Friday, January 29, 2021

Please Explain This to Me! No 2: Mickey's Doubled-Walled Balloon?

Here is the opening splash panel to "Message in a Nutshell - Part II", the Paul Murry Mickey Mouse serial appearing in WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES #381 (Gold Key Comics, Cover Date: June, 1972).

Do you see anything unusual?  ...If not, look closer. 

No, it's not the presence of Floyd Gottfredson's Captain Churchmouse character, because Cecil Beard used him on various occasions upon writing for Mickey Mouse.  And it certainly isn't the "Trademarked Paul Murry Goofy Hand-Crooked-Inward Pose" that Murry made almost-iconic by sheer repetition… 

HEY, what about this?!  

Why does Mickey's dialogue balloon have a roughly-sketched "inner-circle"?  

It can't have been a guide for the letterer as to where Mickey's balloon should be placed, because Paul Murry penciled, inked, and lettered this story himself.  

And, even if it was a reminder laid-out by Murry himself, for his own purposes, either he or an editor would have applied "white-out" to the additional outline.  


Mickey's standing in a CAVE...

...And this is just his voice... ECHOING! 

Very clever, Mr. Murry!  

And that's it, in a... um, er... "nutshell"! 

Monday, January 25, 2021

R.I.P. Larry King - and Something Even Bigger!

We, along with a very large segment of America, are saddened by the loss of radio and television talk legend Larry King on January 23, 2021, at the age of 87. 

Instantly recognizable, and known for his 25-year prime time talk show run on CNN, Larry King was an "oasis" of sorts, especially in his final years, a time when such television was becoming increasingly partisan, tightly targeting demographic groups of one political persuasion or another.  

Or, to put it another way, Larry King was one of the last "general-interest" talk show hosts.  

It's hard to believe there was once a time when talk shows, particularly those on radio, were not politically charged, but it was true.  By and large they could be described as "general-interest", insofar as they either featured a different topic (or guests) every day, or the host just fielded phone calls on whatever subject might have been on the audience's mind!  

We had several great ones here in New York, during the period of the late 1960s into the early-to-mid 1970s, such as Barry Farber, Barry Gray, Long John Nebel... and my personal favorite Brad Crandall.  

To quickly digress on Brad Crandall, he had a second career as an off-camera announcer/narrator... and could be heard narrating the "80s' era syndication TV promos" for LOST IN SPACE, that are found as extras on this Blu-ray set!  ...Sorry, but when will I EVER AGAIN have the opportunity to reference Lost in Space AND Brad Crandall in the same sentence!  Indulge me, please! Thank you. 

Like most human beings, those hosts had their political points of view, but they were not uppermost and on full and constant display, instead largely subsumed in the interests of delivering a good and interesting show to all.  Being local to NYC, I expect they had their counterparts in every major media market.  

But I might have been "ahead of the curve" on Larry King, if you know him primarily for his work on CNN, because Larry King took the "general-interest" talk show concept to another level.  ...Or, at least it was "another level" to me in the later 1970s.  His overnight talk show was syndicated across the nation!  So, Mr. King was no stranger to me, once I learned of his TV talk show.  

Larry King talked to anyone and everyone, about anything and everything!  This was quite welcome in that, as the 1970s progressed into the 1980s, "general-interest" talk shows seemed to die-off in favor of more narrowly-focused, single-topic shows on finance, health-and-well-being, sports, pets, plants, automotive matters, unendorsed pseudo legal advice... and politics!  

While I found none of these particularly interesting as an "exclusive topic" (save maybe sports, depending on the season), it was that last one that well and truly killed talk radio for me, especially as it evolved into such a mean-spirited affair that was beyond my tolerance!   

Cable television and its newer and differing outlets, alas, followed that politically partisan path, and continues to operate as such to this day - with no sign of ever relenting, instead preferring to feed the differently-affiliated beasts on "our side of the screen"!  

And that's why Larry King was so important!  

He was one of the last holdouts from this madness - and his network showcased his efforts in the "prime-est of prime time slots", weekdays at 9 PM Eastern!  Such a programming decision would be inconceivable today!  

