Friday Funnies: The Black Comic Book, Pt. 4

The Wit and Wisdom of Spiro T. Agnew.

The last piece on The Colored Negro Black Comic Book by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon.

Note: in the comic strip tradition all the words in the strip are in capitals, but for readability, I’ve deigned to write in standard English. Also the words that are in bold in the strip are in red in this text.

“B.S.”, a 4-page reply to “B.C.”

Page 1:
White caveman (sharpening spear): What are you doing?

Page 2, Panel 1:
Black caveman (holding arrow): I am inventing something called the wheel…
Page 2, Panel 2:
Black caveman: What are you doing?

Page 3:

Page 4:
Both cavemen dead, one from spear, one from arrow.
Cave boy: What did they do?
Father: They just invented brotherhood!

All they were saying was, “Give peace a chance.” There were a lot of songs about getting along at the time, notably “Friendship Train” by Gladys Knight and the Pips: “Unrest between races must come to an end.” That song was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, who wrote a number of “message” songs for the Temptations.

***

“Brother Blackberry”, a 1 page parody of “Brother Juniper”, not in Toonopedia, but in my local newspapers when I was a kid.

Well, if God did make us in His/Her/Their image… There are lots of pictures of black Jesuses in black people’s homes I visited, even to this day.

***

“Likriss Sikniss”, a 1-page reflection of “Dennis the Menace”

Some things that one wants to avoid have no race.

***

“Believe It or Watts!”, a 2-page riff on “Ripley’s Believe It or Not”

Page 1:

Page 2 (left side)
Nude man sitting in steamy area:
Narrative: This black man has slept in a hot coal bed for fifteen years!! (Before that, he was an idiot albino from Kalamazoo!)

Page 2 (right side):
Tree carved with word “black”.
Markings found on a white birch in Caucasia, Pa. The tree is owned by Mrs. Fiona Black, whose son carved his name into it.

(In arrow): Look what can be done with Sidney Poitier’s name:
which involved the words Hi, Doris Day (from the D and O in his name), plus Rosh Hashona, apple, Ship, parsley, Altoona, Nipsey, CORE, and NAACP in crossword form

The first page was a pretty OK piece, but the second generated a Huh? from me.

And that’s it, except for these final thoughts:

The book publisher, Price/Stern/Sloan, also put out other books at the time, including You Were Born on a Rotten Day, The Power of Positive Pessimism and my favorite, the Wit and Wisdom of Spiro T. Agnew, which was a title page, followed by a bunch of blank pages.

It was great to find something that the comic book fans, which I (marginally) still am, would appreciate.

First published on February 25, 2006.

Friday Funnies: The Black Comic Book, Pt. 3

I laughed out loud at this one, perhaps because of the linguistic parallel construction.

More on The Colored Negro Black Comic Book by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon.

Note: in the comic strip tradition all the words in the strip are in capitals, but for readability, I’ve deigned to write in standard English. Also the words that are in bold in the strip are in red in this text.

“Mother Eartha”, a 4 page response to “Mary Worth”

Page 1:

Page 2, Panel 1:
Young woman: Oh, Aunt Mother Eartha, my husband has been out of work for months – with no job in sight…
Page 2, Panel 2:
(Shot of the coffee pot, young woman’s hand pouring java into Eartha’s cup)
Young woman: – our unemployment checks stopped coming, the welfare payments are low, our bills keep climbing-

Page 3, Panel 1:
Young woman: -my son’s lost heart and is fighting the system – taking dope rioting….
Page 3, Panel 2:
Young woman (on sofa, in background): – my daughter’s pregnant again and her husband lost his job- oh – oh –ooh

Page 4

IS MISSING FROM THE BOOK! How does this end? I wish I knew! Anyone near the library at Michigan State University want to tell me how this concludes?

***

Dark Racey, a 4-page take on “Dick Tracy”.

There is no table of contents, or for that matter, pagination, the only reason I know the name of the next story is from the citation at MSU. Of course, page 1 of this story is missing as well.

Page 2:

Page 3, Panel 1:
Racy: -Perhaps you suspect someone on your own police force?
Sheriff: This boy’s seen too many movies?
Page 3, Panel 2
(Sheriff firing gun: Bam Wam Fam Jam

Page 4:
(Racy on the ground in a pool of blood, three holes in head and shoulder, word “holes” with arrows pointing to them. Another cop stands at attention.)
Sheriff: See that the murderer gets to the morgue…

This is obvious a take on “In the Heat of the Night”, yet another Sidney Poitier movie, but with a…different outcome. Disturbing, believable, but not particularly funny.

