Tuesday, July 28, 2015

ONE OF MY FAVORITE MUSICAL NUMBERS


I'm so grateful to Tom Minton and John for introducing me to this song: It's "Thanks a Lot but no Thanks" from MGM's "It's always Fair Weather," sung by Dolores Gray. 
I'll put up a few snapshots and a small sample of the lyrics.

Dolores throws her arm up and a big, brassy orchestral blast signals that this is going to be a huge, high-powered production number. 


There goes Dolores, right into the De Chirico background as the curtains part. 


Her sidemen drop from the sky, somersault, and slide into scene...

DOLORES GRAY (ALTERNATES SONG AND SPEECH)


 ...until she's surrounded by them. They freeze in place...


...then they leap to their feet and do a manic scramble exit.


Three rush back and strike a cool pose. They're hoping she'll dump her old boyfriend and go out with them.



On the line "Thanks a lot but but no thanks" Dolores banishes the men with a flick of her arm.


Three new sidemen rush in and strike immensely cool poses. I'll dispense with the lyrics so I can concentrate on the visuals.

These guys make a great counterpoint to what's going on in the song. Seeing this reminds me of my promise to myself that if I become rich I'll have a have a troop of chorus girls  follow me around all day, ready to back me up with choreography in case I decide to sing or emphasize a point.


The men do some great moves then Dolores banishes them again with another "Thanks a lot but no Thanks!"


I'll have to leave out a lot to fit all the main moves in: here (above) some of the sidemen waddle walk back in. Dolores sings about the man she loves.


Some great moves, then she dismisses them too.

Actually, she shoots them. Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam!

It doesn't do her any good because a whole bunch of new sidemen strut in from behind camera. 

They try to impress Dolores...

...but it's no deal...she's not buying it. She's loyal to the man she loves, who's "like Marlon Brando and Clifton Webb combined."


She banishes them. too.


Undeterred, a whole new bunch of sidemen appear from trapdoors and offer Dolores expensive jewelry.


Nope! She's not interested. Her man has what it takes to top that.


Dynamite! Just the thing to get rid of those pests!


Haw!

In desperation the horny sidemen make one last appeal, en masse. It's no use. She pulls a lever and the men are banished to the Netherworld.


'Thanks a lot but no thanks!"

Then the big finish: "No...NO...THAAAANKS!!!!!" 

Good stuff, eh?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

MY KID'S TEENAGE ANGST

I'm a longtime fan of my daughter's caricatures of me. The earliest ones, like the one above, had a particularly sunny and happy quality, and she liked to try different techniques with each one.  Here she gave the whole face beard stubble, including the nose. "Yeah," I think to myself, "why shouldn't a nose have stubble?"

As the years went by she got more polish. Here's (above) one she did in a fast food restaurant. I asked her to draw me looking dignified and intellectual and that's exactly what she did. Haw! 


But...uh oh!...dark clouds were on the horizon. Another year passed and this time (above) I found myself depicted as old and hideous...the personification of a rigid and oppressive authority figure. It was the onset of my kid's teenage angst.


Haw! The sketch wasn't without interest, though. I like the thinning hair at the top being represented by little pubic wire worms. Interesting, eh?


I did this (above) one. It's not a very good drawing but I include it because it captures my kid in the  3 or 4 rebellious years when she stopped drawing and took herself very seriously. She read only the great Russian novels...read them in her room with the door closed, I should add.



I was despairing that I'd lost my caricature buddy when one day she asked if she could draw me. I was ecstatic when I saw the result (above). The hormones had obviously receded and my kid's charm and enthusiasm were back. She did another thinking pose, this time using a tiny little hand to convey the intention. Nice. Very nice.



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

DUMB CARTOON CHARACTERS


I thought I'd take a stab at answering three questions that come up in cartoonists' conversations. The first is, "How dumb should a cartoon character be?" 

The obvious answer is,"VERY dumb! The dumber the better!" That sounds right to me, but when you think about it, most dumb characters to date haven't been completely stupid. 

