back-up feature, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons, is collected in DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore.

As an Alan Moore character, however, Mogo almost perforce has a longer literary pedigree. Duy Tano just noted this panel from “The Bounty Hunters,” a story by Moore and artist John Higgins published in the British comics magazine 2000 AD in 1982.

One character says, “I read this story once where these guys are looking for an alien, not realising that the alien is really the planet they’re standing on…” That panel appears in The Complete Alan Moore Future Shocks. It shows Moore was already mulling over the idea that became Mogo.

By having his character allude to a “story,” I think Moore was hinting that he himself had read such a tale. Or two or more. Back in 1963, as Bob from Cartoonacy pointed out on Duy Tano’s site, a Green Lantern story featured a sentient planet: “The Strange World Named Green Lantern,” written by John Broome and drawn by Gil Kane. Marvel Comics had its own living planet, Ego, created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in 1966.

But Moore’s clearest comics antecedent is “Dead Planet,” published in Tales to Astonish, #27, with a cover date of Jan 1962. Scripted by Lee and drawn by Steve Ditko, this story is only five pages long. Nathan Mahney synopsizes it like so:
The Komok race travels from planet to planet, as each one of its warriors conquers a planet single-handedly. But if any one Komok fails, all of them will be forced to return home in disgrace. Mopox is dispatched to conquer his planet, but he can find no sign of life on its barren surface, despite what his instruments tell him. He dies of loneliness, not knowing that the life on this planet takes the form of sentient rocks.
See more panels on Bully’s Tumblr.

“Mogo Doesn’t Socialize” has the same plot as “Dead Planet”: a character bent on conquest comes to a planet and searches in vain for a foe to fight because he can’t recognize what he’s looking for. Like the Green Lantern in 1963, he eventually discovers he’s up against an entire planet.
Of course, Moore does the story better than his predecessors. He ties the episode into the larger DC mythos. He uses the Green Lantern symbol as part of the big reveal. His prose is lively.

Still, this is one of many examples of how Moore builds many of his best stories on preceding writers’ creations—combining them, building on them, twisting them in new ways. Without, however, rendering the sources unidentifiable.

28 August 2012


I’m at the local library, and nearby is this local poster promoting literacy.

The lady smiling in the photo is my state representative, Kay Khan.

I didn’t realize her choice of literature before.

But now I’m even happier I voted for her.

27 August 2012

What Happens to Hawkins?

Another example of British publishing’s current infatuation with latter-day sequels is Andrew Motion’s new Silver: Return to Treasure Island. Liesl Schillinger’s review in the New York Times Book Review explains the set-up:
In “Silver,” which is set some 35 years after “Treasure Island,” Motion introduces us to the son of Jim Hawkins, the original boy adventurer. Decades after making his adolescent splash, Hawkins père has washed up in a gloomy, rum-soaked middle age, running an inn on the Thames.

Jim Jr., serving as narrator, explains that his father had spent a decade in London, squandering his pirate booty on high living, before settling down to innkeeping and marriage with a woman who died giving birth to their child. Since then, the widower’s only joy has lain in endless retellings of his swashbuckling glory days.
No, no, no, no, no! Jim Hawkins is not the type to lead a dissipated life. He’s seen too much. And, frankly, he’s too greedy.

No, Jim Hawkins uses his wealth to buy a small but solid estate in the north of England. After his mother passes away, he invests in some of the new ventures with steam engines, canals, and the like, thus growing his fortune. In time Squire Hawkins develops a reputation for being a hard bargainer, a demanding boss, and a strict landlord. A reputation that’s a bit at odds with how he chose to hire a washed-up one-legged cook who hobbled onto his estate one year.

26 August 2012

What Is John Blake Supposed to Be?

Bleeding Cool’s Between the Pages vlog has offered a friendly video discussion between editor Grace Randolph and superhero-fashion blogger Alan Kistler on the history of Robins, with particular attention to the latest iterations in comics (Damian Wayne), videogames (Tim Drake in a hoodie), and movies (Det. John Blake).

The thorough discussion proceeds along standard lines, with a lot of familiar imagery. It’s interesting to see how comics fans’ perception of changes can differ based on when they encounter them. For example, Kistler points out a couple of times that the dark, gritty original Batman lasted less than a year in the comics in 1939-40. However, the conversation leaves the impression that Batman went through an extended period of grimness after Jason Todd’s death at the end of 1988.

In fact, it was only a few months before Tim Drake came on the scene as a new Robin—DC had already put out a call for that character. I suspect that Kistler was then reading monthly installments as a young adolescent, and that period felt much longer.

It’s also notable what assumptions Randolph’s presentation makes about how fans view Robins:
Joseph Gordon Levitt is Robin and/or Nightwing in The Dark Knight Rises 2012. But is his John Blake supposed to be Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, or Tim Drake? . . . And do you think Joseph Gordon Levitt is meant to become the next Batman, Robin, or Nightwing?
John Blake exists in a universe in which [***SPOILERS***] French arch-detective Henri Ducard and ancient Mideastern assassin Ra’s al Ghul are the same person, in which Lucius Fox knows his employer’s biggest secret, and in which—the biggest change of all—Bruce Wayne is willing to retire from being the Caped Crusader.

There’s no reason that unfamiliar universe has to contain a Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, or any other character from other tellings of the Batman mythos. Blake is a new character, displaying the narrative essence of the Robin character and a few similarities with previous incarnations, but entirely independent.

