Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Summer Days of The Fridge Door

It's August, and that means that in addition to quickly running out of valuable vacation time from school, we also get some thematically-appropriate comics of The Fridge Door as well.

And just to rub salt in the sugar wound, the Words of the Weeks don't get any time off either.  Why should we have it easy?

After the usage of archaic words, the level of difficulty of the Words of the Week takes a massive nosedive.

With this feature using words such as Didgeridoo and Fiddle-Faddle (like all the hip kids down with the lingo do), you wonder exactly just what age bracket this was aimed at.

No commentary for this.  Sometimes you just can't come up with a good joke for every single drawing.  Or a joke, period.

Here's a word that also means to cackle, but is unusual for being widely known for being a collective noun.  In fact, it's only used as a collective noun, so put in any other context other than a group of geese would be approaching confusion.

As predicted, the majority of submissions exclusively revolved around a certain species of birdfowl, because when your main audience is children, what else are they going to choose?

Next time, we'll start approaching the weirdness quotient of the Fridge Door and learn a very special lesson in the process.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Return of the Hamster in the Walls

Readers may or may not recall a certain Adam storyline I reprinted two weeks ago in the vein of an old-timey horror narrative, The Hamsters in the Walls.  It started off as innocuously as this...

And ended up like this.

But that wasn't the whole story.  It was only when I started going through every Newspaper strip of 1992 that I noticed something I had previously missed.  When I go through old Newspaper archives in search of stories, I generally start from a Saturday strip, then work my way backwards to see what the rest of the story was.  However, due to having some holes in my collection and the loose format of Newspaper strips not necessarily lasting the whole week means that unless I pay diligent attention, some minor story elements can get lost.

It also annoys me that I'm the only one who pays as much attention to comics from my childhood that no one else bothers to put up.  Once again, it falls to me to fill in the missing gaps.

That said, it turns out that just three days after the Hamster saga concluded, there was one more follow-up comic to tie up any possible loose ends.  The adults are in bed, ruminating over the events of the week and - OH GOD, NO.

...At least, that's what the online archive result showed up.  However, doing a little digging, I managed to retrieve a clear accurate scan that's closer to what we were actually supposed to see.

As clear as this representation is, I can't help but prefer the earlier version that ironically fits the horror narrative closer than I ever intended.

So, with this extra epilogue added, I might as well tack on a fitting ending:

"The parents went back to sleep satisfied with their effort and hard work, never suspecting that there was still a living creature lurking inside the walls... waiting... waiting..."
...and that's the last we ever hear of these hamsters ever again.  Much like their dog, they just spontaneously vanished from view as if they never existed in the first place.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Dagwood's Carpooling

For the longest time in Blondie's heyday, Dagwood would wake up, run into the Mailman and race after the bus in a well-traditional method of a sitcom dad.

But then, rather unceremoniously, the formula changed slightly.  Instead, he would wake up, run into the Mailman and race after the Carpool.

This slight tweaking of the familiar formula started in March 9th, 1990, with the addition of two completely new characters in addition to Herb, Claudia and Dwitzell who were named later.

For a new addition, the Carpool element was used rather sporadically, only showing up once in a while.  It was more noticeable in the Sunday comics where the larger cast would better play off each other with more panels.

There's not really much more I can say about these strips, so I present the following without commentary.

In case it's not complete clear from the faded comic above, the Queen in the picture now sports a mustache in the last panel.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Last Days of AstroLib

Well, my comic store - sorry, ex-comic store, AstroLib officially closed at the end of last month.  Their last day was announced on their webpage, but I went the week before to pick up the last of my stuff while I still could.  Then, I went there next Wednesday, for one last good look-around before it was locked up for good.

What I didn't expect was to see that the interiors had been completely vacated.  Save for several paperback books keeping the front door open, the inside was practically empty.  The trucks had already come and taken the excess books not sold, leaving a hollow shell of what the store had once been.  I was surprised to see that so many wooden fixtures that had been part of the store - the counter, the shelf rack - were just movable tables.  It felt extremely unusual to be wandering over empty spaces that were once dependable structures.

There were the occasional leftover books left lying on the floor, but nothing I really wanted worth keeping.  The biggest noteworthy item was a Robert Crumb cookbook, but since it was filled with random images of his Underground Comix, and recipes that I had no interest in, and no overall stories in it, I didn't bother picking it up.

Since this would be the only time I'd ever get a chance to see what the back of the store looked like, I jumped at the opportunity.  If anybody showed up, I'd politely make my apologies and hightail it out of there.

