Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Merry New Year! Special Post: The Wonders of Science--Science Comics, That Is!

Friends, a bright new year is upon us. I am a bit errant in my greetings to you all. Blame it on my "Christmas presents!"

Yes, I had a fine accumulation of panelological gems awaiting me on St. Nick's morn! More than I had expected, in fact. Dorrie had to literally pry me away from my new treasures for Christmas dinner.

I had a bad case of "the jitters"--not only from Dorrie's inimitable Velvet Fog Cocoa, but from the sheer overwhelm of visual and verbal wonders that spilled forth from those golden sheaves of vintage panels and pages!

Most stunning of the many pulp-paper baubles on my docket were several long-desired issues of the early Fox Features comic magazine, Science Comics. This noble effort was a heroic failure. Talk about being too good for the market--and of being ahead of one's own time!

The features in this magazine were simply too advanced, too liberal in their daring use of the nascent comic magazine medium, to "click" with the public. Your "Joe Average" could understand the simplistic "Superman." He could "get" the thuggish thrills of the "Bat-Man." He even craved the alleged charms of "Captain Marvel."

These were features aimed at the masses. They took little concentration to enjoy. Though still hailed as classics of pioneering panelology, they leave little to satisfy or provoke the 21st century reader.

This "crowd pleaser" attitude certainly affected the most popular of the Fox Features characters. The exploits of The Blue Beetle, Samson and such, while top sellers of their day, now seem rather flaccid and dull to my eyes.

Of course, as you know I have always championed the "little guy," the "second banana," and "the undertow." I strongly feel--and I believe I'm right--that the lesser-known material is always of a higher jib, a choicer cut, than the "big guys."

Case in point: Michael Griffith's stunning episode of "Cosmic Carson," from issue #2 of Science Comics. The artwork, here, is by a young panelologist named George Tuska.

What fun he has with the medium of the comic magazine page! There is a joy of life that jumps from each thrilling frame. Modern panelologists still have much to learn from the pioneers such as Tuska.

I'll refrain from my usual report of goings-on until after today's story. I can't wait for you to revel in the stylistic stunts of "Cosmic Carson!"

Did your jaw drop when you espied the fifth page of this story? Rightfully so! Said page sent me into a "trance state" On Christmas morn!

Back in the heyday of the comic magazine "fan zine," I often published a special feature I called "Anatomy of A Page." It is far easier to attempt this formal study on the Internet.

When I published the original series in Panelological Pleasures and Panelologist's Pride, my two major "self-pubbers," as we old-timers once called them. I was unable to reproduce the pages in questions.

Thus, exhaustive verbal descriptions of the page were required of the writer--in these cases, that scribe being myself! I wore out many a hectograph stencil with these necessarily lengthy recitations of the page elements.

Via the marvelous tool that is "Photo Shop," I have been able to prove that bygone adage, "a picture is worth a thousand words."

In the diagrammed "autopsy" of Tuska's handiwork below, I believe I have sufficed in locating, identifying and cataloging the stunning and daring carnival of visual events contained on that single page...

I doubt that even the great William Eisner, in his prime, could have done so many things with a humble panelological page. The daring of youth! The innovation of those who ignore the old tropes of "It can't be done!" and "Impossible!"

Young Tuska split the comic magazine page in two with a bolt of creative lightning!

Now, I have studied a bit of "art theory," and I understand the concepts of "positive space" and "negative space." Notice how stunningly these conceits are flaunted here.

The "lightning bolt" of the panel gutters is echoed in the similarly electric charge of what I call "Occupation Points"--events of vital interest and significance to the reader. Note the downward sweep from Cosmic Carson's face to the burst, in the second panel, in which Carson's first meets the cragged face of villain "The Skull!"

Tuska's "Lightning Line" of decisive action guides our eyes through what, in lesser hands, might merely be an inept misuse of the comic magazine page. We, the audience, know exactly WHERE to look--and WHY to look there.

Parallel to this creative "bolt" is an arrow-like slant, which highlights the Powerful Flow of the Narrative Event--in this case, Cosmic Carson's bursting of his bonds, and his punch to The Skull.

I believe that my indicators of Positive and Negative Space are self-explanatory.

Is this page not unlike a familiar religious icon-- the yin yang symbol?


Compare the two images--and see for yourself! I wish not to "beat the pony" by over-explaining or over-analyzing. Too much of that has been done by my fellow panelological professors.

In coming posts, I shall exhibit more panelological wonders from my newly acquired Science Comics issues. Rest assured--thrills beyond comprehension await!

And now, for those of you so interested, I shall recount some recent events. 'Tis quaint--I never intended for this "blog" to be so much about my daily doings! It just happened, like the man said.

I'm pleased, friends, that you find my humble liveaday events of such interest. I trust that I shalln't overstay my welcome with these domestic recountings.

Work on Dorrie's Diner continues unabated in the new year. Carpenters invaded our home in the last week of December. Much hammering, buzzing, thudding and gruff hooliganism surrounded me in the last week of my holiday.

