Monday, November 19, 2012

That Spells Magic

Paul Bunyan's superhuman feats pushed far into the realm of fantasy, but he would soon find himself in a world where he was no longer in control of the magic. Appropriately, it seems to have begun with wands. This hearkens back to the period years earlier when The Little Hitchhiker gets hold of the magician's wand and gives everyone else a hard time. Ahern realized that with magic in the mix, anything was possible - no explanation needed. The following strips are all from 1944, and introduce two new characters: The Goomy, a magical creature with a little wand that can work wonders for good, and The Witch, who seems bent on giving Paul Bunyan a hard time. The degree of surrealism is remarkable, and I honestly wonder if Ahern wasn't simply writing down his own dreams (or maybe someone else's) for the strip. We've seen nods to Winsor McCay previously, but now it's fully fledged; Paul Bunyan is entering the world "Where Wide-Awake Dreams Happen" - but unlike Nemo, Paul will never wake up... at least, not that we've seen, and certainly not in the last panel of each strip. Has Paul's reality become a dream, or vice-versa? Stay tuned! BIG changes are on the horizon.  I'm still tracking down these strips, so if anyone out there has any, especially from this period, please get in touch! Meantime, enjoy the ride...

Ahern drew all of these in half-page format. What this means is that some panels have been removed for the third-page format, which is printed here. Sadly, I haven't seen any half pages printed anywhere past 1943, though all of the original pages I've seen (as late as 1948) are still halves. I'm dying to know what was in all those additional panels!

"The road suddenly is changed into soft gum." Sounds like something a small child would imagine spontaneously when playing. This childlike quality is one of the most charming aspects of The Squirrel Cage.

1 comment:

  1. Hurrah! A long-awaited and much enjoyed post!
    I think KFS just severely cropped the panels when they converted a half to a third. Looking at Sunday strips of BUZ SAWYER and STEVE CANYON, all the content is there in both formats, but there's much less artwork in the third version. The panels are taller than the half-page's specs, but much is missing and sometimes the artwork is re-organized to make sense in these new chapel-tall, skinny-minnie frames.