Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Number 1921: The mini couple and the Big Boy

I picked this story for one reason: the big robot. You may have noticed that I sometimes feature stories with giant robots (and also gorillas and apes, must not forget them). I remember at a very tender age being all googly-eyed over this paperback book cover:

It may have been the beginning of my lifelong love of clanking, whirring mechanical men.

In this story from Centaur’s Amazing Man Comics #15 (1941) Minimidget and his girl, Ritty, become trapped in a far future age where they are held captive, and meet Big Boy, the giant robot. It is crudely drawn by John F. Kolb, but in those early days when there were more comic books than there were talented people to fill them with pretty pictures.

How about that last panel when Minimidget tells of his allegiance to his new pal: “He’s our friend and slave”?  Must be love, eh?


Daniel [] said...

Somehow there were something like 23 episodes of Minimidget and Ritty. What I mostly remember of the stories, besides the tininess of those two and their possession of the robot was that Minimidget seems often to carry Ritty in his arms for no obvious reason. Maybe it was to keep the little minx from stumbling into package chutes.

Speaking of package chutes, people keep imagining a future that extends the present-day modern, but what is now common-place or even high technology is likely someday to be quite obsolete. In the late nineteenth century, systems of baskets on over-head railways began to be used, and later systems of tubes came into use. But these technologies began to fade in the 20th Century, and I'd bet that most of the remaining use is deliberately for novelty. It has been many years since I saw anything like one in real-world operation, and in that case it was a pneumatic tube to support a second lane for a drive-through teller at a bank; and it has been about twenty years since I first found myself unable to board an elevator because it was occupied by a delivery robot.

Of course, for many of us, part of the romance of the popular science fiction of the '30s and '40s can be seeing its future that used to be.

Anonymous said...

"Let's see what Minimidget and Ritty are doing in the year 3000 ---while Mr. Miles tries to bring them back to the year 1940." Such "meanwhiles" across different times charm as well as baffle me. Oh, the time travelers who are always simultaneously running out of time in desperate resonance with future/past. Leaves a comic book reader and movie watcher gasping for sense, by golly.

Odd use of robots here. Those denizens of the year 3000 have quite the perspective on efficiency. Heh. Five inch tall folks just might have a lot of fun with a futuristic, oversize robot back in 1940. A swell comic which I enjoyed, Pappy. Thanks, again.

Pappy said...

Daniel, dear to my heart are those extrapolations of the future from the present. They not only extend to technology but to cultural norms and current slang.

Frankly, despite some pretty good predictions by some science fiction writers, visions of the future usually leave out people walking into traffic by being totally absorbed in a video game...on their telephone! A writer creating such a scenario would be saying that people in a more scientifically advanced era were idiots.

The only prediction I remember about something called the internet was by Arthur C. Clarke. At a lecture my brother attended in 1970 Clarke told the crowd, "Someday you will be reading your daily newspaper on your television screen." Even so, Clarke probably did not think that in the future people would be actually dumber using technology than they would be without it.

Pappy said...

7f7, oh, Lordy, would I love to have a big robot in my house right now. Not only could Big Boy carry me from room to room (too lazy to walk), but he could fetch the newspaper, turn on the sprinkler, find the TV remote, scare solicitors from my front door, or bring in the garbage can like I had to do (shudder) a few minutes ago. That would be my future vision...a society of flaccid-legged, limp-armed citizens being carried around by mechanical men.

After all, cars will soon be driving themselves, so if we want that kind of future, let's go all the way!

Unknown said...

Sorry these comments run so long, Pappy, but the story inspired me.

Was this story a continuation of the previous Minimidget tale, or did the writer just feel like starting in medias res? Or maybe, in plotting the strip, he knew he wouldn't have room to tell the whole story. Whatever, it was a bad choice, because we lost a potentially interesting beginning. It's like the comics where a big battle or something is described but not shown. (Shakespeare was guilty of leaving some of the most exciting parts off-stage, so maybe I'm being too hard on these comics people. But I don't care.)

I don't imagine that, by the year 3000, humankind would be surprised or impressed by miniaturization. No doubt they'll have made much more startling discoveries and inventions.

According to James Kakalios's The Physics of Superheroes, full-sized people would not be able to hear the voices of miniaturized folks, nor could the "little" people hear what the "big" folks said, because their ears would be too small to take in the sound. So, Minimidget and Ritty would not be able to communicate conventionally with the white-haired fellow they meet when arriving in 3000. Oh, why did I bother even writing this? It's a Golden Age comic! Logic does not apply!

