Tag Archives: cartoon review

So Ugly…It’s Beautiful?

Lena the Hyena appeared in Al Capp’s comic strip Li’l Abner in 1946.

Basil Wolverton (1909 to 1978) became famous as a cartoonist by winning a contest. He submitted the picture of Lena to Al Capp’s newspaper strip to answer the question of what Lena, who had been appearing for weeks in Li’l Abner underneath a black square with an editor’s warning printed on it that she was just too ugly to be revealed, actually looked like. Capp ran the contest to depict Lena and selected Wolverton’s drawing from among 500,000 entries. I think Capp got it right when he chose this to be the world’s ugliest woman.

Wolverton had done comics before this one amazingly ugly picture. He did Spacehawk for Target Comics up to 1942, and he did a comic series called Powerhouse Pepper for Timely Comics (which is the company that became Marvel after the 1940’s.) But Lena not only brought him fame, it really started him down the path of his intensely detailed “spaghetti and meatballs” style of rather ugly comic art.

He used millions of little dots and lines to create art that would really soak up the printer’s ink supply and gave his artwork a uniquely “pointillistic” look.

Recognize these as portraits of Presidents and politicians?

Here’s Wolverton’s portrait of Bing Crosby.

And here’s monster movie monarch, Boris Karloff.

But what really made Wolverton’s unique artwork popular and lucrative was his uniquely twisted and downright ugly portraits.

ugh! wotta beauty!

Ain’t this one… um… unique?

He would go on to be featured in Mad Magazine, Cracked, Panic Magazine, and Topp’s trading card series of Ugly Posters. He managed to do work that reached amazing levels of monstrously ugly humorous mastery of pen and ink drawings.

For years Basil made me laugh. But there’s no denying it… Basil masterfully drew really, really ugly artwork.

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I Go Pogo!

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.

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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.

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Walt Kelly's Earth Day comic

Walt Kelly’s Earth Day comic

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.

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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.

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And Pogo was always filled with cute and cuddly as well as ridiculous.

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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.

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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.

Pogo and Mamzelle

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Filed under cartoon review, cartoons, humor, Paffooney

R.D.G.

I have discovered treasure on Netflix.

It should come as no surprise to you that I am as enamored of Japanese Anime as any cartoonist nerd-boy has ever been.

I told you already about Astroboy and the old movie The Magic Boy (1959).  Now witness my newest Anime/Manga love.

If you watched the opening in that video, you will see right away the first, best reason I have to fall in love with this moving painting, this gloriously subtle Japanese art print set to motion and music.   If you like that opening sequence, you have to see the first season ending sequence as well.  Izumiko slowly and elegantly walks as spine-tinglingly exquisite melancholy music plays and gallery-quality scenery behind her is interspersed with unfurling fans.  You have to see it to understand what I mean.  I’m sorry I did not find a YouTube version to post.   But you can find it at the end of every episode you watch.  Wait a minute!  What do you mean you didn’t watch that opening YouTube video?   Don’t make such a mistake!  Go back and watch it right now!  Oh, you did watch it?  Okay.  But go back and watch it again.  Believe me, it is that good.

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My sister Mary, the archery coach, may guffaw at the way  Miyuki draws his bow, but, hey!  That’s actually the way the Japanese teach it.  Everything in this cartoon show is stunningly realistic.   And everything is subtly building up to a story that is wholly surreal and unbelievably touching.   Look at how it combines with popular music in this YouTube highlight reel;

It is filled with wizards and warlocks, spirit creatures and Japanese nature goddesses, and a conviction that love and goodness will find a way to win out.

The story is about a young girl, Izumiko Suzuhara, who has been raised in mountainside isolation at Tamakura Shrine, an otherworldly place in a beautiful forested landscape.  She has an unusual problem.  She short-circuits electronic devices, burning out the school computers and breaking every new cell phone her family gives her.

A family friend visits as she is trying to make the decision whether to go to the mountain village high school or go to the Tokyo school her absent father and mysterious mother have recommended to her.  The friend leaves his son, Miyuki Sagara to be her protector, though she doesn’t understand why she needs a protector, or why they have chosen a boy she has always believed hated her.  He has been a bully to her in the past.  But Miyuki has studied to be a yamabushi, a mountain monk, since a very young age.  It turns out that Izumiko is chosen to be the vessel of a Kami, a good spirit who protects and empowers the world.

There is no way to adequately explain why this Japanese cartoon is so good and so necessary to be viewed by anybody and everybody I can put the word in with… It is one of those, “you-know-it-when-you-see-it” things.

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