WHEN I WAS SEVENTEENPosted December 26, 2008:
(More of Adam Blatner's Autobiographical Notes and Cartoons)
I have felt a kinship with the lyrics and the way Frank Sinatra sang a song, "It Was a Very Good Year" (lyrics below: http://www.songlyrics.com/sinatra-frank/it-was-a-very-good-year/130983/ ). Romance has been one of a deeply-felt theme in my life. (I'm happy to say that I've been especially fortunate to have actually found a one-in-a-million soul mate and have for the last thirty-plus years been happily ever aftering!). However, whereas Sinatra in the song had begun his love life in his later teens, mine still consisted mainly of longing and the occasional date. I think I was a late bloomer by three years (on average, in the 1950s---maybe five years today?) ... so my love life was mainly fantasy. However, I had begun to do ballroom dancer and had become fair for my age. I improved significantly in the first two years in college and went dancing frequently.)
I began to cartoon when I was in middle school---perhaps earlier, though I don't remember. I had been significantly influenced by the EC series comics---science fiction, horror, war comics, and then the one comic book that survived the persecution of Dr. Frederick Wertham, a psychiatrist who claimed that such comics twisted kids minds. Well, it certainly did mine, but I'm happy it did! It liberated my critical thinking---or helped to, framing my questioning of politics and religion also in the more general cultural trend of gentle rebellion, satire, humor. The cartoonists especially impressed me---and they have been written about elsewhere as being unusually skilled for their profession. Jack Davis, Wally Wood, Bill Elder, and others left strong impressions that might be detected in my emerging style.
I also enjoyed science fiction at a time when it was still a little nerdy to do so---over a decade before Star Trek made it more acceptable. I liked the idea of what aliens might look like, as can be seen in the following drawings. (I doodled during classes. Folks thought I wasn't able to pay attention---this was multi-tasking before there was a name for it--- but of course I absorbed most of what was taught, enough to get good enough grades to get into and then through the University of California at Berkeley, and then medical school. (Those cartoons on another web-page.)
Here are some of the cartoons:
You might appreciate how delighted I was to find a book later on
titled Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials!
Some characters who stayed in my cartoon repertoire may be
seen near the top of this picture.
Frankly, it was easier to draw ugly than pretty, as each
mistake just needed to be exaggerated further.
I enjoyed cartoonists of all sorts. The way Fearless Fosdick, a character drawn by Al Capp as a comic character within a comic strip---Lil' Abner's "Ideel"---often portrayed outrageous situations of characters with big holes blown in them by bullets. While these seemed fatal to others, when it happened to Fosdick---a take off on Dick Tracy, pointy chin and all---it was "just a flesh wound." This picture mixes the theme with Western cowboys and gunfights. Westerns were big on television in the 1950s, with Hopalong Cassidy being popular, the Mark of Zorro, and so forth. Another picture features a guy in a "Zoot-Suit," an alternative clothing style sported by the Hispanics in Los Angeles in the late 1930s and early 1940s, then for a while more fashionable among youth who were more on the edge--- and was also caricaturized by Al Capp.
Here's a zoot-suit-er being cool, man, dancing the jitterbug with a dame. Soon beatniks would replace zoot-suit-ers as epitomes of cool. (I guess I wished I could pull off being cool. My style was more puppy-dog exuberant mixed at that time with some wistfulness, which is detectable as a theme in some of the peripheral figures.
I did a lot of drawings---it kept me "not bored" in class. I didn't really know that category of bored in an explicit way or I might have been more resentful. My style was to just accept the universe and live with it and also parallel to it. During these years some of my various characters who turn up later in many pictures also show up here. On another webpage I describe the genesis of some of these folks.
Candleman---a pitiful fellow, caught up in the morass of his own efforts to discover truth .(I think I hoped to elicit sympathy, but it sure didn't work---what was hoped to be neotenous and precious was actually seen as "loser." Also portrayed are some more alien goons.
"Got a shine on my shoes, and a melody in my heart..." A slightly zootysuit optimism. Above his is one of the early hints at what became the "Blatner-Mouse" a year or two later, a signature character.
In the Little Orphan Annie comic strip, the heroine's expostulation was "Leapin' Lizards!" The character in the middle is a mixture of alien and dinosaurette. Poor pitiful wretch at the bottom. Also I was trying to get my anatomy right in the guy and guy sketch.
*Lyrics to: It Was A Very Good Year (by Ervin Drake, 1961. First performed by the Kingston Trio! But it was popularized mainly by Frank Sinatra at that time.))
When I was seventeen, it was a very good year. It was a very good year for small town girls and soft summer nights.
We'd hide from the lights on the village green when I was seventeen.
When I was twenty-one it was a very good year: it was a very good year for city girls who lived up the stair,
With perfumed hair that came undone, when I was twenty-one.
When I was thirty-five it was a very good year, it was a very good year for blue blooded girls of independant means.
We'd ride in limousines; their chauffeurs would drive, when I was thirty-five.
But now the days are short, I'm in the autumn of the year.
And now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs:
From the brim to the dregs, it poured sweet and clear. It was a very good year!