July 06, 2011

There are Cartoons on My Kitchen Wall

           I’m not a big fan of comic books. A big fan? I’m not even a small fan. That’s not to say that I don’t like comic books, it’s just that I find them…well…how shall I say it?...I find them…geeky. Highly geeky. Incredibly geeky. Astronomically geeky. Geeky enough to make it into the Geek Hall of Fame, the inaugurations of which, I am sure, are probably held during the yearly Southern California assembly commonly known as Comic-Con, a sort of Lollapalooza or Burning Man for comic book fans, only without all the public nudity and consumption of psychedelics.

            Now, I know that comic books have come to be respected in recent years. And I know that comic books are inventive and creative and imaginative and innovative and whatnot. And I know that they are viewed as an “art form” into which a lot of work goes, storytelling, drawing, character development, and all the rest. And I know that comic books are actually referred to by anyone in the know, and by all those who wish not to be mocked, as “graphic novels.” They even have their own section in Barnes & Noble. Batman and the X Men movies, amongst other comic outlets, some as literary, and Pulitzer Prize winning, as Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, have proved to solidify the art form into the common parlance.

But all the same, I just could never bring myself to care one way or the other about comic books. They always seemed dated to me. Like something out of the 1950s for teenage boys. Like baseball cards. Or yo-yos. Or pin up girls.

Then my wife found an object lying out on the curb in front of The Paley Center for Media in Midtown Manhattan. Apparently, the custodians of the joint were doing a demotion or renovation of sorts, or maybe a simple cleaning of house, and many of the artifacts which had lined the walls of the place apparently had been deemed no longer fit to represent The Paley Center and subsequently had been put out on the street to die the death of the unwanted.

This particular item that my wife scooped up was a paint on Plexiglas rendering of a man and a dog overlooking a book written by a certain C.H.J. Waker (a name that to this day means absolutely nothing to me; exhaustive investigations into the origin of the aforementioned moniker have resulted in, precisely, zilch). The precise reason my wife grabbed this particular piece of garbage off the street, an act she has hitherto never been known to commit for any object of any value, was that the dog on the painting reminded her or her dog (i.e. our dog), a Wire Hair Fox Terrier named Oscar.

Upon completing a rudimentary amount of research, it was discovered by this prying mind that the duo in the painting (which we had professionally backed and framed) was none other that the famous Tintin and Snowy.

Alright. That’s great. Who are Tintin and Snowy?

As it turns out, a lot of people know who Tintin and Snowy are. The pair are even familiar to Steven Spielberg, who is currently putting the finishing touches on a live action feature film about the Belgian twosome (a tidy little fact I wish I’d known before I’d gone and gotten my Tintin and Snowy tattoo—see: photo—but more on that later).

Tintin and Snowy are the creation of one Hergé (AKA, Georges Remi—and here’s how his nom de plume works: Hergé is pronounced are-gee, like the letters R and G; the initials of Hergé’s real name, Georges Remi, are G and R, obviously; turn those initials around and you get R G, pronounced are-gee, Hergé, get it?). It should be noted that this Hergé, or Georges Remi, was a Nazi sympathizer during the Second World War, although I, the Recent Paterfamilias, feel it is neither fair, nor appropriate, to judge an artist’s art by an artist’s politics. I will say here that enjoy Hergé’s work, although, admittedly, his stuff must be looked at through an adjusted cultural and ethnically sensitive microscope. And of course one always hopes not to see the opinions of the creator (Hergé) in the form of his creation (Tintin).

But the reason I became such a fan of the Tintin comic books was not because of Tintin. It was because of Snowy. Snowy is awesome. Snowy, like any well-bred Terrier, is full of attitude. I have a favorite quote of Snowy’s from the dozen or so Tintin and Snowy adventures I’ve read: while prancing about the decks of an arctic-bound freighter in matching fur-lined coat, hat, and boots, Snowy says, via thought bubble, “I’m going to cause a sensation!” This statement sums up the personality of Fox Terriers to perfection.

I’m also not certain if I like Tintin and Snowy because of, or in spite of, the fact that, unlike other comic books, the protagonists are not superheroes. They have no super powers. Snowy is a Terrier and Tintin is a journalist. Tintin’s supernatural ability, I suppose, might consist of getting articles to press fact checked and in under deadline.

But all the same, it is Snowy the Wire Hair Fox Terrier that I like. Which is why I got that tattoo. Three weeks after I got that tattoo, our Wire Hair Fox Terrier, Oscar, for whom the tattoo was intended to honor, was dead from a very short, but very painful, battle with thrombocytopenia (the resultant tattoo-related superstitions inherent in my body art decision are currently scheduled to be discussed and elaborated upon in a future Note from the Paterfamilias). But that original piece of art, or “found item,” of paint on Plexiglas, is still there, hanging in our kitchen, a fan favorite of many who pass our threshold.

I can’t say that my impression of comic books, or graphic novels as I understand they are called, would have been altered as much if my wife had brought home a Cowboys and Aliens or Green Lantern painting she’d found lying on the side of the road, although, had the cowboys or the aliens or the Green Lantern or Rocketman or Captain America or Kavalier or Clay have had as a trusty sidekick a good-looking, beauty-boy of a pure-bred, show-quality Terrier, this paterfamilias might have been persuaded. It all comes down to the sidekick, I suppose, and in my view at least, Robin and Jughead and Aqualad and the She-Hulk simply do not possess the same je ne sais quoi. But, frankly, how could they?

Brief Side Note: She-Hulk? Really?


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