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Remember the comics in BOYS' LIFE?

Posted by baronightwolf 
Remember the comics in BOYS' LIFE?
May 13, 2013 03:48PM
Those of us who were once Boy Scouts -- or at least had the misguided notion at any time in our lives of joining them -- all remember BOYS' LIFE ... which was essentially intended as a version of LIFE Magazine for Boy Scouts. Well, those of us who have ever read it were most usually LESS concerned about all the articles about camping and medals and leadership and living off the land than we were about the COMICS PAGES. Well, this thread is about those idiotic comics for Boy Scouts -- and about how well they may have warped young minds over the decades. My library time is now up, so I will elaborate -- LATER. To be continued ...

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/13/2013 03:49PM by baronightwolf.
Re: Remember the comics in BOYS' LIFE?
May 14, 2013 02:20PM
First things first.

I began my association with BOYS' LIFE around 1963, when I followed an ill-advised urge to join the Cub Scouts. Mercifully, I came to my senses before actually getting much beyond that, but I would still encounter monthly copies of BL in sundry libraries during school right up to my high school graduation. I don't remember encountering the mag at all during the 80s and 90s, but since the turn of the century copies seem to be just suddenly turning up a fair deal of the time now (I even found a copy of last month's edition) -- so of course a floodtide of very odd (and often awful) memories concerning BL comics came roaring back. And since I presently don't have an analyst, I decided that the best place for me to reflect on all that artless art would be HERE. And of course, as the Boy Scouts of America is once again in the news with its staunch stance for homophobia, it will be interesting to go over the comics I remember from the mag and see how they may or may not reflect the sundry problems which concern the BSA now and in the past. Or something like that. So first, let me go over the comics which I remember from the issues of BL I encountered while growing up. I can start by saying these comics fell into two major categories: comedy and high adventure (no ROMANCE, off course). Well, actually, the strips fell into FOUR categories, but those other two genres were Bible-stories and "True Stories of Scouts in Action". But of course, I intend to just tell about those strips intended ONLY for entertainment, so I needn't go into the other ones -- should I? So here's what it was like as I was growing up, and these were the major entertainment strips:

1. "Peewee Harris" -- This comedic strip about a blowhard of a Scout has been around since at least 1952, and is sort of a signature strip of the magazine. Harris has always been portrayed as a boy whose high ambitions were often impeded by his short-sightedness, the latter of which usually got him into trouble and/or misadventure. The strip still is regularly printed today, but the once highly professional artwork (sort of like the "Steve Canyon" comics) has been long replaced by a far more cartoonish style -- and Peewee himself has become much more like a buffoon than a marginally competent Scout with a number of rough edges.
2. "The Tracy Twins" -- The twins in this comedic strip were Cub Scouts, and the most usual plotline was the Twins being told some oddball story about some by-gone member of the Tracy family by their garrulous wiseacre of a Grampa -- during which the tale of the Tracy of the past was illustrated in all its mishap and/or idiosyncrasy. Sometimes, however, the Twins and Grampa had a misadventure of their own [like Grampa being bitten by a toy dog during Christmas shopping], and on certain occasions the Twins had a misadventure without Grampa [like when they built a wind-organ which they placed in a tree to pipe out a tune -- only to have it so rile the neighbors that one of them shot it].
3. "Rocky Stoneaxe" -- This strip which was supposedly a direct knockoff of a much earlier strip called "Piltdown Pete" ["Piltdown" as in "Piltdown Man": a famous fossil which was eventually exposed as a hoax]. It was perhaps the oddest of the comedic strips to appear in BL from the 1950s until the 1970s. The main characters were all supposedly cave-people (mostly cave-boys and cave-girls), but they spoke either like hillbillies or (much less often) stereotypical Native Americans -- and the strip regularly featured such anachronisms as money, eyeglasses, books, umbrellas, smoking-pipes, and such. And although the title character was a cave-boy who usually wore a leopard-skin and had crew-cut orange hair, the main character was actually the barefoot, checkered-robed, much-put-upon Pookie, who wore their hair somewhat like Alfalfa on 'THE LITTLE RASCALS' (save for the fraying of the central tip) -- and who may have been A GIRL! In actuality, depending upon the episode, Pookie was referred to as either "he" or "she", which in view of th BSA's continuing opposition to gay and transgender Scouts makes for a great deal of potential for interesting contemporary introspection. The series usually consisted of Pookie being harassed or tricked by Rocky and the other kids, or else Pookie's misadventures regarding various animals -- including dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures from time to time. The only regular adult character was the bearded, pipe-smoking Mr. Shadrock, who chiefly gave advise and/or told the kids ridiculous stories. Sometimes one or more of the kids would try to pull a nasty trick on Shadrock, who would retaliate with the usual spanking.
4. "Space Conquerors" -- This was one of two adventure strips which were presented in the 1960s through the 1970s. "Conquerors" was quite a bit like "Flash Gordon", but the starship was a standard flying saucer flown by a crew of American astronauts who went from planet to planet in an attempt to explore the universe -- only to always find themselves in some dire interplanetary intrigue or face-to-face with some peril from alien nature. Notable obstacles and menaces were: a society of bee-like humanoids who were all extensions of their imperious Queen, a body-disintegrating interplanetary plague, advanced genetic engineering and the animal-people it created, intelligent but evil giant ants, odd parasites which could manifest in humanoid or energy form, and the big-headed and multi-tentacled "Z'tor, ruler of all space".
5. "The Cave of Time": This adventure strip involved a modern-day (1960s) Navajo named Joe who during a hike took shelter from the weather in a cavern which turned out to be -- the legendary Cave of Time. After initially exiting into the Cretaceous Period, he soon rushes back to the Cave -- and each time he exits he's several million, thousand, or hundred years later. A fortuitious convention has him be returned alive to the Cave should he happen to die in the past -- and of course, he would once again find himself back in the past, but ever closer to the future which is his own time.

