When I was 11 or so, my family made our annual road trip from OKC to Albuquerque to see my grandpa for Thanksgiving. We stopped at a Stucky’s on I-40 for gas and to take a restroom break. While I was in the gas station I saw a special edition of Mad Magazine — a reprint of the very first issue from 1952. I bought it for entertainment for the last leg of the trip.
One of the comics in that issue really stuck with me. Created by legendary cartoonist Wally Wood, it’s called “Blobs!” and is set in a distant future where humans have become completely reliant on technology. They no longer walk because they have these little pods to take them around everywhere. Consequently, their bodies have shriveled into small gelatinous blobs while their heads have gotten enormous because of all the “mind work” they do. I remember when I saw Wall-E a few years ago, I wondered if the film’s creators were in fact riffing on this old comic.
“Blobs!” is a bit over the top; this was Mad Magazine, after all!. (Try not to take offense about the clubbing bit–it’s meant tongue-in-cheek, and this is 1952 we’re talking about.) We haven’t quite arrived at the future depicted (though we’re getting close to the robot women thing. Google it. It’s weird.). Yet the comic serves as a nice pop-culture jeremiad that illuminates the possible ills of relying too much on technology. As I argued in Semper Virilis, the challenge for the contemporary man is to be a citizen of the modern world, without letting it suffocate and atrophy the best of his physical, primal masculinity and sense of mastery, autonomy, and self-reliance. Even as we develop technological breakthroughs that make our lives more comfortable and easier, we must always seek challenges and do hard things that keep us sharp, virile, and fulfilled!