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.

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From The August 2017 Scraps File


More text that I couldn’t do anything with. If you can, congratulations!

Another problem is my speaking voice I sound like I’m being sarcastic. It’s an endemic problem with my family. Something in our upbringing caused us to transmute all our deepest Jersey vowels and verbal tics into, instead, conveying an eye-roll with the way we say words like “Hello” and “which”. I don’t think it was just my siblings and I trying to preemptively put one another down. We love each other, so far as we tell each other. But I can’t even say, “I spilled some tea and wanted to wipe it up” without sounding like I’m the one being hostile. I didn’t spill the tea on purpose. Anyway, a heavy dose of sarcasm is fine for some conversations, but not if you’re trying to make a real argument that, like, William Shatner showed a deft touch in some of the scenes he directed in Star Trek V: The One William Shatner Directed. See? You already think that’s me being sarcastic. — Cut from last week’s discussion about my lack of podcasting because it’s one of those paragraphs I thought up while in bed and figured oh, I’m definitely putting that in when I get up in the morning, and it was two days after I posted it.

ham sanitizer — Look, sometimes when you want to write a high-volume humor thingy you just go into these free-association free-form things and jot down whatever comes to mind and then you look at it afterwards and have to shrug because it doesn’t always pan out.

“The Tasmanian rainforest is considered a Gondwanan relic.” — Yes, that old Wikipedia statement once again, because I just can not make myself believe there’s nothing in there. But August was another month where whatever is there didn’t turn up for me. Maybe September.

hand satirizer — Again from the free-association free-form thingy and the thing to remember is that just because an idea pops into your head doesn’t mean you owe it the slightest gratitude for doing so. If it’s a good idea it’ll do some heavy lifting on its own and show why it’s a good idea and you don’t have to try building up every pair of words until it’s something.

Oh, yeah, I know how these things come about. You’re minding your own business and then you see this bolt of light and stop the car to examine. It’s this desperate, crashed alien who rallies himself from death long enough to transfer onto you a weird tattoo that tingles with a body-encompassing energy. The alien turns out to be this mutant human who half a millennium ago was a minor Dutch nobleman before being struck by a comet that granted him astounding superpowers he struggled to keep secret in his new not-quite-immortal life. Then you go on to discover that your own son, born with the powers of your now mutating body, will travel back in time hundreds of years to create a comet bearing the superpower tattoo, that proceeds to hit his own later self, given amnesia and planted in the Netherlands to be hit by the energy-bringing comet that sets this whole time loop into motion. I must know like twenty guys that’s happened to. — Cut because the person who was talking about this said no, he thought the character just inherited magical abilities from his father, and I pointed out that technically speaking that’s true in my scenario too, and the person shook his head sadly and walked away. This led us into a good argument about whether this would have been creating a paradox, or resolving a paradox, or avoiding a paradox altogether, and long story short we’re not speaking anymore and that person is justified.

yam sani– — No. Just, you know? No.

If you or someone you love is able to make use of these scraps please submit a comment care of the Bishopric of Utrecht, 1024 – 1528. Please be advised that responses might be delayed, as, according to a quick skim of Wikipedia’s articles abou the history of the Netherlands, it seems like there was a lot of investituring and annulling was going on back then and that probably has everyone quite distracted.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? December 2016 – April 2017


[Edited the 6th of June, 2017 to add] This post about Rex Morgan, M.D. is from April of 2017. If you’re reading this much later than, oh, June of 2017 there will probably be a more current report about the plot at this link. Thanks for being interested, though.


When last I officially looked in on Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. little Sarah Morgan was in dire shape after being hit by a car. This after her parents learned her book of horse pictures was not actually a bestseller but rather propped up by the curious patronage of mob-ish widow Dolly Pierpont, who used Sarah as substitute for her estranged daughter Linda. back in July, June Morgan listed some of the incredible good fortune that had befallen the family and wondered “what happens when the pendulum swings back the other way?”