To be continued ...

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/14/2013 02:22PM by baronightwolf.
Re: Remember the comics in BOYS' LIFE?
May 16, 2013 02:13PM
In this installment, True Believers, I need to correct the previous statement about here being essentially FOUR categories of comic-strips in BOYS' LIFE. The actual number of categories can be construed as either SIX or SEVEN, depending upon one's notions of "comic-strips". Suffice to say that besides the aforementioned categories above, one might also include: literary adaptations, illustrations of historical events, and possibly also the numerous ILLUSTRATED DEMONSTRATIONS of first-aid or camping techniques and/or so forth. In those regards, only the adaptations of literature concern me here. They can be varied as "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court", "The Prisoner of Zenda", and even John Christopher's "Tripods" trilogy. And indeed, the aforementioned "Peewee Harris" is actually freely adapted from a book series.
(I also forgot to mention previously that "The Tracey Twins" was an early strip by Dik Browne of "Hagar the Horrible" fame.)
But now we come to the BL of today. I have to point out that ever since at least the 1990s that comic-strips had become such a significant part of the mag that there were actually two listings for them in each table of contents. Having not seen a copy of the mag since about 1974, I was VERY surprised when I began encountering copies of it about ten years ago with increasing frequency. Thus far, I've encountered back-issues going back to at least 1999 -- making for a gap of a quarter-century since I last had a regular familiarity with this publication. Of course the sundry articles about camping and community and such really aren't that much different from when I first read it, but as you know COMICS often reflect a society much better than more "serious" copy. But as far as the 25-year gap goes, there's much which is still unknown to me. I have NO idea what the comics in BL were like during the 1980s, but numerous references to 1990s BL strips exist, so I do know that in the early '90s BL featured:

1. "Norby, the Mixed-Up Robot" -- This was a humorous strip based on various children's books. Norby was a rebuilt but thoroughly dysfunctional robot who had numerous adventures on a rather odd planet in the far future. No doubt Norby took after such cinematic robots as R2-D2 and Johnny-5.
2. "Rupert the Invincible" -- This was apparently another humorous strip, with Rupert being a dumber and more incompetent version of Prince Valiant. The strip took place in the Middle Ages, of course.

