To see the complete Chapter 1, use the following link;https://catchafallingstarbook.net/2018/11/24/hidden-kingdom-chapter-1-complete/
Believe it or not, I read this entire 100+year-old book in my car while waiting for my daughter and my son in school parking lots. What a perfectly ironic way to read a soaring imaginary adventure written by Mark Twain and mostly forgotten about by the American reading public.
My copy of this old book is a 1965 edition published for school libraries of a book written in 1894. It tells the story of how Tom and Huck and Jim steal a ride on a balloon at a town fair from a somewhat mentally unhinged professor of aeronautical science. The balloon, which has space-age travel capabilities due to the professor’s insane genius, takes them on an accidental voyage to Africa.
Of course, the insane professor intends to kill them all, because that’s what insane geniuses do after they prove how genius-y they really are. But as he tries to throw Tom into the Atlantic, he only manages to plunge himself through the sky and down to an unseen fate. The result being a great adventure for the three friends in the sands of the Sahara. They face man-eating lions, mummy-making sandstorms, and a chance to land on the head of the Sphinx.
The entire purpose of this book is to demonstrate Twain’s ability to be a satirical stretcher of the truth, telling jokes and lies through the unreliable narrator’s voice of Huck Finn.
Here is a quoted passage from the book to fill up this review with words and maybe explain just a bit what Twain is really doing with this book;
Notice how I doubled my word count there without typing any of the words myself? Isn’t the modern age wonderful?
But there you have it. This book is about escaping every-day newspaper worries. In a time of Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, global warming, and renewed threats of thermonuclear boo-boos with Russia, this proved to be the perfect book to float away with on an imaginary balloon to Africa. And the book ends in a flash when Aunt Polly back in Hannibal wants Tom back in time for breakfast. I really needed to read this book when I picked it up to read it.
How does one use the mind to move from one place to another? Is teleportation by mental ability possible? Can we find new ways to travel using only the mind? New worlds to travel to? Of course! Anything is possible once you realize there are no barriers to human imagination. It is possible to traverse even the beginning and the end of the universe itself.
Case in point, I have as a cartoonist tried to come up with novel ways to travel. In Catch a Falling Star I imagined that an engineering prodigy and a scientific genius used recovered alien technology to turn an 1889 steam locomotive with a pair of Pullman passenger cars into a space vehicle using an old hot air balloon and Yankee ingenuity. They used it to fly to Mars.
A friend who read that book, Stuart R. West, who writes teenage horror story mysteries (Here’s a link to Stuart’s stuff!) suggested an idea for an illustrated children’s book about three kids that feed bubble gum to a goldfish. The goldfish urps up a bubble that ends up carrying them off on an adventure through the sky. I drew a possible illustration for that book and killed the idea completely dead. I have a secret super power for taking cute and funny ideas and turning them into things that are totally unmarketable. I wonder if that makes me a super villain instead of a hero. So, the cartoonist in me had to develop other ways to travel that are even more ridiculous.
In Clowntown, a part of my Atlas of Fantastica cartoon, you travel the downtown Clowntown skyway by being flipped and flung along the Clowntown Trapeze-way. It makes for a harrowing ride and it’s really heck to use for trips to the grocery store or coming home again with packages to carry.
Travelling in the part of Fantastica dominated by pirates is even worse. Traveling by the science of Boomology means getting shot out of a cannon naked to get wherever you need to go. It is not something I would want to try in real life, but the cartoon me seems to not enjoy it with only minor bumps and bruises.
So, travelling by means of the mind alone, through imagination, is quite possible… and probably infinitely unwise.
Canto 149 – Hassan Parker’s Dilemma
Ged had gathered his best telepaths in the room within the Ancient Dragon Starship that was now designated the “Library.” The large volume of The Book of Shan’s Prophecy, the one that belonged to Naylund Smith, had been moved into the center of the room and been given to Billy Iowa to oversee studying it with clairvoyance and telepathy. The sinister Ancient device called the Tesserah also sat in the library, bubbling and percolating in evil greens and purples like a slowly-building pressure-cooker bomb. Ged meant to also study it with clairvoyance and telepathy, hoping to develop some kind of control over the doomsday device’s malevolence.
