Thursday, October 16, 2008

Two "Tubby" Tales (from #15, 1956)

I'm in the fourth day of a cold. It appears to be on the wane, I'm happy to say. I'm in that place where I don't quite feel good enough to rejoin the rest of the world (that, I say, will come tomorrow).

Nor am I so ill that I want to languish in bed. Thus, I turn to this blog for a simple but meaningful project.

I just happen to have these two stories from Marge's Tubby #15. Since Kelly and his kids [TM] enjoyed the recent set from that issue, why not double their (and your) pleasure?

First up: "The Teacher," in which we see Tubby at his most anarchic and self-determined. No one--not even filthy-rich Wilbur--can impede Tubby's plans, once they're set in motion. Especially so, if said plans advance Tubby's social status with ever-fickle Gloria.

Poor Tubby is setting himself up for a lifetime of frustrating, painful relationship troubles. Even though he relishes getting Wilbur's goat (and, usually, Gloria's), it's clear how ill-treated and poorly thought of he is by these supposed social superiors.

They address him as one would a mangy cur snooping in the trashcan, about to overturn a Hefty Sak of rancid leavings. "GET AWAY FROM HERE, YOU FRESH THING...GET OUT! OUT! OUT! OUT!"

Tubby may outwit these hoity-toity kids, but he does so at the sacrifice of his dignity. The psychotherapy community was designed for individuals like Tubby Tompkins. We are, thankfully, spared such potential titles as Marge's Tubby Therapy Time! and Tubby Traumas. The comix of Ivan Brunetti give us an approximation of what the adult Tubby might well be like...

# # #

Tubby comes out the victor in "The Lost Shoe." Wilbur and Gloria attempt a minor-league mind-fudge on erstwhile detective Tubby.

This prank is justified. Tubby has literally snowed the poor little rich boy, in a harsh moment of social humiliation. There is something quite real and jarring about Tubby's attack on Wilbur. For once, we, the readers, feel some understanding of Wilbur's point of view.

This story's most haunting moment is softly spoken, when we see Wilbur's fear of his father's anger. "I'd rather be out in the cold than in the house when father is in a bad mood," a subdued Wilbur confesses at the end of page one.

As wealthy patriarchs go, Wilbur's dad is a old softie in Stanley's world. His gripes concern something that's feasible and understandable--foot pain. Wilbur's highly vulnerable confession suggests that there are frightening moments in this high-faluting household. Stanley never shows us any of these moments. To know that they exist is enough.

Whoa--am I downer today or what? I forgot to mention how funny these two stories are. Stanley was at the top of his game in the mid-to-late 1950s as a writer. As I've said before, his weaving of dark and light gives his stories a resonance--even as they entertain us, they remind us, just a little bit, of life's harsh realities and hidden secrets.

OK...time for some more grapefruit juice!


Unknown said...

The response to the new Tubby comics was a resounding "YEEHAW!"

Gabriel said...

It's kind of funny; (with the exception of the Tubby's narcissism -he never is absolutely innocent) when Tubby stars in one of his stories it seems he plays the Lulu's role: he's the victim of the spoiled-posh kid, Wilbur. Even here, he's the chance winner like Lulu in her own ones.

Funny also the love that the little girl has for her beheaded dolly in the Alvin's wordless story. It would seem like she doesn't understand it lacks. As if the head wasn't over there originally. It's a deeper love than reality, isn't it?. But, when she chases Alvin to give him what he deserves, well, she relies on her doll turning it into a weapon. Is that a metaphor of the strength of love? :)

Father's anger is present in lot of Stanley's stories. Recently I was re-reading a Lulu's story called The Substitute (#69, I think). But here violence is much more explicit. "I guess it's safe to go in now... Pop's got only one good spankin' per day in him!", says a smiling Tubby.
Anyway, I think that the Wilbur's father anger Stanley hides from the reader makes me feel more awkward.

Please, forgive my speech...

comicsnstories said...

I love the way Stanley handled Tubby. More than anything, it's his character that always makes me laugh out loud when I read the Lulu book (or in this case, the Tubby book). There's a complete lack of logic to his character, and yet an amazing drive that amuses me to no end. My favorites are the stories where Lulu "hires" him to solve some kind of a mystery. After all, he's The Spider, and he calls himself that because he spins a.........yeah, Tub. We know.

Gloria said...

"The psychotherapy community was designed for individuals like Tubby Tompkins"

I beg to politely disagree. I'd say, without doubt, that this could be true of Charlie Brown, but not for Tubby. However delusional he may be about the prospects of wooing Gloria or the quality of his violin playing, Tubby seems to possess a well-stocked self esteem. Also while having his share of defeats, he happens to win every then and now, and, as the proverbial samurai, manages to rise after the fall.

That is, I personally doubt that an adult Tubby would need psychotherapy, and certainly not with Lulu around for friendly support and sound advice.