Monday, August 18, 2008

Ear-Fall-Off Floyd Joins the Legion?

I have no control over my memory. I'm fairly certain I have forgotten a number of things that I would rather have remembered, and I know for a fact that I have remembered quite a few things that I would never have chosen to retain. Like Ear-Fall-Off Floyd.

I'll give you some details, but they're a little blurry. (I said I remembered it, but I didn't say I remembered it clearly.) Ear-Fall-Off Floyd was a superhero parody strip in which the would-be hero's "superpower" was that his ear would fall off in moments of crisis. I find two references for Floyd on the internet, and they seem to be somewhat at odds.

Over on The John Byrne Forum, webbers were asked to post who their favorite member of The Legion of Super-Heroes was. The second poster went way offcourse in naming Ear-Fall-Off Floyd, who was never in the Legion. The individual said in explanation that Floyd had been created by Mercy Van Vlack and the "great Legion fandom of the early seventies." (I learned from Ms. Van Vlack's website that, in more recent decades, she has written for Richie Rich comics!)

If you can believe it, Ear-Fall-Off Floyd even has his own Wikipedia entry. The article states that EFOF was written by Jay L. Zilber and drawn by Jim McPherson for the fanzine Fandom Funnies #3 in 1976. But notice that there's no mention of Mercy Van Vlack in that Wiki! It's possible, of course, for both of these two internet references to EFOF to be correct, but there are some chasms to be bridged. On your behalf I will try to contact the primary parties so we can get to the bottom of this.

There was a recent occurrence that triggered my memory of EFOF. I picked up last month's Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #16. I usually don't read that series but I noticed that the issue featured artwork by Shawn McManus, whose drawings I've been enjoying for about twenty-five years now. (And, by the way, I recently added to my Artwork by Jack Kirby... almost Gallery a page of Demon pencils by Mr. McManus which you can admire here.) While last month's Legion story doesn't exactly feature Ear-Fall-Off Floyd, there is a character in the story named Arm-Fall-Off Boy and his name is Floyd! Just as the cover is a credited homage to the cover of Adventure Comics #247 drawn fifty years ago by the great Curt Swan, the entire issue seems to be an homage to that great Legion fandom of the early seventies.

I will try to dig deeper into the history of Ear-Fall-Off Floyd and get back to you on it. I hope I remember to!

Friday, August 08, 2008

JUMBLE Editorial Policy as a Mirror of Modern Society

I like to do the JUMBLE puzzle in the newspaper, located on the comics page. JUMBLE, that scrambled word game. As time goes on there seem to be fewer and fewer comic strips I care to read ( a definite exception being Mutts by Patrick McDonnell, which I never skip), but every single day for the past twenty-some years I have taken the JUMBLE challenge.

I don't bother with the last part of the puzzle, in which you have to arrange certain highlighted letters from the first part of the puzzle in order to form some funny, punny phrase. I prefer to do the first part of the puzzle on sight and never write anything down.

The daily puzzle consists of four words to unscramble, while the Sunday puzzle is comprised of six longer words. I figure out each scambled word in about one second or less, although there are some that take longer to register and a few that stump me entirely. By the way, unscrambling a word in a second is no measure of intelligence but rather just a matter of recognition and familiarity; after twenty-blank years, I've seen all the words already!

In all my time I have seen the puzzle writer make only one mistake, but it is a recurring mistake that pops up about once each year. Here, I'll let you have a try. Go ahead and unscramble the letters CMIANA. I'll wait over here quietly.

Now if you came up with the word maniac as your solution, good for you. That's exactly what the puzzle writer was hoping you'd come up with. But what if you came up with caiman, a different but perfectly fine word? The puzzle writer says you're wrong, that's what. Look and/or listen here.

For a JUMBLE to work properly, there must be exactly one word that the given letters unscramble into, but that is not the case with CMIANA. Three separate times in three different years I wrote a letter to point out this correction, hoping that CMIANA would be taken out of rotation and JUMBLE would be perfect forever after. Well, one time I received a reply consisting of equivocal mumbo jumbo from a junior assistant editor at The Chicago Tribune, and another time I received a flier from JUMBLE, Inc. apprising me that a plethora of JUMBLE-related merchandise was available for purchase. Unfortunately, I have come to accept that my correction is unwanted and I don't write letters about it anymore. Does it speak well or ill of society when those in charge choose to ignore the indisputable corrections of their constituents?

And another thing. Through the years the solution to the daily JUMBLE puzzle has historically been printed in the following day's newspaper. Last month, though, something new was tried; the answers to the day's puzzle were printed the same day and, in fact, on the same page. It is not within my purview as to whether this was a nationwide experiment or if it was a bright idea concocted by another junior assistant editor at The Chicago Tribune.

The experiment/bright idea lumbered along for one or two weeks, but then came another change. Effective immediately, an annotation explained, the answers to that day's puzzle would be printed on a different page, a few pages away. Now what does this transition say about our society? Are we a city/nation of cheaters who can't be trusted even to think through a thoroughly inconsequential game without peeking at the answer?

The revised experiment/bright idea slammed to a screeching halt after one or two more weeks. Again effective immediately, another annotation explained, the answers to the daily JUMBLE puzzle would once again be printed the following day. The game was returned to the status quo ante bellum. The whole episode was nothing more than a tempest in a teapot, much like this blog post.