***

“King Coal”, a 4-page retort to The Little King.

Page 1

Page 2, Panel 1
The crowd: Long live the King of Liberalia!
The photographer (in foreground talking to a man in a hat): How magnificent! A black king!
Page 2, Panel 2:
Man in hat: That’s because Liberarians are a great liberal people!

Page 3, Panel 1:
Photographer: Where is the king of Liberalia’s castle?
Man in hat: Over yonder kill.
Page 3, Panel 2:
Photographer sweats up the hill.
Page 3, Panel 2:
Photographer: !

Page 4:
King entering decrepit castle with clotheslines running from crooked turrets to adjoining building and a couple with a baby in clothes with patches.

If you thought taking shots at liberals was a recent activity, think again. A real “gotcha” strip, which I liked all right.

***
“Charcoal Chin”, a 4 page reply to “Charlie Chan”. Was this ever a strip, or just a series of movies?

Page 1:

Page 2, Panel 1:
Charcoal (to son)” – And, as it is added in the great proverbs – “We are all blacks…”
Page 2, Panel 2:
Charcoal (looking at bullet):…we are all Orientals, we are all Eskimos…

Page 3, Panel 1:
Charcoal (to son):…we are all Parisians…we are all New Yorkers-
Page 3, Panel 2:
Page 3, Panel 2:
Son: -And, I suppose, Pop – we are all whites?
Charcoal: Taxi!

Page 4
Taxi driver gives Chins the raspberry. Logo- Bigot & Redneck Taxi Corp. Rates .45 ½ mile.
Charcoal: – To every rule, my son – there is an exception – and, like Confucius say, boy, have you found it!

As I recall, there was a feeling in 1970 that people of color were in the same boat. Don’t think that perception is nearly so true today.
The person cited in the first panel was JFK, of course. A number of comic book (and other) people nearly deified the martyred President, maybe not over who he was, but over who he might have become.
***
“Blackman and Crow”, a 4-page rendition of “Batman and Robin”

Page 1:

Page 2, Panel 1:
Minstrel: ‘Member? [Sings]Wayy down ‘pon the Swa-nee Ri-buh-
Crow: Let’s take him, Blackman!
Blackman: [hums] Hm-mm
Page 2, Panel 2:
Minstrel: ‘Member – [Sings] -in mah ol’ Kin-tucky hooome
Blackman (smiling, singing): La-de
Robin scowls.

Page 3, Panel 1:
Blackman and Minstrel [singing]: Oool’ Black Joooe-
Page 3, Panel 2:
Crow’s hand firing a gun
Gun noise: Crack! Ack! Tack! Lack

Page 4:
Blackman, Minstrel dead on the floor, four bullet holes in the back wall, which has a framed photo, signed Love, Stepin.
Crow: This damn generation gap is something else!!
A diminutive Pogo (looking at deceased): My!

This story seemed to be addressing the struggle in the civil rights movement at the time, between the NAACP/Urban League old-line organizations, and the Black Panthers and other more militant groups. The old-timers were still following the model of the late Martin Luther King, while the younger folks believed, “By any means necessary.”

For me, this was one of the most fully realized takes, possibly because of my deep awareness of the Batman mythos.

The reference of Stepin was to Stepin Fetchit, a controversial black actor known for his stereotypical portrayals of a black minstrel.

***

“Boll Weevil Barley”, a 4-page take on “Beetle Bailey”:

Page 1:
Boll Weevil (to no one in particular, though black versions of Zero and Killer are around): This is a mighty weird comic strip.

Page 2:

Page 3:
Killer-type (turns head): Oop! You had to open your big fat mouth!
Boll Weevil (thinking): ?

Page 4:
Boll Weevil and Killer-type are saluting white Sarge, while black cook looks on.

This again addresses the large percentage of blacks in the armed forces in Vietnam, usually at the lowest levels, as “grunts” rather than officers.

***

“Darkie”, a 4-page variation on “Archie”.

Page 1:
Jughead: Gee, it’s groovy having a new kid in town, Darkie-
Darkie: thanks- it’s groovy being here!

Page 2

Page 3, Panel 1:
Guys in silhouette.
Jughead: Where do you live, Darkie?
Page 3, Panel 2:
Darky: Just down the block, too.

