Saturday, April 2, 2011

A New Beginning--And Another Case For "Super-Senior!" All This And "Buzz Crandall of the Space Patrol," Too!

Hale, fine friends and panelological peers!

Before you hurl your brickbats and assail me with complaints, please let me explain.

Indeed--'tis nearly three months since my last missive here. But, worry not! I've not been idly napping. Big plans have occured--sweeping changes that have, actually, brought peace to our bustling household.

Biggest news first: Dorrie's Diner is in the process of moving!

Friends, it had to happen eventually. Our business has long exceeded the humble capacity of our in-home facility. Lunchtime found long lines snaking out onto N. Commerce Blvd. This notoriously curving road is a harbinger for accident-prone motorists. Some of our recurring elderly patrons have complained of having their umbrellas, purses and shoes disappear, as they were snagged on the antennae of fast-passing cars and trucks.

As well, neighbors have complained of lawn trampling, and of the hearty armoas of cooking food (which, to be fiar, do indeed permeate the area, for at least a three-block radius)! Marek Czyrsky, a barrel-chested Eastern European fellow on our block, launched a formal complaint with the city, and cited "constant cooking smells" as "blight on street and world" (those were the words on his complaint form, which was forwarded to us by the city).

Dorrie and I sat down, in the greasy aftermath of a "Sloppy Doe" day a few weeks ago, and decided the time had come to expand. Lady Luck favored our choice, and within days, we were shown a wondrous "retrospective" style 1950s restaurant space, in the heart of the thriving home improvement district.

This restaurant was known for years as "Ole Ed's Egg Eyrie." The "Ed" in question was Edgar Corkle, a cantankerous figure in local news who was beloved for his expansive Labor Day decorations, and for his generious donations to Unicef and Cub Scouts troops. His death from congestive heart failure ended a 49-year run of a successful and much-loved bistro.

The building had sat vacant since Mr. Corkle's 2008 passage. It was clearly time for another restaurant to take its place. We were shown the property by Gore Burshing, a realtor friend of Dorrie's. He told us it was "a steal," and "prime location" to boot. We had a chore on our hands, as we removed hundreds of sun-faded, hand-scrawled signs which were layered over the main entrance and on the front windows.

These signs, ancient expressions of grief and hunger, decried both Corkle's death and the appetite of former "regulars" for "Ole Ed's" greasy-but-delectable butter-coated omelets.

Dorrie immediately wanted the property, and the rent was indeed "a stael" by anyone's sstandards. She put Ray-Don on the job of doing a re-design of the exterior and interior. Fortunately, we could import our existing restaurant tables, chairs and booths to the new address. Careful consultation with experts told us that it was also possible to uproot, move and re-install the professional-quality cooking equipment still in our home bistro.

Ray-Don immediately submitted this winning concept sketch. I believe he took a photo of the existing structure, dabbled with it in PhotoShop, and added his proposed signage and such. It is a handsome package, don't you think?

We are in a transitional period. The old Dorrie's Diner is closed, and final touches abound on the soon-to-open new location. Everyone, myself included, is enthused about the move, for many reasons. 'Tis gratifying to have such a "wild cardinal" idea become such a runaway success! And, furthermore, 'tis pleasing to have a substantially less smelly home.

The smell of those "Sloppy Doe" sandwiches was beginning to permeate everything in the house. Even my herbal prescription shampoo bore the tang of barbecue sauce-scent! Gradually, those strong aromas are ebbing, and the house seems a rest haven, sans the clanking, sizzling, chinging and thrumping of a popular kitchen.

I retain my jack-of-trades position as unofficial manager/accountant at the new location. Raphael cannot wait to inhabit the new space. He is a born maitre'd, and relishes the daily challenges of the job. Our newest hire, Katrice, remains uncannily silent, but does her job with greater skill each day.

I sit in my home, entering today's post on a new "EyePad" that Ray-Don insisted we purchase for use at home and at the Diner. It does take some practice to master the diffgicult manner of typinh on this futuristic device. I must use a little wand, which resembles a golf pencil in size, but has a fine wad of bunting on its end, which the "touchy" screen recognizes. Needless to say, there may be some occasonal mistakes in my tping. Please bear with me.