It’s been a lot of swinging.

Rex Morgan, M.D.

20 December 2016 – 1 April 2017.

Sarah emerged from her coma in a pretty sweet Christmas Day strip. But she’d been struck with a nasty case of Soap Opera Amnesia, leaving her unable to remember anything of the past year. The Morgans have tried various things to restore her memory of the lost time, but nothing seems to be working. Since most of that corresponds to the worst excesses of the “let’s throw fabulous money and prizes at the Morgans” era I expect that Beatty’s not going to allow this to work. It’s a drastic and, really, horrifying way to clear the boards. But it does get Sarah back to something like normal child life.

So she doesn’t remember the birth of her little brother Michael, so if they ever grow up he’s going to have that to tease her about his whole life. She also doesn’t remember how to draw, so her incredibly-popular horse-painting book looks to be a one-off. Nor does she remember the private school that Dolly Pierpont had paid tuition for; after a good look at the student uniforms she asked if she could go to public school instead. Losing a year of her memories also means she’s lost the year that she skipped ahead. I am impressed. We usually get resets this complete only after Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine spend forty minutes telling us about “chronometric wavefronts” and “temporal storms” and “did anyone check if we let Chakotay out of the shuttlecraft before the space vortex ate it and could we tell the difference if we didn’t?”.

Homecoming for Sarah. 'Calm down, Abbey! Don't knock Sarah over!' Sarah asks the dog, 'Did you miss me? 'Course you did!' And asks her parents, 'This is our house now?' 'Yes, we moved just before Halloween.' 'Do you remember the secret room?' 'There's a SECRET ROOM? I gotta see it!' June: 'This is going to be interesting, Doc.' 'Her memories could return ... or not.' Sarah: 'This secret room is AWESOME!'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 8th of January, 2017. Inside the secret room under the stairs are none of Sarah’s memories of Dolly Pierpont and the book deal and her horse drawings and being an exhibit of precocious artistic talent at the Local Museum, but she does find the real Seymour Skinner.

It’s not a perfectly complete reset, though. Not all the good fortune of the Morgans wiped away. While exploring the attic Sarah discovered a cache of 1950s comic books and proofs and stuff in stunningly good condition. Rex’s friend Buck Probably-Has-A-Last-Name-But-I-Forget-And-Can’t-Find-It guided them to the original artist, “Horrible” Hank Harwood. Because this was in the comics, the comics stuff was valuable. The Harwoods sent the Morgans a pretty good finder’s fee in gratitude. Yes, it’s more giving-stuff-to-the-Morgans, but if we start from the premise of finding these vintage comics then everybody’s acting admirably.

Buck and the Harwoods were then whisked off to Generic Comic Con, the largest comics gathering in every comic strip ever. Hank got to deliver the con’s prestigious Fredric Wertham Is A Booger address and Buck got to have a dizzy spell. He uses his hospital stay to call Mindy, whom he met in one of his first gym sessions, and probably that’ll be picked up on sooner or later. They fly home, with the 90-year-old Hank possibly contracting a case of sleep apnea. Hey, medical stuff, who knew?

Buck collapses on the floor of the comic book convention. 'Hey --- can we get some help here? Mister? Mister? Are you okay?' 'Wha --- what happened?' 'You were out for a bit there. Good thing you didn't hit your head when you fell. I called for convention security to get first aid over here.' 'Thanks --- I think I'm okay, though.' First aid: 'Why don't you come with us and we'll make sure. Don't want anyone getting hurt here.' 'Now *I'm* in a wheelchair. Great.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 12th of February, 2017. I don’t know if the guy in green and yellow is an original character or not. I’m supposing he is because that’s some of what I like best about conventions like this, and I’m in good spirits so I’m going to suppose ambiguous stuff has the good interpretation.