“Now, who among you do we generally agree is the most powerful telepath?” Ged asked.
Billy looked at Sara. Sara looked at Hassan. Hassan looked at Junior. Junior looked back at Sara. Nobody looked at Gyro. And Phoenix refused to look up from the floor.
“Any of us can interact with the book,” said Billy finally.
“You know that we are not really talking about the book,” said Ged. “That… thing… that is what we need to safely probe and understand better. We know it is telepathic. We also know it is both evil and extremely dangerous.”
“Junior is the one that can talk to artificial minds with artificial intelligence.” Billy looked at Junior apologetically after saying it.
“It defends itself against me too powerfully,” said Junior. “I can’t get past the wall of pain. It thinks in color, mostly green and black. But that’s all I can tell you so far.”
“I tried to probe it, and it started telling me how it was going to take over my mind and make me kill others, especially those I love,” said Sara, shaking her head.
“Gyro was able to help me get past the wall of pain by manipulating the hydrogen atoms in the device,” confessed Phoenix. “But it immediately took hold of my pyro power. It would’ve used my fire force on everybody if Hassan hadn’t used his telepathy to yank me out of the Tesserah again. I suppose I owe him my life.”
“Hassan is the most powerful telepath among all of us,” said Billy.
“But what if the Tesserah takes over his mind? We would all be doomed,” said Phoenix.
“That’s my worry too,” confessed Hassan. “It’s looking for ways to defeat us and destroy us all.”
“My clairvoyance and Phoenix’s clairvoyance have both seen the Tesserah using Hassan to slay us all,” said Billy. “I can definitely handle the book. I can find the answers you need there. But I am no match for the thing.”
“Hard as it is for me to say this, I can’t handle the thing either. I don’t even think I should be near it when it is being studied.” Phoenix looked morosely at the floor again.
“I think we have to work together,” suggested Sara. “Alone none of us can defeat it. But Phoenix and Gyro together were able to briefly get in using combined powers the thing wasn’t prepared for.”
“I’m pretty sure I can be of help to whoever leads the effort,” said Junior. “But I’m not a potential leader of the effort either.”
Hassan looked squarely at the bubbling Tesserah and then turned his gaze towards Ged. “I think it has to be me that takes the lead. But I will definitely need Junior, Sara, and possibly Gyro to help. And anything Billy can find in the prophecy to help would be greatly appreciated.
Ged looked at the handsome, naked child standing there resolutely before him.
“Yes, Hassan. I haven’t read very far in the book and understood hardly any of it, but I believe you are the one the book says can defeat the monster of ultimate destruction… or whatever the damned thing really is.” Ged reached out and clapped the willfully nude boy on the shoulder and smiled at him. And he also felt the boy enter his mind to verify that he was not lying as he said it.
This is, perhaps, my best drawing in colored pencil.
I gave you fair warning. Pogo has been coming to Mickey’s Catch a Falling Star Blog for a while now. So, if you intended to avoid it, TOO BAD! You are here now in Okefenokee Swamp with Pogo and the gang, and subject to Mickey’s blog post about Walt Kelly and his creations.
Walt Kelly began his cartoon hall-of-fame career in 1936 at Walt Disney Studios. If you watch the credits in Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Dumbo, you will see Walt listed as an animator and Disney artist. In fact, he had almost as much influence on the Disney graphic style as Disney had on him. He resigned in 1941 to work at Dell Comics where he did projects like the Our Gang comics that you see Mickey smirking at here, the Uncle Wiggly comics, Raggedy Ann and Andy comics, and his very own creations like Pogo, which would go on to a life of its own in syndicated comics. He did not return to work at Disney, but always credited Disney with giving him the cartoon education he would need to reach the stratosphere.
