Sunday, May 31, 2020

Big Boy in Big D


Even if you haven't eaten at a Big Boy's restaurant, you're probably familiar with its mascot.  The pudgy guy with the checkered overalls and pompadour is seen outside his namesake restaurant hoisting a big burger and beckoning hungry travelers to stop in and take a load off.  Restaurant names tend to vary with geography (Bob's Big Boy, Frisch's Big Boy, or in this instance, Elias Brothers' Big Boy) but that smiling face always remain the same.

What was also common, at least in the old days, was the "Adventures of Big Boy" promotional comic book that was available in the restaurant.  Since Big Boy restaurant were sometimes marketed as a spot for folks on the road, the comics usually dealt with topics or travel or travel destinations.  Today we take a look at Big Boy's journey to Dallas!

It was 1980, there had been a big art theft in Big D and Big Boy had been called in to investigate.  Is Big Boy some kind of detective or criminal investigator?  I have no idea.  I don't really know much about the character but I would guess that he's pretty much whatever a particular issue's story wants him to be.

So as our hero, along with his girlfriend Dolly and his dog Nuggets, wait for their plane at the airport, the case is pretty much cracked right in front of them.   A suspicious cowboy hat wearing traveler essentially confesses to the crime as the gang looks on.  This all happens on Page 2.

So it seems that Big Boy and his crew were called in by his police contact, Captain Crockett, who they meet up with when they land (at DFW, even though they call it "Dallas Airport" least it mentions that it was the largest airport in the country at the time). 

So they meet up with their police connection and follow the art thief to downtown Dallas.  The gang decides to split up, as crime-solving groups tend to do, and after a brief stop at the Dallas Farmers Market, they head to...

Dallas City Hall still had that "New City Hall" smell at the time.  It's also the location where the art thief hid the painting.  So apparently he stole it, then hid it, then flew somewhere else, then flew back to Dallas to retrieve it.  Or possibly, his accomplice stole it, hid it and he came to town to retrieve it.   These are the questions the comic brings up but doesn't answer. 

The exact hiding place was underneath the sculpture outside the building...which the comic attempts to draw.  Here's what it looks like in real life:

As our art thief grabs his purloined painting, Nuggets the dog gives him a a round of barking.  And the chase was on!  Like any man of action, Big Boy solves his problems with a tackle that would make a Dallas Cowboy envious.

And there you have it, case closed!  There wasn't a lot of story in this story but there was at least an attempt at some graphic representation of a few Dallas landmarks.  It's an odd addition to the many movies, TV shows and comics that take place in Big D but I'm sure it was a welcome one for kids in the 80s as they wolfed down their burger and fries. 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

ZZ Top: The Comic


"Rock 'N Roll Comics" was a comic book series in the late 80s/early 90s that retold band origins in comic book format.  They were biographies of groups like Guns & Ross, KISS, Iron Maiden and other hard rock groups from that era. 

For their 25th issue they decided to tell the story of legendary Texas rock/blues band ZZ Top, tracing each member's story from a young age to rock & roll stardom. 

The comic starts out by showing how the thee 'Tops" began their love of music and how they got started.  As is typical in these types of stories, there are many failed attempts to get started and a lot of bands being formed, re-formed, losing members, gaining members and breaking up.  There's an effort to show which other musicians influenced the boys and some of their early collaborations and successes.

Several more versions of the band come and go until Billy gets legendary manager Bill Ham involved.  There's then a few more comings and goings but finally we get to what will eventually become the ZZ Top we all know and love. 

More clubs dates lead to bigger venues and higher profile gigs which lands them a record deal.  After recording their first album, they end up playing with bands like Deep Purple and the Doors.  After their second, they tour with the Rolling Stones.  They extra success means they need to keep touring and keep recording...which leads to the need to do a little "research:" for a particular song:

More albums were recorded and bigger venues played.  With this success, it was time to develop ZZ Top's unique style.  By embracing their roots and pushing the boundaries of showmanship, they began turning their concerts into something a little more unique...almost a stage show:

The road to fame is long and windy.  After a grueling touring and recording schedule, the boys take some much needed down time to recharge their batteries and have a little fun.  During this vacation, shaving didn't seem to be a top priority so when the group got back together, their signature look was born:

More albums, more touring, more success...the boys were a genuine hit!  But there were still worlds to conquer.  The 1980s brought about MTV and the rise of the music video.  With their cool swagger and penchant for casting attractive women, ZZ Top became known for their music videos.

After a few divorces, a gunshot wound, custom cars and a run for president, the band kept on keepin' on.  More albums, more tours and more fame allowed the boys to call the shots and be the group they wanted to be.  The comic ends around the early 90s but as we know there was still plenty of story left to tell about that Little Ol' Band From Texas.  Rock & Roll Comics may be gone but rock & roll music will never die!

