Sunday, March 20, 2016

Willie & Joe & Me

Regular readers know I love the USS Hornet, the aircraft carrier that recovered Apollos 11 and 12, and is now a National Historic Landmark and museum in Alameda, Calif. where my daughter Laura works and my other daughter Robin volunteers from time to time.

Laura helped put together an exhibition on "Cartoons at War" inspired by the recent find of some letters in the archives between a sailor on the Hornet and famous cartoonist Milt Caniff in 1944. Caniff created the comic strips "Terry and the Pirates," and later "Steve Canyon," which both featured a lot of military action. Caniff wanted to get the details right so he regularly corresponded with soldiers and sailors. Full disclosure: I edited the exhibition's text panels for Laura, so I'm invested.

The museum staff asked me to give a talk about Cartoons at War, and I asked Corry Kanzenberg, curator of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, if she wanted to do it with me. I was astonished and delighted she agreed. Schulz was a machine gunner in Europe; he drew a lot of sketches while there, and his experience informed his later work in "Peanuts," particularly re: Snoopy and the Red Baron.

So we went and did that Saturday.

Laura, wearing a "Peanuts" hoodie to fit the day's theme, gave us a tour of her "Cartoons at War" exhibition. It's in a space designed for temporary rotating shows, and in fact closes today. Sorry if you missed it!
Wartime art from the Hornet's sister ship Bunker Hill (the Hornet was CV-12).
Disney designed more than 1200 military insignias and patches during the War, including one for the Hornet.
Corry and I are way up on the stage under the giant flag, projecting our slides on the screen at the right. The audience included a good-sized squad (or platoon or whatever) of recruits who spent the weekend training on the Hornet. Karen counted about 60 people in the audience, which I thought was a good turnout.
I presented first, while Corry sat beside me wondering if she'd make a terrible mistake. I gave a real quick history of comics up to World War 2, then, taking my cue from the exhibition, hit superhero comics, Bill Mauldin's "Willie & Joe," Dr. Seuss's political cartoons, Milt Caniff, Roy Crane's "Buz Sawyer," and more, all lavishly illustrated. 
Corry introducing the Schulz Museum. We were speaking on the Main Stage in the Hangar Deck, which extends far to the left and right. At the right side of the photo is a flight simulator ride for entertaining the kiddies. 
Corry's turn to talk. Her presentation was great. Then we talked to each other for five minutes, took a few questions (one boy just had to tell us how much he loved Snoopy), and were done after about 50 minutes.

Immediately afterward I went to a small classroom below decks to do a Girl Scout Comic Artists Badge Workshop for a troop of six scouts. One of their mothers works with Laura on the Hornet (Hi, Chris!) and has wanted to do the workshop for a while, so we figured we'd kill as many birds with as few stones as we could. Attendance at the earlier talk was part of their requirement for earning the badge. It was a great group of girls, lively and attentive in all the right parts. By the end of the workshop everyone knew how comics are made and had drawn a four-panel (at least--some girls did much more) comic strip.

Me up front guiding the troop through some cartooning skills, with Laura looking on from the gangway. Robin came too, but we didn't get photos of her. I really like this shot Karen took because it give a good sense of what it's like to be aboard this giant chutes-and-ladders maze of a ship.
The ship's store stocked my book. We sold and signed a few.
In the Hornet's Apollo Exhibit, inspecting the plastic case I underwrote to properly display these two Space Age artifacts that are, in my opinion, the jewels of the Hornet's collection. I explained the significance of those little wooden signs the first time I actually got to touch them

Any day I get to spend aboard the Hornet is a good day for me. Thanks to Heidi and the Hornet staff for inviting me, and huge thanks to Corry for driving all the way down from Santa Rosa to help me out. She was terrific!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Happy Birthday, Dumplins!

Twenty-eight years ago today, at around 3:40 and 3:42 a.m., I learned the true terror of the Ides of March.

Best day of my life.

Happy Birthday, punks. See you tonight!