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The Saturday Comics: Flash Gordon by Alex Raymond

30 Dec

December 31, 2011

This is an undisputed classic character, in a classic strip, by a classic illustrator, Alex Raymond. Get the hint? This man CREATED Flash Gordon, among many other characters, and spawned legions of imitators, followers, and in fact nearly a whole genre.

I assume you know Flash Gordon. He has been constantly reinvented for every generation.

Alex Raymond’s “influence on other cartoonists was considerable during his lifetime and did not diminish after his death.” George Lucas has cited Raymond’s Flash Gordon as a major influence on his Star Wars films (which, cyclically, inspired the 1980 Flash Gordon film), while Raymond’s long shadow has fallen across the comics industry ever since his work saw print. Comics artists who have cited Raymond as a particularly significant influence on their work include Murphy Anderson, Jim Aparo, Frank Brunner, John Buscema, Gene Colan, Dick Dillin, José Luis García-López, Frank Giacoia, Bob Haney, Jack Katz, Joe Kubert, Mort Meskin, Sheldon Moldoff, Luis Garcia Mozos, Joe Orlando, John Romita Jr., Kurt Schaffenberger, Joe Sinnott, Dick Sprang and Alex Toth, among many others.

In particular, Raymond has been named as a key influence by many of the most influential and important comic book artists of all time. EC Comics-staple Al Williamson cites Raymond as a major influence, and is quoted as saying that Raymond was “the reason I became an artist”. Indeed, Williamson ultimately assisted on the Flash Gordon strips in the mid-1950s, and Rip Kirby in the mid-1960s (all post-Raymond). Key Golden Age artists credit Raymond with influencing their work. The artistic creators of Batman (Bob Kane) and Superman (Joe Shuster) credit him (alongside Milton Caniff, Billy DeBeck and Roy Crane) as having had a strong influence on their artistic development. Decades later, the herald of the Silver Age (and co-creator of most of Marvel Comics’s pantheon of heroes), Jack “King” Kirby also credits Raymond, alongside fellow strip artist Hal Foster, as a particular influence and inspiration.

I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that without this man, pop culture would be very, very different. Take for example the serials based on Flash Gordon. Their impact on films is almost as significant as the comic strip’s effect on that medium. By proxy, Alex Raymond is responsible for much of modern movie sci-fi.

Yet for someone whose impact is so far-reaching, his body of work is known more by reputation than actual first-hand knowledge. So in the name of education, enjoy this gallery of Alex Raymond’s work, focusing primarily on Flash Gordon.

Please click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

Imponderable #29: The LL Bean Catalogue.

30 Dec

December 30, 2011

I have previously taken a stand against “toys” that are nothing more than a sad parody of what toys should be. For example, in my blog “Birth of The Office Drone” I described in excruciating detail how some people think so little of children that they need to give them a toy that is an exact replica of an adult’s briefcase and contents (like name badge and cell phone- what fun) instead of letting the children make their own pretend items out of household goods and their own imagination.

I found this in the LL Bean catalogue. I HATE this toy. LL Bean is guilty of neutering childhood. This toy is killing my youth.

What child can’t make a snowman? What child needs a pre-made snowman kit? Building a snowman is one of the last wholesome winter activities left that is all imagination and adult-free. Or at least it was.

Fake buttons, wooden antlers, and a phony carrot nose. What about finding real buttons around the house? Antlers made out of branches? A real carrot? And worse, this kit says to the child “this is how you make a snowman.” Oh yeah? Well I want my snowman to have a Mets cap and a wooden pipe. You’ll find neither of those in this kit, and I bet that no kit would dare to be so politically incorrect as to include a pipe.

Is it really that hard to find things to stick on a snowman?

What galls me even more is that warning. “Should only be handled or used with adult supervision.” WHY? Is there jagged glass included in the set? LL Bean is taking away the magic and joy from childhood. But I can’t only blame them. I have to blame the idiotic consumers who bought every last one. Yes, this item is sold out.

7 reviews all glowing, a 5-star rating.

I weep for the youth of the world.

Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal.
Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say,
He was made of snow but the children
Know how he came to life one day.
There must have been some magic in that
Old silk hat they found.
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around.

Nowhere does it mention pre-made snowman parts from the LL Bean catalogue.

What is going to happen to the children of the world when every last shred of imagination is forced out of them? Who wants to raise a generation of kids who can’t build their own snowman?

The question is Imponderable.

And I am afraid.

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