Saturday, February 16, 2008

Separated at Birth: Look out, lad, a mermaid be waiting for you/In mysterious fathoms below

Betty #8/Barbie Fashion #39
L: Betty #8 (September 1993), art by Dan DeCarlo and Alison Flood
R: Barbie Fashion #39 (March 1994), art by Amanda Conner and Jeffrey Albrecht
(Click picture to 20,000 leagues-size)

Saturday Morning Cartoon: Toonerville Trolley

"Toonerville Trolley" (1936), directed by Burt Gillett and Tom Palmer
Based on the comic strip "Toonerville Folks" by Fontaine Fox, starring The Skipper and The Powerful Katrinka

Friday, February 15, 2008

Auntmusic for Auntpeople

So. The panel from Fantastic Four #134 that I posted the other day featured one of the series' many references to Ben Grimm's mysterious Aunt Petunia:
FF #134 panel
Panel from Fantastic Four #134 (May 1973), written by Gerry Conway, art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott, coloring by David Hunt, letting by Artie Simek

Aunt Petunia was "introduced" to Fantastic Four #25, in which although the Thing has been soundly whupped by the Hulk, he gets up and keeps going thanks to some well-remembered good advice from his Aunt Petunia:
FF #25 panel
Panel from Fantastic Four #25 (April 1964), written by Stan Lee, art by Jack Kirby and George Roussos, lettering by Sam Rosen

Anybody who uses the phrase "You can only live once" is either a Bond villain or one tough battleaxe, and nearly every reference Ben makes to her over the next few hundred issues—like the comparison to the Stridex-challenged Dragon Man—is of Aunt Petunia's...shall we say...unconventional looks. Listen to Ben Grimm long enough and you've got a clear mental picture of Aunt Petunia: sweet as a rose, but with a face that'll stop a clock. In fact, from everything Ben has said, you might think Petunia has appeared in comics before:
Porky Pig #38

Well, let's skip ahead to FF #239, a few months into John Byrne's lengthy "Back to the Basics" run on the series, and check in with a mysterious stranger who's approaching the Baxter Building, as seen from one of Byrne's favorite angles:
FF #239 panel
Panel from Fantastic Four #239 (February 1982), written and drawn by John Byrne, coloring by Glynis Wein, lettering by Jim Novak

Momentarily baffled by the FF's robotic receptionist (and I think we all know how painful that can be), the mystery woman immediately falls into one of the most dangerous perils of entering the Baxter Building: Johnny Storm starts mackin' on her.:
FF #239 panel

Who is the mystery woman? Who is this gorgeous gal? Who could this supermodel-lookalike be? Aw, you've guessed it by now, haven't ya?:
FF #239 panel

Yep! What you certainly knew all along was a surprise to us in 1982: Aunt Petunia's a babe! As they say down on Yancy Street, hubba hubba!:
FF #239 panel

We never learn why Ben's been referring to her for years as unattractive—why, after all those years dating the delightful Miss Alicia Masters, the guy knows good-looking. Or maybe he just needed glasses when he was only a wee orange pebble. Anyway, even though pretty Petunia doesn't reappear for many a year (she popped up at Ben's Bar Mitzvah in the recent Thing #8), her appearance proves what we knew all along: knock-outs run in the Grimm family.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

All You Need Is "All You Need Is Love"

The Beatles (1967)

Across the Universe (2007)

Pavarotti and Friends (1993)

Love Actually (2003)

Avenue Q

Elvis Costello at Live Aid (1985)

Party at the Palace featuring Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, Joe Cocker, Brian Wilson, Eric Clapton (2002)

Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller at the Royal Albert Hall (2007)

Boy George and Lily Savage


Valentine's Day Cartoon: "All You Need Is Love" by The Beatles

"All You Need Is Love" from Yellow Submarine (1968), directed by George Dunning

Valentine's Day Separated at Birth: Torn Between Two Lovers

Action Comics #597/Archie #429
L: Action Comics #597 (February 1988), art by John Byrne
R: Archie #429 (November 1994), art by Dan DeCarlo and Henry Scarpelli
(Click picture to Big-Moose-size)

Valenten of a Kind: Hello, you fool, I love you

(More Ten of a Kind here.)

