Sunday, December 5, 2010

Zebra-Man vs. the Human Frog, from Pocket Comics, 1941--plus more news of life and home!

Salutations, my fellow patrons of the printed panel and page! 'Tis too long, far too long, since last we visited. The sands of time do tend to get in one's eyes, as blown by the fickle winds of fate, eh?

With Dorrie's deft assemblage of her classic Turkey-gouda-pineapple stack sandwich, the last of our Thanksgiving "bird" was done at lunchtime. Dorrie marinates the turkey in two liters of Royal Crown Cola, mixed with one pouch of unsweetened fruit punch-flavored Kool-Aid, and then pressure-roasts it. The result is main course and dessert, all in one dish. Of course, we enjoy pumpkin pie, yams with mini-marshmallows, apple pie and such.

We set a festive table, with many guests. "Sparks" was there, looking somewhat better than when last I reported. Raphael and his friend, Henri, whom he says is from his hometown (but who speaks in a French Canadian accent!), Dorrie's half-sister Stephanie, Burt Liffler from next door (dressed in long pants for the first time in memory), Ray-Don and his "room-mate" Clifton, and Jim R., from my former job, joined us for the meal.

"Sparks" had to have his meal blenderized, as his system is still delicate. He insisted that Dorrie blend everything together. "It's a meal in a glass!" he commented between each lusty sip.

The meal went peacefully until Stephanie was seized with panic. "My bag!" she cried, as she sat up from the table, startled, in mid-chew. "It has my new clarinet in it! Oh, lord..."

Stephanie was certain she had left her shoulder-bag in the taxi in which she arrived at our doorstep. A panicked hour or two passed, in which repeated attempts were made to find the driver of the cab she took. To add to the suspense, the cabbie's radio was either off or broken. Apparently, he picked up numerous rogue fares from those who are stranded en route to, or from, their holiday festivities.

Stephanie was assured by the cab dispatcher that all lost items are brought into the main cab depot and held in a locked lost and found. She feigned calm, but I could see right through it. Her worry cast a black cloud over the rest of the evening.

Dorrie lightened the mood of the room by challenging all of the rest of us, as a team, against her in a titanic match of Scrabble. Stephanie was non comptos mentos from all her worry. The remainder of us gamely took on Dorrie. (That is, with the exception of Jim R., who begged off due to a "hot date.")

Raphael's friend, Henri, proved a most formidable opponent for "the missus." He brought the game to a momentary standstill with his daring play of the word ILLUMINERS. Dorrie challenged the word, which would have earned our team 89 points, as it was both a "bingo" and a Triple Word Score.

Henri claimed it was a word that meant "lamp-lighters," in reference to the trade of olden days. Back and forth the argument pulsed. I was anxious, as we had drawn the Z and Q tiles, as a result of this play, and were set to play QUETZAL as our next smash move.

I had to drive to the New Pantheon, go to an online dictionary website, seek the word ILLUMINERS, and return home. Of course, as I immediately discovered, there was no such word!

Before I shut down the computer, I took note of an accumulation of comic magazines atop my desk space. Friends, I think of you, and of this "blot," every day, and wish I had the time and space to make daily posts. I regret these long lapses, when the duties of life take their toll. Why, I was not able to spend precious time in my sanctum for THE ENTIRE WEEK before Thanksgiving!

Business at the Diner has continued to grow. Dorrie has had to hire an assistant chef--a mute young woman whose name, I believe, is Katrice. As she is mute (albeit extremely bright), she cannot repeat Dorrie's recipes to the world at large. Katrice has the unfortunate habit of sneaking up behind me, silent as a Sioux, and tapping me on the shoulder. I believe my life expectancy has been shortened by at least 11 months due to several of these incidents. I have learned not to over-react, and therefore not bruise her sensitive feelings.

Raphael's recent purchase of a wrist calculator (worn like a watch!) has improved his cashiering skills enormously. Each day, our till has the same overage or shortage: 37 cents. It no longer surprises anyone. If it is an overage, it goes into the tip bucket, to be split by Raphael and Katrice. If not, 37 cents comes out of the tip bucket.

Where was I? Oh, yes, this "bog" and my commitments. I have prepared a small stack of choice panelological gems with which to assail you in this and future posts.

Today's selection was borne of a common occurrence, as I root through boxes B-44 and B-45. My holdings of a curious series of "half-size" comics resides in these archival boxes. As a fascinating side-street of the panelological world, such titles as Nickel Comics and Pocket Comics are also a bothersome item for serious students and accumulators, such as myself.

They so easily lodge into corners of the boxes, fall on their sides, or slide underneath a regular organized stack of comic magazines. After having pulled my copy of Pocket Comics #4 from such a position many times, I opted to remove it, and its pint-sized brethren, and place them in a shoe box. Though it lacks the grandeur of the archival storage boxes that hold my other panelological gems, they are a proud, if dimunituve, part of the Pantheon.

I couldn't resist examining the elfin booklet, and soon settled in to read its 100 pages of colorful content from cover to cover. I confess that I fell asleep--'tis the fault of the endorphins in turkey! I awoke two hours later, disoriented, the tiny Pocket Comics perched on my chin. I recalled, with a start, the mission that had sent me here!

I could not, of course, find that dubious word on the online dictionary. Oh, my friends, I was in the dog house! I pictured our guests tapping their collective toes in smoldering fury. I meekly tucked the Pocket Comics into my coat pocket--how aptly named the book! It fits perfectly!--and motored home to "taste my medicine."

Imagine my surprise to approach the Moray residence and see an ambulance on our front lawn, its crimson lights silently throbbing! I left the Pruis in mid-street and dashed inside.

Friends, Stephanie had suffered a minor "attack," borne of her anxiety over the missing clarinet! She was now recovered, and laid groaning theatrically on the living room couch. Beside her stood "Sparks," who hovered like a worried owl, tsk-tsking and pacing the length of the sofa.

Dorrie had served the ambulance folks a late plate of Thanksgiving cheer. They sang their praises of Dorrie's Fruity Cola Bird (her name for the recipe) and her mashed potatoes, which are infused with canned green peas and small pieces of salted waffle batter.

Apparently, Burt Liffler had gone back home, to shed his un-natural long pants and return to his preferred gymnastic shorts.

Raphael and Henri dozed before a vintage episode of Hazel on TV. I do not know the whereabouts of Ray-Don or Clifton. I assume that they, too, tired of the wait and returned to their condominium for an evening's frolic.

"There is no such word as ILLUMINERS," I told Dorrie.

"I figured as much," she said.

"Stephanie... is she--"

"Oh, she'll snap out of it. She always does. This is just her way of getting attention."

