The Most Wonderful Thing In The Comics And Outer Space Last Week


So in 1961 Flash Gordon was all about the exciting stuff we’d be getting up to in space in the far-distant year of 1971. And, really, every story is this glorious experience of soaking in late-50s Man Will Conquer Space Soon vision. Lots of people in giant spaceships and space station pausing between space collisions just long enough to do jobs that you’d think could be done on Earth with a lot less hassle, like, growing vegetables. And then came this, the start of a new storyline, the last panel on Wednesday:

Meanwhile On Earth: 'Hello, Louie's Delicatessen! Yeah, what'll it be today Mr Owl? Ahuh ... OK, got it! Of course, you get it right away! I bring it up in my own personal rocket!'
Panel from Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon from the 7th of October, 1961. Rerun the 24th of August, 2016. 38 cents a pound seems like a good price for hot dogs, although what do I know about the cost of Space Living in Space 1971? I would unless Louie’s got a lot of deliveries to the same space station he’s losing money on the delivery, though. Maybe it’s a gimmick he uses for the publicity. But in that case he needs a catchier name for it than “My Own Personal Rocket”. We’re talking about Space Weinermobile technology here. Granted Louie maybe was born before World War II and grew up a square but if he’s hit on the idea of Space Deliveries for publicity he can get a catchy but dumb name from somewhere. Of course, here I am not suggesting anything.

It’s easy for a story strip to start strong and peter out into boringness. And the story is still in its first week yet. But it’s starting really great, with Louie not just delivering his Space Pork Roll and stuff by rocket, but by recklessly driven rocket. Saturday they even had a Space Fender Bender, with cans of soda and a chain of sausage links spilling out into orbit. It’s been a long while since I was this happy with this much nonsense.

'Rocket on collision course! Full braking jets!!' (They collide, spilling meat and soda into space. Louie pokes his head out to Space Yell.) 'You BUM! Watch your driving! Look what you done to my merchandise!'
Panel from Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon from the 11th of October, 1961. Rerun from the 27th of August, 2016. I appreciate that in the heat of the moment Louie may feel the need to act rather than just scream, but stepping outside of your rocket to Space Yell at someone is no more effective than just staying in your cabin where it’s comfortable and Space Yelling at them over the Space Radio. So how long do you suppose those Space Doughnuts remained in Space Orbit?

In Actual October 1971, the United States launched the ITOS-B weather satellite, which didn’t work. Also some spy satellites which did.

In other comic strips news, my mathematics blog did the usual Sunday sort of thing yesterday, which was Sunday as I make these things out. If it wasn’t Sunday we can just re-check everyone’s work and start again.

Does This Actually Clear Up The Issue?


So Comics Kingdom has been running the Flash Gordon comics from 1961. In these stories, set in the far-distant future world of 1971, life is very different. There’s human colonies on all the good planets of the solar system. And on the moon, a guy’s homemade robot duplicate has swiped a flying saucer and he’s cleaning up on the quiz programs. And that’s not even the stuff I’m making up.

The space parking lot sign warns, 'NO PARKING AFTER MIDNIGHT (EARTH TIME)'
Also, never, ever get your spaceships wet.

So here’s a panel from the strip from Saturday, the 22nd of April, 1961. This ran ten days after Yuri Gagarin’s flight. And now … just … “No Parking After Midnight (Earth Time)”. Does the qualifier “(EARTH TIME)” simplify matters any? And if so, how?

Some guys in a flying saucer are amused by a robot who's cleaning up on the quiz programs.
Dan Barry’s Flash Gordon for the 22nd of April, 1961. It’s uncanny how perfectly they foresaw 1971.

If that’s not enough to think over, well, why not look over some mathematically-themed comic strips on my other blog? Also why not read the Leap Day 2016 Mathematics A To Z glossary that I’ve been building? I’ve gotten to write about stuff I sometimes even understand.

Popeye: Crystal Ball Brawl


Previously:


And to wrap up my tour of the 1960s King Features mass-produced Popeye cartoons, here’s one made by Larry Harmon Pictures, Crystal Ball Brawl. I concede it’s not a very good cartoon, although it does capture an aspect of the original comic strips pretty well: a triggering incident offers the chance for riches and the characters besides Popeye start scheming to use it. The scheming doesn’t get very far — only Wimpy and Bluto get in on the villainy — but it does at least evoke how in the comic strip pretty much all the humans except Popeye have huge swaths of rotten in them.

If the name “Larry Harmon” nags at your mind it’s because you’re just about to place him as Bozo The Clown. Larry Harmon Pictures, or Larry Harmon Studios, was formed to animate Bozo the Clown, and the studio did work for Popeye, like everyone did, as well as animation for Dick Tracy and Mister Magoo. I can’t find much more information about it; the studio didn’t last long. The animation, featuring a pretty static set of poses with long camera pans in place of motion and a soundtrack that wanders in indifferent parallel to the action, doesn’t really commend itself like the work of some of the studios here.

And yet … look at that action and at the credited artists, particularly Hal Sutherland and Lou Scheimer. They would, after the closing of Larry Harmon pictures, create Filmation, which brought to the screen a lot of cartoons with pretty static animation, long camera pans, and a wandering and endlessly repeated soundtrack. Charitably, that seems to be because they rarely had the time or budget to do cartoons well: when given the chance, as on Star Trek or Fat Albert or Flash Gordon they created things that were quite solid, at least for television cartoons of the era. So this little cartoon is part of a thread that brings us to He-Man, if nothing else.

What My Humor Blog Did In February 2014


I do make a serious effort to track what’s being read and what isn’t around these parts, and for February 2014, it turns out the number of readers of pages around here went from 337 in January to 337 in February. At least they were different readers. Actually, the number of readers increased from 153 to 170, implying a page-per-reader count drop from 2.20 to 1.98, so I’m amusing more people, but they’re all a little less happy with what they see.

The most popular articles the last thirty days were:

  1. Mathematics Comics, Over That Way, pointing over to my mildly popular mathematics blog.
  2. Statistics Saturday: Hi, Dad, which gets you to a better understanding of my father.
  3. Unintentional Laughs, where I just make fun of Mary Worth and Flash Gordon like they needed me to do that.
  4. Another View of the United States, offering the fascinating statistical matchup between states of the United States and nations of the world.
  5. Newton’s Prank, about this time he made a fake comet, and which I realize has a thematic link to Also, Heidegger Was A Shingle Weaver, and the unexpected sides of historically important people.

As usual the countries sending me the most readers were the United States (261) and Canada (28), with the United Kingdom (8) and Singapore (6) coming up next. The countries that could just barely tolerate me were Denmark, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, and Sweden. None of them were on last month’s roster, just as last month none of the countries were from December 2013’s roster of single-viewer nations, so my plan to amuse one person in every country in the world is continuing to exist.

Mathematics Comics and Robots With Knives


I know this is sudden, but I had a bunch of other mathematics-themed comics over on the mathematics blog, where you can see again about how cartoonists keep finding something funny, almost, about an infinity of monkeys for some reason. Go figure.


Flash Gordon easily defeats a KnifeBot.

Meanwhile, in 1959, for all those of you who were curious how Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon was making out against the StabBot, I’m happy to report that Flash swiftly defeated the Knifeketeer’s robot minion, and did so with style and grace, by which I mean he passed up the clearly-marked target of the robot’s groin.

I have no important updates on how Mary Worth is doing with her casserole, although Iris and Tommy do continue to look terrified.

Do alien armies really spend all their time in close-up knife-brawls with robots? We could make a fortune selling these people laser pistols.

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