Monday, June 25, 2007

In the Old Days

Hello again; It's been a while since my last post, I've been a busy little rascal, hating on several different comics (especially "A Distant Soil" - man, that was incomprehensible. Either Colleen Doran is taking way too many drugs or she's just lost it and she's living alone with fifty cats).

One comic I don't hate is called "Out Our Way" by J. R. Williams. It's a strange comic to read. The dude wrote it between 1924 and 1955, and it's about being nostalgic for days thirty or so years past. That is to say, if you were like fifty years old in 1924 and you picked up a copy of the paper and read the comic, you'd say "Oh yes, that character's predicament reminds me of what I was like when I was 20 years old in 1894".

Yeah - the humor in the comic comes at you from weird angles. You have to stare at it a while to figure out what the hell was supposed to be so funny about it. They're jokes written for a time that's more than a half century past and they're nostalgic for another time before that.

Here's a relatively recent example (drawn in 1950). In it, it's hard to figure out what the hell's going on. You have to look close at the man's jacket and piece together the relations of everyone in the damn picture.

It's full of folksy wisdom that is really really odd. To my mind, it paints a swell picture of the feelings of the American people faced with great and sweeping technological change. Reading it, you realize that though we Americans weren't exactly barbarians that long ago, we still had a lot of frigging hay to brush out of our ears. It's almost like the people he writes about, their ways are way too far past "quaint"; they seem almost primitive (but they're not, of course; primitive people live in the 3rd world).

Witness the following cartoon: I'm inclined to wonder exactly how common of an occurrence this situation was. Considering it was in a daily cartoon in 1950 and published by a whole mess of newspapers for hundreds of thousands of readers, it's not a stretch to imagine people from those days wouldn't think of this as something completely unfamiliar. Consider the woman's dire pronouncement, too. What other weird crap did those old fogeys know that's now completely lost to us thanks to that bitter hag?

Right, and the caption - "Born thirty years too soon". It took me a while to figure out what the hell that meant. I like to think of it this way: suppose you order a pizza and you expect it to be at your house in 45 minutes. However, as soon as you hang up the phone, the pizza guy's at your house and ringing your bell. In this case, the pizza arrived 45 minutes too soon. So in the captions above and those that follow, "born thirty years too soon" meant that whoever the main character was in the 1950s was supposed to have been born in 1920; that way he'd be all caught up with the strange technological menace sweeping the pristine American land in 1950. Or something. Hell, I don't get it. Leave a comment if you can figure it out.

This next stupid comic was from 1952. It's pretty self-explanatory. What's weird is that what the young lady's doing doesn't seem weird at all. The grandmother, however, is pretty frigging pissed. The mother is sort of resigned to it. We in 2007, however, are left baffled.

Oh yeah; it was also automobile time back then. In the next cartoon, we learn that back then (whenever the hell - 1950, I think) a bunch of people were using horses a lot in their daily lives, like every single day. Then the automobile came, and "newfangled" wasn't simply a word used to goof on old people. Back then, when an old person said "newfangled" they meant it and they would get really pissed off at you if you laughed at what they said:

Yeah, technological change was rampant back then. Even stuff we totally take for granted, like, stuff that's utterly ubiquitous nowadays, it used to be strange and new. Man, that's totally weird, you know? Like, even really stupid stuff, those idiots back in 1930 had to sit around like a bunch of jerks and wait for it to get invented:

And lots of people back then (apparently) were really nervous about not being a part of the changing times that were sweeping the nation. This next comic from 1946 (for crying out loud) shows a young girl trying to avoid social stigma to which her father is completely oblivious. He can't figure out what his daughter's problem is, the dumb hick. And this is in 1946!

Lastly, the following comic appeared in newspapers in 1950. It's not that difficult to get, but I mean, crap, even something as stupid as a radio was giving these people problems. I don't even have a radio in my house anymore! Well, actually I have a clock radio but I only listen to it on alternate months beginning with "J". Does anyone even have a tape player in their house in 2007?

Anyway, that's only a little bit of "Out Our Way". I'm not really goofing on it too hard. And I sure as heck don't think things were better back then. Those were different times than ours, but not completely unrecognizable. I like the angles the jokes come at me from these comics, and the guy's actually a pretty good artist.

If you figure out what "born thirty years too soon" is supposed to mean, let me know.

No comments: