The Seven Cities of Cibola

Some Kids Preferred Superheroes … But Not Me

When I look back at what I loved most as a kid, I would have to say that superheroes never made the list. Yes, yes, I know that a complete run of Marvel Comics from the 1950s would have made me wealthy. But not nearly as wealthy as my real hero—Scrooge McDuck. The reclusive millionaire of Duckburg was my Numero Uno comic book hero. Teamed up with his nephew Donald, and Donald’s nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, they had great comic book adventures.

You could talk about great comic book artists, but I would have to name Carl Barks (1901-2000), inventor of Uncle Scrooge. I still remember with great fondness two of his feature comic stories, “The Seven Cities of Cibola“ and “The Land Beneath the Ground.”

From “The Land Beneath the Ground”

The first is about finding El Dorado, the legendary city of gold which drew the Spanish conquistadores into the American Southwest, only to return with nothing but cactus spines. In Barks’s comic, the gang finds the city—but alas it’s all booby-trapped and they end up doing no better than Coronado.

The other one presents an alternative theory of earthquakes. Deep in the earth, there are two species known as “terries” and “fermies,” whose activities underground lead to earth tremors. When Uncle Scrooge finds that his money could disappear into a hole in the ground, he gets serious about investigating this phenomenon.

 

Fun with Calvin and Hobbes

I Miss Calvin and Hobbes

Let’s face it: I never really grew up. I sill love the comics. My day is not complete until I have read the comics in the Los Angeles Times, which I have delivered at home daily and Sundays. I still miss many of the cartoon strips that no longer appear, going all the way back to Walt Kelly’s Pogo. I also loved Gary Larson’s The Far Side, Johnny Hart’s B.C. and The Wizard of Id, and Patrick McDonnell’s Mutts. Fortunately, some great comic strips come back: I am thinking of Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County, which now appears with new cartoons on Facebook.

Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes lasted from 1985 to 1995, but you can see all of them at Gocomics.Com. I am slowly re-reading the entire work of this great cartoonist and philosopher.


When the Sunday paper arrives, I still read the comics starting from the bottom of the last page and ending up with the top of the first page. Some habits never die.

A Mythology Out of Comic Books

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

In desperation, o avoid another afternoon of a multi-day heat wave, I went to Santa Monica to see Wonder Woman in air-conditioned comfort. As one who, in my tender years, was an aficionado of comic book heroes (and heroines), I remember the thrill I felt at their sense of power against evil. When you’re a little kid, injustice really bugs you: You want to wreak vengeance on bullies without having the law, or the vice principal, or someone’s angry parents coming after you.

Superman came from Planet Krypton, Batman from a wealthy American family, and Wonder Woman from the secret Mediterranean (one presumes) island of Themyscira, which is shielded by fog from mortal view. All these super heroes have super powers. (As a kid, I had none—except the ability to survive a sickly childhood.)

Princess Diana, alias Wonder Woman, is powerful enough to stop bullets and deflect mortar shells. On a First World War battlefield, she singlehandedly attacks the German lines and frees a captive French village. She is in search of Ares, the God of War, whom she identifies as General von Ludendorff, and whom she kills with a special sword. But Ludendorff is not Ares: It turns out to be the British politician Sir Patrick Morgan, who ostensibly is trying to set up an armistice, but who really wants everlasting war.

Evidently, we still have war and lots of it. I guess that makes room for a sequel, which I am not surprised to hear is already in production.

What Would Be My Kryptonite?

In the jejune mythology of American comic books, there is frequently a weak point in every superhero. I guess it started with Achilles in the Trojan War, who was immortal provided no one shot him in the heel. It was Paris (no relation to me) who found this out and hit the Achaean hero there with a poisoned arrow. With Superman, he lost his powers when he was exposed to Kryptonite, a fragment of the planet where he was born. For me, I would probably lose such powers as I have if someone dug up some dirt from the East Side of Cleveland, near the intersection of Harvard and Lee, and waved it in my face.

I guess what I’m getting at is that this comic book stuff doesn’t move me much any more. The young love it, because they feel powerless in the face of all us evil adults who want to put them down and make them take out the garbage and clean their bedrooms.