Bernard Wiseman’s New Yorker Cartoon Countdown

April 10, 12

Bernard Wiseman Cartoon Countdown Amid the troves of paperbacks dug through this weekend — I found this one from 1959.  New Yorker cartoonist Bernard Wiseman’s Cartoon Countdown.

Pages of single panel spacesuit and weapon gags with great style and commentary on the race for space and the jitters leading up to the Cuban Missile crisis — and the human side of what it might all mean.

Many without any words at all, several with only a few words.

I think it’s a great challenge and a good exercise, to try and get it all together in a single frame and say something funny without words.  These aren’t obtuse either — the kind spoofed on Seinfeld.

You can still find copies around out there too.

I’d love to share some samples here, but the book is too brittle to scan.

X15 Rocket Ejection Test

February 29, 12

X15 rocket sled test launchFebruary 18, 1959.
Edwards Air Force Base, CA

Tests for the X15 rocket based ejection seat. These images taken during tests of a cockpit model for the X15, the plane designed to take man into space.

Upper left, the cockpit model starts test sled ride to prove automatic seat ejection design.

Upper right, canopy flies off and the “pilot” is sent skyward on the rocket propelled seat while the canopy cover (upper right) flies clear.

Lower left, the “pilot” comes free from the seat and the parachute automatically opens.  Lower right, parachute safely brings “pilot” to the ground.

When rockets attached to seats were a good idea, personified personal risk for public gain, and made conquest immediately visible.

Konga – The Scourge of Mars

February 29, 12

The Scourge of MarsKonga fails in his attempt to hold up a waterfall set to drown a city below when his cracker-barrel knees give out at a critical juncture.

Oh sure, the humans make allies when convenient, like when they need a waterfall conveniently re-directed, or an elevated platform in the form of a giant palm from which to make an impressive speech.

With slight remorse for past trangressions against Konga, humans align against the Scourge of Mars, but only when they slowly realize that the Marsians (that’s how they spelled it in 1964!) are deftly re-sizing Konga and whipping him around the City with their shrink way.

Stand on this mighty shoulder, mankind, I will absorb the chest shots meant for you, while swatting at the enemy and mulling over my internal disgust.

Mod Wheels – That’s One Arrogant Dude

February 08, 12

Mod Wheels - Gold Key

Mod Wheels Wild Action

Who thinks they can jump the canals of Venice?

That’s one arrogant dude.

You’ve got your fancy sweatshirt and your TTP (Turbo Tower of Power) racing plate mounted on your inevitably polished handlebars.

What’s really arrogant isn’t the jumping at all, it’s the trying to sell us a Deluxe Thrill Set on the back cover.

Our minds are fixed on jumping the canals of Venice, and you ask us to Pump the Tower for Wild Wheelies?

Empty promises for the plastic catastrophe involved in leaping a perfectly calculated 4 to 17 cars.

Edmund Martine’s Cetacean

January 29, 12

Cetacean Submersible 9/15/1955.  Inventor Edmund Martine checks one of the 12-inch thick optically ground portholes of his 50 ton submarine Cetacean.

The sub designed to cruise along the ocean floor at depths of more than five miles, is equipped with bright lights and cameras.  Martine hopes to travel into hidden valleys and caves deeper than man has ever been and he hopes to record these scenes on film.

Martine carefully considers the surface of the optically ground glass.  Will these portholes hold at a depth of five miles?  What’s the survival rate at the closest pressure level ever reached? Can you safely pilot a 50 ton submersible five miles beneath the surface?  How will you try and map the ocean floor in 1955?

To find out more about how this story evolved, check out Ben Hellwarth’s new book Sealab: America’s Forgotten Quest to Live and Work on the Ocean Floor.

Mary & Max by Adam Elliot

January 27, 12

Run to get a copy of Mary & Max.  Don’t think about it.  Don’t hesitate.  Eat the popcorn at work and spend dinner money on the DVD.  

