Monday, December 28, 2015

Today in Comics History: "The train arriving at platform four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine has come in sideways"

Panels from Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #7 (February 2015), script by Robbie Morrison, pencils and inks by Daniel Indro, colors by Slamet Mujiono, letters by Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt

I oughtn't not to make the sort of joke I made in the title of this post about the Tay Bridge Disaster, which is a true, historical bridge collapse that killed 59 people — everyone aboard the train — on this day in 1879. The Disaster itself has been a bit of a long-running mystery because of the discrepancy in casualty figures, sometimes listed as 75 and as high as (as the comic depicts) 100. (I'm guessing the official reports couldn't account for extra men transported back in time aboard the train by Weeping Angels.)

So, no giggling matter, and yet: the Tay Bridge Disaster is the subject of an epic poem by truly one of the worst poets of all time,William McGonagall. In part:
Oh! Ill-fated bridge of the silv'ry Tay,
I now must conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.
Well. That's...something.

McGonagall was frequently quoted, and parodied by Spike Milligan, one of my favorite comedians of the twentieth-century, and scripter for The Goon Show, the cult 1950s BBC radio show that helped introduce Peter Sellers to a larger international audience. These radio shows are brilliant, wild, surreal, with plenty of wordplay, humorous catchphrases, running gags, silly sound effects, familiar characters greeted with thundering applause from the audience, and a great sense of the overstated profundity of British history. The Tay Bridge Disaster was itself dramatized comedized as a 1959 episode of The Goon Show, which includes Milligan as "William McGoonagall," reciting terrible, terrible verse. You can hear the show online here and read the script here.


Blam said...

Psssst... Bully! Some of your hover-text is missing. Unless it's supposed to be kissing me.

Bully said...

Thanks, Blam! Fixed now. You keep me honest!