Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beatniks in Comics: A Sampler, Part 2

With this next look at Beatniks in early 1960s comics, Out Of This World turns to DC's The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, drawn by Bob Oksner. This was an adaptation of a TV series from that time. Dobie Gillis is a total womanizer, who constantly looks to play the field, but his best buddy Maynard, although often roped into Dobie's schemes, has a more philosophical yet down to earth perspective, despite appearing scatterbrained and out of touch with reality. Maynard is cast as a beatnik, and has all the lingo, along with the tendency to walk around vocalizing the drum beats in this head. On the cover of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis 4 (Nov/Dec 1960), we can already witness some signs that Maynard is a beatnik - his hair, beard, the clicking fingers, and the use of "man" and "like" as he starts to speak. In part of the story from Dobie Gillis 4,  Maynard exhibits another characteristic of beatniks, a love for on-the-spot improvised poetry. Also note Maynard's use of the term "far out".

Later in the same story, Dobie and Maynard are asked to go and pick up the daughter of a friend of Dobie's parents. Maynard's logic is that although the mother is not good-looking, the daughter usually turns out to be a dish. It seems to the reader that when the two boys reach the costume shop where they are to pick up Purity, Maynard is wrong. However, from Maynard's angle of vision, his prediction is correct - Purity, although apparently homely in appearance, very much seems to meet his criteria for attractiveness, not least because she is a female beatnik and, like Maynard, has the tendency to spout poetry.

Maynard is there for the whole 26 issue run of the Dobie Gillis series which, while adapting a 1960s TV show, is sufficiently well-written to still be interesting and funny today. Another DC funny title that at that time was drawn (and possibly written) by Bob Oksner, was The Adventures of Bob Hope. Again, you might think that 50 years later it could be difficult to connect with the humor of the times, but I find it not so. I had a really good laugh reading through a bunch of these, with this comic book version of Bob Hope's obsessions with food, money, and girls done in a way that really is true to his comedy movies and equally humorous. In The Adventures of Bob Hope 72 (Dec 61/Jan 62), Bob is working as an organizer for a beauty contest. The girls are a constant distraction, his attraction for them preventing him from getting things done. His boss comes up with an idea that should help Bob stay on task and not forget what he's supposed to be doing. This sets in motion a series of events that first brings Bob into contact with a beatnik, and then results in him being momentarily mistaken for one himself:

There's a lot of beatnik information in this section of the story. We've got the beard, the bongos, the poetry, and the beatnik on the beach again using the by now familiar linguistics - "man", "like", "cut out", "pad" - beatniks sitting around philosophizing over cups of espresso, the clothes typically worn by male and female beatniks, and an interest in Zen Buddhism, all serve to expand our definition of the beatnik.

Later in the story Bob is recruited by the daughter of a rich businessman, who has a scheme to extract and sell fresh water from a deep water ocean current. Somehow the daughter has gained the impression, from Bob's banter, that he is an expert diver. The daughter works for a university science department, and eventually Bob is introduced to the rest of the team of scientists who will be working with him as he carries out the dive. It doesn't have anything to do with beatniks but it was too funny to leave out:

So that's it for this one. Next up on Out Of This World, one more look at Beatniks in comics from the early 1960s. See you there.