Such rough types are truly "the salt of this earth." Without them, would we have houses? Would we enjoy the conveniences of modern life? No sir! We would live out of doors, and still forage for food and water. Perhaps we might still brandish clubs.

'Tis supreme irony, then, that those would erect our domiciles so resemble the cavemen of ancient history!

Despite their rough language, these "barkers" had little bite. I did take exception to one builder's careless appraisal of my panelological acquisitions. As I paused to fetch a fresh glass of Vernor's ginger ale, said brute man-handled a early issue of Target Comics.

Had I not executed top speed to stop his actions, this ruffian would have FOLDED BACK THE COVERS and GOTTEN DIRT AND GREASE all over the interior pages!

"We'll have none of that, sir!" I cried. In the nick of time, I snatched the precious Target from his rugged hands and returned it to its protective envelope.

"What's the problem, dude? It's just a [blankety-blank] funny book!" the brute cried, in complaint.

"And I suppose," I uttered in reply, "those are just [blankety-blank] boards and nails you're using!"

The miscreant shrugged. "[Expletive], yeah, they're [expletive] boards an' [expletive]! So whut?"

Friends, I am not prone to physical violence, but I nearly struck this Gorgon in overalls! Instead, I gathered my new acquisitions and retreated to my den.

Later, one of the thugs committed an act of emesis on our front porch! Said fellow had complained of being "hung over like a [expletive] pig" all day. 'Twas a sad coda to a day of genuine progress for Dorrie's project.

But, in a true "silver lining" of a moment, Dorrie bade "Raydon" to mop up the outpour. How that gay blade grumbled in protest! Yet, I must admit, he did a superb job of elimating stain, spillage and odor. Should his design "racket" hit a reef, "Raydon" has a promising career ahead as a custodian!

In "otros palabros" (that is Spanish for 'other news'), young Raphael visited our household the day after Christmas. Upon his arrival, I proudly presented him with my hand-picked gift.

Dorrie brought the lad a hot mug of Velvet Fog, which he thoroughly enjoyed as he nervously unwrapped his gift parcel. "Revistas!" he cried with surprise. Raphael sniffed the bronzed vintage newsprint. He smiled. "¡Estos son revistas muy viejos, Señor Mason!"

Raphael apologized with a smile. "By this I mean... these are very aged! They must be quite rare!"

"They are yours to enjoy, Raphael," I said with warmth. "It would appear you are already a student of--did you call them 'revisas?'"

"Revistas, Señor Mason! And, si, I am most fond of these! They are most popular in my home town!"

I explained that this gift was twofold: both as an expression of my warmth and friendship for young Vazquez, and as an educational aid. "By reading these stories, you shall develop more of an ear for American speech. I sincerely feel these, er, revistas will enable you to better take your rightful place in American society!"

Tears formed in Raphael's eyes. Then he reached across the coffee table and hugged me. "You are truly my friend," he said.

Raphael stayed for dinner. Many times he asked Dorrie if such foodstuffs were to be served at her imminent bistro. Her positive answers further delighted him. "I will bring all my friends and relatives to dine here!"

Thus, there is new hope in the horizon for this youth. I trust it shall be a positive experience--one that enables him to find his American destiny!

My return to work on Monday was dreary. The sky opened up and rain poured mercilessly upon my fellow commuters. I welcomed the escape from the construction brutes and from "Raydon." I still had much back-work to collate, approve and file.

My team members looked haggard and gaunt. Unlike my quiet, contemplative New Year's Eve, theirs were ribald, distaff and, from their piquant descriptions, violently emetic as well.

Ah, the follies of youth! When I hear such tales of debauchery, I take comfort in my advancing years, and in the calm of my life. 2010 promises to be another year of panelological pleasures and life contentment for myself.

May it be thus for you, my internet friends!

I shall return soon with more gilded offerings from the pages of Science Comics!

1 comment:

  1. Dear Mr. Moray, your latest post kind of blew my mind. I also use Photoshop (it's just one word, by the way), to create studies of comic book pages in my blog devoted to the work of Jack Cole (who you seem to insist on calling "Jon" Cole). I wonder if perhaps I have gone too far in my own work for, when I looked at your latest posting, I must admit I felt rather foolish for doing something similar. Your analysis seems so thin that if it was baloney you could read a phone book through it. I mean this with all due respect for your position in life and as one of the original comic book fans. I continue to find the details of your life fascinating. There is a restaurant around the corner from where I live that, as far as I can tell, appears to be created by an aging white man for his lovely black wife. I can just imagine them deciding her cooking is so good why not open a grill? The result: The Grill at 145th. The sad thing is, they clearly have no idea of how to run a restaurant. You can read the reviews yourself, just google the name and Seattle. They serve a 3-course meal that consists of a salad drowned in dressing, a couple of skewers of grilled chicken, beef, or lamb... and for desert a scoop of ice cream with a stale vanilla wafer embedded into it. Their latest promotion is the offer of four gallons of gas with the purchase of 2 liters of wine, a most unappetizing offer! I mention all this in the hopes that you and your wife's eatery will be more successful(and more tasty).