Thursday, February 26, 2009



The world changed so quickly after WWII, yet I was still privy to the slow pace of life without television. Today it’s actually newsworthy if a four-year-old kid is found a mile from home. Back then I’d be turned loose with my mother’s blessing (and to her temporary relief). I remember seeing a rack of comics in a variety store. It was mid afternoon and the sun was hitting them in such a way that the ones closest to the window were streaked in light and the titles that were stacked on the siderack had those garish and brilliant colors that weren't seen in such dense proximity anywhere else in the marketplace. Only dreams could compete—dreams of pure color which anticipated the wild Parchesi boards of acid visions down the road. Later at college I read an essay by Kandinsky about his relationship to color as a small child (he called it praeternatural color) and how that sensibility dulled over the years. I understood completely. Only the acid brought it back. I preferred the off-brand DC Funny Animal titles to the pristine Disney comics--especially Fox and Crow. There was something kind of brash and human about them. I especially liked the lettering, which was slightly ham-fisted and calligraphic when compared to the mechanical perfection of the balloons over Carl Barks’ antics. I understood only “THE,” “YOU,” “AND,” “I,” etc. I slept on the top berth of a bunk bed. There was a recessed tray that spanned the length of the mattress. That was my auto-didactic learning center. I copiously copied the balloons over and over again until certain shapes registered as words. It was important to me what sequence and position those pages were in, because there was a lot of trial and error in my intuitive search. The top pages had the latest discoveries, but I didn’t want the earlier successes to be covered. To take a break from my arduous efforts, I stared directly at the overhead light fixture, just a few feet away. It had a nautical compass motif, so that the NSE and W were orientation points for the entire world. My current eye problems and fixation with perspective space were probably set in motion by this regimen. One day I came home from school to discover that my mother had gotten rid of every scrap of those papers! She wouldn’t cop to the misdeed, either. She went about her labors impervious to my primal shitfit on the floor.The variety store where I encountered my first comics was soon destroyed by a fire. We went by and saw the gutted place in complete ruination through the shattered store front window. It was my first collision with the alchemical adage: As Above, So Below. The finalityof my lost papers was now mirrored in the ruins of that same store where I had first seen that twirling treasure trove of words and images!So eventually, the round screen Zenith arrived and the thought of claiming solace or even wanting it became a dubious proposition. My roving days were cut short. Then came the Catholic church with its medieval dogma and magic. The stained glass hearkened back to the praeternatural color, but the brilliant spectrum seemed secondary to the iconography that it served.