David Jones, artist and poet (1895-1974) begins his PREFACE TO THE ANATHEMATA :

'I have made a heap of all that I could find.' (1) So wrote Nennius, or whoever composed the introductory matter to Historia Brittonum. He speaks of an 'inward wound' which was caused by the fear that certain things dear to him 'should be like smoke dissipated'. Further, he says, 'not trusting my own learning, which is none at all, but partly from writings and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of Britain, partly from the annals of the Romans and the chronicles of the sacred fathers, Isidore, Hieronymous, Prosper, Eusebius and from the histories of the Scots and Saxons although our enemies . . . I have lispingly put together this . . . about past transactions, that [this material] might not be trodden under foot'. (2)

(1) The actual words are coacervavi omne quod inveni, and occur in Prologue 2 to the Historia.
(2) Quoted from the translation of Prologue 1. See The Works of Gildas and Nennius, J.A.Giles, London 1841.

06 May 2009

On being : one, two, a thousandfold

The previous post was in response to an isolated cartoon frame ("TWO OF ME?!") seen at johan urban berquist. Johan Urban has since referred me to Pappy's, about whom more soon. But first...

Bendigo in the 1950s and 60s had three old picture theatres: The Plaza, The Princess and The Lyric. (The Lyric burned down; The Princess was pulled down to make way for a petrol station; and The Plaza was closed down by the Catholic Church, who owned the lease or somesuch, after the theatre defied them and showed Last Tango in Paris > Last Flick in Bendigo. After that a new and charmless cinema complex was built : "THE END". Until one of these three broke ranks and increased admittance to 1/3, they each charged us 1/- (one shilling) per session. For that we usually got two films, with a lively intermission, and sometimes a cartoon and/or newsreel.

An aside : in the mid-60s I was sent to a country boarding school (for 4 years) where I became one of the projectionists for our regular Saturday night film screening. Weekly duties began with the collection, and later the return, of the heavy cans of 35mm film. Then we needed to check that each spool had been correctly returned by the previous user. Thus to roll the entire film at high speed through our fingers, only lightly touching it as it passed to feel ("Ouch!) for any nicks or breaks, which would then be cut and glued and spliced together.

Saturday night in the projection box was mechanical illumination magic. Open the curtains, reveal the screen. Play on the record player (where we secretly first auditioned a then-banned copy of Purple Haze; heard Sgt. Peppers teach the band to play, and one year spun my own birthday treat, the Wild Cherries' Krome Plated Yabbie) the ancient spiral of Wurlitzer 'music for entering & departing cinemas'. With everyone in, lights out, kick off the first projector, watch the numbers wind-down until : Pull away the gate/ Let there be Light/ Let there be ILLUSION! Keep an eye on the film; watch and adjust the burning of the arcs; be ready to synchronise the changeovers from one reel to the next: watch for the scratched signal at the top right of the screen, then all systems go; second signal, switch to second projector. One spool out, next spool in. Thread it. Rewind that last spool, put it back in the can. Sometimes a breakdown : the film snaps, is jamming, or running off the sprockets, even melting on screen (very exciting!). A few days later pin up the posters for next Saturday night's films. Ah, those posters!

One year our class inaugurated a regular, next day, Sunday film discussion program. From that group, one of us would later host for many years a similar film discussion program on Melbourne radio and inaugurate a specialist film festival. Two of us (including one who edited and showed his first 8mm films in that school projection box) would become 'art-house' cinema projectionists. My own interest in the idea and expressions of "projection-space" continues in this blog and elsewhere. Here's my 1966 drawing of one of our Australian made 35mm cinema projectors.

Returning to comics: On a Saturday afternoon in 50s-60s Bendigo most kids arrived well before the pictures started, all armed with comics. Some to read, some to trade. Before the lights dimmed and the projectors rolled the place was a cross between a library and a bustling market. As far as I could ever determine, trade values seemed quite arbitrary, a matter of persuading some other kid that your this was worth three of his that. Building up the numbers seemed as important as establishing any standard of quality. How many comics have you got? Two boxes. (Impressive!)

Comics were also the main pleasure when we went for our piano lesson. Again, we would try to arrive early to dive into one of the several large boxes of comics owned by, and stored under the bed of, the son of the piano teacher. (Years later, thanks Kelvin!)

At home in the front room performing the obligatory grind of daily piano practice I often had a comic on the music ledge as I played the easier scales over and over. He marched them up to the top of the hill and he marched them down again. Early Minimalist!

I've been reviewing my days in junior comic culture after reading Pappy's recollections at his Golden Age Comics Blogzine. So much in common. In fact and spirit.

Occasionally a curious person will ask me, "What's the oldest comic book you have in your collection?"

I think it's a fair question, but my answer is, "I don't know." I'm surrounded by books and comics. Half the time I can't remember what I have. However, Uncle Scrooge #7, September- November, 1954, is the oldest comic book I have that I personally bought off the comic book rack. That I remember.

My first experiences with comics were with two boxes of coverless and otherwise poor-condition books. The first box was in my neighbor Allen's basement. He led me down some wooden stairs.* I sat under a light set up by the furnace and looked at comics his older brothers and sisters had read to pieces. As I recall, they included one with a horror story about a flower turning into a gorilla--or was it the other way around?-- and a coverless issue of The Human Torch. I was mighty impressed by that flaming on stuff!

The other box of comics was one given to me by my cousin, Dickie. It included a lot of Dell Comics like Francis The Talking Mule, Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and many Walt Disney titles.

That was in 1953. I was a first grader, six-years-old...

( Pappy's full article here )
So many comic influences! From English import children's picture sequence (comic?) magazines Jack and Jill, and Playtime to Rupert the Bear and various strips in Wonder Books and Boys Own annuals...

Derived from my small collection of Boys Own and Girls Own annuals, in 1988 I serialised Culture Corner with Uncle Pete
- The Saga of a Girl's Search for the Source of the Latest Art -
in Melbourne University's student newspaper Farrago.
In 1981 Paul Taylor used the scene-setting image from episode one of Culture Corner on the cover of the (Latest) Art & Text (#2), the "new Australian art magazine" he edited out of Melbourne.

... to the daily comic strips read in Dad's copy of The (Melbourne) Sun : Ginger Meggs, Bluey and Curley, Al Capp's Lil Abner and his deathless though-often-holed detective Fearless Fosdick.

Also from Dad's paper,
Dennis the Menace, The Potts, Brick Bradford, Rip Kirby and, later, Modesty Blaise. Disney favourites included Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck, The Beagle Boys and a particular affection for Gyro Gearloose's "Little Helper" with the light bulb head. Here as The Thinker (after Rodin) perhaps.

The DC Universe characters: Phantom, Batman, Superman, The Joker, The Riddler with his Question Mark logo. And the character from the 5th dimension with the intriguing name of indeterminate pronouncibility Mr. Mxyzptlk ( pictured earlier above, discovering a poster).

Later, the Marvel Comics' superheroes and supervillans: Green Lantern, Hulk, Flash and their variously exceptional companions. Classics Illustrated were studied and collected for the getting of wisdom. But, eventually, graduation was by way of MAD. ( I still search out certain old MAD covers.) After that Spike Milligan (Puckoon especially, with Spike's ratty drawings), The Goons, Monty Python, Leunig, Beckett et al. The following, via Pappy's, is from an advert for the MAD Reader.

( x 1000 )