(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘cartoons

“I would say lenguage is that we may mis-unda-stend each udda”*…

Long-time readers will know that your correspondent adores George Herriman’s Krazy Kat (c.f., e.g., this post: the remarkable Chris Ware on the modern relevance of the seminal strip). Today, Amber Medland on Krazy Kat‘s huge resonance with Modernists throughout its run…

The Kat had a cult following among the modernists. For Joyce, Fitzgerald, Stein, and Picasso, all of whose work fed on playful energies similar to those unleashed in the strip, he had a double appeal, in being commercially nonviable and carrying the reek of authenticity in seeming to belong to mass culture. By the thirties, strips like Blondie were appearing daily in roughly a thousand newspapers; Krazy appeared in only thirty-five. The Kat was one of those niche-but-not-really phenomena, a darling of critics and artists alike, even after it stopped appearing in newspapers. Since then: Umberto Eco called Herriman’s work “raw poetry”; Kerouac claimed the Kat as “the immediate progenitor” of the beats; Stan Lee (Spider-Man) went with “genius”; Herriman was revered by Charles Schulz and Theodor Geisel alike. But Krazy Kat was never popular. The strip began as a sideline for Herriman, who had been making a name for himself as a cartoonist since 1902. It ran in “the waste space,” literally underfoot the characters of his more conventional 1910 comic strip The Dingbat Family, published in William Randolph Hearst’s New York Evening Journal. Hearst gave Herriman a rare lifetime contract and, with his backing, by 1913 the liminal kreatures had their own strip. Most people disliked not being able to understand it. Soon advertisers worried that formerly loyal readers would skip the strips and miss the ads. Editors were infuriated by devices like Herriman’s “intermission” panel, which disrupted the narrative by stalling the action…

For [E.E.] Cummings, who, with his flagrant anti-intellectual stance, privileged what he called “Aliveness” above all else, Charlie Chaplin was the only artist to rival Herriman. But technology disrupted both Chaplin’s and Herriman’s idiosyncratic work. At the introduction of sound in film in 1927, Chaplin said that the “spontaneity of the gags had been lost,” but what he really lost was his control of time. Sound erases distance; there was no longer a delay in which the incongruity between seeing and comprehending could bloom. In his essay “What People Laugh At” (1918), Chaplin noted “the liking of the average person for contrast and surprise in his entertainment.” Both Herriman and Chaplin orchestrated meticulously timed, silent dialogues between images and words. Slapstick—a word that originally referred to two pieces of wood joined together, used by pantomime clowns to make loud noises—is, in their work, a deliberately clumsy cleaving of the relationship between words and images. If people could explain themselves, there would be no time to revel in ludicrous situations, as when in The Kid, Chaplin, caressing the hand of a policeman’s wife, is accidentally caressed by her husband…

The unsung Modernist: “E. E. Cummings and Krazy Kat,” from @ambermedland in @parisreview.

Enjoy Krazy Kat strips here.

* Krazy, to Ignatz (Herriman one-upping Wittgenstein…)

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As we praise percipience, we might recall that it was on this date in 1948, in the Bugs Bunny cartoon “Haredevil Hare,” that Marvin the Martian made his debut.

“Haredevil Hare”: Bugs Bunny, disguised as a Martian, hands Marvin the Uranium PU-36 Explosive Space Modulator. (Animation by Ken Harris.)

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“Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories”*…

Mel Birnkrant is a successful toy designer, creator both of items that succeeded in the toy market (e.g., the Outer Space Men and Baby Face), and (with his wife Eunice) of the output of “Boutique Fantastique,” handcrafted “‘authentic reproductions’ of antique toys and music boxes that never existed in the first place” (or, as The New York Times put it in a review of a show of their work at the Cooper Union Museum, “antiques that never were”).

But he is probably as well known– at least in the circle of aficionados of which he is a part– as the force behind The Birnkrant Collection of Mickey Mouse & Comic Characters, unique in both its breadth and it depth…

The Birnkrant Collection of Mickey Mouse & Comic Characters was christened “MOUSE HEAVEN” by our good friend Kenneth Anger [Kenneth AngerKenneth Anger!] many years ago, long before he made his film of the same name.  Although, the Collection encompasses the vast expanse of Comic Character Imagery, beginning at the Turn of the 20th Century, right up through the early 1940s, and is about much more than merely Mickey.  The title “stuck”, and over time, in my own mind, it came to include Everything! 

A collection, like this, can only happen, once in a lifetime, and by some twist of fate, that lifetime happened to be mine.  For better, or for worse, the likes of it could never be amassed again.  So this is it, about as good as Comic Character Collecting gets.  To duplicate what you are about to see would require just three things: 1. Infinite resources.  2. A Time Machine, you’d have to be there, either living from 1890 to 1945, or be in attendance at all the great flea markets, antique shows, and toy shows on the East Coast, for the past 50 years, and be able to run faster than me.  And, finally, 3. You’d have to BE me.  All this only looks haphazard, actually, its unified by a single vision.  Everything here is related, It all goes together, in a way that few perceive.

I’m not a historian.  My interest in the items I collected all my life was always purely Visual.  They are simply, flat out, Works of Art to me.  So don’t expect a history of the various characters they portray.  As interesting as that may be, it was never what interested me.  What I learned, along the way, about the various comic characters and their creators was purely secondary.  That scant knowledge was only used as clues to help me find more of the same.  Thus, my commentary, as we go along, will serve only one purpose, I will strive to help you see these Works of Art as Works of Art.  But, be forewarned, you’ll learn little of their stories, and who they were, historically.  It’s all about the way they look to me.  These Icons are the Graven Images of would-be Gods and Goddesses, in the Comic Character Pantheon.  I will present them as Iconic Idols, worthy recipients of Idolatry, and spare you the theology…

Take the online tour of Mouse Heaven. And then there’s Anger’s film…

* Walter Benjamin

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As we wander in wonder, we might recall that it was on this date in 2009 that 12 year old Catherine Ralston was named Easy-Bake “Baker of the Year” for her “Queen of Hearts Strawberry Tart.” The Easy-Bake Oven is, of course, a working toy oven that Kenner introduced in 1963, and which Hasbro still manufactures. Indeed, more than 16 million Easy-Bake Ovens (in 11 models) had been sold.

