Monday, December 29, 2014

Nature Abhors a...

I always face the upcoming end of the year with a sense of impending dread, since it not only means that time's gone by faster than I anticipated, it means that I have to start preparing the place for the annual New Year's gathering.  In addition to preparing food for the guests and rearranging the furniture to make room, there's one aspect of preparation I never quite look forward to - cleaning up.

I'm the kind of person who is best motivated by total deadline pressure, and am content to leave stuff lying around where I know exactly where everything is.  Any disruption to this chaotic natural order is an assault on my memory banks.  If it weren't for this annual ritual, I'd never bother cleaning up in the first place.  I also prefer to clean up when there's ample evidence of doing so.  Cleaning is much more motivating when you can clear away entire carpets of dust away, compared to compulsively brushing every day, and never seeing the difference.

Despite being somewhat lax in these chores, I'm not exactly someone who takes cleaning criticism lightly. When it was pointed out that I was just doing token cleaning off surface areas (which everybody sees) instead of going for the hidden underlying belly of surfaces (which everybody ignores), I got all agitated, and started doing a more exaggerated thorough job by going up the walls of furniture, sucking up every square inch available.  Shortly into my misguided zeal, I quickly noticed something missing - the knob off the halogen light switch.

I was later told that the lamp pole wasn't a surface normally vacuumed off.  I countered saying I was trying to be thorough.  In any case, while the switch was being fished out of the vacuum bag, I was given permission to take care of some personal time-sensitive material, which was why I was so harried.  When I had started this vacuuming business, my mother left, expecting the job to be done when she came back.  About an hour later, my business was concluded, the lightswitch handle was put back in its proper place, and I could continue with the delayed task.  At that very moment, guess who came through the door?  By all accounts, it looked like I'd been obsessively sucking up dirt from the same corner I was in upon her departure.  In her own words, it was as if she`d never left.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Peter Pan's Christmas Story

While browsing the numerous online newspaper archives, I came across a long-forgotten tradition from 1960 staring Disney characters updated daily, from November 28 to December 24.

And already, we're veering into Scrooge territory with Captain Hook going into full venting mode.  Bah Humbug!

If he were a more scurrilous man, he would take this opportunity to steal the numerous gifts to children, then sell them back at a discount rate.  Taking free presents and making money off them.  It's a lose-win scenario!

We're missing November 30th, so we don't get to see anymore of Captain Hook's ranting, which may be an exercise in redundancy or a loss of scenery chewing.  Your choice.

Then, Captain Hook got an idea.  He had a wonderful awful idea.

Yes, what'll he do?  Please let us in the audience know so a certain hidden pixie can eavesdrop on all your scoundrelous plans.

Now, Tinkerbell could've simply solved this dilemma on her own, but since her name's not on the title, she'll have to delegate it to somebody else with more star power.  She wouldn't get the chance at a staring role until 50 years later.

We're also missing December 4th, but despite this gap in the story, we're not missing out on the larger plot.

A Present for Santa?  Well, unless it's the Ghost of Christmas Present (Who's somewhat of a Santa figure himself), this plan doesn't seem especially dastardly so far.

Yes, because a gift from Captain Hook would be considered more suspicious than from his right-hand man.

Somewhat disappointingly, Captain Hook resorts to repeating the tactic of planting a bomb disguised as a gift instead of poisoned milk.  (The play used poisoned medicine).  After all, if one dastardly plan failed the first time, surely it'll have a higher degree of success the second time, no?

Of course, there's the question of delivery.  How does Captain Hook intend to have Mr. Smee give his explosive gift to Santa in the first place?  By air mail apparently.

Seems Neverland is just a stone's throw from the North Pole.  In the world of adults, their solution to flying involves using gunpowder instead of fairy powder.  It makes perfect sense!  Too bad it only works in one direction, which explains why they don't use this method much.

Amazingly enough, Smee survives from being shot out of a cannon.  He should enjoy his euphoria while it lasts, since he won't enjoy it for very long.  Assuming Smee survives the fall, but fails to deliver the gift on time, he'll have to face Captain Hook's wrath of "slitting his gizzard", which isn't an unusual euphemism to mistake for anything other than misery.

Silly Smee.  You should've known that by the time you willing (or unwillingly) climbed into that cannon, you were basically going on a suicide mission.  Personally, I'd be more worried about the landing, considering you've been blasted off with great force.  However, that doesn't seem to be much cause for concern...