Page 4:
Darky: -Mine’s the one with the white pickets!
Jughead (jaw dropping): !
Pickets holding signs that say:

Out! Out! Out!
Keep Out!
Live with your own kind
Leave white to white
Don’t let them besmirch our town

The use of the name “Darkie” must have been rather controversial at the time, for it was a term used as an insult to black people.

That said, I laughed out loud at this one, perhaps because of the linguistic parallel construction “White picket fence”/”White pickets”. I also love the word “besmirch” in this context, since it was the pickets who were doing the besmirching. Also, Darkie is quite matter-of-fact about the protest, unlike his new friend.

Compare and contrast, as my old English teacher used to say, Fred’s review of Little Archie.

Previously used on February 12 and 19, 2006.

Friday Funnies: The Black Comic Book, Pt. 2

Clearly, the issue of racial intermixing has been highly charged in this country for generations.

More on The Colored Negro Black Comic Book by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon.

Note: in the comic strip tradition all the words in the strip are in capitals, but for readability, I’ve deigned to write in standard English. Also, the words that are in bold in the strip are in red in this text.

“Tarskin”, a 4-page response to “Tarzan”

Page 1- Tarskin saves guy with diamond from a roaarr!ing lion

Page 2:

 

Page 3, Panel 1:
Diamond guy: Amazing! That this great black man should help and befriend a white man!
Tarskin: ?
Page 3, Panel 2:
Tarskin: You- mean – you not black?
Diamond guy: Of course not! Don’t tell me you took my sunburn-…

Page 4:
Diamond guy’s hat on ground in foreground, lion chewing on a bone, going mmrraaarrmm– and Tarskin walking away with the diamond, passing a Pogo-like character.
The chimpanzee Cheetah (looks at lion) Ooh.
Daddy Warbucks (?!) (peeks from around tree): Ooh.

While I do appreciate the fact that the man was trying to rip off our hero, I don’t know how allowing the man to be fed to the animals was supposed to promote racial understanding. Even if he IS “The Man”.

***

“Laughin’ Black” a 4-page parody of “Smilin’ Jack”, a strip that ran from 1933 to 1973, and which ran in my local papers when I was growing up, as did most of the strips represented.

Page 1: (Three airmen in background, head officer shaking Laughin’ Black’s hand)
Officer: Welcome to our squadron, Laughin’ Black!
Laughin’: Thank you, sir!

Page 2:

Page 3, Panel 1:
Officer (next to Laughin’): We all fight for the same country, wear the same uniforms, and each of us has his very own plane
Page 3, Panel 2: Other pilots running to their planes)
Loudspeaker: Pilots! Man your planes!

Panel 4:
While jets are in the air, Laughin’ is shocked when he comes to his plane (Sign: L. Black), which is a rickety old biplane.
Laughin’: !

In the panel shown, the officer practically says the old cliche, “A credit to his race.” This story did portray some truths about separate but unequal treatment.

I’m reminded how the valor of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II helped finally integrate the armed services.

***

“Little Ofay Nannie”, a 4-page take on “Little Orphan Annie
The convention in this strip is to underline certain words, rather than making them bold. Since I’m loath to underline – it means hyperlink to me – I will italicize the underlined text.

Page 1:
Nannie (smiling): Oh, Dandy – isn’t it fantabulous that Daddy is coming home for my 65th birthday party?
Dandy (smiling): Arf

Page 2, Panel 1:
Nannie: He’s been on a business trip to wonderful places like South VietNam, the Union of South Africa and Rhodesia!
Dandy: Arf
Page 2, Panel 2:
Nannie (in a classic arm-up “Annie” pose”): It’ll be such fun to see him again!
Dandy: Arf

Page 3

Page 4:
Nannie (angry, pointing finger at Daddy): Turn blue, you @*O!![dagger]@ honky!!!
Dandy (growling at Daddy): Grr!
Daddy (shocked): !

While her anger was, and is, understandable, this rant left me cold, because it seemed to come out of the blue. It’s interesting how the panel before the flaming is the only panel where she does not have those hollow eyes.

I was interested in the citation of South Viet Nam as one of the places Daddy was off exploiting. The African countries’ white-ruled governments were obvious targets. (Rhodesia is now Zimbabwe.) I wonder if South Viet Nam was picked because a disproportionate number of black soldiers were killed in the war? Or maybe it’s that, as Martin Luther King, Jr. suggested, too many people of color, including innocent Vietnamese were dying there.

***

“Raisins”, a 4-page takeoff on “Peanuts”

Page l:
(A kid who looks like Charlie Brown makes one-handed catch off batter. Another kid and Snoopy in background. Ball hits glove: Boff!

