Wednesday, June 15, 2016


I was already familiar with Reddy Kilowatt as the living representation of the fundamental universal force of electromagnetism and as an iconic Walter Lantz cartoon creation, but I hadn't previously been made aware that he was also an infernal, immortal imp dedicated to driving men of science and industry to a tortured existence of mockery and shame. You learn something new every day!

We all go into the amber, in the end.
In fact, it took a trio of promotional comics originally produced in the late Fifties and early Sixties to awaken me to the reality of Reddy Kilowatt, Breaker of Men, Incubus of Derision, Unshrivener of Dignity.

The primary text for this religion of pointing and laughing is REDDY-MADE MAGIC, a comic which traces Reddy's origin story from the dawn of time to the modern day, an image represented in the comic by the transition from dinosaurs to the Broadway theater district. That's how modern science defines the timeline of humanity as well.

REDDY-MADE MAGIC charts Reddy's often-unhappy associations with powerful men of science throughout the ages,and how he chooses to lay them low by revealing to them his awful majesty. The ancient Greek philosopher Thales is his first victim. Discovering that you could suck the feathers off a bird's ass with a piece of amber you'd earlier stroked on your shirt sleeve, Thales is unfairly mocked for a discovery which, on the granular level, I think we can all admit is pretty useless. "Oh hey nice plucking the feathers off this bird's ass with your hot amber, Thales. Here's a statue!" That's not going to happen.

"Say my name three times and I'll be there!"
The mockery of the populace manifests itself in Reddy's buck-toothed, slack-jawed associate, a guffawing imbecile who's unfortunately inserted at every important advancement in human history. There's one in every office. The yokel's bitter dismissal of science causes each advancement in the discovery of electricity to stall, which maybe just goes to show why electricity should be reserved for a moneyed elite at the highest echelons of society. The rest of you can render pig fat for firelight and turn your millstones with the raw power of fettered Conans.

Thales' discouragement sees Reddy trapped in a block of amber for two thousand years, just like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. I kid, dinosaurs didn't exist. Their bones were just put here by the devil to trick us.

Still, it takes scientist Dr.William Gilbert to come along and replicate Thales' experiments. You can see why it took so long, since a society has to invent (a) amber and (b) sleeves to make it happen, and only three times in human history have those things co-existed.

This is a scene from a Hellboy comic.
Gilbert used the amazing power of static electricity to turn pages in a book. This is ten times harder than turning pages by hand, so I have to agree with the yokel when it came time to scoff Gilbert off the stage. Imagine if electrified amber was the only means by which we ever turned book pages. Society would fall off the hinges. William Gilbert would have made rubes of us all, I'm glad he's been consigned to the trash heap of history.

Otto von Guericke, Stephen Grey and Pieter van Musschenbroek continue the litany of mockery and pointlessness, finding new ways to put electricity into wet cotton and then getting a bunch of negative reviews on Yelp for their trouble. No wonder we don't have electricity these days, and everything gets powered from underneath Bartertown! At least Musschenbroek tried to drown Reddy in Leyden jars, and end the cycle of abuse.

Like some sort of eternal curse, though, Reddy continues to help the most intelligent minds in history get treated like dicks by jackasses, until Edison unleashes Kilowatt's Ultimate Form into the homes of America's unwitting citizens. This encourages "The Reddy Polka," a theme song sung by the character himself, making Reddy seem like Etrigan the rhyming Demon.

"Seriously, I will destroy you."
By the next book, WIZARD OF LIGHT, Reddy is merely acting as narrator to the life of Thomas Edison, although he skips right over the part where a whole elephant got electrocuted for fun. It's in this way that I learned that Edison once intentionally sat on a nest full of chicken eggs (in order to see why the chickens were doing it) and also burned down both a barn and a whole train before he was like eleven or something. And Reddy Kilowatt was there to torment him with derision and disappointment every step of the way!

The catalog of Edison's achievements is boilerplate stuff delivered in a wan fashion, but the best part about it is that it makes no mention whatsoever of Nikola Tesla, and therefore could be used as a tool to drive internet nerds apoplectic with vexation. "Uh gee @Greedo418 I don't know where you get your information but this comic book says Edison invented all this stuff I don't even see any mention of a Nicholas Telstar or whatever sorry man lol" and then they explode.

On the other hand, according to this book, Edison may have unleashed an army of imps upon the world whether they wanted them or not. We'll call that fifteen-love.

After two volumes extolling the virtue of electricity and mockery, Reddy's last entry in the trilogy - THE SPACE KITE - is a single story about how electricity wants to kill you all the time. Two moronic kids (one of whom is the aforementioned yokel, in a repeat engagement) want to build a kite out of wire and tinsel and then fly it into telephone poles, while an exhausted Reddy slowly explains to them how lightning imps want their souls and will do anything to see their mortal shells crisped into blackened human asterisks. Well, at least he stopped making fun of them all the time!

"I want to kill you myself!"

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