January 19, 2012

Why Chicks Cry: The Book?

In June of 2009, I sorted through piles of old DC romance comics, extracting only those panels in which women were shedding tears. I then assigned captions to each panel explaining why each lady was crying, using only the clues found in each panel. A lady was crying and saying she had a headache, so my caption was simply "Headaches." When I started, I was simply cataloging reasons based on my first impressions of the panel. Soon however, I began to make the reasons more absurd. In one panel a lady is tearfully exiting her house, thinking "NO--NO--I MUST NEVER COME AGAIN!" To this panel, I assigned the reason "Being evicted." The only rule I followed when captioning was to try not to be mean-spirited towards the panel ladies, to rest my snark on a soft velvet pillow. Given the subject matter, I tried to tread lightly, to present the ladies and their dilemmas without judging them. I called my exercise "Why Chicks Cry" and sent it out into the world.

Incredibly, the post began to spread. Thanks largely to higher profile sites like Tumblr, Metafilter, and Feministe people of both genders were talking about the crying ladies. Another surprise, the response was 99% positive. Some people commented on which was their favorite panel. Others were drawn to the wonderful art of the panels, which reminded them of Lichtenstein paintings. The concept seemed to be cathartic for some ladies who revealed that they had also been known to shed a tear over something silly. A reader named Claire wrote " I am ashamed to admit that I do actually cry at sudden rains, but only if I'm caught in them. There is nothing I despise more in life than stomping around in soggy shoes." The most intriguing comment to me was from someone who said that I might have come up with a good idea for a book that her company would be interested in publishing.

The idea of me being a published author was entirely alien to me, so it took me a few months to get up the guts to e-mail this lady, who was still interested. The first step, she wrote, was for me to contact DC Comics to find out how much it would cost to license about 180 panels to fill up a whole book. Using information I found here I wrote and mailed a letter detailing my request to DC Comics. Unfortunately, I never heard back from them, and a bit disheartened, I just went about my business, convincing myself that I had missed the moment.

But, it's been a few years now and people all around the world are still discovering the crying ladies, and I do believe, given the proper exposure, there could me a market for this hypothetical book. So, I'm asking for help. I need to know how to correctly contact the right person or persons at DC Comics to find out how much it would cost to license the 200 panels I would need to expand my post into a nifty book, suitable for any discerning reader's bookshelf. If anyone out there can put me in touch with the right people at DC, I will gladly send you an autographed copy of the finished book if it is published. If you prefer to contact me confidentially, my email address is gopower73@yahoo.com.

Thank you, and may all your tears be joyful.

January 9, 2012

Fred and Barney Sell Cereal!

Duke University Libraries is home to AdViews, a humongous archive of vintage commercials. When AdViews first made an online presence, the commercials were only available for viewing on iTunes. The collection is now also available for viewing here at the Prelinger Archive. Sites like YouTube have made lots of vintage commercials available, but I am impressed by the high quality of the AdViews spots. Here is a Post Pebbles cereal ad from the 1970's.

That's One Way To Win A Game Show

The Archive of American Television continues to conduct fascinating interviews with the legends of the medium and I've lost many hours of my life there. In this clip from the Richard Dawson interview, Richard, still spry at 94, discusses meeting his future wife Gretchen when she was a contestant on Family Feud. 

The full interview is here.

January 7, 2012

Funnier Than A Speeding Bullet

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Without a doubt, two of the key figures in the history of American comic books. To imagine a world in which their most famous creation, Superman, never existed is to imagine an infinitely poorer world. Much has been written about how Siegel and Shuster were basically forced to watch from the sidelines as their creation reaped massive profits for the company that would eventually be known as DC Comics. Not much has been written about their follow-up creation, Funnyman. And with good reason. It's not too good.

You can read more about Funnyman at Don Markstein's Toonopedia, then sit back and enjoy (if that's the right word) the first story from Funnyman #1 (January 1948, Magazine Enterprises).

My theory is that, having learned a thing or two about lawsuits, Siegel and Shuster were most deliberate in creating a character that could never be construed as a Superman clone. Superman has black hair. Funnyman has red hair. Superman has tights and a cape. Funnyman wears a clown suit with polka dot pants.

But, y'know, I also wonder if Funnyman was a character that came out of Siegel and Shuster's unconscious desires to laugh again after the bad hand they had been dealt. It could not have been easy for them to see Superman flying high, generating huge revenues from comic sales, merchandising, radio shows, etc. and to not be given their due share of the proceeds. It makes a lot of sense that they would create a character brimming with youthful exuberance and spouting jokes as an antidote to the hurt feelings and lawsuits.

Still, the Shuster artwork ( with a probable assist by Dick Ayers) isn't bad at all, and one must admire the tenacity of Siegel and Shuster to even try following up Superman. Funnyman might just be a footnote in comic history, but Siegel and Shuster's legacy will endure forever. Not bad for two kids from Cleveland.

What do you think of Funnyman? Write right now!

January 4, 2012

A Rare UPA Cartoon Narrated By Stan Freberg!

1949 was a very good year for an animation studio named United Productions of America, UPA for short. That year, UPA released a cartoon called The Ragtime Bear, and this marked the screen debut of a character that would prove to be the studio's biggest star, the nearsighted Mr. Magoo.

In 1949, young Stan Freberg, having enjoyed some success providing voices for a handful of Warner Brothers cartoons, secured a steady gig as puppeteer on Bob Clampett's soon to be Emmy-winning televised puppet show Time For Beany.

Now, through the magic of YouTube, here is Big Tim, a little-known sales film produced by UPA in 1949 for the Timken roller bearing company, featuring voicework by Stan. The uploader, Eastwillis, states his assertion in the comments section that the animation for this project was done by "Paul Smith, Art Babbitt, Grim Natwick, Pat Matthews, and Willy Pyle," a claim I can neither confirm nor deny.

2012 promises to be a very good year for UPA fans, too! Let Jerry Beck fill you in.

Stan Freberg is still going strong as well, having released (in collaboration with his wife Hunter) Songs in the Key of Freberg, in 2010. You can sample every track from the album on Amazon.

January 3, 2012

You Bet Your Sweet Bippy!: Selections From Laugh-In Magazine

Let's start off 2012 with some chuckles and guffaws from 1968. Here are a few selections from the first issue of Laugh-In, a magazine tie-in to the popular television show hosted by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin.