Registered: Oct 2002
TALES & ANNOTATIONS FROM THE BULLY PULPIT
So, you say you read Benito Cereno and Graeme MacDonald's Tales from the Bully Pulpit from Image in September, but are still kept awake at night, feverishly wondering if you caught all the references in the one-shot, and recognized all that you should have recognized?
Have no fear. Cereno stopped by with an extensive annotations list that will get you back up to speed. Heck, even if you didn't read the issue, it's good reading.
And now, over to Benito...
If you're reading this, you probably already know that Tales from the Bully Pulpit was a 64-page one shot by me, The Rt. Rev. Dr. Benito J. Cereno III, Graeme MacDonald, Ron Riley, and Chad Manion, released on September 1, 2004, from Image Comics. You probably also already know that the book is the rollicking story of former President Theodore Roosevelt and the ghost of Thomas Edison travelling through time to battle Nazis on Mars in the future. However, to counter claims that this book was "random" or "just barely smarter than Bill and Ted" and because I was tired of waiting for Jess Nevins (author of Heroes and Monsters: the Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) to do it, here are a few things you may not have known.
Here follow annotations to Tales from the Bully Pulpit. Needless to say, the following is replete with spoilers.
New Jersey: Edison's home, Glenmont, a Victorian mansion, and one of his laboratories were on a site in West Orange, New Jersey. Edison bought Glenmont in 1886 and in the next year began construction of his laboratory, where he worked for the next forty-four years and developed such inventions as the disc phonograph, cylinder records, dictating machines, storage batteries, and a number of devices that both instigated and revolutionized the motion picture industry, among others.
"The Wizard": Before he moved to West Orange, Thomas Edison lived and worked in Menlo Park, New Jersey, from 1876 until 1881. In his lab there, Edison invented such things as the phonograph and the practical incandescent light bulb. His work in this area garnered him the nickname "the Wizard of Menlo Park," which is how the people on this page refer to him, somewhat obliquely.
The Edison Museum: There are a lot of Edison museums throughout the world, but the one I have in mind here is the Edison National Historic Site in West Orange, New Jersey, which is the site of Edison's home and laboratory. However, the portrayal of the museum here is not based on the actual historic site, but rather on the song "The Edison Museum," by They Might Be Giants. The second verse is particularly pertinent to the imagery on page two:
Just outside the gate, I look into the courtyard
Underneath the gathering thunderstorm
Through the iron bars, I see the Black Maria
Revolving slowing on its platform
In the topmost tower, the lights burn dim
A coiling filament glowing within
The opening line to the song is, "The Edison Museum, not open to the public," which is where I took that idea, and the song in general is about the ghost of Thomas Edison haunting his old lab.
However, it is actually true that this site is closed to the public for extensive renovations. It should reopen sometime in 2005.
The Black Maria: The Black Maria (which is pronounced like "Mariah Carey" and not like "Maria Shriver"), was the world's first movie studio. The term "Black Maria" was originally used to describe black police vans, and may have had its origins in a black woman who ran a boarding house in Boston in the 1820s and whose severe nature helped her to assist the police in apprehending criminals, but we don't know for certain. At any rate, the Black Maria we're concerned with here is Edison's movie studio which was so named because of its resemblance to the police vans. It had a roof that opened to let in natural light and rotated on a platform so that the strongest light could be let in at all hours of the day. The Edison National Historic site has a reproduction of the Black Maria on its grounds. The studio is visible on the right of the first panel on page two, and again from another angle in panel two of page four.
"I'm the President": It's true. Theodore Roosevelt, in addition to being an author, a historian, a hunter of big-game, an explorer, a soldier, a governor, a rancher, a conservationist, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, was also the 26th President of the United States of America. Teddy became President in 1901 when William McKinley was shot by Leon Czogolsz at the Pan-American Exposition. Teddy received word that he would soon become the next President (having been McKinley's Vice President) while he was--no kidding--climbing a mountain.
