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. 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.

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