Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know that I have been spotlighting Spider-Man these past few weeks. The point I’m trying to make (are you paying attention?) is that there are oodles of songs about Spider-Man, perhaps almost as many as there are Batman songs. Like any good scientific theory it requires lots of research, rigorous testing, and plenty of hard work. Since I don’t have time for that, I’ll just share another song about Spider-Man.
You may recall (back on December 11, 2007) that we discussed the connection between Peter Parker and The Ramones. Both are from Forest Hills in Queens, New York. Both are outcasts and misfits. And both overcame obstacles to become heroes! As far as I know, The Ramones were never bitten by radioactive spiders, but I can’t prove it didn’t happen.
Naturally, The Ramones covered the 1967 Spider-Man TV series theme (as heard here). And now their cover has been covered by Brats on the Beat. That just shows the staying power of this song. It even has a cover version of a cover version. Top that, Batman!
I grew up reading (well, looking at mostly) the Snuffy Smith comic strip in the pages of my hometown paper, the Akron Beacon Journal by Fred Lasswell. It’s premise, a fantastically lazy unemployable and unlikable weird looking little man and his strained marital relations with a much bigger spouse, didn’t interest me much. It was to my mind just a rural version of Andy Capp, another one of the paper’s strips that I was more aware of than actually read. I never gave it’s rustic setting a second thought seeing as how television at the time, the 1960′s, was thick with hillbilly themed comedies (Hee-Haw, The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, etc.) and seeing as how it looked pretty much like this:
Even at a early age I found his predictable antics barren at best, and never dreamed that the strip had been around for decades under the name Barney Google, a much different and, to my mind, better strip. The creation of the incredibly talented Billy DeBeck it was one of those early comic strips that was insanely popular and infiltrated every aspect of American popular culture, most notably the ”Barney Google Song” (a.k.a. ”Barney Google (Foxtrot)” ), the song with the haunting refrain Barney Google—with the goo-goo-googly eyes!
Over the years I finally wasable to read chunks of Barney Google in collections and old comic books but I never got the chance to read it on a regular basis, which was, I told myself, the reason why I could certainly admire the skill behind the strip I never actually warmed to it. Oh I admired the hell out of Billy DeBeck’s work but contrarian son of a bitch that I am, I felt his signature creature wasn’t Barney or Snuffy, but Bunky, the super intelligent baby who became the star of “Parlor, Bedroom and Bath”, the strip that for years and years literally topped the Barney Google and Snuffy Smith Sunday strips. Your opinion may differ but if you want to see it for yourself you can check it out here:http://jeffoverturf.blogspot.com/2010/06/nemo-3-billy-deback-and-parlor-bedroom.html
In 1934 hillbilly humor was a national craze and while visiting the tiny Blue Mountain community of Hootin’ Holler Barney was introduced to his cousin Sniffy Smith. And for reasons yet to be discovered in spite of his distaste and distrust of big city ways the tiny moonshiner abandoned the wife and child he couldn’t bother to support for long periods of time to follow Barney and mooch off of his meager opportunities. In their fairly squalid adventures Snuffy attempted to deal with urban life; hilarity supposedly ensued but I’ve pretty much got to take their word for it because I for one just don’t “get” the appeal of Snuffy Smith And I’ve really tried; thanks to the King Features website, comicskingdom.com (who, unbeknownst to them, provide me with the “after and before” examples of the strip seen above) I’ve steadily been working my way through 1939 for almost a year now and I just flat out don’t see the funny. Maybe it’s just that “hillbillies” (like, say tramps) are just one of those things that just don’t age very well. And I must confess I find Snuffy’s mountain patoisto be mostly impenetrable jibberish. But, mainly, I just don’t find a serial philanderer who’s also a homicidal maniac with a hair trigger to be all that funny and frankly don’t understand why America found him so damn amusing. It just doesn’t make sense, unless Snuffy was using his magical “eyeball” (basically an evil eye) to convince a generation of readers just couldn’t do without the desperate antics of an insufferable douchebag.
Like most comic strip creators DeBeck must have felt a lot of pressure to get a least one of his characters into uniform, in spite of the fact tht both Bareny and Snuffy were both obviously too old and overwhelmingly unfit for military duty. With Snuffy being the most popular he got the nod and I have to hand to DeBeck; he found a way to get a character so thoroughly repellant and antiauthoritarian (in a lot of ways Snuffy Smith was a proto punk) involved in standard Army Game antics without “rehabitating” him in any way. And where before Snuffy would settle problems with either physical violence or barely understandable invective here he schemes his way around the rules, revealing a keen intellect. And I bet the newly conscripted servicemen must have just loved it
Believe it or not Snuffy even made it to the movies in the remarkably named Hillbilly Blitzkieg. See for yourself:
Closing out this year’s African American History Month postings, we have more extracts from the late 1940s/early 1950s advertising bookletDreams Come True! (click here to see Part 1). It was published by the Black and White Company (which made beauty products company for African Americans), and illustrated by African American artist George Lee.
The pamphlet consists mostly of cartoon-illustrated ads, plus a number of one-page cartoon bios of African American historical & contemporary figures. Above we have a bio of Heavyweight Boxing Champion Jack Johnson, and below, musician Fats Waller. Further below are found bios on Robert Abbott and Richard Wright.
Click on the above & below pages, to make them large enough to read.
