See other weird comics stories here!
Story One: The Strange Affair of The Sniffer
Story Two: Comics and Dreams
Story Three: Why Superhero Comics Bite
Story Four: Goony and Phil Motion Comic
Story Five: Who is The Crimebuster?
Story Six: What is the Future of Motion Comics?
Story Seven: What was the original cast of the Watchmen in 1986?
Story Eight: Oriental Rock and Boy Comics #31 Motion Comic
Story Nine: Mr. Pipps and the Wide-Awakes Comic
Story Ten: The Wingless Griffin, an Illustrated Story
Mr. Pipps and the Wide-Awakes - the Comic
Who were the "Wide Awakes", and were they "Woke"?
Wide-Awake seems to be the collective and unofficial name and slogan of various youth organizations that appeared in the Northern United States around 1850-1860.
To me, 1850s American history means several dimly remembered things from high school history class that have no connection to my daily life, such as:
- the caning of Charles Sumner
- something called hard cider populism
- something called the "corrupt bargain" (a name used to describe suspected shenanigans during the hotly contested John Quincy Adams vs. Andrew Jackson election of 1824)
- Kansas Vs. Nebraska
Today, these names are quaint historical trivia to those of us who paid attention in high school, but these names described forces driving men's lives during the years of 1850-1860.
I became interested in the 1850s wide awakes because of a slang term bandied about in the early 21st century: "woke". In 2019, the term "Woke" is used by some people and political groups. As in
- "stay woke", e.g.
- "Now you know the truth, you are 'woke' to the truth
- "People who do not know this truth that you know are blind/asleep to this truth".
Were the Wide-Awakes a Youth Movement?
According to the single source I read (and why shouldn't you trust a single source, in the age of the internet?), the Wide-Awakes were a Republican outgrowth of youths from Northern states disaffected by a political malaise of the 1850s. America had aquired lots of territory from Mexico following the prosecution of a war, but westward expansion was fitful, and politicians argued.
The wide-awakes formed clubs in different states. They opposed northern Democrats. "Wide Awake" could have been a nickname coming from organized torch-lit marches at midnight, or it coudl have come from a youthful feeling of being "roused" to take part in a political destiny.
The Wide-Awakes got in fights. Sometimes they got attacked by northern Democrats during their marches, sometimes they attacked northern Democrats during their marches. Clubs, bricks. Sometimes knives. Fights in New York City, along the east cost, in Ohio. They appeared to be pseudomilitary, with cheap, easily-acquired uniforms, and organized using military terminology, but had no official government affiliation.
The single source suggests that the wide awakes were republican-minded people living in strong democrat areas. For example, Stephen Douglas (Democrat) won a lot of counties around Albany, New York. Republicans in these areas wanted to get together as a show of solidarity against the democrats by whom they were surrounded. I can understand that.
They had sporadic communications, but no affiliation with other "Wide Awake" groups. Spontaneous fights with area democrats were spontaneous, and un-organized, and members were not specifically trained for street-fighting or tactics. People were just rougher then, and more used to fighting than they are in 2019. Also it was sort of understood that if you got in a fight with someone it wasn't a Federal case, or even a BFD. Very different times from today.
What do the Wide-Awakes have to do with Weird Comic Stories?
Here's the link to comics. By 1860, there was at least one illustrated pamphlet about the Wide-Awakes, entitled:
AMONG THE WIDE-AWAKES |
HOW HE WAS JOINED UNTO THEM |
AND HOW HE UNJOINED. |
HOW HE FIT BLED AND DIED, |
AND HOW HE GOT OVER IT. |
SHOWING THE CORRECT AND ENTIRE METHOD OF BEING |
WIDE AWAKE, AWOKE, AND AWAKEN.
or for short, "Mr. Pipps Among the Wide-Awakes". Here are a couple pages of the book if you wanna read it. Just click a pic to get started:
One historian referred to this pamphlet as a "comic book", but it seems more like an illustrated pamphlet to me. The illustrations appear on opposite pages, broken up by printed text. There are no word balloons in the illustrations. If you look close at the pictures you can see tantalizing glimpses of what the words were. All I got was this for the page where he was reading a newspaper:
As per usual with these sorts of things, the illustrated pamphlet was meant to appeal to young voters. There's a complete copy in the Pennsylvania Historical Society, supposedly. After some consideration, I will pronounce my belief that this work is not a comic. Comics have to have panels in a spatial relationship with each other. If the images are separated by text then it's an illustrated story, not a comic. Well, that's just how it is, tough guy. Gonna cry about it? Huh?
- William Seward, 1860, stumping for Abraham Lincoln
So... We can determine that "Wide awake" was a youth group movement that was political in nature. "Woke" is a description, a bit of slang, and in the year 2019, its semi-widespread use is not a harbinger of a new civil war yet to come, (I don't think so, anyway). More likely to cause a war are these stupid John Brown type raids, like the one in Christchurch in March 2019, or when that asshole Micah Xavier Johnson shot five cops in Dallas in July 2016. If we get lots of those, or if one raid does a lot of damage to a very popular target, we're in trouble.
I like the idea (from a story-writers' sense, not from an actual affection) that the War Between the States was a historical inevitablity, and the devastation that the war wrought sent psychic shockwaves backwards in time. These shockwaves caused otherwise normal young men to dress up in soldiers' outfits and play soldier 10 years before the war started. None of them dreamed that 625,000 American males would die in the war to come only a few years later.
There are, however, armed, costumed groups in 2019. These jerkoffs, unaware of irony, behave in a manner that is fascist. They shut down free speech, and the don't believe that the Average American has a right to listen to whatever he wants. (that's an important aspect of free speech, that not only do Americans have the right to say what they want, but also, Americans have the right to listen. The right to free speech is meaningless without the right to listen.)
The Wide-Awakes of 1850 wore uniforms and signifier hats with a military fashion (also "goatee" beards). The Union Armies of the War Between the States wore outfits and hats similar to the ones worn by the Wide-Awakes. In 2019, the woke buddies wear no uniforms, but signify membership with all black colors, and they cover their faces.
What kind of soldier does this get-up portend for the future that stalks America?