1931: Thomas Edison died on October 18, 1931 at 84 years of age, on the grounds of Glenmont. His alleged last words, to his wife Mina, were, "It is very beautiful over there...." Teddy, on the other hand, as much as he doesn't want to hear it, died on January 6. 1919. A non-stop worker even until his last days, Teddy died of an embolism while working, at the age of 60.
Wells: The "Wells" on the mailbox of course implies that the inhabitant of this house and as a result the owner of the time machine is none other than HG Wells, the writer of the 1895 science fiction novel, The Time Machine. However, there have been plenty of writers who have used the idea that the unnamed Time Traveller of the novel is none other than Wells himself (perhaps most notably in the film Time After Time, where Wells hunts Jack the Ripper, and of course the 1960 George Pal film version of The Time Machine where the plaque on the time machine reads, "Manufactured by H. George Wells); I just picked up on that trope. I did, as you will note, move Wells to New England, because the idea that Teddy could somehow get the time machine all the way across the Atlantic, well....that's just preposterous. As for how he moved it at all, or at least to get close to New Jersey, I like to imagine he took it back to the Ice Age and took advantage of the reduced friction. The time machine itself is of course an allusion to how the machine appears in George Pal's version of the film, though Graeme changed the look of it from less of a stern-looking parlor contraption to more of a giant racing sled.
Incidentally, in his Experiment in Autobiography, Wells relates an anecdote in which he met with President Roosevelt and discussed The Time Machine:
" It is a curious thing that as I talked with President Roosevelt in the garden of the White House there came back to me quite forcibly this undertone of doubt that has haunted me throughout this journey (to the US.) After all, does this magnificent appearance of beginnings, which is America, convey any clear and certain promise of permanence and fulfillment whatever? . . .Is America a giant childhood of gigantic futility, a mere latest phase of that long succession of experiments which has been and may be for interminable years -- may be, indeed, altogether until the end -- man's social history? I can't now recall how our discursive talk settled toward this, but it is clear to me that I struck upon a familiar vein of thought in the President's mind. He hadn't, he said, an effectual disproof of a pessimistic interpretation of the future. If one chose to say America must presently lose the impetus of her ascent, that she and all mankind must culminate and pass, he could not conclusively deny that possibility. Only he chose to live as if this were not so.
"That remained in his mind. Presently he reverted to it. He made a sort of apology for his life, against the doubts and scepticisms that, I fear, must be in the background of the thoughts of every modern man who is intellectually alive. He mentioned my TIME MACHINE. . .He became gesticulatory, and his straining voice a note higher in denying the pessimism of that book as a credible interpretation of destiny. With one of those sudden movements of his he knelt forward in a garden chair -- we were standing, before our parting, beneath the colonnade -- and addressed me very earnestly over the back, clutching it and then thrusting out his familiar gesture, a hand first partly open and then closed.
"`Suppose, after all,' he said slowly, `that should prove to be right, and it all ends in your butterflies and morlocks. THAT DOESN'T MATTER NOW. The effort's real. It's worth going on with. It's worth it. It's worth it, even so.' . . .
"I can see him now and hear his unmusical voice saying, `The effort -- the effort's worth it,' and see the gesture of his clenched hand and the -- how can I describe it? - - the friendly peering snarl of his face, like a man with the sun in his eyes. He sticks in my mind at that, as a very symbol of the creative will in man, in its limitations, its doubtful adequacy, its valiant persistence, amidst complexities and confusions. He kneels out, assertive against his setting -- and his setting is the White House with a background of all of America.
"I could almost write, with a background of all the world; for I know of no other tithe so representative of the creative purpose, the GOODWILL in men as he. In his undisciplined hastiness, his limitations, his prejudices, his unfairness, his frequent errors, just as much as in his force, his sustained courage, his integrity, his open intelligence, he stands for his people and his kind."
"phantasmittens": "phantasm"="ghost," "mitten"="glove." They're gloves that let Edison's non-corporeal ghost form finally touch and interact with the material world after decades of frustration.
"Groovy": This sequence, capped by Edison's exclamation, is a reference, both by me and by Edison, to the Evil Dead trilogy. In each of those films, Bruce Campbell's character has a scene in which he prepares himself (ironically, for fighting the undead) and then says, "groovy." I like to think that in the time since his death, Edison's ghost has seen every movie ever made.