Mystery Science Valentine: What to Do on a Date

"What to Do on a Date" (1950), directed by Ted Peshak. MSTed version from Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode #503 (1993), featuring Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, and Kevin Murphy

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Whatcha readin', Ben?

In this panel from Fantastic Four #134, Ben Grimm shows off his good taste in reading material, courtesy of a comic book cover cleverly statted into the artwork:
FF #134 panel

Sadly, although The Thing is still an eager comic book fan, Worlds Unknown is no longer being published. So, what would Ben Grimm be reading today, hmm? I wonder...

FF #134 panel

Or maybe he's lookin' at...
FF #134 panel

What do you think Ben is reading?

FF #134 panel
Photoshop hints: Resize your comic book cover down to 146 pixels wide at 72 dpi, and tilt it 11.5 degrees to the left. Increase the size of the canvas around the comic book cover. Copy the panel image above to Photoshop. Select the white area in the FF panel with your magic wand, choose menu select and menu item inverse, copy, and paste onto the comic book cover canvas.

Hey, this is my one thousandth post on the blog! Thanks for the continuing fun, folks!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Heroes. Icons. Advertising shills.

Marvel Subscription Ad
Ad printed in Marvel Comics dated July 1983 (this one was in Fantastic Four #256)

Marvel Subscription Ad
Ad printed in Marvel Comics dated August 1981 (this one was in Fantastic Four #232)

Marvel Subscription Ad
Ad printed in Marvel Comics dated August 1980 (this one was in Fantastic Four #221)

Marvel Subscription Ad
Ad printed in Marvel Comics dated December 1980 (this one was in Fantastic Four #225)

Monday, February 11, 2008

An Afternoon with Jeff Smith

Sundays around the Bully household are usually a pretty simple affair. Sleep until ten, get up, make Eggo waffles, watch cartoons, take a nap or's all pretty casual on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Unless, of course, there's an expedition to be made and someone exciting to see, in which case I'm bounding out of bed at dawn and tugging on my sweater, eager and ready to get out into the world. What could make Bully so excitable on a quiet Sunday? Why, an appearance by Bone creator Jeff Smith at Symphony Space in Manhattan, as part of the popular Thalia Kid's Club series in the theater with the greatest name in the universe: The Leonard Nimoy Thalia! It's the logical place to have an event.

This very special Sunday begins not with Eggos but with brunch out at Cousin John's in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I'm having Eggs Benedict Arnold. Don't turn your back on them!

My good pal Randi was very sweet and shared her pamcakes with me. PAMCAKES! Yet another reason why Randi has great taste: she can pick a crackerjack breakfast item. Do not pour me on the pamcakes, Randi!:

I didn't take any photos of the Jeff Smith stage event at the Nimoy Thalia, but he put on a fantastic show. It was mainly geared towards kids, and there were a few hundred pre-teens and their parents in the audience, many of them clutching well-worn and frequently-read copies of the various volumes of Bone. Jeff was introduced and interviewed on stage by Matthew Cody (author of the upcoming young adult superhero adventure Powerless). Narrating a slide show of artwork, Jeff explained his influences (introducing the kids to Carl Barks's Uncle Scrooge and C. C. Beck's Captain Marvel), showed off pages from his childhood Bone comics, and explained how he designs and draws covers by showing several sketches in progress for the Scholastic Bone series and why he and the designers picked the final versions they did for excitement and drama.

Jeff then had all the kids in the audience draw a character on a supplied sheet of paper. His only instruction: "make your character either happy or angry." He then showed off a few dozen of the kids' drawings on the big screen and asked each one of the young artists to talk about their character and what was going on in the drawing. I was impressed by the skill and range of these young artists (me, I can barely hold a crayon! Well, it's more difficult with hooves). A huge number of them drew their own original creations, and some even broke up their paper into comic panels with action and story sequence. Jeff was full of praise for their work, pointing out some of the visual shorthand older comics fans take for granted: speed lines, furrowed eyebrows to express anger, posture as a function of strength or action—these kids had the fundamentals, and all were eager and excited to talk to the crowd about their creations. I especially liked one kid who had designed a character named "Grandpa" and his various alter-egos, including "Baby Grandpa." I would so buy a comic book named "Baby Grandpa."

