October 2, 2014

The Mammy Two Shoes Imbroglio




The news is out that Amazon Prime Instant Video subscribers who watch Tom and Jerry cartoons will first be greeted by a warning that these cartoons are "racially prejudiced." This has many classic animation fans up in arms. "The PC police have gone wild!" they'll say. "There's nothing racist about these cartoons."

As far as these fans are concerned, that is absolutely true. Classic animation fans watch classic animation to laugh and be entertained. They watch them to study and celebrate the history and process of animation, sometimes going frame by frame to see how a particular gag is executed. They are well informed about the people that were involved in the creation process: the directors, writers, voice actors, background designers, et al.

Moreover, they do not view a character like Mammy Two Shoes as being particularly racist. They see her as a funny character, ready to give "Thomas" his just desserts if he steps out of line, which he often does. They even feel genuine affection for her, so much so that they are willing to defend her against her detractors.

There is nothing wrong with that. They are coming from a pure and honest place.

However, the history is in on Mammy Two Shoes. The mammy archetype is deeply offensive to many Americans, and they are also not wrong to be offended. Nor is it wrong to warn people in advance that what they are about to watch contains an archetype they might find offensive.

If you have a hard time understanding why Mammy Two Shoes is offensive, then this Authentic History Center article should help you to understand, but be warned that it does contain advertisements and other ephemera that are deeply offensive. There are also articles on the same site that address other racial stereotypes.

Basically, Mammy Two Shoes is a Rorschach Test for race. If you are deeply offended by the character, it does not mean you are an overly-sensitive troublemaker. If, however, you are not offended by her, it doesn't mean you are a racially-insensitive lout. 

Although it happens way less often than our "fair and balanced" news media would have us believe, I believe this is actually a case where the positions of two opposing factions are equally reasonable and acceptable.


It would be wrong to lock away or burn Tom and Jerry cartoons. It's wrong that Disney will not make available Song Of The South. It's hypocritical to think Song Of The South must be banned, while Gone With The Wind gets the deluxe box set treatment.

Censorship is wrong, period. It lessens us as a society of free-thinkers. It robs us from learning from mistakes in our nation's past.

Though they are inherently flawed by racial caricatures, there is simply too much value in these cartoons and films to consign them to the dustbin of history. They should be released with strong disclaimers. They should be released and exist in an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding from those on both sides of the issue.


Michael Kupperman Is Great So Buy All His Comics!




Do you like humor that is deranged, yet also droll? Do you like comics filled with non-sequiturs? Do you like woodcut drawings? Did you ever wonder what kind of delightful hijinks would transpire if a snake and a piece of bacon got together?

If you answered yes or no to any of the above questions, you need to check out the work of Michael Kupperman, creator of Tales Designed To Thrizzle.

When I read Michael's stuff, I somehow feel it was made especially for me, and that doesn't happen very often. Then, when I realize other people obviously enjoy his comics, I feel a little less alone in the universe.

Seriously. I'm surrounded by idiots. Help.

I just found an old Kupperman strip in an issue of Fantagraphics' Zero Zero (#26). Back then, Michael was operating under the pseudonym "P. Revess."

I hope it whets your appetite for more, and I hope you buy all of Michael Kupperman's comics, because he is a genius of comics, and geniuses of comics should be supported.





September 24, 2014

True Fact Comics #2: The World's First Military Sub



From Star Spangled Comics #107 (Aug 1950) comes the thrilling true tale of The Turtle, the first submarine used in combat. GCBD lists the penciller as Curt Swan and credits John Fischetti with inks.








Addams Family Mysteries

Percy Helton (as Uncle Fester) Sneaks Up on John Astin (as Gomez)

Recently, Life Magazine presented an article showing various actors and actresses trying out for roles in The Addams Family in 1964. Many people who care about such things have been trying to identify these performers. I collated all the info I could find on this matter and sent an e-mail to Mark Evanier, and he posted the bulk of it on his blog, News From ME.

Thankfully, he caught my mistake (D'oh!) of naming Percy Helton as a possible candidate for the role of Lurch. That would certainly be a non-starter, although, as you can see from the photo above, he just might have cut the muster as dear old Uncle Fester.




September 20, 2014

True Fact Comics #1: The Story Of Casey Jones



Comics are like human brains, so little of their potential is utilized. I have learned so much about subjects such as history and science just by reading comics that I could never, for one moment, take seriously the lunkheads that dismiss the medium as throwaway entertainment fit only for children and adults with arrested development. Comics can make learning fun, and that's a very good thing, because learning should be fun. Right?

Here is a biography of train engineer Casey Jones from Real Fact Comics #19. (March-April 1949). GCBD lists the artist as Howard Sherman, he of Doctor Fate fame.







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Take An Audio Tour Through A Sixties-Era Amusement Park




Though I was born in 1973, I state with no hesitation that the sixties is my favorite decade. Although there was a great deal of strife in America during that tumultuous decade, it was also an era alive with possibilities, boundless culural creativity and a desire for genuine positive change.

Artifacts from that period seem to contain a particular magic and here's a neat, maybe even groovy, one: sounds from Santa Monica's Pacific Ocean Park, an amusement park that opened in 1958 and closed in 1967.

Dig it!

Thanks to Domenic Priore for the link. By the way, Domenic and Christopher Merritt wrote a wonderful photo-filled book about Pacific Ocean Park which contains a foreword from Brian Wilson.

September 18, 2014

50th Anniversary Newswatch Linkfest



The sixties was such a fertile time for pop culture, especially after The Beatles landed in America. I think we had all better prepare ourselves for an unprecedented flurry of 50th anniversary celebrations. Why, I wouldn't be surprised if the upcoming onslaught of 50th anniversaries ushered in a full scale sixties revival, although the thought of Sarah Palin wearing go-go boots makes me a little ill.

Debuting on television exactly five decades ago this week, Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea is a show I need to stare at more often, especially after reading Joe Torcivia's glowing tribute to the show on his blog, The Issue at Hand. Be patient with me, Joe. I'm still slogging my way through Fireball XL5.

Over at Yowp, Yowp raps about Hanna-Barbera's Jonny Quest in a well-researched piece that includes some reviews written about the show when it was all shiny and new, fifty years ago. Is Jonny Quest the best action cartoon series ever made? Name me one better. 

Not to be outdone, Terence Towles Canote at A Shroud of Thoughts offers up an interesting history of Bewitched, still nose-wigglin' it's way into our living rooms after all these years. 

I'll leave you with a Donna Loren performance of the theme from Goldfinger, which just turned fifty, from a 1965 telecast of Shindig!, which premiered, yup, you guessed it, this week in 1964.