- Thanx & a tip of the helmet to Harvey Kurtzman



This is Chapter 2 of The NEXT THRILLING CHAPTER, a movie serial made between mid-December 2021 and early October 2022, on a schedule that involved assembling each of the seventeen chapters in an average of about seventeen days.



Hundreds of movie serials were made from about the middle of the silent era, until the early nineteen-fifties. People used to go to the movies every week, and there would be ads, a newsreel, a cartoon, a B-picture and a main feature. And often there’d be a chapter of a serial. (The Files of Jerry Blake—no connection whatsoever to this website—is an invaluable and sympathetic online guide to serials produced in the United States.)

     The serials were killed off by television, to which some migrated in the early days. But others still continued to find their way to the big screen. I saw some, at the rate of one chapter a week, back in the sixties. Even now, it’s easy to see why I was traumatised by the first episode of The Fighting Devil Dogs, which I never forgot. But the big trauma of Mysterious Doctor Satan was when my parents took me away for the holidays at the same time as a big clanking robot was advancing on the hero. They would not listen to reason.



What I’m saying is this material didn’t come to mind because I had some abstract notion of using old-fashioned adventure stories ironically to make a point. It bubbled up naturally out of memories of being dumb and simple-minded as a child.

     I’m still fairly simple-minded. I mean, if nothing else, the notion of making a new serial, at this late date, betokens no great excess of acuity—particularly since I also had the idea I might be able to save the world by making it.

     Okay, that was never going to happen. But you do what you can.

     Or you do what you can’t help doing. The NEXT THRILLING CHAPTER is satirical, obviously, and I had the happy feeling it was unfolding under the spiritual guidance of Harvey Kurtzman. With MAD, Kurtzman educated a generation of counter-cultural cut-ups, and in 1954, in my favourite issue, while it was still a comic book, he replayed the Army-McCarthy hearings as a game show. So that’s another little bit of the background of the serial.



But it’s not in my nature to be funny. I’m capable of irony, though not always obvious about it. The less obvious, the better. I can be playful, high-spirited, whimsical, and very, very silly. And why pretend it’s not in my nature to be thoroughly ridiculous? The serial’s loaded with all sorts of subtle wit, mischief, and gags—but I was determined not to play it for laughs. Why?

      Because I was entirely serious in the point I wanted to make—as entirely serious as any simple-minded hero in an old serial. Wit may elucidate, and mockery may expose, but laughter is too often momentary relief, followed by forgetfulness.

     If you want to relieve yourself, you can go elsewhere.