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Comic Book Memories
Topic Started: Jun 17 2006, 10:04 PM (1,056 Views)
Paul
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I had a sort of love/hate relationship with Sundays. The hate part was having to endure 45 minutes or so in the middle of the day going to Mass. St. Patrick's was only a block away from our house, and there we'd troop each week, my mother and I, to attend the noon service. My father always went to the 8AM one, just to get it over with as soon as possible, I always figured, so he could get on with the real business of Sundays uninterrupted. For him, that would be puttering around our huge garden for a while, pruning his fruit trees, tending the vegetables, watering the flowers, then relaxing the rest of the day reading the Sunday papers.

I didn't really hate going to church; that wouldn't happen until I reached puberty, and going to confession became a whole new agonizing experience. Up until then, it was mainly just boring. Sometimes, if I was lucky, one of the younger priests would be saying Mass, and I could look forward to a sermon sprinkled with some humor to break up the monotony. Or it might be one of the days the lady who played the organ would be on duty. Music helped make the thing more interesting, even if she did have a heavy and irregular foot on the swell pedal, filling the hymns with unexpected crescendos and abrupt decrescendos.

What made me even more impatient to get it all over with was knowing that as soon as it was over, we'd walk another couple blocks downtown. Well, "downtown" itself was really only a couple blocks long. But it had everything you needed to run your household: two grocery stores (with real butchers), a hardware store, variety, barber, dry goods, soda fountain, three (!) bars, and best of all, the drug store. That's the place that sold comic books.

I'd scan all the colorful covers on rack, searching for my favorites: Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, Little Lulu. If I was real lucky, there'd be a new Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, or best of all, an Uncle Scrooge. Those always had stories by the "good artist," who now we all know was Carl Barks. I'd plunk down my ten cents and we'd walk back home. Mother would make me a Ranch Hand chip steak sandwich, fried in butter with garlic salt and wedged between two buttered slices of Kilpatrick's white bread. I'd sit at the kitchen table with it and a glass of milk and get lost in some fantastic adventure with Uncle Scrooge, Donald and the boys, off in some far-flung part of the world, or better yet, some place that existed only in the mind of the "good artist" and on those pages he drew.

Later, I might spend some time in the basement reorganizing our comic book collection, ones inherited from my older brother, some going back to the early 1940s, and others I bought myself. There were hundreds and hundreds of them. This wasn't an archival collection, by any means. These comics were meant to be read, over and over, and they were. My mother often read some of them, too. They'd be brought upstairs piece by piece to my bedroom where I'd fall asleep reading them, fall asleep on top of them, having them slide off the bed and live with the dust bunnies for a while before it was time to collect them all and haul them back to the basement, where I'd organize them by title, in chronological order, and stack them in wooden cabinets. Then the whole process would start over again, often immediately. I still have a lot of them, and even now, fifty years later, I can't open any that aren't still familiar, and usually, just as wonderful.
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Laughing Gravy
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Paul, I've been meaning to respond to this -- and some day I will have time to do so properly, I hope. I loved reading it, and it brought back great memories for me.

I was a comic book fanatic from the age of 4 until I was about, oh, 16. From the kiddie comics you mention through the DC superheroes of the "Silver Age" up through Swamp Thing and Green Lantern/Green Arrow, with some Zap Comix thrown in once I got older. I eventually outgrew the hobby (translation: discovered girls) but I still have quite a collection of funnybooks from the 1940s through the 1960s.

I hesitated starting a comic book folder here in the Balcony, though, because there's already a really good site for news and discussions, and I didn't want to take away from that. I link to them, though, and on those occasions when this board went down, I sent people there. It's called The Nostalgia League (www.thenostalgialeague.com) and I heartily endorse it. All Balconeers who love comic books of the past will find something of interest there.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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Paul
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For some reason, I never got into the superheroes. I was always a funny animals kind of guy - well, except for Little Lulu. Comedy was always my thing, and though I was aware of the existence of Superman, Batman and the rest, I really don't have any memories of those kind of comics at all, not even of seeing them in the comic racks. It wasn't that I made a conscious choice to pick "Uncle Scrooge" and the rest over the superheroes; it was as if the latter didn't exist, or that they were part of some universe I didn't inhabit.

This continued well into my teen years. I remember an assignment in sophomore English, when we were studying ancient myths. My project cited Jason, and his voyages on the Argo, and I made a veiled reference to a present-day reenactment of parts of the story, involving "two men and three boys" discovering the ship. I refrained from mentioning that those guys were Uncle Scrooge, Donald, Huey, Louie and Dewey. I even copied Carl Barks's illustration of the Argo for my little monograph.

The farthest astray I went in comicdom was to acquire an appreciation for MAD and Panic, one I still maintain, and everntually got the Russ Cochrane reprints.

Thanks for your appreciative words about my recollections. I had fun writing that, and I'm glad you provided a forum I felt comfortable putting them on. I'd probably feel intimidated dipping my toes into discussions with hard-core comic fanatics.
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Paul
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By the way, here's my web site about that little town I grew up in, where I bought all my comic books:

http://www.sonic.net/~tterrace/larkspur/index.html

To keep it further on topic, you'll note that it was featured prominently in the noirish film "Impact" from 1949.
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andarius
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I used to buy Dell comics around the late 50s - 10 cents or 9 old pennies!