The medical men finished their plates. Dorrie called out, in a voice clear as a Swiss sky: "There's pie!" A drowsy Raphael and Henri stumbled into the living room. "Sparks" looked longingly at the blender in the kitchen.

Yes, friends, there was pie. Dorrie's imagination has ne'er manifested itself so boldly as in her 3-in-1 Holiday Pie. Imagine, friends... one large pie with two smaller ones baked inside. A culinary equivalent to those little Russian dolls that all stack together.

The outer layer is a mince pie. The second layer is pumpkin. The third, and smallest, inner layer is a delightfully tart apple cinnamon pie. One would think that such distinct and rich flavors might cancel one another out. It is far from the truth! Each forkful combines the sweet, the savory and the tart. One mouthful is enough to make one wish each and every day could be Thanksgiving.

"Sparks" had his piece pureed, and sipped it with glee. "Wow!" he exclaimed with each slurp. "Hot dog!"

Dorrie made coffee. We all had the serene feeling of a lovely holiday. Despite Stephanie's low moans, all was well in the Moray household.

Then the police showed up. Apparently, it is a minor infraction of the law to leave one's car in the middle of the street! I sheepishly brushed pie crumbs off my chest and loped outside to park the car properly.

Laughter and a chorus of "Mm-MMs!" greeted my return. Yes, the "boys of blue" had cuaght wind of Dorrie's 3-in-1 pie, and took a pause from duty to enjoy a heaping slice.

"Oh boy," "Sparks" cackled. "All we need now is the Coast Guard!"

I did, I confess, glance at the front door. I do now know what a Coast Guard member might look like, but that would have been their cue to come marching inside. They did not.

Dorrie took on the police and ambulance staff in an epic Scrabble match. Her need for the game had been thwarted earlier. "Sparks" and I retired to my den to examine the issue of Pocket Comics. 'Twas then that today's story leapt out at me. Friends, this is a perfect example of the rewards of panelology. Within a book that most collectors regard as a nuisance, due to its odd size, resided this gripping, atmospheric, staggering tale. Prepare yourself--and I hope you have a slice of your favorite pie on hand! As they say, "it's going to be a ride!"

As you may have guessed, "Ellery King" is not the real name of the creator of "The Zebra." A team of three men produced "The Zebra." Writer Zeb Mullins had known the life of the "jail bird." Many arrests for littering had him in and out of "the stir" in the 1920s and '30s.

Mullins had long nursed the idea of a costumed crime-fighter who was, in real life, an ex-convict. He initially sought to call the character "Barman." Artist Sid Klensky pointed out that this was the title of a tavern-keeper, and, as such, would not be suitable for a crime-fighter.

John Creighton, a court stenographer who was friends of the Mullins-Klensky team, quipped that a character with black and white stripes might as well be called "Zebra-Man!"

This attempted joke turned into reality. Mullins and Klensky were convinced that the future of panelology lay in these experimental pint-size magazines. They prepared "The Zebra" speficically for Pocket Comics. Editor Grant Meehan approved of the feature, and the creative team was off to a flying start!

Creighton, who neither wrote or drew, was a vital member of the creative process. His role was to sit in an office chair and review each page of script. He would then apply this keen eye to Klensky's artwork. Some might call this "micro-management" today, but it assured that the "Zebra" tales were among the most striking--and impressive--features of Pocket Comics.

Carnivorous plants--sent by mail or messenger--would prove to be staple of Zeb Mullins' comic book stories. Time and again, in Mullins' world, a mysterious messenger--or cheerful postman--deposits a dangerous meat-eating plant (or the seed of such a plant, as seen in this tale) on the doorsteps of heroes and villains alike.

Mullins attempted to develop a newspaper comic strip, in a humorous style, along these lines. No examples are known to exist, but suffice it to say the concept was soundly rejected. Mullins became religious in the late 1950s and disappeared from the ranks of the panelological.

His concept was borne out in 1977, with the newspaper debut of Flip and Flytrap, a slyly humorous comic strip about a lonely bachelor and his talking carnivorous plant. As you know, the concept has sired TV series, several movies, and a startling number of hardcover novels. The series' creator, Ned Hempstead, did not know of Mullins' work. Few do, outside the bravest ranks of we panelologists.

The next time you encounter a carnivorous plant, or a simple seed, delivered by post office or messenger, in a vintage comic magazine, you can rest assured that it is the work of Zeb Mullins.

Few panelological gems can boast a finale as brilliant as this "Zebra" tale. What a stirring moment of utter realism! I should imagine that it would be difficult, in real life, for a costumed crime-fighter to separate his secret identity from his costumed one. To show up in the office of one's secret identity, and request to see one's self, is a metaphorical wrinkle worthy of the finest literature. Which, as we know, is exactly what our beloved panelology so often is!

P. S. Stephanie, who tends to mis-remember things, had (A) not brought her bag with her and (B) did not actually own a new clarinet. She had been thinking about it, and had a Selmer catalog open to the clarinets page. Dorrie mentioned that this is one reason who Stephanie is seldom invited to family events.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"Dynamic Man and Dynamic Boy"-- from Dynamic Comics 23-- 1947 (!)