Will Blake become Batman or Nightwing (the latter having no precedent in that universe)? I don’t think it matters. A big theme of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy is the value of the Batman (or Harvey Dent) as a symbol of bravery and hope for Gotham City. Blake’s [***MORE SPOILERS, but nothing that’s not in the video***] departure from the police force and entrance into the cave at the end of The Dark Knight Rises promise that he’ll do something with those resources—and implicitly that he might inspire someone else in turn. But exactly what? We’ll never know.

ADDENDUM: Additional commentary from Caleb at Every Day Is Like Wednesday.

24 August 2012

Niall Ferguson’s OIP Derangement Syndrome

It’s no longer a surprise when a minor elected official from Texas goes on local television and spews conspiracy theories about President Barack Obama, as Tom Head did this month in Lubbock. By now we expect some of those people to suffer from OIP Derangement Syndrome.

But it’s a surprise when a prominent historian and public intellectual like Niall Ferguson publishes an essay so full of one-sided, incomplete, illogical, and simply wrong statements that it shows he’s incapable of assessing President Obama fairly.

As numerous refutations by other writers have pointed out, Ferguson’s Newsweek cover story, “Why Barack Obama Needs to Go,” does the following:
  • blame Obama because private employment numbers are worse than they were in January 2008, a full year before he took office—as if the Bush-Cheney recession hadn’t started in the meantime.
  • complain that the Obama administration hasn’t addressed the national infrastructure as promised without acknowledging that such projects were in the 2009 stimulus bill and other proposals since bottled up by Congress.
  • complain that that stimulus spending sped up the economy only briefly (foolishly pointing to unrelated numbers, showing the government’s long-planned census hiring), but also complain that coming cuts in spending would permanently slow the economy, and complain that the deficit is too large. 
  • criticize the costs of Obama’s health-insurance reform package without acknowledging the savings—and trying to justify this by citing one sentence on costs from a Congressional Budget Office report on costs while ignoring the very next sentence on savings.
  • blame Obama for both enlarging the deficit and for signing off on a deal to shrink the deficit (while praising Rep. Paul Ryan, who did the same things).
  • criticize Obama for not adopting the Bowles-Simpson Commission’s budget structure after Ryan, a member of that commission, had disowned it and brought the Republican House caucus along with him.
  • misstate that “half of us [are] paying the taxes” as if the federal income tax is the only tax Americans pay.
  • credit George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq for the “Arab Spring” uprisings of late 2010 while denying Obama’s policies and initiative to intervene in Libya.
  • blame the President for China’s continuing economic growth, as if the largest country in the world was under American control and should remain poor.
  • quote economic measurements no one else can find.
Ferguson started his essay, “I was a good loser four years ago.” He was, after all, a supporter and advisor of John McCain. But he‘s a good loser no longer. Now he’s given himself over to OIP Derangement Syndrome.

23 August 2012

Redoing Mickey’s Monkey?

The legend of Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen is that “librarians across the country” painted a diaper or underwear over the hero Mickey’s genitals. This month at School Library Journal Kathleen T. Horning pointed out that the great majority of librarians supported full access to the book as Sendak had created it, as they supported him for most of his career.

Horning found three sets of evidence for authorities painting in the book:

  • a letter to School Library Journal from one Louisiana librarian in 1971, which prompted a semi-public response from Sendak’s editor, Ursula Nordstrom.
  • a school system in Missouri doctoring forty books before using Night Kitchen in a classroom.
  • Sendak’s own statement in 1991 that “I have a number of [altered] copies smuggled out to me by embarrassed librarians.”
However, in that same 1991 speech Sendak declared:
It’s been brought to my attention by a number of people that Mickey, in the lithograph I prepared for this American Booksellers Assn. convention, is still the 1970 little boy he always was—but that, oddly, his privates have grown way out of proportion. Now, this is true—I was unaware of that detail—and I’d like to think I inadvertently touched on some significant unconscious point—and not merely that I’m guilty of bad drawing. Either explanation might be correct, but of course I prefer the former.

What could be more reasonable under the circumstances? It makes a kind of comical sense; like Pinocchio’s nose displaced downwards (in Freud, it usually goes the other way), Mickey’s penis grows in response to the lie that is censorship, the lie that says children must be protected from such a sight.
Actually, all those explanations and symbolic interpretations are based on a faulty premise. The image of Mickey on the ABA 1991 poster was basically traced from a panel in Night Kitchen. And he shows little significant growth or shrinkage at all. Well, except in his feet.

22 August 2012

Baked-in Resentment from Sendak

I was struck by this quotation from Jonathan Cott’s interview with Maurice Sendak in Pipers at the Gates of Dawn (1983), about the inspiration for In the Night Kitchen:

When I was a child, there was an advertisement which I remember very clearly. It was for the Sunshine bakers, and it read: “We Bake While You Sleep!” It seemed to me the most sadistic thing in the world because all I wanted to do was stay up and watch . . . It seemed so absurdly cruel and arbitrary of them to do it while I slept. And also for them to think I would think that was terrific stuff on their part, and would eat their product on top of that. It bothered me a good deal, and I remember I used to save the coupons showing the three fat little Sunshine bakers going off to this magic place at night, wherever it was, to have their fun, while I had to go to bed. This book was a sort of vendetta book to get back at them and to say that I am now old enough to stay up at night and know what’s happening in the Night Kitchen!
A similar Chicago Tribune article says Sendak saw that slogan when his sister left him in the Uneeda Biscuit exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair.

