Monday, September 26, 2005

Mystery Date

mysteryDue to a chance combination of e-mail utterances by pal Craig Yoe (author, most recently, of the much-more-than-mildly magnificent Modern Arf - go buy it, already!), I felt compelled to peform a Google Image Search for a naked Alfred E. Neuman. I plugged in "what me worry" and "naked," and only one image (safe for work!) came up. I confess that I [a] have no idea why this happens, and [b] would rather not know. The mystery is that much greater...

(For those of you wondering what this post has to do with comics, this blog's usual subject: Well, let's just say that it concerns a significant juxtaposition of image and text, all right?)

Update - 3 October: All right, who told the Feds about this? That search no longer yields any results. (Pagus is mightily displeased.) For those of you who missed your chance, click here; the headshot on that very page was our Google Mystery Image.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

Favorite Mathematical Equation

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Rita Update: Fuzzy Fotos

Of course, as soon as I went outside to take a couple of pictures, the wind and rain picked up, so I had to snap these pretty quickly. Here's our house:

Please to note (through the unfocused photography) the expert application of cardboard boxes over the windows. Without a ready supply of plywood, this was the best we could do. In the event of an actual hurricane, how much good would the cardboard have done? Dunno, really; once the city gets back to "bidness," we'll get some proper plywood.

And here's the only real damage we can see around here:

The folks in this house were darned lucky the tree fell toward the street, not toward their house.

Comics Content: In honor of my fuzzy photo skillz, we are proud to present Get Fuzzy for your continued amusement.

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Rita Update: Somewhat Moister for the Wear

Well, as of 9:25 this a.m., we've had a little rain and some amount of wind (as evidenced by the tree now growing horzontally across W. Cottage St), but no other immediate problems right around us. We know things are much wetter in other parts of the city, but so far, at least, we still have power, water, and Internet access.

The storm isn't over yet, and we still could be in for some rough weather (it's supposed to rain through next Thursday). If anything drastic or amazing happens, I'll be sure to post updates here.

Thanks to everyone who's contacted us and wished us well during the lead-up period to the hurricane - you are all wonderful friends.

Comics Content: Pat Paulsen, Flip Wilson, and Raymond J. Johnson, Jr., walk into a bar...

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Friday, September 23, 2005

Rita Update: As Yet, No Drizzle (But Plenty of Thrizzle)

Well, the house has had its hatches battened (thanks, Alex!), and here we sit awaiting Whatever Comes Next. So far, so good: Rita's now downgraded to Category Three and seems to be headed for the Texas/Louisiana border - i.e., to the east of us, even further than we'd thought this morning. Yes, it still will be nasty, but not as nasty as it could have been. We sit here now, around 6:30PM, watching DVDs and beginning to cook dinner, waiting for the first signs of rain. So far, not even a drizzle.

Drizzle... drizzle... Thrizzle! I've been meaning to post a review of the funniest comic book I've read since Michael Kupperman's manic, inspired Snake 'n' Bacon's Cartoon Cabaret - this new book, not surprisingly, is also by Kupperman (aka "P.Reeves"): Tales Designed to Thrizzle. Besides starring such old favorites as Snake 'n' Bacon ("Ssssss" "Wipe me with a paper towel to remove excess grease") and the Manister (who "has a most unusual power: the ability to assume the shape of a bannister"), it also boasts a page-and-a-half discussion of Shakespeare (where else will you learn the secret of "Shakespeare's Gold"?); Jesus' half-brother, Pagus ("Ha ha ha ha ha ha! All for me! All for Pagus!"); "Uncle Billy's Drunken, Bitter Guide to the Animal Kingdom" (self-explanatory); and so, so much more.

Fortunately, in a nod to our ever-increasingly "What about the children?" culture, the book also divides its contents into an Adult Section, a Kid's Section, and an Old People's Section. Of course, the kiddies need to jump to page 11 to avoid soiling their psyches - and unfortunately, the pages aren't numbered. ("All [kiddies] for Pagus!")

The art features a slick "woodcut-cum-clipart" style, and I'd love to highlight a bit more of it here. But seeing as how my scanner is now unplugged and waterproofed, I'll just direct you to this site, featuring some older examples of MK's art. Go ahead, click: you know you can't resist the thrill of experiencing "Funky Obsessed Detective Robot" and "Underpants-on-His-Head Man." Also, don't miss the always-essential Tom Spurgeon's review of Thrizzle and this interview excerpt from The Comics Journal.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program, "Waiting for Rita," already in progress...

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Rita Update: Keep Off the Dirty Side...

Here in Houston, it's currently sunny and only 79 degrees - an oddity here, especially this week, where we set record high temps (around 100 F) the past couple of days. These relatively "pleasant" conditions won't last much longer, of course, although they could linger a bit longer today than we had first thought. Hurricane Rita has slowed a bit, and it's also moved a bit further north/east, towards the Texas/Louisiana border. (Like Louisiana hasn't suffered enough lately...)