Pogo is an alternate universe that is uniquely Walt Kelly’s own. It expresses a wry philosophy and satirical overview of our society that is desperately needed in this time of destructive conservative politics and deniers of science and good sense.
Pogo himself is an every-man character that we are supposed to identify with the most. He is not the driver of plots and doings in the swamp, rather the victim and unfortunate experiencer of those unexpectable things. Life in Okefenokee is a long series of random events to make life mostly miserable but always interesting if approached with the right amount of Pogo-ism.
And Pogo was always filled with cute and cuddly as well as ridiculous.
As a boy, I depended on the comic section of the Sunday paper to make sense of the world for me. If I turned out slightly skewed and warped in certain ways, it is owing to the education I myself was given by Pogo, Lil Abner, Dagwood Bumstead, and all the other wizards from the Sunday funnies. There was, of course, probably no bigger influence on my art than the influence of Walt Kelly.
So what more can I say about Walt Kelly? I haven’t yet reached the daily goal of 500 words. And yet, the best way to conclude is to let Walt speak for himself through the beautiful art of Pogo.
It is the goal of those who write humor to reveal truth and make you laugh about it. Unexpected truth is funny. It is also the main reason that far-right political kooks have no sense of humor Simply put, for the evil and stupid people who are taking over this country, truth is not funny. It is the enemy.
The fact that so many who are quick to argue cannot be quieted by a joke anymore means that the conversation can’t end until they’ve owned the libtard, or punched him in the face… or worse, shot him dead with their beloved Second-Amendment Rights.
And a source of that evil is the whole conservative-bubble propaganda wheels that never stop turning on Fox News, Breitbart, One America News, and Stormfront publications.
They take up arms against the things they fear. And they fear those people that their propaganda wheels identify for them as the “other.” That means people of color, Democrats, liberals, ANTIFA (which stands for anti-fascists, and as far as I can tell are mostly fictional… which prevents me from joining them,) and intellectuals (meaning anybody that is smarter than they are… specifically me.)
The most frustrating thing about the armies of evil is that they are made up of good, basically God-fearing, fine-hearted people who would do anything for you if you are identified as a member of their group by the color of your skin or your support of their glorious leader Don Cheetoh Trumpaloney. Unfortunately the consumption of propaganda from their fear-centered and conspiracy-theory-prone propaganda wheels stimulates the fear centers of their amygdalas (also known as their lizard brains) and suppresses their natural empathy to the point of being able to do violence in the name of leaders who are basically robbing them, conning them, and laughing about it behind their backs.
And the leaders who are doing all of this, they are the primary beneficiaries of corporate greed and control of politics to the point that they can make more profits than ever from fossil fuels at a time when the planet is dying from green-house gasses that cause fires in the western States and the ferocity of Hurricane Ian in Florida.
So, what are people who would rather see good happen than have the world die in fire and a hail of bullets going to do about it?
We can vote. Here are the names of some people who support evil ideas and have made lots of money in their respective offices; Ron DeSantis (Mickey Mouse’s new nemesis), Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Greg Abbott (Evil Emperor of Texas,) Marco Rubio (enemy of immigrants everywhere,) and basically anyone who rules with a Maga hat on, or calls himself a Trump Republican.
We have to keep fighting for public education, fair and equal and well-funded, free of book banning in school libraries that target classic works of black authors, gay authors, truth-tellers, and authors of science books that include climate change and evolution as scientifically established, and willing to treat kids as valuable learners no matter what color, religion, ethnicity, culture, or sexual orientation they are blessed with. Kids are kids and deserve love and respect (even the naked ones, though I am not advocating for nude schools… that’s just a joke.)
We have to treat the aggrieved and fearful members of the evil armies not as evil, but as our misguided brothers and sisters, neighbors, useful members of society, and people who can be reminded that they do have good hearts, and only cold-hearted lunatics and despots are truly evil.