Page 2, Panel 1:
(Kid catches sinking liner.) Ball hits glove: Biff!
Page 2, Panel 2:
(Kid leaves his feet to make another grab.) Ball hits glove: Waff!

Page 3, Panel 1:
Lucy in catcher’s gear walks to kid.
Kid: ?
Page 3, Panel 2:
Lucy (gear to the side) starts pulling off mask.
Kid: !

Page 4:

I tried not to show the punch lines in these tales, but this one pretty much required it.

Of course, this tackles the old (but ongoing) conversation about the supposed superior talents of black athletes. I think it’s funny because of Charlie Brown’s reputation as a less than stellar player, thus the juxtaposition is even sharper.

***

“Black Jack”, a 4 page response to “Prince Valiant”

Page 1

Page 2, Panel 1
Scene: Busy- with people on horses, wounded on the ground.
Narrative: The crows watcheth in perspirement as the Black Jack destroyeth 7 of the greatest swordsmen, 125 of the greatest lancers and 4 of the greatest stick-ball players on the block.
Page 2, Panel 2
Scene: Men in shock, or stabbed, or clubbed. Sweetpea (from “Popeye”) looking on in disbelief.
Narrative: Like one, the women throw flowers, their veils and lo, their very selves at the feet of the conquering hero – one, in fact, throweth her husband.

Page 3:
Scene: Montage of folks. Below that, graffiti: BJ +KA (within a heart); EC SJ; Gawain wears panty-hose
Narrative: “Sh!: sayeth a mighty count – “‘Tis the Black Jack!” A gasp graspeth the crowd, the word hitteth them like a blackjack!

Page 4:
Scene: About a dozen attractive women, and a drooling Olive Oyl(?!) from “Popeye” surround the hero. In the left of the picture, a man in a turban, with an N on it.
Narrative: As the most noble and beauteous women in the land carry the Black Jack off on their shoulders, the men feel crushedeth by the utter humiliation – It taketh the wise and noble, Noble the Wise to sayeth: “At least he isn’t Jewith.”
Next week, =Sammy Davith – the one-eyed Jack!”

What can I say? Dopey schtick “comedy” that probably wasn’t funny then.

***

“Big Eboner”, a 4 page response to “Li’l Abner”

Page 1:
Enober runs past two dull-looking yokels, with Daisy in hot pursuit.
Daisy: Ya-hoo!!

Page 2:

Page 3:
(You see the feet of the yokels, obviously knocked over by Daisy)
Daisy: Out o’ mah way! Yo’ is mahn, mahn, mahn!

Page 4:
With Daisy and Eboner in silhoutte in the background, she’s chasing with hearts over her head; yokels are sitting in a creek.
One yokel: Yo’ notice how them black @O#!# run after the blondest, most-beautifullest, white-skinned female they can find!!

Clearly, the issue of racial intermixing has been highly charged in this country for generations. If it is modestly less charged in the past couple decades, it still is an issue for people, black and white, believe me.

 

Friday Funnies: The Black Comic Book, Pt. 1

People – O.K., white people – have actually told me, “I don’t think of you as black.” Don’t know what to do with that one.


After my father died ten and a half years ago, my mother, sisters and I went sorting through his things, naturally. One item that I seized on was The Colored Negro Black Comic Book.

Somehow I was totally unaware of this book’s existence. It was published by Price/Stern/Sloan in 1970 (though my father may have purchased it later), and I went to college in 1971, so I didn’t see it around.

It was written by Harvey Comics (Richie Rich, Casper) editor Sid Jacobson, whose name frankly didn’t ring a bell at the time, and drawn by Ernie Colon, whose name I recognized instantly.

The book is 80 pages. 14 x 19 cm. Page 3 reads in part: “This satire of America’s best-loved comic strips is presented strictly for laughs, but with the hope that one day, in a world of greater honesty, justice, and understanding, the black man will take his rightful place in the literature of all kinds.”

So, how did it do? It’s hard to judge things decades after the fact, but I’ll give it a shot.

Note: in the comic strip tradition all the words in the strip are in capitals, but for readability, I’ve deigned to write in standard English. Also the words that are in bold in the strip are in red in this text:

The first strip is “Superblack”, a 4 page takeoff on The Man of Steel.

Page 1:
Lois: Mother! Dad! Guess who’s coming to breakfast!

