I suppose that it’s fair to describe me as a voracious cinephile. Why, so far this month alone I’ve eaten three copies of Chappie (2015).
Today’s is another Seymour Kneitel festival: he gets credit for the story, direction, and production of this 1960 Paramount Cartoon Studios piece. Here’s Duel to the Finish.
It’s hard to have no sympathy for Wimpy. He’d have taken over Thimble Theatre, if only Popeye hadn’t been there first. He has this great blend of gluttony and larceny. He pairs well against Popeye. There’ve been a couple cartoons that pitted him against Popeye. The most notable was 1939’s Hello, How Am I. In that one Wimpy pretends to be Popeye so he can get hamburgers out of Olive Oyl. Here …
All right, there’s a certain overlap. But it has a different start, and different progression. Here, Olive Oyl is bored with Popeye, and we can see why. She wants to make him jealous, so starts making hamburgers to woo Wimpy. And Popeye sees this for what it is, Olive Oyl and Wimpy using each other. It’s not until Olive Oyl offers a kiss that Popeye cares. Which is a nice dramatic irony as Wimpy couldn’t care about such things as kisses. So it’s a duel.
Wimpy makes it an eating duel, challenging to see who can eat the most hamburgers. He’s not a stupid person; it’s just amazing Popeye accepts it. Right away we see Olive Oyl worn out from making burgers, and Popeye struggling to chew. And Wimpy puttering along, happy, even eating burgers with both hands. One of those hands has a fork. I’ve heard of people eating New York-style pizza with a fork, but hamburgers is a new one. And he beats Popeye! This is the rare cartoon where, not only does Bluto/Brutus not appear and not be the antagonist, but Popeye also doesn’t win. You have to appreciate Wimpy’s cunning.
But Popeye has to win anyway, and it comes about by forfeit, again a rare event. Olive Oyl can’t cook another hamburger. This breaks Wimpy’s interest in her, because he’s unaware that she might be able or willing to cook at a later date. The beaten Popeye grumbles at Olive Oyl for having started the whole mess, and that’s the end.
Wimpy goes home. It’s never clear what he thinks about this whole day. That he recognized a chance to eat if he flattered, yes. He had a similar relationship with the Sea Hag, at least in the comic strip. He came in, spotting an advantage he could take, and used it for as much as he could, and wandered out again. It’s as though he barely notices the mortal lives of Popeye and Olive Oyl and drifts in, like a magical creature, while there are rewards to be had.
The whole cartoon’s a story well-established by the characters in place here. And it explores consequences that aren’t obvious from what we already knew of them. Solid stuff. Could have been a quite good theatrical cartoon.
The Emperor Joonkar ruled the territory that’s now Bangalla, back in the latter part of the 17th century. The current Sunday story continuity features two of Joonkar’s descendants, although only one’s been seen in the last three months of strips.
This should catch you up on Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity, through the end of November 2020. If you’re looking for the separate weekday storyline, or are reading after about March 2021, or want to see news about The Phantom comic strip there may be a more useful essay here.
On my mathematics blog, I have my A-to-Z project at work still. It’s nearing the end, with the letter ‘X’ due tomorrow, but there’s some nice stuff said about ‘W’ also.
The Phantom (Sundays).
6 September – 29 November 2020.
Last time, Sunday edition, The Phantom had answered an elderly woman’s letter. Her grandson, The Detective, needed rescue. The local criminal gang put him in a cave just below the high tide line to drown. The Phantom provided rescue.
The Detective mentions how the crime syndicate here is shipping weapons to terror networks across Africa and Asia. So that makes it a stronger Phantom job. The Ghost Who Walks figures two people is overkill for destroying a terror network supplier. But hey, sometimes you want an easy win. The warehouse is unguarded, allegedly because the gunrunners’ reputation is that fearsome. I don’t fault you if you don’t buy this point, but the comic strip is premised on the power of reputations.