Sunshine Biscuits and Uneeda (from Nabisco) were rival products, and it looks like the real story might be a blend of those memories. As shown above, Sunshine Biscuits ran ads as early as 1936 depicting miniature bakers at work on its products. At the 1939 World’s Fair the company evoked those scenes with little people dressed as bakers, as shown in the postcard at right. Sendak, who turned eleven that year, might well have seen the little bakers at work.

However, I haven’t found any Sunshine Biscuits ads proclaiming something like “We Bake While You Sleep!” The company could have used that line, of course. Bakers have long been known for getting up early to produce fresh bread for the day. Merita Breads, a brand centered in the South, used “Baked while you sleep” as one of its slogans. The Carmel Bakery, in business in Monterey County since 1906, proclaims, “We bake while you sleep.”

What’s most striking to me about Sendak’s story of inspiration is its emotional dimension. Many children might be intrigued by the thought of bakers (especially little bakers) working all night for them. But Sendak declared that arrangement was “sadistic,” “absurdly cruel and arbitrary” to himself, and used it to fuel “a sort of vendetta book.” But he talked like that a lot in middle age.

TOMORROW: The legends of Mickey’s diaper and penis.

21 August 2012

Ozma, the Birthday Girl

Though L. Frank Baum probably never intended to convey this information, today is the birthday of Ozma, fairy queen of Oz. Some passages in The Road to Oz mention that her birthday is on the 21st of the month. Another passage says that the month is August. So there we go.

One of Baum’s longest descriptions of Ozma comes in The Magic of Oz, his penultimate novel:
Ozma, the beautiful girl Ruler of the Fairyland of Oz, was a real fairy, and so sweet and gentle in caring for her people that she was greatly beloved by them all. She lived in the most magnificent palace in the most magnificent city in the world, but that did not prevent her from being the friend of the most humble person in her dominions. She would mount her Wooden Sawhorse, and ride out to a farm house and sit in the kitchen to talk with the good wife of the farmer while she did her family baking; or she would play with the children and give them rides on her famous wooden steed; or she would stop in a forest to speak to a charcoal burner and ask if he was happy or desired anything to make him more content; or she would teach young girls how to sew and plan pretty dresses, or enter the shops where the jewelers and craftsmen were busy and watch them at their work, giving to each and all a cheering word or sunny smile.

And then Ozma would sit in her jeweled throne, with her chosen courtiers all about her, and listen patiently to any complaint brought to her by her subjects, striving to accord equal justice to all. Knowing she was fair in her decisions, the Oz people never murmured at her judgments, but agreed, if Ozma decided against them, she was right and they wrong.

When Dorothy and Trot and Betsy Bobbin and Ozma were together, one would think they were all about of an age, and the fairy Ruler no older and no more “grown up” than the other three. She would laugh and romp with them in regular girlish fashion, yet there was an air of quiet dignity about Ozma, even in her merriest moods, that, in a manner, distinguished her from the others. The three girls loved her devotedly, but they were never able to quite forget that Ozma was the Royal Ruler of the wonderful Fairyland of Oz, and by birth belonged to a powerful race.
Ozma is clearly devoted first to her ideals and second to the protection and rule of her country. I think those priorities present a challenge for people who want to write adventures for her. Ozma leaves her capital for extended periods in order to carry out what she sees as important duties (e.g., Glinda of Oz, The Magical Mimics of Oz), she can be kidnapped (e.g., The Lost Princess of Oz, Grampa in Oz, Kabumpo in Oz, The Hungry Tiger of Oz), and she can even suffer amnesia about her duties (e.g., The Forbidden Fountain of Oz). But I don’t see it as in her character to “go off on an adventure” the way Dorothy does. She’s got things to do.

20 August 2012

You Had to Be There

Right-handed comics creator Jesse Lonergan is gave his left hand a workout sketching people at the Boston Comics Roundtable meeting. The results are sort of like the spot illustrations in British mid-twentieth-century reprints of classic novels.

Last among the recognizable faces on that page is Ben Prager, whose webcomic is Bazzelwaki.

19 August 2012

A Full Look at Detective Comics, #38

Comixology’s Nightwing 101 sale (ending this evening) offered me a 99¢ look at the whole of Detective Comics, #38, the magazine which introduced Robin as the Sensational Character Find of 1940.

As I’ve written previously, this was Whitney Ellsworth’s first issue as chief editor, and he replaced the story originally slated for this issue with Robin’s debut. Within a short time, Ellsworth instituted new rules about guns and killing in Batman tales.

But the Batman cover feature was only the first of several stories in that issue of Detective. At twelve pages it was the longest, but the whole magazine contained 58 pages of comics and a couple of prose items (not included in the Comixology download).

The other graphic features were episodes of “Spy” and “Slam Bradley,” both written by Jerry Siegel; “Red Logan,” an American reporter in London; “The Crimson Avenger,” a Green Hornet knock-off; “Cliff Crosby,” a “Terry and the Pirates” knock-off; “Speed Saunders, Ace Investigator”; and “Steve Malone, District Attorney.” The Crimson Avenger had preceded Batman as a masked hero, but the rest of the magazine’s heroes were square-jawed young white men in suits. (Well, Cliff Crosby wears flying gear and spends an unusual amount of time shirtless at the North Pole.)
Aside from Dick Grayson and the newsboys he encounters, the magazine shows only two recognizable children: a girl and “crippled boy” whom Slam Bradley and his grotesque sidekick rescue from a fire. Within a year, boy sidekicks and heroes would proliferate as the success of Captain Marvel and Robin sent the industry chasing after its main readership. Cliff Crosby was soon dubbed “Young America’s Hero” rather than “Famous Explorer.”