Warm salutations, friends and countrymen! Dorrie's Diner has revised its hours. We now open at 9 AM and close at 3:30 PM. This affords me more time to devote to my beloved panelology than I've had in eons!
As well, "Sparks," now that he is dis-connected to the mysterious breathing apparatus, has bounced back considerably. He is still weak, and Dr. Denner advises him to stick to bed-rest. This edict could not be harder for a human being to follow!
"Sparks" earned his nick-name. He has always been an "on the move" type of fellow. Quick on his feet, quick-witted, and, to be honest, nervous!
As long as I've known him, he's rarely been in repose. His mealtime habit, unchanged through the decades, is to rock back and forth, rapidly, while humming "Over There," as he shovels down the food on his plate. "Over There" will cease for half-muttered exclamations such as "Gee! Good chow!," "Hits... the... spot!" and "Crunchy!"
"Sparks" will typically finish a meal--plate almost licked clean!--before I, or anyone at the table, has made a significant dent in their dishes. Once he is done, "Sparks" makes eye-contact with me, claps his hands (loudly!) and shouts, "Ho-kay, Macey! Let's get at them comics!"
I cannot help but blush when he does this "bit." It is a thorn in Dorrie's heel. She considers the ultimate complement to her cooking to have someone linger lovingly over every bite. I have learned (the hard way!) to chew slowly, and to make an "Mmmm-MMM!" response--somewhat similar to Andy Griffin's on the old "Ritz Crackers" TV commercials.
That one civility has kept ours a happy marriage all these years. The best part is that those responses are rarely forced. Dorrie is one heck of a fine chef! She insists on serving green vegetables, but I eat them, as I know they're good for me.
After Sunday dinner, "Sparks" insisted that we spend the evening at the New Pantheon. "Mace, we've just gotta go there! Tonight! No kiddin'!"
"But, 'Sparks,'" I countered, "Dr. Denner's orders... you're suppoposed to stay in bed--"
"Bull cookies!" was "Sparks"' response. "We've got work to do!"
Dorrie was disappointed, but agreed with me that it would be good to get him out of the house for a few hours. We took along a new portable "Breath-Pak" device. It is like a rucksack--worn on the user's shoulders, with a face-mask and clear plastic tubes that can easily be attached in case a burst of fresh oxygen is required.
"Sparks" insists on wearing the face-mask, which somewhat muffles his speech and distorts it. Thus, most of what I hear form him is "Buzz buzzaty buzz... bz zmm?" In the car, "sparks" rocks back and forth, patting his thighs in a fast rhythm and buzzing old favorites suchas "Mountain of Love," "God Bless America" and "Lollipop." As I said, he's an active sort!
We arrived at the New Pantheon. "Open the door, boy, open that door!" "Sparks" barked. He was uncommonly eager to get inside!
I hadn't switched on the lights, and already he dashed for Boxes 3-W through 7-W... the miscellaneous publishers holdings. Many of the comic magazines in these boxes are post-1942, and thus of less interest to me. But "Sparks" is noting if not surprising, and he did not fail with his inquisitive, searching nature once again.
"A-HAAA!" he cried (the cry more of a buzzing "Z-HZZZZ!" through his mask). He held up a copy of Dynamic Comics. I did not recognize it. I recall buying these with great excitement. Due to their 68-page count, I assumed they were pre-1942. Alas, this was a ploy for a small publisher--Harry Chesler--to carve a niche in the over-crowded post-war comic magazine market. While all other magazines trimmed down to 36 or 52 pages, Chesler chose the pre-war standard.
To be fair, these magazines were a hodge-podge of old and new material. Some of it is surprisingly good; some is shoddy and amateurish.
"Zzs zs za zun, Zace! Zzs Zs ZIT!" "Sparks" cried out.
He opened the cover and demanded that I read the very story I breathlessly presetn to you today. Ready yourself, dear friends... 'tis truly a golden surprise from the post-war era!

In view of today's "gay rights movement," one can long for the days when innocent tales such as this could be read without irony or interpretation. Many costumed comic book heroes do indeed appear "home-erotic" in the light of the 21st century. Their chiseled physiques, tight-fitting costumes and provocative names are fuel for the fire of modern irony.
It would surprise some of these modern smirkers to realize that, indeed, some of the 1940s' super-heroes were, indeed, intended to be "gay" or "lebsian" in their orientation. In their highly coded, metaphoric manner, certain of these features were beacons of hope and reason to the hidden, cloistered souls in small towns and big cities who dared to embrace "the forbidden love."
Dynamic Man was the brain-child of Hess Merrill, a playwright, gardener and (some have claimed) gigolo who turned to the comic magazines for pocket money.
Merrill had created a rash of similar characters in the 1940s, for various small publishers--many of them never printed. Merrill's "MO" was to take an exciting adjective, add "Man" and "Boy" to it, and craft a colorful tale of crime and punishment.
Thrilling Man, Exciting Boy, Magnificent Lad, Surprising Man, Aggressive Boy, Energetic Man, Intense Lad--these, and more, were the creation of Hess Merrill. While Merrill was no great shakes as a writer (his tales are highly formulaic and prosaic), he always included a couple of "tells"--as a sort of silent signature to his work.
Each of Merrill's stories has a scene just liek this one:
This is nothing if not a coded message to the cloistered "gays" of 1940s America! In their daily lives, they also faced such a crisis. What if their "secret identities" were discovered? Was there a "Dymanic Man" living next door to you--or was he your postman, your green-grocer, your ship's chandler?
Merrill's other significant "tell" was to conclude his stories with a scene of his heroic couple bathing or showering--and being interrupted by a third party, as seen here:

In a 1977 interview for Thrust! magazine, Merrill spoke briefly--and cryptically--of this ritualistic "tick":

I felt that the act of bathing--naked, soapy, active--was a sign to my fellow lurkers that they were indeed clean, proper, fit entities for a modern world. It was the world, its sad little self, who failed to take heed of this obvious truth. Poor world; I pity you so...

Merrill predictably drifted into the twilight world of "adult fiction" in the 1960s. These themes of his panelological work continued, unabated, in his fiction. Merrill made a niche of himself during the "camp" craze of 1966 with a series of tongue-in-cheek super-hero spoofs.

Merrill wrote each of these books under a different pen-name. Thus, they are resoundingly difficult to track down. I had the good fortune to acquire my lone Merrill adult novel, Wham! Pow! It's Vigorous Man!, at a Girl Scouts rummage sale in Idaho, some 20 years ago.

Here are the closing paragraphs of this "Kurt Weedon" novel, copyrighted 1968:

Vigorous Man peeled off his sweat-soaked costume. How tight it was! It left nothing to the imagination. And, yes, there was indeed plenty to reveal!

"What an adventure," Vigorous Man sighed. "I can't wait to get to bed..."

"I'm with you," Vigorous Lad muttered. He removed his mask and tossed it into the growing pile of sweaty, glistening fabric.

"Bet I can get undressed before you can!" Vigorous Man laughed.

"You've lost that bet," said Vigorous Boy. He slowly peeled off his colorful tights...

The warm water of the shower felt like a million heavens. How taxing, how strenuous were their actions in saving Townville! Yet a long, hot shower, with his faithful crime-fighting partner, was the ultimate reward for their manly feats of derring-do...

"Soap my back?" asked Vigorous Boy.

"All that and more!" quipped Vigorous Man. He lathered his young ward's shoulders, and massaged his rippling shoulders, slowly, lovingly...

Then the door opened. It was Sgt. O'Flannery--flabby, jowly, in need of a shave, smelling of corned beef. "Ah--there you are! Fine work, fellows. Fine work!"

"Sgt. O'Flannery! Holy potatoes!" cried Vigorous Boy. "W-we can explain..."

"Ah, 'tis nothin' t' explain, me lads... nothin' t' explain... I'll leave ye t' yer foine washin', noo."

O' Flannery tipped his hat and exited.

"We've just got to get a lock for our front door," Vigorous Boy sighed.

