What Has This Fictional Tea Cup Seen?


Back in the Like 40s Walt Kelly was drawing comic book versions of fairy tales and that’s great. He needed to do something like Pogo was getting under way. Plus it gave him excuses to draw stuff like this dragon that thought he was a cow and never knew otherwise until the story started. I don’t know if that’s an actual fairy tale or one he just made up, but either way, if you’re starting out with a dragon that doesn’t know it’s no cow you’re in good with me. I have no explanation for this.

Anyway I was looking at the art in “Thumbelisa,” the story that I had always thought was “Thumbelina” but I guess Walt Kelly had the script so who am I to argue? And it’s got a lot of classical comic-book fairy-tale art, with matronly mice and stuffy old moles who wear eyeglasses even though their eyes are always closed. And, not really saying anything, tea pots that have eyes and a mouth and are presumably characters in their own stories that we aren’t seeing. So here’s an example, with the tea pot I was thinking about on the right, in blue.

Mister Mole exiting the room, speaking to Dame Mouse. 'I see sweet Thumbelisa is speechless with joy. Now I can't stay for tea, but I'd like to show you something in the underground passageway between our two homes, Dame Mouse.' Dame Mouse follows, while Thumbelisa stands, head slumping between her shoulders. In the corner: a tea service set, with faces.
Also: does that fireplace have a face, or it it just a couple of plates sitting on a shelf? Also to the left of the fireplace is that a grandfather clock or one of those old-fashioned lollipop-shaped scales like you see in silent comedies and Pink Panther shorts about people figuring they have to lose ten pounds by next week?

And then I looked at the cups. I mean, really looked.

Cheery teapot sitting on the table, beside one furious-looking cup and one shocked-looking cup that vaguely resembles a Charles Schulz character.
“I don’t know what you’re so unhappy about,” says the saucer. “You’ve got it way better than me.”

That cup on the left. That is one furious tea cup. Even the pot’s cheer is doing nothing to tame it. That tea cup has clearly just finished a fifteen-minute shouting tirade covering every topic from the genocide we’re not talking about in Myanmar through sexism in the video game industry through they’re trying to remake The Munsters only they live in Brooklyn now through to they call everything a “reboot” even when it’s just “remaking” a show or movie through to what the flipping heck is wrong with Funky Winkerbean to whether anyone in power is going to be held responsible for the Republican party poisoning Flint, Michigan’s drinking water and now the other cup is completely unable to respond in any way except to look on with the face that Linus van Pelt has when he’s rendered speechless. What has happened to this cup that it’s so infuriated? What it in its life that it’s come to this point? It’s not lapsang souchong, is it? Because that at least would be an overreaction. But it’s something.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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