Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Flashback: Dogpatch U.S.A. 1984

Li'l Abner was an incredibly popular and successful comic strip that appeared in tons of newspapers for most of the 20th century.  The story followed the misadventures of a kooky cast of bumpkins in the fictional Appalachian town of Dogpatch.

The strip became so popular that in 1968 an 800 acre Li'l Abner themed amusement park opened in Arkansas.  It closed in the early 90's but for several decades it thrived and welcomed visitors from all over.  After going through some old photo albums I learned that apparently my grandparents (and great aunt & uncle) were among them.

Other than the old Alley Oop park in west Texas, it's hard to think of a comic strip that made the transition into the tourist destination genre.  Sure, Charlie Brown and the gang may show up at Knott's Berry Farm but other than some statues in a park in Minnesota they haven't gone "full theme park" yet.

Like any good theme park, Dogpatch had costumed characters for your enjoyment.  Characters from the strip came alive like the hero, dim-witted Abner:

And of course, his love interest (with whom he was ridiculously uninterested) Daisy Mae:

Thankfully, the gang picked up some postcards so we can get a better look at the place:

They were also able to snag some (what I assume are called) Dogpatch Dollars.  I don't know if they were meant to be used the same way as "Disney Dollars" or if they were just goofy souvenirs but here's a couple of bucks worth:

These days Dogpatch U.S.A. is in ruins with pretty much all of the interesting decor picked clean by souvenir seeking scavengers.  From time to time there is talk about a possible re-opening but I think the only way to visit will be through old photo albums. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Lark in the Park

I'm not sure if Theodor Geisel, A.K.A. Dr. Seuss, had ever been to Texas but he clearly has a lot of fans in the state.  Particularly in the West Texas town of Abilene, known as the "Storybook Capital of Texas."   That's where you'll find Everman Park which is home to six sculptures of the good Doctor's most popular work.

Let's take a stroll in the park and see what we can see.  Starting with...

Perennial trouble maker and world's worst babysitter, The Cat in the Hat is the first sculpture in the park.  His book was first published in 1957 and he is easily Dr. Seuss' most popular creation.

Next up is "Sam-I-Am" from "Green Eggs and Ham" which was published in 1960 and introduced a breakfast menu that kids all over the world would covet for years.

The Turtle Tower from "Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories" stands tall as the next sculpture on the tour.  The book was published in 1958.  It contained three stories but Yertle was clearly the break out star.

Appropriately, the Lorax stands surrounded by the trees for which he speaks.  The environmentally conscious character's book was published in 1971.

Seasons greetings are offered year round by the Grinch and his faithful dog Max.  Before the TV special, movie and merchandise onslaught, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" was published in 1957.

And finally there is Horton who is listening intently for all time to the tiniest of tiny friends.  His book "Horton Hears a Who!" was published in 1954.

All the sculptures were created by artist Leo Rijn and they fit in nicely in downtown Abilene.  The entire area is full of other whimsical works collectively known as the Storybook Sculpture Project.  It's worth a stop on your next West Texas road trip.  Don't forget to bring your camera.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Flash Fried

Freebie promotional comics have been common for years.  We all breathed a little easier when Captain America fought the Asthma Monster and it was an exciting roller coaster ride when the X-Men visited the State Fair of Texas.  Sure these books are a little cheesy and they are clearly part of the marketing monster we all live with but, intentionally or not, they can be fun.

Fast food restaurants have been taking part in the fun for years with Captain D's setting sail on the four colored seas a few decades ago, among others.  Not to be outdone by a Captain, Colonel Sanders recently decided it was time to jump from the chicken bucket to the comic pages, and thus, we get "The Colonel of Two Worlds" from DC:

I love that instead of the often overused Big Guns of the DCU (Superman & Batman) they used the Flash as the main hero.  It probably helps that he has a hit show on the air currently but, hey, it's his time to shine.

The story begins with the Mirror Master bringing Captain Cold up to date on his latest plan.  Tying in with the New 52 story Forever Evil, MM plans to bring over another ne'er-do-well from the evil Earth-3 to help them with their nefarious plans to rob banks and whatnot.  But instead of a member of the Crime Syndicate, or anyone that might make sense, he chooses the Colonel Sanders of Earth-3: Colonel Sunder!

