MODERN WISDOM: AMERICA'S ONLY HUMOR MAGAZINE
Copyright 2012 Francis DiMenno
AND NOW...MODERN WISDOM PRESENTS:
1. A CLUSTER OF IRONIES AND PARADOXES
2. PONDEROUS BEHEMOTH
3. ANTERIOR MASTERPIECES
4. THE CONTINUOUS CRISIS OF BELATEDNESS
5. BEEFSTEAK & GRAVY
6. THE TWISTING OF THE MEME
7. TERRORIZED BY PARAKEETS
8. UNITED BY A DELUSION
9. THE DEAD-MAN WALKING STENCH
10. ANOMIE AMERICAN STYLE
11. A NEW SENSE OF MISSION
12. GLEISE 581D
13. UNLIMITED MONEY FROM UNDISCLOSED SOURCES
14. MY MOST VALUABLE MISTAKES
15. SPEAKS FOR ALL
16. WORLD MUSIC FOR WASPS
17. DATED ADULT MANNERS
18. A DISTANCED INFATUATION WITH AMERICAN ARCHETYPES
19. FATE & TEMPERAMENT
20. IMITATION OF THOSE WE CAN’T RESEMBLE
21. BIG PICTURE CHIT-CHAT
22. THE CLAMOR OF HOOTING MOBS
23. SEETHING ISOLATION
24. A STRAW BOOK
25. A DARK FOREST, ALWAYS
26. THE TEAM IN RED
27. A WHITE SPOT
28. TRAIN WRECK CITY
29. DMT ELVES
30. THE NUT COOTIES
31. A TRIBAL GLOW OF TRIUMPH
32. REMEMBERED CUTENESS
33. HIPPITY HOPPITY, MOFO
34. TRAINING MY SON TO BE THE BOXER I NEVER WAS
35. DESTRUCTIVE EXCESS OF EMPATHY
36. A FIRST-CLASS DRESS PARADE FOR ARMAGEDDON
37. OLD HATE
38. FREUDIAN SLAP
39. WALK TALL IN THE GHOST WORLD
40. DREAD ROAD
41. THREE-DIMENSIONAL ANARCHY
42. A METROPOLIS OF RIGID CHAOS
43. THE FAD MACHINE
44. A SURE-FIRE GIMMICK
45. THE HOUSE OF NAKED WOMEN
46. IMAGE JUNK
47. ESURIENT EXPRESS
48. HARD FEELINGS
49. PANDEMIC FUNERAL DANCES
50. ECSTATIC VENERATION OF MENTAL DECLINE
In mid-2007, as I was winding up my research on this project, in the
archive of Ivy University I discovered a cache of previously unknown
work by the artist, some of it dating back some seventy years, to
1937. In the twenty-one storage boxes, which Murph had bequeathed to
the university in 2003, shortly before his incapacitating stroke,
there were many examples of his juvenalia. Boxes 1-4 consist mostly of
very early notebook sketches, and do not merit further discussion as
such. Boxes 5-8 contain highly derivative early work, most of which
is of little consequence, and not worthy of discussion here, with the
exception of the following examples. Note: I have supplied titles and
dates, when available, and assigned them when not. Chronologically
arranged, these include:
THE MAGIC CITY (1937). Comic strip about a city populated by
magicians. An early version of “Limbo”? One of the earliest surviving
examples of Murph’s work.
JOE FATSO (1938). More juvenilia. Series of character sketches modeled
THE LAUGHING CAVALIER (1939?). Early, juvenile stab at an adventure strip.
IMAGINARY HOBO (1940?). Comic strip. It concerned the adventures of a
superhero who was a hobo in his secret identity.
IMP AND ARN (1940). Kiddie strip.
SPEED AND JUNIOR (1941). Another early, crude attempt at a superhero comic.
BLITZKRIEG MOUSE (1941). Character sketches for a superheroic rodent.
YOYO THE MAGIC CLOWN (1942?). A crudely-drawn comic strip about a circus.
