Wednesday, July 8, 2015


By Frank Capra.

Say what you will about the promotional comic produced by the Sinclair Oil Corporation, but you can't deny that they possess an inordinate amount of confidence. In advance of promoting a chemical additive used to prevent the build-up of rust in cars and pipelines, the foreword of the comic promised to relate this exciting tale ...

"What you are about to read may seem fantastic. Even we at Sinclair Research Laboratories were amazed at the annual toll of rust and corrosion and the almost magical protective power of the RD-119 chemical as a rust inhibitor. But we would like to remind you that every fact, every statistic in the pages which follow is scientifically substantiated. In fact, a United States Patent has been granted based on the demonstrable difference of Sinclair Fuels containing RD-119. It is indeed a case where truth is stranger - and more exciting - than fiction."

What were they doing before that guy showed up?
Here's hoping no one at Sinclair had any money riding on that last sentence. Still, what they intended to be stranger and more exciting than fiction was this particular work of fiction featuring the RD-119 Miracle Man (not to be confused with Neil Gaiman's RD-119 Miracle Man), a superhero who will cram you inside a gas tank if you don't open your heart to chemical whimsy.

The excitement launches from the comfy living room of the Thomas family, heirs to the English Muffin fortune, where long-visiting Uncle Alonzo is filling young Bobby Thomas ("Smooth" feat. Carlos Santana) with utter fucking fibs about his past accomplishments.

While Pop Thomas can endure Alonzo's tall tales about having played a pivotal role at Kitty Hawk or having split the atom years prior to Oppenheimer, he absolutely draws the fucking line at filling the boy's head with technical information about rust-repelling chemical additives to carbon fuels. "Rust and corrosion cost motorists well over $100,000,000 a year ... or $212 per minute in damage to carburetors, fuel lines and fuel pumps" Alonzo eagerly explains to the wide-smiling boy, starving for knowledge and human contact. "That does it" replies Pop, blowing up, "Now he's fouling up his schoolwork! I'm sending a wire right now!"

For those of you who don't know, "I'm sending a wire" is mid-century slang for "I'ma buck wild on a fool." Poor Alonzo, he'll bear the scars forever.

I'm sure this is safe.
Pop's car throws a shitfit while he is literally driving Alonzo to the train station, literally riding him out of town on a rail rather than allow the old fibber to misrepresent America's problem with engine rust. Ironically suffering extensive rust corrosion, the car breaks down ... or was it intentional? Maybe Alonzo is dangerous, is what I'm suggesting.

This summons the RD-119 Miracle Man, a man whose parents were killed by fuel line corrosion and who has subsequently devoted his life to alerting motorists to the dangers of moisture. I believe he decided on his identity when  a carburetor flew through his library window.

RD-119 Miracle Man (I'll call him "Artie" for short) possess a brand-specific magic word, and shouting SINC-LAIR! allows him an array of amazing abilities, not the least of which is to shrink everyone in the party down to snack size - that's Pop, Uncle Alonzo, Bobby and Bobby's dog - and shove them into the gas tank for a look around. It's only a quarter full, don't worry, that's plenty safe - and remember, it's the fumes that are flammable, so no smoking. Also you're all going to die, sorry.

Artie also possess a Batmobile of sorts, being a magic carpet with the front end of a red sedan appended to it. Stylish wheels, or lack thereof, my good man.

This proves nothing, swinger.
The ride terminates at the research labs of Sinclair where the cast - and the audience - are treated to a genuinely soporific tour of the pipes which had once NOT been treated with RD-119 but now HAVE been, and we don't go inside so we just see a drawing of them from the outside and we have to just believe that it works. You know what they always say, you just need to have faith in the rust-fighting properties of fuel additives, that's what really counts.

The kicker on the fume-induced hallucinations of their educational journey is that dad is awakened the next day under an icepack with mom bringing him a Bromo Seltzer, while dad rants angrily about how a magic man with a flying carpet shrunk him and put him inside a gas tank, and THAT'S why he's hungover! I wish I'd thought of that excuse.

It's also worth noting that the final chapter is entitled "Mr/Thomas Has Trouble Convincing the Mrs." Haven't we all, Pop, haven't we all ...

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