"Bully": An adjective or interjection that means "excellent," "splendid," or "smashing." Teddy was fond of using it, so I'm fond of having him use it.
Hitler: Teddy's version of history, learned by skimming various history books in the course of a couple of hours, of course has a few details wrong. FRANKLIN Roosevelt was President for the majority of the second World War, but it was Truman who eventually dropped the nuclear bomb on Japan and--you know, I don't need to tell you this part. You guys have TVs. World War II is on TV.
As for the idea that Hitler is still alive in South America (and in the "news" paper Teddy's reading, winning at shuffleboard), this concept stems from the fact that several members of the Nazi party did in fact escape to South America, including war criminals Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele. Although some fled to Spain or the Mideast (and if they were rocket scientists, America), there were enough fascist-friendly totalitarian regimes in South America at the time (led by dudes like Juan Peron and Alfredo Stroessner) to make a warm welcoming party for some jerks. We don't know exactly how these guys were smuggled across the sea, but there may have been some secret club action going on, maybe some something something from the Pope, maybe both, and maybe a hand from Mr. Evita. At any rate, some people believe that Hitler did not really kill himself (and really--you guys read comics, obviously. I didn't see any body, did you? He probably came back. Besides in Fantastic Four, I mean.), but instead fled with his cronies to the southwestern quadrisphere.
"It's always Hitler": There are plenty of references I could have made to stories where Hitler is the villain (particularly in a time after he died), including the Fantastic Four Hate-Monger story, but I chose to make three increasingly obscure references instead. The first one is obviously referring to Raiders of the Lost Ark. The second, however, is an allusion to the character Brainiape from Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon and Superpatriot books. And the third scrapes the bottom of the Diamond chart by referring to the "Kick; Splode; Robot" story from Matt Fraction's and Andy Kuhn's Rex Mantooth! Edison also mentions Mussolini and Tojo; these are of course Benito Mussolini (no relation) and Hideki Tojo, the other leaders of the Axis powers besides Hitler. Josef Stalin was a member of the Allied powers, but turned out to be a jerk in his own right. You may have heard of him.
"Bully Pulpit": This was a phrase that Teddy used to refer to the Presidency; "bully" meaning, as I said before, "excellent," or "smashing," and a pulpit being a speaking platform. He felt the Presidency was an excellent platform for spreading his views and achieving his goals. It doesn't have anything to do with bullying people. In this story, Teddy has found an even better platform: a time machine. So he gives it the same name: the Bully Pulpit.
space/time continuum: Here, as in other sources, the space/time continuum is a place where time and space collide and conflate. For this reason, we have a caveman in a spacesuit with a laser gun kidnapping the head of Marie Antoinette. How does she stay alive in a decapitated state? SCIENCE.
"Rough Rider": The Rough Riders was a book written by Theodore Roosevelt in 1899, detailing his experiences in the Spanish-American War. The Rough Riders were a cavalry regiment made up of a motley crew of true Americans: cowboys, speculators, scholars, Ivy League athletes, singers, Texas Rangers, and Native and African Americans. They are perhaps most famous for their participation in the Battle of San Juan Hill, helped most by Teddy's ability to retell the events. Teddy's following comments about adventure and seeking the unknown reflect some of his views on such matters as expansionism, as detailed in his famous speech, "The Strenuous Life" ("I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life.").
"the last romantic": This phrase refers to HW Brands' biography of Teddy, T.R.: The Last Romantic.
"Edison's razor": The reference here is, of course, to Occam's razor. Occam's razor is a logical principle attributed to a medieval philosopher named William of Occam. The basic gist of this principle is that one should not employ more than the necessary entities to explain something. There is, of course, more to it than that, but that's the basic idea. It is often popularized as the phrase, "The simplest solution is probably the right one," which distorts the meaning somewhat, but that's how people are familiar with it. Occam's razor is more properly known as the principle of parsimony, but is called a razor, because it is used to "shave away" any unnecessary elements of an argument. In Edison's razor, it's not the unnecessary elements that are shaved off, but rather the ones that Edison thinks are stupid.
