Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey explained in 1968 Howard Johnson's children's menu

It's hard to describe how much I like this.


  1. Although obviously the humor is in presenting 2001 as something a kid could enjoy, but in 1980 I was in a summer day-camp at our local library and the librarian (in retrospect, clearly a former hippie) was all like “Dudes, you have to see this” — the library had just gotten a VCR and the first tape they got was 2001. So a bunch of 7 to 10 year olds got to see 2001. I’m not sure I completely understood it, but it started my obsession with the movie.

    1.  My Dad took me to see 2001 in about 1980 ( I was seven ). I could have done with something like this to explain the incomprehensible bits, when I asked him, I seem to remember Dad shrugging “dunno” and telling me people had taken LSD to try and understand it. On a related point the first video we ever got out for a boys night in was Easy Rider. Way to go pops, is it any wonder me and my bro turned out to be pharmaceutically adventurous?

    2. I thought I remembered my dad taking me when the movie debuted, but I just did the math and I would have been in kindergarten, and I don’t think I was that young, but whatever year it was it scared the bejabbers out of me.

  2. Would loved to have seen Rock Hudson in the audience, leaving halfway through and muttering “Will someone explain to me what the hell this is about?”, with the kids staring in bewilderment at the Hollywood square.  The promised land is not for thee, Moses.

    On a pedantic note, Space Odyssey does NOT begin with a shot of the Milky Way, but a Sun-Earth-Moon syzygy.

    Howard Johnson’s in the 60s, “Mad Men” made it clear that their clams were famous and being a hardcore seafood junkie, I’m totally intrigued.

    1. My family went to HoJos for one of their all you can eat fish Friday deals. This stands out because my family hardly ever ate out.

      My mom or dad had the clams and I *seem* to recall trying them.

       We’re talking 1960s chain-diner food. Deep-fried breaded chewy nuggets.

        1. Ugh.  I’m no prude, but to me they just look like giant peni in shells.
          I admit I’m biased against the sea and everything living in it.  But that’s a story of jellyfish and barnacles to tell another time.

      1. Howard Johnson had very respectable fried clams. You could order them with or without the stomachs. Of course, that was in New England, where substandard fried clams could lead to rioting.

      2. We went to HoJo’s about once a month for their Fish/Clams special. I LOVED those clams!  Wish I had some right now.  Actually, maybe I just wish I was 12 again. :-(

    1. Spoilers: In the end, the boy becomes an astronaut and the girl becomes a space stewardess.

      1. I watch 2011 every 5 years or so. The only aspect of the film that has aged really, really poorly is the gender roles. 

        1. For some reason, little girls in 1969 never said “I want to be Soviet astrophysicist Elena Nolastnameova and spend three months calibrating the new antenna at Chelenko while my oceanographer husband Grigori does undersea research in the Baltic!”  Too bad.

  3. You had to wonder whether the artist saw the movie . . . or did, and whether making it seem kid-friendly was fun or frustrating.

    I was probably younger than these kids when I saw 2001. In fact, if the movie opened in 1968, I would have been six or seven. It BLEW MY MIND.  Really, it made me a total little space-nut.

    1. “Wow! What a finish!  I’d never have guessed the way this mystery is solved!”
      “Nobody would.  That’s why everyone promised not to tell the ending…  it’s too surprising!”

      artist confirmed for not actually having seen the ending.  must’ve just been given a highlight reel or stills and a treatment.

      1. I think “surprising” is a good word for the ending, in the sense of “unexpected.” 

        You certainly wouldn’t want someone to watch that movie at its premiere and say, “Saw it coming! Soooooo cliché…!” 

        1.  well, yeah; the most surprising thing about it was that the mystery wasn’t solved.  the mystery is, if anything, amplified; or at the very least not spelled-out for the audience.  which is usually the main topic when discussing the ending.  and then the little girl’s reply can be read as trying to tie up the comic strip without actually knowing how the film ends.

          since nobody seems to know for certain who the artist even was, I guess we’ll never know for sure, but I’d be willing to put my money where my mouth is if anyone can track him down.

