Friends, consider the simple squirrel. Adorable, is he not? He scampers down our sun-lit streets, leaps through trees like a furry acrobat, accepts treats and peanuts from our very palms in public parks.
Yes, we all love squirrels. All but one. And, friends, that "one" is no other than myself.
It all began so sweetly, so innocently. You see, today I had the run of the office to myself. As I am a claims adjuster, and not a sales representative, I am what they term "self-directed." Truth is, I usually have little to do. Thus, each morning I saunter to the Pantheon--my goal to select a treasure or two from my reserves.
A Golden-Age comic book fits conveniently within the realms of the standard manila business folder. None of my "team members" have the slightest clue that I am enjoying, let us say, a classic issue of Mystery Men Comics, rather than amortizing a tax table.
Today was to be splendid. The other employees of the concern--all sales representatives and managers--were to be sent to a Ramada Inn, across town, to attend a day-long seminar entitled "Hey! Let's Stick Together!"
The apparent end-result of this seminar is to encourage "team members" to speak with a civil tongue, and to refrain from physically striking each other--all in the name of "good clean fun."
The office would be empty. Just me, my beloved comic magazines, and Jim R________'s coveted scanner.
The keys on my ring jingled brightly in the morning air. I unlocked the Pantheon, slid its doors open, and...
there it was.
Perched atop box L-2. Having pried the lid off of box L-3. And clutching, in its no-doubt diseased claws and paws, my copy of Silver Streak Comics #2!
I braced myself against the threshold of the Pantheon's entryway. The squirrel and I had what they might call a "Mexican stand-off." For seeming hours, the two of us stood, silent, motionless...each other's eyes locked in a gauntlet of tension.
Questions ricocheted in my head:
How had the squirrel penetrated the protective layers of the Pantheon?
How long had the dreaded rodent breached the Pantheon's security?
Why had the squirrel chosen that particular comic magazine?
How was I going to get him out of the Pantheon?
Squirrels, being rodents, are known carriers of rabies and other harmful diseases. I did not wish to provoke the creature into a fit of anger. Naturally, we were both anxious--the intruder and the intruded-upon, in an unexpected encounter.
A leaf rake, propped against the side of the Pantheon, suddenly found itself in my hands. "Shoo, now!" I heard my voice say, as if from a great distance, and from the bottom of a deep well. "Get, get! Drop my comic magazine! Now, shoo..."
I swung the rake violently in the air, describing an unfinished trapezoid. The squirrel bolted in panic and fear. My hope was to remove him from the Pantheon, and then to enter it, and determine the source of his unwarranted entry.
Instead, the rodent ran in chaotic circles, around and around the Pantheon's interior. As he dashed, in sheer terror, his bowels relieved themselves--in astonishing volume!
A fascinating fact of nature revealed itself: the "leavings" of a squirrel are not soft and spreadable, as are those of most mammals. They manifest themselves in hard, round brown spheres that recall the "Cocoa Puffs" cereal of my youth. I watched, at first in dread, and then relief, as these harmless pellets merely bounced off the archival storage boxes. They did no harm!
Finally, the panicked rodent made a desperate leap for freedom. He literally flew out the threshold of the Pantheon and scampered up the nearby elm three.
He was gone, and my comic magazines were safe--unharmed. Or were they?
I made a quick but thorough examination of the 116 boxes that represent the holdings of the Pantheon. All but L-3 were unmolested. The copy of Silver Streak was safe and sound, atop box J-5. The rodent had not been able to remove it from its protective archival PVC storage bag.
Assured that my treasures were again safe, I scoured the Pantheon for the beast's port of entry. Quickly, I espied it: a loose section of vinyl, where the bolts had been poorly fastened. Evidence of tooth marks abounded at the breach. Apparently, this poor deluded creature had spent considerable time gnawing his way into the "Achilles' Heel" of my almighty Pantheon!
Fury overcame me. I did not wish to upset "the missus" with my anger--for one thing, she would dismiss it as sheer folly--so I propped the rake against the breached area, locked the now-compromised Pantheon, and headed for my Dodge Dart.
Curse the fates--I had neglected to warm it up! It came to jerky life. I was in too great a hurry to wait for its morning ritual. Together, we lurched down the street, Silver Streak #2 and myself. Our destination: the Home Depot on Delaware Drive East!
I recalled, clear as day, the salesman from whom I'd purchased the pantheon. A young man named Raphael--at least, so his name-tag read. He appeared, at first, sinister, but, gradually, he won my trust. By sale's end, we shook hands, cordially acknowledged each other, were seemingly now acquaintances, if not friends.