"The future, Teddy?": This exchange between Teddy and Edison is a reference to the popular "In the Year 2000" sketch from "Late Night with Conan O' Brien."
Hitler's suit: Yeah, that's an NES controller on his belt there.
"Mi Fuehrer? Que ist los?": Hooo, boy. These sentences mark the first appearance of the hodgepodge language which in my head I have dubbed "Spangleutsch." The idea is that Jorge Hitler, being German by nature, speaks partial German, but being Argentinian by nurture, speaks partial Spanish, and because the audience reading the book needs to understand what he's saying, partial English as well. Besides being a fun running joke, the phenomenon of Spangleutsch is my "tribute" to comics and other pop media wherein writers prove to us that a character is from another country due to the fact that they can't say "Oh my gosh!" in English. For the most part, any basic phrase from a foreign language that would be among the first to learn in English is completely unknown to foreign comic characters. Now, if you are a speaker of either German or Spanish, you have probably noticed there are some mistakes in Jorge's dialogue. The reason for this is twofold: 1) because I often had to choose a word that sounded more like English to make it easier to understand (for example, "die" instead of "der" or "das," "zu" instead of "nach," among others--facilitating understanding is also why a greater percentage of his speech is German, there are more English-German cognates than English-Spanish ones), and 2) because any American comic where a character peppers his or her speech with foreign phrases is riddled with mistakes. I'm not going to name any names, but if you can think of a popular book that was famously full of an international cast, you probably know what I'm talking about.
"Ich kann nicht put my arms down!": A phrase similar to one from a similar scene in a movie that I would watch all year round, A Christmas Story.
"Buenas Noches, Mein Fuerher!": The title of chapter two comes from a line from a Simpsons episode, "Bart vs. Australia." In this episode, we see an aged Hitler in South America struggling with his "wagenphone." A man on a bicycle passes by and says the line from which I took this title. Incidentally, if the theme song for chapter one is "The Edison Museum" by TMBG, the theme to this chapter is "Springtime for Hitler" from The Producers.
Nazitown: The page showing the Nazi-led landscape of the future contains plenty of cameos, including the Red Skull, Hauptmann Englande from Excalibur, a character from Art Spiegelman's Maus (not sure why he's just walking around on the street, but....), Colonel Klink, Ian McKellen's character from Apt Pupil, and more. Name them all and win the prize of self-respect. "Schindler's Mist" is of course, a refreshing soft drink that is one part "Schindler's List" and one part "Sierra Mist." And naturally, in this town, Dr. Henry Jones is public enemy #1. Also, much to my chagrin, I found out that "Das Butt" was a joke in an episode of The Simpsons, making this the one joke I didn't deliberately steal from them.
"Herr Gerbils": This character is based in name only on Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister. I chose this name just because to English-speaking ears, "Goebbels" sounds vaguely like "gerbils" with a hard "g."
"schweinperros": This pun is one of the most obscure in the book, so as a result, one of my favorites. American movies have Germans calling Americans "schweinhund" or "pigdog" all the time. So I just changed the German "hund" to the Spanish "perro" and there you have it.
"Arean": Without going into the ironic history of the term "Aryan" itself, I'll just mention that "Aryan" plus "Martian" comes to be "Arean" by way of the name Ares, which was the Greek god with whom the Roman deity Mars came to be conflated.
"Mir gusta green": Perhaps one of the less obvious multi-lingual parts, I was relying on people being familar with the Spanish phrase "me gusta ______" or "I like ______." At any rate, Jorge likes green, okay? That's not arbitrary.
"Interstellar escalator": With the interstellar escalator, I was just trying to add to the canon of wacky ways to get into space. The Greek author Lucian, for example, in his "A True History" tells of his trip into space via a giant waterspout that carried his ship to the moon. Add to that the number of balloons, rifles, fictional elements and other pre-rocket technology being used to get people to the moon, and the escalator may not seem so far-fetched. It seems especially so when you consider that in June (long after Bully Pulpit was finished), scientist Bradley C. Edwards announced a proposal for an elevator that would carry people 62,000 miles into space. I'm not making that up. You can look into it. I felt like a science prophet when that piece of news came out.