"I'll put up a barricade," Vigorous Man quipped.

"Brother, we'll need it!" They both laughed, a long lusty and sudsy laugh.

Hess Merrill died in 1981. Had he lived, I truly believe his ground-breaking trance-gender stories would be hailed by progressives. Instead, they linger in their own cloistered twilight... in the yellowing pages of obscure, unwanted comic magazines.

I am, without a doubt, heterosexual. But as a panelologist, I vividly understand what it is like to be outside the margins of acceptable society. What it means to be thought a fool, a coward, and an eccentric!

Needless to say, "Sparks" Spinkle has struck vintage gold once again! I've a good mind to let him rummage through the "W" series boxes. I hope to present other unearthed gems via his tireless discoveries!

POST-SCRIPT: As a reward for this outstanding "find," I allowed "Sparks" 15 minutes of crime-fighting in the downtown retail area. We discovered an arsonist, another parking meter cheater, and several litterers. Without leaving the car, "Sparks" put them in their place with a bracing lecture. They stopped in their tracks. Litterers properly disposed of their trash; the arsonist stopped to stamp out his cigarette butt; the meter cheater ran into the night.

"We've done good tonight, Mace," sighed "Sparks," as he replaced his breathing face-mask. "Ze've zun zood zoonight."

Friday, October 8, 2010

"Flagman and Rusty" from Captain Aero Comics--Plus News Updates of Home and Life

I apologize, dear subscriber, for the long silence since my lsat post. To be blunt, events in my life have not been ideal of late. The month of September was one of much suffering. "Sparks" continues to have ill health.

The last week of September was a dark one for us all. My dear friend nearly perished of his health problems. You will recall that "Sparks" was suffering from a collapsed lung. As it turned out, the red and blue ticking, hissing machine that he was hooked up to had something weirdly wrong with it. It was full of Brach's "Neopolitan Sundae" candies!

Apparently, someone at the hospital used the inner hatch of the contraption to store their snacks. On-the-job eating is expressly forbidden at Emberton Memorial Emergency Medical Centre Pavillion. Thus, this person (likely an intern) hoarded his or her snacks deep in the bowels of this seldom-used machine! (It has a 1966 copyright on it--the machine, that is... not the candies.)

You'll recall that I reported a loud ticking noise--so persistent that it interfered with my sleep. Those 'ticks' were the candies, being bounced around inside the high pressure of the machine's inner chambers! Each fevered breath of "Sparks" sent these sticky rectangles caroming madly around. Finally, one of them became unwrapped, through the sheer force of impact. The rogue "Sundae" was forced through the high-pressure breathing duct. It lodged in "Sparks"' throat.

At 4 AM one morning, I awoke to a cacophony of squeaks, thumps and gasps. I sensed something was wrong with my friend and kindred spirit. I rushed into "Sparks"' room to find him purple-faced, contorting like a freshly hooked trout!

In my previous job, as insurance claims adjuster, I was officially trained in "CPR" for the office. Thus, I knew at once that the purple coloration was choking-related. I recalled the "Himlich Manuever" and quickly dislodged the tri-colored block from my friend's throat.

"Get me out of this monkey house," "Sparks" weakly gasped. Sadly, I could not find the opening to the accursed device's hatch. I did notice a large OFF button, and duly pressed it. "Sparks" immediately began to feel better. At his request, I got him a glass of buttermilk and sat with him, to be sure he was truly among the living.

There was no point in going back to sleep. Thus, "Sparks" and I greeted the dawn together. As is constant with our long friendship, the subject of panelology quickly surfaced. "Sparks" has been combing some of my panelological treasures for "forgotten diamonds." He had perused a run of Captain Aero comic magazines, in search of same. Among the lackluster Holyoke line of magazines, it did not yield much of interest.

Until issue 11. Hidden in the back of the magazine was an obscure hero, in his equally shrouded wartime adventure. I find, in general, a lack of interest in wartime comic magazines. The jingoism of the war agenda reduced the universe of boundless fantasy to a drab simulacrum of real life. How disappointed 1940s readers must have been by this change!

The Period of Greatness in panelology, for me, extends from 1937 to 1942. In those six years, the comic magazine was born, struggled through its growing pains, and soared to sublime heights in 1939 and 1940. Because of publishing schedule lags, the impact of the Pearl Harbor attack--and America's plunge into combat--did not immediately surface in the pages of our comic magazines. But by 1942's end, almost all the fantasy and imagination had been bruited out of panelology. Nazi dictators replaced the phantoms, monsters and scientific fiends who so genuinely embodied evil and so menaced the righteous crusaders of good.

The loss was palpable, and to my viewpoint, permanent. Although I do find some mild enjoyment in post-war comic magazines, it is a decidedly muted thrill. Thus, my post-1942 magazines are place-holders, rather than treasures.

Still, some imaginations couldn't be curdled by world events. Every now and again, a little zircon would emerge from pulp pages that once bore diamonds, rubies and emeralds. Today's brief offering is one such synthetic diamond on paper.

"This one's a corker, Mace," "Sparks" croaked. He insisted I read the story out loud. As I read, he cackled, chortled and applauded the story's events. Immediately, I knew I must make this the next sharing on this "blog."

Later that day, as I attempted to total the day's receipts (Raphael's cashiering still leaves much to be desired, although his steadfastness, personal charm and appeal continue to make our little bistro successful), Dorrie came up to me with a newspaper. She looked upset, her face paled.

Longtime "Bloggers" may recall my memories of high-school friend, Russ "Rusty" Gortner. "Rusty" was an admirer of the British Invasion duo of "Peter and Gordon." In fact, we fashioned our own musical "act" based on them, called "Mason and Rusty." We were both caught in the thrall of "Bealtemania" and immediately learned how to strum a guitar. We also attempted to grow our hair out. It took much careful combing to hide our hair growth from parents and teachers.

"Mason and Rusty" never got beyond a couple of high-school talent contests, but we enjoyed our attempts to re-create the delightful sounds of our English idols. After high school, we inevitably drifted apart. "Rusty" was drafted, and did three tours of duty in Vietnam. I kept in touch with him via postcards and the rare international phone call. But by 1973, "Rusty" was out of touch.

I always wondered what happened to my friend of times bygone. Well, on that afternoon, I found out. The newspaper reported "Rusty"'s death in an interstate trucking accident. Embittered by foot problems he gained in the war, "Rusty" became a truck driver. Coast-to-coast treks were his stock in trade. According to the article, hauling livestock was his specialty.