    1. So Dave Bowman was a quisling who sold us out to the aliens? Figures. I never trusted him in 2010 when he kept saying “something wonderful” was about to happen.

  4. I got to see the film in a wide-screen theater when I was five, in 1972, perhaps. A little fuzzy, but boy did the “it’s full of stars” scene stick with me for years.

    Things I never got to do? One of them was eat at a HoJo (nor a Stuckey’s, nor a Chicken Annie’s for that matter).

    1. Last Stuckey’s I was in must have been in 1974 somewhere in the middle of Illinois. Don’t remember they had a restaurant, but weren’t they known mostly for peanut brittle?

      1.  I stopped at several Stuckey’s along I-70 in 1990, on the way back from a rocketry event.

        I don’t remember peanut brittle. The goodie they were pushing then were peanut rolls. Nut logs? You know, a stick of gooey nougat rolled in salted peanuts.

    2. You mean the Star Gate sequence? Bowman didn’t actually say “it’s full of stars” in the movie version of 2001, though he did in the book and also in the movie of 2010.

      1. Right, but it’s also the easiest way to trigger someone’s memory of which scene I was talking about…easier than a full description of it, at least.

        1. Well, the easiest way to trigger the memory of people who’ve seen both movies, or read the book.  For people who just saw 2001, I’d expect it’d be rather confusing.  It was for me before I saw 2010.

          I remember seeing the sig on slashdot “my god, it’s full of source” and such all over the place (latest season of futurama in the Near-Death-Star “my god, it’s full of geezers”) and not really getting it.  Just having the feeling that I should get it.

          Since seeing 2010, I see the reference EVERYWHERE.  It’s like I can’t escape it.  People are making the reference unintentionally, geeks are making oblique usage, I all of a sudden feel inducted into some kind of secret society…….Fnord.

  5. Next up on the HoJo Kids’ Menu: Debbie and Robin go to see “A Clockwork Orange.” Eccentrically-dressed teenagers love “Singin’ in the Rain” and Beethoven! What’s not to like?

  6. So unrealistic. If this were real, the children would have been seized by ushers with enormous flashlights for talking in the theatre, taken out back, and beaten to death.

  7. Poole didn’t slip. He was pushed.

    Perhaps HoJos was uncomfortable with the notion of a murderous computer.

    1. HoJos, blazing the trail for Han Shot First, E.T. government men wielding walkie-talkies.

  8. I find it kind of bizarre that it’s not just the movie in comic form, but a comic about watching the movie. I cannot imagine anyone but generic ’50s honky voice man narrating it.

  9. Several years ago I was lucky to pick up a cheap copy of the big Marvel Treasury Edition adaptation of 2001 from the mid 70’s, written and drawn by Jack “King” Kirby, and through the magic of captions it does a better job of explaining the ending than the movie does!

    1.  The really weird thing is the 10-issue 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY “sequel” series Jack Kirby did after the Marvel Treasury Edition.     The first 7 issues or so, each issue the monolith is messing with somebody in different time periods.    Then he stops referencing the monolith and introduces his MACHINE MAN character, who went on to his own comic book, and his own continuity in the DC universe.

      1. Actually, Machine Man (who was called Mr. Machine in 2001) did meet the Monolith; after he got his own (short-lived–8 issues, at first) series, it was never referenced again, and eventually he was incorporated into the Marvel (not DC) universe. So, yeah… the Monolith is part of Marvel continuity. 

    1. Even after reading the explanations online, I still don’t understand what happened.

  10. Dave Bowman’s pod looks a lot like the cute daphnia model in the other boing boing story!

  11. To my knowledge this is the second best thing Howard Johnson’s has ever done–although it’s an extremely close second, and I do mean that as high praise.

    After all the best thing Howard Johnson’s ever did, in my humble opinion, was make the world’s greatest gigantic root beer float with coffee ice cream. I would have one after playing miniature golf, and it was as close to Nirvana as I suspect I’ll ever get. 