Thus far, I've seen no artwork for "Rupert", but I have seen some for "Norby" -- and that art looks a bit like the standard artwork for such comics as "Dan Dare". It should be of note that as the 90s progressed that the artwork for the comics in BL took some very odd turns in regard to the newer series: Most of the art was done by a chap named Tom Eaton (who probably also scripted), and was deliberately "neo-psychodelic". As I said before, "Peewee" was still around (in its latest version), but the strips which came about as the new century dawned were considerably different in overall tone and depiction compared to those strips which came before them. And furthermore, there were even "guest spots" by such well-known strips as "Garfield" -- or even multi-issue tales of Marvel Comics' own "Amazing Spider-Man" -- from time to time. The latest issue of BL I've thus far encountered is the April 2013 edition, and it had only two entertainment-strips in it: "Peewee Harris" and "The Wacky Adventures of Pedro". I will go into length about Pedro next time, but I've recently found out that BL has taken to publishing TWO versions of the mag each cycle: a Cub Scout version and a Boy Scout version. As I would assume the Cub Scout version, which is geared to younger boys, might contain more entertainment-strips than the version for older boys, this probably means that most of the other strips I have seen in the mag during this century may still be being printed. In any event, prior to this latest edition, I had not encountered any BL issue after 2008. But from 1999 on, the previously mentioned two strips were still being printed along with these others:

1. "Broken Blade" -- This adventure strip began in 1999 and continued until either 2002 or 2003 (I think). It took place in eighteenth-century Canada, where a young boy was forced to work in the fur trade due to family tragedy. There was a lot of intrigue between French settlers and Native-Americans.
2. "Dink and Duff" -- This strip illustrated by Eaton follows the adventures and misadventures of two Cub Scouts: the sensible black Dink and the slightly over-enthused white Duff. Although the main gist of the strip is to illustrate core Scout values -- charity, environmentalism, community, fellowship, etc. -- it is set against bizarre landscapes with madcap trees, weird buildings, and dinosaurs and dinosaur-like critters, as well as aliens and other odd beings. Furthermore, the two Scouts have access to a 'Cub Bubble', which allows them to travel through time, space, and dimensions. Although the strip seems to focus on a given lesson, its outre elements often have it end with some odd punchline.
3. "Webelos Woody" -- Another Eaton strip, its title character is a Webelos-level Scout named Woody (Webelos being the highest Cub Scout rank). Dedicated but often impetuous, Woody is constantly advised and under strict scrutiny by his avian mentor Jake Parrot, a red and well-meaning bird who is sometimes joined by his amigo Senor Toucan. Although the backgrounds are rarely as psychodelic as they are in "Dink and Duff", aliens and/or other oddities often show up anyway. As with the previous strip, there is a strong emphasis on Scouts understanding and adopting core values -- although there is usually some punchline concerning aliens or other things at the end.

To be continued ...

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/16/2013 02:14PM by baronightwolf.
Re: Remember the comics in BOYS' LIFE?
May 18, 2013 02:17PM
And now I'll talk about -- PEDRO!