Another striking aspect of the magazine is that the Batman and Robin story is much better than the rest. Granted, scripter Bill Finger had more pages to work with, but a lot of the other tales make little sense, relying on coincidences, leaps of logic, and ludicrous action sequences.

In contrast, Batman and Robin’s drive to shut down Boss Zucco’s protection racket proceeds rationally, building to a night-time battle on the skeleton of an unfinished building. For that fight Jerry Robinson designed pages of dark panels alternating with light, full moon in the background.

Bob Kane and Robinson’s draftsmanship wasn’t as good as that of some other artists in this early comic, but their composition was much better. Only Jack Lehti’s work on the Crimson Avenger finds as much depth and variety in the panels. (Kane and his crew were working with a varied three-tier page structure. Fred Guardineer used a more uniform three tiers in “Speed Saunders,” and all the other stories are told in four tiers, like Kane’s original, six-page Batman tale.)
The coloring on most pages is awful. There was a limited palette, and the colorists deployed it poorly. One page of “Speed Saunders” shows three different women in red tops and green skirts, making it easy to confuse them; on another, two planes keep switching colors. In “Cliff Crosby,” the polar bears are brown. And this is supposed to be an English village landscape at night from “Red Logan.”
With that baseline, Robin’s costume of red, green, and yellow doesn’t seem so unusual.

18 August 2012

The Ancient Games

I may have mentioned that Godson and Godson’s Brother live in London. Where they just had the Olympics. In fact, some bicycle race passed two blocks away from their house. Their back yard looked out onto ceremonies on the Thames. And the family had tickets to a number of events.

So I asked the lads:

  • What was your favorite thing that you saw at the Olympics?
  • Was it more or less cool than this would be?
Godson wrote back:
My Favorite thing was the fencing (Aka hitting people with sticks made of metal) which was great as I fence myself…
Godson’s Brother said:
I liked the Taekwondo and the Handball…
But they agreed on one thing:
G: …however it did not involve the fencers riding dinosaurs!

GB: …but it was less cool.
So there you have it. For eleven-year-old boys, dinosaur walking through mall trumps Olympics. Dinosaur even trumps hitting people with sticks made of metal.

17 August 2012

A Full Spectrum of OIP Derangement Symptoms

This week the Republican leadership displayed the full spectrum of symptoms of OIP Derangement Syndrome.

1) Blaming President Barack Obama for things he can’t be responsible for. On Monday, House Speaker John Boehner’s office issued a statement responding to disagreements over the farm bill by stating:

The president continues to blame anyone and everyone for the drought but himself.
On most days it would be obvious that the President is not responsible for the weather—so obvious that no one would write or approve a public statement suggesting that he is. But when your psyche wants to blame Barack Obama for everything, that sort of sentence slips through. It took hours of ridicule before Boehner’s office revised his words.

2) Double standards. Buzzfeed reported:
Mitt Romney often attacks President Obama for his lack of business experience, but his own running mate has spent his life in government as a Congressional staffer and Congressman since graduating college. At a May event in Las Vegas, Romney enthusiastically told the story of man who proposed amending the Constitution to require all presidents have three years of business experience, a criteria that would disqualify his own running mate.
Obama worked for a year after college at Business International Corporation, and later was an associate of the Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland law firm. Ryan’s only post-collegiate stretch not on a government or political payroll was a brief period as a “marketing consultant” for his own family’s construction firm in 1997 while he prepared to run for Congress.

3) Demeaning language. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) told a gathering about Tea Party sentiment:
“I think it’s going to overtake the political class. I think it’s going to respectfully pick this president up and pat him on the head and say, son, son, son, Mr. President, you were never ready to be president, now go home and work for somebody and find out how the real world works.”
Calling a man in his fifties “son”? Saying he has to “work for somebody”? Walsh’s racism is showing.

4) False statements about President Obama. As the Boston Globe reported, the Mitt Romney campaign has run three ads about welfare policy that lie about the Obama administration’s policy, gloss over Romney’s requests as governor, and edit video of Obama to omit statements that contradict those ads’ claims. The paper reminds us, “Romney’s first welfare ad received a ‘pants on fire’ rating from PolitiFact and ‘four ­Pinocchios’ from the Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog.” As with Walsh’s statement, there’s a malodorous undertone in how much Republicans like Romney and Newt Gingrich harp on welfare when speaking of President Obama.

16 August 2012

My First and Last Radio Interview about Videogames

This week WBUR, a leading public radio station here in Boston, invited me on the air to talk about a videogame.

Given my vast ignorance of that entertainment form, I must explain that the game was the upcoming Assassin’s Creed III, and the station asked me how accurately it depicted pre-Revolutionary Boston.

You can listen to the well-edited conversation here while enjoying the preview video from UbiSoft that we refer to.

15 August 2012

Play It Again, Psammead

The success of various latter-day sequels to classic (i.e., public-domain or licensed-by-heirs) children’s novels prompted Puffin to invite Jacqueline Wilson to write such a book. After initially declining, she chose to follow on a childhood favorite, E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It, as she described in the Guardian. Her column answers many of the questions I had about this project last year.

Wilson also found that she couldn’t write in the same mode as the original book.
Nesbit had written her book in the third person [in fact, as a delightfully intrusive narrator], but I much prefer writing in the first person, and I thought it would be easier and more involving for my readers if I chose a child narrator again. I invented Rosalind, a quiet, shy, intense girl. She's a very keen reader – and so, naturally enough, when the story opens she's been reading Five Children and It. She has a younger brother, Robbie, a delicate, timid boy who loves playing with his toy zoo animals. Their parents have divorced – no surprise there, this is a Jacqueline Wilson novel.

