Saturday, September 7, 2013

Oh Glory Day--Mine Book Has Arrived! All This, And More Thrills, From Science Comics! Plus Restaurnat News

No, dear friends, 'tis not a dream... 'this not a hoax! 'Tis not yet complete, but I felt compelled to share this thrilling cover image for my nearly-half-completed tome on our favorite topic!

Designed by our local asthete, "Ray-Don," this cover encapsulates all I hold near and dear to my quiverng breast. There are a couple of small refinements (or "tweeks" as my deisgner calls them) to "smooth on out," but I feel 'tis ready enough to share with you, my friends, my world!

As I continue work on the book, I fnd the page count continues to grow. Friends, this tome could indeed top 4000 pages, least I contain myself and include onlt the most essential and relevant information.When next I post here, I hope to have a "pre view" of the contents. Since so much of my research material is top-secret, and known only to me, I feel that this book will collide onto the scene of panelological history withthe immediacy and power of Halley's Comet!

'Tis immodest of me to proclaim, but I feel this volume will forever change how we view comic magazines, their creators, and their almighty capred crusader heroes!

I would like to solicit feedback from you, friends, on this cover design. Please be honest--do not spare me with your feelings, good or bad! One thing I wonder: ought the cover to have more heroic figures 'pon its fair face? Or would that make it too "active?" Do the colors please you? And the typographic "fints"? Be brutally honest Your opinions will only make this a better publication!!!

And now onto recent news "flashes":

Concerned about losing our patronage, Dorrie (with the suprising suggestion of mute Katrice) has come up with a creative solution. Perhaps you have heard of the new phenomoenon of the "food truck." 'Tis rather a "meals on wheels" for the non-elderly. The older amongst us will recall the food wagons that once serviced hungry working men during the nation's many lunch hours.

This is a twist on that old trope. Instead of day-old egg salad sandwiches, bagged cookies and such, "Dorrie's Diner II" offers a short list of the spouse's most famed concoctions. Famished passersby can easily read the six-foot laminated menu board, choose their favorites, and within moments, the mouth-tempting entree will be theirs to enjoy!

Raphael no longer has the maitre'd/waiter roles, in this transitional state, so he is our grandest promoter. Standing by Highway 11B, dressed in eye-catching colors, he waves and waggles an arrow-shaped sign in one hand, and a checkered flag (seen at the "victory line" of an auto race) in the other. Raphael has a different, and surprising costume, for each day! Yesterday, he dressed as a Frank Buck, "Bring 'em Back Alive" type jungle adventurer. Today, he wears a 1950s prom dress, with a blonde wig and make-up to match.

His creative flair keeps the mobile diner hopping. Dorrie and Katrice work by the grill. The bulk of their work is done early in the day. With six items on our menu (plus three desserts, fries, and such), the "women-folk" prepare large quantities of each entree. When a customer places an order, they need merely heat up a portion on the grill and viola! An almost instant, gournet-quality meal, for a reasonable price!

I take orders and tender cash. (We cannot accept debit cards; we accept checks from those we know and trust). Since our menu is so spartan, my shout of "a number four!" or "let's have two fives, ladies" is easily communicated to the culinary brain-trust.

It is hot inside that vehicle! I have learned to wear only T-shirt and boxer shorts during my sweaty shifts in the "Diner II." No one can see that I'm only semi-dressed. That is, save for one misfortunate Wednesday last week.

Raphael had determined that one of our rear wheels was a bit loose. The body of the mobile diner was prone to rock a bit during windy days. The rocking and shivering sometimes proved worrisome, but never so much that I cared to check on the wheel's state.

Due to public demand, we offered large basins of various condiments and sauces, each with its own stainless steel ladel. Our ever-popular "Sloppy Does" tend to be decorated with additional, and sometimes unapt, complimentary doses of ketchup, sweet relish and such. These basins, each with a tight-fitting lid, can be sealed easily at the close of each business days, and stored in our "on-site" refrigerator to await another day's service.