In the other major thread senile industrialist Milton Avery has gotten bad enough that even Heather can’t cover it up. She’s resolved to take him back to his home England. In this way if he has another spell of wandering off and getting on the bus looking for a flight to England he’ll at least have it resolved by people who’re on the other side of the road. She’s dispensing the job of looking after the house to Jordan, who I believe is just Buck without his glasses, and everybody seems well enough there.

Heather: 'We're going to need someone to look after the property --- manage the house while we're away. Interested?' Jordan: 'Yeah, I suppose I would be.' 'You could stay here, have your pick of the guest rooms, and stay on the payroll.' 'I don't know how I can say no to that offer.' 'Then don't. Say yes.' 'Well sure. Yeah. I'll stay on. It's an unexpected offer --- but thanks. Yes.' 'Now don't you have a phone call to make, maybe someone you should tell about this?' 'Um ... yeah. Yeah, I do.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 5th of March, 2017. This is actually also how I handled it when my boss suggested maybe I could keep on working remotely when I moved to Michigan instead of having to find a whole new job. I’m not very good at expressing approval of good stuff.

Dolly Pierpont reconciled with her daughter Linda.

The Johnny Olson Report:

Major characters of Rex Morgan, M.D. have received these fabulous gifts and prizes:

Character Fabulous Gift or Prize
The Morgans Finder’s Fee for valuable vintage comics art, first installment of promised many.
“Horrible” Hank Harwood A CPAP machine to help with his snoring; good karma
Sarah Morgan The chance to read her own book for the first time
Buck, dba Jordan Sinecure as “property manager” or something like that for Milton Avery

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose seven points on reports that a new graphene-based process could allow synthetic skin to have a sense of touch, making plausible that in the near future caressing our cell phones will be for more than to make us feel better. The phones could get something out of it themselves. Maybe there are some good things left in the world.

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Meanwhile In The Archie Newspaper Comic Strip, Which Exists


There’s an Archie comic strip. It doesn’t showcase the parts of the Archie franchise that interested the young me, which would be when the did a side-universe adventure where they were all superheroes or Swinging Sixties Spies or robots in the future or stuff. It’s just the ordinary old universe where they’re teens in high school and I guess that’s OK. The comic strip’s been running since 1947, with the current offerings written and illustrated by Craig Boldman and Henry Scarpelli. Boldman stopped writing the strip in 2011, and Scarpelli died in 2010, so as you might figure the strip’s lost a certain timeliness, so far as that exists in the Archie plain-vanilla universe. Mostly they’ve just printed reruns. But occasionally they update an old strip and here’s today’s.

'What would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse', Miss Grundy asks her students, because that is totally a thing that would naturally come up in class. Jughead figures he's got a stack of comic books ready in case the cable goes out.
Henry Scarpelli and Craig Boldman’s Archie from the 24th of October, 2016, and — just maybe — perhaps — a rewritten version of something that appeared maybe sometime around late 1999? If that doesn’t sound like a crazy idea? Oh, man, I know you’re looking to me like the spikey-haired guy sitting behind Jughead in the last panel there, aren’t you? Have I said too much? Also, like, what class does Miss Grundy teach that preparing for a zombie apocalypse is part of the curriculum?

If you gave me 2,000 years to guess I couldn’t say what possible upcoming future maybe-disaster Miss Grundy might have originally asked her students about. But I am delighted by this. Some poor soul at Creators.com who never asked for this job but knew how to use the Generic Comic Strip Word Balloon font in Photoshop thought hard about the best “plausibly imminent disaster people should maybe be ready for” and picked out “zombie apocalypse”. It’s delightful.

And yes, I know, the Archie comic books have a side universe where Riverdale’s been hit by the Zombie Apocalypse and I suppose that’s probably fun if you like parts of zombie apocalypses that aren’t just The Walking Dead pinball machine. Haven’t got to it myself.

Anyway, over on my mathematics blog I talk about other comic strips. No zombies, no Archie, but I do get to talk about the Law of Cosines.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose four points over the day’s trading and is feeling pretty darned good overall. Oh, they admit, it’s not as good as it could be, with numbers like 102 or 104 or even 152 out there. But when you consider the alternative was something like 97? Well! So most everyone’s pretty happy over here on the trading floor.

