There's a story behind what you see below: it's the story of the biggest find I ever blew.
This is all that remains of my art class I took on Saturdays during high school. I went to it for about three years. It was hidden in a building somewhere in Portland, and the only reason I had found out about its existence was because my dentist went there, and recommended it to me. And it was a good recommendation indeed--it was taught by this fat lady who could make anybody's hand draw Renaissance art. No matter who--no one ever failed her class. Her walls were lined with drawings of Disney characters you could have sworn were done by professionals, but were marked with the signatures of 10-year-olds. This was a miracle worker. And here she was working in this dump of a room where nobody could find her. I asked her why she was doing this small business and wasn't teaching at a college or art institute or whatever, and she said those places wouldn't hire her because she "had no experience." I don't lie around here, folks.....
If you're around the Portland area and want to
look for her now, you'll be looking in the wrong continent...for
reasons I still don't understand, she moved to New Zealand in
2000 and left the business to one of her biggest pupils. (No, not
me.) So now he had the reins, and he could take it easy, because
all he had to do is keep doing what she did.
A few weeks after the takeover, I came in and saw stacks of newspaper comics. They were pretty much in new condition, so I thought they were recent. Upon looking closer, though, I found there weren't any strips in them I'd ever seen before. Then I looked at the printed date. It was 1930.
He explained that he knew this old woman who recently died, and all those old comics were stuffed somewhere in her house. They were his now, and he said I was welcome to look at 'em. And many were even older than 1930!
Everyone who woke up to these cartoons is now dead...Me and him were two of the only three people in the world to be looking at this stuff. The third had to be Bill Watterson because he was always harping about how comic strips were so better in the "good ol' days" of which he wasn't alive to be in. You might remember a scan of a Gasoline Alley cartoon that appeared in "The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book." Did you notice something at the bottom; some bonus strip called "That Phony Nickel"?
Panel 1: "I'd like to meet the dope that
passed this phony nickel on me!"
Panel 2: "And there's your nickel change."
Panel 3: "SO HE HANDED YOU A PHONY NICKEL, DID HE???"
Panel 4: Vendor is chased down the street by irate burly father while child hungrily picks up food he's dropping.
It's a pretty weak space-filler, especially since anyone smart enough would have just used spare change that DIDN'T include a phony nickel, but now that I got to see several other Gasoline Alleys from that time period, I can share this unknown fact: the way that strip actually worked was, the phony nickel would be in the hands of someone different every time, with chaotic results. Once you see the others, this one doesn't seem so bad.
And that was just the beginning. I also learned
that the Sunday comics were only in full color beginning in the
1930's. The editions from the 1920's had color fronts and
middles, but the insides were black and white, with a red color
added to still make it somewhat "special." These
weren't dilapidated either, like they should have been. Every
page looked and handled exactly as if it had just been printed.
They were in incredible mint condition! Where on Earth were they
buried all these decades?? I saw extremely rare ads, cartoons and
other things. Oh yeah, and now that I've seen what Watterson has,
I can say he's wrong--the old days WEREN'T that great. A bigger
strip doesn't mean the strip will be good. You'll see what I mean
on page 2.
As if I weren't awed enough, the guy then turned and said that as a Christmas present, I could take some of these as my own. Not one or two, but an entire heavy stack. He was giving me an entire stack of these things that had to be worth hundreds of dollars apiece!!
I had to stop him, though...at least for the time being. The problem was, I wanted to avoid getting the papers beat up as much as possible. And at this point, my parents were taking care of someone else's baby and he was in the other back seat, and his stroller was taking up the trunk. I had no room to carry a ton of newspaper, but I wanted to take at least something to keep me satisfied until next week, when the stroller would be gone. So I went through a stack and picked a Little Orphan Annie from 1949. (I could have had one from 1928, but she didn't say "Leapin' Lizards" in that one.)
The next week, I came back to the art studio to
find the doors locked. I waited about ten minutes and he didn't
show up. I came back the following week at the regular time, and
the doors were locked again, and he didn't show up. He never
showed up again. He'd apparently decided keeping that small
classroom was too much work. He abandoned the business!
And with him went my stack of pristine comics, because there was no way to get inside. If there hadn't been a baby in that car, and I hadn't decided to wait, I could have HAD THIS STUFF. For free! For nothing! But now all I have of the whole incident is this one sheet, with the Little Orphan Annie on it(1949, not 1928). I've blown many opportunities over the years, but this is the worst. Every time I think about it, I can't stand it.
And now, the moment you've been waiting for...it's time to examine the Annie sheet! I would have had eleven thousand times this much material for you to gawk at, but you'll have to settle for this.