M: Secret Origins #41 (June 1989), art by Mike Mignola
R: Countdown Special: The Flash #1 (December 2007), art by Ryan Sook
(Click picture to Big Sir-size)
...it was subtitled The Four-Book Magazine since the first section had one novelette, six or eight short stories, two serials, six to eight articles and eight or nine special features, while the other three sections featured two novels and a digest of current non-fiction books.But by the 1970s, Cosmo had turned into a women's magazine featuring fashion, advice, and models who have trouble bundling up for cold weather. I blame Helen Gurley Brown, the little-known older sister of Charlie Brown, because I sure would like to plunk down my twelve cents on the counter of the newsstand, fix the newsagent with a firm stare, and ask him for a copy of a magazine that contains four whole books for me to read. Also, some M&Ms and a packet of Doublemint.
'Willie,' he observed, eyeing that youth more with pity than reproach, 'has a face like Jo-Jo the dog-faced boy, don't you think so?'...but Lucille is a good deal more understanding than Rosie M. Banks (Mrs Bingo Little), even suggesting he pop into a pawn shop for a bit of ready money:
Archie nodded briefly. Precisely the same criticism had occurred to him.
'Forty-five-five-five-five-five,' chanted the high-priest. 'Once forty-five. Twice forty-five. Third and last call, forty-five. Sold at forty-five. Gentleman in the fifth row.'
Archie looked up and down the row with a keen eye. He was anxious to see who had been chump enough to give forty-five dollars for such a frightful object. He became aware of the dog-faced Willie leaning towards him.
'Name, please?' said the canine one.
'Eh, what?' said Archie. 'Oh, my name's Moffam, don't you know.' The eyes of the multitude made him feel a little nervous 'Erglad to meet you and all that sort of rot.'
'Ten dollars deposit, please,' said Willie.
'I don't absolutely follow you, old bean. What is the big thought at the back of all this?'
'Ten dollars deposit on the chair.'
'You bid forty-five dollars for the chair.'
'You nodded,' said Willie, accusingly. 'If,' he went on, reasoning closely, 'you didn't want to bid, why did you nod?'
Archie was embarrassed. He could, of course, have pointed out that be had merely nodded in adhesion to the statement that the other had a face like Jo-Jo the dog-faced boy; but something seemed to tell him that a purist might consider the excuse deficient in tact. He hesitated a moment, then handed over a ten-dollar bill, the price of Willie's feelings. Willie withdrew like a tiger slinking from the body of its victim.
'That's all right. You can pawn that ring and that bracelet of mine.'...which has a lovely callback when Lucille uses the same phrasing in reply to Archie's joy:
'Oh, I say, what! Pop the family jewels?'
'Only for a day or two. Of course, once you've got the thing, father will pay us back. He would give you all the money we asked him for, if he knew what it was for. But I want to surprise him. And if you were to go to him and ask him for a thousand dollars without telling him what it was for, he might refuse.'
'He might!' said Archie. 'He might!'
'It all works out splendidly. To-morrow's the Invitation Handicap, and father's been looking forward to it for weeks. He'd hate to have to go up to town himself and not play in it. But you can slip up and slip back without his knowing anything about it.'
'It sounds a ripe scheme. Yes, it has all the ear-marks of a somewhat fruity wheeze! By Jove, it IS a fruity wheeze! It's an egg!'
'This really does begin to look like the point in my career where I start to have your forbidding old parent eating out of my hand.'What a lovely little lady! I'm sure that when Keira Knightley and I am married, she will be as understanding and as ready for me to go to the pawnbroker's.
'Yes, it's an egg, isn't it!'
'Queen of my soul,' said Archie enthusiastically, 'it's an omelette!'
'Have you really inflicted thisthis on me for a son-in-law?' Mr Brewster swallowed a few more times, Archie the while watching with a frozen fascination the rapid shimmying of his new relative's Adam's-apple. 'Go away! I want to have a few words alone with thisThiswassyourdamname?' he demanded, in an overwrought manner, addressing Archie for the first time....and every attempt to ingratiate himself with dad-in-law sets Archie further down the path:
'I told you, father. It's Moom.'
'It's spelt M-o-f-f-a-m, but pronounced Moom.'
'To rhyme,' said Archie, helpfully, 'with Bluffinghame.'
'Lu,' said Mr Brewster, 'run away! I want to speak to-to-to'
'You called me this before,' said Archie.
Mr Brewster snorted.It's not just these three that populate mid-town Manhattan's most hotel: like any good sitcom, the cast is bolstered by grand appearances of characters and guest-stars galore. There's the Sausage Chappie, a pal of Archie's so hideous that his future as a horror movie star is ensured the moment a movie producer walks in the hotel lobby; The Growing Boy, the small son of a diet guru whom Archie enlists to win a pie-eating contest, and Roscoe Sherriff, the gung-ho movie publicist whom we've met in Wodehouse's Uneasy Money. In short, enough plots and personalities to populate an entire BBC series of half-hour sitcoms, and enough left over for the spin-off following the happy event of the final chapter finally pleases Mr Brewster with his son-in-law: the announcement that soon they'll present him with a bouncing little grandbaby:
'I am informed that this precious friend of yours entered my grill-room at eight o'clock. He must have been completely intoxicated, though the head waiter tells me he noticed nothing at the time.'
Archie nodded approvingly.
'Dear old Squiffy was always like that. It's a gift. However woozled he might be, it was impossible to detect it with the naked eye. I've seen the dear old chap many a time whiffled to the eyebrows, and looking as sober as a bishop. Soberer! When did it begin to dawn on the lads in the grill-room that the old egg had been pushing the boat out?'
'The head waiter,' said Mr Brewster, with cold fury, 'tells me that he got a hint of the man's condition when he suddenly got up from his table and went the round of the room, pulling off all the table-cloths, and breaking everything that was on them. He then threw a number of rolls at the diners, and left. He seems to have gone straight to bed.'
'Dashed sensible of him, what? Sound, practical chap, Squiffy. But where on earth did he get theermaterials?'
'From his room. I made enquiries. He has six large cases in his room.'
'Squiffy always was a chap of infinite resource! Well, I'm dashed sorry this should have happened, don't you know.'
'If it hadn't been for you, the man would never have come here.' Mr Brewster brooded coldly. 'I don't know why it is, but ever since you came to this hotel I've had nothing but trouble.'
'Dashed sorry!' said Archie, sympathetically.
'Grrh!' said Mr Brewster.
Archie made his way meditatively to the lift. The injustice of his father-in-law's attitude pained him. It was absolutely rotten and all that to be blamed for everything that went wrong in the Hotel Cosmopolis.
A curious change had come over Mr Brewster. He was one of those men who have the appearance of having been hewn out of the solid rock, but now in some indescribable way he seemed to have melted. For a moment he gazed at Archie, then, moving quickly forward, he grasped his hand in an iron grip.The Grinch with his triple-sizing heart? Ain't got nothin' on Daniel Brewster at the end of Indiscretions of Archie.
'This is the best news I've ever had!' he mumbled.
'Awfully good of you to take it like this,' said Archie cordially. 'I mean, being a grandfather'
Mr Brewster smiled. Of a man of his appearance one could hardly say that be smiled playfully; but there was something in his expression that remotely suggested playfulness.
'My dear old bean,' he said.
'My dear old bean,' repeated Mr Brewster firmly, 'I'm the happiest man in America!'
It was the being without advisers that made the situation so bleak. On these occasions when Fate, having biffed you in the eye, proceeds to kick you in the pants, you want to gather the boys about you and thresh things out, and there aren't any boys to gather. Jeeves was in London, Catsmeat in Basingstoke. It made me feel like a Prime Minister who starts to call an important Cabinet meeting and finds that the Home Secretary and the Lord President of the Council, have nipped over to Paris and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the rest of the gang are at the dog-races.True, that could sum up a number of Bertie and Jeeves adventures, but it suits The Mating Season (1949) to a T, which is just as well, because it is from The Mating Season. Appropriate that, what?