"Rusty" died as he worked. Driving a truckload of quail into Fresno (for eventual consumption at the popular chain of family restaurants, "Quail Hut"), he lost control of his "big rig" and tumbled down a steep desert chasm. "Rusty" died in the desert sun. None of the quail died in the accident. They scattered into the desert, spared from death on the dinner plate.

As said, I was long out of touch with "Rusty," but his memory stood within me. It was hard to know what--or how--to feel. Yet sadness gripped me. Then the truth of panelology again struck like lightning. The irony shall be immediately evident upon your perusal of the first frame of this graphic adventure. Read on, dear visitor...

One hesitates to assign too much significance to any post-1942 panelological piece. Yet this unknown, un-appreciated "Flagman and Rusty" conveys the breathless sense of wonder--and abandon--that categorized comic magazine stories from the Period of Greatness.

Writer/artist Herman Tesh labored anonymously in the back pages of many comic magazines. His colleagues teasingly nick-named him "Bookback" as his work never graced the front pages of any publication. Tesh was responsible for dozens of minor features such as "Little Otto," "Mazurka the Mystic," "Bob Mifflin, Air Ace" and the single-page filler features "Officer McBeat" and "Orchestral Ollie." Tesh was equally adept in realism and cartoon comedy, and often created 40 to 50 pages of published material each month.

Tesh never signed his name to his work, never won any awards, and is not cited as an influence of any contemporary panelologists. Yet the Herman Teshes of the world were the backbone of the comic magazine industry. Without Tesh and his ilk, publishers would have run short of material, and probably resorted to reprints and longer text pieces.

As is overwhelmingly evident, Tesh understood what made for a "good read." I delight in his whimsical approach to the deadly-serious war propaganda. His Hitler and Mussolini are chucklesome characters-- a far cry from the murderous tyrants they were in reality. Tesh was ahead of the curve in his use of a killer gorilla.

This theme is, perhaps, Tesh's lasting legacy to the art panelologic. Prior to Tesh, the gorilla was merely a comical figure in panelology. Tesh made this primate a hairy threat to hero and heroine alike. I detect a tongue planted firmly in cheek through this "Flagman" tale--yet it never backs away from thrills and derring-do.

Now that "Sparks" is doing better, I've urged him to explore more post-1942 magazines. Perhaps he will unearth more surprises such as this piece.

By the way, we found 113 "Neopolitan Sundae" candies, a sack full of "Butterscotch Discs" and several issues of Jet magazine inside "Sparks"' breathing apparatus. The Jets were all 1975 issues. Perhaps the candies were of similar vintage. "Sparks" insisted on keeping the candies in his room. I suspect he has been snacking on them himself. To each his own, as it is said...

Friday, August 27, 2010

And Thus, A New Era Begins!

Dearest friends,

Salutations and humble apologies for my long absence from these plains. 'Tis a time of great industry and joy in the Moray homestead. Dorrie's Diner thrives, even in these grim days of economic despair.

Business booms for us; thus we have added a veranda for outdoor dining. This veranda occupies much of the back yard. Alas, the Former Pantheon had to be uprooted. I planned to have it towed to the county junk yard. Burt Liffler, always puttering aimlessly in his alleged garden, got wind of my plans and cornered me, prior to the expulsion.

"It's just the thing for my tools," he repeated. "I'll pay you for it."

"Nonsense, neighbor," I sighed, "it is yours for the asking."

"Please let me pay you 20 dollars, Mason."

"It's yours, free of charge."

"25 dollars. You drive a hard bargain..."

"I repeat: the shed is yours, free and clear. No payment required."

Mister Liffler finally pressed two 20-dollar bills in my palm and trotted away with glee. I could not return the monies to him. Thus, I considered it a donation to the New Pantheon. 'Twas well spent on archival backing boards and acid-free comic book bags. A few of my pre-1940 titles are in dire need of a new set of "duds." Comic book bags were made of crude polystyrenes in the early 1970s. Time has not been kind to them. They have yellowed and withered, like the sere flesh of a sunbaked crone.

Where was I? Oh, yes--the veranda. It is a sea of maroon-hued cedar planks, decorated with merry dots and dashes--themselves the artistry of Ray-Don, our village's supreme aesthete. The initial expenses of new furniture, umbrellas for daytime dining, and a smattering of tropical plants (the better to give the layout that Southern Pacific "vibe") have all but been paid for by our increased patronage.

I've not had as much time to spend in the glory of the New Panthron as I would like. A booming business means increased responsibilities! My role as manager demands that I do the nightly accounting. Raphael is a dear lad, but his increased role as waitstaff-cashier has not been Dorrie's finest hour as a decision-maker.

I fear the young man has a slight case of dsylexia. He tends to swap out numbers. An entree priced at $7.50 will be rung up as $5.70 or $7.05. Our master receipt is number-coded as to each specific item. Thus, I can, at a glance, detect which entree was purchased. Typically, we either have a slight overage or a noticeable shortage.

To this end, I am in the process of converting the cash register to a series of numbered keys. Dorrie's Sophisticated Sass Omelet, for example, is item 28 on the numeric list. On the keypad proper, its number is 82. This accommodates Raphael's vision problem and assures less accounting time for yours truly.

I write this missive, so long overdue, from the cool shelter of the New Pantheon. You may recall that, in my prior post, I reported odd vibrations and accompanying noises issuing from somewhere in the storage facility. As a lifelong panelologist, I am something of an armchair sleuth. I ventured deep into the subterranean bowels of storage to further investigate this phenomenon.

I located its source. In the sub-sub basement, back in a dark corridor, is a room even a blind man could locate. For the smell of peanuts--fresh, rich peanuts--suffuses the very air.

On the door is a hand-lettered sign that reads:


The door's edges, near its rusted knob, are smeared with an ochre goo. From within comes a great grinding and jolting vibrations. Friends, we have an illegal manufacturer of peanut butter on the premises! I should be fair; perhaps they have obtained a legal business permit. This I know not as of yet.

It poses no threat to me or to the contents of the New Pantheon. I don't believe peanut butter is flammable or airborne.

Speaking of flames: today's offering is thematically linked. Today's post, in deed, contains two full-length paneological stunners from the same 1940 comic magazine. The second issue of Wham Comics, published in those wild "fronteir days" before the second World War, offers a brace of astounding four-color fascinations. I share with you today its two top features: "Blue Flame" and "Solarman."

I have more news to share, but shall wait until after today's festivities commence. We must have our panelological studies, mustn't we?

The greatest thrill of a vintage comic magazine its is bold, emblazoned cover. Such vivid hues! Such promising scenes--a moment forever frozen in permanent time. How I pity those whose pitch does not quicken at such a grand, glorious sight:

For once, the contents build upon the eternal promise of hope given us by this spectacular cover. All features in Wham Comics are top-flight panelology. I shall mete these out so that you and I might better savor their superior charms.