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Statistics Saturday: Aquaman Enemies That Sound Like The Jokes You’d Make About Aquaman Enemies


Excerpted from Wikipedia’s list of Aquaman enemies.

Character First Appearance Wikipedia’s Description
Captain Rader World’s Finest Comics #127 (August 1962) Undersea pirate, used submarine disguised as giant fish.
Electric Man Adventure Comics Vol. 1 #254
(November 1958)
Roy Pinto was an escaped prison convict who decided to keep a low profile. His specialty was electric eels. Constantly handling them mutated him, granting him immumity to electric shocks. Later escaped from prison with five other villains in JLA No.5 to battle the JLA, but was captured by Green Arrow.
The Fisherman Aquaman vol. 2 #21
(May 1965)
A villain who uses fishing gimmicks to commit crimes, member of the Terrible Trio
Gustave the Great Adventure Comics #261 (June 1959) AKA the Animal-Master; an expert animal trainer, Gustave would perform daring crimes on the side. Since Aquaman stopped him while in action, Gustave swore revenge.
The Human Flying Fish Adventure Comics Vol. 1 #272 (May 1960) Vic Bragg was a swimming champion before turning to crime, before he fell in with Dr. Krill, the brilliant medical doctor and marine biologist who had also turned to a life of crime. After several months of recovery and training, Bragg began his career as the Human Flying Fish. One of the few Aquaman villains to appear in the Super Friends comic book.
Iceberg Head DC Special Series #6 (November 1977) Ice creature, caused worldwide cold wave so world would be frozen like himself, convinced by Aquaman, Aqualad and Mera to desist, “melted” and became water creature. [ Editorial note: ahem. ]
The Malignant Amoeba Adventure Comics #135 (December 1948) Giant artificial life-form created by scientists, eats everything in its path; the scientists spent ten years containing it until it escaped and encountered Aquaman.
The Octopus Man Adventure Comics #259 (April 1959) Roland Peters, conducted illegal experiments on marine life to transfer minds between species, transferred Aquaman’s mind into different fish.
“Shark” Wilson Adventure Comics #203 (August 1954) Criminal who was magically transformed into a shark.
Taggert Aquaman #19 (January 1965) Unethical showman who enslaved Atlanteans.
Tom Lariar Adventure Comics #170 (November 1951) Used telepathic machine to command fish to commit crimes.
V’lana Action Comics vol. 1 No.539 (January 1983) Current Queen of Xebel a kingdom located in Dimension Aqua, and enemy of Queen Mera.

So, wait, there are laws about developing fish-mind-swap technology? I guess I’m glad there’s some regulatory oversight. I’m just wondering which is the governing body. And are the fish-mind-swap and fish-mind-control technologies independent lines of fish-mind science or do they blend together? Like, what’s the difference between two fish swapping minds and two fish controlling each other’s body? Anyway it’s really just “Dimension Aqua” that gets V’lana on this list.

Forgotten Superheroes: Modulo the Modular Man


Superhero: Modulo the Modular Man

First Appearance: Modulo the Modular Man issue number 6, cover date March 1968 (sales date November 1967).

Final Appearance: Modulo the Modular Man issue number 4, cover date July 1975 (sales date March 1975).

This comic attempted to catch the excitement of the early space race by having its hero, Walter Canton, be an astronaut who gained the superpower of his hands popping off at will (his) as the result of an encounter with space witches. As Modulo the Modular Man he served as a competent entrant in the list of slapping-based superheroes. The attempt to draw young readers’ interest by each issue featuring faithfully rendered depictions of Project Mercury control rooms, testing laboratories, and space capsules was undercut by publisher Canton Instant Classics’ bad luck in timing, as the first issues of the series hit the shelves almost exactly four years after the final Project Mercury flight.

