Saturday, August 13, 2016

COMIC RELIEF

The little strip above is one created by Paul Schexnayder of New Iberia, Louisiana for a book entitled The Kajun Kween that I wrote a few years ago about Petite Marie Melancon who became the superheroine in a comic strip.

I’ve loved comic books since The Golden Age of Comics (1930-1950) during my early childhood. I did my share of trading them on the front porch of my home on Birch Street in Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and, of course, Dagwood and Blondie. And when I was six, Archie appeared. Wonder Woman hung around until 1953 during the Silver Age of Comics, but probably my favorite comic strip featured a character to which my Dad introduced us on Sunday mornings – Popeye. To this day, when I hear the word “hamburger,” I automatically think of Wimpy, the character in the comic strip who loved hamburgers, which my father called: “catheads.” I’ve even written a book of doggerel about my childhood that includes a poem describing my father reading the Sunday comics. The poem appears at the end of this blog.

Actually, comic strips were banned by many of my elementary school teachers. They regarded them as presentations of violent characters and felt that the reading matter was so abbreviated, it wasn’t enough to educate young minds. Several teachers vetoed characters like Captain America who punched out the Nazis. However, at school assemblies we sang all the WWII songs and followed the fighting on large maps with pins showing major victories in Europe. I can’t remember any pacifists during my childhood. And Little Orphan Annie even fought Nazis who appeared in the comic strip about her WWII activities.

A revival of comic book superheroes has exploded due to the film industry creating films about Spider Man, Batman, and Super Man, but Wonder Woman hasn’t kept pace with the male superheroes. I might be seeing just a comic book bubble, but I’m betting on the continuing popularity of comic books because there’s a shortage of superheroes in the postmodern world.

Unfortunately, I don’t have one comic book in my library to pass on to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but once they see their first superhero movie, they’ll probably be among those haunting the bookstores and news stands, searching for a comic book about the archetype characters who appeared in the Golden Age of Comic books.

Here’s the promised poem about comics from my book of poetry, Grandma's Good War, entitled: 

READING THE SUNDAY “FUNNY PAPERS”

He could press 4,000 pounds and sometimes 36 tons,
and enlisted in “the mighty Navy” in 1941,
muscled arms riddled with tattoos, arch enemies he’d foil
in “arful” battles designed to impress his girlfriend Olive Oyl.
Each Sunday at the oak dining table my father read aloud
the adventures of Popeye the sailor man, a character he avowed
could handle any enemy who dared to invade the States,
a spinach-eating hero to all his admiring shipmates,
father shouting at the end of each strip, his own “zap, pow and bam,”
quoting Popeye’s “I yam what I yam, that’s all I yam,”
affirmation of my father’s individuality, a message belying the cartoon,
with Popeye, he was ready to battle Sea Hag, Bluto, and Alice the Goon;

His somber voice deepened, describing the cold cruel world he knew
as that of Little Orphan Annie, another comic icon of WW II
who formed Jr. Commandos and blew up a German U-boat,
enlisted us to collect scrap metal to keep the US Navy afloat.
On her arm, Lil Annie wore a band with “JC” inscribed upon it,
called herself “Colonel Annie” and demanded we do our bit,
“Gee Whiskers,” my father’s voice would sometimes resound,
“She’s left Daddy Warbucks! Poor girl’s on shaky ground.”

Alley Oop in the Kingdom of Moo who traveled to the moon,
Prince Valiant, the Nordic Prince who fought the hated Huns,
Dagwood, Blondie, Lil Abner in the Golden Age of comic strips
where our father took us on astonishing Sunday morning trips,
life served up in weekly installments of strange cartoons,
his voice ascending on floating word balloons.









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