Sunday, June 14, 2009

Comics By The LB

When I was very young I was already acutely aware of the difference between REAL products and generic brands or knockoffs.

For every real and successful brand name, there was at least one cheaper, crappier version of it. This applies to ketchup, tissues, sodas and comic books.

My Dad would buy me comic books when I was very little (later he decided I was too old and that they would rot my mind), but to him a comic book was a comic book. One was as good as the next.These logos were warnings that you were being cheated by the makers of the content inside.


Dad had an instinct for finding only the "fake brand" comics - the knockoffs or what I thought of as badly drawn books.
Charlton comics, CDC comics were fake in my head. Harvey, Dell, Archie and DC were real because they were slicker and more "professional" looking.
I even thought of Marvel as fake superhero comics in the early 60s, because they were inked so poorly and everyone had strange square heads.
Later, I became obsessed with them and started to appreciate quirkiness in drawing styles. The inking got better too and that really helped.


They used to bundle generic brand comics by groups of 3 to 5 in plastic bags and sell them cheaper than if you had to buy them separately for a whole dime each. So when I needed new comics to read, my Dad would go out and buy them by the pound and never check to see what brands they were.

That's how I knew about Timmy the Timid Ghost.I would usually save the generic comics like Timmy the Timid Ghost for when I ran out of the real comics that I bought myself by collecting empty bottles and cashing them in at the


drugstore.

They were especially good for "sick days", when I stayed home from school. The fake Casper comics were drawn in a pseudo-animation style, as if someone who wasn't an animator was trying to figure out how cartoons were supposed to look.

http://comicrazys.com/2009/06/11/timmy-the-timid-ghost-7-the-magic-book-al-fago/

Later, as the 70s approached, even real characters and brands started to look fake to me.

"Real" Versions of cartoon characters in comics:

"Fake Versions"


Awkward Design
These old "fake" comics had an awkward unbalanced design sense to them, and I thought of that as being unprofessional. Harvey comics and Casper in particular were well balanced - but to the point of being completely generic. Same thing with DC comics and Archie.


Later, I came to discover cartoonists who had quirky styles that seemed slightly unbalanced, but were highly appealing despite that: Jack Kirby, Clampett, Harry Lucey, Carlo Vinci, etc. My favorite entertainment is a combination of skill and individual quirkiness.

After the 70s, to my growing dread, almost everything became generic and awkwardly designed -without the skill.Even famous brand names became unbearable to look at and lost all their appeal.

Now I appreciate the bargain bags of fake comics my Dad used to buy me. But I don't miss drinking RC Cola.


45 comments:

Caleb said...

Great stuff. I remember the generic aisle in supermarkets. The whole row would be white or yellow.

The Li'l Genius cover is my favorite ripoff, it should have been sued for every $0.15 they made.

Jack G. said...

John the new Harvey Kurtzman book is out, in case you didn't know.

Shawn Dickinson said...

Timmy the Timid Ghost? Lil Genius? Hillbilly comics? Jeez, they made it so embarrassingly obvious which comics they were ripping off. And I thought that much audacity and lack of original creativity to cash in on something popular only existed in modern times. Shows what I know!

That said, I've always known of (and liked) the MAD rip offs ..."Eh!", "Get Lost", "Sick", "Crazy", etc...I like them, even despite their inferiority to MAD.

Isaac said...

Can't wait for the wrap-up post!

HemlockMan said...

The sad fact is that when Dell/Western began to close up shop, Charlton was able to get the licensing deals that Dell/Gold Key had held. And Charlton paid the lowest page rates among the major publishers. Thus, one was only accidentally going to get quality work in that kind of environment.

I've even read that Charlton only published comics at all because they needed to keep the presses going (apparently this kept them in good working condition) for the publication from which they made the most money: HUSTLER MAGAZINE.

The owners didn't really care about the comics at all, save as a way to keep the presses going.

What's amazing is that some of the stuff they put out was actually pretty good.

I read TIMMY THE TIMID GHOST when I was a kid--but for a reason like yours--mainly because I was scraping the bottom of the barrel and just needed something to read. I can't recall anything at all about the stories.

Nico said...

Timmy the Timid Ghost? Oh wow..... HAHAHAHA.

and that cover of Top Cat is HILARIOUSLY hideous!

Kali Fontecchio said...

I remember watching an RC cola special from the sixties about how it was made, and it starred Nancy Sinatra hahahaaha.....

MLP said...

I respect the cover artist of "TV Teens" for showing Ozzie in the act of copping a feel on Babs' breast.

Mr. Tat said...

The line that separates a homage from a ripoff is thinner than I imagined. Guess it all depends on point of view.

Shawn Dickinson said...

That Timmy the Timid Ghost comic book cover is racist against Chinese people. How does that cartoon China man feel about this? What is his upbringing? What are his thoughts about working in a cartoon laundry shop? Did the comic book creators complete their mandatory prayer meeting before they drew this offensive hatred?

Chloe Cumming said...

I quite love Timmy the Timid Ghost now.

Chloe Cumming said...