UNCLE MEANIE (1942). Old-fashioned comic strip; the character is
clearly based on “The Terrible Tempered Mr. Bang” from Frank
Fontaine’s “Toonerville Trolley”.
KITTEN TALK (1943). Cutesy kiddie strip about talking kittens.
SIR BRAT (1944). Fanciful kiddie strip about a boy King.
OLD HAM AND HACK (1945?). A strip about two comical “niggers”. Clearly
based on “Amos ‘n’ Andy”.
In Boxes 9-17, there were stored many samples of comic strips and
rough drafts of potential comic book stories, many of which Murph
abandoned after the first page and which could be therefore considered
as false starts. Some of the more significant strips have already been
discussed in the body of the text, and are not listed here. Those that
have not already been mentioned, however, deserve to at least be
listed for the sake of completeness; many of them also deserve a brief
description, if only for the historic light a brief discussion of them
might shed on the development of the artist. Many of these strips show
that, contrary to popular belief, Murph’s began drawing “underground”
work as early as 1961, and that, rather than abandoning such work
during the last thirty years of his life, he continued doing so long
after his 1972 trial and prosecution. Chronologically arranged, these
“false starts” and “out-takes” (only a few of which, including I
SHOULD GET MARRIED I SHOULD BE GOOD, were ever published, under the
title MY MIDGET MARRIAGE). These included the following:
THE MAN WITH THE THIN TIE (1946). Comic strip. A rather strange detective story.
50 YEARS FROM NOW (1947). Comic book story. An early attempt at
science fiction. Presciently enough, Murph predicted the end of the
Soviet Union and the coming of a “World Brain.” (However, he also
predicted flying cars, head transplants, and teleportation.)
THE DOG, THE PARROT, THE ROBOT, THE CHIMP, AND THE INVALID (1948). A
science fiction story about a futuristic but dysfunctional household.
SO FAR SO GOOD (1949). Proposal for a syndicated comic strip about
desert island drifters.
THE FUTURE PHONE! (1950) Unsuccessful attempt at a science fiction story.
ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MEATBALLS (1950). Half-hearted attempt to
categorize certain lowbrow barroom “types”: The booze sponge, the
piker, the braggart, etc.
BEDLAM PARK (1951). Zombie hoboes run wild in a city park.
KOREA KOMIKS (1951). Strange humor strip about soldiers fighting and
dying in the Korean conflict.
VINEGAR SPRINGS (1952). Proposal for a comic strip. An early prototype
FEAR OF A RED PLANET (1953). A labored “Martian/Communist” allegory.
THE FERAL MEN (1953). Bizarre ‘jungle adventure’ strip.
A DISH BEST EATEN COLD (1954). Tales of mobsters fighting other
mobsters for supremacy.
CAPTAIN FURY HAVOC ON THE S.S. REVENGE. (1955) ‘Moby Dick’ brought up to date.
WORD OF EYE (1956). Witnesses to a murder give conflicting accounts of
what they saw. Possibly based on “Rashomon”.
DIRTY OLD TOWN (1956). Sketches for an early version of “Notown.”
RUSSIAN TELEPHONE (1957). Labored attempt at a “Rashomon”-like Cold
War spy thriller.
HAPPYLAND (1957). Sketches for an early version of “Notown”.
100 PER CENT DOG (1958). Evidently satirical tales of a super-patriotic pooch.
STUPOR MONDAY (1959). Comic strip. The rigors of the workaday world.
NASTY, BRITISH AND SHORT (1960). An interesting parody of the private
eye genre, featuring a detective agency of the same name.
SNAKES AND MELONS (1961). Extremely misogynistic tales of a world,
much like our own, in which men and women have detachable penises and
vaginas. Had it been published at the time, it may well have been
regarded as one of the earliest “underground” comics.
ET IN ARCADIA EGO…(1961). The horrors of institutional life in an insane asylum.
TRAGIC ANIMALS (1961). Sketches.
WE MIGHT ALL BE BLOWN TO BITS (1962). Unfinished comic book story
about the Cuban Missile Crisis.
