Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Mars" Mason in: "Now--For Uranus!" from Speed Comics 10, 1940--Plus Big News!

Brother Tumry, how prescient your words have proved! Tho' limned with condescending intent (as though I, a home-owning adult, would turn to the likes of Power Nelson for serious advice!), your basic idea has come remarkably true.

My home may soon become a restaurant! And we may soon have an employee!

How shall I begin this byzantine tale? I suppose it's best to start where it started--with an ultimatum, delivered 'neath the stark overhead lights of our kitchen, from Dorrie herself:

"Who do you love more: me, or those--comic books?"

This came at a moment in which I was prepared to make a health sacrifice, and request a few of Dorrie's Double-Dipped Fudge Mocha Meringue Bars. I'd had a clean bill of health for the past two weeks, and felt I could brook a sublime treat or two without doing much harm.

'Twas as this loving request prepared to issue from my lips that the "little woman" threw down the gauntlet.And with such a searing question! How could any lifelong panelologist truly answer that query--or explain their motives and needs?

One might as well ask: "Whom do you love more: oxygen or myself?"

But her question was fated to remain unanswered. Before my stunning, trembling lips could summon or form words of reply, Dorrie spoke.

"Sit," she said, pointing to the breakfast nook table.

I'm a sensible man; I sat. She poured a tall glass of chocolate milk-shake, fresh from the blender. She set it before me. "Drink," she commanded.

Friends, you who have not tasted one of Dorrie's milk-shakes---you I pity. Though my heart raced with uncertainty, the velvet solace of the creamy, chocolate-infused beverage soothed my uncertain soul.

"That doctor is trying to tear us apart," Dorrie said. "You've always loved my cooking. I've enjoyed every treat I've ever made for you. Even the midnight snacks! They--they gave me something to do... and now that's gone..."

I began to uncontrollably guzzle the divine "shake," and soon emptied my glass. Without thinking, I held the drained vessel up for a refill.

Without thinking, Dorrie refilled the cup.

Such is the core of our relationship: the provider and the provided; the manufacturer and the consumer. I knew that to drink the second glass was to tempt fate--and foot. But I knew I had to do it--and that I had to hear out my spouse in her moment of crisis.

I'll spare you a transcript of the speech I received, and concentrate on the highlights:

a) Dorrie loathes Dr. Doynter, and distrusts him

b) Dorrie has a need to cook, bake and broil; she described it as "her
life's blood"

c) Dorrie has allergy issues with my cherished comic magazines! She
does not inherently loathe the art-form of panelology--'tis the molds
and allergens trapped within their time-goldened pages that poses a
problem. (At last--the truth is out!)

d) If "that doctor" won't let me eat "the food I love," then Dorrie
demands the right to make foodstuffs--and to have someone appreciative
enjoy them.

Sensing a pause, I attempted to inject levity. "Perhaps," I quipped, "you might turn our guest room into a bistro of some sort--say, 'Dorrie's Diner,' or 'Maison Moray...'"

Dorrie's eyes brightened like the summer sun. "Oh, Mace!" She hugged me, tears brimming in her eyes. "You understand! Why--that's a wonderful idea! We have those garden tables in storage... all we'll need is some chairs, and table-cloths--and menus! Yes, menus..."

With that, Dorrie left the kitchen and sat on the living-room couch, yellow legal pad and pencil in hand. For hours, she muttered to herself, writing down entree names, pairing items, erasing and re-writing, laughing as she delighted in her fresh ideas...

It reminded me of bygone days, wherein I sat, pad and pencil in hand, and constructed definitive content listings of Golden Age comic magazines. These became an invaluable aid to me--and to my fellow panelologists. I had them professionally printed, and for years, they provided a second income for me.

I had, earlier that day, come across one of the few unsold copies of my magnum opus, The Cross-Indexed, Creator and Feature-Themed Guide to Speed Comics. This 112-page opus took me almost nine months of painstaking study to compile.

As a result of this, I recalled a feature in Speed Comics that had, indeed, brought me a good deal of "ribbing" years back. You'll understand why upon immediate sight of its "splash" panel.

The next morning, as I prepared for my return to the office, she by-passed me, as I ate bran flakes with skim milk and briefly perused the morning newspaper. "I'm off for the permit," she said, a smile in her voice.

"Permit," I repeated. Then it all became clear: Dorrie was hell-bent on realizing her dream of a home restaurant! I chuckled as I chewed the healthful bran. Surely civic zoning laws would not permit a place of business to be conducted in a residence!

Dorrie's exuberance was endearing, but I feared she would hit the brick wall of red tape before I settled into my desk at the office.

You may recall a comment I made on the expected condition of my desk, upon my return to the office. I'm sad to say that prophesy was highly accurate.

As I entered the office, briefcase in hand, the new employee (Charlie? Chuckie?) looked at me, startled. "Mister Murray! We thought you were still in the hospital!"