I mentioned in today's headline that a certain "Super-Senior" is back in action. Worry not, dear readers. With some careful consultation, "Sparks" Spinkle has changed his ways. No longer does he brandish eye-harming Easy-Off Maximum Strength Over Cleaner, nor Windex!

"'Sparks,'" I said in strictest confidence, "criminals are rather like bad-tempered animals, eh?"

"You intrigue me, Mace," he replied. "Keep talkin'."

"Like naughty dogs or cats, they have simply learned bad habits. Dogs and cats can be trained to un-learn these habits. They are mammals, much like us, aren't they?"

"Jeepers, never gave it that much thought before," 'Sparks' mused. "Yep, I guess they are."

I then suggested that a certain masked crime-fighter consider the usage of training sprays manufactured to rid household pets of the urges to claw, scratch, bite or urinate. One trip to a "Pet-Smart" store gave us numerous choices. 'Sparks' settled on the popular "Bitter Apple" spray, plus an aerosol product titled "Kitty No-Go!" and another called "Puppy Uh-Uh!"

These three non-toxic, nature-based sprays are quite unpleasant, but essentially harmless to the eyes, ears, throat or hands. Better yet, they come in handy pocket-sized dispensers. (They are quite concentrated!)

Our gentle town indeed needs the services of "Super-Senior." A vile case of vandalism has our town in tyhe grip of fear!

Some sneak-thief removed two letters from the edifice of our town's central library branch. 'Tis a mortal embarrassment to one and all, for the sign now reads:


The metal "Ls," as you might have surmised, were sawed off in the dead of night. Of course, this news soon spread like wildfire, and occasioned an angry editorial in the local newspaper:

As a regular patron of the library, "Sparks" was rightfully angered by this act of ruthless hatred. "It's an embarrassment to the whole blinkin' burg, Mace," he said, seething after supper one recent night. "Come into the Crime-Cave and I'll tell you my theories."

(READERS' NOTE: The so-called "Crime Cave" is an unused storage closet in the back hallway of the house. There is enough room for two men to stand inside. It is rather stuffy.)

"My theory," "Sparks" said, attempting to pace the small footage of the space, "is simple. We look for a fella--or gal--whose first and last name begins with Ls."

"Like Lois Lane? Lana Lang?"

"...or," "Sparks" said, his face darkening, "Lex Luthor. It's gotta be some character on that order, Mace. A fiend--a fella [I'm guessin' he's a fella] who doesn't give a fig for his fellow citizen. No sir! He just gets his hacksaw and helps himself to a coupla letters. Doesn't even have the courage to commit the crime in the light of day! No sir! No, he hasta do the dirty deed while the city sleeps..."

"Sparks" now brandished a copy of the local telephone directory. "He--or maybe she--ain't as smart as they think." He leafed impatiently through the thin pages of the book, and found the "L" listings. He pointed to the grey rows of listings. "Somewhere on these pages is the name of our criminal. It's just a matter of one thing."

He paused. I understood that I had to respond. "A-and what is that?"

"The... process... of... elimination!" He again smacked the open book with his clenched hand. "A careful study of these pages shows up 16 people whose both names start with an L. I'm gonna haunt their dreams 'til I find the guilty party. And here's where you come in, Mace..."

"Sparks" explained, via a "crime-map" he had prepared, that the 16 suspects lived all over the county--beyond the realms of local bus routes, and, in some cases, far beyond my friend's capacity to "hoof it," in his own words.

If I wanted to apprehend a fiend, I would serve as the Kato to his Green Hornet. I would chauffeur him to and fro from these far-flung locations. In the dead of night, we could creep down these driveways, tiptoe across vast lawns, in the hopes of finding the "perp" in his or her lair. Perhaps we might catch them holding or admiring the stolen letters, cackling with glee at his or her misdeed!

So far, we have examined seven of the 16 suspects. No clues have been turned up. "Sparks" slightly sprained his left ankle as he tripped on a garden hose coiled in the front yard of one Lawrence L____. He has walked with a slight limp ever since. This minor injury has not quenched his thirst for justice! His zeal is inexorable. We are scheduled to inspect the home--and yard--of Lionel L______ this evening after "lights out."

