A 20th Century Pop Culture Wonderland

January 26, 2009

A New Age Approaches

The ever-brilliant John Kricfalusi (or John K., if you prefer) has just posted a very thoughtful essay on the conservatism that has pervaded in America for, oh geez, SO LONG NOW. While I couldn't agree more with his observations, I am one of those who believes that everything he is noting represents a chapter that is closing, and fast.
Our new President, Barack Obama, is setting the tone for a new era, a post-ideological era. He has promised to hear both conservative and liberal ideas, as he is primarily interested in "what works" regardless of what side the ideas come from.
I believe this is good news for culture. The ideological divisions that were previously in place created a division in the fabric of our culture. That's why Americans have had to choose between very safe and bland music, movies, cartoons, and tv shows and extremely edgy, dark, over-the-top music, movies, cartoons, and tv shows. One thing successful creators do is consider their audiences. When propaganda affects how we view each other and ourselves, it can muddle the artist's message, subconsciously or consciously.
The best art is deceptively simple. It is a pure expression of a desire to entertain and/or enlighten. Paul McCartney's "Yesterday" is not a song for conservatives, and it is not a song for liberals. It is a song for human beings, period. The main function of John K.'s own Ren and Stimpy cartoons was to make people laugh, and that is why they were so popular. When others took over the show, it went downhill because an artist's vision cannot be co-opted, only duplicated and degraded in the process. The later cartoons had plenty of gross close-ups and ridiculous situations, but it was all produced by rote, never a good replacement for genius.
In a conservative time such as the one we have been living in, the keyword is repression, the artists' enemy. That's why everything is a copy, and then a copy of a copy, and then a copy of a copy of a copy. A true artistic genius knows how to fold his influences together to create something wholly original. Led Zeppelin was influenced by Muddy Waters but they were not a copy of Muddy Waters, as they incorporated many other elements into their sound. The 80's band Living Colour had a great sound, but unfortunately that sound largely belonged to Led Zeppelin and is readily identifiable as such.
I detect a new wave of originality in the American ether. Visionaries that have not been given their proper respect will once again be celebrated and new talents will emerge. Just as conservatism and liberalism will fade and wither, so will art that is not really art, only copies of copies. Only great art remains with us ultimately. Somewhere tonight, the melodies of Bach are filling rooms around the globe. Someone is watching A Night At The Opera. Someone is teaching their child a Beatles song. Someone is reciting a line from a Dickens novel. Someone is not caring that the great song they are listening to was written by an African American, or a woman, or 50 years ago. Barriers have fallen. The declining economy will separate art and commerce in a much needed way. Greatness endures and this is the dawn of a new American Renaissance, perhaps the first Global Renaissance.. Now all that need matter is "what works", what makes us laugh, hum, cry, think, dance, and dream beautiful dreams.

Pogo Cartoonified

While we're on the subject of Pogo, here is The Pogo Special Birthday Special, directed by Chuck Jones and aired in 1969. It's curious to note that Walt Kelly was largely dissatisfied with this production, and as a result the second Pogo animated cartoon, 1970's We Have Met The Enemy, And He Is Us was entirely written and animated by Walt and his wife Selby, herself a respected animator.





Pogo Goes Rojo














Walt Kelly's version of a classic fairy tale from Pogo Possum #10 (July-Sept 1952).

January 25, 2009

Sunday Comics...With A Tweest




















I'm trying to develop a special Sunday feature and this is what I came up with. A random sampling of all different types of humor comics, old and new, mainstream and underground, popular and obscure, all in one place. A kind of post-modern Sunday Comics page. Hope you enjoy this week's edition, which features artwork from George Baker, Robert Crumb, Don Martin, Ted Richards, John Stevens, Will Elder, Evan Dorkin, Skip Williamson, Wally Wood, Jack Mendelsohn, Doc Winner, and the ever popular Unknown Artist.

January 24, 2009

Little Archie Goes To Mars




Before there was the Mars Rover there was the brilliant brain of Bob Bolling . This story is from Little Archie #18 (Spring 1961).





The Insult That Made A Corpse Out of "Mac"

From Crazy #9 ( February, 1975).

January 22, 2009

Bukowski's Burlesque: "Bop Bop Against That Curtain"

Recently, many people, struggling under the weight of an overburdened economy and worrying more and more about the future, have begun to wonder exactly how life looks and feels in a time of Depression. Charles Bukowski, in this article from Arcade, The Comics Revue #3 (Fall 1975), spins a tale from his youth spent during The Great Depression, visiting burlesque shows on Sundays with his buddies. Illustrations are by Robert Crumb. Contains some profanity and adult situations.







January 21, 2009

On With The Show #2: "Big Chief"

This week's edition takes a look at Presidents past and present, with David Letterman's "salute" to our outgoing Prez, a Dana Gould mashup of Oliver Stone's biopics "JFK" and "The Doors", an Inaugaration montage with music by the Staple Singers, a Robert Smigel cartoon, a music video featuring the fresh sounds of band Tally Hall, and a 3 year old who knows his Lincoln speeches. And now...On With The Show!



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January 20, 2009

Breaking News

MSNBC is reporting that Senators Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy have suffered medical trouble at President Obama's luncheon. One source is reporting that Senator Kennedy was having convulsions. Let us hope that both gentlemen will be okay.

Mr. Popnecker Goes To Washington

Here is a story from Herbie #11 (Dec-Jan 1965, ACG Comics), illustrated by the great Ogden Whitney, featuring appearances by our new president Barack Obama's hero Abraham Lincoln, then-President Lyndon B. Johnson, Adlai Stevenson, and Charles DeGaulle. Happy Inaugaration Day!