Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Welcome To the Pantheon!

Toys are the greatest inspiration for me. People never really grow

up. They just get bigger adult bodies.

--Doug Taylor (children's book author, c.1980)

Without alienation, there can be no politics.

--Arthur Miller (American playwright, c. 1960)

Never complain, never explain.

--- Austin Moray (author's father, c. 1970)

My name is Mason Moray. Welcome to my world. It is a world few appreciate. A world few understand. To those amongst us who comprehend, who "get it," as they say, it is a sparkling, twinkling, nostalgic, chromatic, evasive, metaphorical wonderland.

To the rest of the world, these delights are mere "funny books." "They are trash," one such individual might crow. "Filth!" another may add. "Throw those horrible things away--right now!" 

We have all heard our beloved medium decried thusly. It has broken our hearts--and it shall continue to bear heartbreak, to our graves.

Yet we must soldier on, assured in the belief that we are correct. That these little boxes are indeed missives of wonder and transcendence. We must keep firm our faith in panelology.

I did not coin that phrase. But my life goal is to embody it. 

Even as a child, these four-colored beauties grasped at my consciousness, and seized my attention. I was fortunate to be a child of the Atomic Age--specifically, of the middle 1950s. 

The war to end all wars was long over. America relaxed into an age of unbelievable wealth, convenience and excellence. There was much to offer a child of my times. We had it all--books, television, radio, records, movies, games--and the comic book.

My first furtive glances at the medium of panelology occurred at the little store on our corner. Schmetz's Luncheonette had a grand, gaudy wooden rack--painted a bracing sea-green--that overflowed with a tidal wave of shiny, beguiling color comic magazines.

They had such startling titles--Crack, Smash, Whiz, Zip, Wow! These were words that absorbed me. Yet they were words, I quickly learned, that inspired revulsion in others.

"Put that back!" my mother cried, as she snatched a freshly-minted comic magazine from my fingers. "Mr. Schmetz, such filth you sell--and in the hands of babies!"

I will never forget the red-faced rage when she next turned to address me. "If I ever find you reading one of these filthy things, Mason James Moray, you will live to regret it!"

Through my tears of shock, I silently vowed that I would live to read these "filthy things"-- and that I would never regret doing so.

Mother, gone for so many years, please accept my thanks for your words of intended warning. You inspired me to become the man I am today--a panelologist.

Over the years, I have amassed a collection of several thousand of these "filthy things." At present, they reside in a tool-shed in our back yard. You see, Mrs. Mason Moray similarly disapproves of comic magazines. 

I love her so dearly, and so wish for her to understand this part of my life. Yet, any time I am found perusing a vintage piece of panelology, whether in my study, or in our living room, I relive a jarring moment from my childhood.

Despite their considerable financial value--an aspect I have explained to the "missus" too many times to count--she persists in snatching the prized booklet from my hands, raising it above her head, and tossing it to the floor. 

Accompanying her show of force is a tongue-lashing I've grown to ignore. Key phrases rend the air, despite my best efforts at self-defense: "...rotten trash... foolish for a man your age to have...rotten garbage...they were right to burn them...I won't have this trash in my home!"

She forgets that "her home" was, indeed, paid for in full by your humble author. She forgets that I work at a profession I loathe--as an insurance adjuster--but at a work that supports us both comfortably.

I received the assurance of the seller at Home Depot that the tool shed I purchased was fully water- and weather-proof. At present, my holdings reside in 116 lidded archival boxes, each one shrouded in insulating, waterproofed sheets of polyurethane. 

The shed sits in our back yard. A large elm tree shades it from the heat of the dog days of summer. We receive quite a bit of rain, especially in the spring and winter. Of course, I worry about the safety of these fragile, scarce booklets. Many is the night I have padded, in robe and slippers, silently out the patio door, across green, crisp lawn, to the shed. I have a strong padlock, the only key to which is on my person at all times. 

I removed the opened lock from its hasp, step inside the shed (careful not to hit my head on the low ceiling) and unfurl the protective cover from one box. Yes, my collection is safe from the forces of nature. I take a moment to enjoy the bouquet of the aging pulp paper, reseal the box, relock the shed, and return to sleep the good sleep.

So far, my estimation of The Pantheon, as I have named it, remains high. (Its shape bears a striking resemblance to the ancient Pantheon of Greece--a picture of which is seen in the "header" of this "blog.") I noticed some rust around its hinges and bolts, but inside, on wooden pallets stacked three-high, the 116 boxes appear none the worse for the wear. 

"The missus" is involved in several civic groups and activities, including bingo and Scrabble nights at her church. I seize these rare moments to live in the world I love. I feel the time has come to reach out to my fellow panelologists, via the wonders of the Internet--and seek solace and recognition.

My goal, in each and every entry of this journal, is to rescue from obscurity a piece of panelology I consider to be a small masterpiece. You may not encounter the most well-known names here. I consider the "big guns" of the comic magazines to have been sufficiently lauded.

So many comic magazines have been published--and so many as quickly forgotten. It is my hope and prayer that I can enable you, dear reader, to see what I see on these faded, four-color pages. To be a panelologist is, quite literally, to read between the lines--and between the boxes. 

Come join me on my panelological journey, friend. You are always welcome here. Please take the time to comment on my findings. Share your own observations and wisdom. Let this "blog" be a reservoir of appreciation and intelligence.

"The missus" has just returned from her Tuesday night Rotary Club supper. I must end this message-in-a-bottle. My dearest hope is that there is someone, out there, who will read it and understand.

Until next we meet, friend...

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