Sunday, May 16, 2010

More Mockery of the Idle Rich [and the Antiques Scene]: "Andy Panda," from New Funnies 126, 1947

Tidbits come and go all over the internet: this posting from April, 2010 in the animation guild blog offers a piece of original New Funnies cover-art from issue #161 (1950; post-Stanley).

While the TAG post has mostly supposition and errors, it does offer one nugget of information. The artist is credited as Dick Hall. He is one of the mystery artists of John Stanley's New Funnies work. If this information can be trusted, then Hall is a vital component of Stanley's NF period.

(UPDATE: Alberto Beccatini wrote on the guild blog that he feels this is Dan Gormley's work. That makes more sense than Dick Hall. I now think that Dick Hall is the artist of the first couple of Woody Woodpecker Four-Color one-shots, which may or may not be Stanley-written. I can't make up my mind about those two comics. If they're not Stanley's writing, they're by another darn good writer, with a comparable sense of the absurd. Jury is still out...)
It was easy to find the published version of this cover, from issue 161 of the Lantz funnybook:

And, while I'm at it, I might as well post another Stanley-written New Funnies story. I promise I'll lay off these for awhile--altho' I'm running out of other new stuff to present here, unless I double-dip into Dark Horse and Drawn + Quarterly's publishing schedules.

This story appears to be by the same artist as the cover piece above. This was done three years earlier, so it's likely that Hall (or whomever) further honed his skills by 1950. Still, it's pretty sharp cartooning, with much invested in the characters' expressions and intentions. This is a big component of what makes Stanley's Lantz material work so well.

The characters, themselves, are ciphers. Stanley invests them with believable neuroses, cognitive biases and other quirks that, like Carl Barks' Donald Duck cast, makes them come alive. This cannot be said, in any way, about the "official" animated counterparts.

This story contains some favorite Stanley themes: the idiocy, greed and brusqueness of the well-to-do; the sheer hooey of antiques, fine art and the deluded souls who lust after such things; status-based anxiety; and, of course, anti-social [but self-justified] behavior. Post-war kids got a lot of subtext for their dime!

Longtime readers may recall this story from the original Stanley Stories site. These smallish scans are the same that appeared five years ago. They're better than other digital scans of this issue I've found, so... there you are.

Stanley is in rare form throughout this story. He devotes the story's first two pages to a display of Charlie Chicken's duplicitous behavior--and Andy's indulgence of same. This is character-enriched comedy on the level of Laurel and Hardy.

And, like the leisurely style of L&H, this scene is allowed to play out as long as is needed. There is no bright action to start this story: just two interior-scene pages of characters talking. (It takes another two pages to get our protagonists out the door!)

One gets the sense that Andy is accustomed to his mail being steamed open, and pre-read, by his domestic partner. Andy does fly off the handle, on occasion--he even threatens to kill Charlie in one 1946 story. By this time, nothing can surprise him. Privacy is not an option in this suburban household!

Once chicken and panda leave the house, an early instance of Stanley's jet-stream sitcomix begins. This story presages the type of frantic, brassy humor plied in Kookie, Dunc 'n' Loo, Nancy and Sluggo and other late Stanley works.

This vein of Stanley comedy pits well-developed protagonists against broad representational "types"--beatniks, fine artists, antique collectors, the wealthy, specialists and obsessives in general. These characters are unfazed by the protagonists. They WANT something, and this need is all they live for. We're encouraged to ridicule their desires, as they're usually Quixotic.

Stanley's Evil Rich are a breed apart. They have confidence and wealth on their side. Nothing can stop them. They resent the (usually middle-class) protagonists' intrusion into their inner circles. Thus, they become arrogant, prickly antagonists.

Sometimes Stanley seems to have a chip on his shoulder via these high-status characters, and their desires. When he relaxes this bias, he can create sterling comedy: witness page 8 of this story, in which an arrogant man of wealth bids on, and wins, an antique chair--just so he can have something to sit on at this SRO auction!

An object of desire, in Stanley's world, becomes contagious, once identified. Page 6, panel 3 is a superb comedic example of this tendency.

The story's narrative stakes hinge on another, unseen scion of the Evil Rich: Andy's Aunt Penelope, who is also absurdly near-sighted. In the end, all the trouble our heroes endure is trivial. The judgmental rich relative is too blind to notice whether the expensive vase is cracked or not.

Without a clear objective, Andy and Charlie might have easily squandered a dozen pages bickering over the letter, and the issue of Andy's invaded privacy. Many days in these characters' lives appear to have been so blissfully wasted.


Thad said...

Wow, thanks for not crediting me with helping with the identification, because I didn't. Just another example of the dangers of trusting your memory. I'm glad you got a positive ID for the artist.

nyrdyv said...

Ya just can't beat some of the classics for comic book nostalgia.


Steven G. Willis