The children have gone to spend part of their summer holiday with their dad, while their mum goes to an Open University summer school. He is now married to Alice, and they have a toddler called Maudie. Alice also has a daughter from a former relationship. She's named Samantha, but she's always called Smash. She’s a fierce, opinionated, streetwise child, who’s a royal pain most of the time. Smash is staying with her mother for the holidays because her dad is on honeymoon with his new young wife.

So I have a very modern jigsaw family. But this isn’t a dark, angst-ridden book about emotionally neglected children. It’s a fantasy story – and as soon as the children dig up the Psammead in the sandpit at Oxshott Woods, the fun starts.

I knew that one of the first wishes would be the obvious one: Smash wants them all to be rich and famous. I had great fun with this one. I let Rosalind be a bestselling child author, turned Robbie into a mini TV chef, and had Maudie as the star of a sitcom. Smash herself is like a little Lady Gaga, with a sell-out gig at the O2 Arena.

I think the most challenging wish for me was when bookish Rosalind asks if they can meet all the Edwardian children in Five Children and It. I had to work hard to get Cyril, Anthea, Robert and Jane to sound natural, and not just silly caricatures. The Edwardian children seem very immature to my modern children and yet they boss the family’s adult servants around without a second thought. They also have extraordinary freedom, roaming about the countryside on a whim.
Wilson’s article also makes one mention of Nesbit’s own sequels, The Phoenix and the Carpet and The Story of the Amulet, and one of another latter-day continuation, Helen Cresswell’s 1992 The Return of the Psammead.

14 August 2012

Critical Study of an American Myth

On his Tales from the Bookworm’s Lair blog, J. Andrew Byers just reviewed The Wizard of Oz as American Myth: A Critical Study of Six Versions of the Story, 1900-2007, by Alissa Burger, just published by McFarland.

Burger examined six versions of the story originally created by L. Frank Baum. In chronological order, they are:
The end of that sequence almost defines “anti-climax,” doesn’t it?

Burger’s book appears to hit on a lot of the current concerns of academia: gender, race, and adaptation and influence, as well as Baum’s overt themes of the value of “home” and the role of magic. Not that there’s anything wrong with those concerns, but in other times I might expect an academic critique to address economic classes, nature versus civilization, or stylistic tropes.

Byers writes:
Burger says she wants to examine gender in Oz. Fine and dandy. But as a historian of masculinity (among other things), I am particularly sensitive to “gender” being merely a code phrase for “women” or “femininity.” What we’re lacking here in Burger’s analysis is a look at masculinity in Oz. Men do, after all, possess gender, just as women do.

This is a significant omission, since all of the male characters in the story suffer from significant “lacks” (brains, heart, courage, magic) that the women in the story possess in abundance. None of them is what we might think of as a “traditional” male figure, in Baum’s time or our own. In other words, this is a clear area for further study and represents a missed opportunity in this one.

There are also a few additional areas I’d have liked to see Burger tackle. For example, in her discussion of magic, there’s almost no mention of the pivotal character of the Wizard in any of the texts/productions. He’s a self-proclaimed “humbug” without any access to real magic (at least in the first book), but everyone thinks he’s intensely magical. When coupled with the fact that he’s also the only male magical practitioner we encounter in Oz, I think there’s room for an interesting discussion here.
Byers notes that Burger doesn’t discuss Baum’s sequels, and his parenthetical remark reminds us that he knows those books show the Wizard learning real magic. He remains subordinate to Glinda, his tutor, and Ozma, his ruler, but also appears to be more ingenious than either. Because he’s older? Because he’s male? Because he had to get by for years without magic? Because he’s American? Or perhaps just because of the characters’ individual personalities? More grist for the analytical mill.

13 August 2012

Batman Goes Goth (Again)

I’ve written before about how the Batman: From the ’30s to the ’70s collection was my first sustained exposure to superhero comics. And a selective exposure it was, I’ve since realized.

E. Nelson Bridwell’s introduction described the “New Look” and television-show period of Batman comics (1964-68), but the anthology omitted nearly all stories from those years. Its 1960s section showcased the Caped Crusader’s science-fiction adventures at the start of that decade. That section included three of the seven tales that ever featured Betty Kane as Bat-Girl, leaving me with an outsized impression of her place in the overall saga.

Bridwell presented the 1970s as “the reappeance of the dark, avening figure of mystery called The Batman!!” That section started with “One Bullet Too Many” from December 1969, which showed Dick Grayson heading off to college and Bruce Wayne using forensic science to solve a murder mystery with no costumed criminals. Bruce and Alfred also moved into the headquarters of the Wayne Foundation, beginning a period of overt social activism that would culminate in a brief appointment to the US Senate. The 1970s Batman comics thus promised to become more deeply rooted in the real world.

Yet that section of the book also included the highly regarded “Secret of the Waiting Graves,” by Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams; “Man or Bat?” introducing Man-Bat, by Frank Robbins and Adams; and “The Demon of Gothos Mansion,” by O’Neil and Irv Novick. Those are all Gothic tales of monsters, ghosts, and other spooky things. Though Man-Bat is a creation of science gone wrong, the other two tales clearly rest on the supernatural.

Which left little me confused. If the Batman comics had redeemed themselves from camp by returning him to his roots as a crime-solving detective, why was this volume showing me ghost stories? Mysteries are all about ratiocination, but the “Waiting Graves” and “Gothos Mansion” stories end with Batman realizing the limits of his deductive powers to make sense of the world.

