Mad skills

Today’s Zippy, which presents an exercise in comics comprehension:


If you don’t recognize the goofy freckle-faced icon Alfred E. Neuman — two-thirds of his name is supplied in the last panel —  and the “weird magazine” (first panel)  he represents — alluded to in the strip’s title “Don’t get him mad” (Mad Magazine, get it?, founded in 1952 (second panel)) — then the strip is just some sort of incoherent rambling through odd ideas and images. A tale told by an idiot.

I never attempt to explain everything in a Zippy strip — there’s just too much — but I can usually point out a lot. In this case, I don’t know what the magic elixirs in 19th-century seed catalogs (first panel) have to do with the rest of the strip, nor can I identify the work shirt and cap in the last panel. But there’s still a lot I can say.

The title. This is there to get the word mad on the page. The allusion is to the line from David Banner / The Incredible Hulk:

Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

(Then, of course, the addressee makes Banner angry, and he transforms into the Incredible Hulk, the extraordinary un-jolly green giant.)

The Alfred E. Neuman figure.  In all three panels. It’s a recurrent figure in Zippy strips, often commented on in this blog: some version of the Muffler Man fiberglass giants that used to dot American roadsides, loomingly advertising all manner of commercial establishments. Here’s a Happy Half-Wit figure from the abandoned Dort Mall in Flint MI (since moved to Hayward CA):


From the Roadside America site:

The Alfred E. Neuman “Happy Half-Wit” is a standard (though odd) variety of Muffler Man. The custom shirt worn by this giant was created for his brief appearances in the 2008 Will Ferrell film “Semi-Pro.”

Happy Half-Wit seems to be some mixture of Neuman and Mortimer Snerd, and is sometimes identified as Snerd.

In #1, the fiberglass man appears as only a (decapitated — see the second panel) head, or a (literally disembodied) head and torso. I haven’t found such a version of Happy Half-Wit, but (knowing the care Bill Griffith puts into these things), I have no doubt that there is one somewhere, in fact one in work clothes like those in the last panel.

Kelly Freas. For whatever reason, the influential SF artist / illustrator / cartoonist pops up in the second panel. From Wikipedia:

Frank Kelly Freas [pronounced like “freeze” and like the more common surname Fries] (August 27, 1922 – January 2, 2005) was an American science fiction and fantasy artist with a career spanning more than 50 years. He was known as the “Dean of Science Fiction Artists” and he was the second artist inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

Four examples of his work, with aliens, sexy women, monsters, heroes, and space explorers:





Yes, genre art, meant for a popular audience, but (in those terms) remarkable.

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