THE STARTLING STORY OF THE UNTOLD TRUTH (1962). A frank, though
somewhat limited, explication of the “Military-Industrial Complex”.
THE BROTHERHOOD OF STRONG MEN (1963). Apparently rejected proposal for
a team comic.
BARNEY GOGOL (1963). A whimsical comic strip combining lowbrow comic
strip buffoonery with highbrow Russian literature.
CAPTAIN DEATH (1963). A strangely morbid superhero parody.
MR. UNIVERSE, SUPREME MASTER OF INFINITE TIME AND SPACE (1964).
Bizarre proposal for a superhero comic.
TALES FOR YOUNG ‘UNS (1965). Proposal for a Western-themed “kiddie” comic.
HIPSTERZ (1966). This well may be Murph’s earliest attempt to come to
terms with the then-burgeoning “youth culture” of the day.
BEATLE GIRLS (1966). Picture album featuring teenaged girls in various
poses as they listen to the music of The Beatles. It’s interesting to
speculate about the possible impact of this project had it been
published at the time.
I SHOULD GET MARRIED I SHOULD BE GOOD (1966). A surprisingly bitter
autobiographical account of Murph’s first marriage. Among the most
interesting of the unreleased materials. Later redrawn and published
as MY MIDGET MARRIAGE (1992).
IT'S NOT ABOUT ME: AN ANTI MEMOIR (1967). Autobiographical comic.
IT AIN'T GRAND (1967). Autobiographical comic.
GO, SIMBA, GO! (1967). Yet another failed attempt to revive the “jungle” genre.
NATIVE UNREST (1967). Autobiographical comic exploring Murph’s often
ambivalent feelings about race. It is interesting to note that in the
following year, he (voluntarily?) cancelled his racist syndicated
NONCOMPREHENSIBLE DRIBBLE (1967). Drug-soaked autobiographical
sketches. Portions of these were published in XYY COMICS (1973).
FUCK YOU, I’M INTO JESUS--JESUS IS MY PAL (1968). Scathing attack on
organized religion, particularly the fundamentalist variety. These
themes would recur in 1972s HOLY WATER SOUP #1.
PATCHOULI MAAN (1968). Underground Comic.
ALCOHOL MAN (1968). Underground comic. Denigrates the “booze culture”.
FATTY GETS LAID (1968) Apparently an out-take from HIPPIEHEAD AND
SNACKY #1 (1968).
BLACK INFORMATION (1969). Another ambivalent series of strips about
race, this one about Black nationalism.
PRESIDENT LSD (1969). In 1976, Timothy Leary is implausibly elected President.
CRAZY BREAD (1969). Underground Comic. A history of drug use. A dress
rehearsal for what would later be published as KING HEROIN #1.
THE ADVENTURES OF ‘HASH' BROWN (1969). One page proposal for a
drug-oriented underground comic.
MOBSTERS INC. (1969) Premature attempt to revive the “true crime” genre.
IT'S WHAT'S HAPPENING BABY, IT'S WHERE IT'S AT DADDY! (1970). Zany
one-page “hippie” strip with bigfoot art.
SHOOTING A FLOWER (1970). Apparently an out-take from ACID IS GROOVY
KILL THE PIGS #1.
Text copy for the never-published THE FLYING ROBOT VS. THE
INVULNERABLE GHOST #5:
BC COMICS AWESOME NEW LINE OF SUPER-HEROES
It is fitting, this current vogue for Super heroes. They are the
success story of our age. They nearly all start out as shmoes; then,
once they gain power, they put on a fetish outfit and beat the batshit
out of mentally ill felons. With that in mind, we at B.C. Comics are
proud to jump aboard this latest despiciably vogueish bandwagon and
present, for your edification:
THE ECLECTIC COMPANY
THE JAZZ EATER...
LORD DEATH MAN...
OLD MAN FOREVER...
THE MYSTERIOUS SWAMI...
THE MAN FROM UTOPIA...
