Tag Archives: cartoons

Lazy Sunday Silliness

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Imagination is always the place I go in times of trouble.  I have a part of my silly old brain devoted to dancing the cartoon dance of the dundering doofus.  It has to be there that I flee to and hide because problems and mistakes and guilt and pessimism are constantly building un-funny tiger-traps of gloom for me to rot at the bottom of.  You combat the darkness with bright light.  You combat hatred with love.  You combat unhappiness with silly cartoonish imaginings.  Well… maybe you don’t.  But I do.

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When reading the Sunday funnies in the newspaper on lazy Sunday afternoons, I spent years admiring Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes for its artistry and imaginative humor, believing it was about a kid who actually had a pet talking tiger.  I didn’t get the notion that Hobbes was actually a toy tiger for the longest time.  That’s because it was basically the story of my own boyhood.  I had a stuffed tiger when I was small. He talked.  He went on adventures with me.  And he talked me into breaking stuff and getting into trouble with Mom and Dad. It was absolutely realistic to me.

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I have always lived in my imagination.  Few people see the world the way I view it.  I have at least four imaginary children to go along with the three that everybody insists are real.  There’s Radasha, the boy faun, my novel characters Tim Kellogg and Valerie Clarke, and the ghost dog that lurks around the house, especially at night.  That plus Dorin, Henry, and the Princess (the three fake names that I use in this blog for my three real children).

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Have you noticed how Watterson’s water-color backgrounds fade into white nothingness the way daydreams do?  Calvin and Hobbes were always a cartoon about turning the unreal into the real, turning ideas upside down and looking at them through the filter-glasses of Spaceman Spiff.

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Unique and wonderful solutions to life’s problems can come about that way.  I mean, I can’t actually use a bloggular raygun to vaporize city pool inspectors, but I can put ideas together in unusual ways to overcome challenges.  I almost got the pool running again by problem-solving and repairing cracks myself.

 

So, I am now facing the tasks of working out a chapter 13 bankruptcy and having a swimming pool removed.  The Princess will need to be driven to and from school each day.  I will need to help Henry find another after-school job.  And the cool thing is, my imaginary friends will all be along for the ride.  Thank you, Calvin.  Thank you, Hobbes.  You made it all possible.  So, please, keep dancing the dance of the dundering doofus.

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Filed under artists I admire, autobiography, cartoons, feeling sorry for myself, humor, imagination, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Happy Birthday, Carl Barks

Carl Barks was born on March 27th, 1901. So, today is his 121st birthday. If you have no idea who I’m even talking about, then you were never a kid and a comic book fan in the 1960s. Carl Barks is both Uncle Scrooge’s father and Donald Duck’s stepfather.

Carl is a personal art hero of mine. I grew to adulthood on the adventures of his plucky ducks doing duck adventures in Duckburg. I have written about my devotion to Carl in this blog before. In fact, here is the link; https://catchafallingstarbook.net/2014/09/27/carl-barks-master-of-the-duck-comic/

That’s essentially true. A large part of my character as a junior high school English teacher was based on what I learned about mentoring from Scrooge McDuck and about teaching important facts from Gyro Gearloose.

Carl was not immune to criticism. Cartoonists get blow-back, a fact of life. But he overcame it with a wry sense of humor and interesting views of how you pursue goals in life. He had a firm sense of fair-play and justice. You could get actual morals to the stories in a Carl Barks’ duck cartoon.

The characters were not perfect. They all had glaring flaws, the heroes right along with the villains. Of course, the villains never learned to change their ways, while the heroes often learned to improve themselves by working on the weaknesses, and it wasn’t all about becoming a gazillionaire (a term I think Barks may have invented).

I even learned a good deal about adventure story-telling from Carl Barks’ comic books about Duck people doing ducky stuff that was really about people doing people-y stuff in the real world. Yes, people in the world around me are very Carl Barks’ ducky.