Lew Glanz (with uncredited writer Sherm Blystock) created the most unusual--dare I say surreal?--(I dare!) BLUE FIRE. 'Tis among the most distinctive and imaginative costumed-crusader features of the American comic magazine, circa 1940...

I was fortunate to speak with Sherm Blystock in 1973. I tracked him down to a retirement home in Palisades Park, New Jersey. Mr. Blystock was still "with it," and offered this sardonic view of what most panelologists would regard as his mangum opus:

MYSELF: Now, onto the BLUE FLAME...


Oh, oh, yes. Fire, not flame. As I'm sure you realize, this was among the more unusual super-hero features of its time.

(laughs) It was OK, I guess...

What divine burst of inspiration gave birth to this creation?

(chuckles sardonically) The gas bill.

Beg pardon?

I needed money to pay the gas bill. We'd just gotten married, and a kid was on the way. Winter was coming on, and we needed the heat.

(puzzled) Gas bill...

You know... the gas has a blue flame. I kept staring at the pilot light. It was the middle of the night. I was up with indigestion--those clams weren't so fresh. I needed some sure-fire money. I'd written for the funnies before... KOGAR, STRETCH ROBINSON, ACE BRANSON. Pretty standard stuff. But I knew I needed something new. Something different.

That pilot light on the stove. It was so blue and bright. And I got it in my thick skull that a fellow who could master that blue flame might make a pretty good character. I got out my pencil and pad and by morning I had the idea down and a couple of stories mapped out.

The blue flame...

No, no! BLUE FIRE!

Oh. Yes...

The interview ended abruptly with a call for luncheon. Blystock was wheeled away by a male nurse. I never saw or spoke to him again.

Frank Thomas was a heavy-weight in the comic magazine field for many years. Although he later specialized in "cartoon critter" features for Dell Comics, an early forte was his imaginative, boldly designed super-hero and action stories, including the stylish (dare I say chic?) Solarman.

I don't usually feature such "big lights" as Thomas herein. As you know well, I prefer the underdogs of panelology. But a tale as good and as startling as this must be seen again. And thus it is!

'Twould seem that two features as strong and graceful as these were "shoe-ins" for long-term success. Alas, Wham Comics went the way of so many colorful, promising titles in the wild and woolly early days of the genre. As you'll no doubt agree, it was the world's loss (and ours as well.)

And now that news I alluded to earlier...

"Sparks" Spinkle has taken ill. He has always been a bit on the delicate side--a truth he would deny vociferously! He is a spry, bird-like fellow, quick-witted and possessed of great vitality, even as he approaches 70 years.

However, he has always suffered from asthma, and in the autumn of his years, this condition has worsened. "Sparks" and I were struggling to master Power-Point, the better to prepare a presentation on panelology for the local Shriners group. In the midst of a heated discussion over The Star-Spangled Kid (I despise the feature; "Sparks" adores it), he suddenly collapsed in a wheezing, gasping heap.

We rushed him to the Emberton Memorial Emergency Medical Centre Pavillion. I feared the worst. Dorrie and I spent the greater part of that evening in the waiting room, me pacing nervously, she napping quietly.

The news eventually came: "Sparks" has a partially collapsed lung! The doctor implored us to see that he has three months of bed-rest. We have installed a special breathing apparatus (which "Sparks"' insurance, thankfully, paid for in full). The machine is painted red and blue. It ticks loudly and irregularly. The ticking has made my sleep fitful of late. The ticks are joined by a raspy sound rather like a fingernail running up and down the bottom string of a bass fiddle. (That, you see, is my friend's inhalation and exhalation, aided by the ticking gadget.)

Night before last, "Sparks" called me into his room. He bade me sit down by his bed. "Mace," he said, "as you know, I've been doing what little I can to make sure this fine town is crime-free. Doc says it's three months of lay-down for me. Can't get out and patrol the streets like I used to."

I started to speak. "No, no, I know you're against it. But you have to admit I've made a difference around here as 'Super-Senior.'"

I nodded. I didn't know what else to do.

"Without me, this burg's gonna go back to its lawless ways. Listen--do a pal a favor."


"Go out at night. Just make sure everything's OK. You'll find my crime-fighting kit out on the carport. It's in a big Ross Dress-For-Less bag."

"B-but I can't... it's not..."

"Mace, I've been there for you. More times than I can remember. And now I'm asking you to be there for me..."

A tear welled up in my friend's eye. It trickled down his face. He sniffed once, patted me weakly on my arm, and then attached the breathing tube to his nose and mouth. To the tune of ticking and rasping, I left his room.

So far, I have made three patrols of our fair city. Not in costume, and not on foot. I've taken slow drives through the main streets, at 10 miles an hour, in search of malfeasance. I did catch one ne'er-do-well who took two newspapers for the price of one. I honked my horn at him, opened the window, and wagged my finger in his direction. I hope he was reformed.

Well, 'tis late and the vibrating of "BUTTER-KING" has commenced. I suppose it's time that I head out and give the streets a "once-over." Crime never sleeps, but "Sparks" rests soundly in the knowledge that I am, albeit reluctantly, carrying on his noble cause. Wish me luck, my comrades in comic book artistry...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Oh, Glory Day! Wondrous News, Dear Reader! Read On...

My time of woe is at last over, friends! Who says real life does not have a "happy ending?" In this case, good has triumped over evil!

Today is my 61st birthday. It began, as have all my birthdays since my union with Dorrie, with her preparation of my official birthday breakfast, "The Leaning Tower of Pancakes." Dorrie is part chef, part artist. She uses nut wedges, whipped cream and strawberries to build the support structure for a vertiginous tower of flapjacks, each one canted a few millimeters here and there.

The visual effect is a stunner. When pancake syrup is poured over the top, the 'waterfall' effect is a real doozie. It's almost too pretty to eat. But when you consider what goodies Dorrie mixes into the pancake batter--mini-marshmallows, minced walnuts, maraschino cherries, plain croƻtons (for an added crunch) and bits of Heath bars (finely smashed)--admiring it as art is, plain and simple, out of the question!

"What are you going to do today, Mace?" my dear betrothed asked from across the table.

"I think I shall index the later issues of.... of..." I sighed and dropped my fork. "I beg your pardon, Dorrie. I fear I've lost my appetite." I scooted my chair back from the breakfast nook table, and promptly banged my head on a wall bracket.