Continue reading “Forgotten Superheroes: Modulo the Modular Man”

S J Perelman: Captain Future, Block That Kick!


S J Perelman’s another of the great voices of 20th century humor. It’s easiest to find his writing as the scripts for the Marx Brothers’ Monkey Business and Horse Feathers, and for the 1956 Around the world In Eighty Days. My selection today is his review of the debut issue of Captain Future, Wizard of Science,. That magazine was created in 1940 by Mort Weisinger, who would go on to edit those Silver Age comic books that all seem to involve purple-caped gorillas claiming they’re Lois Lane and asking Superman why he has to kill them, and largely written by Edmond Hamilton, one of the greatest early science fiction writers. Perelman’s essay also reminds us that carefully reviewing, half in awe, the goings-on of pop culture’s lowest rungs would inspire hilarious writing long before the Internet made it so easy.


I guess I’m just an old mad scientist at bottom. Give me an underground laboratory, half a dozen atom-smashers, and a beautiful girl in a diaphanous veil waiting to be turned into a chimpanzee, and I care not who writes the nation’s laws. You’ll have to leave my meals on a tray outside the door because I’ll be working pretty late on the secret of making myself invisible, which may take me almost until eleven o’clock. Oh, yes, and don’t let’s forget one more thing. I’ll need a life subscription to a new quarterly journal called Captain Future, Wizard of Science, a bright diadem on the forehead of Better Publications, 22 West Forty-eighth Street, New York City.

As one who triggered a disintegrator with Buck Rogers and could dash off a topographical map of Mongo or Dale Arden with equal facility, I thought in my pride and arrogance I knew all there was to know about astronomical adventure. It was something of a shock, therefore, to find out several days back that I was little more than a slippered pantaloon. Beside Captain Future, Wizard of Science, Flash Gordon and the Emperor Ming pale to a couple of nursery tots chewing on Holland rusk.

The novelette in which this spectacular caballero makes his bow to “scientification” fans opens with no fumbling preamble or prosy exposition. Into the office of James Carthew, President of the Earth Government, staggers a giant ape, barely recognizable by the President as John Sperling, his most trusted secret agent. The luckless investigator had been ordered to Jupiter to look into a complaint that some merry-andrew was causing atavism among the Jovians, but apparently had got badly jobbed. Before Carthew can intervene, a frightened guard drills the ape man with a flare-pistol, and in his dying breath the latter lays the blame for his predicament squarely at the door of a mysterious being he calls the Space Emperor. As you may well imagine, Carthew is all of a tizzy. He immediately instructs his secretary to send for Captain Future in the ringing phrase, “Televise the meteorological rocket-patrol base at Spitzbergen. Order them to flash the magnesium flare signal from the North Pole.” Personally, I think Carthew might have softened this whiplike command with “And just for the hell of it, why don’t you try the Princeton Club?” but perhaps I delve too deeply. In any event, the perpetual uranium clock has hardly ticked off two hours before Captain Future (or Curt Newton, to call him by his given name) appears on the escarpment with one of the most endearing speeches in my experience:

“You know my assistants,” Curt Newton said shortly, “Crag the robot, Otho the android, and Simon Wright, the Living Brain. We came from the moon full speed when I saw your signal. What’s wrong?”

Fiction teems with sinister escorts and everybody has his favorite, but Captain Future’s three-man mob leaves the worst of them kissed off and frozen against ths cushion:

A weird shape had just leaped onto the balcony. It was a manlike figure, but one whose body was rubbery, boneless-looking, blank-white in color. He wore a metal harness, and his long, slitted green unhuman eyes peered brightly out of an alien white face. Following this rubbery android, or synthetic man, came another figure, equally as strange— a giant metal robot who strode across the balcony on padded feet. He towered seven feet high. In his bulbous metal head gleamed a pair of photoelectric eyes. The robot’s left hand carried the handle of a square transparent box. Inside it a living brain was housed. In the front of the case were the Brain’s two glittering glass lens-eyes. Even now they were moving oh their flexible metal stalks to look at the President.