So, happy birthday, Carl. 121 years young. And he’s only been gone from our world since August of 2000. He still talks to me and teaches me through his Duck comics.

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Filed under artists I admire, autobiography, comic book heroes, goofy thoughts, humor

The Ultra-Mad Madness of Don Martin

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Born in 1931 and lasting in this crazy, mixed-up world until the year 2000, Don Martin was a mixy, crazed-up cartoonist for Mad Magazine who would come to be billed as “Mad Magazine’s Maddest Artist.”    His greatest work was done during his Mad years, from 1956 (the year I was born… not a coincidence, I firmly believe) until his retirement in 1988.  (*** I was reminded by Martin’s wife that he did not retire then.  He just left Mad Magazine for places like Cracked where he was treated better.***)  And I learned a lot from him by reading his trippy toons in Mad from my childhood until my early teacher-hood.

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His style is uniquely recognizable and easily identifiable.  Nobody cartoons a Foon-man like Don Martin.

The googly eyes are always popped in surprise.  The tongue is often out and twirling.  Knees and elbows always have amazingly knobbly knobs.  Feet have an extra hinge in them that God never thought of when he had Adam on the drawing board.

And then there is the way that Martin uses sound effects.  Yes, cartoons in print don’t make literal sounds, but the incredible series of squeedonks and doinks that Martin uses create a cacophony of craziness in the mind’s ear.

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And there is a certain musicality in the rhyming of the character names he uses.  Fester Bestertester was a common foil for slapstick mayhem, and Fonebone would later stand revealed by his full name, Freenbeen I. Fonebone.

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And, of course, one of his most amazingly adventurous ne’er-do-well slapstick characters was the immeasurable Captain Klutz!

Here, there, and everywhere… on the outside he wears his underwear… it’s the incredible, insteadable, and completely not edible… Captain Klutz!

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If you cannot tell it from this tribute, I deeply love the comic genius who was Don Martin, Mad Magazine’s Maddest Artist.  Like me he was obsessed with nudists and drawing anatomy.  Like me he was not above making up words with ridiculous-sounding syllables.  And like me he was also a purple-furred gorilla in a human suit… wait!  No, he wasn’t, but he did invent Gorilla-Suit Day, where people in gorilla suits might randomly attack you as you go about your daily life, or gorillas in people suits, or… keep your eye on the banana in the following cartoon.

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So, even though I told you about Bruce Timm and Wally Wood and other toon artists long before I got around to telling you about Don Martin, that doesn’t mean I love them more.  Don Martin is wacky after my own heart, and the reason I spent so much time immersed in Mad Magazine back in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

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Filed under artists I admire, artwork, cartoon review, cartoons, comic book heroes, goofiness, humor, illustrations

New Pirate Picture

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I continue to believe bankers, health insurance companies, and corporate leaders are all pirates.  The gentleman of the sea dressed all in red in this picture is Black Timothy, bombastic and barely comprehensible leader of the pirates of Fantastica.

The truth is I am a bit of a cartoonist.  Don’t worry.  It is not a completely horrible and detestable thing to be.  Not like being a pirate… or a banker… or worse, a pirate banker.  It leads me to do cartoons like you will find in my vault, here…

The Atlas of Fantastica, Chapter 1

It is a basically incurable disease, and yet… I can live with it.  It will not kill me like some of my other incurable diseases eventually will.

So today’s post, keeping alive an unbroken string of daily posts that now goes back 16 months, is a picture post.  I hope you like it, but if you don’t, another one will come along soon enough.

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Talk Like Popeye

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I have long identified with Popeye.  Let me review that notion by re-posting a bit of an old post in which I explain while talking like Popeye;

I am Popeye, I sez, because I just am…  Yeah, that’s right, I yam what I yam.

