Spotlight Sunday 4.26.20

The receipt of a free “gift” means that there are spoilers ahead for…

Mickey Mouse and Goofy Explore Energy Conservation
Writer: Carl Fallberg
Artist: Steve Steere
WDEMCO (Walt Disney Educational Media Company)

“We need to have enough energy for tomorrow!”

Lately, against my better financial judgment, largely, I think, because of losing my regular Wednesday ritual, I’ve been buying some old comics online.

Mostly issues of Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane, as I’ve often wished over the years that I had a complete run of the series, and apparently this is the way my brain works:

Me, gainfully-employed, six-figure income: I’d really like to own a complete series run of Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane, but that would probably be pretty expensive. Oh well, maybe someday…

Me, unemployed for more than six months: “Someday” is now!

In any case, sometimes when I buy comics online the seller will throw in some free gifts along with the purchase. (Which is to say they unload things that they can’t get anyone to buy.)

One of those recent free gifts was the energy conservation PSA comic we’re looking at today, which appears to be from around 1978. While I’ve encountered other PSA comics over the years, this one was new to me. The only energy-related one I recall encountering featured Captain America and the Campbell Kids.

The Energy Drainers thought energy was M’m! M’m! Good!

The comic, produced in cooperation with Exxon (now ExxonMobil), was part of the “Wide World of Energy” multimedia kit, and opens with Mickey on his way to pick up his pal Goofy so that the two can spend the day at the beach.

However, Mickey is horrified to discover that Goofy is wasting precious energy and resources!

I did my part to conserve energy by taking pictures of the comic with my phone instead of firing up my scanner.

The parade of energy-wasting horrors only gets worse, and Mickey, who should be aware already that no matter how much wattage he uses Goofy will never be the brightest bulb, learns that his pal does things like use the dryer to dry a single pair of socks, runs the air conditioning with the windows open, and uses a refrigerator that doesn’t have a door that properly seals!

Mickey explains to Goofy that there are many simple things he can do to conserve energy – and lower his energy bills to boot – around the house. Goofy realizes that he has much to consider.

Goofy may not be the smartest, but in this regard, he’s still smarter than a lot of people. Gawrsh!

Deciding that they should take Goofy’s car to the beach, as it has more room for all of he stuff Goofy is bringing with him, the two hit the road, but if you think Mickey was only going to hector Goofy about energy conservation at home, you’re sadly-mistaken, as Mickey explains the energy-saving – and, again, money-saving – value of having good, properly-inflated tires and getting a tune-up for his car.

In time, the pair make it to the beach, and use up a lot of their own personal energy having fun, and after a while decide to just chill on the beach and take a nap. As Goofy sleeps, the lessons he’s learned from his pal Mickey make their way into his unconscious mind, and Goofy has a prophetic dream in which he is visited by the Spirit of Energy.

I’m not going to lie – as soon as I saw this and realized that there was another comic in this series that preceded this one, my inner completist briefly made me want that comic, even though I don’t actually want this comic.

Goofy is soon joined by a dream version of Mickey as well, and the two learn about the importance of energy conservation, and receive a vision of a possible future in which new, unlimited sources of energy may be available.

Enny points out that it is for the purposes of allowing us to stick around long enough to achieve that future that we must focus on limiting and conserving the energy sources we have now.

Enny, being a shill for Big Wind, doesn’t even mention the danger of wind cancer, or how windmills could obstruct the view from a golf course.

Between Mickey’s waking world harping and Enny’s dream world message, Goofy becomes convinced, and he takes steps to ensure that he’s doing all he can to conserve energy.

However, the lesson isn’t quite complete, as some time later Goofy laments that he’s saved too much money – I have no idea what Goofy does for a living. Meth dealer? – and doesn’t know what to do with it. He tells Mickey that he’s considering buying a great big new car, but Mickey explains that getting some big gas hog that he doesn’t even need would undo a lot of the good work he’s already done. Mickey suggests that Goofy consider getting a ten-speed bike, and then a (energy-efficient fluorescent) light bulb goes off over Goofy’s head and he has himself an idear. He immediately gets to work in his workshop.

As far as PSA comics go, this one was…fine, particularly for the time.

The standard set of tips – Weather stripping! Don’t leave the lights on if you’re not in the room! Recycle! – were fine, and there was a strong message about how we’re all in this together and that we can shape the future by each doing our part. (We see a lot of scenes of other, random characters engaging in good energy conservation practices.)

However, there’s no mention of climate change – though Exxon knew about the dangers at the time – or even pollution, and there’s a reason for that. While there’s no denying that the overall message is good, and the tips provided are useful, there are some subtle bits of propaganda contained in the story.

There’s a lot of emphasis on how we’ll always need fossil fuels, and how this drives a need to explore more options for extracting them from the Earth, via things like offshore drilling.

And, of course, coming out as it did during the Energy Crisis, there’s a lot of talk about the need to eliminate our dependency on foreign oil.

There’s also a note of fatalism, in that Enny explains that making use of some of the alternative energy sources is so far in the future that Mickey and Goofy will likely never see it in their lifetimes.

Still, it’s interesting to look back at a time when conservation was something that was being pushed – irrespective of the motivations – when the real crisis was considerably less imminent than it is now (it is, of course, more than imminent – it’s here), and it’s honestly depressing to contrast the attitude presented in the comic with the current state of things.

While the message of this comic is “In the future, we will find sustainable alternative sources for the energy we need, so right now we need to carefully parcel out what we have so that we can achieve that goal,” the current attitude is more like, “I’m sure somebody will figure something out, so we might as well just do whatever we want right now.”

And that fatalism of “Not in your lifetimes,” I think, is part of the problem, as it leads to thinking that it’s a future generation’s issue to resolve, and makes people dismissive of the advances that are being made right now.

Anyway, in the interest of conservation, I thought it would be fun to make use of this bit of recycling that was sent my way. Overall, it’s a fine little comic, with a story that achieves the goal of educating while entertaining and some perfectly-fine art featuring beloved familiar characters.

Speaking of beloved familiar characters, a bit ago on Twitter, prompted by a comment that OpenDoor Comics MVP Gail Simone made about how no one should follow her – which is both true and not true, as befits the nature of Gail – I wrote some lyrics that were a riff on one of the verses of the song “The House of the Rising Sun.”

Twitter user @jeffkahrs joined in and provided some more lyrics, and in time, on Twitter, we wrote a full parody song.

Since that time, musical genius @ziggiedogg has recorded the song, and it is amazing. Easily the best thing that’s happened all year, which is not saying much, I suppose, given *gestures broadly at everything* but even during a good year it would still be the best.

Check it out:

Gail approves.

That does it for this Very Special Spotlight Sunday.

I hope you’re all staying safe out there, and as a reminder…

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