All this real-life sleuthing (which, I'll confess, I've come to enjoy) has taken a bite out of my time for panelology. I confess that I've not put much forethought into today's humble offering. It springs forth from the second issue of Planet Comics, an early venture into "sci-fi" comics by Fiction House.

This early Planet is part of a box I brought home, one which has suffered significantly from the embedding of "Sloppy Doe" scent. It is among several vintage comic magazines that I've had laid spread-eagle in my den, the better for the scent to dissipate.

I've never warmed to the output of Fiction House, save their pre-1940 material. Much of that raw, unfettered "wild frontier" feeling is present in the work of that vintage, including this knockabout space tale, written by Bob Colton and illustrated by Jordan Menger. Their pen-name becomes obvious, eh?

They are what I would consider "third tier" panelologists. Theirs was not wild imagination; nor was it listless filler. One looks at stories such as this "Buzz Crandall" opus, and one sees the simple essence of the early American comic magazine. 'Tis an enjoyable tale, if not a medium-shaking one. May you enjoy it!

Those who recalled the team of "Bob Jordan" did so with a smile. Colton and Menger were inveterate practical jokers. They were admired by Jerry Iger for their ability to churn out stories, like this one, in a single afternoon. So fast were they that they foudn themselves with time over their hands. And t hose idle hands were, indeed, the devil's tool.

If Colton and Menger weren't tying innocent inkers' shoelaces together, or to their drawing tables, they were performing their infamous "tag team" pranks. A popular "Bob Jordan Special" would involve one of the duo engaging a busy artist in small talk. While the artist was distracted, the other prankster would light a packet of small firecrackers and drop them down the pants of the innocent artist.

Needless to say, many inked panels were suddenly ruined as those tiny fireworks burst in the artist's trousers. A frequent scene would involve the victim racing about the workroom, yowling in discomfort, his hands flailing in the air as the bursting explosions racked his pants. Occasionally, the poor subject's undergarments would combust as well.

Another stock Colton/Menger prank involved the company soft drink machine. Ken Ernst was an eye-witness to one such shenanigan, and recalled it in a 1972 interview:

Oh, boy. Those guys, you had to watch out when they were around. They had a mean streak. They almost crippled Tom Hickey. Put a bear trap just inside the men's room, and poor Tom had to take a piss. Nearly chopped his right foot off.

They were fast workers, so they would get into trouble. Back then, you could get this laxative called Black Draught. It looked just like Coca-Cola. So they would stock up on it at the drug store. They'd take a T-square and a screwdriver and pry off the cap to a coke bottle. I guess they'd siphon out some of the pop. Then they'd fill the bottle with Black Draught, and whack that cap back on.

The next chump who got thirsty got more than he bargained for. Ten minutes after he drank that thing, he'd hightail it for the bathroom, and that's the last we'd see of him for a day or two!

I wasn't surprised when the news came that Bob's head got blown off. Nobody shed a tear over that. The guy had it coming to him. I don't know what happened to Menger. He probably got drafted. Maybe he got it, too. I hate to say things like that, but these guys were bad news.

The death of Bob Colton, which Ernst refers to, did not occur at the Iger shop. Colton bore an uncanny resemblance to Adolf Hitler, although he had no facial hair--nor did he affect a forelock as did "Der Fuhrer." But, with his hair combed right, and with a smudge of black ink on his upper lip, most passersby would be fooled.

One fateful morning in April, 1942, Colton accepted a dare to march down Broadway, dressed as Hitler, "sieg heiling" and goose-stepping past awestruck Manhattanites. A nervous patrolman on the corner of Broadway and 45th shot Colton dead on sight. No more would arcane gags haunt the Iger shop. One of comicdom's prankster princes was dead and buried.

Menger did indeed join the war effort--as a chaplain in the South Pacific theater of war. Colton's death had an epiphinal effect on the younger member of the team. He turned to religion, and did an "about face" to end them all. He died during a bombing raid in 1945, clearly on the side of the angels.

Well, I must end this missive now. A certain costumed crime fighter is impatient to call on our next suspect. I'm curiosu to see what we find out. I do hope "Sparks" will cease testing the "Kitty No-Go!" spray in the car. It makes me long for the "Sloppy Doe" scent.