Monday, July 23, 2018

Charles Addams: Wide-eyed and surprised

Cartoonists like to pull a switch, present a situation where the reader's expectations are met with something off-the-wall or different enough to evoke a laugh. Charles Addams was a master of the switch, or what can be called wide-eyed and surprised, when the onlookers in the cartoon see something startling.

These 19 drawings are taken from the online New Yorker archive, and were originally published in the early 1950s. All are shown here as examples.

Go back to the previous posting to see more Addams.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Chas Addams: Variation on a theme

Sheer pleasure for me is going through old issues of The New Yorker, looking at the cartoons. (The New Yorker editors prefer the word “drawings” over cartoons.) Their archive makes it possible. These I am showing you are from their archive, and I do not own any copyrights. I am showing you for the sole purpose of educating anyone who will listen of the greatness of The New Yorker, especially when it came to talent like Charles Addams.

What I have noticed in going through his career is that Addams used variations on themes. I am showing today drawings made with little people. And when I say little I mean really little.

Addams was a tall man; some have estimated about 6’4”. He could have looked down on his fellow mortals and seen some of them as minuscule. But I am just guessing. Whatever his reason, tiny people figured into a theme he went back to many times.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Your trip to Mars!

Alexander P. de Seversky was a Russian born in 1894. He became one of the first fighter pilots during World War I. He was shot down, lost a leg, then came back a year later and took up flying again. He was convinced that air superiority was the way to win a war. In 1927 he emigrated to the United States, where he had a long career, both as an author (Victory Through Air Power, turned into an animated feature by Disney), and as an airline executive. He died in 1964.

In 1952 he wrote an article for Pageant magazine called “Your Trip to Mars.” In the time after World War II there were a lot of articles about the world of technology to come. There were self-driving cars (now a reality), flying cars (never got off the ground — yuk, yuk), rocket ships (reality)...the list goes on. In retrospect, in 1952 trips to the moon were less than 20 years away, so de Seversky’s article reminds me more of 2001: A Space Odyssey, with TWA taking people to the moon.

In 1952 anything was possible in the future. This article treats a trip to Mars as being something like a cruise to the Caribbean. I was struck by the “barman unconcernedly mixing Martinis” as the spaceship attains a speed of 150,000 mph.

The closest I can come to de Seversky’s fantasy in today’s world is in the words of Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX) and his claim that 100 families will settle on Mars. That seems even more fantastic than de Seversky’s idea. Mars is a totally hostile place for humans. The infrastructure that would have to be ready to accommodate those pioneers seems prohibitively expensive. But dreams are free, aren’t they? Musk has succeeded in getting supplies to the International Space Station with his rockets. Unlike de Seversky, who lived to see the early stages of men in space but died five years before Apollo 11, Musk is still alive to guide his vision.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A tale of synchronicity and Charles Schulz

Recently I was reading the Abrams book, Only What’s Necessary, Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts, when I came across a scan of the original artwork for this 1954 Sunday page:

According to the book, the sequence, an experiment continued over four Sundays, was considered a failure by Schulz. It was never published in any of the subsequent paperback collections of the comic strip. Not until the Fantagraphics collections, The Complete Peanuts, that is, published by Fantagraphics after Schulz’s death.

Here is where synchronicity came in. A couple of days after seeing the page in the book, I was in an antiques mall in downtown Salt Lake City, and found a couple of issues of Tip Top Comics from the mid-fifties. I bought them and when I opened up issue #200, from 1956, I found the entire sequence, reprinted in a comic book format.

When you read the whole sequence you can see why Schulz considered it a failure. It introduced adults to Peanuts, and it seems completely wrong, based on what later became a major theme in the comic strip: the war between Charlie Brown and Lucy. Looking at this storyline, appearing within the first four years of what went on to be a 50-year run, is jarring. Charlie Brown supporting Lucy? Lucy as a golfer? Uh-uh. Better to think of it as a dream sequence, and be glad he didn’t consider it a success and change the interactions between the two characters. I cannot imagine Peanuts without Lucy jerking the football away from Charlie Brown, and so this was one of those moments in a lifetime of working on the strip when Schulz thought better of it.

All Peanuts Copyright © 1954, 1956, UFS