Today’s feature is Aubrey of the Tenements, by J.M. Conde. Beautifully rendered and thoughtfully premised, the strip concerns itself with the mischievous antics of a parrot and a cat who have been transplanted from tenement slums to palatial comfort. The first couple of strips show the pair in their former digs and tells how they came to be adopted into high society, while the later entries mine a formula where the jerkfaced parrot tries to mess with the cat, but Aubrey manages to come out on top. It’s a situation that would be reworked endlessly thirty years later in cartoon shorts, but it’s put to good use in this turn-of-the-(last)-century treat.
Archive for November 28, 2012
Happy belated birthday, Auguste Rodin!
The funnies are pretty much built on a solid foundation of insanity: we’ve got screwball characters who defy reason and logic for the sake of a punchline and explicitly tetched characters like Krazy Kat. But in all the annals of comicdom, I don’t think that there’s a comic that portrays pure, horrifying madness like Hans Phildius’s Dad in Kidland does.
I’ve long held a personal belief that children are, in fact, clinically insane by any reasonable definition. They have imaginary friends, they act without rationality, they have no control over their emotions… I don’t hold it against them, really; it’s not their fault they’re crazy. It’s just something you’ve got to grow out of. Dad in Kidland is as perfect an illustration of this idea as I could ask for, as it’s based on a simple conceit: what if adults acted like children? When the behaviors of children are attached to grown-ups, the pure craziness of childhood is lain bare for our enjoyment.
That last post really put me in the mood for some more Uncle Sam as envisioned by Winsor McCay, so I dropped a bunch of editorial cartoons into the McCay archive. Click on the one above and move forward from there (make sure you don’t miss your Uncle Sammy facing sharks in his awesome star spangled bathing suit!)
Emphasis on old. I kid, I kid! You all should take to the comments and say some kind words. Happy Birthday!
This is a strip from 1904 about a pair of sisters and the hijinks that ensue as the local boys vie to make an impression on these delectable ladies.
Though neither the creator of this strip nor the protagonist is Jewish–as far as we know–Gene Carr’s Mr. Al Most provides textbook examples of a couple of Yiddish archetypes. One is “mensch”, as he’s truly a great guy; he’s selfless in his desire to help his fellow man, with no regard to his personal safety or comfort. He’s the model that all of us should aspire to in our daily lives.
Unfortunately, the other word that suits him to a “T” is “schlimazel”.
To many of us, “schlemiel” and “schlimazel” are just words that Laverne and Shirley intoned in the introduction to their show’s theme song, but their meaning is illustrated wonderfully in a classic bit of Yiddish explication: a schlemiel is the kind of guy who spills soup on a fellow’s lap, while a schlimazel is the fellow who gets it dumped upon him. Poor Al: he always tries–and succeeds!–to do the right thing, but he’s always put upon for his efforts; left bloodied, bruised, scorned, and occasionally in the cusutody of the authorities.
It’s a terrific formula; the strip is funny and the character is very sympathetic. For half of the run, anyway… Then the premise of the strip changes, going from a fellow who does good deeds to a fellow trying to ditch the penniless, zaftig woman to whom he’s become mistakenly engaged. You still feel kind of bad for him, but he’s kind of a heel to this poor girl as he cooks up ideas to trick her into breaking off the engagement. Though I will say that it’s a testament to his core mensch-ness that he can’t bring himself to simply skip town or let her down hard. Ah, maybe he’s still a good fellow, after all.