Along the way, I noticed taped notices on the walls, giving notice of card game tournaments that would happen after hours.  I never participated in these, let alone knew of their existence, but browsed the room where the Magic (the Gathering) would've happened.  What interested me were the papers that gave rushing memories of my first time there.  I was notoriously nervous and shy (still am), and my time there was mainly spent browsing the latest and back issues, catching up on comic stories.  It wasn't until I found out that I dared to ask and confirm that there was substantial discount on preordered stuff that I started ordering books on a regular basis.

One of the promotional material in order to spread word and find potential customers was to encourage people to sign up at the store in a "Headhunter" program.  I would've participated, if I knew anybody who I would've taken advantage of, who liked comics as much as I did.  Let me rephrase that - if I knew anybody in the vicinity, period.

In the middle of the store was a huge trash bin, holding various electronics, including a large outdated scanner, a busted printer, and near the top, a bulky catalogue of comic titles and their prospective prices.  None of these were worth salvaging.

On one of the shelves were a bunch of Sports cards, and promotional cards for the store itself, that's now sadly redundant.  Next to these cards was a box of American Trade Collections that was labeled "Printing Errors", notably pages that were in the wrong places.  Since none of the rejects were to my liking, let alone collector's items, I wasn't interested in their offerings.  Off to the side behind where the counter once was were scattered Previews catalogues that I could've easily taken with me with no one the wiser, but I didn't feel like taking bulky material that I couldn't really use.

As it turned out, exploring the forbidden recesses of the store wasn't as thrilling as I thought it'd be.  Behind the dusty shelves were some magazines, some papers meaningless to me, and a promotional booklet from the Previews catalogue.  In the back room where the mythical card games would've been played, the only item of notice left behind was a dictionary with half the content missing.  In the basement were less interesting things than I'd hoped would be.  The most noteworthy items were boxes of discarded VHS tapes, their covers in another box, and dozens of copies of the same issue of a sailing magazine.  If I'd bothered to bring my cell phone, I could've taken pictures as proof.  But these remainder keepsakes weren't what interested me.

A week before the store closed, I mentioned to the clerk behind the counter that I would like to have a memento of the place, and the thing that struck out for me was the Subscription Program advertisement that was taped on the table next to the cashier.

I asked if there were any other people who wanted this piece of history, and if so, was willing to pay for it.  I later got confirmation from the owners that no one else had asked, and the next time I showed up, they would let me have it for free.  That was extremely generous of them.

Even more generous of them was giving me back the down payments I'd made for upcoming books that would no longer come.  I wondered what would happen to the other customers who weren't as fortunate to come over before the store closed?  I later learned that another comic collector, the Comic Book Hunter had these clients shifted over to him, and would give any prospective clients the books they might've otherwise missed.

Looking at the stuff on the walls, there was another item of memorabilia I neglected - a silly photoshopped Peanuts comic.  It was in the doorway between the second-hand books and the bagged stuff in the back.  It had been around since the first time I visited the shop over twenty years ago.  I thought for sure this would be picked up or asked for by someone, or at least kept by the shop owners, and was surprised to still see it standing.  I figured I'd never have a better chance to save it from obscurity, though now that I have it, I'm not sure it was worth the effort.

Apart from a few promotional material, paperback novels and discarded coin rolls (waste not, want not), there wasn't much left for me to salvage.  During this time, one other guy popped up, and I expressed my condolences, and left him to wander around the remains of the store that had once been a beloved place.

For anyone who's been wondering about the lack of updates for this month, I've been extensively going through the Astronotes - vintage Previews catalogue with added commentary sprinkled throughout the page.  A feature that was:
"published in hard copy since 1995, and coming on-line in 2004.
It's basically "Previews Lite", giving descriptions of just about every new title in comics and TPBs each month, along with the odd item of unusual interest, line listings of ongoing series, and bits and pieces of news and commentary."
Now, the online notes only went as far back as September 2012 (AstroNotes 206), and continued until March 2018 (AstroNotes 272), but that was still an extraordinary amount of text to wade through.  What made this personal project so labour-inducing was that there was no quick and easy way to search for these extra notes.  They weren't highlighted or surrounded by variable { } brackets, which would've made finding them easier, but thin borders which didn't register at all.

