Monday, Jun 18th, 2012
posted by Bruce Canwell
I have a very small immediate family—my father has been gone almost fourteen years now, but my mother is still active and strong. My brother and his family remain in the New England state where we were all born and reared. My younger sister and her family are located about forty minutes from me; we live at different edges of greater-metro Boston. Long ago the older of my two sisters decided she had had enough of northeastern winters. She packed up, moved to Florida, and has been there for more than two decades. During that time she married, she and her husband moved to the Orlando area, and they had a daughter who's now high school age. Until recently I would see my Florida-based family members once or twice a year. They would come north for a summer vacation or I'd go south in the spring, during baseball's spring training season, when winter is often reluctant to relinquish its grip on New England.
Nothing stays constant, however, and since 2010 the Floridians have been unable to come north, while circumstances have prevented me from going south. When I realized it had been almost two years since I had seen my sister and her family, I knew I had to take a trip to The Sunshine State. With her birthday coming up in late May, that seemed a good time to schedule a junket.
Because they live in the Orlando area, my sister's family enjoys the many theme parks in the area and are intimately familiar with all of them. We spent my Saturday with them on the grounds at Disneyworld. Sunday we were off to the land of Harry Potter - Universal's theme park (with my niece's boyfriend, Ben, along for the trip).
If you remember the pictures of me from previous entries, you'll remember I wear glasses and am very near-sighted. That's just one of the reasons the "interactive" rides and roller coasters don't hold much appeal for me—if I go without my glasses I'm as good as blind for the duration of the ride; if I go with them, the odds seem good they'll go sailing off some time during the course of the ride, in which case I'll be blind for the rest of my visit (which is potentially disastrous when one has to drive or eventually navigate through the airport). So my brother-in-law and I camped out at various locales—the Hogshead Tavern, the Fantastic Four Café—while my sister and the kids rode the Potter ride, the Spider-Man and Hulk attractions, or "the Rock-it," a roller coaster that turned me green just watching others ride it.
As we roamed the park we came upon a section of Universal that will be of interest to LOACers everywhere. As we walked from the Jurassic Park area to the Marvel section, the last thing I expected to see was an image of Walt Wallet on a gigantic sign:
We walked down a thoroughfare of shops and eateries, the exteriors of which were devoted to classic King Features comic strips, some we are in the process of reprinting…
…Some being reprinted by our distinguished-and-friendly competitors.
What a pleasure to see the King strips we all know and love being exposed to the theme-park-going population! I was especially taken with the Flash Gordon display, and it made me recall recalled that our second Champagne Edition of Flash/Jungle Jim comics had just been delivered to the printers before I flew southward.
As eye-catching as that is, check out the giant rocket ship that is also prominently featured!
If you look at the background of this photo, you'll see Pogo and old favorite Shoe also on display.
I realize families aren't going to carry five-pound hardcover books with them across the width and breadth of Universal in the Florida heat, but it's a shame there isn't a way to get samples of the comics into the hands of those folks, or at least to let them know the strips are still available in collections from LOAC and Fantagraphics and Classic Comics Library and others. It may be impossible—or at least highly improbable—to do that, but y'can't blame a guy for dreaming…
The main reason for my Florida trip was to see my sister and her family after far too long apart—the comic strip sighting at Universal were a cherry on that sundae. Still, it was a mighty pleasant surprise, as well as another sign of how deeply the comic strip is embedded in American popular culture.