BOYS' LIFE'S mascot from seemingly the beginning has been Pedro the Mail-Burro, and BL has been as fond of him as Disney has been fond of Mickey Mouse. But for the longest time Pedro had never had a comic-strip of his own in the mag. For much of BL's existence, Pedro's major province was the mag's mail-page, known as "The Hitchin' Rack". Apparently from the very beginning readers of BL would address their correspondence with 'Dear Pedro' or some alternate reference to the character. I clearly remember certain letters from the 1960s addressed with something like 'Dear Don Juan Pedro de la Piedmonte', and I assumed this was supposedly Pedro's full name. But a fair percentage of letters would address him with far less dignified monickers: 'Dear Long Ears', 'Dear Long-Eared Lunatic', 'Dear Oat-Eating Oddball', 'Dear Hayburner Halfwit', 'Dear Hay-Munching Donkey Dude', and so forth -- but for the much larger part it was only 'Dear Pedro', and nowadays in this time of "respectful political correctness" letters are almost exclusively addressed simply 'Dear Pedro'. In any event, back when I first encountered BOYS' LIFE, "Hitchin' Rack" would be headed by a short story about Pedro (only a few paragraphs long) and some drawing of the "mule", as well as with a certain frequency a single-panel black-and-white sketch of some event in the given story. The "mule" drawings were quite varied, no doubt done by various artists; sometimes it was just a very realistic drawing of an ordinary, quadruped, four-hooved donkey, but at other times it was much more stylized. The story-sketches, however, were consistent and with a proper cartoon panache; most, if not all, of the sketches I remember may have been done by Dik Browne. As for the Pedro stories, they were essentially in plot and exposition like such TV sitcoms as "The Beverly Hillbillies" or "Dennis the Menace", or such TV cartoons as "Yogi Bear". The stories always told about some exploit or misadventure the mail-burro found himself in -- such as when his nemesis Farmer Crabapple hid a high-pressure hose in a maple tree Pedro was tapping; or when Pedro unintentionally caused an uproar in a sandwich shop when he pointed out that his submarine sandwich had been made without oats, alfalfa, and hay; or when Pedro wound up running for his life after mistaking a loose but harmless cow for the legendary Jersey Devil. It was all safe, run-of-the-mill highjinks meant to raise a chuckle or two. And as per the formula, even though Pedro was most usually the butt of the joke, he was able to make good or even get even in an appropriate manner upon occasion -- like when he was entering the local bank just as bank robbers were running out of it -- and the robbers got caught because they blubbered against Pedro's 'bulky belly'; or when he put a walkie-talkie inside a pumpkin in order to spook Crabapple. But MY favorite Pedro tale from the 1960s/1970s was when the hapless burro was visited by an IRS agent who claimed Pedro owed back-taxes -- so Pedro paid the guy in BALES OF HAY, claiming a "mere mule" wouldn't have access to MONEY.
Well, finally, sometime in the 1990s I think, "The Wacky Adventures of Pedro" finally debuted and continues today, but it is decidedly much different from the simple comedy of the old "Hitchin' Rack" tales. Illustrated in the mind-boggling full-color neo-psychodelia of Tom Eaton, Pedro is now much more of a latter-day Bullwinkle, and the mishaps and misadventures which plague him are far more like something out of "Red Dwarf" than "Sgt. Bilko". As illustrated in the old story-sketches, Pedro looked like a fairly regular if a trifle overweight donkey in spite of the sundry human attributes of bipedalism, arms, and hands, and he was usually unclothed save for possibly a bridle (without a bit, of course). But the contemporary Pedro is a much different animal: he is grey and rather small, and has a decidedly wonky-looking face with oddly lemon-shaped ears (oval, with nipple-like tips) and strange serrations between his nostrils (he claims they're wrinkles, but one reader asked if they were a fan); also, his tail is a bit overly long and his hind hooves are rather flat and shoe-like -- and he now usually wears a purple sweater. Also, although he is still sometimes called "pudgy", the current version of Pedro actually seems relatively svelt. In this comic, Pedro is the mail-burro for the town of Burropolis, but he also occasionally tries his hand at inventing and entrepreneurialism -- and it is these latter two things which for one reason or another keep getting him abducted by aliens, warped forward or backward through time, and/or subjected to a plethora of other science-fiction indignities. Interestingly, a major indignity Pedro often has to endure is bizarre transmutations and transformations -- and time and again finds himself transformed into anything from a bizarre alien to a gigantic robot to a microscopic amoeba. But somehow he always manages to be changed back into himself and returned home. Suffice to say, it's a lot more complicated than paying the taxman with hay.

To be continued ...
Re: Remember the comics in BOYS' LIFE?
May 29, 2013 11:51AM
And you know, I forgot about another regular BOYS' LIFE comic: The single-panel which is the centerpiece of the "Think and Grin" page. This is usually the last one or two pages of the magazine, and is the periodical's humor section ... wherein the readers send in their jokes and riddles. The jokes include such categories as 'Tom Swifties' ["It's getting sunnier," Tom said lightly.], 'Daffynitions' [Miser: A dough-nut.], 'Books Never Written' ["All About Mounties", by Roy L. Canadian.], and so forth. From the very beginning, apparently, there was a single-panel comic-strip which was found among all these jokes. Back when I first encountered BL in the 1960s, the strip was "Millicent", and the title character was a domestic elephant who was always being ridden for tiger-hunts or logging or just everyday transport. A typical punchline would have Millicent complaining to a fellow elephant: "I wish my driver would cut his toenails." Well, after some years but still in the 1960s, "Millicent" was replaced by "Bruce the Moose". Unlike Millicent, who talked but was otherwise not anthropomorphicized, Bruce stood on his two hind legs and used his front hooves as hands, just like Bullwinkle. A typical punchline would have Bruce with drying laundry hanging from his antlers while he told a fellow animal: "I took a short-cut through the suburbs." But for at least the past quarter-century the central single panel for "Think and Grin" has been "Gus", whose title character is a huge, very hairy, big-nosed white dog. Unlike "Millicent" or "Bruce", "Gus" is rendered in full color and is invariably joined by three or four other (smaller and nonserial) single-panel comics amidst the jokes. Gus doesn't talk and is hardly anthropomorphic, but like such comic-strip dogs as Marmaduke he's always clumsy and/or disruptive -- and that usually accounts for much of the humor.
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