So I had to manually go through the entire catalogues for each one, one at a time.  And I was enough of a perfectionist that I only chose samples that I deemed worth keeping for posterity.  What worried me was that their homepage would be taken down the instant the store went too, until I received confirmation that the webpage would still be up for a few months longer.  This came as a great relief, since it extended my deadline, but also made me more laid back, knowing I had an extended reprieve.  I operate better under definite deadlines.

By the time I was finally done, I'd amassed 170 pages of material.  I was planning on sharing some of those, but given the amount of text, figured that could wait another day.

One of the surprising finds amidst the datadumps of Cowboy trivia and Montreal history was two pictures of a man and a woman who could've been the owner's Father's parents.  Their file names were "Dads_father" and "Dads_mother", respectively.  Just thought I should show them here, in case they disappear later on.

Another item of notice was a link to a Gazette article in 2017, lamenting the store's status back when it was on perpetual danger of closing up, no thanks to the owners suffering a stroke, and increase on taxes.  Those fears were finally founded when the rent went up. Since it won't be up for much longer, as old Newspaper articles don't have a long archival life, I'm reproducing it in its entirety after the cut.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Steve Ditko's Principles

Steve Ditko, the reclusive Objectivist Randian artist who was responsible for the creation of Spider-Man, Dr. Strange and even Squirrel Girl, died.  Or rather, he was found dead in his apartment at the ripe age of 90, 2 days after he was found.  He also created Killjoy, who's quite positively his goofiest creation - and that's saying something.  He only showed up in two issues of E-Man, the complete stories which can be found here.  You can clearly see the Spider-Man acrobatic influence, even after he no longer wanted anything to do with the hero.

I won't attempt to decipher his interpretation of Randism that he latched onto with a fervority, though unlike others who adopted the philosophy of "It's every man for themselves!", he betrayed convention to form, and was simultaneously the crankiest curmudgeon and nicest person you ever met.  Given the clear Black-and-White nature of comics, it's clear that he found a home there, and objected to the corrupt underlying criminal enterprise that made up the Comics Industry, and only outletted his talent for comic properties he felt were truly worthy of his work.

Just why he stopped working with Marvel will forever remain a mystery, though it's speculated that he had a falling out over Stan Lee's shameless huckerism and objected to his term of "considered" as in, "I have always considered Steve Ditko to be Spider-Man’s co-creator” before outlining the artist’s many contributions."  Now that he's gone, we're no closer to the truth, since Ditko was notorious for declining interviews (the last one being in ), and an urban legend that he turned down $1 million dollars for revenue from the Spider-Man movie.  (Why would Marvel hand over money to a weirdo freelance artist when they were so unfair towards Kirby?)  Given his tendency to snub his nose at money and only take on projects that caught his fancy, one wonders just how he managed to earn a living (apart from producing minicomics) from the artform that defined him.  Likewise, his comics could be a mixture of panels filled with brief dialogue / monologue bits, or dense reams of walls of texts that'd make Cerebus proud.  (Look at any splash panel of Mr. A)

Stupid Comics posted a scene in Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos where near the end, "the cast talks about "James "Shogun" Clavell's The Children's Story, an Ayn Rand-ish fable about a dystopian future America where children are brainwashed by an authoritarian collectivist dictatorship."  But there's a certain scene in the 2nd issue that I feel deserves a closer look:

While he largely turned his back on the comics' world, that didn't stop his throes of admirers (who he was reluctant to lavish praise upon him, lest his head swell too large), and answering letters in his own inimitable way, all handwritten, no typewriter.

Probably the most surprising reveal from this above entry was that he had no knowledge of Carl Barks, the "Good Duck" artist.  Considering that almost anybody who gets into the business gets so because they started out via reading Uncle Scrooge comics, this is an amazing oversight.  It's like getting into the Newspaper Comic business without knowing who Calvin & Hobbes were.  (To be fair, Berkley Breathed had no knowledge of Pogo when he started Bloom County, and basically threw everything he could think of, breaking rules that he didn't even know existed)

Probably the best portrayal of Ditko's worldview would be from a short story originally published in the 160-page graphic novel Steve Ditko's Static in 1988: that was shown on Brietbart of all things - that is now offline, but I was able to save a copy of the 4-page piece of madness that you can see for yourself.

As with any Strawman argument, the story collapses if you think about it too much.  Having a single drop of blood taken from you once a year to help people worldwide isn't too bad a premise.  Where it falls apart is leaving this charitable donation down to just ONE man, instead of outletting it to MANY people.

Fun fact - for the longest time, I always pronounced his name as DIK-TO, not DIT-KO.  I wonder if anybody else had the same problem?