June 05, 2006


Recently I was reading Daniel Clowes' comic strip commentary on the city of Chicago in his book Twentieth Century Eightball. After listing several pages worth of annoyances with the town, the narrator (Clowes himself) points out the "many reasons" to live in the Windy City. First on his list is a "Beetle Baileyish face painted on an abandoned hot dog shack." (see pic)

While it makes for a funny joke, the statement really leaped out at me because I know exactly what he means. Instantly, I envisioned a handful of graphic landmarks in my own town that bring me a couple ounces of extra joy each time I see them. Clowes' piece inspired me to take time to document these beauties before they disappear.

(Click to enlarge)

This window painting dwells in what was once a bike, skateboard, and R.C. shop. Heckle and Jeckle, the magpie stars of cartoons and comic books, were hand painted on the inside glass. If you look closely you can see that they're enjoying a session with their own remote control aircraft.

I've loved this artwork since the day I first noticed it. Even when the place was in business, I struggled to understand the thinking behind the apparently random shape of the sky. For a long time I just assumed that it was unfinished. I may have been right. And Heckle and Jeckle seem like such unlikely mascots for a small town hobby store that catered to the cool kids. Given that it was painted in the early nineties, it seems like Ren and Stimpy would have made more sense. Is it meant to be ironic that birds of flight are playing with a plane? I like to guess at the thought process behind stuff like this. Was the owner up late watching cartoons when he thought "Boy, those two characters are such a crack up! I think I'll have my buddy Bill paint them on the front window. The kids will get a real kick out of it!"? Or perhaps there was a more practical explanation.. maybe the pair were thought to be public domain. Whatever the reason, I'm just happy that the shopkeeper's hunch was realized before the place shut its doors.

One fowl (with a super-long arm) relaxes with a cigar
and the remote while his pal (who's staring at the back of his head)
gives a "thumbs up" of approval. Also note: they have belly buttons.

This fellow is only a few years old, which makes me thankful because he'll probably be around for a while. I love the "folk" style, and the unexpected choice to use a bald barber pole with an overgrown goatee as a representative for the shop. In my mind he's giving chase. He seems to have run out of possibilities on his own head so now he hunts long-haired prey. His eyes are vacant and he runs with scissors. No doubt, you will meet him again in your nightmares.

Here's a newcomer that just popped up around Christmas time. This seemingly suicidal termite invites you to "just call" the termite service. Or maybe he's a tough guy who's just looking for a good challenge. The style seems so...improvisational and yet there's an almost stroke-for-stroke duplicate on another window. I'm really going to enjoy this sad sack. In fact, I think I'd better go get a haircut and a termite inspection just to ensure the longevity of my painted friends.


Anonymous said...

Wow - that termite is pretty creepy - it looks like it was drawn by Kaz, or maybe Roy Tompkins or Mike Diana or somebody...

Ellen said...

I always thought that the blue in the Heckle and Jeckle window was a cityscape outline...

And the termite has been disturbing me for awhile now.

Miss Cellania said...

Hi Kirk, this is the only way I could find to respond to your comment on my blog. It wasn't me looking for a hi-res image, that was Corey Doctorow. I only told them about the link. I can use lo-res just fine! But I appreciate it. I've been enjoying your website AND your blog!

Kirk D. said...

Hey thanks Miss C!
I sent you an email.

Ellen- I can't say that I buy the cityscape theory.

AWG said...

That barber pole guy looks like a Pringle's can.

Kirk D. said...

Good call AWG.

Das Brick said...

That is one of the best blog entries I have read anywhere. I will definitely keep my camera ready the next time I see one of these treasures, and stop taking them for granted. Thanks for your gift to the universe, Kirk D!!

Kirk D. said...

Sheesh, das brick.. thanks!
I'd love to see the photos you come up with.
I just poked my head in your blog and it looks fantastic. I shall explore now!