Most of the Black & White Company’s beauty products, were aimed at making African Americans appear more like whites. The ads shown in last week’s extracts involved bleaching/lightening skin color; the first two ads above are for products to slick down one’s hair, making it appear more like white people’s hair. Beneath is for an acme treatment.
I was planning to scan my copy, but then I found that the complete book is already online. So, I merely scanned my cover plus the illustration above. Clicking on cover, below, will open up Archive.org‘s fully scanned version.
OK, this one is weird. It’s a British comic from the late 40′s. early 50′s which reprints material from the Novelty Press incarnation of Blue Boltcomics that uses the L.B. Cole from the later Star Publications version. A much, much edited version of the L.B. Cole cover. I mean, I can understand why the beautiful half naked girl is no longer in the dinosaurs claw, but why was the dialogue (“Stop, Stop, Don’t Shoot!”, “You caution not to anger the great beast, else he slay the woman!”) cut? And even one of the…guys was edited out. Speaking of which, who the hell are those guys supposed to be anyway? Members of the space based Legion of Blue Bolt Appreciators?
As always, blessings be upon the Grand Comic Book Database and The Digital Comic Museum (and Comic Book Plus) from providing me both the information and the materials for this weeks post. Front loaded for some reason (maybe because British comics really seemed to like these sort of historical comics back then) is an episode of the 10 part “Last of the Mohicans” adaptation that ran in Target Comics.
Also included is the Sub-Zero Man story from Blue Bolt #2 by Larry Antonette.
And a Simon & Kirby Blue Bolt story from Blue Bolt #3. As you all know I usually enjoy seeing American comic book art in black and white, but as much as I love the work of Simon & Kirby I’m afraid that’s not the case here.
And finally here’s a much better looking story featuring one of my least favorite Novelty Press characters, Candid Charlie. He’s one of an apparently endless series of teen characters major publishers floated in the late 40′s in a desperate attempt to keep from turning off the office lights. On the plus side he’s definitely not an Archie clone, and negative, there the creators clearly over estimated how many laughs could be squeezed out of the premise of a camera crazy teenager with an insane pompadour. Can you imagine the amount of product he would have had to used to keep that thing erect? Wow.
Next in our African American History Month postings, we have the late 1940s/early 1950s advertising bookletDreams Come True!, illustrated by African American artist George Lee. Primarily targeted towards African American women, the booklet promotes various beauty products from the Black & White Company of Memphis, Tennessee, and New York City, NY. These products, such as skin bleaching cream, were largely to make African Americans appear less black, and more white, and in that sense is reminiscent of an appallingly racist 1892 promotional soap booklet we showed last year.
Click on the above & below pages to view them in greater detail.
In addition to the ad pages, there are also a number of one-page cartoon bios of African American historical & contemporary figures. Included in today’s page extracts, are musician William C. Handy, scientist George Washington Carver, and early Civil Rights Leader Frederick Douglass.
Embarrassingly, another aspect of the book is how to turn your dreams into numbers for gambling.
I attempted to find out more about the history of the Black & White Company online (such as, were its owners black and/or white?), but had no luck. Another extract of pages will be posted next week.
As I’ve been saying for the past few weeks, there are an awful lot of songs about Spider-Man. Don’t worry bat-fans, the Caped Crusader is still Number One! There are quite a number of songs about Charlie Brown and Snoopy, and Superman has his share, but from my research it’s Batman and Spider-Man that are at the top of the Comics Tunes list. Can someone prove me wrong?
This week an original song about Spidey, not a cover of the TV show theme. Take it away, Katrina!
One of my favorite comic strips is V.T. Hamlins Alley Oopbut admittedly I’m picky; I love the time travel adventures and can barely tolerate the characters Stone Age antics. And while there are now quite a few legitimate reprints of the strip a lot of it has yet to be collected, which is how I’m justifying posting the bulk of the contents of Alley Oop#1
Along with being a #1 this is a fortuitously good jumping on point for anyone not already familiar with the character as it contains a rousing time travel adventure as well as an appearance by recurring villain/character Oscar Boom who will lead an expedition to the planet Venus by way of flying saucer (if you haven’t guessed from the description, this is from the 1950′s). For longtime fans we’ve apparently just missed the moment when Oop gave us cigars, theoretically for health reasons, though it makes me wonder the actual explanation was. Letters to the editor? The growing awareness of smokings effects on health? I love a mystery but would much prefer an answer so, if any of you out there happens to know the why, you also know where you can reach me.
Next for African American History Month, we have both parts of “The Adventures of Johnny Newcome”, by cartoonist William Elmes. Published in 1812, they involve an idealized (from the white perspective) depiction of the life of a British slave & plantation owner in the West Indies.
Note how happily the slave receives his flogging in panel six of Plate 1, above. This was the kind of imagery that slave-owning society used to placate their conscious’ (for those persons that had any). Such myths of “happy slaves” were disseminated and absorbed by the white culture, to justify the massive serial kidnapping, serial rape, and serial murder (to name just a few crimes) that so many participated in, saying to themselves and indoctrinating others with the conveniently false belief that Africans were a sub-species compared to Europeans, and that their lives as slaves in the Americas was better than what they would have had as “uncivilized heathen savages” in unconquered Pre-Colonial Africa.
Contrast these, with an 1830 strip on British Slavery in the West Indies that we’ve previously shown (click here to see). Here, the slave owners are again privileged, but the concentration of the strip is on their crime, and society’s white-washing of it.
Click on the above & below pictures, to view the cartoons in detail, and read their captions.