Thursday, January 21, 2010

Navy Jones Fights Undersea Terrorism--from Science Comics#2--plus Diner News Galore!

Salutations, dear lovers of the panelological arts! I write this amidst a hurly-burly of smoke, water and a great deal of running about.

You see, Dorrie's Diner has just suffered its first cruel blow of fate. And just as it was going like gang-breakers!
Worry not, dear companions--we're not down from the count! We've just been forced to purchase a new restaurant-grade microwave oven.

The culprit: Dorrie's delicate, satisfying Turkey-Jerky Swiss-Cheese Souffle. There is little on this globe to match its smooth yet smoky flavor. But its delicate, lighter-than-clouds "mouth appeal" depends on a final two-minute trip in the microwave oven.

The $3,000 restaurant-grade microwave we have installed (thank goodness for warranties! We shall get a replacement free of charge, shipping included) has a most confusing interface. If one wishes to heat an entree for two minutes, one must depress the numbers thusly:
A simple confusion of digits, and one might accidentally program the machine to cook for twenty minutes, not two. 'Tis what happened.

I realize that I've started in the middle--but there has been so very much afoot here at Maison Moray that I scarcely know just whence to commence. Thus, I have not been able to devote any time to my dear and near "blog."

I hope to make up for lost days here. As was my promise, I continue to offer golden gems from the startling, scintillating Science Comics--perhaps my single favorite comic-book series of them all!

First, the good news:

Dorrie's Down-Home Diner successfully opened for business on January 13th. We chose that day as a publicity "gag," since many believe the 13th day to be a bad omen for business.

Pearl Kruger, the local restaurant critic for the Courier-Express, was among those awaiting the first opening of our doors. She and Dorrie are "thicker than thieves," and we were tacitly assured a stellar critique in the local paper.

Here 'tis, in full:

Dorrie wept with joy when the newspaper with this raving review arrived. It was as if the heavens above deemed her supreme happiness for all her hard work!

Raphael has become one of the Diner's many assets. He possesses a great personal charm--an aspect of his character not clearly seen by myself 'til now.

He is quick with a smile, and is a skillful composer of kitchen orders. As well, he has proven a quick study. From the stack of precious Golden Age comic books I gave him recently, he has gleaned a number of charming colloquialisms, with which he avails upon Dorrie's happy customers.

"Wot'll it be, youse mugs?" he is often heard to say, when approaching new diners with his order pad. Exclamations of "Yikes!," "Jimminies!" and "Yowp!" are uttered as he presents customers with their beverages and entrees.

Raphael broke up the house when Police Chief Earl Smothers visited the Diner yesterday. His alarmed cry of "Cheezit-- da cops!" made everyone (even Smothers!) burst out in joyous laughter.

As well, his approach to collecting the bill from sated diners has its rococo charm. "C'mon, youse yeggs--cough up da dough, 'afore I get rough on yez!" Raphael is a large part of our humble "mom and pop" bistro's "hip" charms.

Aside from smoke damage to the curtains, and a thoroughly scorched glass warming tray, the Diner is none the worse from today's blaze.

'Tis now I must confess: 'twas I who mis-punched those fateful digits! In the bustle of orders and chit-chat, the souffle was forgotten about as it cooked--and cooked--and cooked.

The entree burst into flames--with sufficient force to blow the oven's double-seal door off its hinges. Fragments of flaming jerky, strewn with skin-scalding melted cheese, peppered the counter and the ceiling.

Thank heavens no one was hurt by this flying, flaming debris! We could have been law-suited out of business!

I am banished to my study while the firemen clean up the damage and remove the destroyed oven. While I feel sheepish, I take relief in knowing that no lives were harmed, and that the accident has not incurred more financial hardship upon us.

While "serving my time," I recalled this dear blog, and my commitment to the ongoing presentation of my panelological treasures.

Back into the second issue of Science Comics I dip my cup. 'Tis my thrill to present to you "Navy Undersea Jones." I grudgingly consulted the "Big Comic-Book Database," in search of the artist of this stunning story.

As they would have it, this is the work of a Bert Whitman. His bold poster-like pages, repetition of imagery, and literally explosive final page mark this as a high water-mark in early American panelology.

If this is the Bert Whitman I'm thinking of, I have an anecdote about him. I shall save it as a dessert to this "main entree" of magic.

Full-page battle scenes! Stunning usage of negative spaces! A finale worthy of a Picasso! This "Navy Undersea Jones" story offers lovers of the paneled art everything that is good about the form.

I would dearly love to create some diagrammatics for certain pages here, as I did for last post's "Cosmic Carson" tale. Alas, this computer lacks "Photo Shop," and I am powerless to make such a display here. Suffice to say that Bert Whitman shared with George Tuska an undying love for the use of extreme negative space.

If this is, indeed the Bert Whitman I know of, this story carries a particular irony. You see, Whitman was terrified of water--even bath water! His nickname amongst his peers was "Bathless Bertie."

Poor Whitman had good cause for his hydrophobia. As a child, he was trapped in a Model A which plunged off a bridge in Michigan and plummeted into the icy waters of Lake Huron. The child was left unattended in the car due to a flat tire. His father trudged off, through the biting winter winds, to fetch a replacement inner tube.