The story.  The design.  The animation.  The music.  And it’s really funny too.  I’m a gigantic Adam Elliot fan after seeing Harvey Krumpet, but this one goes to an even higher level.  This story of loneliness and friendship shared based on the most thin level of interaction leaves you wondering how it could have been accomplished with clay.

We’ve all stood in line much longer for much less.

Grand Prix and the Broken Suspension

January 23, 12

Manetta-Ferrari driver Jean-Pierre Sarti heads for trouble as his suspension buckles on the rain-slicked track at Spa Francourcamps during the Belgian Grand Prix.

The ultimate in loss of control and abandon.

Grand Prix unfolds a passionate adventure of racing drivers and the women in their lives, which sweeps across Europe’s glamour capitals, with Cinerama making the viewer a participant in the speed and spectacle of the world’s most exciting sport.

A John Frankenheimer film for MGM produced by Edward Lewis from a screen story and screenplay by Robert Aurthur. Starring James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montand, Toshiro Mifune, Brian Bedford, Jessica WAlter, Antonio Sabolo and introducing Francoise Hardy.

When blowing scarves and checkered flags meant transport across Mediterranean hillsides.

The celebratory martini hoisted to forehead level with a pinky salute.

The Pods Carry Secret Equipment or Fuel

December 24, 11

Steve Austin Bionic BlueprintWe all need the fuel to finish the mission.  Fuel is sometimes in short supply.  We need to find extra pods to store up some reserve fuel.  It’s nice if the same pod houses our secret equipment.

The pods carry secret equipment or fuel.

Our mission is supported by two FUNdamentals: fuel and secret equipment.  Play is fuel.  It keeps us going when the meters are peak down.  And, boy, people sure like to jam those meters peak down into the dirt.

Our secret equipment is the framework for our secret plans.  Our secret plans guide and support us in crossing over from who we are, towards who we wish to become.

May you always have plenty of fuel and secret equipment this holiday and far beyond.

The End of Traitors

December 22, 11

Captain MarvelIt’s been awhile.  A fantastic cover is needed.

There is the concentric symmetry involved here in projecting a fire ring audio blast at Marvel.

Helpless.  The rushing army is suited up on alert and much too eager.  Much too comfortable.  Much too uniformed for the occasion.

Is it really the death of a traitor?  We miss the mark in identifying the real traitor.

What is there among these cartoons, toys, comics, and games? Why does it end in a personal desire to occupy the ocean? A piece of plastic used for storing bath soap becomes a $400 pop culture artifact.

The pursuit of the object hides the real traitor.

Photon: The Ultimate Game On Earth

September 26, 11

I recently got this press image at auction from 1986 for the then brand new Photon game centers. Unfortunately, they closed down only a few years later in 1989, and I would have been first in line to purchase the “alien tower” and wall lighting pictured here.

One of the articles that ran with the photo is attached here:

A Photon Warrior hides from his opponent behind the Alien Tower in Chicagoland’s first Photon facility.  The game is a totally new approach to participatory amusements and encourages a high degree of skill and agility in a fast, fantasy-based, life sized contest of wiles and wits.  Photon opened in early June in Palatine, IL.

Imagine being locked in a sci-fi battle straight out of Star Trek or Star Wars: Your princess has been captured, so you don your space helmet, strap on a portable infrared phaser pack and board the enemy spaceship to battle the forces of evil.

“No, Scotty, don’t beam me up yet.  The Klingons are attacking from one side, the Destructicons from the other and Darth Vader has me in his tractor beam.  I’ve got them right where I want them.”

Is this a fantasy, an arcade gamester’s hallucination?  No, this is what they’re doing for kicks in Palatine (and 10 other U.S. locations), and it goes by the name of Photon, the Ultimate Game on Earth.

The $1.5 million Photon Game Center at 647 Consumers Ave. in the northwest suburb is part of a Dallas based national franchiser who has raised the concept of interactive video games to the level of participatory sport.