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When Globetrotters meet the inbred yokels from Deliverance – Harlem Globetrotters #2

March 5, 2014

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We now return to our regularly scheduled comic book (and other stuff) blogging schedule — hopefully. It’s been a hell of a struggle getting things back up and running after the Blog into Mystery World Headquarters and Stapled Newsprint Emporium moved to its new location, but things have finally settled down. Kind of. The biggest problem? Everything was a mess before the move, but now it’s all neat and tidy and squared away, and I CAN’T FIND A DAMN THING. There are closets filled with a lot of stacked unlabeled boxes containing random scatterings of comics. I need an intern.

But anyway, we’re back. And who better to usher us back in in a celebratory manner than those clown princes of basketball, the jokers of the hardwood — the Harlem Globetrotters. And just look at what this cover promises: nothing says “family-friendly 20th century fun” like a busload of black men crossing paths with barefoot southern gun-toting corncob-pipe-smoking yokels. Strap in!  

I saw the Harlem Globetrotters once when I was a kid, back in the 1980s up in Lake Placid. I don’t remember much about the game, other than that they won — big surprise. I don’t even remember if, when they did the old “threaten a ref with a bucket” gag, said receptacle held water or confetti. I’m sure the whistled strains of “Sweet Georgia Brown” were piped over the loudspeakers at one point or another. All I clearly remember is that I had a good time. And how could I not? Take out the shenanigans, and at base the Globetrotters are a terrestrial Cirque de Soleil act, making basketballs move about as if the laws of gravity and common sense are suspended. You need to underline this: THEY MAKE THE WARMUPS INTERESTING.

The Globetrotters are still going strong today, with a cast of players several generations removed from the comic cagers that entertained young me decades ago. And the Globetrotters had been around a hell of a long time back then, and their heyday might have come in the late sixties/early seventies, when they were a multimedia entertainment force, before there was such terminology. The live show, of course. The Hanna-Barbera cartoon. And, spinning off from the cartoon, the Gold Key comic book.

Lest we forget, the cartoon/comic cast was headlined by probably the most famous Globetrotter name of all — or at least the most famous name of someone known most for being a Globetrotter (so that we can compartmentalize one-time ‘Trotter Wilt Chamberlain): Meadowlark Lemon. Curly Neal and others rounded out the cast, and they were joined by Granny, who drove their Mystery Machine-esque bus, and a dog named Dribbles. Because of course. It was all good-natured fun in the Hanna-Barbera tradition — you might even recall the few cross-overs with the Scooby-Doo gang.

Rarely did the fellas find themselves staring down the barrels of guns, though, but that’s the case here in “Hold that Hillbilly,” right from the opening page onward:

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It turns out that the local basketball team the Globetrotters are supposed to play in an exhibition is torn asunder by a local rivalry, an in-the-sticks version of the Hatfields and McCoys — and our stars are caught in the middle. (Which, of all the possibilities here, not excluding deadly racial strife, is a bit of a relief.) The cause of said rivalry? A boy from one clan won’t marry a girl from another (so maybe it’s Romeo and Juliet.) The reason? She’s ugly. Fair enough, but the Globetrotters are here to play some hoops, and hoops they’re gonna play. They try to be the peacemakers, which only leads to more bullets:

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Oh for fun.

They eventually manage to settle things down enough so that they can play, though the factions are still a-feudin’ throughout the game, even playing tricks on the pranksters themselves (perhaps the Washington Generals could take some notes). The stakes? If the Globetrotters win, the boy has to marry the girl. (This bit — a basketball game to solve local problems — was a recurrent motif on the show.) You can glimpse both halves of the at-issue nuptials here:

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The guys triumph, and peace reigns when an inadvertent full-body mudpack renders all the conflict moot:

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So there’s another valuable lesson to be learned here, besides the fact that guns are sources of harmless merry-making: so long as you’re pretty, everything works out in the end. Knowledge for life, kids!

The comics were often based on plots from the cartoon episodes, and this one was no different, though structural differences from its televised source material abound. Someone actually posted a copy of the episode this comic was based on just the other day (kismet?), and I reproduce it below, at least until the copyright police take it down — or maybe it’s in the public domain by now, what the hell do I know. It’s notable that the gunplay isn’t aimed at the Globetrotters in the beginning, nor is the white flag of truce bullet-riddled in a humorous manner. Maybe firearm hijinks are safer when they’re on newsprint. Whatever the case, this is an odd little artifact of a venerable American institution. And it’s also better than contemporary light-hearted derivative crap like The Little Stooges.

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