Besides, it’s only like two dozen guys. The Phantom talks up how The Detective resembles, in character and body, his ancestor the Emperor Joonkar. This also feeds into The Detective — who’s heard stories of The Phantom without really believing them — and his suspicion that the unidentified purple-clad man he’s working with might just be …
And that’s been a lot of the past month. Preparing for the gang to arrive, and The Phantom talking up The Detective and his own self. The Phantom’s relying on the Phantom Chronicles and what the 7th Phantom wrote about Joonkar. The criminal gang finally started to arrive last Sunday. The Phantom explained how he avoids getting trapped in prison caves: clobber one or two of them at a time. Can’t deny the logic, but The Phantom is lucky they’re coming in groups of two, also.
That’s the plot, as of late November 2020. It has been light on plot. It’s more showing off how The Phantom builds his legend. It uses a mix of inscrutability, “accidental” historical name-dropping, and competence porn. And, yes, I’m amused that the strip is doing the Special Christmas Episode where the punch line is, “but how did that jolly bearded man in the red jacket know what I always wanted for Christmas” while jingle bells sound in the distance. Only here it’s someone learning to believe in the Phantom.
The pandemic finally settles on its second story strip. Read up on the Covid-19 Tales in Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. next week, if all goes well.
“And you know what the annoying thing is about vegetarians? They always tell you they’re vegetarians! You can’t sit down next to one and suggest that you ever ingest any form of nutrition without them pointing out how they’re vegetarians. And how everyone else would be too, if they were even slightly decent people. They just won’t let you be in peace, they’ll shove their vegetarianism down your throat,” declares, to no one in particular, the guy three unoccupied seats down at the bar who’s wearing a Woot-class T-shirt that reads “Bacon-wrapped bacon is my spirit animal”. I grin as noncommittally as I can while continuing in silence to eat my red-bean-patty olive burger.
“It’s not fair,” our pet rabbit said, as he stood up on his hindpaws and rattled at the pen. To make clear how much fair it was not he grabbed the horizontal bar of the cage and shook it around, which made a little noise, but as far as showing inanimate objects who’s boss is nothing like when he shakes pieces of shredded newspaper around.
I kept taking ornaments off the Christmas tree. “Don’t worry. We’re just keeping you in reserve.”
He said, “I’m totally ready! I could finish that tree off in two minutes. Maybe eighteen, tops. Give me five minutes with it.”
If the Christmas season this year taught me one thing, it’s that the Christmas music channels on those oddball extremely high-numbered channels on the cable box have way more covers of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” than I thought. I bet if you piled them up there’s easily five versions of that song out there. I wouldn’t have imagined there were more than three, tops.
If the season taught me two things, it’s that “Wonderful Christmastime” cover thing and that I was wise to buy physically smaller cards to send out to people this year. I had much less space to write to everybody on my list and so I was able to finish much more quickly, and without ever running into a sentence that made it clear I’ve forgotten how to make a capital “G” in cursive. Next year I’m going to have to see if they have even smaller cards yet, maybe something the size of a Tic Tac wrapper, with a fox or a squirrel on the front because foxes and squirrels are on the front of every Christmas card suddenly, and I’ll be able to write heartfelt messages like, “Dea M, Hpe this yr, Lv, J” and I can be done with all the card-writing before I remember to dread it.
If the season taught me three things, it’s that count of “Wonderful Christmastime” covers thing, the smaller-card thing, and that while I can eat my body weight in cookies and artichoke dip in a mere thirty-two hours, that’s not something I should be bragging about so please don’t tell anyone you heard I could do it. But I totally can.
I don’t even want to think about what four things might have been.
In retrospect, I should have realized sooner that the circumstances which lead to my struggling to climb a 200-foot-tall moving suit of armor so as to open a panel within its belly and retrieve from it the fresh manuscript I’d prepared and which was stored on three six-inch hamburger patties contained within was a dream. I feel awfully silly that I didn’t. Obviously, even as a new author, I’d be e-mailing the manuscript to a set of Wi-Fi enabled hamburgers. I don’t know what I was thinking of. Possibly dinner.