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This photo is what I see from my desk if I turn my head ever so slightly to the left. The shelving has a lot of reference material that I pull out regularly, and I've got a small bust of Jack Kirby staring down at me. There are, in fact, two reasons I keep that there.

First, as you probably know, I'm a big fan of Kirby's and I like surrounding myself with things I enjoy. (Not surprisingly, a good chunk of my personal library is Kirby-related material.) Second, and more relevant to today's post, I try to use it as a reminder that I should be writing instead of whatever it is I happen to be doing instead of writing.

See, Jack's creativity is the stuff of legend. There are multiple stories of him getting into car accidents because he was so busy plotting another story in his head that he didn't pay attention to the fact that he was driving. (One story even has him hitting a parked police vehicle with the officer still in it!) He created a whole host of characters and stories that were entertaining and engaging and enlightening and some other word that means powerful but starts with "e". He reinvented the entire comics medium multiple times! The man did a fantastic amount of work in and for comics, and much of it resonates with me to this day, sometimes in ways more striking than whenever I first read them!

But what's not discussed as much about Jack is that he worked. I mean, he worked. It wasn't uncommon for him to put in 10 or 12 hour days sitting at his drafting table creating comics. And when he wasn't sitting actually drawing them, he was thinking about them. (See above.) He turned out some fantastic comics, but largely through a phenomenal amount of effort.

Some of that stemmed from growing up during The Depression, where everybody had to bust their asses just to squeak by. Some of that stemmed from his working as a freelancer for his entire career without the safety net of a regular salary. But the work ethic that propelled Jack forwarded for his entire life seems to be more of a struggle for me. I grew up in a more comfortable setting. I hold a steady job that pays reasonably well. I could not write at all, and my finances would barely be impacted.

Of course, that's not why I write.

I also don't write because I feel some deep-seated need to tell stories. I know writers like that. Writers who have a passion for telling stories, whether they're fiction or non-fiction. Jack had that passion, too.

No, I write because it's a means to an end. My passion is more along the lines of research and analysis. Digging into the nitty gritty of comics and finding out the who/what/where/when/why/how. Why did this story work, but that one didn't? How did this creator get involved with this project? What was the thinking that informed the creative decisions on this work? Writing, then, is just a way for me to organize and solidify my thoughts, and take some modicum of credit for (hopefully) some original ideas. I would love to get paid to think about and research comics all day, but that can't happen unless you also express your findings and ideas to others. That is, you have to write.

I certainly don't dislike writing, and I think I'm reasonably decent at it, but I don't have the passion for it that might inspire a greater work ethic. The sitting down at a keyboard and pounding away until I've filled the screen with words that ideally aren't gibberish. So I keep a bust of Jack nearby. Staring down at me. Not really judging so much as just constantly asking, "Why ain't ya writin', kid?"
Will Templeton wrote to me a while back citing that, while looking around online, he stumbled across this photograph...
He saved it because he has some interest in pulp magazines. But, on a whim, he decided to try to date the photo using some of the magazine covers. And, in doing some of his online research, he came across this post I made back in 2008 trying to do the same thing. Much to his surprise, I was using a photo of the same store...
Notice, though, that they're distinctly different photographs. One has several additional racks of magazines in front, and the store sign up top has been changed. I missed that obvious little detail at first, and thought that it might be two photographs from different times on the same day. After all, most of the comics and magazine covers are the same in both pictures. But changing the name of the sign suggests otherwise.

I was originally only able to discern More Fun Comics #48 and All-American Comics #8 but the newly discovered picture is a little more clear and allows me to make out Detective Comics #32 and Mutt & Jeff #1 as well. Two of those books are cover-dated October and one is November 1939. (Mutt & Jeff is simply labeled "Summer".) Given that, I'm thinking both photos were taken prior to October 1939, but the appearance of a November-dated book might suggest it's not too much prior.

Given that the 1941 interior shot I originally posted shows definite expansion of the store over time, I'm inclined to think Templeton's find is a slightly more recent photo. Dad Bailey seems to have had an aggressive growth strategy, especially considering how much he seems to have expanded well within the time it took for a comic book to come out with a new issue!
I was reading a piece last night discussing graphic medicine -- basically comics that discuss health and medical-related issues if you're unfamiliar -- and the author made the point that by the time people began using comics to discuss stories about their own health (medical memoirs if you will) that we had already collectively established an analogy for discussing sickness and cures: war. We talk about commbatting illness or fighting off infections and such. If you look at the language used in dealing with illnesses, much of the very language itself is borrowed from military lingo, either directly or indirectly.