Friday, February 28, 2020

Crazy in Dallas


Everyone remembers Mad Magazine and their ruthless skewering of popular culture.  Many people may even remember Cracked Magazine, the shameless rip-off of Mad.  Fewer people may remember  the other scores of parody magazines that were looking to get caught up in the wave of Mad Magazine excitement (and maybe pick up some sales along the way). 

 One of them, Crazy Magazine, was published by Marvel Comics and hung in there for a decade by making fun of the day's most popular movies and TV.  And nothing in 1981 was more popular than Dallas...which eventually saw itself in the Crazy cross hairs. 

If you remember my blog entry from awhile back about the Mad Magazine Dallas parody, you'll notice some similarities, even down to the art style and panel layout:

So you get the standard introductions of characters (and caricatures), with the theme for this "story" being that J.R. is out to get everybody and everybody is out to get J.R.  So what we get are several pages of J.R. being mean to people and those people trying to kill him.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

 The caricatures are all pretty good with the exception of Cliff Barnes.  I don't know if it's the weird angles or if Ken Kercheval is just difficult to draw in general but I don't think the artist nailed it on this one.

 J.R. continues his reign of terror against the Ewing clan, even going so far as to blackmail Jock for control of Ewing Oil.  And clearly Bobby isn't dealing well with the stress.  At this point how could J.R. top himself?  Is there no evil deed he wouldn't consider?

I guess we all knew J.R. is capable of quite a bit of mischief but destroying the world seems a little extreme.  I mean, I couldn't say for 100% that he wasn't capable of it...but I'm pretty sure.  Anyhoo, this little yarn ends with J.R. escaping the doomed earth in a rocket ship.  Once again, he comes out on top. 

It's probably not the best parody you've ever seen but "Crazy Magazine" never really reached the heights that "Mad Magazine" did.  Still it's always nice to see a little piece of memorabilia from the Dallas TV juggernaut.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Walker's Fort Worth HQ


All right Chuck Norris fans, it's time to delve into more Walker, Texas Ranger!  Even if you were just a casual viewer you probably noticed the HQ of Walker and his pals.  In real life it's the Tarrant County Courthouse:

You can find it in downtown Fort Worth and recognize it by its Texas pink granite...the same kind of stone you'll find making up the facade of the state Capitol Building in Austin.  For you history buffs, here's the building's Texas Historical Marker:

It reads:

     "Designed by firm of Gunn & Curtis and built by the Probst Construction Company of Chicago, 1893-1895. This red Texas granite building, in Renaissance Revival style, closely resembles the Texas State Capital with the exception of the clock tower. 
     The cost was $408,840 and citizens considered it such a public extravagance that a new County Commissioners' Court was elected in 1894. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1969"

In one of the earlier episodes the courthouse got some good exposure during an action scene.  The episode's bad guy, played by character actor Leon Rippy, kidnaps Alex in broad daylight while dressed as a cop with the help of some flash grenades and tear gas:

This all goes down in front of the courthouse:

Walker's partner Trivette does what he does best and opens fire into a crowded street:

Looks like he had made it across the street to the bank but the bad guy still gets away.

Don't worry though, they get him at his nondescript cabin in the woods whose location I am not about to try and track down.  And roll credits...

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Hare Transplant

Years ago Bugs Bunny and his pals kicked out the Spelunkers (and other animatronic folks) so they could settle in at Six Flags.  But that wasn't his first trip to Texas.  In one of his earliest animated shorts, he headed out to the Lone Star state with a belly full of carrots and an ax to grind.

The 1943 cartoon short "Super-Rabbit" was an early entry in the Bugs Bunny pantheon and, as you probably guessed, is a parody of iconic superhero Superman.  (And, yes, it involves Texas).

Instead of being a strange visitor from another world, Bugs gets his powers from a a batch of specially irradiated carrots created by your standard mad scientist.  After chowing down on his first super power inducing snack, he immediately decides how and where to use his newfound powers.

It's understandable that a rabbit-hating hunter like Cottontail Smith might not be beloved in the rabbit community but Bugs was walking around with this newspaper clipping in his pocket.  So it's clear he's been waiting for an opportunity to enact some old school justice...Texas Justice!

And so with his new powers and costume, Bugs heads to Texas to match wits with a rabbit hunter...which would eventually become one of his trademarks.  We may never know why Elmer Fudd eventually rose to villainous infamy while Cottontail Smith faded into obscurity since this seems to be Smith's only appearance.

There's some online speculation that he was based on Lyndon B. Johnson but I'm not convinced.  LBJ would have been in the House of Representatives at the time and I'm not sure if he infamous enough to warrant a cartoon parody just yet.

Deepinaharta, TX looks to be in either the west Texas area or, more likely, the panhandle region.  The buttes and rock columns in the background are reminiscent of sights like the"Lighthouse" that you can see at Palo Duro State Park (after a little bit of a hike).

