Monday, April 28, 2014

The Practical Joker

I'm glad I dug out these Black Magic issues because I've been looking for this story to post for a long time now. Having forgot the title, I did remember it being really funny and sort of chilling at the same time, but for some reason I remembered it being an Atlas tale (which it of course feels a lot like!) Super art from Bill Draut as well-- and hey, don't let all those word balloons scare ya off, this one is definitely worth your "time!" haha...

From the February 1953 issue of Black Magic Vol. 3 #3 (21.)


JMR777 said...

An interesting twist on the time travel story. The epilogue of this story is up to the imagination of the reader, maybe the machine overshot the time co-ordinance and the joker ended up

In ancient Egypt as unwilling slave labor to help build the pyramids

In ancient China as an unwilling participant to help build the great wall of China

Appear suddenly in the middle of the Salem witch trials or the Spanish Inquisition

End up in the time of the Cave men

Or end up in the time of the dinosaurs. (Great heavens Professor, how do you explain the fact that in the remains of a Tyrannosaurus Rex was the skeleton of a human being?)

The possibilities are endless.

Mestiere said...

I personally like the idea that there was never a time machine. It was all Junky's way of getting revenge on Phil and George for all the teasing. Except that Junky seems to have ended up in an insane asylum, too. That would be going really far to get revenge. But who knows what a mad genius would be willing to do.

Something that I rarely see mentioned is that any time machine would have to also be a teleporter. The Earth moves around the sun and the sun moves around the galaxy with a bobbing motion. If you transported a guy 500 years in the past to the same spot he would materialize in space. And what do you do with the inertia? The Earth rotates at about a thousand miles per hour, it moves around the sun at 66,000 mph, the sun revolves around the galaxy at 43,000 mph and the galaxy moves at 124,000 mph in relation to other galaxies. The guy would need his inertia to be somehow sychronized with whatever inertia the Earth had at the chosen time of materialization or he will materialize travelling at tens of thousands of miles per hour.

"Do you want to be popular in the baseball field, but don't want to do it the old fashioned way, by being good at baseball? Here, read this joke book!" By the way, 1.98 in 1953 would have set you back about eighteen bucks in today's money. And since wages were lower back then it really was more like spending thirty. And the book would be obsolete pretty quickly. A lot of the stuff advertised in in comics was really not that cheap.

Brian Barnes said...

Fun, but a bit wordy. Reads like an Atlas tale mostly because of the introduction text and the more ironic just deserts (though, everybody ended up in an insane asylum, a weird coda to this story that doesn't really add anything!)

The notes trick is a little strange; the notes didn't come out of nowhere, he created the notes from the original book, which I assume still exists in another copy somewhere, and he just spent a lot of time building it, he has to understand the function and mechanics of the piece (he even instantly knows why it blows up.)

That said, at least now I can finally talk sports with people! And I hate sports!

Karswell said...

I love the dialog in this one, I actually wouldn't mind more of it but then there'd be no room for the art, haha

P.E. Cor said...

Could you answer a query for me? My cousin used to have all the horror comics in the world and I would spend hours, when visiting, reading them. One story in particular never left my memory. It was a about a fat man who ate frogs legs? And the legless frogs, on crutches, and little wheely things, that come pouring through a door (of a restaurant kitchen?) to get him in the last frame.

Ring a bell?

Karswell said...

It's called THE GOURMET, I posted it back in 2009 here:

Mr. Cavin said...

Man I really love the art in this one. Especially, for some reason, the second-to-last panel of page three. All this guy's faces are just great.

That's an excellent comment Mestiere! Added to those insightful, scientific observations, let me add that I'm never sure how it is these types of characters think they will be able to bring someone back from a remote location in time (and space) without a remote time machine to do it? Not that any of these considerations have an impact on this story, mind. Odds are the guinea pig really did appear out in space, five hundred years behind the trajectory of the Milky Way, spiraling off in the wrong direction at a thousand miles an hour. Bet he wished he'd taken a second time machine with him, too.

Mestiere said...

Thanks for your kind words, Mr. Cavin!

Remember the TV show The Time Tunnel? Not only could they send people to the Trojan War or the time of Genghis Khan on any place on Earth but they could spy on the past or future. Even without the time travel aspect one would have thought that transportation and espionage would have been revolutionized, giving the US overwhelming superiority. The existence of such technology would have changed everything dramatically and permanently. But the scientists kept sending Robert Colbert and James Darren to random places in the past where stock footage of old movies could be used.

Mr. Cavin said...

Another trope that frequently has me slapping my forehead in time travel plots is the assumption by the operators that an equal amount of time must be passing on both sides of the transaction:

"Golly, Professor Jones must be worried that we haven't returned to the future yet, but dinosaurs have infested the mouth of the time cave."

"You chrononauts must synchronize your pocketwatches because I will be pulling the callback level in one day's time and that's your one chance to come back to nineteen fifty-eight!"

But, of course, everything in one time line has already happened by the other one, so the passing time on either side is moot (assuming, obviously, the ability to bridge the gap between the two in the first place). This is exactly the same reason that an open video feed wouldn't really work, either.

Mestiere said...

That's true, Mr. Cavin! That's because they treat the past as if it was a place. Like going to another planet where things were identical to Earth in 1974, or 4000 B.C, or whenever.

Relativistic "time travel" into the future is in principle possible. If you can increase the inertia of a person enough—let's say by traveling close to the speed of light—you could slow down his physical processes enough, including his perception of time, that to him only an hour could have gone by but it's actually a million years. But now how does he come back?

Interestingly, ancient cultures were full of relativistic time travel stories into the future. Typically a person would manage to visit a god in his abode, have a good time for a few hours, and come back thousands of years later. Or he would spend a couple of weeks in Fairyland and return centuries later. Presumably those places would have contained much more energy than normal, increasing the inertia.

Stories of time travel into the past, though, are almost exclusively from the 19th century on. No ancient culture ever talked about that. The first time machine in fiction appears in the novel El anacronópete in 1887 by Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau, a Spaniard.

Grant said...

"I watched Phil's cheeks puff out in the preliminary stages of a horselaugh."

Even if this story weren't entertaining in general (which it is), it would be worth reading for that phrase.