First of all, I looks like Popeye.  I has that cleft in me chin, very little hair left on me ol’ head, and I gots the same squinky eye (what squinky eye?).  I has had that same squinky eye since I wuz a teenager and got kicked in the eye doin’ sandlot football (bettern’ sandlot high divin’, fer sure!).  I also has them same bulgy arms, the ones that bulge in the forearm and is incredibobble thin on the upper arms.

Second of all, I has Popeye Spinach-strength.  I look weak and scrawny, but I is a lot tuffer than I looks.  I go into classrooms full of wild, crazed middle schoolers, and grabs their attention, tells ’em what’s what, and makes ’em woik.  (Woik is a voib, and that means I is woikin’ when I makes ’em do it.)  I kin stands ridicule and kids what will remarks on the hair in me ears and me squinky eye.  I tells ’em that the scar on me face was did by a bloke with a knife (which it were, cause I had skin cancer and the doctor used a knife to get it off).  I has taken all kinds of nasty punches from life (diabetes, blood-pressure problems, prostatitis, arthritis) and I still keeps comin’ back fer more.  In fact, I can winds up me arm and give that ol’ Devil a good Twisker Sock right in the kisser.

Third of all, I has a typical Popeye Sweet Patootie.  My Island Girl Wife is like Olive Oyl in very many ways.  She is always tellin’ me what to do.  She compares me to ol’ Bluto.  She panics and flails her arms when there’s a crisis.  And she expects me to always save the day and never says “thank you” after.

So, I mean it when I sez “I am Popeye”.  I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam!

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See?  I kin talk like Popeye because in many ways I AM him… He of the mangled-mouth vocabubobulary created by Elzie Crisler Segar on January 17th, 1929 for his comic strip Thimble Theater for King Features Syndicate.  He doesn’t talk right because his brain is so full of goodness and spinach that he has no room left for spelling and pronunskiation.  Ak-ak-ak-ak-ak-ak….  Popeye is just a simple sailor, and has been for 94 years.  He expresses himself horribly, but only in the very best of ways.  So when I mangle a word on purpose… or by happy accident… it is just me honoring that old one-eyed sailor.  It is not me just being a stupid addle-pated blarney goon who don’t knows how to talk right.

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Comic strip from comicskingdom.com

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Allegro Non Troppo

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Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain from Disney’s Fantasia

 

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The old faun

In musical terms, Allegro Non Troppo means fast tempo, but not too fast.  So, I recently discovered that Allegro Non Troppo is one of many rare and obscure old movies which I am passionate about that can be found in its entirety on YouTube.  I will include the YouTube link to a portion of it at the end of this post, and I sincerely recommend that if you have never seen this movie, you watch the whole thing at least once.  No matter how many cringes or winces or blushes it causes, this is a movie of many bizarre parts that you really need to take in as a whole.  It ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime, the atrociously ugly to the lyrically beautiful, from the brilliant classical score being played by a mistreated band of old ladies with orchestral instruments to a gorilla running amok,  from Debussy to Ravel, from an artist released from his cage to single-handedly draw the animation, to a satire rich with baudy humor making fun of no less a work of animation than Prisney’s..  I mean Disney’s Fantasia.  The dark elements are there.  The light-hearted, lilting comedy is there.  The fairy tale delicacy and technicolor dreaming is all there.

