Tag Archives: artwork

Big Eyes

141202210752_margaret_keane_304x171_margaretkeaneYesterday, before the big game, I watched the DVD I bought of Tim Burton’s Golden Globe Award movie, Big Eyes.  It is the true-story bio-pic of an artist I loved as a kid, Margaret Keane… though I knew her as Walter Keane.

This movie is the bizarre real-life tale of an artist whose art was stolen from her by a man she loved, and supposedly loved her back.  I have to wonder how you deal with a thing like that as an artist?  I live in obscurity as an artist.  My art has been published in several venues, but I have never been paid a dime for it.  All I have ever gotten is publication in return for “exposure”, and limited exposure at that.  But my art always brought vigor, joy, and light to my career as a school teacher.  My art was always my own, and had either my own name on it, or the name Mickey on it.  I shared my drawing skill in ways that directly impacted the lives of other people.  It enriched my “teacher life”.

Mrs. Keane’s hauntingly beautiful big-eyed children appealed to the cartoonist in me.  They expressed such deeply-felt character and emotion, that I was obsessed with imitating them.  In fact, the “big-eye-ness” of them can still be detected in some of my work.  I remember wondering how these children, mostly girls, could be drawn by a grown man.  What was his obsession with little girls?  But the true story reveals that he was a man so desperate to have art talent and notoriety that he put his name on his wife’s work, made her paint in secret, and eventually convinced himself that it was actually his.  He had a real genius for marketing art, and he invented many of  the art-market ploys that would later inform the careers of homely artists like Paul Detlafsen and Thomas Kinkaid.  One wonders if Mrs. Keane could’ve ever become famous and popular without him.

 

The movie itself is a Tim Burton masterpiece that reveals the artist that lives within the filmmaker himself.  I love Burton’s movies for their visual mastery and artistic atmosphere.  They are all very different in look and feel.  Batman was very dark and Gothic, inventing an entirely new way of seeing Batman that differed remarkably from the 60’s TV series.  Edward Scissorhands was full of muted, pastel colors and gentle humor.  Alice in Wonderland was full of bright colors and oddly distorted fantasy characters.  Dark Shadows was Gothic melodrama in 70’s pop-art style.  This movie was true to the paintings that inspired it and visually saturate it.  It is beautiful and colorful, while also serious and somber.  It makes you contemplate the tears in the eyes of the big-eyed waifs in so many of the pictures.  It is a movie “I love with a love that is more than a love in this kingdom by the sea”… if I may get all obsessive like Edgar Allen Poe.

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So, there you have it.  Not so much a movie review as an effusion of love and admiration for an artist’s entire life and work.  I am captivated… fascinated… addicted… all the things I always feel about works of great art.

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Rabbit People

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On days when I am still recovering from life-altering blows, I often try to find new realms, alternate realities to live in.  (Retreating into a fantasy world is one of the reasons she gave for leaving.)  And since, as a youth in Iowa, I raised rabbits for a 4-H project, I know rabbits better than I do human people.  Rabbits are people too.  So, I have been walking among the rabbit people.  Seriously, bunnies are better people than most human people.  They are not trying to profit off you.  They are not trying to get everything they can off you.  They are merely there to wiggle their whiskers, sniff for food, poop, gnaw on stuff, and make more bunnies.

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I often see myself as a rabbit person.  In cartoon form, I am the bunny-man teacher known to the Animal Town School System as Mr. Reluctant Rabbit.

As a teacher, I am always pulling out carrots of irony and gnawing on the ends of them in front of students.  If they complain that eating food in class is supposed to be against the rules, I ask them, “Do you want a carrot of irony?”

“Oh, no, thank you sir.”

“They are good for your eyesight as well as your insight.  You really ought to chew on healthier things like that.”

“Oh, no sir,” they say.  “We prefer Hot Cheetos.”

And so, I taught on like that… like a rabbit, fast and frumious (a Jabberwocky sort of word), and never really bit anybody.  Teaching is like that.  You offer the good healthy stuff to nourish their little animal minds, and they always choose the junk food instead.