          1. Now you’ve got me wishing I had the artistic talent to produce such a thing. I’d especially like to illustrate the scene of Mongo punching a horse, and have one of the kids explain to the other, “Sid Caesar did that in real life!”

            I also seem to be one of the few who finds the additional “trials of Mongo” quite funny, and who wishes they’d been left in.

            But I couldn’t bring myself to charge money for it. Unleashing that level of joy on the world is something I could only do for free.

  12. what the hell was so hard to understand about 2001? seemed extremely cut and dry to me, from beginning to end. sure, it was a little weird in it’s presentation, but clearly understandable. after watching the movie a few years later (and 2010), i decided to get into the books, so i purchased all 4 of the books (2001, 2010, 2064, 3001)and read them back to back. very easy to comprehend.

    1. To claim that 2010 is somehow essential to understanding 2001 is heresy. You do realize that, don’t you?

      This is, in short, a movie that tries to teach ten thousand stars how not to dance. There were times when I almost wanted to cover my ears. Did I really want to know (a) why HAL 9000 disobeyed Dave’s orders? or (b) the real reason for the Discovery’s original mission? or (c) what the monoliths were trying to tell us? Not exactly. And yet we live in a most practical time, and they say every decade gets the movies it deserves. What we get in “2010” is not an artistic triumph, but it is a triumph of hardware, of special effects, of slick, exciting filmmaking. This is a movie that owes more to George Lucasthan to Stanley Kubrick, more to “Star Wars” than to Also Sprach Zarathustra. It has an ending that is infuriating, not only in its simplicity, but in its inadequacy to fulfill the sense of anticipation, the sense of wonder we felt at the end of “2001.”

      Roger Ebert reviews 2010

  13. Sometimes there’s a thin line between funny and…  well, I don’t have the adjective.
    That panel with the two kids ostensibly live-narrating the plot has left me filled with rage all day.

  14. I think the optimal comparison for this piece is the Little Golden Book version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  It is astonishing that they managed to crank a kid-friendly 12-minute narrative out of that one.

  15. This comic is neat, but leaves me as confused as the movie did. . .

    — Is there such a thing as a Howard Johnson’s restaurant?  I’m only familiar with them as a crappy hotel chain.

    — I saw 2001 as a teenager in the 90’s.  I was bored to tears and I don’t even think I finished the movie.  Note that I was a huge geek and grew up on “old” movies.  Wouldn’t a couple kids be bored to tears, or did my parents’ generation really have that much better of an attention span?

    1. “Is there such a thing as a Howard Johnson’s restaurant?”

      Not anymore, last one I saw was in Times Square during the ’90s.

    2. Taking your second question first:

      -The first time I saw 2001 was when I was sixteen. It was at my birthday party, and my parents rented a videodisc player. They also rented 2001 and Something Wicked This Way Comes. I think I can admit now that I started off intrigued and quickly went to baffled and bored out of my mind, but I was ashamed to say that at the time. I’ve enjoyed the film a lot more as I’ve gotten older, especially after reading an analysis of it in the book Kubrick, inside a film artist’s maze. But that’s just me.

      -I believe most Howard Johnson’s hotels had a restaurant attached, which was very family-friendly and the ice cream made it worth going there even for those who weren’t staying–unlike most crappy hotels which have equally crappy restaurants.

      There’s a crumbling husk of a Howard Johnson’s not far from where I live. I keep meaning to go and take pictures of it.

      1. I believe most Howard Johnson’s hotels had a restaurant attached

        The restaurants began in the 1920s; they didn’t enter the hotel business until the 1950s.

      2.  Thanks.  Maybe I’ll give it another go, since I like a lot of Kubrick’s other work. 

        And weird to know HoJo was a restaurant once too.   Must’ve either been just before my time, or never in my part of the country when they did exist.  Sounds like a Friendly’s or a Shoney’s or something.

  16. I was just telling my older brother about this on the phone…
    “You gotta see this, somebody has scanned in this old Howard Johnson’s children’s menu and uploaded it to the Internet.”
    And he said, “Is it the 2001 one?”
    He was 8 in 1968, it must have made quite an impression.

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