#3. One of the Most Popular Cartoons Ever Is a Coded "Up Yours" to Castro
Antonio Prohias was the most popular and influential political cartoonist in Cuba in the years and days before Fidel Castro took over. As one of the most annoying bugs up Castro's ass, Prohias found himself accused of working with the CIA. This of course meant that it was only a matter of time before the state police decided to pull him in for one of those interrogation sessions that never end. Prohias won that particular round of cat and mouse, managing to escape to America just as Castro was culling the Cuban media of its last scraps of free speech.
Watson-Guptil Publications via NPR
Around the same time, Mad Magazine began publishing Spy vs. Spy, the only wordless comic in its pages. On the surface, it seemed like a riff on Tom and Jerry cartoons, with two characters whose full-time jobs seemed to be trying to kill the other in increasingly creative ways. But as the comic continued to appear and gain popularity, a deeper level of commentary revealed itself that suggested the Cold War battle being waged by covert military forces like the CIA, the KGB, and Castro himself. The comic appeared to mock these spies, who would seemingly stop at nothing to destroy one another despite the fact that they were identical variations on the same model, just wearing slightly different jerseys.
"Hehe! Explosives are fun!"
Don't take our word for it, though. While the comic never had any words in it, the front page of one of the special issues devoted to Spy vs. Spy noted: "Their antics are almost as funny as the CIA's ... They are the only two spies we know who haven't the sense to come in out of the cold. But they have a ball -- mainly trying to outwit each other." Adding to the intrigue of the minimalist political commentary was the fact that the comics appeared to be unsigned. Or at least they were unsigned in the eyes of anyone who didn't know Morse code. Those who did would have realized that those dots and lines under the title were actually a byline: "By Prohias."
Watson-Guptil Publications via NPR
In Cuba, a thumb to the chin is code for "Fuck you, Castro."
Prohias would later explain that the black vs. white characters were inspired by his time in Cuba, where anyone who was not a vocal communist was dismissed as an infidel. He created the early chapters of the cat-and-mouse tale immediately after arriving in New York, after successfully planning his own version of Spy vs. Spy while escaping from Cuba. He went on to live the capitalist dream for decades in America off of money made by the strips, the whole time signing his work like a spy, just like Castro said he was.
As Prohias put it himself, "The sweetest revenge has been to turn Castro's accusation of me as a spy into a money-making venture."
#2. The Lord of the Rings' Fake Languages Are More Complex Than the Real Ones You Know
Lord of the Rings novices might assume that the names of people and places that populate Middle-Earth are just fun little nonsense sounds, or that the markings on the inside of the rings and on the maps throughout the movies were just fun bits of nonsense, or upside down cursive.
If you read it backward, it plays "Revolution 9."
Hell, you could make it through all three of the novels thinking that the strange little scribbles on the title pages were just fun border designs, like the swirls around the edge of a fancy doily ...
Or the little guy playing a horn and riding a dolphin was ... oh that is nonsense?
Even die-hard Lord of the Rings fans who know that those are real, fully formed languages probably assume that they were invented for the novel. But according to J.R.R. Tolkien, the languages came first. The world and the stories that take place inside them were just vessels for him to explore the studio space with the fake words and curly-fry lettering he made up. If you've ever taken a foreign language class, you've probably listened to audio tapes on which actors teach you how to say "Where is the library?" and "Jenny went shopping for sponges today" in the most perfectly wooden French or Spanish accent possible. Well, Tolkien's novels are really just long, drawn-out versions of the Spanish voice actor overenunciating the question, "Donde esta la biblioteca?"
Tolkien was a linguist first and a novelist by accident. He invented 20 different languages over the course of his career, and Middle-Earth was just a fictional sandbox where he allowed those languages to play ball. He laid out the whole tangled, convoluted history behind the languages of Middle-Earth in books like The Silmarillion, which focused on fake verb conjugation instead of orcs, and therefore didn't sell quite as well as The Lord of the Rings. It's unknown as of yet whether Peter Jackson will adapt The Silmarillion into three movies or pack it into two.
#1. Daisy Is Looking at a Naked Lady on the Cover of The Great Gatsby
It's one of the most recognizable book covers in Western literature. If you've taken a high school English class in the past 20 years, you're likely familiar with the floating noseless face that stares out from F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic. It captures the tone of melancholy among Gilded Age glamour that pervades the novel: the sad eyes of Daisy Buchanan, the empty eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg peering out from the billboard near George Wilson's auto repair shop, the naked titties and naked ass of a naked lady being reflected out of the sexy eyes on the cover in a way that symbolizes that some hot lesbian sex might be about to go down. If we lost you on that last one, you're probably not alone. You can look at the cover of the novel a hundred times without noticing the naked lady swimming in the irises of the eyes.
This could also be the webcam feed from any teenage boy's laptop at around 11:30 p.m.
While you can find literary criticism picking apart just about every aspect of the cover and how it ties into the themes of the book, the naked ladies are typically ignored, or brushed aside as "two reclining nudes," as though every person's eyes have those laying around in there.
The now iconic illustration had humble beginnings. While Fitzgerald was still finalizing the manuscript, the publisher had the illustration commissioned by Francis Cudat, a small-time Hollywood designer who was paid $100 and never illustrated another book cover. Fitzgerald liked the painting so much that he claimed to have written it into the book, and literary critics have been arguing over which passages it inspired ever since. But he would later regret the enthusiasm. During Fitzgerald's summer-long European drunk with his friend Ernest Hemingway, both writers agreed that the cover art was terrible and that the illustration wasn't serious enough for the masterpiece it was hiding. It was almost like Fitzgerald had been brainwashed by some element of the art that was visible when you gazed at a full-resolution rendering deeply enough.
For more awesome Easter eggs, check out 10 Mind-Blowing Easter Eggs Hidden in Famous Albums and 7 Insane Easter Eggs Hidden in Movies and TV Shows.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out Why the Son on 'Homeland' Will Grow Up to Be a Terrorist.
And stop by LinkSTORM to discover the articles we've hid Brockway's mustache in.
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