And I will continue trying to open eyes and hearts with humor. Hopefully the kind that brings smiles and laughter. But also the kind that brings tears and self-examination as necessary. (Of course, I can’t promise to be good at it. Funny is in the brain of the laugher after all.)
It has come to my attention that the need for super heroes has reached a critical point in our history. I have been watching television documentaries about Green Arrow and the Flash, and now there is a new one, Supergirl. And I didn’t miss all the media attention when Robert Downey Jr. formed a super team of powerful people and destroyed a European country so thoroughly that I can’t find it on a map anywhere. So, wanting to get in on the action, I decided I needed a super power of my own. And I know what it is. I am not strong. I am not fast. I am not as smart as Robert Downey Jr. who is both Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man. So I have to settle for one of those second tier super powers. Like sarcasm.
Unbeknownst to most who know me, I went away to the far oriental country of Kathman-dooki to study under an ancient master. His name was Aiknowyooare Butwhattami, ancient master of the Shaolin art of Sarcasto Fu. He was the one who taught me to meditate on the foibles of people I don’t like and the pet peeves that drive me to despise them. He taught me that a well-placed sarcastic comment, like a well-thrown dagger, can cut right to the heart.
“You must focus your ire on the words you say, Grassstomper, to give the desired meaning to words that actually mean the opposite of what you mean to mean… in order to be mean,” said the ancient master.
“That makes perfect sense to me,” I said with a leftward eye-roll.
“Excellent, oh bug-headed one, you inflected that just right to hurt me fatally without revealing your witlessly shallow stupidity.”
I smiled at the praise as he wrote a big letter “F” on my report card.
But if I choose to use sarcasm as my super power, I have the unfortunate problem of competing with the super hero known as Sarcasto Man. He has previously seized on this notion that you can defeat super villains by sarcastically shaming them into committing oriental ritual suicide… called Hairy Kurie, or something like that. Or was that ornamental suicide? You know, the kind that decorates the sides of your house with dark reds and crimsons. I think you do it with a sword… or cut your own head off with a butter knife or something weird like that. Anyway, Sarcasto Man has told me that he achieves his super-power effects by holding a very high opinion of himself and talking down to everyone else around him. He was supposed to become part of a super hero team, but failed at the task because his sarcasm caused as many suicides among his teammates as it did amongst his super-villain enemies and their minions. In fact, he could not use the power on minions very well because they are usually too stupid to understand that you actually mean the opposite of what you are saying.
“It was very discouraging after I defeated the Mangling Mingler,” Sarcasto Man told me, “because after he cut his own head off with a butter knife, his minions, the Mingle Men, blamed me for his death and started pelting me with rocks. I got such a bunch of red welts on my buttocks. Fortunately my head is rock-proof.” (Did I forget to mention that using sarcasm as a super power is greatly aided by having a very thick skull?)
I began to despair of ever achieving levels of sarcasm-ness to be in his league. So I started looking for alternatives that were close in content, but different in application. I briefly thought about using irony instead of sarcasm. Tim the Turtle Boy (whom I interviewed as a potential boy sidekick… um, not trying to be gay or anything) demonstrates my irony skill by holding up his magical cast-iron flat iron with which he either creates irony or flattens out the super villain’s clothing wrinkles. Well, maybe I am not all that clear on how one becomes a superhero, and I don’t want to make Robert Downey Jr. mad by trying to become Irony Man and crowding his personal shtick. He might use sarcasm on me and suggest I would make a really great Pun-Man. You know, killing villains with really bad puns and jokes that turn your head inside out. That would be a truly shameful thing.
I spent some time this last week taking photos of artwork. You see, I bought a new phone a year ago, and the camera installed in it was of much better quality than I had before, even in my digital camera which I mysteriously lost more than a year ago. But, though I played with it a lot in the last year, I only started using it to photograph artwork recently. It makes better digital images of my art than I had before.
The new camera can capture the subtleties of a pure pencil drawing better than any camera I have ever used.
I love this picture… even if Disney sues me over it.
I love this one too. Remember it from yesterday? This is the same digital image made on Wednesday.