But, there was Larry King... suspenders, simple-graphic-designed backdrop, and all, chatting away with a variety of folks that (of course) included, but also transcended, politics!  And in a tiffany-timeslot that virtually all of pre-DVR America could join him! 

He will be missed not only as a unique and sometimes quirky talk show personality - but also that, when his show finally ceased, it was the end of an era (dare I say, "an era of decency and civility"?) for TV's incessantly talking heads!  

Thank you, Mr. Larry King... for all of this and so much more!    

Friday, January 22, 2021

R.I.P. Hank Aaron - the REAL Home Run King!

At TIAH Blog, we mourn the passing of Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves baseball legend Henry (Hank) Aaron, who passed away at the age of 86.  

Hank Aaron was already a superstar when I began watching baseball in 1967 (when the terms "superstar" and "legend" were not thrown around with the casual abandon they are today), but will be forever remembered for the day in 1974 when he hit home run #715 - passing Babe Ruth's lifetime total of 714. 

For insane and unfathomable reasons of racism, many people were unhappy on that day, April 08, 1974.  I will confess to being "unhappy" too... but merely because the home run record no longer belonged to a New York Yankee (Ruth).  

But, if the record could not belong to a New York Yankee, it couldn't have belonged to a finer man!  

Over his long career, he faced all sorts of adversities with dignity and class - and, in view of an almost endless tide of threats and hate, with extreme bravery!  

Aaron went on to hit 755 home runs before he was done!  

If I was "unhappy" on the day Hank Aaron achieved the home run record, I was all the more so on the day his record was eclipsed by someone who cheated by ("allegedly") using a baseball-illegal enhancer that Hank Aaron never had - or NEVER NEEDED!  

To me, and to many other baseball fans, Hank Aaron is still the LEGITIMATE home run champion - and the REAL Home Run King!  

Thank you, Mr. Henry Aaron, for all the great moments I was able to witness and/or read about, and for being such a fine and exemplary human being.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Christmas 2020: Reading and Viewing.

The question on everyone's lips (...if, by "everyone", you mean everyone presently in my den as I type this - which adds-up to only me) is... "What made up Joe's Christmas 2020: Reading and Viewing, and when will we find out about it?"

The answer to the second question is NOW!  (...If, by "NOW", you mean going on a month after Christmas - all the usual [all together now] "horrifically busy" factors being applicable!)  As for the first... 

Since the days of home-recorded VHS Tape, I've had TWO Basic and Absolute Christmas Viewing Standards for the longest time, and have added (variably, depending on the year, and amount of available time) to them over the years, to where there are now FOUR annual absolutes.  

Others come and go per the above variables, but these are the perennial-programmers of my "Christmas Show"...

THE FLINTSTONES: "Christmas Flintstone" (1964):  Department store Santa Claus Fred fills-in for the real thing, when Jolly Old St. Nick temporarily takes ill.  

This is the real-Christmas-deal that aired the evening of Christmas Day, 1964, and not to be confused with any number of permutations that came later!  

An extraordinary effort for 1964 Hanna-Barbera, with more elaborate than usual backgrounds, and some soundtrack music that might never have been used more than that once.   

It also came "on the cusp" of my believing (or not believing) in Santa, and may have held-off the skepticism for another few days or weeks.  A perfect storm of story, execution, and "time-of-life" for me, made this my All-Time-Favorite-Christmas-Thing!  

LOST IN SPACE: "The Toymaker" (1967):  Will Robinson and Doctor Smith are imprisoned in an "other-dimension-based" toy factory, by an eccentric yet stubborn old toymaker who views them as animated toys to be shipped-off to a world of giant children!  


He also refuses to see that events occurring on the Robinson's planet will imminently destroy the Toymaker's shop... and everyone in it!

Though more tangentially related to Christmas than its prior season predecessor "Return From Outer Space", "The Toymaker" still acknowledges the Christmas season in a most imaginative way.   