But yes it is interesting not just what is and isn't 'real' or original but also pinpointing the precise point at which things begin to feel fake.

And yes, now almost everything seems to be a fake flimsy substitute for some sadly lost genuine article.

Trevor Thompson said...

My dad did a similar thing, John. Being British, my dad would sometimes go overseas on business trips, and one time when I was five or six he came back with the Preston Blair book.

Since I loved it so much, he started bringing back all the comics he could find that looked American and were dirt cheap. Timmy the Timid Ghost was one of them. There was also a really creepy-looking Tom and Jerry one time, too! There was also an ad for a tape of Tom and Jerry cartoons that looked like it had been drawn by Gene Deitch.

I'll have to go look through the attic again! If I find anything relevant, I'll ask my dad to scan it. Thanks for the memories!

- trevor.

M. R Darbyshire said...

whoops-a-daisy:

"by collecting empty bottles and cashing them in at the
[Photo]
[Photo]
[Photo]
[Photo]
drugstore."

SoleilSmile said...

This post is almost as good as the socks for Christmas tirade. Keep 'em coming!

ComiCrazys said...

I feel so alone. =)

J C Roberts said...

Wow. It really happens with everything. If something fresh is successful, you get hollow imitations popping up. A lot I never even knew about there.

Then after a while when the reins change hands on the original properties, even they seem like imitations.

At the same time, every now and then the store brand can be pretty good.

Nicol3 said...

The Chan Clan meets dead midgets?

Timmy's eyes.. are the strangest thing to me. His crossed pupils are glued in their sockets panel after panel. Yet- I cannot look away. It's like a car crash.

David Germain said...

A more recent example of this is when the Disney features really took off in popularity in the early '90's. There were some cheap studios (or maybe just one cheap studio) that were releasing literal knockoffs of those Disney films with the same titles even. They stopped after Pocahontus. I wonder how many people were fooled by those thinking they were actually buying authentic Disney product, alot of clueless Grandmas and old Aunts I'm sure.

Gerard D. de Souza said...

Flinstones were published by Dell? Didn't know that.
I remember that Ray Dirgo Guy was actually the better of the Charlton artists, which is kind of back-handed compliment. Many of the Charlton Flintstones were like a child with bic banana created them. Geo WIldman who does that Popeye on that King Comic did the Charlton Popeyes. I have many of them. He's no Sagendorf but he's better than the current sunday strip artist by miles. I think I saw a Charlton Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm he did that I thought at the time was decent.
Look for the name "Karl" in the inking of the WIldman covers. I don't know who Karl is but I think I see his name in the folded papers.

Jorge Garrido said...

John, believe it or not, I actually own that exact 1962 Flintstones comic of Wilma balancing that thing on her head!

Your story about the bagged multi-packs of comics rings so true to me, except for in my case, I grew up in the 90s. So when my parents would buy me comics, they would throw every single one of them out, because they were all really gory, violent and for "mature" readers (even Superman!) My parents wouldn't let me read any modern comics.

Thank God.

thomas said...

Off brands aside, aren't steel soda cans more manly than the crumby aluminium ones we've got today?

I think one of the differences between off brand comics and the real ones was that the real ones were clearly the product of an adult making something primarily for kids. With the off brand cheep-os, you get the sense that its made by adults acting childishly.
That's why there's something slightly embarassing and even unhinged about them. Look at Atomic Rabbit's eyes. There's something just wrong about them.

Back in the day, there seemed to be a reason and a place for the bottom line comics, and they didn't pretend to be anything else. Today it seems that the "bottom line" and the "top of the line" has metastcized into an oozing cancerous mass.

Adam T said...

I made the unfortunate mistake of believing 'Fruity Loops' were going to taste the same as 'Froot Loops' once.

Ted said...

RC Cola is far better than Pepsi or Coke; it is a fairly optimal middle ground between the two big brands. I actually prefer Meijer's store brand cola to RC, but RC is close enough in a pinch.
Besides the better basic taste, RC/Meijer blend much better with flavor syrups (vanilla, cinnamon, etc.).

Martin Juneau said...

"A more recent example of this is when the Disney features really took off in popularity in the early '90's. There were some cheap studios (or maybe just one cheap studio) that were releasing literal knockoffs of those Disney films with the same titles even. They stopped after Pocahontus. I wonder how many people were fooled by those thinking they were actually buying authentic Disney product, alot of clueless Grandmas and old Aunts I'm sure."

I feel sorry for this cheap studios. Those 90's Disney features are much mass products more than the original Disney films and shorts and it's a thing i don't recommanded if i have childrens.

Those Charlton comics covers is obviously unskilled, especially when thay taken the Hanna-Barbera products. It's being the same with Europpean comics today.

ther1 said...

I've seen this happen too.

The old Playstation "Crash Bandicoot" games had the "tude" issue going on with them and every character was a complete dork, but these games were well-made and funny anyway. Then a bunch of new developers bought the franchise in succession, diluting it and gradually screwing up the funny character designs.