I’ve since learned that Batman’s roots lie just as deep in Gothic horror as in detective stories. Bruce Wayne is dressed as a giant bat, after all. Among the character’s earliest adventures were fights against vampires, monsters, and other supernatural creatures. Those villains flourished again in the 1970s, and in 1982 Gerry Conway even brought the vampirical Monk and Dala from 1939 back to life. But I still prefer the detective stories.

12 August 2012

The Kidd-Millionaire Robin

The book designer and comic-book critic Chip Kidd recently published a Batman adventure subtitled Death by Design, with art by Dave Taylor. Impressive as that volume looks, it doesn’t feature Robin, so I haven’t sat down to read it.

Death by Design isn’t Kidd’s first Batman story, however. A few years back he scripted two adventures drawn by Tony Millionaire for DC’s self-parodying Bizarro Comics and Bizarro World collections. “The Bat-Man” reads and looks like an underground-comics version of the earliest, solo Batman adventures. A version of the Penguin hypnotizes Bruce Wayne’s fiancée, Julie Madison, as well as holding sway over a giant ape—things that a vampirical villain called the Monk did in Batman, #31-2.

Kidd and Millionaire’s “Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder” is a classic “Boy Hostage” story crossed with the high Gothic supernatural tone that dominated that first year of Batman tales. This time the villain is the Monk himself. Through completely unexplained means he kidnaps Robin’s consciousness, traps it in the body of a caged bird, and makes Robin’s body act evil. (See panel above.)

Back in 1939, Batman eliminated the Monk by shooting silver bullets into his coffin before Robin ever swung onto the scene. Once Dick Grayson appeared in April 1940, along with new chief editor Whitney Ellsworth, Batman’s guns and killing and the Gothic milieu all went away for decades. Kidd and Millionaire thus offer a taste of what the Dynamic Duo’s adventures might have been like if that hadn’t happened.

TOMORROW: When Batman went goth again.

11 August 2012

A Real Example of Double Voting—But Does the GOP Care?

After the disputed presidential election of 2000, which produced an administration not ”deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” as the Declaration of Independence said, several American newspapers dug into how Florida had counted votes.

Among the details recounted in the New York Times was this:

To give overseas residents plenty of time to vote, Florida officials mail out both a preliminary version of the absentee ballot and then, after the primaries, a final version. Voters are instructed to send in both, but the preliminary ballot is discarded if the final ballot arrives in time to be counted.

Yet for 19 voters -- 15 of them Republican -- Duval County election officials counted both ballots. Officials said it was a mistake, the product of long hours and the intense pressure to count every possible ballot.

One of the double voters, Nicholas Challen, 40, a senior chief petty officer in the Navy who cast his second vote from Jacksonville [in Duval County] on Election Day, reacted with jubilation when told that both of his votes counted. He raised both arms as if he had just scored a touchdown and savored the two votes he had delivered to George W. Bush.

“Yes!” he said, beaming.
CPO Challen thus publicly acknowledged voting twice. And he celebrated the result.

The Times quoted other military voters saying they had voted after Election Day, taking advantage of the laxer rules set up for service members mailing ballots from overseas (which don’t always get postmarked).

Voter fraud is supposedly why several Republican-controlled state legislatures have enacted stricter rules in this cycle. Yet those lawmakers never seem to bring up CPO Challen’s name. That’s because overseas ballots like his provided the winning margin for Bush in 2000, and because they believe that people with military ties are more likely to vote Republican. 

Republicans in Ohio and other states have therefore tried to make rules for military voters more lax than for all other citizens. This is part of a concerted effort that a Pennsylvania party leader acknowledged is designed to “allow Governor Romney to win.”

10 August 2012

The Military Voter Lie

Last week Republican operatives, including Red State and Mitt Romney, criticized President Barack Obama for trying to restrict the ability of military members to vote in Ohio.

This was a lie. The Obama campaign team pointed out that it had asked a court to lift new restrictions on civilian voters so as to treat every citizen equally. (As we recall, the US Supreme Court decided Bush v. Gore on a supposed basis of voter equality.) The Akron Beacon-Journal and other local newspapers agreed that the lawsuit said nothing about restricting military voters.

Within a day or two, Snopes branded the attack as False, as did Politifact Ohio and the Washington Post Fact Checker.

Even FOX News had to acknowledge, “While the lawsuit does not restrict the ability of military personnel to cast their ballots early, both sides know how volatile an issue this can be.” In other words, Republicans suffering from or exploiting OIP Derangement Syndrome could lie about the legal issue to whip up more hysteria. Indeed, a FOX News host repeated the falsehood days later.

In fact, the last Democratic Congress passed and President Obama signed the MOVE Act, making voting easier for active-duty service members. The US Justice Department has taken action against Texas to protect those rights. But facts don’t matter when one desperately wants to believe that this President is anti-military.

TOMORROW: One notable military voter.

09 August 2012

“A book is whittled down from hope”

From Keith Ridgway in The New Yorker:

I don’t know how to write. Which is unfor­tu­nate, as I do it for a liv­ing. Mind you, I don’t know how to live either. Writ­ers are asked, par­tic­u­lar­ly when we’ve got a book com­ing out, to write about writ­ing. To give inter­views and explain how we did this thing that we appear to have done. We even teach, as I have recent­ly, stu­dents who want to know how to approach the pecu­liar occu­pa­tion of fic­tion writ­ing. I tell them at the begin­ning—I’ve got noth­ing for you. I don’t know. Don’t look at me.

