Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Here's (above) Fredrick Wertham, author of Seduction of the Innocent, the book that provoked censorship of the comics and ended what a lot of fans consider a golden age of newsstand comics. I love those comics myself but I have to admit that Wertham had a point.

If you're a parent you don't want your kids to read comics with stories like this (above).  

   There used to be lots of crime comics but the most popular one of all was Lev Gleason's Crime Does Not Pay. There's a few possible reasons for that but I like to think the edge that title had was its two artist/writer/editors, Bob Wood and Charles Biro. They favored a more cartoony style than the other crime comics, and Wood really did seem to understand the criminal mind.

I thought you might like to see samples of the work of some of the CDNP artists. We'll start with Rudy Palais (above and below) who drew the most gruesome stories. 

Here (above) Palais shows a woman kissing a man to death.

And here (above) he has a man kill a baby. 'Pretty gruesome stuff!

This one's (above) by Dick Briefer who also did the Frankenstein comics. I can't believe a story like this ever appeared in mass market comics.

Hmmm...I've seen this artist's work (above) before but I don't know his name. I'm guessing that the editors had had a hand in the continuity here and Bob Wood's knack for  injecting humor into horror is certainly evident.  

Maybe now you can understand why Wertham thought crime comics had gone too far. They really had. Censorship was inevitable.  

Here's (above) my favorite CDNP artist, Bob Q. Siege. His anatomy is either very bad or very good, I can't figure out which. For a year he shared an apartment with Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder. I think I can see the influence. 

Last but not least is Charles Biro (that's his work, above) who was an artist as well as an editor.  He drew a lot of the covers. He wasn't an exceptional draughtsman but he knew what to draw and sometimes that can be almost as useful as knowing how to draw...well, sort of. There's a number of perspective cheats in this cover.

Bob Wood and Charles Biro were friends as well as co-workers. They shared hobbies: drinking, gambling and womanizing. . . hobbies that were to prove fatal for Wood. 

Wood had a good feel for crime...maybe too good a feel. He psyched himself into the criminal mentality so effectively that he actually murdered somebody in real life.

That's all I have to say about that comic but I'll take the opportunity to speculate about the excessive censorship that followed the excessive media that brought it about. My guess...and it's only a guess, with no facts to back it up...is that the mob had a hand in magazine distribution and paniced at the spotlight Wertham was throwing on magazine circulation. According to this guess it was the mob that pushed through excessive censorship, which crippled magazine creativity for decades to come. Once again, that's 100% speculation and I could be wrong. 

Friday, January 23, 2015


I can't resist starting this post about Horace Walpole with an illustration (above) from a vampire story. Walpole liked scary images so I think he would have approved. Anyway, Walpole was one of the most influential storytellers ever to work in the English language. He's credited with inventing the Gothic novel and, since that morphed into horror, romance and crime and detective fiction, you could make a case that he was the father of genre novels in general.

The mansion he built, Strawberry Hill (above), illustrates most of this post and is regarded as the first example of Gothic Revival architecture. I like the house but it takes a while to get used to. Apparently Walpole tried hard to create something gloomy and scary but he was temperamentally so good-natured that he was always modifying his intent when it came to the details. The result was a kind of Disneyland version of Gothic.

Maybe this (above) is closer to the way Strawberry Hill appeared in Walpole's time in the mid 18th Century. The whitewash was probably added in recent times to increase it's appeal as a spot to host weddings.

He ran low on funds while building so he had to cut corners. Look at the ceiling (above). It's painted on. Not only that but exterior battlements were often made of cardboard. It's funny to think that Ann Radcliff's creepy 1790 thriller "Mysteries of Udolpho" was inspired by such a cheerful house.

Cheerful (above). This room is positively cheerful. It's beautiful but I don't think any self-respecting ghost would bother to haunt something like this.

Walpole's excesses touched off a kind of arms race among his imitators. Here's (above) a print from 1814 showing novelist William Beckford's house. The gallery was 350 feet long and the tower over 285 feet high. In the fireplaces 60 fires were always kept burning, except in the hottest weather. Yikes!

I think the tower collapsed sometime in the future but, since Gothic fans liked ruins, that wouldn't have prevented tourists from visiting.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


In this post Theory Corner considers the question of nature versus nurture. Are we shaped by genetics or by culture and experience? I don't know the answer but I can relate a story I heard that might be helpful.

It begins with twins born in a peaceful little cottage, nestled in the hills. 

Both girls were cute as a button and nice to a fault. They attended Church regularly and did well in school.

On weekends they cooked brownies together. Everything went fine until one day....

...puberty struck.

Gladiola hardly noticed. She just drank a glass of milk and went on with her life.

Mildred, on the other hand, developed a disdain for milk and discovered that she preferred other drinks. Her parents didn't know what to do.

Under the influence of raging hormones Mildred became less and less interested in brownies.

One day she up and ran off to New York. She just packed up and left, without so much as a note left behind.

She never made it, though. The car she was in crashed and she was taken in by hillbillies.

Fortunately for her, the man who found her was the King of the Hillbillies. He treated her like mountain royalty but unfortunately he was fatally kicked by a mule and Mildred found herself on her own.