"aqua spirans": I'll repeat at this juncture that I consider this book less "science fiction" and more "fictional science." "Aqua spirans," as Edison says, means "breathing water." I was originally going to call it "aqua spiritus" or "water of breath," as a reference to the term "aqua vitae," which although literally meaning "water of life," is a term for distilled spirits or brandy in particular. But, if I may get both nerdy and paranoid for a second, I thought someone might not recognize that without diacritical marks, the nominative and genitive forms of the word "spiritus" look identical and might think I was just slapping Latin words together without giving any thought to syntax. While I would let myself look lax in my application of German and Spanish for the sake of clarity, there was no way I would let someone find fault, even incorrect fault, with my Latin. That's just the way I am. I better go put on my Fonz jacket to just return myself to equilibrium on the coolness scale.
"Bellatrix": "Bellatrix" is Latin for "warrior woman." Another synonymous name I considered was "Bellona," who was a Roman war deity, but I'm just a sucker for that "-atrix" ending. Using a Latin name for a character who lives on Mars, a planet that would never have heard Latin in the history of history, comes from early sci-fi writers penchant for naming space people and places with Latin and Greek names, which probably comes from astronomers' penchant for doing so. Bellatrix gets a warrior name not only because she was a general, but because she's from Mars, the planet named after the Roman god of war.
"Sylvan": "Sylvan" of course just means "in the woods." The idea of a Robin Hood-like society on a distant planet is a direct reference to the planet of Arboria from Flash Gordon. I thought the idea of someone going to another planet and finding that it was inhabited by merry men was just too crazy not to use. So that's why the resistance fighters live in giant tree houses and use bow and arrows.
"Caerulean": "Caerulean" means, appropriately enough, "blue."
"Ephialtes": Readers who were familiar with Greek history would have seen the "twist" at the end coming as soon as they saw this kid's name. Ephialtes earned his place in historical notoriety at the battle of Thermopylae in the Persian War in 480 BC. This battle is famously known as the battle in which a small force of Greek warriors led by Leonidas and his 300 Spartans defended the Greek shore against an outrageously and mythically large Persian army led by king Xerxes by forcing them through the narrows of Thermopylae. According to Herodotus, the Greeks would have won if they were not betrayed. Take it away, H-Dogg:
"How to deal with the situation Xerxes had no idea; but just then, a man from Malis, Ephialtes, the son of Eurydemus, came, in hope of a rich reward, to tell the king about the track which led over the hills to Thermopylae--and thus he was to prove the death of the Greeks who held the pass." (Herodotus, The Histories, VII.213ff., translation by Aubrey de Selincourt)
If you're too lazy to read Herodotus, you can see this same story excellently retold with a bit of poetic license taken in 300 by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley.
I suppose I could have named him "Benedict" or "Iscariot," but that would have been a little too obvious, and I wanted to stick with my Greco-Roman naming scheme.
"Viridians": Again, easily enough, "viridian" means "green."
"Green skin good, blue skin bad": Jorge's slogan here is based on the simplistic but effective propaganda of Napoleon the pig--"Four legs good, two legs bad"--from George Orwell's Animal Farm.
"Nichts macht frei": "Nothing will make you free." I'm not sure this means exactly what I intended, but I'm not sure how to say it otherwise, and I'm sure lots of people know how to say it better. At any rate, this is a twist on the phrase "arbeit macht frei," which means "work will make you free," an old German peasant saying representing the Protestant work ethic. During the 1930s, the Nazi party used it as a slogan in their countermeasures to unemployment. And to add insult to injury, this slogan was placed enticingly (and with bitter irony) on the gates of such concentration camps as Auschwitz, Dachau, Gross-Rosen, Sachsenhausen, and Terezin. Jorge may not have had the capacity for irony as the original Nazis, but at least he's slightly more honest, I guess.
Teddy's suit: Space Teddy is an amalgamation of the Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon, Captain Marvel, and John Carter of Mars.