At this juncture I took time out to moisten my lips with the tip of my tongue, retrieved my own eyeballs, and plunged on. Captain Future himself was somewhat more tailored than his comrades, in fact quite swagger. “His unruly shock of red hair towered six feet four above the floor, and his wide lithe shoulders threatened to burst the jacket of his gray synthesilk zipper-suit.” In pulp fiction it is a rigid convention that the hero’s shoulders and the heroine’s balcon constantly threatens to burst their bonds, a possibility which keeps the audience in a state of tense expectancy. Unfortunately for the fans, however, recent tests reveal that the wisp of chiffon which stands between the publisher and the postal laws has the tensile strength of drop-forged steel.

To acquaint the reader more fully with “that tall, cheerful, red-haired young adventurer of the ready laugh and flying fists, the implacable Nemesis of all oppressors and exploiters of the System’s human and planetary races,” the author interrupts his smoking narrative with a brief dossier. In the year 1990, the brilliant young Earth biologist Roger Newton, aided by the living brain of Simon Wright (“the greatest brain in scientific history”), had unravelled the secret of artificial life. Now, certain dark forces headed by one Victor Corvo were determined to appropriate Newton’s secret. To confound him, Roger Newton proposed to Elaine, his wife, and the Living Brain that they conceal themselves on the moon.

“But the moon!” Elaine exclaimed, deep repulsion shadowing her eyes. “That barren, airless globe that no one ever visits!” Elaine’s dainty disgust is pardonable; Far Rockaway out of season could not have been more painfully vieux jeu. A few weeks, nevertheless, see the little company snugly housed under the surface of Tycho crater upon the moon, where its number is swelled by the addition of the infant Curt and Grag the robot, whom Roger and the Living Brain construct in their spare time of neurons and nails and puppy dogs’ tails. Eventually, still another fruit of this intellectual union — Otho, the synthetic android –— is capering about the laboratory. Just as Newton is on the verge of returning to earth, up turns Public Bad Penny No. 1, Victor Corvo, and slays him and his wife. When the Brain assures him vengeance will be swift, Corvo hurls the taunt supreme at the preserved scientist: “Don’t try to threaten me, you miserable bodiless brain! I’ll soon silence you–—” He stops throwing his weight around soon enough when Grag and Otho burst in, and, directed by the Brain, rub him out effectively if none too tidily.

Dying, Elaine Newton entrusts Curt to the care of the trio in a scene which must affect the sensibilities of the most callous:

“Tell him to war always against those who would pervert science to sinister ambition,” whispered Elaine. “I will tell him,” promised the Brain, and in its toneless metallic voice was a queer catch.

The guardians justify Elaine’s faith in them to a degree; by the time Curt has attained his majority, he is one lovely hunk of boy, a hybrid of Leonardo da Vinci and Dink Stover. From then on, as Captain Future, Curt ranges the solar system with his pals in an asteroidal supership, the Comet 7 avenging his folks and relentlessly waging war on what the author is pleased to call “interplanetary crime.”

But to return to our muttons, if so prosaic a term can be applied to the streamlined quartet. Speeding outward into space toward Jovopolis, chief Earthman colony on Jupiter, Captain Future plucks haunting music from his twenty-string Venusian guitar while Grag and Otho tend the controls and the Living Brain burrows into textbooks for a clue to the atavism. Their snug Kaffeeklatsch is blasted when a piratical black space-cruiser suddenly looms across the Comet’s bows and attempts to ambush the party, but Curt’s proton beams force the attacker down on Callisto, outermost of Jupiter’s four biggest moons. The boys warp in alongside and Grag prepares to rip open the jammed door of the pirate craft so his master may question the miscreants:

Grag’s big metal fingers were removable. The robot rapidly unscrewed two of them and replaced them with small drills which he took from a kit of scalpels, chisels, and similar tools carried in a little locker in his metal side. Then Grag touched a switch on his wrist. The two drills which had replaced two of his fingers whirled hummingly. He quickly used them to drill six holes in the edge of the ship’s door. Then he replaced the drills with his fingers, hooked six fingers inside the holes he had made.

