DC Comics and That Beautiful Checkered Header

Detective Comics with that beautiful checker top

This was, by far, IMHO, the most beautiful comic book design in history.

I was a comic book nut growing up. I loved them all (except those yucky romance ones, of course). But the books that leapt off of the rack into my seven-year-old hands were these gorgeous DC comics with that distinctive checkerboard pattern at the top.

If you walk into my house, you’ll see that same checkerboard pattern in my floor. It’s timeless, classic, and beautiful.

I didn’t buy many issues in the 60’s. They cost twelve cents, and that would mean that I would have to go an entire day without candy. My allowance was two nickels a day. Do the math. It was easier to read them in the store, the tolerant owner of Moonwink Grocery allowing it.

Anyhow, in the mid 1970’s, there was a used book store that was open in the nearby community of Rogers, Arkansas. It was a gold mine for me, still into comics in my early-to-mid teen years. He had an incredible stash of comics dating to the late 50’s for TEN CENTS APIECE!

I bought every checker-topped DC comic he had. Most showed wear, but I had a Justice League of America in pristine shape.

The comics were stored at Mom and Dad’s house while I moved to California at the age of 21. When I eventually returned to the area and bought my own home in 1985, they gave them back to me.

However, I was now too busy to pay them any mind. In fact, I unloaded the entire lot at a yard sale not too long afterwards.

I like to think that they are receiving loving care at the hands of collectors. Whatever, they will live forever in my memories.

Classic, Vanished Comic Strips

Lil Abner comic from the 40’s

It’s amazing the changes in the comics pages over the years. The hottest comics out there didn’t exist in our childhood. And, as cartoonists inevitably age, strips either continue with new authorship, or die with the creator.

Peanuts had such a wealth of material, and it was material that had no connection with the world’s events when it was new, that it continues to run as a very successful daily despite the death of Charles Schulz. On the other hand, strips like the depicted Lil Abner were very in tune politically, so even though it is available today as repeats, it’s not a big hit.

I was always a huge fan of the comics. Even today, it’s the first part of the Sunday Paper that I read.

I will now try to recreate the Sunday funnies that I read circa 1968.

On the front cover are some familiar faces. Blondie, Snuffy Smith, and Beetle Bailey. Mort Walker is still drawing the venerable soldier, but the other two have been passed on to successors.

Opening to page two, there’s Freckles and His Friends. It was popular in the 60’s, sort of an alternate Archie.

Next down is Our Boarding House, otherwise known as Major Hoople. The perennially angry fez-wearing senior citizen’s favorite saying was “Fap!”

Then there was Pogo. I never dug Pogo, its humor was over an eight-year-old kid’s head.

Dondi was a daily strip about an orphan. I don’t remember seeing it in Sunday’s paper.

Our Boarding House cartoon from the 50’s

They’ll Do It Every Time taught us a history lesson in a whimsical way. It was generally a large single panel with lots going on. You could have fun learning about real events from the past with Hatlo’s History.

Out Our Way was a single panel strip on weekdays, I don’t remember what its Sunday incarnation was. It had two looks that varied from day to day, I guess from different artists who took turns, I’m not sure. It was adventures within a family called the Willets.

B.C. is another that has been around since the 60’s, and Johnny Hart shows no sign of slowing down. His Wizard of Id that he co-writes continues to be widely popular.

Little Orphan Annie and Dick Tracy were hugely popular old time comics that passed on to new artists, but who failed to keep the mystique going. I haven’t seen either of them in years.

Steve Canyon cartoon

Many serial comics were featured in the Sunday funnies of the 60’s. Steve Canyon, Prince Valiant, Terry and the Pirates, Rex Morgan, M.D., Alley Oop, Gasoline Alley, and Joe Palooka were some I remember.

There were also multi-activity strips. Today’s Slylock Fox was preceded by Cappy Dick, as well as a couple of others that escape my memory at the moment. If I think of them, I’ll get them added.

Priscilla’s Pop, Nancy, and the strangely mouthless Henry close out the back page.

We have some brilliant cartoonists today. IMHO, there is no humor as cutting edge as Dilbert’s Scott Adams. Pearls Before Swine rocks, as does Overboard. And geniuses who shined for but a short time, Gary Larson and Bill Watterson, set new standards of greatness.

But I still have fond memories of those glorious Tulsa World Sunday funnies and those long vanished strips.

Cigarette Ads Everywhere

Paul Hornung hawking Marlboro cigarettes

When television was in its infancy, it may well have foundered if not for the influx of advertising dollars from tobacco companies. Thus, many early shows featured cigarette brands as part of their names.

As television got bigger and bigger, the concept of a single sponsor for shows waned. This didn’t bother tobacco companies in the least. They simply swamped the airwaves with commercials.

Thus, we Boomer kids grew up with a steady diet of catchy ads designed to put into our minds the desire to someday smoke cigarettes, just like the grownups.

The ads were quite insidious. I remember the whistled “I’d walk a mile for a Camel”, Lark’s charcoal filter, The Marlboro song (which I later learned was actually the theme from The Magnificent Seven), the fact that you can take Salem out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of Salem, and many, many more.

During the early 90’s, there was a firestorm of controversy over the Joe Camel figure encouraging kids to smoke. Cigarette ads aired during the 50’s and 60’s weren’t really aimed at us, as I recall, but they were incredibly effective nonetheless. Why? Because smoking was absolutely, positively COOL. It was something that adults did, and what kid didn’t want to be a grown-up?

During the 60’s, ads were broadcast that WERE aimed at kids, showing the bad side of smoking. One that was repeated for years was this one, known as the “like father, like son” ad. This one, as well as many more anti-smoking spots, did serve as a discouragement to me, so that by the time I made it to high school, I viewed the gang who smoked out behind the shop as decidedly UNcool.

The generation of Boomer kids who grew up in the 50’s weren’t so fortunate. What they saw were irresistible ads that made no mention of any disadvantages of having a cigarette blasting smoke into the deepest recesses of one’s lungs. Thus, many, many of those old enough to be concerned with the draft were hooked.

Of course, it wasn’t just television. Radio ads extolled the benefits of one brand over another, and big, colorful magazines of the 60’s were loaded with full-page ads.

Thus, talk among kids of the neighborhood gang was of smoking, and how we could actually score a pack for ourselves.

Benson and Hedges ad from the 60’s

I display the Benson and Hedges ad because one day a bunch of us decided to give smoking a try, and the extra-long cigarettes seemed like the best bang for the buck. It felt extremely cool, to be sure, but when the pack was gone, I don’t recall any of us tempted to try it again.

The last cigarette ads aired on TV and radio on January 1, 1971. As I recall, practically EVERY ad was for cigarettes that day. Thus, my own children weren’t exposed to grammatically-challenged spots like “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should” or “Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch.” Indeed, even magazine advertising has been severely clipped since then, and long-standing traditions like NASCAR’s Winston Cup have been forced to choose another sponsor.

Ads for cigarettes are rare nowadays. And even though I thoroughly despise the concept of political correctness, I have no regrets that this particular Boomer memory is now considered heinous by the Well-Informed.

I had enough headaches raising my kids without the idiot box convincing them that smoking was cool.

For lots more info on old cigarette ads on TV, check out http://www.tvparty.com/vaultcomcig.html