A Q&A session finished up the stage show, with only one rule: "kids can ask questions, adults can't." Excellent rule, as the kids came up with great questions about where Jeff got his ideas, where the Bones' names came from (Fone Bone? From Don Martin's frequently Fonebone characters), and why the stupid, stupid rat creatures have trimmed ears and tails. Jeff was fantastic with the kids: encouraging, funny, and patient.

The event then moved to the Symphony Space café, where Jeff signed books and talked with the kids for about another hour and a half, the line snaking around the seating area and up the stairs. I patiently stood in line to meet Jeff, and the wait went by fast, thanks to spending time chatting with the delightful Randi:

I love Randi! She is so nice to me. Thanks for taking me to see Jeff Smith, Randi!

At last I got up to the table and got to meet the Great Man himself. He was very cheerful as I chatted with him for a moment. I believe I was the only stuffed bull he's had come out to one of his signings.

Even though he'd already signed a bajillion books so far that afternoon, he kindly signed my big Bone phone book and sketched me a quick drawing of Fone Bone and Ted the Bug. Thanks, Jeff!

When we came out of the Leonard Nimoy Thalia it was starting to snow! I was glad I'd worn my warm winter fleece hoodie:

Snowflakes were as big as canned hams by the time we reached the subway entrance. Quick, into the subway before we get turned into snowmen! And snowbulls. And snowrandis.

Coming in from the snow on a cold Sunday afternoon, there's no better treat than a steaming mug of hot chocolate with mini-marshmallows:

In fact, the only thing better than just a mug of hot cocoa is reading Bone while you sip it! Thanks for a great fun day, Jeff Smith!

Read Jeff Smith's blog entry on the event at

A Wodehouse a Week #42: Ice in the Bedroom

A Wodehouse a Week banner

It's frigid as a penguin's icebox outside, so what better time to crack open the frosty and refreshing goodness of Ice in the Bedroom (1961), by P. G. Icehouse...I mean Wodehouse. Thing is, that ice in the title is not the type you drop in your Coca-Cola. You can't get ice in your Coke in the UK! No, that's "ice" as in "jewels"...and you know that in a Wodehouse book someone's out to steal those jewels. Rest assured, we're not going to see a Mission: Impossible-style heist, especially since the criminals are our old friends Soapy and Dolly Molloy, confidence tricksters and burglars, who we've seen before in Pearls, Girls, and Monty Bodkin (and who appear in other Wodehouse novels I've not gotten to yet). To make the Wodehouseverse hang even tighter together, the action takes place in London suburb Valley Fields, setting of Big Money and Something Fishy, and the hero is Freddie Widgeon, Bertie Wooster's Drones club comrade. See how it all hangs together? Brilliant, that Wodehouse.

Freddie's fallen in love with Sally Foster. Hey, our second Sally of the month! (Perhaps February is Sally Month here at A Wodehouse a Week!) Sally is, of course, like all Wodehouse heroines worthy of the name Sally, bright and clever. So what, we might wonder, would she want with Freddie? Especially when she finds out he's a bit of a flirt-about-town:
'I suppose if all the girls Freddie Widgeon has been in love with were placed end to end—not that one could do it, of course—they would reach from Piccadilly Circus to Hyde Park Corner. Further than that, probably, because some of them were pretty tall.'
Wodehouse doesn't do the let's us do it, shall we?:


Ignoring the fact that Piccadilly is one way moving towards Piccadilly Circus, It's 1.6 miles from Piccadilly Circus to Hyde Park Corner. That's 8,448 feet. Assuming the average London beauty is about 5'5" (taller if she went to St Edmund's Church of England Girls' School and Sports College), that means Freddie has been pitching woo at approximately...(tapping nervously at my pocket calculator and checking my results carefully)...Golly! Fifteen hundred sixty girls! Freddie, you cad!

She works as secretary for romance writer Leila Yorke, my favorite character of the novel. Despite her output, Leila is no lyrical romantic soul (like Bingo Little's wife Rosie M. Banks); there's nothing sappy about the author of the sentimental classics Sweet Jennie Dean and Cupid, the Archer. Quite the reverse, in fact:
There was a frown on Leila Yorke's brow, as if she had temporarily suspended the thinking of lovely thoughts and had turned to others of an inferior grade.

'You look peeved," said Sally, noticing this.

'I'm feeling peeved,' said Miss Yorke. 'What was that bell I heard?'

'That was the County starting to call. A Mr Cornelius. I don't know who he is.'

