Maggie’s World 060: Remember Mopee?
Brent Frankenhoff posted on Facebook March 16, 2018, “Had a dream that Comics Buyer’s Guide was back and we had revived the Mopee Awards (our annual Golden Turkey Awards for those comics stories of the ’60s that just plain made no sense), but for modern-day stories. Maggie Thompson and I were working on page and cover design for the piece and even had a presenter lined up for an ‘awards’ ceremony at convention, but I woke up before learning who the ‘winners’ were and where we were going to have the ceremony. Isn’t that weird, Craig Shutt?”
Craig responded, “We would’ve held it in Wauconda (Ill.), because it’s nearly right but not quite, just like with Mopees!”
Craig was involved, because it was Craig (also known to CBG readers as Mister Silver Age) who had come up with the Mopees in the first place.
Some Stories Bewildered Readers
That first installment—reprinted in his Baby Boomer Comics (Krause Publications, 2003)—ran in CBG #1360 (December 10, 1999). He called attention to “the stories that left us with a tear in our eye, a lump in our throat, and a throbbing pain in our temple, as we tried to figure out what the heck was going on.” Craig named the Mopee Awards “for the dweeby little elf from The Flash #167 (Feb 67) who claimed to be the source of the lightning bolt that had given Barry Allen his powers.” (The story was written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Carmine Infantino and Sid Greene.)
Those who happen to have stacks of CBGs sitting around may note that follow-up installments ran in #1410 (2000), #1462 (2001), #1514 (2002), #1567 (2003), #1600 (2004) #1613 (2005), #1625 (2006), #1637 (2007), #1649 (2008), #1661 (2009), #1673 (2010), #1685 (2011), and #1697 (2012).
Mind you, Craig was demanding. He was looking for stories that met a number of requirements, including that the stories had to have been published during the Silver Age (a term to which he also devoted an article in that issue). They had to be from well-known series featuring well-known characters. (That technically disqualified Golden Age creator Carl Burgos’ “Captain Marvel.”)
Nearly two decades after Craig’s first column on Mopees, it’s still fun to consider comics that might be called the nadir of the art form. (Hey, there was actually a Golden Age hero named Nadir! He was a “master of magic” in DC’s New Adventure Comics in the 1930s, but anyway …)
Some Stories Were Just Freaky
What was up, for example, with Hillman’s Rackman? He was a little person who walked on expandable leg contraptions, hidden by his trousers. But … why, exactly?
And, while Gilberton’s Classics Illustrated series subtitled its output, “Featuring stories by the world’s greatest authors,” it was known to omit certain, um, essentials of those stories. Such as, in the case of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, the heroine and the point of the novel. Wups! Out of space! Read the doggoned book!
Scott Shaw! has a Facebook page titled Scott Shaw’s Oddball Comics. Among the most recent features are cover posts: of DC’s Blackhawk #230 (March 1967), when the World War II pilots were turned into “unimpressive” superheroes; of Harvey’s Thrill-O-Rama #2 (September 1966) with a villain whose brain went, “Snap! Crackle! Pop!”; and of Marvel’s Power Man #29 (February 1976), with a villain declaring, “Nobody laughs at Mr. Fish!”—whereas readers would clearly do just that. (Seriously, treat yourself to that Facebook page. Just saying.)
Craig Yoe is another pro with a fascination for weird comics, as a look at his Yoe Books catalog makes clear. He’s even produced a Weird Love series, not to mention two Super Weird Heroes projects.
There’s a Ranker website that includes ridiculous characters as a topic. (“Arm-Fall-Off-Boy” seems to have led the voting for a favorite. He was introduced in DC’s Secret Origins #46, December 1989—and bears a startling resemblance to Burgos’ version of Captain Marvel. By the way, Fortress Lad deserved a nod. Just saying.)
And there’s a Cracked essay that pays tribute to such characters as The Black Condor (introduced in Quality’s Crack Comics #1, May 1940—which also introduced Madam Fatal, who’s another character of interest).
Oh, heck, you don’t have to go that far afield (though you’ll have fun, if you do). Even classic comics characters could provide head-scratching concepts. Green Lantern’s ring in the Golden Age couldn’t help him against wood (or Solomon Grundy, blah, blah, blah, organic double-talk). But in the Silver Age? Yellow?
Noted in passing: Some had problems that amounted to a mild inconvenience. Freddy Freeman couldn’t easily chat with someone about Captain Marvel—and Billy and Mary Batson themselves couldn’t discuss the wizard who’d granted them their powers.
Decades ago, as editor of Amazing Stories, George Scithers provided would-be writers with a copy of Mark Twain’s review “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses.” Twain set out rules governing literary art in adventure fiction. They included, “That a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.”
Among the challenges to comics writers, Twain’s rules: “require that when the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject at hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.” [Twain said the requirement was ignored throughout Cooper’s Deerslayer.]
Storytellers who don’t want to end up in a future “Mopee” compilation might want to check out Twain’s full essay. But maybe I digress.
Of Course …
None of this answers Brent’s original question: What would be a contender for a Mopee Award in one of today’s comics?
I choose to suggest that there aren’t any, because all of today’s comics are flawless.
But keep that Twain essay at hand. Just saying.
Maggie’s World by Maggie Thompson appears the first Tuesday of every month here on Toucan.