"Poor Mace," my wife said, as she soothed me. "Poor Mace. You've suffered so much... well, we're going on a little field trip today. It'll be just the thing to cure your blues. Now eat up..."

She handed me the fork, and somehow, I fought back the tears. I found the courage to plunge that fork into the tower of pancakes, and take the first savory bite...

Many, many bites later, with a final, refreshing mug of coffee, I was ready to bathe, shave and face the world on this, the first day of my 61st year 'pon this green Earth.

In the shower, as I sang a Peter and Gordon favorite, "You Don't Have To Tell Me" (a choice track from their first American album, World Without Love), I had what some would call an epihpany:

I've spent my whole adult life compiling a remarkable gatherum of panelological masterworks. Perhaps now is the time to let them go... to simply cherish their memories. For you see, each story is emblazoned in my heart... printed on the four-color press of my soul onto the fabric of my personal universe. Perhaps 'tis best to hold these visual wonders in my heart...

Tears streamed down my face as the impact of this thought washed over me. Here was I, so heart-sick for so long. I still had some 800 of my favorite panelological treasures--with the mysterious return of box C-14 (as documented in my most recent posting here).

My mind still teemed from the recent demands of my collection's captors. Heaven knows, I've suffered a barrage of verbal slings and arrows since the forced posting of the abominable work of Lee Sherman. I have been called everything from a "gadfly" to "a pitiable, foolish, foolish man" by my detractors. You, my dear friends who remain, know that 'twas not my choice to publish that gutter rubbish of last time. I do hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me...

But I digress. Aglow from my insight, I toweled off and dressed. I wondered what Dorrrie had planned for this special day. A picnic? A day of "garage sale-ing?" Mine was the fate of those who sit and wait...

Dressed and ready for the day, I re-entered the living room. Dorrie was dressed, too--in a very chic pants suit. I knew this must be a special occasion. "Got all your things?"

I gathered my wallet, keys and such from the bureau. Then I saw this key, which you'll remember from a few posts back:
"Accursed thing!" I shouted. "Abomination! Mocking me with your riddle!" I hurled the key in the waste-basket to the right of the bureau.

"We may need that," Dorrie said. She retreived the key and pocketed it. With a smile, she led me out into the sunny, bright Sunday morning.

Something suddenly struck me: Dorrie was not going to church! I thought better of "making issues" of this most unusual behavior. Perhaps she felt that this, being my birthday, was a sufficient excuse to not attend her house of worship. If so, I was deeply honored. My wife is rather devout in her beliefs.

" Would you drive, Mace?" Dorrie asked as we approached the Prias.

As we left our driveway, "the missus" b egan a series of confounding directions. "Turn right here... go under the Westridge overpass... take Charnel Street down past the Arby's drive-through..." and so on. I soon had no idea where I was. I was in a part of town I'd never before seen.

Finally, I was instructed to park in the lot of Hal's Hide-A-Way Secure Storage. The exterior of the building, painted robin's-egg blue, looked like some merry prison.

Indeed, the imposing, towering structure had an armed guard--Sal Sharpley, a fellow "panelologist." Sal's specialty is the 1940s "Green Arrow," as ably delineated by George Papp.

Sal, in his too-large security guard "threads," nodded amiably. "Mason! Good to see you, buddy."

"Did you ever locate issue 96 of More Fun Comics?" I thoughtfuly inquired.

Sal chuckled. "You remembered! Nope, still looking for that one darned issue. That'll complete my 'Arrow' run. Come on in, folks."

Sal pressed a keypad. After a battery of bloops and bleeps, we were admitted to the inner sanctum of this cheerless citadel. Sal trailed behind us. Our heels clicked down the echoey corridor.

Suddenly, a thought struck like thunder:

Sal Sharpply lives in Cincinatti, Ohio!

I turned to confront him. "Sal! Y-you're not--"

Sal brandished his gun. "Uh uh, Mace. Just keep walking." He patted me on the back.

We turned a corner. At the end of a narrow, dimly lit corridor was an elevator. "Get in," Sal said. We did as told.

Sal punched the button for the fifth floor. With a shuddering shake, up we went. I could hear Sal's nostrils whistle as he breathed the stale air of the elevator.

The door lumbered open. At my feet was my treasured copy of Science Comics #4!

A trail of other cherished panelological gems led down a long, shadowy hall. "Wh-what on earth..." I cried. My heart pounded 'neath my chest.

"Pick 'em up and keep walking," Sal snarled. I bent down and retrieved one dear four-color friend after another. I cradled them in my arms, so happy to see them yet so puzzled as to why they were here, and why I was here...

The trail ended in front of a door, with a proud pile of my beloved Wonderworld Comics! Home of William Eisner's stunning "Yarko" and Louis Fine's elegaic "Flame!"

Dorrie pressed the key in my sweaty palms. "Open the door," she said. Sal grinned like a banshee. Friends, I was afraid. Had even my own wife turned against me?
I was so nervous I had difficulty inserting the key into the lock. But finally I opened the door. With great caution, I stepped slowly into the darkened room....


Lights blazed on into a cacophony of color, sound and faces. Friends, fellow panelologists, neighbors, and even my step-brother Frederic were all there, all smiling, and all cheering my name!

The fellow named "Ray-Don" greeted me. "How do you like it, Mason?"

I looked around the room. A neat set of shelves contained... my panelological treasures! Each and every carton of wonder, as neatly arranged as one could wish for!

On the walls were expertly painted reproductions of panels from some of my favorite features: "Shock Gibson," "Mars Mason," "Strongman," Navy U.S. Jones," et all. On the background of the circus-colored walls were emblazoned various panelological sound effects. It was done with a skillful hand, and it must have taken hours of work to render these scenes with such expertise.

I was guided to the most comfortable arm-chair I've ever sat in. It faced a simple, tasteful desk upon which stood a new computer and scanner--plus the loose-leaf volumes of my panelology notes.

"Welcome to the New Pantheon, Mr. Moray!" a familiar voice crowed.

"Si, Senor Moray," another recognizable voice said. "Espero que este lugar especial agrada usted!"

It was "Sparks" Spinkle and Raphael--dressed in their crime-fighting guises of "Super Senior" and his sidekick "Equis!"

"Sorry 'Sparks' and Raphael couldn't attend this shebang," "Super-Senior" said. "They're, uh..."

"Away on important business," "Equis" said.

"Yep, off on important business. But they sent this card. Heck, everyone chipped in on it."

