Saturday, January 16, 2010

Toons About Town

There are many individuals who have called Siloam Springs "home" all of their lives, and I really enjoy hearing from them about the ways in which things have changed, or remained the same in our town. My very favorite lifetime resident happens to be Kirk Demarais, my husband. He writes a retro culture blog called The Secret Fun Blog. Several years ago, he wrote a post relating to our downtown, and it is my pleasure to share it with you here in its entirety. Enjoy!

Recently I was reading Daniel Clowes' comic strip commentary on the city of Chicago in his book Twentieth Century Eightball. After listing several pages worth of annoyances with the town, the narrator (Clowes himself) points out the "many reasons" to live in the Windy City. First on his list is a "Beetle Baileyish face painted on an abandoned hot dog shack."

While it makes for a funny joke, the statement really leaped out at me because I know exactly what he means. Instantly, I envisioned a handful of graphic landmarks in my own town that bring me a couple ounces of extra joy each time I see them. Clowes' piece inspired me to take time to document these beauties before they disappear.

This window painting dwells in what was once a bike, skateboard, and R.C. shop. Heckle and Jeckle, the magpie stars of cartoons and comic books, were hand painted on the inside glass. If you look closely you can see that they're enjoying a session with their own remote control aircraft.

I've loved this artwork since the day I first noticed it. Even when the place was in business, I struggled to understand the thinking behind the apparently random shape of the sky. For a long time I just assumed that it was unfinished. I may have been right. And Heckle and Jeckle seem like such unlikely mascots for a small town hobby store that catered to the cool kids. Given that it was painted in the early nineties, it seems like Ren and Stimpy would have made more sense. Is it meant to be ironic that birds of flight are playing with a plane? I like to guess at the thought process behind stuff like this. Was the owner up late watching cartoons when he thought "Boy, those two characters are such a crack up! I think I'll have my buddy Bill paint them on the front window. The kids will get a real kick out of it!"? Or perhaps there was a more practical explanation.. maybe the pair were thought to be public domain. Whatever the reason, I'm just happy that the shopkeeper's hunch was realized before the place shut its doors.

I love the "folk" style of this fellow, and the unexpected choice to use a bald barber pole with an overgrown goatee as a representative for the shop. In my mind he's giving chase. He seems to have run out of possibilities on his own head so now he hunts long-haired prey. His eyes are vacant and he runs with scissors. No doubt, you will meet him again in your nightmares.

Here's a relative newcomer who just popped up a few years ago. This seemingly suicidal termite invites you to "just call" the termite service. Or maybe he's a tough guy who's just looking for a good challenge. The style seems so...improvisational and yet there's an almost stroke-for-stroke duplicate on another window. I'm really going to enjoy this sad sack. In fact, I think I'd better go get a haircut and a termite inspection just to ensure the longevity of my painted friends.

1 comment:

  1. When I was in college I applied for a job at that bike shop/RC enthusiast place, since I worked at a bike shop in high school. He smoked like a chimney and regaled me with stories of yelling at customers. Wonder why he's not still in business?