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And so life goes on like that.  Looking to rabbit people to ease my pain and need for good, wholesome carrots of irony.

I have  recently run a free-book promotion on The Bicycle-Wheel Genius.One of the main characters in the book is Tommy Bircher’s pet rabbit Millis.   During the course of the story about invading aliens, Secret Agent Robots from the CIA, and making friends when you need friends, Millis is turned into a rabbit-man by a lab accident.  He teaches Tommy that you don’t have to be human to be a good, caring, self-sacrificing person.  He also teaches him to eat his carrots and greens like a good boy should.

So, I will spend more time with the rabbit people and heal a little bit.  That is what you do with the tragedy that life brings you.  You spin it into whole cloth, making humor and poetry out of everything bad that happens… wrapping yourself up in a comforting blanket of lies (you can also call those fiction stories), and eating a little chicken soup on a cold day to heal your soul.  (Oh, I forget, rabbits often gag on chicken soup.  Let’s make that bean soup with carrot chunks.)

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Damn Lies, White Lies, Stretchers, and Wild Hoo-Haws

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**This is a classic post from January, 2015 that is still somewhat relevant… Unless I’m lying.**

There are limits to what people will believe.  No really, there are, I promise.  You can believe me because I’m a fiction writer, a story-teller, and I therefore tell lies all the time.  I was a teacher for thirty-one years, so I not only tell kids how wonderful they are in order to get good behavior and real learning out of them, but I have been told some of the most convoluted, inside-out, purple-in-the-face hoo-haws that are ever told anywhere in human culture throughout human history, and told them by a child with a straight face, perfectly seriously, and with little red horns holding up their crooked golden halos.  We are taught to misrepresent the truth from early childhood on.

“Do you have to go potty, sweetheart?”

“No, mommy, I jest like to dance.”

“Do you love me, Mortimer?  Or do you just want to get me alone in a car after the prom?”

“Oh, I love you, Alicia.  Really I do!”

“So are you in favor of taxing the oil companies at a fair and balanced rate, Senator, so we have more money to spend on Education and public works?”

“Why, I most certainly do, young voter.  Ignore that man with the “I Love Exxon” button trying to bash me over the head with that Tea Party campaign sign.  Let me kiss that darling little baby of yours.”

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This post was inspired by all the lies told in the State of the Union speech last night by President O’Bama (He’s Irish and a conservative like Bill O’Reilly, isn’t he?)  Now, I am well aware of the white lies the President buttered our bread with.  The economy has actually improved, but not nearly as much as was claimed.  And not nearly enough for someone like me, a white male retired educator with significant health problems living in a Red State under Republican-Nazi governor/emperors who want to privatize education and spend my pension money on tax breaks for billionaires.  But those lies are nothing compared to the damn lies told by the Republican response lady, Ernst from Iowa.  She laid out a plan for undoing everything that’s been done to improve my life by the government since 2008.  The Affordable Care Act is to be repealed.  Tax breaks for “job creators” are going to be re-instituted.  We are going to heal the middle class by deregulating industry and predatory banks and by giving more benefits and goodies to the rich folks who will treat us better than those horrible Democratic liberals who want to turn us all into socialists.  This is coming from the Iowa Senator who won her seat by promising your average pork-eating Iowan to use her “hog-castrating skills” to motivate Democrats in congress to see things her way.  Iowans (of which I once was one of) know good fertilizer when they smell it.  It makes you want to shout, “Hoo-Haw!”  (Yes, it’s true, I once knew an old farm hand that, when he heard a ridiculously contorted lie, would shout “Hoo-Haw!” as a sort of derisive laughter to hear such a funny truth-twister.)

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Lies are our way of life.  We lie about what we think.  We lie about what we feel.  We lie about how we view the world.  We lie about whether or not we tell lies.  Could we live a life without ever lying?  I hate to tell you this, but if I say, “yes”, then it might not be entirely truthful of me.

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Top This!