Page 2:

Page 3, Panel 1:
Supes: (looks lovingly at Lois, and vice versa): Lois has told me so much about you folks, we’ve both sure you’ll have the liberalism to delight in our happiness….
(Picture of a man, and a placard “I.F. Stone for President” in the background.)
Page 3, Panel 2:
(Women in background)
Father (waving his finger in Supes’ face): The world is changing fast, but not that fast! As much as I’d like to, I find that I-

Page 4
(Lois’ mom bemused, Lois proud to see Supes hold her dad up in the air by the jacket)
Dad: -W-Welcome you to the family –chokeson!

The movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was obviously on the minds of the writers. Not only are Lois’ first words a play on that title, but the father name-drops Sidney Poitier, the star (along with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy) of that 1967 film.
I think it works as “it’s hard to REALLY be liberal” story. Miscegenation was only legal in all states the same year as the movie came out, after all. the finger in the face was a nice, patronizing liberal, touch.

The second strip is “Bronzie”, 4 page riff on “Blondie”

Page 1:
Bronzie: I Wonder who that could be?

Page 2:
(Neighbors at the door)
Female neighbor: Good evening. We wanted to be the first to welcome you to the neighborhood.

Page 3:

Page 4:
(Neighbors shocked look, Bronzie’s back to them and Bronzie’s husband in his chair, bemused)
Bronzie: In fact, you’re the only ones to call on us in the two years we’ve been living here!

This sort of thing actually used to happen to people I knew. Funny in a somewhat painful way.

I’ll be looking at more strips in the coming weeks.

One other observation- for some reason, you can see the dots used as the skin tone on some strips (Natural, Superblack) more than others. They all look a consistent graytone in the book.

“Flesh Horton”, a 4 page take-off on “Flash Gordon”.

Page 1:
(Two guys sitting at the control panel)
Flesh: Things have certainly changed, Dr. Zirkon!
Zirkon: Yas, Flesh- they certainly have!

Page 2:

Page 3, Panel 1
(Shot of spaceship)
Flesh: Now, we live as if there were no difference in our skin color at all!
Zirkon: To tell you the truth, Flesh, I hadn’t realized you were black ’til you mentioned it!
Page 3, Panel 2
(Flesh opening a door)
Flesh: -But what are we going to do-

Page 4
(Men and women with slightly pointed ears, sitting in airplane-like seats; sign says “Greenie Venusian Section”
Flesh (not in shot): -with those damn green Venusians?

People – O.K., white people – have actually told me, “I don’t think of you as black.” Don’t know what to do with that one. What does that mean? That they think of me as white? And if so, is that supposed to be a compliment? (Hint: it’s not.)

I’ve also heard, “I’m color-blind.” I’m always suspicious of the remark. If they are truly color-blind, which I doubt is true with most people regardless of race, why do they find a need to say it? And to me? Also, more often than not, something is said later in the conversation which betrays the comment.

I think this story really speaks to what I consider to be a major truth: that people who have been oppressed sometimes go out and oppress Unfortunate, for sure, but it does happen.

***

“Natural”, a 4-page riff on “Nancy”. I should note that except for the panel shown, Nancy is always smiling. Note also that while Natural is in every shot, she says nothing, but is looking coquettish, especially in the last panel.

Page 1:
Sluggo: I don’t dig it, Natural – you’re the grooviest black chick I know-
–you picket, you stand up for your people’s rights-

Page 2, Panel 1:
Sluggo: -Right up to your natural hair, you’re all soul, baby!
-And you gotta admit, I’m the grooviest white guy you know!
Page 2, Panel 2:
Sluggo (putting on round lens shades):
I wear shades in the winter and tan myself in the summer!

Page 3:

Page 4:
Sluggo (literally on a soapbox): -So tell me, girl- why won’t you go out with me?

I knew these guys in high school especially, these white guys (and occasionally white gals) who could out-street talk me and expected that I would think that they were really “down with it”. I tended to find them irritating.

I’ve also known white people who like to tan who liked to point out that their skin color was darker than mine on their forearms, and would put their arms next to mine to prove it. Most insulting, not to mention stupid.

But, is it just me, or does Sluggo look like he might be a light-skinned black?

So, the real question is: is it funny? Yes, I think so. To quote AdAge’s Bob Garfield: “It’s the universal recognition that drives the laughs.” I’ve been positively inclined towards everything I’ve looked at thus far. This too shall change.

Thanks to Mary Beth, my former colleague, for scanning these a decade ago; this way, I did not need to bug friend Fred Hembeck, who had scanned some previous items for me.

Reprinted from my blogs of January 15 and 22, 2006, with minor edits, such as replacing dead links.