Pappy, have you ever read Mort Walker and Jerry Dumas' sleeper classic Sam's Strip? In it, there's a strip where Sam shows the difference between an action accompanied by movement lines and one that is not. I was reminded of that when I got to the last panel of page two, because the movement lines here betray Ritty's actions. The caption states that Ritty falls, but, according to the movement lines, she starts her "fall" far away from the edge of the table, making it obvious that Ritty meant to propel herself off! Why, I don't know. Bipolarism?

Besides providing uninspired artwork (though fairly standard G.A. stuff), Kolb obviously didn't read the script as closely as he should have. At the top of page five, Minimidget has his shirt off. The caption in the next panel includes the phrase "stripping off his shirt...".

When the mayor returns to find the chaos and damage No. 3 has caused, it's unlikely he would see the tiny people, at least right away, so all that would meet his eyes would be No 3 destroying the other robots. Then, why does he yell "Kill Everybody!!"? Kill whom? He earns his horrible death through stupidity.

One of my pet peeves about old comics--and this is definitely not unique to the Golden Age, but stretched at least into the Bronze--is the way different time periods are treated as if they are happening at the same time but just in different countries or something. "Back in 1940," states the caption, and Miles is frantically searching for the mini-pair as though time is of the essence. But, from his perspective, what they are doing hasn't happened yet. He's got lots of time to retrieve them!

What happened to all the men from the first scene who agreed to help Miles bring Minimidget and Ritty back to 1940? At the end, it looks like Miles did it all himself. Were the men so modest that, once they'd done their parts, they left rather than even receive thanks from those they helped rescue?

Why is No. 3 ("Big Boy") left out of the next-to-last panel? This would be a startling moment for Miles, yet Big Boy is left just off-stage as if his presence is unremarkable. They talk about him, but Kolb doesn't see fit to depict him.

"He's our friend and slave." What an antebellum attitude.

Alicia American said...

OMG Pappy mayB Mimimaggot only lasteded 23 issues but he did get that gig L8R on playing Aquaman @ DC Comics yo!

7f7, we originally were gonna call our band, "Those Denizans of tha Yeer 3000" but it was 2 many digits 4 twitter :(

Pappy they got this show on in New Jerzy on Sat Nites that I seen @ Chibi & Patt's place, it comes on afterer Svengoolie? They call it LOSTED IN SPACE & it's got a robutt on it that u mite like. It's a reallery funnery show, they shoot it 2 look retro like it's from tha like 70s or sumthing LOL

Pappy said...

Ryan, Amazing Man Comics #14 has the first part of the story. You can see it at the Comic Book + web site. But here is a spoiler: in the last two panels Ritty reminds Minimidget that they have not yet been sent back to 1940 by Mr Miles. In the final panel Mini breaks the fourth wall (or in this case the fourth panel border) and speaks directly to the readers: "Well, don't worry kids, as I said before Mr Miles is the bst scientist in the land. He will think of a way to get us back to 1940."

I liked the episode about the robot. I don't make any apologies about showing things out of order or show only parts of larger continuities. Sometimes it is all that available to me, and sometimes it is all of the story I want to show, but it's my blog and I decide. "I am the decider and I decide what's best," to steal a famous quote.

As for Shakespeare, it was a lot easier to talk about a battle than show it at the Globe. In comics it is a helluva lot harder to draw a battle than to have two characters discuss it after the fact. Unless the artist was Jack Kirby.

Pappy said...

Alicia, ha ha, gal. Denizens of the Year 3000 is my pick for a band name. Or why not just "Year 3000" -- is that short enough for Twitter?

Oh, you have discovered a great show...watching reruns of Lost in Space was one of my favorite wastes of time, and better than looking for a job when I got out of the Army.

My favorite quote from the show was Dr Smith saying, "Oh, spare me your pusillanimous barbs!" to the robot (it was the robot, wasn't it? -- it's been a long time since I saw it.) I use that phrase occasionally to this day when the moment suggests it.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

I think I got 7f7's point about the robots. So, the big butterball who looks a bit like Tor Johnson is a genius. He doesn't employ the robots as workers, but uses them to whip human slaves. It's probably cheaper this way.
I agree with Ryan, too. What's the use of worrying and making haste if Minimidget is in the future? No sweat. Had he been sent to the past, we should get worried. He might change history or something like that, though I'm not sure. No, never mind: if he's in the past, it's already happened, he has lived his life and now he's dead, so he can't "change" anything... or maybe he can, but Miles (and no one else) will not KNOW, because it's already happened. Those things give me a headache.

"Minimidget"? And I used to think that "Inch High Private Eye" was quite a silly name.

Pappy said...

J D, at least "Inch High Private Eye" was not on the list of discouraged names...nowadays those people formerly and colloquially known as "midgets" wish to be referred to as "little people," and I don't have a problem with it. If they think the word is offensive that's enough for me.