A sudden blinding light flashed upon me.Wodehouse is firing on all pistons in The Mating Season, which is not only a doozy of a plot but also features some of his funniest dialogue and narrative. As a die-hard PGW fan, I tend to look at his entire oeuvre as the bee's knees, but so much of the golden stuff falls right after the war that it can't be a coincidence: whatever was in the Long Island water after Plum moved to America had to be inspiring his writing. The action is fast but not frenzied, the cast varied but not overwhelming, and Wodehouse shows his mastery of keeping his audience turning the pages with a funny, spanner-in-the-works cliffhanger revelation at the end of most chapters as well as a driving plot that follows reverse bell-curve that is the perfect definition of comedy. In fact, Bertie even comments on the slope of his fortunes in nearly the dead center of the novel:
'You means it was gussie to whom Uncle Charlie was referring when he said that Mr Wooster has punched the time-clock? I'm here saying I'm Gussie, and now Gussie has blown in, saying he's me?'
'Precisely, sir. It is a curious and perhaps somewhat complex situation that has been precipitated'
'You're telling me, Jeeves!'
Only the fact that by doing so I should have upset the tray prevented me from turning my face to the wall. When Esmond Haddock in our exchanges over the port had spoken of the time that try men's souls, he really hadn't a notion of what the times that try men's souls can really be, if they spit on their hands and get right down to it. OI levered up a forkful of kipper and passed it absently over the larynx, endeavoring to adjust the faculties to a set-up which even the most intrepid would have had to admit was a honey.
And as the days went by, these unsettled outlooks because more unsettled, those V-shaped depressions even V-er. It was on a Friday that I had clocked in at Deverill Hall. By the morning of Tuesday I could no longer conceal it from myself that I was losing the old pep and that, unless the clouds changed their act and started dishing out at an early date a considerably more substantial slab of silver lining that they were coming across with at the moment, I should soon be definitely down among the wines and spirits.One cause of the Btfsplkesque little dark cloud hovering over Bertie's head is the threat that soon he will have to recite poetry at the local village fete. Not merely any poetry, but the soppy Christopher Robin poems of A. A. Milne. This jab can't be coincidence: Milne was one of Wodehouse's most outspoken critics during WWII, painting Wodehouse as a traitor for his ill-advised but well-intentioned radio broadcasts while a prisoner of war. (Read "Why A.A. had it in for P.G." for a full examination of the two writers' connection and spats). Wodehouse doesn't quote from any Milne in the book, so I will:
Oh Timothy Tim'How wet," Bertie might exclaim, and even I, a little stuffed bull of six, would agree. (I much prefer Edward Lear.) To Bertie, who'd been expecting to take part in a music-hall-style comedy review featuring bearded Irishmen, of course it's something that Jeeves must get him out of. Catsmeat's no help, of course:
Has ten pink toes
And ten pink toes
Has Timothy Tim
They go with him
Wherever he goes
And wherever he goes
They go with him.
I was sorry for the unhappy one blister, of course, but it piqued me somewhat that he seemed to consider that he was the only one who had any troubles.It's all complicated (of course) by Bertie's Aunt Agatha announcing her arrival at the manor in one chapter, threatening to blow the elaborate Bertie/Gussie ruse sky high, and no sooner is that solved and swept away under the rug than Madeline Bassett, Gussie's fianc#233;, announces the same thing. Bertie and Co. can't catch a break, and the action speed from complication to complication like a roller coaster, except with more tea and scone breaks. Then Gussie falls in love with another girl at Deverill. Then Catsmeat falls in love with Uncle Charlie's daughter. Jeeves to the rescue, of coursewas there ever any doubt? But the fun's as much in the journey and its hills and valleys as it is in the destination, and Wodehouse gives us plenty of lovely scenery to admire along the way:
'Well, I've got to recite Christopher Robin poems.'