Ralston, right, on learning of her victory

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“There will be time, there will be time”*…

 

Infinity-Time1

Poets often think of time as a river, a free-flowing stream that carries us from the radiant morning of birth to the golden twilight of old age. It is the span that separates the delicate bud of spring from the lush flower of summer.

Physicists think of time in somewhat more practical terms. For them, time is a means of measuring change—an endless series of instants that, strung together like beads, turn an uncertain future into the present and the present into a definite past. The very concept of time allows researchers to calculate when a comet will round the sun or how a signal traverses a silicon chip. Each step in time provides a peek at the evolution of nature’s myriad phenomena.

In other words, time is a tool. In fact, it was the first scientific tool. Time can now be sliced into slivers as thin as one ten-trillionth of a second. But what is being sliced? Unlike mass and distance, time cannot be perceived by our physical senses. We don’t see, hear, smell, touch, or taste time. And yet we somehow measure it. As a cadre of theorists attempt to extend and refine the general theory of relativity, Einstein’s momentous law of gravitation, they have a problem with time. A big problem…

The crisis inside the physics of time: “Is It Time to Get Rid of Time?

See also: “Forget everything you know about time.”

[image above: source]

* T. S. Eliot

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As we check our watches, we might say a grateful Happy Birthday to Winsor McCay, the cartoonist and animator, who was born on this date in 1867.  His two best-known creations are the pioneering comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland, which ran from 1905 to 1914, and the animated cartoon Gertie the Dinosaur (1914),which set the standard for animators for decades to come.

Little Nemo… for a more legible image, click here

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 26, 2018 at 1:01 am

“I went to the bank and asked to borrow a cup of money. They said, ‘What for?’ I said, ‘I’m going to buy some sugar.”*…

 

 

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Sugar is sprinkled everywhere in our language. When children are good and happy, they are cutie pies. Cool stuff can be “sweet, man.” Our crush is a sweetheart, and our sweetheart might be our honey. “A spoonful of sugar,” as Mary Poppins croons, is a bribe, something to help “the medicine go down.” Sugar is leisure and celebration — what British birthday would be complete without the stickiness of cake frosting on fingers? It is, according to Roland Barthes, an attitude — as integral to the concept of Americanness as wine is to Frenchness. In the 1958 hit song “Sugartime,” to which Barthes was referring, the sunny, smiling McGuire Sisters harmonize sweetly, filling their mouths with honey: “Sugar in the mornin’ / Sugar in the evenin’ / Sugar at suppertime / Be my little sugar / And love me all the time.”

And like anything pleasurable, sugar is often characterized as a vice. The flood of industrial sugar into packaged food has real public health consequences, but predictably, the backlash has taken on a puritanical zeal far beyond reasonable concerns. Sugar is “America’s drug of choice,” one headline claimed. “Is sugar the world’s most popular drug?” wondered another. Even those selling sugary food winkingly parrot the language of addiction — consider Milk Bar’s notoriously sticky, seductively sweet Crack Pie. A drug that decimated predominantly poor, black American communities is now a punchline for middle-class white indulgence.

For black Americans, sweetness was an essential ingredient in Jim Crow-era stereotypes designed to keep newly emancipated people from their rights. Those stereotypes persist — and even generate profit — today…

Sugar is survival. It is a respite for palates swept clean of childish joy for too long. It is sexual desire and pleasure, and also temptation and sin. And it is a commodity, one historically produced with some of the most brutal labor practices on the planet. In the Western imagination, sugar is pleasure, temptation, and vice — and in modern history, it is original sin…

How a taste for sweetness, developed for survival, became a stand-in for everything good — and evil — about our culture: “Sugartime.”

* Steven Wright

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As turn to the tart, we might send bodacious birthday greetings to that most fabulous of flappers, Betty Boop; she made her first appearance on this date in 1930.  The creation of animator Max Fleischer, she debuted in “Dizzy Dishes” (in which, still unevolved as a character, she is drawn as an anthropomorphic female dog).

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 9, 2018 at 1:01 am

“In comics, we’re all weird together”*…

 

Your correspondent is heading out into the middle of the Pacific for about 10 days, so (Roughly) Daily will be on hiatus.  Regular service should resume on or around April 14…

To keep readers occupied in the meantime, via the ever-illuminating Warren Ellis, “this extremely 1998 webcomics index page.”

* G. Willow Wilson

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As we dig for treasure (of which, there’s plenty), we might recall that it was on this date in 1977 that CBS Records UK began distributing the eponymously-titled first album from The Clash.  (It was officially released four days later.)  Featuring such anthems as “White Riot,” “Police & Thieves,” and “London’s Burning,” it is widely regarded as one of the greatest punk recordings of all time, and ranks high on essentially every “best album” list.

Deeming the material “not radio friendly,” CBS in the US refused to release it until 1979 (on their Epic label, but even then dropped some of the more virulent songs).  Meantime, Americans bought over 100,000 imported copies of “The Clash”, making it the best-selling import album of all time in the U.S.

Cover of the UK release

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 4, 2018 at 1:01 am

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