THE GOD DUST TWINS...
THE HAUNTED DRUNK...
TOO MUCH SELF-ESTEEM LAD...
EYE OF WIND...
WHINING SUICIDAL TIN ROBOT MAN...
and Special Guest Star...RAMA LAMAFAFAFA.
BC COMICS AWESOME NEW LINE OF SUPER-VILLAINS
The current vogue for Super Heroes must, of course, be contrasted to
the equally current need for scapegoats, scarechilds, and yeggs. They,
too, are deemed necessary--otherwise, our so-called Heroes would be
reduced to fighting natural disasters and malefactors of great wealth,
and damn it, that's COMMUNISM.
So, with this in mind, we at B.C. COMICS are constrained to
reproduce, for the very first time, the secret aliases of certain
notorious felons, riff-raff, scamps, hard cons, rascals, freebooters,
recidivists, dole blodgers, slackers, nogoodniks, scofflaws, cribbers,
and "police characters".
THE UNMOTIVATED LEAGUE OF ANTAGONISTS
AKA "THE PUSHOVER SQUAD"
THE RESISTANCE LEADER
THE DANGEROUS IRONIST
JIMMY THE PIMP
ARSENIC AND OLD
PUNK ROCK ZOMBIE
THE BALD REBEL
OLD MISTER BASTARD
AKIN, BALZANO & SORANIS
THE FLYING ROBOT
SUPER-WEAK, THE WORLD'S WEAKEST MAN
THE WEIRD MUMMY
THE ACE OF CHAOS
and Special Guest Star...THE TERRIBLE MASTER
THE ADVENTURES OF TOO MUCH HEROIN MAN (1971). Underground comic.
Another dress rehearsal for KING HEROIN.
WHY NIXON IS THE MOST DANGEROUS ENEMY OF HUMANITY IN THE WORLD (1972).
Delves into Nixon’s conduct in the Vietnam war; takes note of the
then-new Watergate phenomenon and predicts the “old crook” will “cut
and run just as soon as he gets the chance.”
ONE OF THE MORE EVIL PEOPLE ON THIS PLANET (1972). A vaguely
anti-Semitic anti-Kissinger rant.
PSYCHEDELIC ZOMBIES (1972). Attack on the whole hippie phenomenon.
“THE FORTRESS OF FUN!” (1972) Story for the never-completed AMERICAN PIE #6.
THE PARIAH PEOPLE (1973). Strips for a proposed, but never completed
fourth issue of ADULT ILLUSIONS.
PRESIDENT WHITEHOUSE (1973). Comic Book. Scathing attack on the Nixon
WHY JFK IS MY FAVORITE DEAD PRESIDENT (1973). Murph obsesses about the
Kennedy assassination. Possibly intended as a tip-in for the
never-completed AMERICAN PIE #6.
RUSTY THE TRUSTY (1973). Comic strip. Rather brutal prison humor.
THE INEXHAUSTIBLE FOSSIL FOOLS. (1973) Belated commentary on the Arab
WIT HAPPENS (1973). Series of raunchy ‘gag’ strips.
HOOVER DADDY (1973). Lengthy, belated attack on recently-deceased FBI director.
MR. PATRIARCH (1974). An explication of the Old Testament.
JESUS THE MOON GOD (1974). An explication of the New Testament.
SATAN LOVES ME (1974). Confessions of a tortured ex-Catholic.
THE FORGOTTEN HISTORY OF AMNESIA (1975). A revisionist account of
“forgotten” American history.
LET’S GRIM DOWN THE MERRIMENT (1975). 22 pages of what appears to have
been an ecology-themed underground comic, in which Murph bemoans the
likely fate of the planet.
LOSERVILLE (1976). Comic book. In which Murph dissects the typical
fans that read comic books and attend comic book conventions.
THE BUSY MAN’S GUIDE TO NORTH AMERICAN IDIOTS (1977). Comic book.
Somewhat strained attempt at satirical humor.