Raphael's final words rang in my head: "You have any problems with that shed, you call me, OK?"
Well, Raphael, I did have problems with that "shed," and I shall call on you.
"Raphael! Where is Raphael?" I said, as the automatic doors parted, like the Red Sea. I gestured to another of the Depot's cashiers. She regarded my querulously.
"Huh?" [She chewed gum--a great fragrant wad of it--as she spoke.]
"I need to speak with a fellow named Raphael--at once! It's urgent!"
The cashier thought. And chewed. And thought.
"Raphael, he don't work here no more. He quit...when was it, Caitlin?"
A young blonde cashier, in excessive facial make-up, shook her head. "Like, three months ago?"
"Where," I interrupted, "can I find him?"
Both cashiers shrugged their shoulders in unison. The gum-bearing cashier popped a bubble as she shrugged.
"May I see a manager, please?"
The blonde cashier reluctantly pressed a green button. It made an unpleasant buzz. She spoke something unintelligible into a telephone. It blasted over loud-speakers.
Finally, a harried-looking man of about 30 arrived. I'll spare you the dreadfully prolonged transcript of our conversation. Long story short: "Raphael," if that indeed was his name, was irresponsible, frequently late for work, and suspected of theft of several candy bars. His resignation was an undisguised blessing to all parties concerned.
His words now rang hollow in my dejected mind: You have any problems with that shed, you call me, OK?
There was now no one to call--no one to turn to.
Were I to inform Dorrie, she might sympathize. Most likely, she would lecture me on the follies of a man my age having an interest in such foolish things. My fellow "team members" would react as if I'd spilled a cup of water in the ocean.
You, dear reader--you understand. And I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for navigating this mass of verbiage before you.
I assure you--the "good stuff" is in short order!
I made a temporary patch of the breached area, with the help of silver duct tape and two extra-strength yard-waste sacks. As a final flourish, I leaned the rake against the repaired spot. I double-dog-dare that reckless rodent to invade my Pantheon again!
Upon my arrival to the tomb-silent office, I opened and examined my Silver Streak #2. It is the only issue of this title that I own. Other issues are more highly prized by my fellow panelologists. They contain early examples of the work of John Cole, who became famous for a feature called "The Plastic Man."
I enjoy John Cole's work--it is quite entertaining--but I feel much has been said about his contributions to panelology. I understand another kindred spirit has engaged a rival "blog" solely devoted to John Cole's fine work. More power to him, I say!
Today, I have the unbridled joy of bringing to you a stunning panelological narrative featuring "Mister Midnite." This is an example, to my eyes, of just what "comic books" can achieve, in the hands of a truly ambitious, gifted storyteller. My research on this title credits one Morris Dudley as the writer, and one Brett Forsythe as contributing the art.
Consider the first page of this story--this is the Dudley/Forsythe team at the top of their game. This, friends, is what panelology is all about! Read--and savor!
I admit I am still encountering problems with Jim R_________'s scanner. No mention of "miffling" today--yet the scans appear fuzzy and degraded. All the same, I feel the majesty of this tale comes shining through loud and clear.
I admire so much of this dramatic narrative. Dudley/Forsythe's uncanny use of a single color is striking. In an era when most comic magazines proudly boasted "all in color for a dime!," some panelology creators sought to bend the rules. What better way to showcase the stark, unremitting brutality of Dudley's suspenseful prose? Of Forsythe's bold, fearless artwork?
How wise of them not to drape the urgent horror and heroics of their tale with a candyland of distracting colors!
The imagery of this fast-paced story truly deserves the adjective of "nightmarish." The "Little Men," with their horrid agenda to "try to rid the Earth of all beautiful women!" The dread "Noman" -- the monster slave with blank eyes! The mood of impending doom and destruction! And the salvation of the dapperly attired defender of justice, Mister Midnite!
Dudley truly understood the importance of an honorable hero, amidst an ocean of danger and deceit. The mere idea of an inhuman race, bent to rob the waking world of all its visual beauty...this chilling plot needs the interruption of a capable man of action!
And that we have here, in abundance. Rarely has heroism been, well, so heroically rendered as from the fount of Forsythe's brush and pen!
I feel that I have said enough, earlier in today's post. As well, some pieces of panelology speak far better on their own than anything I might have to say.
I simply feel fortunate to own this story--and to share it with you, my dear friends and countrymen in the Pantheon of panelology! Until next time, I remain your friend and kindred spirit, Mason Moray.