“Dad?” asked the Princess, “I heard a funny word in school today.  What does Fuddy-Duddy mean?”

“Oh, that’s a good word,” I said.  “It means an old fogey… a stick-in-the-mud.”

“A what?”

“A fussy old guy who likes to have everything his way.  Like, if you accuse your father of being one… which you often do… he’s a fuddy-duddy daddy.”

“Ooh!  I get it!” said Henry, chiming in.  “And if your father is evil, then he’s a fuddy-duddy baddie daddy!

“Yes,” I said, “and if it makes him sad to be evil, he’s a fuddy-duddy saddie baddie daddy!

“If you are not sure he’s really your father,” said the Princess adding a one-up, “he’s a fuddy-duddy saddie baddie maybe daddy!

“Yeah!” said Henry.  “And if you suspect he may have fallen into a time machine and been turned back into an infant, he’s a fuddy-duddy saddie baddie maybe baby daddy!

“Now that he’s a baby again he will surely want to watch his favorite TV show again,” I said with a tear of nostalgia in my eye, “he’ll be a fuddy-duddy saddie baddie maybe baby Howdy Doody daddy!

“What’s Howdy Doody, Daddy?” asked the Princess.

“No,” said Henry, “now you’ve spoiled it.  It just ain’t funny any more.”

“Yes it is!  He’s become a funny bunny fuddy-duddy hoo-dad doo-dad saddie baddie maybe rabies hoo-dah doo-dah…”

“Just stop,” said Henry.  “You always carry things too far.”

“Right you are!” I said.  “See this grin?  It means I win!”

“AW, Daaad!” they both said at the same time.

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Native Americans Invade My Artwork

I don’t know if you’ve seen enough of my colored-pencil Paffooneys to tell this, but for an old white guy, I draw a lot of Native Americans and am rather deeply in love with American Indian images.  You may have seen this dream painting I posted before.

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The girl in the painting is a combination of this warrior’s daughter and myself.  I was naked in the dream and a female, facing this huge ghost-stag.  The dream came while I was reading Hanta Yo by Ruth Beebe Hill.  Maybe that book was the beginning of my Native American obsession.  Who knows?  I am a crazy dreamer.  But that wonderful book turned me on to the rich spiritual life that the Dakota people lived.  I identified with it so completely that I dreamed myself into their culture.  I was also struck by the manner in which a Native American culture handles education.  The grandfather is in charge of the boy’s learning.  He teaches by story-telling.  Here you see the grandfather in Sky Lodge teaching his grandson.  The girls would learn very different things from their mothers and grandmothers.

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I am also entranced by the life of the people expressed in dance and ritual.  Dance has deeper meaning than we white guys normally assign to it.  Dances could be magical.  Of course, the notion of a “rain dance” is the result of too much simplification in movie scripts and ignorant popular white culture.  Dance could connect you to the Earth, the Sky, and the Spirit World.  That’s what this most recent Paffooney shows.

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So, you can see, I don’t really understand the concept of moderation when it comes to my obsessions in the world of colored pencil art.  Hanta Yo!  Clear the Way!  In a sacred manner I come!

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Picture Tricks

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I have discovered things about being an artist by blogging.  I have discovered things by learning from other artists.  I have also discovered things by trial and error.  I have also discovered things by random acts of God.  So let me share some of the ill-gotten picture secrets that I have added to my vast bag of useless incunabula-juice squeezed out with my arcane-secret juicer and internet blogger good luck.

#1.  Save everything arty… as you see above, I have three different pictures of my Catch a Falling Star character Dorin Dobbs, all made from the same pen and ink line drawing.  All the color is digital paint from my computer’s own paint program.  Simple and cheap to do.  Save functions multiply the pretty.

#2.  Splice stuff together and make new stuff…  I have the cheapest possible photo-shop program, but using its entire $7 value every time I paste with it, I am able to create new art out of old.

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New art out of old;

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#3.  Weave things together to create unity…  My art is not for its own sake.  I am not Picasso or Van Gogh.  My art is very much tied to the stories I tell as a writer of Young Adult novels.  (Snow Babies is awaiting its turn with the editors of PDMI LLC Publishers.)