It soon becomes clear to the two Rogues that this might not have been the best All Star Team-Up since Sunder's plan seems to involve doing practically nothing while the two of them are forced to take thankless jobs in his crappy restaurant:

Sunder steps up his game after awhile when he starts glory hounding for attention by bragging about how bad his chicken is and how little effort he puts into it.  It can be assumed that this is a common advertising method on Earth-3.  Possibly the Bizarro World as well.

Well that's about all a certain Southern Earth-1 gentleman can stand and so Colonel Sanders decides to enter the fray:

Hey, remember how the Flash was supposed to be in this?  Well, he finally makes his appearance at this point, complete with an all-new, unnecessarily redesigned costume that includes unnecessary extra elements.  The Flash costume has historically been revered for being sleek and streamlined but those days are over:

Green Lantern is also involved but he really doesn't do anything of any consequence.  He just seems to be hanging out, which I guess super heroes do from time to time.  In fact, the Flash really doesn't do much either.  The real hero of the story is Colonel Sanders and he proves he is a man of action as the two Justice Leaguers try to catch up.  It doesn't take long for Sanders to run afoul of Sunder and we get the Colonel vs. Colonel showdown we've been craving:

Not only does Colonel Sanders' military training immediately kick in but he seems to have an overflowing bucket of special skills and possible super powers: from hurling a table into Sunders' "Nugget Gun" defense system, to being able to withstand the dreaded "Pink Slime Ray."  He's able to shrug it off with what appears to be another white suit that he has on underneath his signature threads:

 As you can guess, good eventually triumphs over evil while the Flash is protecting bystanders from the deep fried fracas.  Captain Cold and the Mirror Master don't do a whole lot either.  At this point these seem to realize the error inherent in teaming up with an Earth-3 tyrant who only seems to be interested in bragging about how bad his food is.  So once things cool down they all head to their local KFC franchise to break biscuits:

And if that isn't a happy enough ending for you the Colonel shows why is he known far and wide as a compassionate warrior and offers the two Rogues the best fate ex-cons can have: full time employment at Kentucky Fried Chicken!

 I know we are all hoping that this story remains in continuity.  The potential is nearly endless.  I see a story line where Colonel Sanders is offered Justice League membership but he turns it down because he thinks they're all a bunch of jive turkeys.  Or maybe a spin-off title featuring Captain Cold and Mirror Master working their way up the chain to finally owning their own KFC franchise?  Once that happens...imagine the shenanigans!  Imagine them!!!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Comic Sighting at the Dallas Zoo

A recent trip to the Dallas Zoo led to another discovery of comics being used for educational purposes.  Inside the Insect House you'll find any number of creepy crawlies as well as this collection of insect inspired comic books:

Spider-Man, the Tick, Blue Beetle and even Ambush Bug are represented.  I'm not entirely sure of the educational merit of the display but anything that promotes comics to kids is a good thing.

The obligatory fanboy nitpick would be the inclusion of Doctor Octopus but maybe the animal experts at the zoo can make some genetic connection between octopi and bugs.  I'll leave that to the professionals. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Good Place to Read

We find ourselves in Charlotte, NC for the time being and we are taking the opportunity to have a look around.  Our fist stop is a park called "The Green."  And if you weren't in the mood to pick up a good book before you visit, you will be after.

Stacks of bronze classics welcome you at the park's entrance and set the literary mood for your park experience.  The theme continues as you walk the trails reminding you of the works of the greats as well as giving you a some geographical trivia.

Signs like these are everywhere:

And on one end stands "Brick Kids - Life is an Open Book" as well as the historic Ratcliffe’s Flowers Sign which was moved here from it's original location:

Go grab a comic and find your own cool place to read!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Happy Wholloween


It's that time of year again and our costume tradition continues!  Since this is the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, Katie insisted on being all eleven Doctors.  Check her out:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cape Fair

While taking my yearly pilgrimage to the State Fair of Texas, I turned a corner at the Auto Show and was surprised to find enough Superman suits to fill a Fortress of Solitude:

Apparently the Superman 75th Anniversary Costume Tour made a stop at the fair.  Highlights include Christopher Reeve's costume from Superman III:

Dean Cain's costume from Lois & Clark:

Brandon Routh's costume from Superman Returns:

And a few costumes from the recent Man of Steel movie including Superman:


And Faora:

Maybe the exhibit will fly to your town soon!