Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring Cleaning

Maus in Haus Leads To Massive Kitsch Excavation


"Hercules" Warner earns his PhD (Piling Higher & Deeper)

Accumulated Decrepitude

My domicile is dicey thanks to an infestation of lil' miceys...so I took the advice of the exterminator (and my "Eeeeking!" girlfriend) and jump-started a massive Spring Cleaning operation, part of my No (Live) Mouse Left Behind initiative that will hopefully root the pesky little varmints out of their nesting areas - and Lord is this reformed Packrat's home a rodent's paradise, with piles upon piles of books, zines,CDs, videos, DVDs and magazines (not to mention carry-out menus of restaurants that went out of business decades ago!) scattered throughout the "living" quarters.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...

It wasn't only the mice I was afraid of; I feared that I was turning into a middle-aged version of "Kent the Hipster" in The Onion's famous kitsch-collecting put-down spoof "Family Unsure What To Do With Dead Hipster's Possessions" (you know him/me: the guy with Mexican wrestler masks, Herb Alpert LPs, "a poster of some movie called Urgh!...stacks of old cereal boxes...Hello Kitty pillows...a slew of plastic toys that don't work...and an accordion with no straps" - check, check, check, check, check, check and check!). So, armed with a broom, dustbin and a hefty amount of Hefty trash bags, I metamorphasized into Mr. Clean and stormed the gates of my Trash Palace in order to reclaim it in the name of cleanliness and peace of mind (not to mention keeping my girlfriend!). And my Herculean efforts to clean out the Augean stable of my own making has already paid off, as I've excavated many treasures buried under piles of dust, dirt mildew and grime. Like...

X Marks the Byline

...my very first byline for the Baltimore City Paper, an October 1982 story about adult film star Annie Sprinkle's visit to The Little X Theatre on Howard and Franklin Streets, back in her pre-"Post-Porn Feminist" period. The Little X Theatre, nee The Little Theatre, is now a parking lot that I pass every day on my way to and fro work. But back in the day on this very spot of asphalt, Annie thrilled audiences with her "Bosom Ballet" performance and received their hearty one-handed applause in return. (Alas, typical me, there's a typo in my print debut, with Annie referred to as Ms. Sprinkles, plural, instead of her singular self. Hmmmft, who was the proofreader back then?)


Little Oral Annie

A Clutch of Comics

I also discovered a box of cool comics, many from obscure publishers like Charlton and Tower Comics, the oldest dating back to 1950 and featuring my personal faves, those little Aryan antagonists The Katzenjammer Kids:



The Katzenjammer Kids strip was created by German immigrant Rudolph Dirks but by the 1940s the series was drawn by Harold Knerr. The 1950 issue pictured above was actually a reprint of 1946 comic drawn by Knerr and published by Standard Comics.

I even found a Norwegian version of Archie! How or why I came to own this is beyond me, but it's pretty cool in a non-essential way.



Speaking of knock-offs, I found a Tippy Teen spin-off comic featuring her friends "Go-Go" and "Animal," the latter an obvious clone of Archie's lummox jock "Moose." It was published by Tower Comics.


Tippy Teen's pals Go-Go and Animal

Bobby, David & Susan

I also found a 1972 Bobby Sherman comic - did I buy this in 1972 in a latent homo phase or did I pick it up secondhand as a latter-day hipster in the 80s or 90s? (Full disclosure: yes, I'm ashamed to say that I was a full-blown hipster during this period of pointless accumulation.) Or was it possibly my sister's? The mind boggles...







The Bobby Sherman comic was chock-full of ads for David Cassidy and Susan Dey memorabilia, reminding me that this was the golden era of ersatz TV rock stars (The Partridge Family, The Monkees, Sherman's Here Come the Brides).


Susan Dey will change your life!


A must for all girls!


David wants YOU!


David's Super L-U-V


If only David and Susan had answered this ad
and learned to play "real" music!


F***ing-A!

I also found my premiere ish of Marvel Comics' The A-Team...


I pity the fool who collects these!

The Love Racket

I found a tennis romance comic from the '60s (note the wooden racquet with wood press)!


Game, Set, Love Match

And speaking of strange sports...how 'bout the Devil bringing the heat from the pitcher's mound? (The Tampa Bay Devil Rays pale in comparison!)



War Is Hell - And Good Entertainment!

But the real gem I found in the comics bag has to be this '50s Korean War-era Men's Adventures comic filled with stories of warfare, suspense and danger. It was published by Atlas Comics, the '50s publishing company that would evolve into Marvel Comics.



I like the distinctive artwork and Cold War propaganda-filled narrative of the opening Korean War story, "Communist!" in which the North Korean protagonist proudly proclaims "Yes, I am communist! I was born a communist and am living as a communist...and will die a communist for that is the only way of life..." Click on the images below to enlarge and read along comrades!


"Communist!" page 1

What a gorgeous opening page. According to the signature at the bottom, this strip was drawn by Sam Burlockoff, who worked at MLJ Magazines in the early '40s on Zip Comics series like The Shield and The Web and later moved to Quality where he inked Blackhawk, Captain Triumph and Plastic Man around 1946. He worked for National for about 3 years in the early '50s, mostly on war comics like these. One of his few superhero assignments was working on the Superman 3-Dimension Adventures book.


"Communist!" page 2

I like the comments in the bottom right panel about "In a capitalist country like America, there live only gangsters who shoot at people night and day" (sounds like Baltimore - but this was way before Homicide, The Corner and The Wire!) and "People there live in filth and squalor, digging into the garbage of the rich for food!" (now it really sounds like the area around my work - who knew?).


"Communist!" page 3


"Communist!" page 4


"Communist!" page 5


"Communist!" page 6

Hipster Mea Culpea

Finally, if there was any doubt about my unfortunate hipster "Man About Town" phase, I unearthed a box of custom stationary I made in 1997 or 1998 (whenever it was that I turned 40). Going by the tone, I was quite the smug ass then. One page actually had a bogus press release underneath the letterhead (in which I'm described as a "Leisure Consultant," next to a graphic of a slacker with his feet propped up on a desk) that I made up as a goof when I started working at GSE Systems (I liked that gig; I was a consultant and later was hired on board full-time, but the tech bubble burst and I became "redundant" - as the Brits call it.) What hyperbole in the text - I must have ripped it off from somewhere as it's way too clever by far to be something I came up with! Still, it elicited a smirk from me when I reread it. (Wait - maybe this bogus press release actually got circulated at GSE Systems and that's why I was laid off to enjoy full-time "leisure consulting"!).


Tom Warner: Leisure Consultant, Man About Town & Sultan of Smarm

I like the lines: "His wit and aplomb in every situation conceivable let him glide effortlessly between the glitter of high society and the depths of the underworld. The kind of overdone coolness that even a Sinatra or Shatner have to work hard at came naturally to Tom Warner...Let's welcome Tom Warner to the fold and realize that's just a matter of time before this Man About Town becomes Big Man Around Office"! Oh the irony...as that BMAO is now humbly serving the citizens of Baltimore as an insignificant, lowly librarian!

But don't worry, all of these lost and found treasures will be soon disposed of at flea markets, on eBay - or whisked into that dustbin and deposited in the trash! I'm cleaning up my act!

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