It was an unusually large greeting card--the exact size of a Golden Age comic magazine. The 'cover' of the card was an issue of MORAY COMICS, lettered somewhat in the style of WHIZ COMICS. A depiction of yours truly, standing in the very room I was in, holding a pile of beloved comic magazines, was flanked by a blazing legend:


Inside was this inscription:

Dearest Husband, Dearest Friend:

Thank you for helping me to realize a life-long dream. Dorrie's Diner is a big success--we couldn't have done it without you! You deserved better than that old battered shed in the backyard. Here is your inner sanctum--a place to call your own, where your collection is safe and sound. Believe it or not, it's within walking distance of the house! (Tee-hee!)

Below this were a gaggle of signed names. As all burst into a rendition of "Happy Birthday," a giant cake was wheeled into the New Pantheon. I'm not ashamed to admit that I burst out into tears--surrounded by so much friendship, such love, and such reverence!

The whole saga rushes back in my memory--the mysterious fire at Ngo's Snak-Shak; the lengthy bacchanal on our street; the synchronous dissapearance of my collection at that same time...

"Super-Senior!" I shouted. "Did you, or did you not, have a hand in that fire?"

"Sparks" looked at me in puzzlement. "What fire?"

"The fire," I said. I gestured with open palms. "The... fire..."

A glint of memory came into his masked eyes. "Oh, oh oh oh! THAT fire!" He chuckled. "I can't lie, Mr. Moray. Me and my sidekick here, we... we kind of encouraged it along a bit."

"Big barrel," "Equis" said, "of animal fats behind the shack. Ignites very well..."

"B-but this was arson! And you were all accomplices to this crime?"

Dorrie laughed. "The police shut that place down. No one was in there."

"It wasn't even an official building," Raydon explained. "They didn't have a permit, or nothin'."

"It was a convenient way," "Super-Senior" continued, "of getting you distracted long enough to move your collection to this new location. No crime was committed. If 'Sparks' and Raphael were here, they could explain."

"Let's cut the cake," Sal Sharpley and Bart Jaffney (owner of Killer Komix!) cried in unison.

As the cake was cut (presided upon by the garrulous Burt Liffler, my next-door neighbor), my first thought was to give something back to the friends that had made this nightmare end.

I dashed for box V-14, rifled through it, and retrieved my copy of More Fun #96. I pressed it into Sal Sharpley's hands. "Now your collection is complete."

Sal's jaw dropped. "I... I can't believe it..." He broke into tears. "I never thought this day would come..."

To the tune of Peter and Gordon's "Nobody I Know," the party began. Friends, it was an hour or two of utter merriment. "Super-Senior" and "Equis" quickly excused themselves. A few minutes later, "Sparks" and Raphael happened to show up.

"Well, that important business is all taken care of," "Sparks" said.

"Si, all is taken care of," Raphael echoed. The two shared a quiet chuckle and helped themselves to cake and punch.

"Sparks" became the emcee of the soiree. First, he regaled us all with the story of the New Pantheon. It was his idea. He'd taken note of the disrepair of the Former Pantheon, and worried for the safety of my treasures.

With Dorrie's Diner a booming success, he consulted with all my friends and loved ones to "chip in" for the monthly rental of a climate-controlled storage space. Furthermore, it would be designed as my panelological citadel--a place where I could continue my deeper studies of this art-form without arousing Dorrie's allergies.

"Sorry to put you through so much worry, buddy," "Sparks" said. "But there's no other way we could have gotten these babies to their new home. Boy, if only these comic books could talk!""

He opened box B-6 and retrieved my copy of Leading Comics #2. "Remember when you got this one?" He told its "origin story." I spotted it at a flea market in Ohio in 1977. A little girl wanted to buy it (the asking price: a mere quarter!), and grabbed it first. I had to purchase a heaping stack of Little Lottas (at three dollars!) to trade her for this invaluable example of the art and story of John Lehti.

"Doggoned kid went and put those Lottas on sale! She sold 'em all at a handsome profit--but Maceroonie still got the best of her!"

He kept the crowd enrapt with selections from my collection, each endowed with a colorful anecdote of when--and where--I acquired them. Even I was "wowed" by some of my past wheeling and dealing.

Them, by request, "Sparks" and I enacted one of my favorite "Yarko" tales, from Wonderworld issue 5. "Sparks" depicted Vladim, the evil genius, whilst I portrayed the inimitable Yarko. "Raydon" joined us to portray the incidental characters, including the nameless woman who is saved from voodoo doom.

I'll present the brilliant William Eisner story here as a "capper" and as a souvenir of this wonderful day of my blessed life:

What a masterwork! Our impromptu reading (a re-creation of one presented at the 1974 ThunderCon in Wheeling, West Virginia) received voluminous applause. I approached Raydon and said to him:

"Son, I have seriously mis-judged you. You are a profoundly talented artist and designer, and I approve of your alternative lifestyle. You are always welcome here and in my home."

Raydon kissed me on the cheek--to the roaring approval of all gathered!

I did take the moment to ask Raydon why he selected those horrible Lee Sherman stories for my prior post? His answer: "They're just so icky. I mean, look at them. A blind man could have done better." (Little does this young roisterer know the truth of his statement!)

Apparently, such dross is celebrated in certain quarters. You, dear faithful friend, have my iron-clad assurance: only the finest in panelological story and art shall appear here from now on! I trust today's offering will do much to "settle the balance."

Later, I had a brief chat with my step-brother. Friends, I don't believe I've mentioned him heretofore. Frederic does not share my passion for the arts panelological, but he recognizes the financial worth of these vintage publications. He works as an investor, or regulator, or some such position.

He refers to the Pantheon's holdings as "a nice portfolio," which I suppose it is. Try as I may, I cannot warm entirely to Frederic. I was secretly amused to see Burt Liffler corner him, later in the party, with his unending chitter-chat about this, that, and the other.

The party is over. Indeed, friends, the nightmare of the last three miserable months has ceased! I write this from the New Pantheon, which is, indeed, a mere four blocks from the house. (That was some route Dorrie took me on in the car--the trickster!) The New Pantheon is air-conditioned, and even has "wire-fi" internet service.

I have begun to notice a slight electronic buzzing sound, accompanied by barely-perceptible vibrations, coming from somewhere within this building. Perhaps it is the workings of the "boiler room," or some such place, deep in the bowels of this fortress. The buzzing is just noticeable enough to bother me, if I take notice of it.

But with the music turned up loud enough, I don't notice the buzz. The pulsing is forceful enough to cause me to take notice. It poses no apparent threat to the New Pantheon's holdings. The music, itself, does make it rather hard to concentrate or write. I suppose I shall soon become accustomed to this, and shan't even notice it in the future.

This is a beginning of a new, and greater era, for the Panelological Pantheon! Hurrah! Cheers! Let the new millenium begin!