Treasured Stories: “Christmas Dinner” (1979)

« She kept her ears permanently tuned to the chicken voices outside, so knew immediately when a coyote had crept into the yard, and barrelled screaming for the front door before the rest of us had a clue. » ― Barbara Kingsolver

Given how muted the holiday season is likely to be for most of us, and in light of how much our readers appear to enjoy our past Christmas offerings — (all year long!), I’d thought I’d get an early start on the festivities.

Here’s a fine, but truly obscure little Christmas fable. It was buried in the back of an issue of The Unknown Soldier, at a time when the DC war line was well into its final decline.

… as much of a ‘very merry Christmas’ one may possibly enjoy in the midst of war, far from home and loved ones, at any rate. I would have enjoyed seeing more of those two kind-hearted doofuses, Burf and Flaps… and their chicken mascot. I wonder what name they would have given her…

According to editor Paul Levitz, Christmas Dinner‘s script had been purchased six or seven years earlier by his predecessor Archie Goodwin but had lain fallow in the interim. It was written by one Janus Mitchell (his sole credit in comics, but we may be in the presence of pseudonymous shenanigans) and was finally assigned for illustration to Teny Henson (often credited in the US as ‘Tenny Henson, as he is here), one of my favourite creators from the ranks of the Filipino Komiks community. In America, Henson’s work mostly appeared in DC publications for about a decade (1974-83), beginning with the plum commissions of inking a returning Sheldon Mayer (post-cataract surgery) on his Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Limited Collectors’ Edition giants, and inking Ramona Fradon‘s pencils on DC’s underrated second revival of Plastic Man for a pair of issues. All in all, Teny flew under the fanboy radar, chiefly providing artwork for mystery and war short stories, and always at a high level of craft and inspiration.

I love the economy and precision of his line, his limpid storytelling, and his mastery of an aesthetic merrily at play in the sweet spot between the cartoonish and the representational. Fittingly, he went on to work in the animation field.

This is The Unknown Soldier no. 237 (Mar. 1980, so on the stands in Dec. 1979, DC), picking up its numbering from the venerable Star-Spangled War Stories; cover, of course, by Mr. Joe Kubert, though by no means among his finer moments — that ‘Nazis in ambush’ formula was getting pretty long in the tooth by then.

Watch for more holiday goodies coming your way!

-RG

Tippy Teen in “The Fright Before Xmas” (1967)

« … there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. » ― Clement C. Moore, A Visit From St. Nicholas (1823)

Not too long ago, we glanced at the interesting case of Tower’s teen line, another instance of works insufficiently popular to be properly reprinted, yet still sought after by collectors and aficionados and consequently on the pricey side. And so it is within this limbo that Tippy Teen and Go-Go and Animal find themselves consigned, in the rather fine company of Sugar and Spike and Angel and the Ape. Let’s not strand them there for the duration, please.

So why do I consider Tippy Teen superior to Archie? For one thing, while there’s some underwhelming artwork to be found here and there (sorry, Doug Crane), there’s nothing dismal (no Al Hartley, no Dick Malmgren, no Gus Lemoine, no Stan Goldberg…), and the writing is generally superior, thanks to, among uncredited others, the great Jack Mendelsohn (recycling and updating his old scripts, but that’s not the end of the world).

Here’s a little seasonal piece I find quite witty and charming. The well-paced work of an anonymous scripter and my beloved Samm Schwartz, it appeared in Tippy Teen no. 18. The whole issue’s quite solid, and since it’s in the public domain, you can enjoy it right here.

SchwartzTippyXmas01ASchwartzTippyXmas02ASchwartzTippyXmas03ASchwartzTippyXmas04ASchwartzTippyXmas05ASchwartzTippyXmas06A

SchwartzTippyTeen18A
This is Tippy Teen no. 18 (March 1968, Tower). Cover artwork by Samm Schwartz.

Tippy18MonkeesPinupA
What kind of a grinch would I be if I failed to include the Monkees pin-up promised on the cover? I shudder to even entertain the notion. In the usual order, Messrs. Peter Tork, Mickey Dolenz, Davy Jones and Michael Nesmith.

-RG

A Silent (what else?) Night With Mr. Mum

Irving Phillips (1904-2000)…« has been an actor, a violinist, a Hollywood script writer, the Humor Editor of ‘Esquire’ magazine, a playwright, as well as a very successful syndicated cartoonist.* »

He was most notably the creator of The Strange World of Mr. Mum, which was published from 1958 to 1974 (the Sunday edition began in 1961); at its peak, the strip appeared in 180 newspapers.

Mr. Mum, as his name suggests, is the silent observer of various strange happenings. Anything can, and does, happen in Mum’s world, and much of it is delightfully surreal.

Today, as befits the season, we propose a handful of Christmas (and post-holiday) themed Mr. Mum Sundays.

MrMum211269
Originally appeared on December 21, 1969.

MrMum040170A
Originally appeared on January 4, 1970.

MrMum201270
Originally appeared on December 20, 1970.

MrMum271270A
Originally appeared on December 27, 1970.

As Mr. Mum himself might say, were he ever inclined to chime in: « Have a Merry Christmas! » May you find some good comics in your holiday stash. And try Joe’s Federal Fling… it’s tastier than eggnog.

Craving more Mr. Mum? Then scoot over to Ger Apeldoorn’s The Fabulous Fifties blog, where a veritable Mum trove awaits !

– RG / ds

*quoted from a interview with Mr. Phillips in Cartoonist Profiles no. 4, (November, 1969).