Sunday, March 21, 2010

Another Public Apology

Friends, 'tis with a shock that I discover a recent, unauthorized posting by my longtime colleague, Wallace "Sparks" Spinkle.

I am sorry not to have taken notice of it 'til now. You see, Dorrie, Raphael and I have been challenged by a newcomer--a business hastily constructed to "steal our thunder!"

The "upside" of capitalism is that a fellow with a dream has the right to pursue it, to whatever ends may result. The "bad side" is that claptrap concerns can appear to usurp the hard work one has endowed his or her business venture with.

In our case, a threat looms on the horizon, across the street: "Ngo's Snak-Shak." It appeared, literally overnight, two weeks ago. It is operated by a Cambodian family, who rented a studio apartment in the nearby "Butte Vista Court."

A vacant lot, left abandoned after a faulty house foundation was built in 1979, was suddenly cleared of its decades of bramble. In the night, sounds of sawing and hammering could be heard.

At first, I thought it perhaps another fantasia of Mister Spinkle--perhaps he was building some alleged "time portal," or another crude device to enable his delusions. A quick check showed "Sparks" asleep, a vintage issue of Hit Comics spread-eagled on his torso.

I opened the front door and peered into the night. The lot is diagonal to ours, two or three houses down the street. I squinted and saw movement, light, and chitter-chatter of Asian dialect. Large tarpaulins had been hung, to obscure these mysterious efforts.

I thought to call the police--and then feared for my own safety. What if it should be discovered that my home harbors a vigilante? I, of all people, am in no position to call upon the law. I am, myself, a criminal, I fear.

I mustn't divert from the events. There is so much to say that I feel dizzy.

The next morning, a vulgar plywood shack, painted harsh hues of orange, pink and yellow, could be seen. Smoke billowed from a crude tin chimney. A portable sign-on-wheels straddled this hellish construction. Its poorly spaced letters read:


Over my second cup of coffee, I chortled at the sight. Who, in their right mind, would patronize such a dubious venture? I felt it not worthy of mention to Dorrie. The first good spring rainfall would wash away this shoddy affair.

O, friends, I was wrong! This despicable "shak" has seriously thwarted our cozy little concern. They offer great steaming heaps of heaven-knows-what, mingled with curious spices and served on thin paper plates. Another, hand-lettered, sign, makes this announcement:


We have struggled to keep our prices low, but due to cost of supplies, it is not possible for our Diner to offer a lunch priced lower than $6.50. For that price, we, too, offer a heaping portion of food. Please note that it is served on good china, with decent silverware and a cloth napkin. We do not traffic in runny swill on "Chinette" plates, nor ineffectual plastic utensils!

One would think that anyone, of their right mind, would shun such a suspect establishment like the dreaded "HINI" flu! Yet witness this astounding lapse of good judgment, on the part of our own "fifth estate:"

I am shocked to recall the courtesy we afforded Ms. Kruger on her visit to our bistro. To think she should so quickly "change horses in a stream!" But the minds of critics are often fickle. They are rather like toddlers--drawn to the first bright color they see, and to the first noise that captures their fleeting attention.

This accursed "shak" has seriously impacted the Diner's business. It galls me to see the hapless souls "beating their feat" towards this dubious construction, and I know it breaks Dorrie's heart each time one of our former customers is seen consuming filet-of-cat, or whatever these interlopers consider food.

We do have our faithful regulars, God bless them all. We now reward them with larger portions and free desserts. They, in turn, have vowed to spread the gospel of Dorrie's kitchen magic near and far.

I asked Raphael to take a reconnaissance mission to the "Shak," to see what he could find out about its proprietors. The poor, brave soul returned an hour later with a bloody nose. "Ellos me golpeo, repetidamente," he sighed. Apparently, the owner's teenage thugs sussed dear Raphael out as an interloper and battered him.

I took the initiative to hire one of those marquees-on-wheels yesterday. I selected the flashiest, biggest and brightest model available at Rent-It-2Day!

Our sign boasts tri-colored neon piping (which makes a terrible hum that interferes with our cable TV reception), pulsing electric lights and music! It constantly plays a computerized version of Scott Joplin's "Mr. Entertainer." This digitized ditty is impossible to sleep through. There is no evident OFF switch, so at night, before retiring, I must disconnect the thick orange power cord from its source.