As it was cold, the boy wisely rolled up all the windows, as tightly as possible. He did this mainly to draw on the windows with his fingers. His exhalations, of course, fogged up the glass. Even as a tot, Whitman had a facility for drawing.

He entertained himself drawing his funny-page favorites, such as Happy Hooligan, Alphonse and Gaston and Abie the Agent, blissfully unaware of what was to come.

A produce truck, its driver blinded by a piece of cardboard blown onto his windowscreen, smashed into the Model A containing the tot. The car fell off the side of the bridge and sunk to the bottom of the treacherous lake.

'Twas sheer luck that a tow barge, returning from a mission, arrived on the scene. With the aid of a police diver, the Model A was fished from the deathly water within the hour. Young Whitman was alive and well--albeit in a state of shock from both the experience and the intense cold of the briny depths.

It took Whitman years to recover from his shock. In this time, he honed his artistic skills. His greatest ambition was to have his own newspaper comic-strip feature.

Over and over, he created features, submitted them to syndicates, and had them soundly rejected. Out of desperation, he joined the Iger comics shop, and produced remarkable panelological work for various Fox Comics titles.

"Navy Undersea Jones" took great trepidation for Whitman to accept. He had to confront and relive the terrors of his childhood with each panel. Yet he threw himself into his work with relish. As you can see, he did not flinch from his duty, and he did his level best to entertain and to astound.

By this time, Whitman's hydrophobia was so advanced that he was bathed, once a week, by a hypnotist. The hypnotist would place him in a deep sleep. Then, a special nurse would clean him from head to toe. Whitman would not awake until he had been towel-dried and dressed in fresh clothing.

Because of his hydrophobia, Whitman was deemed unsuitable for military service in World War II. In 1943, he realized his lifelong dream. His comic-strip "El Diablo," about a masked cowboy avenger on the Brazilian Pampas, was accepted by the McClure Syndicate.

38 newspapers had signed on for this thrilling adventure strip. Life looked rosy for him at last!

To celebrate, he took his fiancee to Coney Island for a day of celebration. There, fate and irony combined to create tragedy. While chewing on a piece of salt-water taffy, Whitman swallowed the wrong way. The thick taffy stuck in his windpipe. Within minutes, he was dead.

Bert Whitman was buried in the Mojave Desert, as far away from water as his survivors could arrange. We shall never know what heights of panelology he might have scaled with his "El Diablo!" I doubt it could have surpassed the stunning work he achieved on the story with which I present you today.

I must go now. Dorrie has appeared, bearing a dish of Mallow-Fudge Melt. She informs me that everything is all well and good. Thus, I end today's post with a sigh of relief. See you soon--of this I assure you, my friends of the paneled arts!


  1. Dear Mason, what town do you live in? Next time I pass your way, I'll drop in for a meal at your diner. Sounds like I'll need to fast for a couple days first to make room for all those rich goodies your wife makes! As usual, I am totally mystified by your ravings over what appear to mne to be some of the worst, most embrassingly AWFUL comics ever produced. Your wife's food may taste good, but your taste in comics is quite curious indeed! By the way.., it's the GRAND Comic Book Data, "not "Big."

  2. Mr. Tumry, I shall once again trot out that timeless piece of wisdom, "To Each His Own." I'm sure that your John Cole is considered clever and inventive in some circles. I make my personal preferences plain and clear here. You are entitled to your curious preferences, and I to mine. Live and let live, I say!

    I am reluctant to reveal my precise geographical location. The internet swarms with thieves and tricksters. Many of them would love to get their hands on the contents of The Pantheon! I can picture them wringing their sweaty palms in anticipation.

    No sir, just as the super-hero has his or her secret identity, I must "plead the fifth" and remain geographically vague. I have spent the better portion of my life compiling my comic magazine collection. I shall not invite American's criminal elite to my doorstep.

    Should your personal conduct towards me improve in future, I will be glad to privately share my geographical datum with you.

  3. Once again, I find myself completely drawn in to the world of Mason Moray, a man with a diner in his home, a wife who makes incredible dishes straight out of a Carl Barks "Donald Duck" comic and his own "kid sidekick", a Mexican waiter who sold him the shed where he keeps his massive collection of largely forgotten comics.

    Great cast, wonderful stuff! Hooray for you and your unique selection of comic reprints. I love this blog!

  4. HELLO,MASON ! I am student of the golden age of comics, and I was very interested in the information provided here for you on the comic strip EL DIABLO, taken by Bert Whitman in 1943! Indeed, BRAZILIAN PAMPA understand the Brazilian state of RIO GRANDE DO SUL, which covers the southernmost part of southern Brazil, and borders on Argentina and Uruguay! The Pampas is the region where I was born and I live today! Our region pampeanas preserves the ancient traditions of the native inhabitants, called Gauchos, and we CENTERS gaucho traditions spread throughout Brazil, and even in the United States and Europe! But we have very few comic creations that speak of BRAZILIAN PAMPA, PAMPA GAUCHOS also called, and so I would like to see some pictures of the EL DIABLO! You could post here some images of these comic strips? very grateful .... LEONARDO DE ALBUQUERQUE - RESEARCHER AND HISTORIAN OF COMICS - PORTO ALEGRE-RS-BRAZIL