"Theodore Rex Mavortius": "Theodore, King of Mars." Mavors was an older form of the name Mars, so "Rex Martius" would have been just as reasonable, but I think "Mavortius" looks cooler. The "Theodore Rex" portion, incidentally, is a reference to the famous TR biography of the same name by Edmund Morris. Also, as long as I'm talking about the title page for a new chapter, the theme song for this chapter is "Woodpecker from Mars" by Faith No More.
"Catstodon": Pretty simple. A combination of "cat" and "mastodon." No specific reason why the army is made up of giant kittens other than that it seemed like the least threatening thing an army could be made out of.
"Olympus Mons": Latin for "Mount Olympus" (remember what I said about naming space things after Greco-Roman things?), the home of the Greco-Roman gods, Olympus Mons is the largest known volcano in our solar system. It's 374 miles in diameter, and 16 miles high, which is WAY bigger than it's depicted in this book.
"Vespursi": A combination of "verpertilio" or "bat" and "ursus," "bear." So they're bears with bat wings. No real reason. I just like bears.
"Dum spirat, spero": "Dum spiro, spero" is a famous Latin phrase (and, incidentally, the state motto of South Carolina) that means "While I breathe, I hope," which means basically, "I am able to have hope as long as I'm alive." I've changed it slightly so that it means, "As long as it breathes, I have hope." Since this motto is put on the tanks of aqua spirans, I hope the meaning is clear.
Teddy's speech: Teddy's speech contains another reference to the Rough Riders, and an allusion to the best song of all time (excluding Boston's "More than a Feeling"). Teddy has another connection (not necessarily a rainbow one) to the singer of this song, but I'll leave the fun of finding that one out to you. Plus, I plan to exploit that fact in the future.
Flying Nazis: They're all riding on flying Vespas. I thought that was funny. Nothing deep, really.
flying carpet: The flying carpet is there for a couple of reasons; first, it's an allusion to Gullivar of Mars by Edwin L. Arnold, which is a Mars story preceding the John Carter stories. In it, Lieutentant Gullivar Jones (no relation to Lemuel Gulliver), travels to Mars on a flying carpet. I thought that was the coolest thing since the Robin Hood guys on Arboria, so I stuck in an homage to it. Also, this scene goes to establish an important fact about the world of Tales from the Bully Pulpit: if something is, or was ever, popularly believed, it's probably true. That's why Teddy can just grab a carpet from an old Arabian market and assume it will fly, only to find out that it will. It's also how I can have guys like Chairman Meow and Paul Bunyan show up in the midst of people who actually existed (sorry, Paul Bunyan fans, but it's true).
"Sim sim kala-bim": This is a slight mangling of the generic magic words "sim sala bim." It just sounds like something someone should say on a magic carpet, right? Also, our good pal Hadji from Jonny Quest used to shout "sim sim sala bim" before doing magical things based solely on the fact that he's from India or something. And who doesn't want to be like Hadji?
"Doosh": I'm not going to go through and comment on every sound effect in the book, but I would like to point out that this is my favorite punch sound effect of all time. I'm honestly afraid that if I ever get into a fight, I will make this sound with my mouth when I throw a punch.
"Odessa": Jorge's time machine, besides being based on the DeLorean from Back to the Future, has a significant name. "Odessa" was the name of the alleged secret club of Nazi war criminals who fled to South America (remember way back when I was talking about that?). "Odessa" is an acronym that stands for "Organization der ehemaligen SS-Angehoerigen," which in English means, "The Organization of Former SS Members."
"Thirty-five minutes ago": I'm sure I don't have to tell you, well-read comics fans that you are, that the first panel of this page is an homage, both in dialogue and composition, to a panel from the eleventh chapter of Watchmen, a book whose artistic and literary merit is of comparable degree to this one.
"Senor Fusion": A reference to "Mister Fusion," the device that powered Doc Brown's time machine in the Back to the Future sequels so he wouldn't have to steal any more plutonium from the Libyans.