I'd never before heard of - or at least paid attention to - the idea that hurricanes have a "clean side" (east) and a "dirty side" (west). The fact that the hurricane is tracking east appears to be good news for Houston and Galveston (though bad news for those areas further up the coast). We'll still have lots o' rain and hurricane-force winds, but the idea right now is that we might get by with a bit less intensity than we'd thought even yesterday. Again, more as we know it...

Comics Content: Seeing as how our newspaper wasn't delivered today (not that I'm terribly surprised or upset), here's a link to the Houston Chronicle's comics section (nearly four pages' worth - quite a lot, really).

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Rita Update: Everyone Knows it's Windy...

...or at least it will be, soon enough, as Hurricane Rita rumbles ever-closer. We're going to weather the storm (har har) here at home, in Casa Wombato, located in one of the highest-elevated sections of Houston. (I think it's a matter of being only a foot or so higher than the rest of the city, but that's something...)

I'll try to post an update or two here (as will Kate) later on Friday and on Saturday, to let folks know how we're faring.

Oh, wait - I almost forgot some obligatory comics content.

Whew! I feel much better now!

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Enormous Nemo in Slumberland!

I've long been a fan of Winsor McCay, one of the most acomplished cartoonists of the early 20th century and a pioneer in animation, to boot. I'm so much of a fan, in fact, that one chapter of my dissertation dealt specifically with McCay. "Little Nemo in Slumberland," undoubtedly his best-known comic strip work, has been hailed by readers and critics for decades, leadingto severalreprintings. But none of these collections, no matter how carefully selected or produced they might be, have managed fully to convey one of the most impressive aspects of the comic: McCay's exploitation of the entire newspaper page to produce both stunning, expansive vistas and delicate, detailed miniature images - often on the same page. Until now.

This month saw the publication of Little Nemo: So Many Splendid Sundays (Sunday Press Books, $120), a book so absolutely stunning in every detail that it literally left me speechless. Editor Peter Maresca has produced what can only be called a labor of love: a hardcover, full-scale collection of 110 "Nemo" pages, commemorating the strip's centennial. Yes, full-scale: a full 16x21 inches, the original publication size. (At right you can compare the book's scale to the Dover "Little Nemo in the Palace of Ice" reprint collection, itself a deluxe, over-sized paperback.) The book also contains informative essays by editor Maresca, along with brief essays and comments from comics historians like Bill Blackbeard, R.C. Harvey, art spiegelman, Thierry Smolderen, John Canemaker, and more. (Full Disclosure Dep't: The book's only potential "flaw" is the presence of two brief essays by yours truly. In all seriousness, it's an incredible honor to be included in this volume; thank you, Peter, and extra-special thanks to e-mail pal Miron Murcury, for making this happen!)

But it's the careful attention paid to the comics themselves that really recommends this book. Each strip has been digitally "remastered," if you will, from original newspaper tearsheets, all with the intent of reproducing for us moderns the experience of reading these strips as they originally appeared 100 years ago. The effort has paid off handsomely, to say the very least. I've read all of the strips here before, some of them literally dozens of times; but seeing them again in this book was like discovering brand-new territory, an oasis in a desert you'd never before realized you inhabited. To be able to linger over these images, absorbing all of the minute details in the drawing and the often amazing subtleties of the coloring, is a luxury I'd never dreamed of. I can't begin to comprehend all of the technical issues Maresca had to confront to produce such an exquisite volume; but whatever he went through, it was more than worth it. And I'm far from alone in my opinion; be sure to read these testimonials as well.

Fans of comic art the world over owe him a debt of gratitude which none of us can ever repay individually. A book this significant belongs in every library in the land. (Perhaps libraries have shelves large enough to hold the book - I don't!) If you're a bit strapped for cash but want to experience this book (and you know you do), beg, urge, cajole, pester, or otherwise convince your library to order a copy. You'll thank them, you'll thank yourself, and readers with exquisite taste will thank the library for at least another 100 years. Oh, and while you're at it, be sure to pick up one of the spiffy 2005-2006 15-month calendars for yourself.

One last thought: I've included "Little Nemo" in many of the courses I've taught over the years. After explaining to my students that the original printed pages were about twice the size of the Dover edition, I've confessed that I truly envied the strip's original readers - especially the kids of, say, six years old - who had the privilege to almost literally "fall into" Nemo's world, who could have their entire field of vision filled with McCay's imagination. Today, reading Little Nemo: So Many Splendid Sundays, I finally felt like I was six years old.

Update, 22 September: Parts of this review are now posted at the Sunday Press website, under "testimonials". Wow, great company to be in!

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