'Pah!' he said. 'It might have been Winnie the Pooh.'
Well, there was that, of course.
The door opened, revealing some sixteen stone of butler....and...
'Good evening, sir,' said this substantial specimen. "Mr Wooster?'
'Fink-Nottle,' I said hastily, to correct this impression.
As a matter of fact, it was all I could do to speak at all, for the sudden impact of Charlie Silversmith had removed the breath almost totally. He took me right back to the days when I was starting out as a flaneur and man about town and used to tremble beneath butlers' eyes and generally feel very young and bulbous.
Older now and tougher, I am able to take most of these fauna in my stride. When they open front doors to me, I shoot my cuffs nonchalantly. 'Aha, there, butler,' I say. 'How's tricks?' But Jeeves's Uncle Charlie was something special. He looked like one of those steel engraving s of nineteenth-century statesmen. He had a large, bald head and pale, protruding gooseberry eyes, resting on mine, heightened the Dark Tower feeling considerably. The thought crossed my mind that if something like this had popped out at Childe Roland, he would have clapped spurs to his charger and been off like a jack-rabbit.
Unlike her sister Muriel, who had resembled a Criterion barmaid of the old school, Poppy Kegley-Bassington was long and dark and supple, with a sinuous figure suggestive of a snake with hips; one of those girls who can do rhythmic dances at the drop of a hat and can be dissuaded from doing them only with a meat-axe.Not to mention...
...I subjected Catsmeat to a glance. I am told by those who know that there are six varieties of hangoverthe Broken Compass, the Sewing Machine, the Comet, the Atomic, the Cement Mixer and the Gremlin Boogie, and his manner suggested that he had got them all.But finally, this is the novel that really cements my opinion of Bertie Wooster as a hero, not a patsy. I've mentioned here before that I take offense when critics refer to Bertie as a twit or as brainless. Pshaw, I say, or to quote Nero Wolfe, pfui. Bertie has plenty of grey matter and he's often quite sharp on the uptake. Wodehouse simply spins his world to ensure the cards are stacked against Bertie, or that his friends or relations wind up complicating his plans, and Bertie's the one who winds up with egg on his face. But his intentions are clear and bright, and his plans, while complicated, have a chance of succeeding, if only the omniscient PGW weren't spinning him round like a gramophone record, or, as Jeeves might observe: "As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; / They kill us for their sport." I would certainly argue that his plans are solid if complicated, and more important, his heart is always in the right placealtho' he's occasionally blackmailed into it, Bertie is always gung-ho to help out a mate and dive into a complicated scenario involving mistaken identities and pushing small children into rivers if it helps a Drones Club comrade seal the marriage deal. Bertie observes:
...I found myself musing, as I have often had occasion to do, on the callous way in which Nature refuses to chip in and do its bit when the human heart is in the soup.Nature refusing to help out a pal, maybe. Bertie refusing? Never. Well, aside from a few feeble protests, maybe. But the Wooster of The Mating Season is a brave and mature Bertie. How so? Why, at the end of the novel, at the point where he and Jeeves often scurry away to avoid a complicated situation or an angry aunt, Bertie actually holds his ground to stay and face the music (i.e., the ferocious Aunt Agatha):
'...I understand there is an excellent milk-train at two-fifty-four. Her ladyship is expressing a desire to see you.'
It would be deceiving my public to say that for an instant I did not quail. I quailed, as a matter of fact, like billy-o. And then, suddenly, it was as if strength had descended upon me.
'Jeeves,' I said, 'this is grave news, but it comes at a moment when I am well-fitted to receive it. I have just witnessed Esmond Haddock pound the stuffing out of five aunts, and I feel that after an exhibition like that it would ill beseem a Wooster to curl up before a single aunt. I feel strong and resolute, Jeeves. I shall now go downstairs and pull and Esmond haddock on Aunt Agatha. And if things look like becoming too sticky, I can always borrow that cosh of yours, what?'
I squared the shoulders and strode to the door, like Childe Roland about to fight the paynim.