©Copyright 2017 Deborah Sinclair, Ryerson University
Imagine you are riding in a bus in the middle of summer. It is hot, stuffy, and you are starting to sweat. Would you not wish for the air-conditioning to be turned on? I will be looking at how air-conditioning is represented in the comic “Buz and His Bus” by Harry Brunt from Commando Comics: No. 18 pg 1-3, why it is represented that way, and what that representation does to the readers.
“Bus and His Bus”
The comic starts out with a bus driver named Buz. He is excited about the new air-conditioning that was installed in his bus, and tells his passengers to keep the windows closed. The passengers comply and Buz starts to drive the bus, driving by a sign that says “Stop ‘b.o.’ with pew-boy soap.” (2). During the ride, one passenger takes out his lunch, which happens to be a garlic. The smell fills the bus and the passengers and Buz express their displeasure towards the odour. The passengers are having trouble breathing, but still, Buz drives on. Just when things could not get any worse, a skunk happens to cross the road at the wrong time. Buz accidentally runs over the skunk with his bus and everything goes wrong. The smell slowly drafts into the bus and mixes with the garlic odour. The passengers are suffocating and Buz no longer cares if the windows are closed or not. They are desperate for fresh air. They punch and kick the windows until they can breathe again. Buz brings the bus to a stop and he and the passengers catch their breaths. One passenger half-jokingly asks Buz his opinion towards the air-conditioning, to which he replies, with a clothespin on his nose, “It stinks!” (5)
While reading this comic, I found it bizarre that they would introduce air-conditioning as this new and improved way to cool down only to put on such an elaborate show of its flaws. New inventions like this are quite helpful, so why would they go to such lengths to prove otherwise? I decided to do a bit of research to find out.
What I Found
It turns out that the answer is quite simple. It takes a lot of power to run an automobile air-conditioning system. In fact, “the overall diesel consumption of the engine will increase by 7%-38% when the vehicle’s A/C is operated” (Farrington, R.; Rugh, J., Impact of Vehicle Air-Conditioning on Fuel Economy, Tailpipe Emissions and Electric Vehicle Range: Preprint.). During WWll supplies such as food, gas, and rubber were precious. Many items were told to be saved in order to help contribute to the war effort. Fuel was one of them. Fuel was needed to help power military machines such as tanks and planes. To make sure there would be enough fuel for the war, fuel had to be preserved, starting with the home front. How was that fuel saved? By not driving unless needed, carpooling, and by, you guessed it, opening the windows instead of using the A/C.
How it relates
Going back to “Bus and His Bus”, it is clear why air-conditioning was shown in a negative way. Even though it was a groundbreaking invention, in vehicles it does use a large portion of the vehicle’s power and fuel to operate. During this time resources were slim and everything needed to be used in moderation. Fuel was needed for military purposes, so the common person had to compromise. How does this comic make its readers not use air-conditioning in their vehicles? By showing it in a negative light.
The sign on the road, the man with the garlic, the skunk, the excessive use of stink lines (Figure 1); all are tools that are used to create a situation in which the readers can imagine themselves in. Scent is a string sense and many are able to imagine and react to a scent from a description along. By having the garlic and the skunk in the comic, the readers are able to imaging just how terrible that bus smelt. If they were in that situation they would want fresh air too. The comic conditions the readers to associate vehicle air-conditioning with horrible odours, then offers an alternative: open windows. It tells the readers that it is not worth using the air-conditioning in a vehicle if the windows are going to eventually be opened anyways. If they just open the windows they be able to stay cool and breathe at the same time.
In “Bus and His Bus”, there is a strong emphasis on the shortcomings of air-conditioning. While it does cool you off, it does not allow you to open the windows in case the vehicle you are in starts to smell bad, The comic encourages its readers in a subtle and funny way to open the windows and contribute to the war effort by saving fuel.
Brunt, Harry (w). “Bus and His Bus.” Commando Comics, no. 18, pp. 1-3. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166547.pdf
Farrington, R.; Rugh, J. “Impact of Vehicle Air-Conditioning on Fuel Economy, Tailpipe Emissions and Electric Vehicle Range: Preprint.” National Technical Reports Library, 2000, https://ntrl.ntis.gov/NTRL/dashboard/searchResults/titleDetail/DE2000764573.xhtml
Huang, Ying; You, Fengqi; Yue, Chen. “Thermal and economic analysis of an energy system of an ORC coupled with vehicle air conditioning.” International Journal of Refrigeration, vol. 64, April, 2016, pp. 152-167. ScienceDirect. https://www-sciencedirect- com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/science/article/pii/S0140700716000116