"Julius Caesar": Gaius Julius Caesar was a famous Roman statesman, general, and author from the first century BCE. He is most famous for his conquest of Gaul and his subsequent takeover of the Roman state, leading to the eventual rise of the Roman empire. Actually, he's most famous for getting killed on March 15, 44 BCE by a gang of senators intent on being blind to the fact that the Roman republic was a tottering giant by that time, and that form of government was totally infeasible for a Rome so large....but I digress. "Veni vidi vici" (I came, I saw, I conquered) was Caesar's concise report to the Senate of his conquest over Pharnaces, the king of Pontus, in 47 BCE.
"Chairman Mao": Mao Tse-tung, or Zedong, or any number of variant spellings, was the co-founder of the Chinese Communist Party, and may, having had control of over a billion people for 25 years and millions of square miles of land, have been the most powerful man in history. He led the communist forces who overthrew the nationalist party of China in the 1930s and in 1949 helped establish the People's Republic of China and became its chairman. He continued to exhibit control in China even after retiring as chairman of the republic by remaining chairman of the communist party. He's referred to here as "Communism's poster boy" due to the prominence of giant propoganda posters of his face (which look quite similar to his expression throughout this book) during his tenure as chairman.
"Chairman Meow": Meow Tse-tung, or Zedong, or any number of variant spellings, was the co-founder of the Cat-hayan Communist Party, and may, having had control of over a billion catpeople for 25 years and millions of square miles of land, have been the most powerful catman in history. He led the communist forces who overthrew the nationalist party of Cat-hay in the 1930s and in 1949 helped establish the People's Republic of Cat-hay and became its chairman. He continued to exhibit control in Cat-hay even after retiring as chairman of the republic by remaining chairman of the communist party.
"Goliath of Gath": Goliath is the most famous giant in the Bible. He was a warrior of Gath, one of the city-states of the Philistines, which was opposing Israel during the reign of King Saul. He, like Caesar, is most famous for being killed. In this case, Goliath was killed by David, a young shepherd boy, who would then go on to become the next king of Israel (of course, that's according to the first book of Samuel. According to the second book of Samuel, some other dude killed Goliath. Bible argument--go!). According to traditional interpretation of the Bible, Goliath was something like eight and a half feet tall, but closer inspection shows he was probably closer to six and a half feet tall, which isn't THAT giant, so I went with the more fantastical interpretation. Goliath has been interpreted as a descendant of the Anakim, a race of giants who were descendants of the Nephilim, a race of half-human, half-angel giants with six fingers. I was going to have Graeme draw Goliath with six fingers, but I think I forgot. Oh, well. Maybe in the special edition DVD.
"Saddam Hussein": You guys know who Saddam Hussein is. I don't have to tell you. But here he is, first Iraq war stylee.
"Theseus": I'm not going to debate whether or not Theseus actually existed. I mean, Plutarch wrote about him and he was a HISTORIAN. That means Theseus was HISTORICAL. He's probably most famous for killing the Minotaur (which Plutarch also writes about--that's FACT), but he's also famous for inventing democracy and then going on to be a king anyway. It only makes sense if you don't think about it. He is also attributed with developing Greco-Roman style wrestling; according to some, this was due to his rather diminuitive size. He would therefore use his brains and strategy rather than brains alone. His appearance here is, again, based on popular conception; I mean, a blonde Athenian? I don't think so. He wields a club, which was Theseus' iconographic signifier in ancient art (that is, if you saw a guy with a club who wasn't wearing a lion skin, it was probably Theseus). Theseus gained his club during his exploits on his way to Athens by killing a guy named Periphetes who used to hit people. With his club. Also, it's rather subtle, but you'll notice Theseus has a mullet. In addition to the invention of democracy and the development of wrestling, I like to attribute to Theseus the popularization of the mullet, which was, in ancient times, called, I kid you not, "the Theseus." Take it, Plutarch:
"He clipped only the fore part of his head, as Homer says the Abantes did. And this sort of tonsure was from him named Theseus. The Abantes first used it, not in imitation of the Arabians, as some imagine, nor of the Mysians, but because they were a warlike people, and used to close fighting, and above all other nations accustomed to engage hand to hand . . . Therefore that they might not give their enemies a hold by their hair, they cut it in this manner. They write also that this was the reason why Alexander gave command to his captains that all the beards of the Macedonians should be shaved, as being the readiest hold for an enemy." (Plutarch, Theseus, trans. by John Dryden)