And why should this be important to me?  Especially now that I am retired from a long and fruitful teaching career?  Well, I have history with this movie.  I saw it first in college.  I was an English major, but I took every film as literature class I could fit into my silly schedule.  As an undergrad, I was determined to be a cartoonist for a career.  I took classes seriously and aced most of them, but I was at college to intellectually play around.  I didn’t take the prescribed courses to be an English teacher.  That had to wait for the more responsible me to come along in grad school for that.  I saw both Fantasia and Allegro Non Troppo during one of the play-time years.  Much as the old satyr in Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, I was enamored with sensory experience.  I took my first girlfriend to see Disney’s Fantasia, and she later turned down the opportunity to see Allegro Non Troppo with me.   Good sense on her part, but the beginning of the end of our relationship.155154089_640  Just as Fantasia has the part in it where Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring describes evolution from the beginning of the Earth to the end of the dinosaurs, Allegro Non Troppo uses Ravel’s Bolero to describe the evolution of life on a weird planet from germs in a discarded Coke bottle to the inevitable coming of the malevolent monkey who is ultimately us.  And, of course, the satire would not be complete without some off-set for Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Allegro-Non-Troppo As near as I can figure it out, the apprentice, played by Mickey Mouse, becomes the snake from the Garden of Eden in Allegro Non Troppo.  When the snake is unable to get Adam and Eve to eat the apple, he makes the mistake of eating the apple himself.  He learns the hard way that, no matter how clever, even diabolically clever, you think you are, you are not really in control of anything in life.  Every would-be wizard in the world has to understand that he is powerless without hard experience.  And what a boring world full of naked people this would be if there were never any apprentices in it foolish enough to actually become wizards. 200_s  Of coufantasia_august2012_blogpromorse, I haven’t really talked about the most heart-twisting part of Allegro Non Troppo… the sad cat wandering the ruins of his former home, or the most laugh-aloud part with the super-tidy little lady-bee trying to eat a blossom, but being interrupted by a couple of picnickers.

allegronontroppo2 03  But the thing is, this movie is a timely subject for me.  Not only did I, just yesterday, rediscover it, but it still has the same meaning for me now as it did when I first saw it.  Then I was an aspiring young artist who loved this movie because it approached ideas non-consecutively, just as I approached my learning years… rambling here and there, finding first a bitter-sweet something, and then a sad beauty behind everything in life.  And it is where I am again now, in a poor-health enforced retirement… divorced from teacher’s schedules and time itself.  Able to do as I please, and aspiring once again to commit great acts of art.

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Krazy Kat

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I told you before about a cartoonist from ancient ‘Toon Times” named Fontaine Fox.  He was a master, and I acknowledge him as one of my greatest inspirations.  But he was not the original master mentor for my teenage ‘Toon Training”.  That honor goes to the inestimable George Herriman.  He was the Krazy Kartoonist who died more than a decade before I was born, yet, through his Kreation, Krazy Kat, did more to warp my artistic bent into Krazy Kartooniana Mania than anybody else.  I discovered him first.  I found him through Komic books and the Kard Katalog at the local library.  I own a copy of the book I pictured first in this post.  It is the first Kartoon book I ever bought.  I couldn’t post a picture of my actual book here because I have read it so often in the past forty years that the Kover has Kome off.  It is now more of folder of loose pages than a book.

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Krazy Kat is a newspaper Komic strip that ran all around the world from 1913 to 1944.  Comics Journal would rate Krazy Kat as the greatest work of Komic art of the 20th Century.  Art critics hailed it as serious art, and it fits snugly into the surrealist movement of Salvador Dali and others.  It has been cited as a major influence on the work of other artists such as Will Eisner, Charles M. Schulz, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Bill Watterson, and Chris Ware.

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The centerpiece of the strip is a love triangle.  Krazy Kat the Kharacter is a feline who may be female or may be male but is definitely deeply in love with Ignatz Mouse.  The Krazed rodent hopped up on seriously stinky fromage (cheese to us non-French speakers), is Konstantly throwing bricks at Krazy’s head… obviously out of serious disdain, however, Krazy sees it as a confession of love.  Offisa Pup, the police watchdog, wants to jail the malevolent mouse for battery and protect the precious Kat, whom he obviously loves with an unrequited love.  Explanations are superfluous in the weird world of Krazy Kat.  How can I explain the charm, the humor, the good-natured violence of a strip such as this?  There are echoes of it in Tom and Jerry animated cartoons, but nothing like it really exists anywhere else.  Krazy has her own unique language, a language that you naturally learn to interpret as you read the strip.  Ignatz exhibits psychotic frustrations that he takes out on the world around him in our name, that we might experience hubris at his expense.  And what’s with that mysterious sack of “Tiger Tea” that Krazy carries about and keeps a Klosely guarded “sekrit”?