Our sign also outdoes Ngo's with its verbiage. To wit:


I trust this message will suffice. What more need be said? Reader, what would you prefer: a cozy dining experience, featuring rib-sticking, heart-warming meals, served with grace and comfort--or the remains of house pets, heaped on a cheap disc of paper by an unknown race?

I know what some of you are thinking: this is a job for "Super-Senior!" I want it stated, publicly, that I do not endorse hooliganism, self-enforced justice, or unlawfulness in any way, shape or means. Wallace, you are NOT to vandalize the Cambodians!

To make matters worse, my accursed foot has been acting up again. I'm afraid I have lapsed from my "microboitic" diet. It is difficult to eat straw and rocks when the divine cuisine of my spouse is within easy reach, in copious amounts. I shall clearly have to balance my intake. I do not wish to suffer the agony and embarrassment of "the gout" again.

You will forgive the lack of the panelological presentation today. As "Sparks" saw fit to include two stories of imagination and wonder in his rogue post, I shall consider this a sufficient rebuttal, and, for the nonce, rest my weary case.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Real Super-Hero Picks Out A Story For you! To Read!

"Sparks" Spinkle here, folks!

Well, as you know, I've moved in on the Morays. It's been nearly a month, now, since I took roost at their hen house.

The grub is good, the weather is calm, and ol' Masoroonie is still the best durned comic collector on this good earth. I'm mighty pleased to be out of the walnut academy. T'wasn't no fun, no way, no how!

Well, ol' "Moray Eel" ran off to see the doc. Sez he had some foot pain. May be it's that gout come back to get him.

The upshot of all this is, he left his computer logged on to the "web," and I know he was wanting to do a new "post" here. Boy, that wife of his sure rides herd on him. It's "Mason, this" and "Mason, that." Poor chap seldom gets a sec to sit down and smell the roses--or the Golden Age comics!

Mase offered to let me pick today's Golden Age gem for you fine ladies and gents to peruse. So I thought, "heck, he's set up the canvas for me--why not do his painting for him?"

So it's me, folks--"Sparks" Spinkle (AKA Super Senior, the crime-fighting wonder) in charge of the cavalry today!

If you got worried by Mason's palaver, last time he posted, not to worry, folks! I've got this crime-fighting thing well in hand. Each night, in the SeniorCave (well, it's actually a space under the front steps, but it's water-tight, and I can store my gear there), I suit up for town patrol. I keep my mask and my weapons under there, in a big paper bag.

I like to travel light. I've got it down to a fine art now. Windex bottle is carried in my left hand, Easy-Off Oven Cleaning Foam sits in my right mitt. I also carry a container of Elmer's Glue-All (to pour into the gas tanks of fiends' getaway cars) and some fine sand from a local playground--it blinds 'em like nothing else!

By far, my most effective crime-fighting tool is built in. It's my surgical scars. I had my appendix removed in Mexico City, back in '74. The quack who carved me up did something wrong. When the wounds healed, they looked pretty awful. The skin is all blue and green, kind of marbled like alabaster. There are these big bumps that look something awful. They don't hurt--in fact, they feel kinda numb anymore.

But talk about your "special effects!" Brother, can they raise an eyebrow! I've had hoodlums turn tail more than once when I give 'em an eyeful of those babies and brother, that's all she wrote!

Crime is at an all-time low in this fair city, and I aim to keep it this way. Oh, the newspapers may not like me. They may talk about me on the Ten O'Clock News. But they can't keep a good man down--no, sir!

Truth be told, I've kept a low profile so far this week. I expect there will be some filibustering and gandy dancing tonight and tomorrow night. My Pepsi sweatshirt is freshly washed and ready to don at a moment's notice!

(By the way, Maseorooni, thanks for the tip in your last post! I didn't notice I was wearing that shirt in my "civilian identity!" I almost gave myself away, huh?)

My daytime job, delivering dinners to folks who live or work in a six-block radius, allows me to keep my ear to the ground, crime-wise. I overheard two so-and-sos talking about a scheme to break open city parking meters and pocket all those quarters.

I was there, with Easy-Off in hand, that night. Sure as shooting, those two goons showed up. I gave 'em the works.

Like The Shadow, I realize that a good spiel is important in getting their attention. So this is my little prepared bit. I say this to all miscreants and fowl-players:

The arms of justice protect the innocent--and defeat the guilty! Each finger is a sword, and every hand a blade! Cower before the arms of right! Heed the warning of the Super Senior!