ONE HUNDRED IMMORTAL POEMS DUMBED DOWN FOR TODAY'S KIDS (1977).
Illustrations for only three poems were completed: “The Last Judgment”
by Yeats, “Intimations of Immortality” by Blake, and “I Am” by John
PLANET XYY (1977). Never-published story about a planet entirely
populated by vicious criminals.
CAPTAIN LIGHTWEIGHT (1977). Thinly disguised attack on Nate Bestley.
KILLING A RAT (1977). Thinly disguised comic strip about his travails
in the comic book industry. Sample dialogue: “’Mack, Mack, you can’t
put the hit on me,’ screamed Nat. But Mack could, and he did.”
THEFTVILLE (1978). Another thinly disguised comic strip about his
travails in the comic book industry.
LOST IN THE CIRCUS (1978). Murph reminisces about his early years
drawing for CIRCUS FUN and ANIMAL PALS.
GRAND GUIGNOL FOR A DIME AND IN FULL COLOR. (1979) Homage to the
horror comics of the 1950s.
BABY’S ON FIRE (1980). Thinly-disguised fictional account of the house
fire in which Dom Dominici apparently met his demise.
HIPPIE DETECTIVE VS. PUNK ROCK ZOMBIES (1980). Another attempt to
update the horror comics of the 1950s.
SELF-ESTEEM FOR STUPID FUCKING IDIOTS (1980). A rather ham-handed
satirical treatment of the “self-actualization” movements of the
REBEL YELP (1981). Commentary on the South’s role in electing Ronald Reagan.
SUPERMUNDANE THINGS (1982). Life in “Reagan’s America.”
THE UGLY CHILDREN OF THE POOR (1983). Bitter commentary on Reagan’s
attack on social programs.
HITLER LOST—DIDN’T HE? DIDN’T HE?! (1984). More anti-Reagan rhetoric.
Man wakes up from a forty year sleep to discover that incipient
fascism is about to prevail.
BIBLE WHINES (1985). Commentary on the Moral Majority.
JUDAS S. CAREALOT, ESQ. (1985) Judas as an accident compensation and
personal disability lawyer.
THE MAN-GOD (1985). Sketches. Proposal for a character.
MESSIAH MAN (1985). Sketches. Proposal for a character.
DR COKE AND MR. CRACK (1986). Unpublished political cartoon.
THE CHILD WHO HATED TOYS (1986). Text and illustrations for a
children’s book. Never published.
WHO KILLED DICK AND JANE? (1987). Text and illustrations for a
children’s book. Never published.
GRIMM & GRITTY (1987). Proposal for a “dark” superhero title.
THE KING AND QUEEN OF NOTHING (1988). Comic strip samples. An
intemperate, though intermittently funny attack on Ronald and Nancy
SUPERFICIAL CAVEMEN (1988). Comic Book. Murph’s sardonic response to
the 1987 Congressional inquiry.
AMERICAN IDIOGRAMS (1988). Chapbook. An experiment in semiotics.
THIRSTY GHOST (1989?). Autobiographical comic. Murph’s struggles with
SATAN HIMSELF WOULD ULTIMATELY BE REDEEMED (1989). Retrospective look
at “The Reagan Years”.
SATURDAY NIGHT IN THE MORON HOUSEHOLD (1989). Strained attempt at
KNIFO, FORKO, & SPOONO, THE PHILOSOPHERS OF THE BREAKFAST TABLE
(1990). Failed attempt at a syndicated strip.
ONE WORLD GOOD (1991). A bitter commentary on the state of geopolitics.
LI’L MILDEW (1992). Another failed attempt at a syndicated strip.
GIRLDOG AND BOYCAT (1993). Still another failed attempt at a syndicated strip.
ESCAPE INTO THE ORDINARY (1994). Tales of middle-class life.
CAN EVEN HE PREVAIL AGAINST A MILLION MADMEN? (1995) A self-pitying
and rather grandiose autobiographical account of his numerous
HAPPY DUST (1996). A dark comic strip in which Murph contemplates his
suicide and its possible consequences.