Lovely colour pix on the covers of folk like Bronco, Cheyenne, The Lone Ranger and Zorro - one day I even bought one with a fella I'd never seen before called Bat Masterston (Gene Barry) - just a couple of years ago I acquired a few Bat Masterston shows on DVD.

Also, you could get comic books of films like Morgan the Pirate (Steve Reeves) and The Magic Sword (Gary Lockwood).
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Pa Stark
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When I was a little kid in the mid 50's, my favorites were the Walt Disney Comics & Stories and the Uncle Scrooges. I loved the former because of the Mickey Mouse serials, and one of the first comics I ever read had Mickey and Goofy going to a resort out in the woods. One episode had them in bed and they look at the window, and there is the silhouette of a man standing outside. That really scared me.
Around issue eight of Uncle Scrooge, Donald and his nephews help Scrooge search for the Seven Cities of Gold, and I still think it was about the best comic story of all time.
Of course I wore those comics out, but almost 20 years later I went to Houstoncon convention and there were many dealers selling old comics, and I looked around and found them, and of course snapped them up. After I went to some local comic dealers and picked up several years worth of WDC&S, including every Mickey Mouse serial that I remembered.
Honest and Lovable Pa Stark
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George Kaplan
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Along with Little Lulu, Walt Disney's Comics and Stories was a perennial favorite of mine. The lead story was always carefully plotted and often terrifically suspenseful. My barber kept a stack of them handy, which made waiting for a haircut a breeze. For years I've remembered one sequence vividly--it thrilled the nine-year-old me: Mickey, locked in a closet by thugs (the Beagle Boys?), makes his escape by removing the pins on the door hinges and slamming the door to the floor. This was new to me. I went straight home to make sure I could accomplish the same feat in the event I was ever trapped by bad guys in any of the rooms in my house. I got in trouble soon after.
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Paul
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Another favorite of mine: Walt Kelly's Pogo. One of our papers carried the daily strip, and we collected all the complilation volumes, but the comic books were my favorite for sheer gut-busting humor. I can't remember how often I, as an pre-teensomething, would be sent rolling on the floor, weeping in hysterics. Kelly wrote all the stories and did the penciling, though assistants apparently did most of the inking. There was no mistaking the Kelly humor, though, and it made me regret that neither of the two Sunday Papers we took (The San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner) carried the Pogo Sunday strip, which tended more to the slapstick than the dailies. I caught up with them as they were collected in book form.

Kelly also produced book-only Pogo material, such as "Uncle Pogo's So-So Stories" and "The Pogo Stepmother Goose," which had hilarious lampoons of "Roosian Mellerdramas" and even Mickey Spillane-style hard-boiled pulp fiction, such as "The Bloody Drip Writhes Again." Kelly had a wonderfully surreal sense of wordplay, and I read the stuff so often I had large chunks of it memorized - to this day, in fact. Lessee if I can get this one right:

Oh pick a pock of peach pits,
Pockets full of pie.
Foreign twenty black boards,
Baked until they cry.

The King was in a pallor,
Counter fitting monies.
The Queen was in a tizzy,
Reading all the funnies.

The maid was in the garden,
Hanging by her toes.
Along came a north wind,
And that's the way she froze.

Then there was "Deck Us All With Boston Charlie," but we won't go into that.
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JazzGuyy
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You need to hear Lambert, Hendricks & Ross do "Boston Charlie" as a jazz tune, if you haven't.

And of course there is Kelly's most famous line: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Pogo was the political satire strip of its time, comparable in the '50s to "Doonesbury" and "Bloom County". I still have a couple of the Pogo books. They are very hard to find.
When in doubt, leave it out.
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ilive4mycats
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The one comic strip taht I loved was Hal Fosters Prince Valiant, with the gorgeous art, and its historical accuracy, at least as far as the costumes.
I would love to see that strip again.
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SuperRog
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I wouldn't be surprised if Prince Valiant had been collected in reprint book form. Everything else has. When I was a kid, I mostly got into the super-hero stuff but did pick up a science fiction title once in awhile, mostly Strange Adventures of Mystery In Space. I also liked a few westerns...The Rawhide Kid, Bat Lash, and the like.
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Laughing Gravy
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When I was a kid, along with the ever-popular Peanuts, Beetle Bailey, Hi and Lois, Blondie and the like, I was a big fan of Dondi and Brenda Starr, Reporter.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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panzer the great & terrible
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Notary Sojac.
Life is just a bowl of cherries, it's too mysterious, don't take it serious...
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JazzGuyy
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Not a republic
When in doubt, leave it out.
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ilive4mycats
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When I was young, I loved the Dick Tracy when they had that big spaceship, the yellow thing that took them to the moon and back.
I wish I could remember waht it was called.
I know that Dick Tracy buffs hated those years, but to younger readers it was exciting stuff.
I remember whenone villian who was a scientist, was killed by a lady driviing the back of her high heal into his brain.
How could you not love that?
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