And that's pretty much where the Texas connection ends.  There's your usual Looney Tunes shenanigans with vague west Texas scenery in the background as Bugs makes a fool out of Cottontail and his horse for the rest of the cartoon.  But it ends on a patriotic note:

Bugs hops into the phone booth for one last change and emerges as "a real super man."  As a newly enlisted Marine, Bugs marches past his foes and into the war effort.  And that's way this one ends. 

So the next time you head to Six Flags and see your old pal Bugs's face all over the place, just remember he's no tourist...he's been here for awhile.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Sandwich Tour of Dallas Part 3 - State Fair Edition

It's State Fair time but put away those corn dogs and drop those turkey legs because the Sandwich Tour of Dallas continues!

We start with an item that mades its State Fair debut a few years back.   Deep Fried Mac & Cheese Sliders can be found at the Steve Velasquez's food stand in the Grand Place Building (the building where they sell hot tubs, sewing machines and alpaca fur blankets).  It's like a regular slider but includes a deep fried patty of three-cheese macaroni and cheese.

When I first heard of these I didn't realize that it came with the beef patty.  I just thought the mac & cheese replaced it instead of accompanied it.  I think they could have gotten away with that but I'm glad they didn't.  The taste is great and the two components are great compliments to each other.  Apparently it takes a while to cook, or maybe they haven't streamlined the process, so there was a wait after I ordered.  But they are definitely a unique fair snack and worth a try.

Little Bob's B-B-Q inside the Tower Building (where the food court is) is a yearly stop for me at the fair.   It may seem a little unusual (or perhaps too usual) but they've got a great thick-cut Bologna Sandwich.  But this time I went for the chopped pork bbq sandwich.

Now, Dallas bbq is a whole other set of blog entries but I'm fond of Little Bob's and bbq sandwiches are a fair staple.  This is a great option for those who might need a respite from deep fried shenanigans but still want to EAT.  The sauce is a milder variety than you usually find and the meat is smokey and flavorful.  It's filling but not too heavy and makes a great lunch.

And now on to dessert and since this is the State Fair of Texas it MUST be deep fried!  You may think that the two elements of being deep fried and in sandwich form would narrow your options but not at the State Fair.  I decided on the Deep Fried Peanut Butter, Jelly and Banana Sandwich.

I've mentioned before that as great as peanut butter is, it becomes ten times better when it's heated up.  The variety of flavors and textures meld together greatly and the batter is so good that it could be fried up and served on its own.  Like many deep fried desserts it's dusted with powdered sugar and served warm.  This one is definitely filling so you'll need to pace yourself.

These are only a small sample of what the fair has to offer.  So grab your Fair Park map, come up with a good game plan and bring your appetite.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Salt Seeing

The Morton Salt Girl has never been one of the more flashy product mascots but she's a bit of a workhorse.  She's been holding her umbrella and spilling her salt for over a century.  Sure, she may be frequently overlooked by flashier guys like Mr. Peanut or the Green Giant but I found a palace where she reigns as queen.

The Grand Salt Palace is just that...a building dedicated to, and made of, salt!  Found in Grand Saline in east Texas, the museum and visitors center celebrates America's favorite spice.  That's because there's a huge salt deposit in the area and Morton mines it for potato chip lovers everywhere.  It's what you call a "Salt Town."  (I don't know if anybody calls it that but I do.)

So proud of their natural resource, the town built its Welcome Center out of it.   You can build buildings out of rock, and salt is a rock so naturally synergy won the day.  Visitors are even encouraged to taste the salty we did...

Guess what it tastes like?  If you guessed salt, you're right!  I can't make any claims about how hygienic it is but pretty much every visitor seems to give it a lick.  My advice to new visitors is to try and find an unappealing corner somewhere that has had a minimum of licking.  Good luck!

Inside you'll find the type of pamphlets and local history displays that populate many small town museums.  What makes this one stand out is the free rock salt samples (Spoiler: they taste like salt) and, of course, Morton Salt Girl Memorabilia in its various forms.

As usual, there's a surprising amount of stuff with this particular mascot on it but, to paraphrase Dr. Ian Malcolm, Marketing...finds a way... 

Also on site is the standard little old lady to answer all your salt and salt related questions, an educational video about salt playing on a loop and the obligatory penny smashing machine.  I would definitely recommend a stop at this place if it's only a few hours off your pre-planned route.  But I'm into weird stuff like this.

Outside, in addition to the lickable walls, you'll find a Texas Historical marker about legendary aviator and adventurer Wiley Post.   And not too far from that that is even more salt!  This time in the form of a great big chunk:

Atop a wooden table and shaded by an outdoor roof, this guy has been welcoming folks to town for years.  The rain and wind have probably done their best to wear it down but it remains in place waiting for the next curious visitor to give it a lick.