I’ve writ­ten six books now, but instead of mak­ing it eas­i­er, it has com­pli­cat­ed mat­ters to the point of absur­di­ty. I have no idea what I’m doing. All the deci­sions I appear to have made—about plots and char­ac­ters and where to start and when to stop—are not deci­sions at all. They are com­pro­mis­es. A book is whit­tled down from hope…
Ridgway’s latest is Hawthorn and Child, but neither it nor the accompanying digital short story appear to be available in the US now. As you might be able to tell from the attitude of the preceding passage, he’s Irish.

07 August 2012

The Power of Extraterrestrial Oz

Yesterday author Mary Robinette Kowal blogged about Dorothy Gale and Mars:

I just sold a story to RIPOFFs, which is an audio anthology edited by Gardner Dozois for Audible. . . . The idea of the anthology is that each story starts with the first line of a classic novel.  It’s sort of a punchcard punk homage to Ray Bradbury and L. Frank Baum. Here’s how mine opens.

And I swear to God, I didn’t know where Curiousity was landing.
The Lady Astronaut of Mars

by Mary Robinette Kowal

Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife. She went on to say that she’d met me, when I was working next door to their farm under the shadow of the rocket gantry for the First Mars Expedition.
Where did the Curiosity rover land? Coincidentally, in Gale Crater.
Now Gale Crater is actually named after Walter Frederick Gale, who…thought Mars had canals full of water. He was observing in the 19th century, so can be cut some slack for inadequate instruments but those canals gave rise to a whole slew of science fiction. Wells, Burroughs, Bradbury… Without the idea that maybe, maybe there was once civilization on Mars how many of them would have written those stories? Hard to tell, but the space between what Mr. Gale discovered and what they wrote is where Science Fiction lives. It lives in the possibilities present in the best science of the day.
Back in 1904, when L. Frank Baum’s newspaper syndicate was promoting his comic page Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz, a publicity mailing spoke of the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and other visitors approaching Earth from outer space. It’s unclear whether Baum had any role in or say over that publicity, and in his Oz books he never claims that Oz is extraterrestrial. Nonetheless, it shows how a century ago such possibilities were in the air (or above it).

06 August 2012

Television Hierarchies and Cliffhangers

I enjoyed Emily Nussbaum’s essay in The New Yorker on what American television-watching has become, at least on the high end:

As viewers, we rely on hierarchies to govern our notion of television ambition: cable trumps network, drama is better than sitcom, adult is worthier than teen, realistic is more grownup than sci-fi, grim beats sunny, PBS documentary tops Bravo reality show, and “as good as Dickens” is superior to anything resembling a soap opera.
In particular, Nussbaum highlights the ongoing serial drama—a significant change from television shows a generation ago, when the basic situation in most television shows evolved as little as possible.

Sitcoms used to be, as the term implies, based on a rarely-changing situation. Miss Brooks never married, no matter how much she tried. Sgt. Bilko never got a promotion. Col. Hogan neither escaped nor won the war. Seinfeld was always about nothing.

Similarly, in dramas the basic premise remained the same. There was a detective squad, or a sheriff, or a hospital, and in sixty minutes it solved a problem and returned the world to the status quo ante. Dr. Richard Kimball was never caught until The Fugitive’s last episode. Sheriff Matt Dillon never married Miss Kitty.

Major changes came only when a show’s producers were forced by desperation or shifting casts. The medium fought against them—hence the two Darrens on Bewitched, the four sons on My Three Sons, the move of the entire cast of Laverne and Shirley to California all at once.

Today, however, many television fictions, and particularly those on the high end, are based on the possibilities of change. (Ironically, this was always the case in soap operas, a genre that Nussbaum notes we pooh-pooh.) In drama Hill Street Blues started to associate high-quality television with long-run character development and revelation. More recently we’ve watched The Sopranos, Lost, The Wire, and other drama play out in true serial form, each season a step beyond the last. Even a sitcom like The Office, based on the never-ending monotony of work, depicts great changes in the characters’ lives.

When shows don’t necessarily return to the status quo ante, that opens the door for cliffhangers, and Nussbaum meditates on the technique:
Narrowly defined, a cliffhanger is a climax cracked in half: the bomb ticks, the screen goes black. A lady wriggles on train tracks—will anyone save her? Italics on a black screen: “To be continued . . .” More broadly, it’s any strong dose of “What happens next?,” the question that hovers in the black space between episodes. In the digital age, that gap is an accordion: it might be a week or eight months; it may arrive at the end of an episode or as a season finale or in the second before a click on “next.”

Cliffhangers are the point when the audience decides to keep buying—when, as the cinema-studies scholar Scott Higgins puts it, “curiosity is converted into a commercial transaction.” They are sensational, in every sense of the word. Historically, there’s something suspect about a story told in this manner, the way it tugs the customer to the next ledge. Nobody likes needy.

But there is also something to celebrate about the cliffhanger, which makes visible the storyteller’s connection to his audience—like a bridge made out of lightning. Primal and unashamedly manipulative, cliffhangers are the signature gambit of serial storytelling.
Of course, having seen through such manipulation, I’m above it all. As long as Cartoon Network gets back to broadcasting more episodes of Young Justice soon.

05 August 2012

Cermak’s Alternative Versions of the Dynamic Duo

I liked this depiction of the Dynamic Duo by Craig C. Cermak II. He portrayed Batman and Robin realistically, as in the mainstream comic books, but in the simple costumes designed for the Batman: The New Adventures television cartoon.