#4.  Promote the art and writing of others…  I have spent a ridiculous amount of internet time stalking artists like Loish and sharing their work on my blog.  Writers too.  I do my little book reports in order to connect the reading and the literary influences I have completed (or stolen from) and show where much of my own style and je nais se quois comes from.  If the artist or writer is still living and notices what I have done, they will often return the favor (hopefully, if they don’t find my work to be an offense against the gods of art).  If they can’t return the favor (because they are quite dead or thoroughly disgusted by me), I have at least associated my work with theirs in the minds of my readers,

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#5.  It’s all about digital photography…  In order to share my colored-pencil menagerie of live Paffoonies on the internet, I have to get better at photography.  I have taken far more photos of drawings in the last two years than I have drawn drawings.  That has not been a life-long way of things.  I love color, and poor photography skills turn out various shades of gray.  Sunlight?  Incandescent?  Fluorescent?   I haven’t discovered that secret yet, but it will never be uncovered if I don;t keep trying.

#5. Find connections that help pull your work together in one big, messy bundle…  Facebook, WordPress, and Deviant-Art are all better forums if you can connect them.  I did this by labeling everything Mickey with a meaningless made-up word that no one else in their right mind would use.   The word is Paffooney.

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A picture search on Google using the words “Beyer Paffooney” gives you an almost complete gallery of my artwork and nonsense.  Googling the word itself yields a link to a plethora of my old blogs.  Do you not know what plethora means?  Try it and you will learn that very good word.

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Autorumination (the reprise)

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(This is a black-and-white cartoon in pen and ink that I have shamelessly colorized with colored pencil.)

    I have to tell you, driving in Texas, especially the “Big D” is taking your life in your hands, gripping that old steering wheel in a grip of death, and trying like heck not to hit any of the myriad things flying in front of you.  I have had in my lifetime three accidents and too many near misses to count.  Drivers that don’t have their number of kills painted on the driver-side door are rare indeed.
    One of the scariest encounters on the road has to be the legendary Texas Killer Grandma.  They have a private club where they get together over knitting and compare the goriest kills they have managed with their oversized automobiles.  These old lady drivers are invariably white-skinned and have hair either of strange shades of blue and periwinkle, or silver, almost chrome.  They have Killer Grandma nicknames like Suicide Sadie and End-It-All Emma.  They drive big black Cadillacs, Buicks, and Mercedes.  They have mostly no-fault insurance that will guarantee they can mash your children in the back end of your family car without jail time, and usually without paying for a penny of your damages.  They cruise around Dallas watching for unwary drivers so they can leap in front without signaling, getting bashed from behind by the victim, and sending the victim swirling off the overpass to a fiery death and dismemberment.  Then they cackle all the way to the next club meeting.
    Killer Grandmas drive a class of vehicle I call the American Wasp Rocket.  These are large, unwieldy vehicles from Ford and GM that wreak havoc with smaller, slower cars, especially foreign-made cars like Toyotas, Subarus, and Volkswagens.  In the northern precincts of Dallas, Austin, and Houston, where these vehicles truly dominate, you will often see BMW, Volvo, or Italian Wasp Rockets, which are almost an oxymoron by their very nature.  (“I only buy them gol’ dang furrin cars iffen they’re status symbols, cause I only buy American, but I figgur high-dollar wagons like them thar Lambourginis count as American too!”)  These cars are all large enough to crush an SUV under their wheels, and, of course, they are only driven at hyper-speeds while winding their way through heavy traffic so the occupants can arrive anywhere they are going FIRST.  Besides Texas Killer Grandmas, there are few other drivers of these vehicles who aren’t over-weight, middle-aged white males who have high-paying white-collar jobs.
    The most common vehicles on Texas highways are, of course, the typical Bubba.  Bubba cars are always pick-up trucks, and almost always Chevys.  In fact, they almost have to be white, red, or brown, or they don’t count as a proper Bubba.  Bubbas drive like Foster Brooks on speed, always weaving, wobbling, wagging, and wrecking.  The highway is their own personal demolition derby, and if they don’t get you with a straight-on hood-smash, they’ll ding you with whatever falls out of the back of their pick-up (beer bottles, kids, used tires, tools, parts of the vehicle that have already fallen off once before, and sometimes ugly wives).
    A more-or-less brain-damaged sub-species of Bubba is the Billy Bob.  They drive Ford pickups, white, red, brown, and sometimes gold.  They will kill you no less quickly than a Bubba, but they do tend to have better insurance.
    Of course, I can’t even talk about Beaner cars.  It is not politically correct, as a young Hispanic student was pointing out to me just two weeks ago.  “I can say I’m a Beaner,” he said, “But you can’t say it because you’re a Gringo Loco.  Only Beaners are allowed to call a Beaner a Beaner.  You could be killed for saying that in the Barrio!  Even for thinking that!”  So, I won’t talk about those cars on the road in the fast lane doing a mere twenty-five miles per hour.  I won’t mention how they have eighteen kids and a Tia Carmen in the back seat and can’t see out with the rear view mirror.  I won’t even talk about the rosary beads, fuzzy dice, and numerous brightly colored stuffed animals that hang from the rear view mirror blocking the windshield also.  It just wouldn’t be nice to talk about that.
    So, I guess I have to sum up with a concluding statement that makes sense out of all of this Texas road-rage and bumper-car nonsense.  It would have to be something like this:  If you ever plan to drive in Texas, be prepared.  Have your burial plot purchased, your insurance paid up, and “Drive Friendly!”