Here’s a nude faun to celebrate getting kicked off Pinterest a second time (though this time there was no actual nudity in the picture I got kicked off for… and it was not even my own picture.) (Is there something wrong with cartoon furries?)
Valerie Clarke and her Daddy Kyle.
The question before me now is, “What do you know, and how do you know it for certain?”
Well, I really don’t know anything. How do I know that I don’t know anything? Well, Socrates always told everyone who would listen that he didn’t know anything for certain, and he is obviously much smarter than I am. So, being super-stupid by comparison, I don’t even know as much as Socrates.
So, like Socrates, I need to ask questions. But who will I ask? I can look at the picture above for answers, and I can ask you, the reader, the questions.
The picture is one of the most favorite ones I have ever drawn. By that I mean it is one of the pictures I drew with colored pencils that I like the best. It is, therefore, basically a self portrait of things inside my silly head.
Do the soldiers look familiar to you? If they do, it is probably because, like me, you have seen the soldiers from Disney’s Babes in Toyland. Hopefully they are just generic enough that Disney wont sue me for modeling this fantasy on something I saw in their copyrighted movie. I didn’t intentionally copy anything, and I have never knowingly made a single dime off of this picture. So, they don’t need to sue me, right?
Okay, those weren’t Socratic questions. They were leading and focused questions. So, let’s start the Socratic stuff.
Do you see anything in the picture that is innocent and childlike? Could this be illustrating a childish fear of the darkness? Did you notice the darkness they are marching towards on the left of the picture? Could this also be showing a progression towards maturity? Are the children and the soldiers not approaching that darkness… whatever it might be? Are they not getting more prepared to face the darkness as they get closer to it? The weapon pointed straight at the darkness is the bugle. Does the bugle, being an instrument for announcing something in combat, not have some symbolic meaning here? Does the darkness they are approaching not represent something like death? Does the boy with the drum suggest how we might deal with the darkneness in our own too-near future?
So, did you learn anything from this post?
I am asking because…
…I don’t really know anything.
I am certainly no expert on the Golden Age of Comics. I was, in fact, born the year that the Golden Age ended. I am a child of the Silver Age (1956 to the early 1970s) and those were the comics I grew up with. But I admit to a fascination with the initial creation of the characters I love, including Batman, Superman, the Flash, Captain America, the Phantom, Steve Canyon, Wonder Woman and numerous others who were first put on the comic book pages in the Golden Age. And being subject to comic book prices that zoomed upward from a dollar an issue, I was bedazzled by the ten cent price on old comics.
Comic books owe their creation to the popular newspaper comic strips from the Depression era and WWII wartime. Originally, comic strips were gathered and printed on cheap paper. Dick Tracy, Prince Valiant, Terry and the Pirates, Flash Gordon, and other adventure strips would lead to the war comics and hero-centered comics that would morph into superhero comics.
Some of the artwork in Golden Age comics leaves a lot to be desired. Especially original, straight to comic book publications that were produced fast and furiously by publishers who would open one week, produce three issues. and go out of business three weeks later. But in the mad scramble, some truly great artists formed the start of their illustrious careers, Will Eisner, Hal Foster, Milt Caniff, and Bill Elder learned to master their craft in the newspaper strips, and all later created comic books and graphic novels. True geniuses like Jack “King” Kirby and Bob Kane and Jack Davis grew directly from comic book studio madhouses into comic-book-artist immortality.
As with most things that have a Golden Age, the truth was that later comic book eras were superior in most ways. But this Golden Age was the foundational age for an American art-form that I truly love. So, flaws and warts are overlooked. And some of these old ten cent books on super-cheap paper are worth huge amounts of money if you still have a rare one in mint condition. Ah, there’s the rub for a manic old collector guy like me.
Most of the Golden Age comic book images used for this post were borrowed from the ComicsintheGoldenAge Twitter page @ComicsintheGA. If you love old comics like I do, you should definitely check it out.