After that, I let 'em have it with Windex (if they're guilty of a minor misdemeanor, such as prowling or loitering) or the Easy-Off (reserved for thieves, liars, and such).

Well, that's all of that for now. Let's get onto today's super story! Actually, it's TWO stories. They're both such corkers that I couldn't decide.

These babies come from an unlikely spot: Jungle Comics. You wouldn't think that series to have anything but ape-men caterwauling and swinging through the trees, huh? Wrong, buddy boy! Early on, this title was chock-a-block with tasty exotic costumed heroes.

Here are two gems from the 10th issue of Jungle. This is vintage stuff, folks. I'm sure Mr. Masonite would approve of these choices. Here goes. First up is "The Red Panther."

Gee whiskers, what a story, huh? Wow! I thought those li'l green boogers were going to do our hero and heroette in--and good! But you can't keep a costumed hero down--whether he's on land, sea, or, as in this case, flying through space.

Those bad guys are sarcastic li'l cusses, huh? I'd give 'em a quick blast of Easy Off if they flipped me the lip they give the Red Panther!

Are you ready for a mind-blower? This story takes the cake into the next zip code!

Didn't look so hot when it started, did it? But, brother, did you lamp that "all a dream" angle at the end? It's a wow--and how!

I remember when Mace and I first read this story. It was at the '72 MagnaCon in Dubuque, Iowa. It was colder than a dead cat outside. The con was held in this terrible little TraveLodge out in the middle of nowhere.

There wasn't even a convenience store within walking distance. For three days, we had to live off of the snacks in the vending machine. I tell you, I got so sick of chocolate sandwich cookies that, to this day, I still get woozy at the sight of 'em!

Anyway, back in those days, you could score these old Jungle issues for a song and dance. The collectors were all after those Captain Americas and Batmans--baloney on a pony, if you ask me! But I don't make the rules--I just bend 'em!

I was the first to spot this little masterpiece. From the splash panel, I almost paged right past the darned thing! Those he-men adventurer stories are the bane of many a Golden Age comic mag. But am I glad I kept reading!

You know, they have that Shelter Island show on at the movies--where everything turns out to be just a dream at the end. The critics are trampling each other, shouting out their praises of this clap-trap! Phooey, sez I. At least I know that I don't have to sit through two hours of that blather. I've got a better version of that story right here, in the pages of this comic book!

Well, folks, I did it. I'm not the historian that Macerooni is. I'm sure he could tell you the shoe sizes of the fellows who wrote and drew these things. Bless his heart--he was the guy who stopped and asked these questions, every chance he could get. He'd bend the ear of any old-time comic book artist or writer who showed up at the "cons."

Out would come his little red notebook. I'd see that pencil waggle up and down, back and forth. I knew he'd have some little gems when he was done. And he's shared all this wealth with the world of comics fandom.

I wish he'd tell the one about Rudy Palais and the pickle barrel. It's a corker! You see, Rudy Palais was kind of hooked on those big dill pickles that they have at the store. Back then, they'd just leave 'em floating in the brine, by the register, in one of those big wooden barrels.

Well, Al Bryant and Reed Crandall pulled a good one on ol' Rudy. They ran a live electric wire into this big pickle barrel. They knew that Palais always bought five big pickles on his way to the studio every morning. They couldn't wait to see him dancin' a jig, with his mitts buried in that salty brine!

Unfortunately, Rudy called in sick that morning, and some old lady died of electric shock instead. Al and Reed kept a low profile for a couple of years after that. I guess the "statue of limitations" is out on that particular crime now. I believe both those fellows are long gone, any how.

They would have certainly gone to jail for that little caper--if they'd been caught.

I think I woulda just given 'em a squirt of Windex apiece and sent 'em back to their drawing boards.

Well, I hear some commotion out in the front yard. Better post this thing while it's still a surprise. And remember, the arms of jsituce

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Hero In Our Midst--And A Past Love Remembered

I wish I had heeded your sage advice, Mr. Timey. But I had to help a friend in need. Oh, what have I done?

These clippings from the Courier-Express tell the story better than my feeble words could do:

I imagine you have "taken the picture," friends, and sussed out my situation.

Yes, I have--rather, Dorrie and I have--brought "Sparks" Spinkle into our home.

It was Dorrie who encouraged me to invite him. Her Diner has become so popular that there is a demand for take-out orders--and for delivery. Thus, she felt that a man of "Sparks'" considerable energy would be an asset to the company. He might make a superb "delivery boy" for my dear wife's culinary wares.