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Chuck Dickens and the Origins of Writing

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Don’t make the mistake of thinking I have any earthly idea where writing comes from or how it began.  I am only talking personal history here, nothing grander or more meaningful.  This post is only self-referential hoo-haw, which is a fancy way of interpreting “conceited crap”.

So, the truth is, I am writing about Charles Dickens because he is the author I most want to become.  True, I rant on and on about Twain and his humor.  And a good deal of my artwork owes everything to Disney, but everything I am good at in writing is based on Dickens.

The first actual Dickens novel that I read was accomplished during my extended illness as a high school sophomore.  I read in bed, both at home and in the hospital, from my library copy of The Old Curiosity Shop.  I was enthralled by the journey and subsequent tragedy of Little Nell.  I thoroughly loathed the villain Daniel Quilp and was roundly thrilled by his well-deserved fatal comeuppance.  It was my first encounter with the master of characters.  I followed that reading with a biography of Dickens that revealed to me for the first time that his characters were based on real people.  Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield was actually Dickens’ own father.  Little Nell was the cousin he dearly loved who died in his arms.    The crafty Fagin was a caricature of a well-known fence named Soloman, a Jew of infamous reputation, but not without his redeeming quality of caring for the orphaned poor.  So it is that I have chosen to make my silly stories about real people in much the same way Dickens did.  If you are now worried that since you know me, you may end up in my books, never fear.  I change names and splice characters together.  You will have to make an effort to recognize yourself.  And, besides, nobody reads my books anyway.

I also like the way Dickens uses young characters and follows them over time as they grow and change.  Oliver Twist was the first child protagonist in English literature.  David Copperfield, Nicholas Nickleby, and Pip in Great Expectations are also like that.  David Copperfield, in fact, is Chuck’s own fictionalized self.  I fully intend to do the same.  It is the reason my books fall into the Young Adult category.  I also intend to employ the same kind of gentle, innocent humor that Dickens used.  I mean to portray things that are funny in a disarming, absurdist way rather than resorting to attack humor and bad words.

There it is, then, my tribute to Charles Dickens, a writer who makes me be who I am and write what I write.  I am not supposed to do Christmas posts because of my avowed religion, but you can consider this to be as close as I can come.  The author of A Christmas Carol… it doesn’t get much more Christmassy than that.

