It’s easy to forget that comic strips that’ve been around since the Battle of Manzikert, puttering on without anyone really liking them, earned their spot by being funny in the ancient past. That’s why I’m glad that Comics Kingdom, particularly, has a rich page of vintage strips so that I can see that Mort Walker and Dik Browne’s Hi and Lois really was … well, hilarious is a bit strong, but at least it was reliably funny in that Mid-50s Sitcom Moderne fashion, back in the 1950s. And the vintage strips allow for the rediscovery of aspects that the strip has dropped, like the number of boardroom jokes at the company where Hi works, or the fear of the god-like computer making decisions for the company. Some recurring gags got dropped because you just don’t do jokes like that anymore, and I’m thinking here of the Chinese Laundry. Chinese Laundry gags were discontinued sometime about 1970, when Racist Joke Command discovered there were a number of people from non-white countries who drive taxis and ordered a switch to joking about that instead.
And then there’s something like this one rerun last Thursday (originally run the 12th of July, 1957), which delights me in many ways. There’s the faint 50s Whitebread Xenophobia, particularly, at the idea of those scary exotic weird moon-man foods like imported tea or bagels or pizza or eggs Benedictus. (Is there anything weirder than running across a late-50s or early-60s punchline that depends on the idea that “eating pizza” is inherently a funny thing to do? Yes: it’s people freaking out at the “long-haired” Beatles of 1964, when they had individual hair follicles reaching out as much as three-quarters of an inch from their scalps.) I should be sympathetic: the 1950s in America were a time when suitable nutrition was believed to be pasty white things boiled into uniform shapeless mush, as seen on the plates of comic strip characters ever since. But she’s scared of tea.
And then there’s also the idea of being dependent on the recipe for a tea. I concede it’s possible for there to be tea that requires special preparation. But I also insist that if you go with “put it in boiling water; after a couple minutes, remove, if that’s what you like. Then put in sugar and milk if you like that” you’re going to be able to make a fairly palatable tea regardless of how finely imported it is. It’s maybe not as safe as making macaroni and cheese from a box, but, it’s still not something risky like making powdered oatmeal.
I guess what I’m saying is, if there is a Peak Hi And Lois this might well be it.
Meanwhile, while I was busy last week, my mathematics blog had two comic strip roundup post: the First Of The Year Edition, first, and then the second one, in which I give my best guess about what Berkeley Breathed thought was Jon Bon Jovi’s shorts size in 1989. If you missed the comics roundup, but read Bloom County obsessively back when everybody did, then you already know which strips I’m talking about in there. Also, I fiddled with the WordPress theme over there, from one I was just a little bit dissatisfied with to a new one that I’m dissatisfied with in different ways, which is always exciting.