Tag: Wile E. Coyote

Brainiac On Banjo: Flying High!

Brainiac On Banjo: Flying High!

Might as well jump. Jump! Go ahead and jump! Get it and jump. Jump! Get ahead and jump! “Jump!,” written by David Lee Roth, Alex Van Halen, and Eddie Van Halen.

© Daniel Wilsey High Flight LLC

I have a new hero. It’s a person I’ve never met, I didn’t know was alive a month ago and who no longer is alive now. But in those brief nine days, she certainly made her mark.

A couple decades ago, my chiropractor told me I can no longer jump out of airplanes. I have never incurred an injury during my eight jumps, so I’ve been pretty annoyed about that. Yeah, I know: parachute jumping is kind of off-model for me. I couldn’t even do the rope climbing bit in high school gym class for fear of falling.

I loved the fact that, having taken the right precautions and working with experienced professionals, it was unlikely I could screw up parachute jumping unless some asshole weisenheimer got the law of gravity repealed right after I left the airplane. And, yes, I was quite aware that “gravity” was and remains just a theory but, trust me, you don’t need to jump out of a Cessna to prove it. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Flying High!”

Brainiac On Banjo: Hey, Kids! VIOLENCE!!!

Brainiac On Banjo: Hey, Kids! VIOLENCE!!!

I’m a mean mistweetah, A wabbit feastah, And I pwedict, A bwoody Eastaw, A scuwowing shadow, And dah shadow was dis wabbit, And dah night aiwah echoes, Kill dah wabbit! — Bob Rivers, Kill The Wabbit, 2009

Felix The Cat was our first animated hero, making his debut in Otto Messmer’s Feline Follies in 1919. The plot: A stereotypical old lady goes out for the evening, leaving her house in the hands of her kitty, Mister Tom (played by Felix – look, just go with that). Being a tom cat, once the coast is clear Felix splits to his girlfriend’s house for an off-screen tête-à-tête.

Of course, while the cat’s away the mice will play. In fact, they’ll rip the old lady’s house apart. By the time Felix returns, the house is decimated but he’s too blissed out to notice. Then the owner returns, freaks out at all the damage, beats the poo out of Felix and slings him out of the house.

The slightly indignant Felix doesn’t care. He goes back to his girlfriend’s house and is greeted with open paws. Then about a billion newborn kittens, each looking exactly like Felix, swarms all over their papa. Evidently, cartoon kitties have a remarkably short gestation period. Be this as it may, it is now Felix’s turn to freak. He runs away, straight to the nearby gas field where he attaches a hose to an in-ground spigot and commits suicide.

Was there general outrage over Feline Follies? Was there an upsurge of kids running to gas fields to off themselves? Did anybody ban the sale of brooms to cat-owners?

Hell, no. People didn’t take this stuff seriously. It was a cartoon, not a documentary.

Was Messmer advocating violence by mice, cats or old ladies? Was he advocating unprotected kitty sex? Was he suggesting suicide was the best way to handle trauma? Again, hell no. It was a cartoon.

Because my brain is wired differently than yours, I thought of Feline Follies when I heard of a comics writer/artist being accused of being a fascist for working on a best-selling heroic fantasy comic book. Said writer/artist was accused by another writer/artist, who was no stranger to the concept of cartoon violence. If you labor in the fields of heroic fantasy, evidently, you are wearing an invisible SS uniform. Well, as Lenny Bruce pointed out, “Gestapo? I’m the damn mailman!”

Violence has been the cornerstone of heroic fantasy going back to the Year Gimmel. The line was blurry when the major source of such stories was in the realm of the religions that are now regarded as mythology as well as the religions that various warring factions today regard as gospel. But once it is removed from these trappings of conviction, fictional violence is just a plot device. If Elmer Fudd inspires your kid to want to get a shotgun, your kid needs professional help.