Interestingly, the author further pointed out that, like any analogy, it fails after a while and one of the problems in using war metaphors to discuss trying to cure diseases and ailments is when it comes to chronic conditions. There are some health issues that simply cannot be fixed (at least with the knowledge and tools we have currently) and they can only be managed, albeit over an extended period. The war metaphor doesn't hold well to this as even the longest ones have endings of some sort.

But I wonder if comics offers another metaphor that can work here. Namely: superheroes. Why would superheroes make a better analogy for chronic conditions than war? The mechanics are different (laser beam eye blasts instead of conventional artillary, for example) but the underlying tenant of beating up the bad guy is the same. So why superheroes? Because...
Action Comics #760
The Never-Ending Battle.

The phrase is tied most directly to Superman, first being used in the radio program in 1940 and lifted over to the Fleischer cartoons the following year. But it's kind of endemic to the whole notion of superheroes in comics. Because month after month after month, Superman and Batman and Spider-Man and all the other heroes come back to fight the bad guy du jour. And month after month after month, there's an ongoing parade of villains trying to take over the world or rob the local bank or seek revenge for some perceived slight. This month it's Darkseid, next month it's the Red Skull, the month after that it's Fin Fang Foom... and eventually it'll cycle back to Darkseid again. I reviewed John Byrne's Generations series a few years ago and that was actually the biggest problem I had with it: that even though Byrne expressly said he wanted to show the characters age and die in "real time," he effectively made the majority of the cast immortal as if he couldn't even conceive of the possibility of Superman and Batman not continuing month after month forever into infinity.

So is there an idea there? To use the "never-ending battle" of superheroes as a metaphor for a person's ongoing fight against, say, Crohn's disease? Arthritis? Cystic fibrosis? I don't know; I'm not talented enough in crafting actual comics to really put the idea to the test. And for all I know, someone's already tried it and failed miserably. Maybe it doesn't work at all. But it still strikes me as an interesting idea/angle to noodle around.
Last year, I wrote a bit about prop newspapers for TV and movies. I'm sure there were multiple companies that did this type of thing, but the Howard Anderson Company, which had been in business since 1927, created newspaper funny pages for 1952's Mr. and Mrs. North and 1982's Remington Steele using some of the exact same fake comic strips!

But I happened across this sketch featuring Dean Martin and Marty Feldman (I believe this is actually from Dean Martin Presents The Golddiggers but I can't seem to 100% confirm that) which begins with Feldman hiding behind a newspaper. But to quickly present him as being perhaps a bit "simple" the part of the paper that he's reading is, of course, the funnies. It's an unfortunate trope, but that was the general belief at the time. More interesting to this post, though, is that Feldman is holding up an actual newspaper, not a prop. Furthmore, we get a close-up on it to see exactly what he's reading!
What is no doubt immediately noticeable is that the strips' names have been blacked out. However, the first one is only partially blacked so it's not hard to see the distinctive lettering for Believe It Or Not! The second strip has its name completely obliterated, but the iconic figures of Mickey and Minnie Mouse are a pretty dead giveaway as to what strip that is. And the final strip's name seems barely blocked at all, and it's clearly Little Iodine. That last one is probably the most confusing to modern audiences since it ended in 1983, and hasn't seen any reprints or collections since then; however, it was once popular enough to warrant a a 1946 film featuring Jo Ann Marlowe in the title role. (As an interesting aside, the character's mother was played by Irene Ryan -- better known as Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies!)

I'm not entirely sure why the strips' names would be blacked out. There may have been some legal concern there, I guess, but given how identifiable the strips still are -- we even see the actual strips well enough that it wouldn't be that hard to track down precisely when they origianlly ran -- that seems a little on the pointless side. That they're obviously blacked out, too, actually draws more attention to them than if they'd been left alone.

I don't have anything particularly insightful to add here, but I just find it a curious anecdote from half a century ago.
Here are this week's links to what I've had published recently...

Kleefeld on Comics: Comic Book Papercrafts

Kleefeld on Comics: Libby Who?

Kleefeld on Comics: Instructable: My Almost-Clever Idea

Kleefeld on Comics: 2001: A Space Odyssey

I first saw 2001: A Space Odyssey in college, but I didn't read the comic series until about fifteen years later. I happened to catch the original movie on cable (this was before streaming was a thing) and thought reading the series soon afterward would probably help to make a little more sense to me than trying to recall the movie after not having seen it for several years.

