Monday, April 21, 2014
JULY 1963: THE ADVENTURES OF JERRY LEWIS #78
The Adventures of Jerry Lewis #78 [September-October 1963] has our boy cracking wise with a Viking who clearly doesn’t appreciate the humor. The Grand Comics Database opines the cover is penciled and inked by Bob Oksner. I’m inclined to agree.
The inside front cover advertises the Magic Art Reproducer which we’ve seen before. Indeed, every outside ad in this issue is one we’ve seen in other DC Comics titles from this month. The line-up: Tootsie Rolls, 207 Stamps, Tootsie Roll Pops, Missile Attack, 104 Cars, Tootsie Roll Fudge, 104 Kings’ Knights, 100 Toy Soldiers, the Blast Off space game, the Christmas cards from Wallace Brown and 204 Revolutionary War Soldiers.
The issue-length story is untitled and runs 26 pages, though three of those pages are half-pages that fall at the end of the chapters. The writer is unknown, but he or she does a terrific job capturing Jerry’s voice and speech mannerisms. I could “hear” the performer in every word balloon. The story is drawn and signed by Oksner and it has everything you’d expect from that great artist: great facial expressions, fluid motion and a gorgeous girl. Of course, like his fellow DC star Bob Hope, Lewis was blessed (or cursed) with a face that looks like a cartoon.
The story opens with an obsessed Jerry going to the library because he wants to read about pirates right now. However, all the books on pirates have already been checked out by “Professor J. Overlap Peasplitter” and are overdue.
Jerry explains why he must have a book on pirates:
I want it should be on pirates on account of I broke a dish today and it broke into pieces of eight. Get it? Now if that doesn’t call for a pirate book, what does?
Jerry goes to the Peasplitter home where he meets the absent-minded professor and the professor’s gorgeous daughter Mary. Peasplitter is working on a time machine and planning to research the pirates of the past. He cons, ah, convinces Jerry into taking the trip for him. The chapter ends with Jerry in the machine and realizing that he might be making a mistake.
“Teen Age Views” is a half-page filler, four panels of teenagers sharing humorous definitions: An example: “Psychiatry is the art of teaching people how to stand on their own two feed while lying down on a couch!” The creator or creators of this feature have not yet been identified.
“Inside Hollywood” is a full-page prose column reporting on various celebrities. Stanley Holloway, who played Eliza Doolittle’s father in Broadway’s My Fair Lady has been signed to play the role in the movie. Kirk Douglas’ government-sponsored speaking tour in Brazil was a triumph. Alfred Hitchcock has slimmed down to 200 pounds “and endangered his profile.” Imogene Coca is making her motion-picture debut in Under the Yum Yum Tree.
Back to Jerry Lewis. The second chapter opens with the professor’s time machine sending him to a baseball stadium where he arouses the ire of...wait for it...the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jerry makes his way back to the Peasplitter house. The professor says the machine just needs a few adjustments.
Before the second time travel attempt, the professor gives Jerry a two-way transistor radio so they can stay in touch. As Jerry goes back through time, the music playing on the radio changes to match the eras through which he’s passing. We get songs like:
I’m just a lonely minute man looking for a Minuet maid...
Jerry ends up in the time of Vikings, who, after all, were feared pirates. He narrowly dodges a welcoming spear thrown by Skag the Peace-Lover. Jerry is relieved by the name until Skag explains what it means:
Yes! Ha-ha! But unfortunately for folks, I only find peace after a good messy fight! Ha-ha-ha! Grrr! Ha-ha-ha!
The third and final chapter opens with Jerry fleeing from Skag and trying to contact the professor on the radio. He runs into Astrid, the daughter of the chief of the people Skag is presently invading. Astrid looks exactly like Mary.
Astrid thinks the radio is magic and asks Jerry to use his magic to make her wheelchair-bound father invincible. Chief Leif looks like the professor. Miraculously, when Skag tries to slice the chief in half, the old man leaps to his feet and runs away. According to the law of the land, Skag must catch the chief to claim the village and the lovely Astrid.
The two sides settle on a boat-racing contest. Skag has a crew to propel his boat. The chief has Jerry’s wizardry. This doesn’t look like it will end well.
As per the chief’s request, Jerry gathered food for the trip. The problem: the chief asked for “food fit for a Norse” and Jerry heard “foot fit for a horse” and brought “alfalfa and oats” and “Kentucky blue grass.” Fortunately, they don’t have to look at what they are eating because a thick as pea soup fog rolls in.
Days later, Jerry, Astrid and Chief Leif make land...at Plymouth Rock. Which we know is Plymouth Rock because the name is painted on the rock. As a hail of arrows descend around them, Jerry learns the chief’s full name is...Leif Ericson. The chief discovered America before Columbus did.
The indigenous Americans aren’t at all happy about the arrival of Jerry and the Ericsons. They shout at them from the shore.
Nobody expected on rock till 1620!
Pilgrims got first reservation!
Later they send us to reservation!
Viking go home!
The story is running out of pages so Jerry uses the radio to call for help from the future. He finds himself back in 1963, but with Professor and Mary Peasplitter who, for some reason, have a Viking boat of their own. No one quite knows what happened and we never find out what happened to Chief Leif and his daughter.
The final panel has Jerry back at the library. This time, he’s in a hurry to take out books on ghosts. However, according to library records, a “Dr. Spook” has borrowed them all. The library asks if Jerry would like to contact the doctor. As Jerry flees the library, he tells the librarian to just send him a card when the doctor brings the books back.
Despite its weak ending, I enjoyed this story. As I’ve said in the past, I would eagerly purchase a Best of Jerry Lewis or a Best of Bob Hope collection. While DC probably doesn’t have the rights to the material anymore, they could probably come to an agreement with Lewis or the estate of Hope to publish such books with a portion of the profits going to charities near and dear to Lewis and, when he was alive, Hope.
Such volumes could sell to fans of the comedians and also to comics fans who would be attracted by such great artists as Oksner, Mort Drucker, Neal Adams and others. In the case of Jerry Lewis, later issues of his title features guest appearances by Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Flash.
The only DC house ad in this issue is a full-page subscription form that lists ten books: Fox and Crow, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, The Adventures of Jerry Lewis, The Adventures of Bob Hope, Sugar & Spike, Lois Lane, Wonder Woman, Superboy, Justice League of America and Tomahawk. Readers who subscribed to the titles would get two years worth of issues “at the low low price of 10 cents per issue” as opposed to the cover price of 12 cents per issue.
Coming later this week: The Adventures of Little Archie #28
I’ll be back tomorrow with some other stuff.
© 2014 Tony Isabella