Without a way to make a living Mildred drifted from relationship to relationship.

Finally she made it to New York but she had no money and no friends there. Life was hard.

Years passed. One day her Dad was browsing the lurid paperback stand in his local pharmacy and he found a book about, of all things, his daughter. That's when the family finally learned what happened to her.  Later a friend of hers mailed them Mildred's pasties. That's all they had to remember her by.

So that's the story. Gladiola continued to drink milk and prospered. I guess I haven't resolved the nature vs. nurture question. Maybe no one ever will. If there's a lesson to be learned here it might be about the generative power of milk...life giving, eternally delicious...milk.

BTW: Thanks to the anonymous person who who grafted the two women together on the title card.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Above, a kilometer high cliff on Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The largest boulders at the cliff bottom are about 20 meters wide. The photo was taken a few weeks ago by the Rosetta orbiter.

Here's an interesting photo (above). It's a composite picture of our galaxy's core taken by Hubble and the Spitzer X-ray telescope. The white splotch on the lower right is a star cluster surrounding Sagittarius A, the super massive black hole at the galactic center.

In case the wide photo showing the Sagittarius A cluster is obscured by my sidebar, here's (above) an unencumbered enlargement. There's a nearby cluster on the upper left, which is puzzling. How did it escape being ripped apart by Sag. A? And what are those rake marks on the upper right?

Here's (above) an old friend, the M16 star nursery taken by Hubble. You probably saw the 20 year old photo which is considered by many to have been Hubble's greatest achievement. This latest picture benefits from a wider field and a higher res.

Above, a nebula so close that it can be seen as a small fuzzy patch with the naked eye: The Great Nebula in Orion.  It's the same nebula that contains the famous horse head, though I don't see it here. The image is a false color infrared composite taken by the Earth orbiting WISE observatory. Infrared allows us to see through dense clouds that previously obscured what we wanted to see. Boy, we sure got our money's worth with these orbiting telescopes!

Friday, January 16, 2015


Most of the directors showed here had career paths radically different from the one I discuss in this post. I include them simply because I can't think of TV animation without them coming to mind. Even so, I'll try to focus on the more typical track that readers are likely to experience, and I'll start with the observation that it's amazing that anyone has ever had an entire career in direction, no matter how talented they are. There's simply too many bases that have to be covered.

For one thing, you have to know a lot, but that's not as simple as it sounds. In order to know something you have to have had a knack, a killer work ethic, and a certain amount of experience. Acquiring experience implies that you were good at getting and keeping the jobs you needed to get started. It implies that you had people skills, a mentor or a sympathetic boss, and that you worked in a city that had sufficient jobs so that losing one job and finding another similar one was possible.

Your first chance at direction will probably occur because you're replacing somebody the management was dissatisfied with. That means you'll be working with a crew that was not of your own choosing, on a schedule that's already behind, on a show that doesn't play to your strengths, and replacing a former boss who may tell everybody who'll listen that you're disloyal and ungrateful for not walking out with him (no, this doesn't refer to the famous Spumco split which came about for entirely different reasons).

Once you have the job you have only a very short period where people will cut you slack and after that everything that goes wrong will be considered your fault. Management will conspicuously groom replacements in case you fail, and production managers will roll their eyes up at the very mention of your name.

Yes, it's a hassle but there's a very big upside if you can keep in the game, namely that for a time you'll be able to function as a fully human being, learning valuable things almost by the minute, and experiencing the exquisite pleasure of using all your faculties to the utmost.

The chances are that sooner or later you'll fall out of favor and be replaced. That goes down hard if you've become an adrenalin junky. Not only that, but hard work is a habit and you lose it if you don't stay with it.

I could go on, but this'll do for a start.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Nothing in this unstructured and rambling Theory Corner post will make any sense. I've been fooling around with collages and Photoshop effects and somehow I've worked my way into obsessing over this picture of a girl walking (above) at an angle. There's something interesting about the fact that the girl is askew but the world around her is normal.

Rotate the screen as shown above and the girl becomes normal and it's the world that's askew. Interesting, eh?  I envision a city built on a steep hillside where people learn from childhood how to walk the way the girl's walking here. If she dropped an apple it would roll down to screen left. 

No doubt the inhabitants of such a town would travel horizontally most of the time. Going up or down would require too much energy. 

Now put aside the concept of a diagonal city, and imagine a normal city where everybody danced to where they were going rather than walked. That could be fun, huh? Of course high energy dances like the Lindy Hop (above) or Hip Hop wouldn't be very practical for distance dancing. For that, you'd need something less strenuous, something like....

...like the Peabody or the Madison (above).

Or the "Wild and Crazy Guys" walk from Saturday Night Live.

I imagine that walkers would think of lots of variations to make the walk dances more interesting.

Haw! A good dance/walk (above) is a thing of beauty!

In such a world what would happen if a boy and girl met on the street?

Well, I guess they'd dance in place while they spoke to each other.

After speaking they'd say good-bye and take off in opposite directions (above, left)...or they'd dance together in the same direction (above, right).

If they needed to stop and talk for a minute they'd go back to dancing in place.