'He's the house agent. Keeps rabbits.'

'Oh, does he? Well, he likes to be neighbourly, so he brought you the Sunday papers.'

'Bless him. Just what I wanted.'

'And thirty-two of your books, to be autographed.'

'Curse him. May his rabbits get myx-whatever-it-is.'

'And he wants you to give a little talk to his literary society which meets every second Tuesday.'

'Oh, hell!'

'Keep calm. I got you out of it. I told him you were thinking out a new novel.'

Leila Yorke snorted bitterly.
She curses, she's a hard drinker, she wants to write an important and bleak urban novel—Leila Yorke is the Mickey Spillane of Wodehouse. I picture her played by Elaine Stritch. Despite her hard edges, she's not instrumental in playing Cupid to Freddie and Sally, but is the subject of a love story herself as her ex-husband Joe, the snake charmer, slithers lovingly back into her life.

I'm always delight when Wodehouse gets off a jolly poke at publishing, and the caustic but charming Leila Yorke is his mouthpiece to simplify the publishing process to its bare skeleton.
'...I shut myself up in my room and wrote my first novel. It was Heather o' the Hills. Ever read it?'

'Of course.'

'Pure slush, but it was taken by Popgood and Grooly, and didn't do too badly, and they sent the sheets over to Singleton Brothers in New York, who turn out books like sausages and don't' care how bad they are, so long as they run to eighty thousand words. They chucked it into the sausage machine and twiddled the handle and darned if it wasn't one if the biggest sellers they had that season. What's known as a sleeper.'
Ladies and gentlemen, take it from me, a little stuffed bull who gets to help out at a New York publisher: that's the entire publishing business boiled to down its bare essentials.

What's this all got to do with ice, you ask? Well, the Molloys have stolen an armful of jewelry from the wife of Oofy Prosser (Freddie's rich fellow Drone). How rich is he? So rich he even has a car registered in the United States, as I discovered recently walking down the street:

But I digress. Soap and Dolly have stashed in jewels in the Valley Fields house Lelia Yorke is leasing (at the suggestion of Freddie), so the devious married criminals will stop at nothing to get into the house by hook or by...aptly...crook. Soapy poses as a fan of Leila's novels (foiled when she recognizes him as selling her some worthless silver mine stock earlier); they have dozens of cats and dogs and snakes delivered to the house in hopes of chasing her out, and Dolly impersonates a reporter to interview Leila, thwarted when she has to duck out of the house into the pouring rain to avoid discovery by the visiting Mrs. Oofy P. Dolly of course runs into Freddie's house next door, soaked to the skin, and of course the overwhelmed but gracious Freddie's going to offer Dolly a pair of his pajamas while her clothes dry, and of course he's going to offer to bandage her scraped knee, and of course Sally's going to walk in on this suggestive scene...but I never pictured it as this saucy, sexy book cover:
Ice in the Bedroom

Golly. This cheeky Pan paperback edition makes it seem like an segment from the infamous British sex farce Confessions of a Window Cleaner, which I, being a little stuffed bull, can't watch. But you can.) Somehow I don't think this is quite what P. G. Wodehouse had in mind. Maybe if he'd been N. C. 17. Wodehouse.

My copy of Ice in the Bedroom, a Coronet mass market paperback picked up during my first-ever visit to the UK, is much less suggestive and much more fanciful: a slightly gormless Freddie and a perky pretty Sally (and a couple escaped suburban rabbits) pose in front of the wardrobe on which is stashed a king's ransom in Oofyjewels. You'll need quite a bit of ready cash yourself to pick up the out of print Ice: there's no current edition available in either the US or UK, which is a pity, actually—it's one of Wodehouse's more charming later non-series comedy-romances, and the character of Leila Yorke is a fiery dynamo that spices up the whimsy. It's my favorite (so far) of the Valley Fields suburban novels, which only goes to show: Wodehouse doesn't have to limit himself to city or country to be in top form. It's as fresh today as it was in the early 1960s when it was first published. Even if some editions appear to be adverts for Knickerbox:
Ice in the Bedroom

A Wodehouse a Week Index.

Mystery Science Monday: Here Comes the Circus!

"Here Comes the Circus" (1946), MSTed version from Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode #522 (1993)

Sunday, February 10, 2008