BOURGEOIS FALLS (1997). Failed idea for a “family-oriented” comic strip.
A REBEL IN UTOPIA (1998). Murph’s rather fanciful account of his
HITS, FLOPS, AND NEAR MISSES (1998). Or “Collected Works, Volume Two.”
TRASHOMON (1999). A rather curmudgeonly take on the excesses of popular culture.
TOUCHING THAT DIAL (2000). Another rather curmudgeonly diatribe, this
one against the excesses of television.
DARK AGE TO THE LEFT OF ME, DARK AGE TO THE RIGHT (2001). Murph’s dark
conspiracy-minded reaction to the events of 9/11.
NIZE KOP (2002). Murph’s sardonic commentary, written and drawn in the
style of Milt Gross, on “the coming security state.”
LET’S SURRENDER TO THE TERRORISTS (2002). Editorial cartoon. Appended
note: “The cowardly fucks wouldn’t publish this. Fuck ‘em.”
GENOCIDE MY ASS! (2003) Acerbic commentary on the Iraq War.
DR. BONOBO & MR. CHIMP (2003). Rather strained attempt at philosophy;
musings regarding man’s affinity to the great apes.
WISDOM FROM A BOOK OF LIES (2003). Murph’s halting attempt to find
some sort of point to religious belief.
MURPH GOES TO HEAVEN (2003). Fanciful comic strip in which God says to
Murph, “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be back on earth making
one of your odious little drawings for money?”
TODAY (2003). Career-spanning compilation of political cartoons. Never
In addition, in Boxes 18-20, I found notes and annotations, as well as
a great many unfinished and mostly undated sketches for ideas never
brought to fruition. I have, at least in some cases, assigned them
titles based on their content, and have arranged them roughly in what
in many cases I have guessed to be their chronological order. These
NOTES AND ANNOTATIONS:
Definitions Drive The Plot
The Way I Tell ‘Em
And You Show It How?
Cartoons as Humor In Cuneiform
Mobs Of Fashionably Dressed Spectators And Vulgarians
Our Once-Complacent Overlords
Word Masks And Metaphor Rags
Town Of Anon
Zig Zagging Through History Like A Drunk
I Like Art That Isn’t True
A Hack’s Prop
The American Narrative
13 Lucky Stories
36 Aminal [sic] Pals
Dr. Bruin, Bear Dentist
The Slugger Kid
The Bodacious Boy
The Calabrian Strong Boy
The All-Encompassing One
The Magic King
Uncle Sam’s Lazy Dogs
The Goony Bears
100 Little Blues
Adventures Of The Big Guy
Bob And Rob
Fat, Dumb And Happy
Better Than Whatever Was Worse
The Adventures Of Beanz And Ryce
The Evil Society Of Evil
Don’t Kill My Little Sister
The Whores Of Peace
Wearing Down The Proud
Uncle Sam’s Mystery Novel
Eat Me the Duck
The New Adventures Of Anne Odine
The Society Of Evil Doers
The Strange Immortal One
Suddenly Another Voice Is Heard
The Adventures Of Mr. Fuckingham
Mr. Me Decade
Little Fat & The Smorgasbord
Mr. Kindly Mean
The World Encyclopedia Of Chimps
Saga of the Antichrist Starring Richard Stolas
His Venomous Salvos
In Re: Rover v. Moggy
And Kafka Makes Three
Big Cats Crave Meat
Memories Of Anytown
Not All Midgets Are Created Equal
Void Where Prohibited
Wisdom From a Book of Lies
From Kraal To Slum
Guess What! I Wept!
Songs They Play In Hell
I’m Happy Again!
Acres Of Guff
The Better Idiots
The Book About Everything
The Book About Nothing
The Aerial Adventures Of The Naked Fucker
The Anti-Cool Avatars League
Blow up the Planet (to the Tune of “Roll Out the Barrell”[sic])
NEXT: POSTSCRIPT PART TWO:
THE COMIC NECRONOMICON