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Tim Burton Movies

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Last night the Princess and I went to see Alice, Through the Looking Glass, the latest Tim Burton movie.  Of course we loved it.  Burton is one of the most interesting story-tellers of our time.  Did you know he is two years younger than me?  And also, like me, he began as a cartoonist and is totally dedicated to the idea that every artist is a surrealist and must exaggerate, elucidate, equivocate, and numerous other things that start with the letter “e” and end with the suffix “ate” simply because that’s how surrealism starts.  You notice a little bit of weirdness in real life and blow it all out of proportion with lies and coloring of meaning and relentless “what-iffing?”  If you don’t see surrealism in those last two sentences of purple paisley prose… then maybe you can see it visually in Burton’s many masterpieces.

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Tim Burton began his legacy as an apprentice Disney animator specializing in stop-motion animation.  But he was just another creative nobody like me until the launch of his small-budget monster hit, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.

Of course, any time you can pull in huge profits for little investments, you will have Hollywood executives ramming the heads of their unpaid interns like battering rams against your door so they can get in and throw money at you.

Hence, Batman.

 

Batman was the first time I actually took notice of Tim.  And not just as a director of a film… eventually two films.  He was gifted at assembling a cast.  And this would work to his advantage as several singular talents attached themselves to him and worked in his movie projects repeatedly.

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And his repeated collaboration with Danny Elfman and his music was easily as great a master-stroke of genius as John Williams with Spielberg and Lucas.

He has repeatedly used his movies to describe and rewrite his own life story as a misunderstood genius flubbing horribly in the quest to fit in with a world full of “regular people”.

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Poster for the film ‘Edward Scissorhands’ (directed by Tim Burton), 1990. (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

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His sense of humor, of course, is distinctly and colorfully bizarre.

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DSTF-0046r JOHNNY DEPP as Barnabas Collins in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ “DARK SHADOWS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

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Burton is, just like me, a child of the 70’s.  He references things like the old gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows, that were a part of his impressionable youth just as they were mine.  He picks stories about things he truly cares about, and that is also just like me.

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So, in a rather bizarre coincidence that is entirely appropriate to surrealists, I love any Tim Burton movie simply because it is a Tim Burton movie.  He is probably me in an alternate dimension.  And as such, I already know I will love his next movie, whatever the heck it is.

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Toonerville, a Place I Once Lived In

There is a place so like the place where my heart and mind were born that I feel as if I have always lived there.  That place is a cartoon panel that ran in newspapers throughout the country from 1913 to 1955 (a year before I was born in Mason City, Iowa).  It was called Toonerville Folks and was centered around the famous Toonerville Trolley.

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Fontaine Fox was born near Louisville Kentucky in 1884.  Louisville, of course is one of the two cities that claims to be the inspiration for Toonerville.  Apparently the old Brook Street Line Trolley in Louisville was always run-down, operating on balls of twine and bailing wire for repair parts.  The people of Pelham, New York, however, point to a trolley ride Fox took in 1909 on Pelham’s rickety little trolley car with a highly enterprising and gossip-dealing old reprobate for a conductor.  No matter which it was, Fox’s cartoon mastery took over and created Toonerville, where you find the famous trolley that “meets all trains”.

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I didn’t learn of the comic strip’s existence until I was in college, but once I found it (yes, I am the type of idiot who researches old comics in university libraries), I couldn’t get enough of it.  Characters like the Conductor, the Powerful (physically) Katrinka, and the terrible-tempered Mr. Bang can charm the neck hair off of any Midwestern farm-town boy who is too stupid to regret being born in the boring old rural Midwest.

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I fancied myself to be just like the infamous Mickey (himself) McGuire.  After all, we have the same first name… and I always lick any bully or boob who wants to put up a fight (at least in my daydreams).

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So, this is my tribute to the cartoonist who probably did more to warp my personality and make me funny (well, at least easy to laugh at! ) than any other influence.  All of the cartoons in this post can be credited to Fontaine Fox.  And all the people in them can be blamed on Toonerville, the town I used to live in, though I never really knew it until far too late.

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