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I honestly hope you will give Krazy Kat a thorough “look-see”.  Because if you like Kartoons at all… and it doesn’t have to be the Krazy Kooky love of a seriously overdosed addict like me… you will fall desperately in love with this one.   It is a world of its own, a superbly superfluous abstract anachronism.  It is a surrealist’s dream of fun with puns and tons of buns… or something like that.  Simply put… read it and don’t like it… I dare you!

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Exploring the Mind of Mickey

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One really weird thing that teachers do is think about thinking.  I mean, how can a person actually teach someone else how to think and how to learn if they don’t themselves understand the underlying processes?  Now that I have retired from teaching and spend all my time feeling sorry for myself, I thought I would try thinking about thinking one more time at least.  Hey, just because I am retired, it doesn’t mean I can’t still do some of the weird things I used to do as a teacher, right?

This time I made a map to aid me in my quest to follow the twists and turns of how Mickey thinks and how Mickey learns.  Don’t worry, though.  I didn’t actually cut Mickey’s head in half to be able to make this map.  I used the magical tool of imagination.  Some folks might call it story-telling… or bald-face lying.

Now, a brain surgeon would be concerned that my brain maps out in boxes.  He would identify it as a seriously deformed brain.  It is not supposed to be all rectangular spaces and stairs.  It probably indicates a severe medical need for corrective surgery… or possibly complete amputation.  But we are not going to concern ourselves with trying to save Mickey from himself right now.  That is far too complex a topic to tackle in a 500-word daily post.  We are just discussing the basics of operation.

You see the three little guys in the control room?  They are an indication that not only did I steal an idea from the Disney/Pixar Movie Inside Out, but I apparently have too few guys doing the job up there compared to the movie version.  (It probably makes sense though that a young girl like the one in the movie has a much more sensible configuration in her brain than someone who was a middle school teacher for 24 years.  Seriously, that job can do a bit of damage.)  The three little guys are not actually Moe, Curly, and Larry, though that wouldn’t be far from descriptive accuracy.  They are Impulsive Ignatz, currently in the driver’s seat (or else I wouldn’t be writing this), Proper Percy the Planner, and Pompositous Felixian Checkerbob, the fact-checker and perfectionist (also labeled the inner nerd… I am told not everyone has one of these).  They are the three little guys that run around in frantic circles in my head trying to deal with a constant flow of input and output, trying to make sense of everything, and routinely failing miserably.

I shouldn’t forget the other two little guys in my head, Sleepytime Tim in the Dream Center, and little Batty up in the attic.  I have no earthly idea how either of them function, or what in the heck they are supposed to do.  But there they are.  The other three run up and down stairs all day, locating magic mushrooms and random knowledge in the many file cabinets, record collections, book stacks, and odd greasy containers that are stored all around in the many nooks and crannies of Mickey’s mind.  They collect stuff through the eyes and ears, and it is also their responsibility to chuck things out through the stupidity broadcaster at various inopportune times.  It is also a good idea for them to avoid the lizard brain of the limbic system in the basement.  It is easily angered and might eat them.

So now you should be able to fully understand how Mickey thinks.  (Or not… a qualifier I was forced to put in by Checkerbob.)

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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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Fairy Tales and Dragons (with pointillism)

Going through my old drawing portfolio, I found my children’s book project from my undergrad college years.  I have no idea now looking at the illustrations what the story was even about.  I lost the actual story, and I never made a cover for it.  But here is a look at old hopes and dreams and a way of seeing the world that begins; Once Upon a Time…

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I have no earthly idea what the heck this story is even about, but I do like the pen and ink work, and probably couldn’t repeat it if I had to.

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