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Don't you fucking tell me there are no magic words. I know better.


(Found on Narbonic.com in support of Modern Tales's comic Narbonic. Click on the thumbnail for full sized prenarbonic action!)

So, having consumed Narbonic's archives over the past couple of days, I'm now ravenous for more. And that, by the way, is what a truly great webcomic does. It infects your brain with its premise, with its attitude, with its expectations and whips you up into a froth, so that you want more, damn it, now!

This does not, by the way, explain why some people are total assholes when it comes to updates, especially from hobbyist cartoonists. No, that's not because those people are so desperate for the next strip they lose all rhyme or reason. That's because those people are total assholes. Entirely different reaction, really.

So I went looking for more stuff. And saw on Garrity's web site that she had some old strips from her college days and the like. All very nice and neat, and I looked through them -- including the above strip, which was called "North of Space."

And there I saw it. The magic word.

Cushlamocree.

Doesn't mean anything to you? Then your world is a much sadder place than mine.

Back in the forties, a man named Crockett Johnson wrote and drew a comic strip called Barnaby. This was a strip about a young boy named, appropriately enough, Barnaby -- who wished one day to have a Fairy Godmother. Well, the fates gave him a Fairy Godfather instead -- Mr. O'Malley, a small, portly pixie with a pork-pie hat and a "fine Havana wand" that looked a whole lot like a cigar. And so began a series of absolutely whimsical, absolutely magical, savagely sophisticated and satirical comic strips.

They were absolutely wonderful. When satirizing the campaign of Thomas Dewey for President, they revealed three ghosts coordinating his campaign strategy -- all of whom were working to turn back time, because they didn't like the modern world. One of them -- Colonel Wurst (a conflation of the names of the owner of the Chicago Tribune and William Randolph Hearst -- two rabid anti-Roosevelt voices) -- published news in the papers that was old, each day pushing the news back another day in time. In the end, they gave up the campaign after Wurst published news from the day before Black Monday. Since they had decided they had moved back before the Great Depression, they were all rich again, so they didn't care about politics any more. The relationship of the Pixies, the kids who saw and believed in them and the parents who didn't (and who called them Pixeys -- a slight difference that made all the difference) is echoed in everything from Calvin and Hobbes to Mr. Snuffleupagus.

Duke Ellington once wrote to the newspaper that published Barnaby to state, for the record, that he believed in Mr. O'Mallery, no matter what Barnaby's parents thought. And Dorothy Parker wrote a review that she described as a valentine and a mash note to Johnson. This is the depth of impact Barnaby had on popular culture.

Johnson also wrote the seminal children's book Harold and the Purple Crayon -- a book entirely about unleashing one's imagination through art. It was beautiful and wonderful. But I first came to know Johnson through Barnaby. One of the greatest runs of the strip -- the Hot Coffee Ring -- was in that Smithsonian Cartoon Art collection I mentioned a while back.

Mr. O'Malley had an all purpose expression -- somewhere between an exclamation and a swear -- that he used all the time. "Cushlamocree."

When Garrity used Cushlamocree in her strip, she instantly brought all of the above back to me... back to my own childhood. Back to a lot of people's childhoods.

Magic.

I owe her a beer if I ever meet her.

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