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Apple cider, apple pie, apple crisp, apple fritters, dried apple heads… – Classics Illustrated Junior #515, “Johnny Appleseed”

September 21, 2011

Summer’s over and there’s an increasing chill in the air. Almost time to start heading to the orchard for the traditional apples and apple byproducts. Make mine Empire.

Speaking of apples…

I have fond memories of my elementary school’s art teacher, who, in a yearly assembly in the cafeteria, would put on a performance as Johnny Appleseed. He’d dress in torn jeans and a shirt that looked like it was made out of a loudly patterned tablecloth, and wear on his head, yes, a kitchen pot. I can’t remember a lick of what his act consisted of, but, with his everyday long dark hair, he was quite the sight. And wide young 1st and 2nd grade eyes could be fooled into thinking that this guy might simply look like the art teacher and could actually be the real Johnny Appleseed. Like a kid sitting on the knee of a mall Santa Claus.

Then I got older and found out that Johnny Appleseed was a real dude, not a popular myth brought to life by an art teacher. So he really was/is a bit like Santa/Saint Nicholas. Next thing you know somebody’s going to tell me that Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox were firmly rooted in reality.

Appleseed’s true biography is clouded by tall tales and various retellings, including a largely forgotten Disney movie. This Classics Illustrated version of his life story follows more along the lines of the nonsense and, with a biblical bent, drifts close to the misty shores of hagiography. Think the Pope John Paul II Marvel comic.

Along the way we learn that Appleseed (nee Chapman) is a friend to natives:

And a pal of woodland critters:

Not only that, he can bridge the societal gap between horse-thieves and the law, bringing them together in square-dancing amity:

Could somebody pass along Johnny’s phone number to the Israelis and Palestinians? Please?

And yes, along the way Johnny sprinkles some apple seeds, as well as healthy doses of Bible-thumping (true enough).

This is a harmless little comics that’s honed quite nicely towards younger readers, somewhat fanciful but faithful to the myth if not the man. Likewise for the easy to process art. This one (like other Junior editions) knew its audience.

In a postscript, I did a Google search on that old art teacher, fully expecting to find an obituary if nothing else. Instead I discovered that he’s STILL TEACHING AT THE SCHOOL. There was a picture of him on the school website. The long, black hair has been shorn and it’s fully gray, and he’s a little stooped. But he’s still there. Good for him.

He once gave me a B on a drawing of Spawn that I did in high school (he taught classes there as well). I think its lack of originality kept it from A territory. I don’t hold a grudge (really). It gives me a warm apple pie glow to think that he might still be doing the Johnny Appleseed bit.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Thelonious_Nick permalink
    September 22, 2011 11:19 am

    From Wikipedia: “In 1916, as part of an advertising campaign for a logging company, advertisement writer William Laughead reworked the old logging tales into that of a giant lumberjack and gave birth to the modern Paul Bunyan legend, thereby making Paul Bunyan a fakelore character”

    • September 22, 2011 8:13 pm

      I see nothing that says that he was a flesh and blood human, so my sanity remains inviolate.

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