Because the very next week, Smee somehow lands without any bumps or bruises, and finds himself wandering onto the set of Snow White for some reason.  Dwarves are close enough to elves, right? This would be on par with mistaking Trolls with Gnomes.  Anybody who says otherwise is just Gnoming you.

Run, run as fast as you can, you can't catch Smee, you... Ginger-haired adolescent man.

Following the Dwarves, Smee comes not upon Santa's hidden village, but upon the Dwarves' home instead. Excluding the possibility that he's nowhere close to his intended target, Smee feels that he's doing just fine so far.  Truer words were also spouted by optimists falling down a building.

While exploring the diminutive house, Smee comes upon a Friar Tuck outfit, despite the residence being occupied by nothing but people shorter than him.  They must've been saving it for a special occasion, when one of the Dwarves suddenly "grew up".

Shockingly, Smee decides to stick around, figuring that the Dwarves won't notice an extra face in the crowd.  Most people have trouble rattling off the names of all seven of them (Bashful usually throws them off), so what's one more?  Only Grumpy is pessimistic enough to notice that dinnertime is more uncomfortable than usual.

Too bad Grumpy's comment is lost in the sea of hourly complaints, including how uncomfortable the chairs are, how cold the soup is, and whose turn it is to do the dishes, so anybody who'd notice anything being slightly off wouldn't pay attention.  The success of this plan relies on the incompetence of everybody else, including the laws of physics.  Maybe if we're lucky, the bomb will fail to go off, but since the gunpowder treason trajectory plot seems to have worked just fine, that doesn't look very likely.

A visitor five shopping days from Christmas?  Could it be an insurance salesman hawking a safety investment against bombs, since it sure would be a shame if anything nasty happened to this place, wouldn't it?

When even Santa can't tell the difference between a kindly obese pirate-hand and one of the Seven Dwarves in an outfit that's probably three sizes too small for him, we're venturing into senility territory.  It probably helps that Smee keeps his face hidden throughout so Santa can't get a good look.

We're missing the 21st of December, so you'll have to imagine the gruesome results of the explosion here.

Christmas Eve, the season so nice Hook named it thrice.  Since we missed yesterday's entry, we have to conclude that Smee succeeded and blew Santa Claus up, regarding all of Peter Pan's efforts for naught.

...and Peter manages to find the single inconspicuous gift among all others, and throws it far enough to land directly at the feet of the messenger.  Since I'm missing the conclusion, we'll have to conclude that the explosion was big and large enough to propel Smee back to the very pirate ship he came from.

But this wasn't the only incomplete Peter Pan Christmas comic.  I found another one from 1983, starring Wendy.

 Where the previous Christmas story had Santa showing up at the end, here he shows up at the beginning.

Using fairy dust on inanimate objects to make the animated?  That's not how they're supposed to work - objects can't think happy thoughts (or if they do, they're probably extremely different from living creatures' happy thoughts).  It's probably just an artist's shortcut to prevent objects from interfering with the character design sheets.

Compared to the previous story, this seems remarkably tame in comparison.  Peter and Wendy decide to spruce up their hideout as a surprise for the rest of the Lost Boys when they come back.

As you can probably tell, the quality of these scans are markedly poor.  The faces of the characters are so faded you can barely make out the details.  You pretty much have to fill in the blanks here.

It's been awhile, and there hasn't been any sign of these so-called Lost Boys.  Do they even exist?

Turns out they've been in captivity of the Pirates all this time.  This revelation would have been less surprising if we'd gotten details of their kidnapping at the beginning, which was when it probably happened.

At this point, shouldn't Captain Hook know better by now that all that glitters is not gold?

Sadly, we may never know what his "brilliant plan" was, since the newspaper archive for this story ends right here.  It probably involved putting another bomb in a prettily wrapped box.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Not Quite a Pet Peeve: Off-Colour Comics

This week's Sunday For Better or for Worse rerun gave us this little ditty with Elly's inconvenience with store clerks taking their time on the job.

This is very different from the first printing where the employee had much more makeup and blush on.  In addition, Elly's embarassment is much more pronounced in the last panel.

This wasn't the only instance of a reprint having less impactful colouring, as these two strips can contest.

In fact, a large majority of For Better or for Worse Sunday reprints have had a particular amount of toned-down appearance that makes them less dramatic than usual.

