Second-best is better than the rest.
-- Austin Moray
The above-quoted saying was one that issued from my father's lips, loudly and clearly enunciated, some hundreds of times over the span of my childhood. Even today, when visited at the Nightflower Fens Retirement Community, where he resides, my "dear old dad" will express this deeply-held conviction at the drop of a hat.
This Moray family philosophy has, in its own way, deeply affected me in my life choices. It has also given me an ever-renewable gift: the awareness, and ability to appreciate, the "second-banana" items strewn across our path in each and every day of our lives.
But first: a news update. Big changes at work! Jim R___________ has suddenly, violently resigned from his position! And guess who now controls the cherished office scanner?
Your first guess is correct, friends. Sitting right next to me at my desk (where I compose this post, right 'neath the eyes of my "team members") is the all-powerful Hewlett Packard ScanJet 2100 C. It awaits my beck and call, night or day, rain or shine.
How it happened:
Considerable tension has existed in our office for the past several months. Apparently, Jim R________ and Donald F________ have both sought the romantic attention of a waitress at the nearby Red Robin resturant. Her name, if I heard it correctly (and, trust me, I heard it hundreds of time amidst the grating office chit-chat), is "Gabbie."
It would appear that Donald F________ was first to obtain access to Gabbie's "hidden charms." Though departed Jim R_______ was the next in line, our heroine proved to embody the old saying, "kiss and tell."
As I have heard 'midst the grape vines, "Gabbie" casually mentioned her prior tryst with Donald F______ after a hot "petting session" with Jim R_______. This occured on a Saturday night.
Jim R_______ stewed over this news the remainder of the weekend. Come Monday morning, he was in a lethal frame of mind.
Donald F_______ was, of course, blissfully innocent of the outcome of his rival's romantic meanderings. He approached the noticeably glowering, dark Jim R______ to ask for the use of his stapler.
There were words. "So 'Gabbie' isn't enough for you, you ******* thief? Now it's my ******** stapler you want?" With these words, Jim R_______ doused Donald F______ with the remnants of his now-tepid "coffee latte."
He then attempted to mortally wound his rival with the stapler. However, the device lacked velocity sufficient to puncture Donald F_______. As poor Jim R______ squeezed the trigger, a shower of staples fell wanly on the carpeted floor.
Our "team leader" witnessed this outburst, and immediately called Jim R_____ into his office. 'Neath the "leader"'s door, harsh words were heard, largely from Jim R_____'s mouth. Ten minutes later, he stormed out of the "leader"'s office and out the front door.
He has not returned since.
Yesterday, I inquired with our "leader" concerning the scanner. His exact reply:
"Y'know, Mason, I honestly don't care. Just take it. No one else in the office ever uses it."
You are wrong, dear "leader," you are wrong. This employee shall use it... and use it well.
As you will see in today's posting, I have dramatically improved the quality of my scans. I would appreciate your honest feedback re: the "look and feel" of today's offering. Is it better than before? Or do you prefer the earlier "look and feel?"
Today's offering is what my acquaintance and fellow panelologist Ronald Goulart would proudly call a "second-banana" feature. "Mr. Justice" was clearly patterned on the more popular and better-known "DC" feature, "The Spectre."
As my father would note, quite audibly, often times the "knock off" version exceeds the original in quality.
My childhood was spent amongst the "second banana" products of our American culture. Other families drove Chryslers and Chevrolets; my father proudly steered a Kaiser-Fraser automobile, well into the 1970s.
Our neighbors drank Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola on hot summer days. We enjoyed Double-Cola and "store brand" beverages.
My father was a "whiz" at locating these "off-brands." He would often drive miles and miles out of his way to obtain them. I was his frequent "co-pilot" on these trips.
As we would pass our neighborhood grocers, my father would sneer and shout, over the engine of the Kaiser-Fraser: "See those places? I feel sorry for the saps who shop there. They don't know what they're missing!"
Twenty or thirty miles later, we would approach an admittedly sinister-looking shopping mart, usually in the middle of nowhere. "Aahhh," my "dad" would say, sometimes literally wringing his hands. "This is more like it!"
Once inside, he would shop for "Maxton House" coffee, "Hans" baked beans, "Tune" soap, "Bardin" milk, and a plentitude of "near-miss" products. These were the products with which I was familiar, throughout my childhood.
I did not have my first genuine Coca-Cola until I was 19!
At the checkout line, my dad would treat me to a "Hirsey" chocolate bar. All the way home, he crowed, delightedly, about all the money he had saved. As we stopped to refill the gas tank, which easily emptied out on these "road trips," he positively beamed with pride.
To this day, I prefer the "off-brands" to the "name brands." I suppose it's just force of habit. When the situation calls, I can force myself to consume a cup of Folger's Coffee (Mom and Dad drank Nolger's), or enjoy a package of Lay's Potato Chips (our preferred brand was May's).
This way of thinking has influenced my decisions in panelology. It has taught me to "expect the unexpected" amongst the myriad of lesser-known, "knock-off" titles and characters.
"Mr. Justice" approached the popularity of its obvious inspiration, "The Spectre," for a time in the early 1940s. I find Mr. Justice entirely more pleasant and convincing. His powder blue sits better with me than the Spectre's dead white and dark green "motif."
I'm sure you will find this story thrilling, surprising and entertaining. I calculate that I've read this tale some 150 times. I have owned this comic magazine since first finding it in a used book shop in 1955. I believe there remain grease stains from some May's Potato Chips in the margins of the pages. (Alas, I was merely an avid consumer, and not a true panelologist, back in those halcyon days of yore...)
Thrills! Chills! Horrors of science! Mankind's responsibility in the usage of nuclear materials gives "The Radium Corpse" a surprisingly modern "edge" when read today.
In the 1960s and 1970s, we Americans lived in constant fear that the "Reds" would "drop their payload" on our important cities, and doom us all in a nightmare wave of radioactive dust. I'm sure that "the Commies" feared a like attack from our "big guns."
I still remember, with a vivid sense of horror, the dreaded "cubano missile crisis" of 1963. One could hear the "doomsday clock" tick a few seconds short of anhillation on those dark, tense days.
We now have to fear the madmen of the Orient. Some of them have been stock-piling their own arsenal of doom for decades. They would be all too willing to "rub us out" if their inscrutable mood should deem the action so. My hope is that they are sufficiently distrzcted to avoid contact with "the big red button."
"The Radium Corpse" brings the horrors of radiation to the home-front. Who would not shiver in fear at the sight of the poor, twisted title creature? Or house contempt for misguided Professor Stimes, creator of said monstrosity?
This story lays bare on the table the shocking lack of security in our penal system. When a "crack-pot" scientist can obtain access to an executed criminal on "Death Row," via an easily-obtained blueprint layout of the prison he is housed in, then I ask you: how safe are any of us? Some 60 years later, this story still vibrates with urgency and revelance.
As you may have noted by now, I have a fondness for super-heroes whose public identities lack the traditional "secret identity." Thank "Mr. Justice" for this! I find his abandonment of the expected cliches to still be highly refreshing and innovative.
I believe the closing frame of this panelological gem bears review. Mr. Justice's words still ring with deep truth:
'Tis chilling to consider the irony these very words might hold for poor Jim R_______. If only he had left well enough alone! If only, indeed, dear friend, we can all leave well enough alone!
Until next time, I remain your devoted friend in panelology, Mason James Moray.