With Atomic Power
|November 23, 2012|
After being discharged from the Air Service at the end of the Great War, Buck Rogers was hired by the American Radioactive Gas Corporation as an inspector; while investigating a mine, he was overcome by (what else?) radioactive gas, and it preserved him for some 500 years. When he woke in the year 2430, Rogers discovered a world filled with villains whom he regularly bested in a syndicated comic strip, “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century A.D.” That strip, which began in 1929, led to nearly four decades of Buck Rogers pop culture prominence, not just in the comics, but on radio, in books, and at the movies. The Buck Rogers franchise was so popular it spawned imitations, contemporary and far in the future, from Flash Gordon to Star Wars.
As the late historian Ferenc Morton Szasz argues in his charming and sophisticated book Atomic Comics: Cartoonists Confront the Nuclear World, the Buck Rogers stories also constituted the classroom in which many Americans of the 1930s and early ’40s learned about the amazing new world of atomic energy. For instance, the Daisy manufacturing company (best known for its BB guns) produced a Buck Rogers Atomic Disintegrator Pistol, which capitalized on the comic saga’s many Depression-era atomic references, including an adventure during which Buck commands: “Drop Atomic bombs. Then we’ll land and mop up.” Of course, whatever Buck Rogers did, Flash Gordon copied, adding flair. “In a 1940 daily strip,” Szasz writes, “(Flash’s girlfriend) Dale Arden is grabbed by a man-eating Octoclaw. To save her, Flash rips the sole power source from the land/sea rocket car and ‘blasts the monster with atomic power.’”
Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon were certainly not the only means by which ordinary Americans learned their nuclear lessons in the years before Trinity; there were science fiction books and magazines and, on the science-fact side, a significant contingent of journalists who dealt seriously with subatomic matters. But before Hiroshima, Szasz argues, Rogers and Gordon were by far the most popular portrayers of this new world, which included not only the danger of then-still-imaginary atomic bombs, but also a vague, immense potential for a glorious, leisure-filled future: “[O]verall, the weapons could be controlled, and the promised energy seemed potentially limitless. In other words, the ‘atomic future’ would surely, somehow, work out for the best.”
Merleau-Ponty’s Child Psychology
As much as death signals the end of the self, birth is just as mysterious. Both extend out to infinity and signal the brevity and contingency of our lives. As mysterious are those first few years of life that one does not have access to as an adult, I know I existed before my earliest memories. I know I interacted with others, I learned to walk and talk. I was willful from my parent’s tales.
William Pope.L: Reader Friendly
William Pope.L is famous for (among other things) carrying a business card that identifies him as “The Friendliest Black Artist in America.” It’s a clever gag because it makes itself true, in a way, every time it draws people closer. The card must be especially useful when Pope.L does business with people who dread Black men or Black artists.
10 Things the NSA Has Seen Me Do
One winter in my early twenties myself and some good friends — a merging of art, music and literary ladies of New York, full-grown girls aspiring to be women — got together, had a lovely dinner, some wine and delightful chat. Then we decided to spend an hour practicing “Teach Me How To Dougie”. NSA — can you teach me how to Dougie? You know why? “Because all my bitches love me.”
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