...And, if you have an ear for TV and movie soundtracks, you can even hear a little of the score for "Miracle on 34th Street" mixed-in with the standard LOST IN SPACE musical stylings!  

The Toyshop set, while basic endless black, is marvelously decorated with props from literally all-over the 20th Century Fox lots and warehouses...

So much so that I truly see "something new" in the background every time I watch "The Toymaker"... including this time!  Of course, Blu-ray sharpness and clarity combined with a large widescreen HD TV always helps!  

Finally, for anyone still doubting the "Christmas connection" for this standout episode, check out this Illustrated article from MeTV, the Saturday evening home of LOST IN SPACE since at least 2013, if not longer - HERE!  

"Christmas Flintstone" and "The Toymaker" are my two Basic and Absolute Christmas Viewing Standards.  As for the other two, added-as-absolutes later-on, we have...  

BEWITCHED: "A Vision of Sugar Plums" (1964):  Airing literally the DAY BEFORE "Christmas Flintstone" on Christmas Eve, 1964 (while "Christmas Flintstone" aired on Christmas Day, 1964), "A Vision of Sugar Plums" had the same "Santa-Believing-Effect" for "on-the-cusp" little me.  

...It also guest-stars a Pre-Lost In Space Billy Mumy, seen below. 

Though, unlike "Christmas Flintstone", I did not become reacquainted with "A Vision of Sugar Plums" until  recent years, and a BEWITCHED Complete Series DVD set - which presents the episode in color, rather than its original black and white.  

But, I remembered it, and it fit right in with the Absolute Christmas Viewing Standards where it's remained ever since!  

JUSTICE LEAGUE ANIMATED: "Comfort and Joy" (2003): Three separate tales of Christmas, starring GREEN LANTERN AND HAWKGIRL...



All superbly written by the great Paul Dini!  Even if you are not a DC Comics fan, this is a must-see that transcends the expected super-doings, and perfectly captures the spirit of the season.  

Oh, and in that last one a Martian (The Martian Manhunter) discovers Christmas...


...I'd say so!  

Christmas comic reading tends to be more variable, often some combination of an "old favorite" with something I haven't read before - and, unlike viewing, almost never repeats itself.  

And, in an exact reflection of said viewing it began with THIS!  

THE FLINTSTONES #31 (Gold Key Comics, Cover Date: December, 1965) 

Yes, it's the comic book adaptation of "Christmas Flintstone", with art by Phil DeLara! I'll simply let the illustrations below speak for their "Santa-substituting-selves" (Hey, even the word "elves" manages to find its way into that last phrase!  How 'bout that!)

You can read more about it in the GCD Index, where I supplied most of the specific detail - HERE!

As for the "something I haven't read before", how could I go wrong with BUGS BUNNY CHRISTMAS FUNNIES #3 (Dell Comics, Cover Date: 1952) - especially after so enjoying THIS ONE!

Since this issue is so packed full of yuletide goodies, we'll just cover some quick highlights...  

Usually, when a story begins with a bunch of animals running in terror past Bugs' rabbit hole, you expect one of them to say: "Run for your life!  The Tasmanian Devil's on the loose!" 

But, before Bugs can stop one of the fleeing creatures (usually by force) and ask: "Eeeh, what's a Tasmanian Devil?"...

...Jolly Old Saint Nick gets into the act, and turns the story in a completely unexpected direction... leading to this wonderful image - courtesy of writer Don R. Christensen and artist Tony Strobl... 

...And some good old Christmas magic!  

In other stories, Henery Hawk visits a department store Santa (not Fred!) with some very characteristic behavior - and later hatches a Christmas-chicken-catching-scheme of his own...

...And Elmer Fudd vs. Sylvester in a "snowman-building contest" that would be right at home in a Donald Duck ten-pager by Carl Barks!

...Though maybe not this particular ten-pager!  

It all ends with this nice back cover!

Here's a close-up on the card! 

And, with that we say "That's All Folks!" to Joe's Christmas Reading and Viewing for 2020!  We'll try to do it again next year!