As you can tell, quite a lot of it comes from the characters screaming at each other.  For the longest time, I thought this was typically normal behavior.

It was suggested that Lynn Johnson was suffering from some kind of colour blindness for appealing for Magenta and Turquoise which would've accounted for her bizarre taste of mishmash of fancy words that actually look ugly.

However, that wouldn't account for the various previous Sunday comics where her stand-in family would constantly display sudden rushes of blood to the head that were less unsettling than Emily Carroll's His Face All Red.

There have been complaints about reprints of old material given a glossy shiny look that looks unappealing to long-time readers of newsprint comics on lousy paper, and those complaints aren't unjustified.  The paper can be too shiny, resulting in having to constantly tilt the book so the glare doesn't get in your eyes, and the colouring can be garish compared to the earlier toned-down appearance.  On the plus side, the new reprints give Lawrence a healthier shade of brown than his whitewashed earlier version.

This isn't solely limited to FBOFW, but other newspaper comics as well, where records weren't as meticulous in their archival collections as others.

The wife's expression above seems more intense than the one below.  I wonder why?

At first, I thought this one was a misprint in the first Herman Sunday collection, giving the prehistoric man a Bravehart-like tint, but I've got the Sunday comic in question, and it actually appears like that.  It was faithful to its source material.

This isn't the only caveman to be cast in a strange light.  An odd deciption of Wily from BC (Found at another intensive Sunday Comics blog here) can be seen.

This would be akin to those instances where first depictions of cartoon characters such as Wayland Smithers (Black), Vegeta (a natural Redhead) were mistaken first impressions later corrected in later versions. However, all previous initerations of the curmogodeon peg-legged water hater poet have shown him to be as pale as his brethen.

Despite the misgivings these comics might have in being incorrectly portrayed, they provide an interesting contrast to the regular colour schematics of cartoon characters, and provide an alternate vision of what it must be like for someone with colour blindness.

The Flintstones are some of the most iconic cartoon characters despite their formulatic upbringings.  So when it came to being adapted to the comics page, how were they portrayed?  Not with Fred's Orange outfit, and Barney's Brown suit.  Instead, they opted to present them as blue and orange.  The women Betty and Wilma were known for being in Blue and White, which is almost impossible to mess up.  Instead they showed themselves in basic orange and black.  With tiger stripes yet!  (Apparently, Black Pearls are rarer and more expensive, which wouldn't lie with their anachronistic domestic appearance) Whether this was to present a more attractive design for the funny pages is up in the air for consideration.

A random sampling shows the women's dresses changes colours and outfits almost interchangeably.

One thing I've noticed about these Flintstones comics is how many of them end with confrontations with large dinosaur creatures.

In some cases, the warped colour can give a whole new meaning to the background, giving previously passive elements a whole new flavor.  In this Baby Blues, it looks like the father's hair is being drained away as he thinks of his past.

In this Herman, it looks like the boss is gradually becoming greyer, eventually revealing his true nature underneath.

When I first saw this Hi & Lois comic, I thought that Dot intentionally placed a plastic apple that Trixie couldn't eat, since she picked up the same pink apple.

This Garfield comic is an interesting study in contrasts.  For years, I thought this was another iteration of Odie, who'd suddenly jumped owners from Lyman (who originally owned him) to this cute girl, and the two of them shared a history that was never explained or expanded on.  It was only years later that I found out the original colour schematics for this dog were brown.  Draw your own conclusions here.

It turns out that a large majority of Garfield strips staring Odie turn out the be tonetically weird.

When it comes to portraying crowd scenes, the American comic book had tendencies to go the quick and dirty method by using pale colour schemes among crowd scenes to save time and energy of having to go through colourizing every individual person.

At times, colour can have the element of portraying a prevalent mood throughout.  The very first Asterix book had scenes where entire characters were coloured a deep shade of red or purple depending on their feelings at the time.  This was only shown in the first album, and was never repeated in subsequent books.

Some more miscellaneous comics that I can't think of enough of a clever summary for:

At the time of this strip, Cliff Robertson was still alive.  I suppose the Star Phone also works for actors who everybody thinks are dead, since they haven't been in the spotlight for a long time.
Here's one last bonus - a FBOFW that appeared on July 19, 1986.  If the reprint shows Elizabeth to be less upset than in the throwaway panels, you'll know what was overlooked.  Feel free to make your complaints where applicable.