Apr 20, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 55: The Montreal Standard Comics, Saturday, November 9, 1957

First, an apology. The "Ballad of the Fantastick" is not done, and might not be for a little while. My time is at a bit of a premium these days. Soon, I promise.

So, the something special I had planned. As a bit of a break, today I read a comics supplement from The Montreal Standard from 1957. I found this at a flea market years ago, and it was super well-preserved, along with the rest of the paper, because it's a commemorative issue about Queen Elizabeth II's visit to Ottawa that year. I checked inside, and there was a comics section. I have a collection called The Sunday Funnies, edited by Richard Marschall, which reprints comics supplement pages from 1896 - 1950, and I have one old front page of a supplement from 1937, but this one is the only complete one I've seen. That said, I remember reading the comics pages when I was a kid, looking forward to Bloom County every weekend. Part of me wishes I'd kept some of those now...

The nice thing about this paper is that it hits a bunch of the well-known names that one hears bandied about when speaking of mid-century comic strips. "L'il Abner," "Mary Worth," "Terry and the Pirates," "Bringing Up Father." As much as it's nice to see re-touched collections of this material appear, reading it in it's original form adds an experiential component to the experience. This is how a lot of comics were consumed 48 years ago. There's something I note in my upcoming, and much delayed, series on building a collection about comics from the dollar bin: the really beat up ones have a certain element to them. Almost as if a Benjaminian aura had been re-established around them by virtue of their having been read and loved. I don't know if this comic supplement has been read before, but it's in a form that was read in mass quantities, so the format of the medium, even though mechanically reproduced, asserts a temporal aura.

Enough of that. As for the comics themselves....I didn't enjoy them that much. There were one or two chuckles, mainly from a single panel gag cartoon called "Grin and Bear It," by George Lichtenstein. Some were obviously serials, and so dropping in halfway told me nothing. What I found interesting is that the serials fell into a number of different genres, rather than just an adventure model, which I had always thought had something to do with the old matinee adventure serials. But "L'il Abner" is obviously a domestic comedy, "Pogo" a strange mesh of about 4 genres through the lens of funny animals. So those I had a hard time getting into due to the serialization. The rest just seemed really culturally specific somehow. I'm reading Thierry Smolderen's The Origins of Comics right now, and I get the same feeling from the comics in this supplement that I get looking at the old reprinted broadsheets from the Victorian period in that book. I see that they're comics, they're using a visual and prosaic language I understand, but there's a cultural language bound up in it that I don't understand.

What worries me is that that can go the other way, and eventually I'll get to a point where I don't get contemporary comics because I will have become mired in a particular period. Aging is a funny thing.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this glimpse at an esoteric corner of the collection. I'm going to see about scanning more of this and talking about it a bit more, but my scanner won't accommodate it (I had to stitch that above picture together), so it'll be a bit. Not sure what's on deck for tomorrow, but it'll be something interesting, I'm sure. Til then.

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