Skip to main content

Tales of Tchotchkes: An Odd Bodkins Printing Plate (#1161)

Topics/tags: Tchotchkes

A printing plate with three Odd Bodkins strips.

Item: A printing plate with three Odd Bodkins Comic Strips

Location: South wall of my work office, next to the whiteboard

Acquired: eBay, circa 2019

Today’s office tchotchke is a printing plate for three of Dan O’Neill’s Odd Bodkins comic strips that I bought on eBay a few years ago.

Odd Bodkins is one of my favorite strips. Or at least Odd Bodkins was one of my favorite strips; it hasn’t been published in years, and I don’t think I’ve looked at any of my Odd Bodkins collections in a long while. But when I was in high school, it was perfect for the hippie-wanna-be that I was. I liked the strange, sometimes not-so-coherent storylines. I liked the leftist political humor. I liked O’Neill’s non-realistic characters. I liked the arguments about Indians vs. Harleys. When I look back at strips from time to time, I still do.

O’Neill was also an interesting character. He did some great work using the Disney characters as representatives of America, doing the things Americans did in the late 1960s: Shooting people, having sex, taking drugs, profiting off the poor. Disney was not happy [1].

From time to time, I’ve thought about buying some of the Odd Bodkins originals that appear on eBay. But (a) they are expensive, and I’d rather spend the money on, say, a Walt Kelly original; and (b) I’d prefer that the originals end up in the Dan O’Neill comics archive at UC Berkeley. Nonetheless, I do the occasional search. When I saw the printing plate for sale, I decided to pick it up on a lark. It now hangs in my office.

I like having a printing plate. It reminds me of the letterpress we have on campus and the few times I’ve had a chance to use it. I like that it’s somewhere between the artist’s work and what we see as consumers of the work. I like that it was made as something ephemeral but somehow managed to survive.

I do wish that someone would reprint all of the Odd Bodkins strips. I wish more people knew about O’Neill and Odd Bodkins. I’m glad to see that he’s still making art.

I think it’s time to dig out the five-or-so Dan O’Neill books I have. And maybe I can find an excuse to visit the Dan O’Neill archive at Berkeley. Perhaps I could make the strip a topic for a sabbatical project. O’Neill certainly has fun with language. And maybe computers play a role, somewhere. I’ve forgotten. I’ll need to read them again.

Postscript: Just in case you can’t read mirror-image text, I’ve transcribed it.

Strip 1

Panel 1: Bear (possibly Smokey Bear): "Perhaps you think I enjoy dressing up like a ranger?? Ugh!! I detest it! It’s an Indignity!!

Panel 2: Bear: If I wasn’t an infiltrator for a secret organization, I wouldn’t do it!!

Panel 3: Bear: I belong to the U.B.W.C.T.F.S.S. … (Us Bears Will Control The Forest Service Someday)

Panel 4: Bear: And when we take over them rangers are going to have to dress up like bears.

Strip 2:

Panel 1: Bird: Ah Yes, I, The Bluebird of Happiness tell you that joy and happiness are the ..

Panel 2: Bird: Most important things in life .. Hey y y y. Branch: CRACK

Panel 3: CRASH!

Panel 4: Other Bird: Remembering how to fly is also important.

Strip 3

Panel 1: Black Hairy/Inky Chararacter Whose Name I Forget: Some people fish for sport ..

Panel 2: BH/ICWNIF: Others find fishing relaxing ..

Panel 3: BH/ICWNIF: My reason for fishing is quite uncomplicated ..

Panel 4: BH/ICWNIF: I like to KILL fish!!!

No, these aren’t my favorites. And, although they have Smokey Bear (I think) and The Bluebird of Happiness and the Cousin It variant, they don’t have Fred the Bird or The Chararacter With Glasses Whose Name I Forget. Here’s a set with those two characters from a recent auction.

Five comic strips.

Postscript: I thought this musing would be quick. But I ended up spending too much time wandering around the Interweb trying to figure out what O’Neill is up to these days, and cursing that the person who bought those five strips has marked them up to about 2.5 times what they paid for them at auction.

[1] Here’s a video about it that I discovered in my recent explorations:

Version 1.0 of 2021-07-16.