Sounds convenient, eh? And yes, for a spell, it was "just the ticket" for our eager enjoyers. That sweet spell was intruded upon one calm August afternoon, as a Boy Scout troop appeared, rabid with hunger after a nature hike.

Orders for "Sloppy Does" and "Bacon Blast Burger-Dogs" flew thick and fast, as the khaki-clad boys surrounded the vehicle. Unbeknownst to us all, two mischevious older Scouts took it upon themselves to "repair" the loose wheel.

In doing so, they "accidentally" loosened the tire which, at a downward angle, easily slid off its axis. Soon, we all became aware of a constant gentle rocking-and-rolling. Peals of eager laughter was heard. Finally, after one dreadful shudder, I heard multiple voices shout, "RUN!"

With that, the Diner tipped forward--it lurched, to be more precise. With the lurch, the basins of sauce emptied upon the trouble-prone scouts--a fitting punishment, in retrospect. The sauce-doused boys were still hungry enough to wolf down their sandwiches. Their scoutmaster gave me a sly, knowing smile as he paid the troop's bill.

The loss of our condiments  (and the wheel) caused us to close shop for two days. The wheel proved impossible to restore on our own, so a tow-truck from Hank's Gas-n-"Go" was summoned. The mobile diner was righted, and the wheel restored.

The combination of sweet and spicy sauces had attracted a swarm of crazed hornets. Our lives were in clear danger! We closed the van and returned the next morning with several sacks of "Kitty Litter." The pummeled clay absorbed most of the saucy damage. The ground was littered with the corpses of over-sated hornets. They had died in a state of rapture!

Order has since been restored, and the open basins replaced with quart-size pump bottles, which are chained to the counter of the van's opening. 'Tis just as well. What good fortune that, say, the mayor of our fair town, or one of its prominent social "queen bees," was not at the order window in that fateful moment.

Remarkably, all the entrees on the grill had not moved one iota! Dorrie's food is rib-sticking nutrition.

Now that stories of the "home front" have been exhausted, onto more pressing matters.

I'm sure you all have many questions about my forthcoming tome. Indeed, I, myself, have myriad quandaries about the project. Am I saying too much? Too little? Is my focus biased, rather than objcetive? These are reasonable concerns for any man of letters, or any historian.

After four decades of constant research, I am still stunned to find new "nuggets of wisdom" in areas where I felt there was no more to be known. Recent research has given me a great "back story" on the life and work of "Lester Raye" (real name: Larry Estee). I'll save these facts as a sort of "teaser" for my upcoming book. I am proud of my chapter on the Fox title Science Comics, which is titled "A Pinnacle Rare." Seldom did the golden age of panelology aspire to greater heights; seldom were such heights so suddenly, heartlessly dashed to oblivion.

"The Eagle" is a prime example of the comic-magazine feature that blossomed, and too soon withered into a sere nullity, as the war-drums of 1941 beat loudly. Here, for the benefit of you, my dear friend and colleague, is the finest hour of this feature. Savor each panel; prepare to be amazed!

As more astute readers will realize, "Lester Raye" was an anagram of the talened-but-overlooked Larry Estee. Born in 1911, Estee had no formal art training. Indeed, he had never considered drawing or art before he lucked into a job with the then-successful comic book empire of Victor Fox.

"I always liked pictures," Estee said in his lone 1969 interview. "But I figured they had some sort of device that made them up. I didn't realize that living people did these things," Estee was hired as a messenger for Victor Fox. "He loved to send what he called 'living telegrams.' Sometimes, you'd have to sing them to a popular tune. I had a good clear tenor voice, and that got me the job."

Fox's "living telegrams" typically consisted of mean-spirited taunts to rival publishers. "I'd have to walk into [Martin] Goodman's shop, or [Harry] Chesler's, and tell them how successful Victor was, and how much the ladies liked him, how nice his shoes were--that sort of thing. It didn't exactly make me popular. One time, I got hit with a T-square, right on the noggin! I still feel a bump from when that happened."