Okay,  I admit that Tex's dog in "Screwy Truant" comes close, and so does Beaky Buzzard...but I think I detect a few brain cells even in those characters.


Dumb characters aren't usually completely stupid. They're proud to be dumb. 


 
They're both eager and stupid. They can't wait to get out of bed in the morning and do dumb things. Maybe totally dumb is the wrong way to go...but I admit that nothing else is as funny.

I don't hear any comments so I'll move on to the second question..."Should dumb characters slouch?"


When you think about it, very few live action comedians slouch.


 In the main, they have pretty good posture.


Even the Python 'Gumbies" (above) don't slouch to much.


Classic dumb characters, the kind you see in one-panel print cartoons often slouch, but when you animate them...or in the case of live action, film them...giving them a slouch makes them appear lethargic and without goals. That can't be right.


No, in the main dumb characters shouldn't slouch. Er...okay, Beaky Buzzard slouched, and I don't have an answer for that.


The last question has to do with slouching when seated..."Are eager-stupid characters permitted to slouch when seated?" The answer to that is "Yes!" My proof for that is...well, they just are, that's all. It's my blog, and there's an end to it!


Space limits prevent me from addressing other pressing questions like..."How close should stupid characters stand when talking to each other?"


And "Do stupid people have equally stupid friends? Are they loners? Do they like to hang around intelligent foils?" These are important questions but we'll have to return to them another time.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

WARLORDS OF ANCIENT MEXICO

Here's what I'm reading now, or rather will read when I finish Mike Barrier's book about Dell comics. I know nothing about the Aztecs but the illustrations in the book are so beautiful and the stories so enticing that I can't help but jump the gun and write about the subject anyway. 

You can't write about the Aztecs without mentioning human sacrifice (above). I'll return to that in a minute.

Just thumbing through the book has convinced me that my old understanding of Aztec architecture was flawed. The shapes of the structures were more varied than I expected.


The Mayan and Aztec cities were sometimes burned to the ground, indicating to me that there were more wooden and stucco structures than modern illustrators have indicated. You see lots of surviving stone building shapes (above) that only make sense if wood were part of the design.

Mayans and Aztecs made beautiful stone walls (above), probably the most beautiful ever seen, but you have to wonder if stone walls of that type were as common as we think. Wooden walls would have been easier to make and embellish. My guess is that elaborate wooden variants of the stone walls were all all over the place in old Mexico. You wouldn't expect them to survive because they depicted what the victorious Spanish considered devils, and what previously subordinated tribes considered hostile gods.


Amazingly the early Aztecs and Mayans were believers in relatively limited war. The nobles of each side would fight in a public place and the winners determined which side won the war.

BTW, the illustration above is a cheat, inspired by the later Aztecs who fought differently and massacred large numbers of captives. Amazingly we know the name of the man who convinced everyone to do that.


His name was Prince Tlacaelel (above), a warrior priest and mystic and...my guess...psychopath. The Prince convinced everyone that the god Huitzilopitchli would grant unlimited military success to the Aztecs provided they practiced ever-growing human sacrifices.


Let me digress to marvel at the beautiful clothes worn by well-off Aztecs. Fashion was a big deal in that culture.

I wonder if fashion played an indirect part in the Aztec conquests. Aztecs were pretty good at undermining the confidence of their enemies with their sophisticated art and architecture. The Mayans pre-emptively defeated the Toltecs partly by encouraging Toltec tourism to their magnificent and intimidating cities.

BTW: I'll digress for a moment to marvel at the fact that the Aztecs enthusiasm for architecture never made its way into their drawn art. I'm not aware that any culture in the West thought landscapes were worth an artist's time. Maybe the Chinese and Japanese valued it but I'm not aware that anyone else in the ancient world did.


Anyway, thanks to Prince Tlacaelel an enormous number of prisoners of war were sacrificed over the years, so many that when Cortez and the Spanish arrived to plunder, a lot of the local tribes sided with the Spanish against their own ethnicity. The final battle was incomparably brutal, with the worst atrocities being committed by Cortez's vengeful indian allies.