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Wednesday, December 15, 2010
  Wood Chips 23: The Rejects
Below is "The Rejects" from witzend 4 (1968), script and layouts by me, pencil art by Wally Wood, lettering by Bill Yoshida and inking by Wood with some inks by Dom Sileo.

Here's the story behind the story: At the time, a half-hour animated TV series concept of science-fiction humor seemed ideal for Wood. Such a show would have been unique then, and his juxtaposition of diverse, bizarre, funny characters made the idea appealing. Paramount was interested. As Wood requested, I took his individual character sketches and pencilled a presentation, grouping them together (much like "The Rejects" splash). Wood inked the board, added a b/w wash and delivered it to Paramount. Right on cue, Paramount chose that same month to close down its cartoon studio (December 1, 1967). End of brilliance.

Wood was immediately suspicious, believing that Ralph Bakshi, who had headed the Paramount cartoon studio, was secretly selling his animated sf concept elsewhere. He explained, "We have to copyright the characters, Bhob, so write a story that includes all the characters, and we'll publish it in witzend." I left and came back the next day with three pages of roughs. Before Bill Yoshida's son arrived to take the story away to be lettered by Yoshida, Wood made two changes. He deleted a complicated, labored pun on a line from the Beatles' "A Day in the Life". ("Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.")

In the splash panel, he added a simple, wonderful phrase spoken by the lead character, I.Q., directly to the reader: "There are Good Guys and Bad Guys and the job of the Good Guys is to kill the Bad Guys." Wood was enamored of such mirth maxims and philosophical aphorisms. He devised or recalled them constantly, proclaiming them (in his near whisper) as he worked at the drawing table. But his "Good Guys" line struck me then, and still does, as multileveled. On the surface, it is a satirical reduction of a basic premise in genre fiction. It served as an insightful self-commentary on Wood's encounters and conflicts with art directors--and it also stands as Wood's summation of the true nature of life on Earth.

Larry Hama liked my "who walks on four legs" gag sequence so much that he borrowed it and reworked it into the Sally Forth adventure where she goes to Mars. "L. Sprague de Freeb" was a name Wood had used previously, I forget where. Since I had once met L. Sprague de Camp and listened to him drone on in a somewhat pedantic manner, I thought the name was hilarious and worked it into the dialogue.

John Barth's 1960 novel, The Sot-Weed Factor, is referenced in the next-to-last panel; it had a Doubleday Anchor paperback reprint about the time I wrote "The Rejects" in 1967. Barth was himself referencing Ebenezer Cooke's poem, "The Sotweed Factor, or A Voyage to Maryland, A Satyr" (1708), which some consider the first American satire.

The character of Kenneth Banghead was Wood's amusing twist on the veteran NBC newscaster of the 1940s and 1950s, Kenneth Banghart (who had a slight resemblance to Jonathan Winters).

┬ęcopyright 2010 by Bhob Stewart and Bill Pearson




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Comments:
One of my absolute Wood favorites! This strip never fails to make me laugh and it just did so again so thank you, Bhob, for this funny, funny piece!
 
A color comic book series of these characters would have been great, eh?
 
I've liked "The Rejects" ever since I first read the story in 1980. But I didn't get the "Kenneth Banghead" or "Sotweed factor" references until just now.

What, other than random lunacy, was the inspiration for the Blue Banana?
 
I think it was intended to satirize the notion of creating a superhero by combining a color with an object, such as Green Arrow, etc.
 
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is the editor of Against the Grain: Mad Artist Wallace Wood (2003), reviewed by Paul Gravett.

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