But once parenting became perceived as a science – which it is not; it’s an art form – “cartoon violence” had to be… edited. ‘Doilies for the mind’, to quote Mason Williams. The Three Stooges have been entertaining people since 1922, but their oeuvre became scissor-fodder in the early 1960s. How many of you have great-great grandparents whose eyes were poked out? Bugs Bunny is a latecomer, having debuted (as developed) some 80 years ago. He, too, has suffered the fate of a thousand cuts.

Entire generations of humans have been raised since we became smotheringly overprotective. Are we now a less violent society? Maybe you’ve never read a “newspaper,” but if your knowledge intake is limited to even the most anti-social of social media you should be aware that real-world violence remains a VERY Big Deal. Maybe we should deal with the real, physical issues that lead to such behavior instead of emasculating Wile E. Coyote and Larry Fine.

I have been known to toss the fascist tag around myself. I understand the definition of the term because I know how to work a dictionary. I try to use it appropriately, even when I’m being purposely offensive. Simply working on a heroic fantasy story that involves such violence does not make you a fascist, it makes you a storyteller. Batman could be perceived as a colloquial fascist, yet many of his better stories have been created by the late card-carrying liberal Denny O’Neil as well as by his opposite number on the right, Chuck Dixon. This does not make either a fascist.

Owning a gun, let alone writing about owning a gun, does not make you a fascist. Believing Smith and Wesson, Ruger and Colt should be in charge of our foreign policy just might – but any student of 20th century history should know better.

Brainiac on Banjo #033: A Matter of Perspective

Brainiac on Banjo #033: A Matter of Perspective

If you’ve ever had any inclination to be an artist, or if you’re old and decrepit enough to have had art class in grammar school, you probably received at least a rudimentary education in topics such as perspective, gravity and physics. Drawing remains (for the time being) a two-dimensional experience and so the pencil pushers in the comic book medium must figure out how to represent our three-dimensional world in a medium that lacks visual depth.

Our friends in the closely-related field of animation figured this out long before most of us were born. You ignore physics and keep the story running so fast the viewer is undaunted by technicalities. Bob Clampett’s Porky In Wackyland – the best cartoon ever – employs this concept in nearly every frame. It’s the very purpose of the cartoon. Chuck Jones’ Road Runner series, for the same studio, uses perspective manipulation as a running gag throughout the run: Wile E. Coyote runs off a cliff but does not fall until he realizes he’s run off that cliff. Then he falls into a chasm so deep it would make the Grand Canyon cross its legs. He survives the fall even though the intensity of the drop is so great he’s pounded into the ground – still alive – and usually gets hit on the head by a chunk of that cliff.

In this, Wile E. has defied all three of the laws of motion. I think Isaac Newton would have laughed his ass off, but then again, he very well might have been deeply offended.

We’ve seen all kinds of wacky science in comics. Sometimes, defying physics comes off just fine. After all, if The Hulk really existed and he really could get from point A to point B by scrunching down and leaping into the air, that “equal but opposite reaction” thing would cause quite a stir. So which laws of physics do you obey, and which can you ignore? Continue reading “Brainiac on Banjo #033: A Matter of Perspective”

Brainiac On Banjo #022: Road Runner, Coyote, Ripley & Hubris

Brainiac On Banjo #022: Road Runner, Coyote, Ripley & Hubris

This September, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner will turn 70 years old. I’m telling you this now so you don’t have to wait until the last minute to get them presents – I do not know if there’s an Acme Prime. They were created by director Chuck Jones and writer Michael Maltese as a response to Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera’s Tom and Jerry, which MGM sandwiched in between the trailers and the A-movies at your local neighborhood theater back in a time when there still were local neighborhood theaters.

Both Tom and Jerry and Coyote and Road Runner were quite successful; both received Oscar nominations, although only the cat and mouse copped a statuette. Amusingly, when Bill and Joe discovered the flip book and left MGM to produce vaguely animated cartoons for television, Chuck moved over from Warner Bros’ withering termite terrace to take their places.

O.K. I’m not a big fan of Hanna-Barbera. Sue me. Hang in there; I’ll get back to the Endless Chase in a moment. But first…  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #022: Road Runner, Coyote, Ripley & Hubris”