I glanced at my desk. It was a mound of waste and neglect. Heaped atop it were:

31 flattened "Funyuns" sacks
14 assorted car, truck and taxidermy magazines
the remnants of an egg-salad sandwich, on a paper plate
a replica of the Constitution, printed on parchment paper
several half-worked "Jumble" newspaper puzzles
4 photos of Amelia Earhart, printed from an internet search
two Illinois license plates, dated 1988

"We were doin' some cleanin'," Charlie or Chuckie said, as he gestured to my desk. "This was a, a..."

"Staging area," a man named Roy said. "Staging area."

"We'll clean it up, Mr. Murray," Charlie said, penitence in his adolescent voice.

I chatted with the district manager as the errant lads cleaned their debris off my desk. He asked about my experience with gout, and I informed him the bulk of the story--all of which my faithful readers and followers know by heart.

Before I knew it, it was lunch time. My fellow "team members" had hastily organized a "welcome back Mister Murray" lunch event at the nearby Sizzle Stop, a steak and salad place across the highway.

Moments before we left, en masse, my phone jangled. It was Dorrie. "Mace! I got the permit! They're sending a health inspector out today!"

"They'll allow us to run a bistro in our home?"

"Turns out half our lot is zoned for commercial use! Mace, the dividing line runs right through our living room!"

"You're sure about this?"

Dorrie giggled. "Of course!"

"By that I mean: you're sure you want to open our home to hungry strangers? What about our private life? I don't want to come home to..."

"I'm just going to serve lunch. It will be a great second income for us. We can use the extra money, Mace..."

I sighed audibly. I'd only suggested this scheme as a mood-lightener. I had (and have) mixed feelings about the very idea.

"What we need now is a waiter," Dorrie said.

Thus, this new chapter in my spouse's life has been put on temporary hold. We await the stern inspection of the Health Department. Then comes the search for a responsible, amiable wait-person to serve our horde of ravenous malingerers.

Friends, I dearly hope Dorrie's mad scheme will be foiled! It pains me to say this! In the meantime, as my health improves, I shall keep a low profile, and pray all this blows over, like an ill wind.

Post script: I somehow wound up paying for my own "welcome back" luncheon. Well, 'tis the thought that matters.

Today's story is unrelated to the current themes of change and chaos in my life. I'd thought of selecting a story that had to do with restaurants and food, but I had Speed Comics "in the brain," and I made a furtive late-night visit to The Pantheon.

Mister Liffler's lights were out. I carefully unlocked and entered The Pantheon. The fates were kind to me. My Speeds are in box V-7, which is on the top layer of Row Four, in the front.

In mere momemts, I held the issue containing today's fanciful tale of inter-galactic postal adventure. Our hero's name was often used as an unrequested nick-name by my fellow panelologists for myself, in the 1960s and '70s. It is to those departed, disenfranchised and dislocated comrades of the comic magazine that I dedicate today's rousing tale.

Inter-planetary intrigue! Threaded heat-rays! Monsters soothed by ice on the North Pole! This entry of "'Mars' Mason" is amongst the finest of the long-running series.

As with many pioneering panelological features, "'Mars'" was conducted under the umbrella of a pen-name. "Glen Ross" was, in reality, four people: Sam GLandzky, Emeril ENright, Budd ROgan and FerriS Skelton. (I've taken the liberty of making it obvious where the pen-name was derived.)

These four fellows drew "'Mars' Mason" from a remote Forest Station outposts in Wyoming and Nebraska! The young rangers discovered comic magazines, and developed a quick passion for them. Each man worked solo at a different forest outpost. Glandzky was the series' writer.

He penned his "Mason" scripts on the back of forest reports. They were sent, via horseback messenger, to penciller Enright. Once his sketches were complete, a Native American traveled 32 miles on foot to deliver the pages to inker Rogan. Finally, the pages were mailed to letterer/firefighter Skelton. His was the final responsibility of shipping the completed tales to Harvey Comics' Fourth Avenue offices in Manhattan.

The four men never met in person. They never saw one another. Their sole mode of contact was via short-wave radio. They had originally attempted to craft a comic-magazine feature about a forest ranger--only to have this "sore-fire" idea nixed!

At the time, a craze for stories of mail delivery caused many comic magazine publishers to create their own "postman" feature. Alas, these series were typically set in the Old West, or in small-town America. "Glen Ross" had a genuinely clever scheme--send the postman to the far reaches of outer space!

The feature ended when Skelton was suddenly fired from his ranger position. He had been falsifying his tax records to save money. Alas, news of Skelton's departure did not reach the other three creators for 18 months. In that time, they wrote and drew another 15 "Mason" episodes, destined never to see the light of day.

It is believed these unpublished stories were burned by Skelton's unwitting successor. No one knows for certain what happened to these unlettered episodes. The secret died with Skelton, who was killed in the Pacific Theater in 1945.

The roots of panelology teem with sad tales such as this one. We can only be thankful that we have the handful of "'Mars' Mason" stories to enjoy--and cherish!

Future entries in this "blog" shall, no doubt, teem with drama themselves. Your humble host may be rubbing elbows with America's hungry!

Well, it's almost quitting time here at the office. I almost dread returning home...but I must summon the courage to see what my dear spouse is cooking up--quite literally!


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