Last year Cermak and Ramon Villalobos shared a version of Batman and Robin as they appeared in DC Comics’ #1,000,000 issues from November 1998, posed as on Batman and Robin, #1, from 2009.

Such portrayals remind us that there have been many successful versions of the characters over the years. As long as they share the core qualities, fans can overlook differences in extraneous details. (Of course, there can be disagreement about what’s core and what’s extraneous.)

03 August 2012

On Welfare Rules, Showing Flexibility

In May 2005, the Republican Governors Association wrote to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) to support a bill giving state governments more flexibility in instituting the 1996 “welfare reform” law. They highlighted the value of “State flexibility”:

The Senate bill provides states with the flexibility to manage their TANF programs and effectively serve low-income populations. Increased waiver authority, allowable work activities, availability of partial work credit, and the ability to coordinate state programs are all important aspects of moving recipients from welfare to work.
The second signature on that letter came from Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Others on the letter included Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, and other names still prominent on the American right.

That bill didn’t become law, but states continued to push for more autonomy without cuts in funding, as always. In August 2011 Utah asked the Department of Health and Human Services for “flexibility” and Nevada suggested “judicious use of waivers” on requirements of the original law. Both states had Republican governors.

The department responded this month by offering such waivers—though less flexibility than the Republican governors sought in 2005. The department stated that any deviations from the original requirements must be “intended to lead to more effective means of meeting the work goals.” Assistant Secretary George Sheldon, recipient of the 2011 letters, stated:
Waivers that weaken or undercut welfare reform will not be approved. Waivers that seek to avoid time limits or other federal restrictions on when assistance may be provided will not be approved.
But of course that letter came from the administration of President Barack Obama, and a significant part of the Republican Party suffers from OIP Derangement Syndrome, meaning that they can’t be happy with anything that administration does.

So Romney spoke of “President Obama’s efforts to gut welfare reform.” Huckabee claimed the administration was changing rules “to make people dependent upon the government that they want to keep in power.”

And the governors weren’t the only Republican officials to reverse themselves. Back in 2005, Rep. Joe Camp (R-MI) co-sponsored a bill like the one those Republican governors supported. But in 2012, Camp called the waivers “a brazen and unwarranted unraveling of welfare reform.” In 2003, when he headed HHS, Tommy Thompson asked Congress to authorize “some key policy changes to increase State flexibility.” This month Thompson falsely claimed that the Obama administration planned to “waive the work requirement.”

I never take arguments for “states’ rights” very seriously. One of the champions of that idea in American politics, John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, strongly supported increased federal power when he was in the executive branch. Nearly every other advocate of the idea was happy to use federal power to institute the policies that they liked instead of deferring to state governments. But the examples of hypocrisy in this post have the added gloss of OIP Derangement Syndrome.

Both sides of this issue showed great flexibility, but in different ways. The Obama administration showed flexibility in its willingness to work with state governments and Republican office-holders. Republicans like Romney and Huckabee showed flexibility in their willingness to twist their own positions around completely in order to criticize the President.

02 August 2012

What Wattle?

Years back, Daniel Pinkwater had an essay about listening to a slow-speaking public radio announcer (obviously Robert J. Lurtsema) announce an upcoming musical commission by “Dan…iel……Pink…”

And Pinkwater had a second of worry about some commitment he’d forgotten before hearing the announcer conclude, “…ham.”

I had somewhat the same feeling when I read that antipodean artist Ben Wood has a new picture book coming out with John Bell.

A while back I drafted Ben to illustrate a story for Oziana magazine, and enthusiastically shared news of his Oztober events last year. But I didn’t remember the Wattle Tree picture book. In fact, I wasn’t even sure what a wattle tree is.

I’ve since learned that a wattle tree is one of a number of types of acacia growing in Australia.

And Ben created The Wattle Tree with another John Bell, who also goes by John Gascoigne. Hachette’s page for the book says, “A former nanny, he has decided to return to higher education and is currently studying to complete BA at Sydney University.”

Ben is using his blog to document how the two of them created The Wattle Tree, starting with the sketchbook drawing that inspired it all.

01 August 2012

Not to Be Overlooked

Yesterday I was walking around a scenic overlook off Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles with some friends from college. I lifted a colorful page of newspaper off the ground, thinking I’d find a trash bin somewhere.

It turned out to be a page of Sunday funnies from the Los Angeles Times. Dated 21 July 1946.

Atop the first page is a Superman strip from the Sunday series titled “The Unhappiest Clown in the World.” At this time the newspaper strip was still credited to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, though it seems clear Shuster didn’t draw these panels. In another year the team would sue DC and lose their legal claim on the character for decades. Funny thing is, my friends and I had just been discussing Superman.

Below the Superman strip are sequential-art ads for Colgate (“It Cleans Your Breath While It Cleans Your Teeth!”) and Veto (“Colgate’s Amazing New Antiseptic Deodorant” endorsed by four registered nurses).

On the reverse side are the strips “Harold Teen” (hijinks of a lovelorn fellow at the beach), “Grin and Bear It” (a collection of single-image gags, including a kneeslapper about the postwar housing shortage), and “Napoleon” (about a big dog who’s read Aesop’s Fables). Finally there’s an one-color sequential-art ad for Alka-Seltzer as cold relief.

The page is in good condition, considering it had been lying on the ground in a scenic overlook for an unknown time. There’s some discoloration and a small tear. Now all I have to do is figure out how to get it back home.