Quickly realizing his potential fate, Estee was determined to improve his status with Fox. "I told him I could draw pretty swell, and he bought it.I had really gotten Irving Donenfield one afternoon, with a downright nasty singing telegram from Fox, and he [Fox] was in such a good mood that  he hired me as an artist. He sent me home with a script and some drawing paper."

Despite no formal art training--or any prior inclination to so much as doodle--Estee fearlessly illustrated "The Eagle," which was to be the lead feature in the sixth issue of Science Comics. "It wasn't that hard," Estee boasted. "Heck, half the fellows Fox hired were winos, dummies, or worse. If they could do it, I could do it."

Through sheer force of will--augmented by "copying the funnies, which everyone else did"--Estee completed the story over a long weekend. The fungus monster, which features so boldly in the tale, was inspired by his mother's house-coat! "She had this ugly old green robe, worn out, with these flowers--I guess that's what they were--on it, She wore that thing night and day, so she was my first model! She didn't even realize it. She never even asked what I was doing in the kitchen with ink and a drawing board. She kissed me when I brought home the paycheck."

Estee's artwork became more polished, as 1940 wore on, but it also lost some of its excitement. He soon developed a professional style that ensured him a long career with the Fox company. "It was just a job with me. I didn't care a whit about the stories. They were usually the same damn thing over and over. Just crap. But I did them. At one point, Victor gave me a raise to six dollars a page! That was a great day. I still think about it."

Estee was drafted in early 1943, and he saw military action in Italy. "I didn't even think about comic books in the Army. I was too busy dodging bullets to care! We all did."

Upon his return to civilian life, in 1947, Estee took advantage of his status as one of "The Big One's" fighting men. "They had a law then, you could go back to where you used to work, and they would fire someone who didn't serve, right there on the spot, and give you his job. Well, that's what I did. The guy was in the middle of a story and they sent him packing. I finished the thing. I was a little rusty at first."

Estee was a mainstray of Fox's lurid crime, romance and teen humor titles through 1950. "By that time, I got tired of the business. The stories were dirty, and when people found out how I earned my money, they wouldn't speak to me. I was married then, and had a family to think of." With pressure from blue-nosed censors looming, the comic book industry was in peril.

Estee left at the right time--and changed careers in a surprinsing way. "I became a tight wire walker for Bregmann's Circus. It was a little company that toured the coastal Northeast. They ran an ad in the paper and I just showed up. I got pretty good doing that stuff, and the kids loved it."

But a "carney's life" was not to Estee's liking. "Those folks made the comic book boys look like priests! Swearing, drinking, gambling--and I was a pretty innocent kid!"

Thus, Estee again switched careers. "I saw an article about rocket science, and thought, 'what the heck, I bet I can do it.' And sure enough, the government hired me!" Estee was a member of the team that designed various Apollo space missions. "I'm in the history books! Who knew, back when I was drawing 'The Eagle,' that I'd be sending a man into space? I've had good luck, and I admit it."

Estee died a happy man in 1979--in a rare occurence for the business of panelology. He failed to note one achievement of which anyone would be proud. Given that Estee was a  modest man, it's understandable that he might have overlooked this one feat of his life. Recent research has revealed that he held a 1970 patent on an automatic, touch-sensitive dispenser for paper towels--that commonly seen in restrooms around the world.

If you don't have to touch a crank, or push a button, to receive clean paper towels in public, you're using "the Estee model," as they're called in the field of mechanical service devices. Estee lost the claim to his idea in a 1971 poker game, and others profited highly from his ahead-of-its-time concept. Such is life, and such is business. One man's dreams are most typically another man's fortune.

POST-SCRIPT: It has been brought to my attention that anonymous threats have been made to me, via the "comments" section of this "blog." I demand that the perpetrator of this heinous misdeed show his or her face, and apologize at once! Apokogies to the rest of you for this airing of my "soiled laundry," but I must ask that this people (or peoples) cease and desist at once. There are authorities and punishments for such seditious acts, as you certainly must realize!