I had my doubts about this plan from the start. But, as I said earlier, who am I to turn away a friend in need?

As well, the event would serve to take the edge off of a painful anniversary for me.

I have spoken here, once, of my first wife Marilou. Well, February 27th was the 40th anniversary of our first meeting. It is a day that is etched into my memory forever. I cannot speak to my current wife of this past love--it would not be proper, nor fair.

But I cannot simply banish the memory of Marilou from my heart! She shall always occupy a portion of that "real estate."

In a sense, having "Sparks" in my daily life would be a sort of tie to the glory days of the 1970s and '80s. "Sparks" was a frequent visitor to our home, until his disappearance, of which I have written elsewhere in this "bolg."

Many was the "comicon" we attended as a panelological "triple threat." Many were the "finds" we made--and later shared. Strong was the four-color bond of friendship between us all.

We paid for "Sparks"' bus ride to our town. He paid the shipping charges on his panelological collection. We were, at first, considering a merger of our collections into a sort of Ultra-Pantheon.

Though there is much duplication, we each boast a trove of items unique to our hoards. As the saying goes, "There is strength in the numbers."

That plan is on hiatus, pending the outcome of our current dilemma.

As you've read, "Super Senior" has begun his crime-fighting program in our community! I feared that this identity would continue unabated with "Sparks"' entrance into our home.

I tried to talk with him about this "issue" several times. "Not to worry!" he told me. "Consider the matter taken care of."

"Sparks" has integrated well into the Diner. Despite his insistence on wearing that Pepsi sweatshirt on the job, he has proven an efficient, cheerful and accurate delivery man. Our lunch trade has doubled since he began to offer this free service.

My thought was that all this strenuous physical activity would so tire him out that he would sleep at night--and not long to prowl the darkened streets in search of crimes!

As you can imagine, my heart has lept with each new headline concerning the exploits of "Super Senior." I have lost much sleep via fearful dreams of "the authorities" crashing down on our business and residence. But, so far, it has not happened.

"Sparks," to his credit, has not once boasted of his exploits. The closest he has come to acknowledging them is to nudge me and wink as he comments, "Some news about that 'masked avenger' fellow, eh? Sure wish I could be like him! But I'm just a mild-mannered delivery boy..."

Dorrie has complained of the mysterious disappearance of various cleaning products from her shelves. I know, all too well, where those cans of oven cleaner and those spray bottles of Windex have gone!

I worry that "Sparks" will meet up with a genuinely threatening criminal mind soon--one who shan't be stopped by a spray of aerosol. The thought of his obituary in the Courier-Express chills me to my marrow.

On the other hand, "Sparks" appears to be having "the time of this life" living with us! He sleeps on our couch, which folds out handily to a fairly comfortable bed. He takes pains to avoid wearing out his welcome. He happily does yardwork chores--and thus suffers gladly the endless loghorea of our neighbor, Burt Liffler.

And, of course, we hold daily "pow wows" on our panelological favorites. "Sparks" has refreshed my enthusiasm for the medium tenfold.

He, in fact, is the genesis of today's most unusual post. I have never offered a non-super-hero feature here. But, in the honor of Marilou's memory, today's posting is humorous and whimsical in nature.

It comes from the fourth issue of Jingle Jangle Comics. While comics pundits endlessly praise the over-rated works of George Carlson (whom I find a bit precious and insufferable), the other, superior features of are Jingle Jangle Comics are unjustly ignored.

"Remember how she laughed when she read this one?" I turned to see this opening page of the enchanting "Fatty and Butty" story you are about to read. Memory struck me like a "tin of bricks--" the sweet tinkle of Marilou's laughter, accompanied by the rhythmic slapping of her open palm against a tabletop, as she read and savored the dreamlike lunacy of this tale.

Writer-artist Merrill Hoff was among Marilou's favorite panelological creators. And this was, certainly, his finest achievement, in her august opinion.

Though it represents a significant departure from the norm, here on Panelological Pantheon, I hope you will accept it in the spirit offered, and humor an old man's cherished memories of a past love.

Well, there you have it. Our next post will consist of a story chosen personally by "Sparks" Spinkle.

By reading this post, "Sparks," you will know that I know. And, as well, of my concern for your well-being. Please, my friend, surrender the sweatshirt and the ski-mask. Be content with yourself, and be happy in your new life and new home.