The rest is brute strength, a department in which Grag is preeminent. Inside are Jon Orris and Martin Skeel, whose names instantly tip them off as wrong guys. Yet it is impossible not to be moved by Orris’s pathetic confession: “Skeel and I have criminal records. We fled out here after we got into a murder scrape on Mars.” They admit under pressure that they are creatures of the Space Emperor, though actually they have never seen him. “He’s always concealed in a big, queer black suit, and he speaks out of it in a voice that don’t sound human to me,” Skeel says.

Time, even on Callisto, is a-wastin’, and nimbly dodging a plague of creeping crystals which bids fair to annihilate them, the space-farers resume their course. On their arrival at Jovopolis, Otho the android disguises himself as Orris and repairs to that worthy’s hut to await the Space Emperor and overpower him so that Captain Future can steal up and clap the darbies on him. Arriving at the rendezvous, the Emperor promptly makes himself invisible and Curt leaps through him, only to sprawl on his finely chiseled beezer.

Recovering from this contretemps with his usual sunny equanimity, Curt hastens to the mansion of the governor, Sylvanus Quale, to reconnoitre. Here he encounters the heart interest, a plump little cabbage named Joan Randall, who is head nurse to the chief planetary physician. Lucas Brewer, a shifty radium magnate, Mark Cannig, his mine superintendent, and Eldred Kells, the vice-governor, are also at the mansion. It is apparent at once to the cognoscenti that any one of these worthies is the Space Emperor, and with no personal bias other than that his name had a particularly sneaky sound, I put my money on Eldred Kells. Fifty pages later I was proved right, but not before I had been locked in an atavism ward with Curt and Joan, flung into a pit by the green flipper-men, and nibbled by giant six-foot rats called “diggers” (a surprisingly mild name for a giant six-foot rat, by the way). But even such hazards, for all their jewelled prose, cannot compare with the description of the main street of Jungletown:

Here were husky prospectors in stained zipper-suits, furtive, unshaven space-bums begging, cool-eyed interplanetary gamblers, gaunt engineers in high boots with flare-pistols at their belts, bronzed space-sailors up from Jovopolis for a carousal in the wildest new frontier-town in the System.

And so, all too soon for both Joan Randall and myself, comes the hour of parting with “the big red-head,” as the author shakily describes Curt in a final burst of emotion. In the next issue, Captain Future and his creepy constabulary will doubtless be summoned forth again to combat some horror as yet to be devised. Meanwhile I like to think of his lighthearted rebuke to Otho the android, already chafing against inactivity:

“Sooner or later, there’ll be another call from Earth, and
then I hope there’s action enough for you, you crazy coot!”

There may be another call, Curt, but it won’t come from Baby. Right now all he wants is a cup of hot milk and fourteen hours of shut-eye. And if it’s all the same to you, he’ll do his sleeping with the lights on.

I Miss Out On My Wheelbarrow


I was in Walgreen’s, which is not a joke by itself except to the CVS partisans, and noticed by the checkout counter a transparent plastic stand featuring a sign: “FREE!!!!! If we fail to offer you one at the time of purchase.” The stand was empty. The cashier didn’t say a word about it.

What am I supposed to do with a checkout counter transparent plastic stand? I bet the stand is a loss-leader, and they’re hoping to make the real money selling me the Walgreen’s to fit around it. But I’m on to their game. It’ll serve them right if I go to Music Comics instead and buy the stuff to open a Music Comics shop. Although they’ve palmed off some free comics and flyers on me, come to think of it.

Maybe I can open a shop holding nothing but the stuff I’ve got thrown in free from other shops. That’s a good plan. Anything I charge will be pure profit.