Saturday, October 4, 2008

from Nancy #165, 1959: the evil of Rollo Haveall (in two parts)

John Stanley's dislike of the rich is obvious. For every well-intentioned Good Samaritan of wealth in his stories, there are one dozen scheming, malicious, oblivious sociopaths.

Rollo Haveall, the doppleganger for Little Lulu's Wilbur in the Nancy and Sluggo comics, is a nasty creature, even by Stanley's standards.

His wealth dwarfs Wilbur's, many times over. Money, and its constant accessibility, has clearly warped Rollo's worldview. He takes his status for granted, and indulges his whims, with no apparent concern for the harm it may do others around him. As Rollo's father informs him in "Net Profit," our first story today, "MONEY can buy ANYTHING, son!"

Right out of the gate, Rollo is an asshole in "Net Profit." He scorns Nancy's cordiality, and then laughs when she apparently loses her pet fish to her pet cat.

Later, Rollo's "tropical fish collection," which consists of every deadly sea creature, imaginable and un-, threatens the life of a houseguest in the Haveall mansion. Rollo, with the aid of a fellow a-hole (a cynical vacuum cleaner salesman), unleashes a fish flood on his hometown. Nancy wins in the end, but Stanley's brief, vivid portrait of the Haveall family may linger in your thoughts after you've finished this story.

In this story, as well, we see the birth of Stanley's "hard" comedy of the 1960s. His writing is considerably more brassy and aggressive than it ever was in the Little Lulu series.

In our second story, "Substitute Player," Rollo literally plays with Sluggo. It's jaded Rollo's birthday. Despite his meriting an international two minutes' silence to mark his special day, Rollo is bored. Nothing has any meaning for him.

The Havealls hire Sluggo (whom they pick up off the street, like johns selecting a hooker) to be Rollo's playmate. (Rollo's father announces this gift thusly: "Rollo, I bought you something ELSE for your birthday!")

Rollo's sociopathic scheme (which you'll discover in the story) flounders famously. His tribulations (which he seems to enjoy with masochistic relish) temporarily make a "regular guy" out of him.

But Stanley's evildoers are seldom reformed. Rollo returns to wreak socio-economic havoc on his surroundings and fellow peasants again in Stanley's Nancy.

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