I actually bought the series earlier knowing that I was going to be doing some research on Machine Man for a Jack Kirby Collector article. I realized that I could have bought just the last few issues in which the character appears, but I thought reading the whole series might provide a little more perspective. (Not to mention that it's Kirby, for crying out loud!)

The series, as a whole, is interesting for a few reasons. First, it has some superb storytelling in it. It's generally considered well after Jack's prime, but his talents as a stoyteller are still running at full steam. Second, it's absolutely amazing that it was produced -- it was licensed almost a decade after the movie first came out AND Jack wrote it, in effect, as a single graphic novel.

That's what I find most interesting, actually. Each issue doesn't really stand particularly well on its own. Indeed, several of the complaints that show up in the letters pages speak to that effect. But when read as a whole, it makes much more sense. The gap between issues is neglible, and readers aren't required to make as large leaps from one issue to the next. 2001 is not actually story-driven, and a simple plot summary on a per-issue basis would be impossible. Jack spends each "chapter" exploring different aspects of the same theme, and that makes it poor for a serialized format.

I use the term "chapter" because the story doesn't break down into individual issues very well either, as Jack's constructed it. The first two issues are fairly stand-alone, but 3 and 4 are one story, as are 5, 6 and 7. The final three issues, too, are written in a more traditional serial narrative fashion, but still fall under a single storyline. So, over the course of ten issues, readers have five chapters of increasing length.

The work strikes me as one of the most philosophical of Jack's pieces I've ever read. Jack examines not only the evolution of man, but also man's role in creating his own future, as well as what he thinks that future might be. In many respects, it is a very personal vision of what Jack felt the movie meant and, despite some of the action trappings of his typical comic book work, the extensions of where his mind went when he was crafting stories is less opaque than what it is usually evident in those action trappings.

I don't suspect this will be reprinted or collected any time soon (in part for legal reasons and in part for economic ones) so I'd recommend tracking down the original issues if you're a fan of Kirby and his storytelling ability. I would just caution, though, that this is really a graphic novel and should be read in a small timeframe. Don't start on #1 until you've got the other nine issues in hand.
I first posted this idea back in 2009. I still think it's a great way to make a pile of comic boxes look decent AND quickly alert you to what's in each box (assuming you've got your collection organized in some fashion) so I thought it'd be worth revisiting. It works particularly well if you've got a lot of comic boxes in one place, so you can make them look less like a ratty pile of bleached cardboard and more like a wall of art!

Step 1
Place the comic in question in a comic bag so that the flap will fold over onto the back cover. Preferably, use a newer bag that hasn't yellowed, or is covered with creases and tape residue. (This is part-display, after all.) Place some tape along the flap as if you were going to tape the bag shut. I was aiming for a little extra security to hold the bags in place, so I opted for 4-5" pieces of packing tape. I did try a couple small strips of scotch tape, and that seems to work, but I'd rather not worry about picking my comics up off the floor in a month.

Step 2
Line the comic up with the front of your long box. Sizes of both long boxes and comics vary, so measuring each and every one might be overly tedious. I just eyeballed all of mine.

Step 3
Fold the bag's flap over the top edge of the long box, and tape it to the inside of the front of the box. (Clear tape on a clear bag is a little hard to see in a photograph. I tried to adjust the colors of the picture as best as I could.) Your comic should now being hanging securely centered over the front of your long box. As a precaution, I suggest making sure the first comic actually in the box is bagged to prevent any tape residue from accidentally sticking to it.

Step 4
Before moving the long box or placing the lid on it, take the bag and fold it backwards over the length of the long box, allowing the comic to lay flat across the top of your others.

Step 5
With the comic lying flat, you can place the lid on your long box and transport it wherever you need to with no concern about damaging your display comic.

Lining up all of you boxes next to each other, with a display comic on the front of each, provides an ersatz wall of pop-art while making for an easy and practical way to assess the contents of any given box. No need for clumsy index cards that need to be repeatedly re-written. No need to look at the blank faces of white cardboard boxes.

The display comic can still be easily removed from the bag when it's lying flat over the long box. I'd suggest leaving the bag itself in place, however, and just sliding out the comic. There shouldn't be any tape that isn't already stuck to either the outside of the bag or the long box, so you needed worry about catching the comic's cover on it.