"Marcus Tullius Cicero": Marcus Tullius Cicero was another first century BCE statesman, a contemporary and political rival of Caesar. He was a political conservative and staunch supporter of the republic. He is most famous for being the guy Latin students have to read after they finish the elementary grammar course. A prolific writer, we have more of Cicero's writing than any other classical author. He wrote many political speeches (of which he was the Roman master), legal cases, philosophical treatises, personal letters, and at least one poem (more on that later). He was killed on the retro-anniversary of Pearl Harbor for talking smack about Marc Antony, who after killing the conspirators who killed Caesar, was one powerful dude. His one poem exists only in fragments (from a letter where he was quoting himself). It's called "De meo consulatu," or "On my own consulship." Cicero was consul (the main executive power of the Roman senate, it was an office held by two people, whose term lasted a year) in 63 BCE and famously quashed a rebellion led by a man named Catiline. One of the lines from this poem that remains is "O fortunatam natam me consule Romam," or "O fortunate Rome, born with me as its consul." Hence his statement here about Mars.
"Paul Bunyan": Paul Bunyan was considered for a long time to be a development of lumberjack folklore. In fact, he's more a development of "fakelore." The Paul Bunyan stories were in fact written by various advertising copywriters for the Red River Lumber Company in the early 20th century. It's debated whether these ad stories were based on real logger stories or not. You can decide for yourself, I suppose. Anyway, Paul Bunyan was the giant lumberjack who did crazy lumberjack things along with Babe, his giant blue ox, such as inventing the Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, and the Aurora Borealis. According to the song from the Disney cartoon based on Bunyan fakelore, he was "sixty-three axe handles high," which is actually WAY bigger than he's depicted here. But I wanted him to be about the same size as Goliath. He also likes flapjacks, as any natural-born logger does.
"Benjamin Franklin": Benjamin Franklin was in many ways the quintessential American. He was among the founding fathers, a writer, a newspaper man, an inventor, and as it says here, a swimming hall-of-famer. He developed the American post office, newspapers, and volunteer fire departments. His inventions include bifocals and the Franklin stove, out of which his armor here is made. Franklin is the only founding father in the swimming hall of fame. Franklin taught himself how to swim from a book, then set out to improve the state of swimming. He invented a few strokes and once swam three and a half miles of the Thames River, doing funny swim tricks to wow spectators. Poor Richard's Almanack was Franklin's yearly publication (under the pseudonym of Poor Richard) from 1732 to 1757. As most almanacs did (and do), it contained calendar, weather, astronomical, and astrological information for the year. It was also full of anecdotes and aphorisms ("A penny saved is a penny earned," "Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise").
"coconut fascist": I could exude the soul of wit and briefly tell you that a coconut fascist is the opposite of a banana republican, but that's not exactly the true origin of this phrase. This term was a joke that arose from a conversation between my girlfriend and a friend wherein they noted that the only difference between a German chocolate cake and a regular chocolate cake was the coconut; ergo, the coconut was the core of Germanness. Therefore, Bonhoeffer was a coconut theologian, and Hitler was a coconut fascist. Now you know.
"emancipate": "Emancipate" means to free from slavery. Lincoln was known as the Great Emancipator. Some of you may have heard of his Emancipation Proclamation; others of you may not listen to hip hop.
"SOCK!": The sound effect here reflects the method in which the Jorge-bot goes to pieces: that of a Rock'em Sock'em Robot. Also, yes, that is a dragon punch Lincoln is throwing there.
"We've got a big, fat universe to see": And we finish up the book with an homage to the Eels song "Saturday Morning" ("I'm giving you warning, baby/we've got a whole big, fat world to see").
Wow, that took a lot longer than I thought. Hopefully we've all learned something here (cuz knowledge is power!). I'm going to go back to working on Tales from the Bully Pulpit vol 2: Legend of the Black Maria.
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