The new Crash games are not only missing the good gameplay, the characters are unrecognizable and unfunny. The tude is even worse. It's like a Dreamworks movie that you can play.

glamaFez said...

I'm trying, but Popeye just doesn't seem to make a convincing newsboy or career counselor.

SlashHalen said...

Comics are very interesting, because there is a comic for EVERYTHING! Just go into your local comic shop and there will not only be your regular superhero comics, but Indiana Jones, Sonic The Hedgehog, Looney Tunes, and cooking comics. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a Honeymooners comic book at one point.

...you must really dislike Steven Spielberg. At least once a month, you make a post that seems to rip into not only his 90s cartoons, but his movies. Wich is cool, this is YOUR blog, and I'm not gonna tell you how to run it.

Gyrobo said...

Charlton Comics weren't just low quality content, they were also low quality material.

I have some. The pages are all slightly different sizes, and the paper itself has the thickness and consistency of a paper towel.

mike f. said...

What the heck is fake Dagwood doing to fake Blondie? (She's quite the milf, BTW.)

(Hey John, when're you coming back? The waitresses have been asking...)

Chip Butty said...

Marvel did some fake Ren & Stimpy comics, right?

Vincent Waller said...

I remember RC Cola's acid and sugar content was so high that I thought I could feel it eating away at the enamel on my teeth as it poured down my throat.

Pokey said...

Hey, what about the snakc food, i.e., Hostess Sno-Balls ripoffs....
:) [Least Little Debbie tries and does something ORIGINAL.]

And go to the modern verison of dime stores, i.e., dollar stores, and just like in the old days, and then and now at some grocery chains, you will find rip offs like, uh, one shilled by a kangaroo [initials with our mom's name for acronym..so I'll avoid lawsuits! "Betcha can't taste the difference". Oh well, they did not try to hide what CEDREALS THEY tried and ripps off..you MAY rememebr this rip off for making Cream of Wheat type stuff..I'll just let the others guess what brand I am talking about that makes these rip off cereals..amnd has a kangaroo...and such.]

"His Pony Pal, POKEY, too!"

PS I noticed GUMBY NEVER endorsed any cereal products!:)

Colter said...

mike f. it looks like fake Dagwood is going in for the grab; and I can't say I blame em..

Jay_fever said...

Wow I just used to chalk up the variation in appearances to it being a different artist. As a youth drawing my favorite cartoons and finding that my versions were very different... I just assumed that was the reason.

Capcom said...

So true! It's interesting how expertly a child's eye can discern and weed out the fakes of their beloved favorite playthings, especially in spite of being told that they are just as good as the real thing.

I distinctly remember when Barbie dolls got that fake look as well. The Barbies in the '60s got very cheap looking according to my Barbie "expertize" back then. Recently I've seen them officially called the "economical style" Barbies. Phooey, they're still trying to fool us with the cheap stuff.

:-p

Gerard D. de Souza said...

Glamafez,
Popeye around the time of that King Comic publication was a very popular character in all his incarnations on TV. It would be kind of like having an edutainment comic with Spongebob today.

J C Roberts said...

I guess he would have to be a lil' genius to blend Henry and Alice into one hybrid parent...

thomas said...

JC - very funny.

Torsten Adair said...

There are knock-offs, and then there are second-tier, products.

Del Monte is second-tier, as is Vess and Shasta soda. It's got good quality, it might not be as slick as the national brands, and sometimes these second-tier companies offer merchandise not produced by the larger corporations.

The history of the comicbook industry is rife with knockoffs. Fantastic Four was directly inspired by the success of the Justice League. If memory serves, Marvel even produced a Generic Comic Book!
http://www.comics.org/series.lasso?SeriesID=2871

smbhax said...

Great post!

HemlockMan, thanks for your insights on Charleton.

I love the subtitles on the Hillbilly Comics cover: "Jam-packed with mountain humor!" "America's zaniest hillfolk!" Those are just marvelous. :D

Those Cragmont cans are fantastic. What a graceful design.

Oh, and I was shocked--SHOCKED I SAY--when you said early Marvel comics had bad inking, but you know...you're right! I never really compared them against anything, I guess just due to assuming ignorantly that they existed in a complete void of other comics. I'm glad you pointed it out.

nick said...

Which Marvel inkers didn't you like? I don't think they know who inked the first couple issues of Fantastic Four, but there is some great work by Dick Ayers and Joe Sinnott in there! "Square heads" - you didn't dig Kirby?!

bloatedsackofprotoplasm said...

Hahaha. Oh my God. That story you just told about your dad and Foghorn Leghorn is the funniest thing I've ever heard.

Kadoogan said...

This is not related, John, but you might want to refer this along if you find it of any use...

I found this little beauty of a resource that I thought animators could make use of. It's a pretty good little utility and it's completely FREE! I love things that are useful and free!

http://www.laughomatic.hostei.com

It's an "idea generator" that gives you just enough of a jump start to spark your own creativity by providing you with character types, a setting, an accessory to work with, and a basic humor suggestion. Check it out.

humberto said...

rc cola...how i miss thee