The Magic Art Reproducer was a great little device. It captured any kind of image and projected it onto paper. In this way, it helped you draw. No electricity, No battery. Like the name implied, it was magic.
If you were a kid during the ’60s and ’70s, you inevitably saw ads for the Magic Art Reproducer in every comic book you read. We have no doubt it stoked the imaginations of thousands of youngsters who wanted to draw like Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, and Bernie Wrightson.
The Reproducer didn’t actually “teach” you how to draw, however. It merely enabled you to trace images. If you wanted to reproduce an awesome explosion of Kirby Krackle, you could do it. But drawing a picture of Galactus and the Silver Surfer on your own would be a little tricky.
Undeterred by such limitations, 14-year-old Ralph Rogers used his Magic Art Reproducer to whip out the first issue of Meta Boy. Hailed as a comic book wunderkind, the fanboy press raved about his unusual combination of styles. Hollywood was even interested in making a movie based on his best-selling comic.
But the hammer came down swiftly for Ralph. Within six months everyone knew about his copycat scam. The slide from recognition to infamy to anonymity was faster than a Professor Zoom ride at Six Flags. Ralph’s career was over before he graduated from high school.
Years later, still depressed and shunned by his peers, Ralph found a way to rehabilitate his tarnished reputation when he uncovered a stash of old and highly collectible comic books. Overnight the world was overrun with real superheroes and supervillains. As it turned out, Ralph was the accidental catalyst of the whole damn thing. No Magic Art Reproducer required.
But was Ralph’s real-life retcon good or bad? Now that Atlantis was real (as well as Camelot, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Paul Bunyan, and Meta Man), did Ralph wreck the world with his over-active imagination? Or did he turn himself and his friends into new gods? Also: was the world real or not?
“It doesn’t matter,” said Ralph just before stepping through the looking glass. “It doesn’t matter if I’m a raving lunatic in a rubber room or if I’m living in a dream world. One way or another I’m going to be a hero in that world.”
If you’re a little confused by Ralph’s meta journey, don’t worry about it too much. We recommend a little bit of supplemental reading to help sort things out – perhaps a Grant Morrison comic book or a novel by Philip K. Dick. Watching Peter Pan again would also help decipher the head-spinning denouement that takes place on the dark side of the moon.
“Who are we to say who’s real?” writes author Ryan McSwain at the end of his book. In our reality, Superman, a so-called fictional character, is recognized and loved by billions of people. In comparison, how many people know who we are – a few hundred maybe? How conceited are we to claim to be real just because we’re made of flesh and blood? As it turns out, McSwain makes a pretty good argument that we’re already living in a four-color reality bleed.
[Four Color Bleed / By Ryan McSwain / First Printing: August 2017 / ISBN: 9780990460749]