Santa Clauses Good, Bad, and in Between!

« Talk about cheap – on Christmas Eve, my neighbor shoots off three blanks and tells his kids Santa Claus just committed suicide. » — Milton Berle

We hope this Christmas day finds you healthy and happy, whether you’re spending it quietly with the nearest and dearest, or stranded far from your family. We all do the best we can.

In a slightly different, yet somehow appropriate, vein… the following Christmas story by Max Andersson is a bracing antidote to the usual syrupy cheer of December 25th. As co-admin RG aptly put it*, in Andersson’s world, malevolence is the status quo, and this Jekyll-and-Hyde version of Santa Claus will fluff up the fur of the staunchest anti-Christmas reader.

*Read A Secret, Silken World: Max Andersson’s “Lolita’s Adventures”

Good Claus Bad Claus was published in Zero Zero no. 7 (Jan-Feb 1996, Fantagraphics).

As a bonus, we are including the no less cynical, but quite satisfying, back page of Death & Candy no. 1 (December 1999, Fantagraphics). Santa had it coming!

Ho-ho-ho (down the shaft), merry Christmas to all of our kind readers!

— Daria and Richard

Rick Geary and The American Bystander

« You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I’m telling you why —Santa Claus is coming to town. » — Haven Gillespie

Taking stock, I can’t help feeling that the singular Rick Geary (b. 1946) is a creative force that’s taken for granted. He’s been consistently chugging along at a dizzyingly high level of erudite inspiration and craft since the mid-70s. His work has been recompensed and saluted several times (an Inkpot from the San Diego Comic-Con in 1980; a Magazine and Book Illustration Award in 1994 and a Graphic Novel award in 2017, both from the prestigious National Cartoonists Society…) yet he’s remained kind of a well-kept secret, a cartoonist’s cartoonist. Even as he turned up in countless anthologies, in most cases, it felt as if he didn’t quite belong, didn’t exactly jibe with the respective audiences of, say, Dark Horse Presents or Pulse (on the other hand, High Times wasn’t a bad fit!).

Still, it’s fair to say that his following is one quite discrete from the comics mainstream. The Geary devotee must ever remain vigilant, for one never can anticipate his next move.

Which brings me to The American Bystander, which Newsweek deemed « The last great humor magazine », and to which Geary has been contributing since its second issue… and for once, it feels like home.

The Bystander, according to Wikipedia…

… features contributions from many notable comedy writers, illustrators and cartoonists. The Bystander is designed to provide a classic print humor magazine experience similar to that delivered by National Lampoon, SPY, Harold Hayes-era Esquire and many others in the pre-internet era. Yet according to The New York Times, The American Bystander “does not just belong to the tradition of defunct magazines like The National Lampoon and Spy. Its nostalgic, lightly witty style evokes influences that have been dead even longer, like the raconteur Jean Shepherd and the sophisticated stylist Robert Benchley.”

Mr. Geary’s magnificent cover for The American Bystander no. 9 (Fall, 2018). « Have Gun, Will Travel — Wire Santa, North Pole »

The Bystander‘s editor-publisher, Michael Gerber, exults: « In addition to his civilian fans, Rick Geary is one of those illustrators that other illustrators love, and I am with them all 100%. This drawing, entitled ‘New Mexico Christmas’, appeared in my inbox mere moments after I’d given Rick the assignment — which is why editors love him, too! »

While this ever-industrious auteur has produced graphic novels galore in the glorious Geary fashion, I remain fondest of his short-form pieces. Here’s a choice handful plucked from Bystander issues.

From The American Bystander no. 7 (Winter 2017).
From The American Bystander no. 8 (Summer 2018).
From The American Bystander no. 9 (Fall 2018).
From The American Bystander no. 10 (March 2019).

And while ’tis the Season, I would be remiss in neglecting to mention that TAB’s latest issue no. 18, is hot off the presses. More details here. And should you crave to sample the goods… gratis — that option’s on the table as well!

This is The American Bystander no. 18, boasting this festive cover by Rick Meyerowitz.

That said, Happy Holidays, everyone. Be merry but above all be safe!

-RG

Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 20

« When the mind is thinking, it is talking to itself. » — Plato

The waning years of the 1950’s marked the beginning of the monster craze, which coincided with Mad Magazine’s ripest period of influence. Here, then, is a publication that sought to capitalize on both occurrences. Alas, chasing fads too eagerly always did land you all-too-promptly in the cultural ditch. Still… Thimk had its moment.

This is Thimk no. 3 (Sept. 1958, Counterpoint). Edited by Alan Whitney, cover by Sam Hayle (1911-1996), who later did a bit of work for Cracked.
This is Thimk no. 4 (Dec. 1958, Counterpoint); cover by Sam Hayle. Elvis finds out first hand how fickle teenyboppers can be, and how a two-year army hitch might as well be an eternity, as far as they’re concerned. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown!

Thimk was a short-lived (6 issues, 1958-59) would-be Mad, also in the black and white magazine format.

One holiday gleefully bleeds into another… this is Thimk no. 5 (Feb. 1959, Counterpoint). “Free… for 25 cents!”
Thimk no. 5‘s back cover… a well-aimed barb at Viceroy Cigarettes.
And some samples (there were many, many more!) from the object of parody, Viceroy’s The Man Who Thinks for Himself ad campaign. Lookit all them deep thinkers! (Martin Fry, cancer survivor, bottom left)
And it wasn’t to be the last Viceroy parody, either: the brand was also an early Wacky Packages target. This entry hails from Series 1, featuring a rough concept by Art Spiegelman painted by Norman Saunders (1973, Topps).
Heads up, Marlon… some… thing is about to cut in for a dance. Is his date dismayed or delighted? Last call: Thimk no. 6 (May 1959, Counterpoint) was the final issue. Cover art, again, by Sam Hayle.
From Think to Thimk in one easy step. What began as a ubiquitous IBM slogan soon, inevitably, led to parodic counterpunches.
During the late 50s, it spread seemingly everywhere.
Legendary Detroit DJ Paul Winter (station WXYZ) got in on the act early (1957). Here’s a sample, Fallout, featuring Charlie Byrd on guitar!
And of course, the great Steve Ditko took the slogan to heart (and mind), famously making his own sign. I wonder where it is now.

-RG