Let me get my publicity out of the way first. A couple days ago my mathematics blog gave serious thought about how the teachers in Barney Google and Snuffy Smith could do better. Also I reveal its fictional location, based on a reference to a 1940 story where Snuffy Smith brings the United States Army over for training. Really.
So. What has gone on in Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G since I last explained the nothingness? We’ve gotten actual information, is what. I think this reflects the Just End The Story Already Fairies taking hold and trying to get out of this failed storyline as soon as possible. Tommie somehow examined Margo’s heart without visible stethoscope on the streets of Manhattan, and then rushed her to Manhattan General, which I guess is the hospital Tommie supposedly works at. Or worked out. She made noise about quitting but goodness knows if her supervisors or even she took it seriously.
This week, Tommie and Margo’s dead fiancée Eric have been talking, while standing randomly on the streets of 1958 Albany. Tommie revealed that Margo’s problem is hyperthyroidism. Tommie says typical symptoms are anxiety, impatience, and depression, which I suppose fits Margo well enough. I do not think that wandering around in an amnesiac fugue state for months is one of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. However, I won’t get in the way of the Just End The Story Already Fairies in trying to use that to get out of things. To demand medical authenticity out of a soap opera strip is to demand scientific authenticity out of science fiction. It’s not what the genre is about.
Since the story has been progressing well enough that makes the ineptness of the art stand out more. The week’s strips have been Tommie and Eric standing around random street scenes talking with one another. I suppose since they’re just casually (if understandably) violating health privacy rules they could be speaking anywhere. I’d put the action in the hospital or in either of their apartments, but this is an artistic choice that can be defended.
If it’s a made choice. And here the strip from Sunday, the 27th, stands out. As usual the Sunday strip repeats the action from the previous week: Tommie listening to Margo’s heart, declaring they have to get her to the hospital, and telling Eric they won’t give up. During the week before, the action switched at random between street and apartment setting. And, amusingly, Margo stopped appearing altogether after the panel in which Tommie declares she’s going to listen to Margo’s heart and breathing.
In the Sunday redraw of this, the action takes place entirely on the street, except for the penultimate panel in which they’re suddenly back inside an apartment somewhere. Then it jumps back again. This doesn’t even parse.
And here we have a convenient experiment. One of the supererogatory commenters on the Comics Curmudgeon site, A Lee, took the Sunday strip as scripted and laid out, and redrew it. It’s inked in, only, not colored, but the effect is radical.
Nothing more happens, but it at least looks like things are happening. I don’t know whether tight, controlled, and well-composed artwork like this would wear better day-to-day. Things are still only barely happening and that because the Just End The Story Already Fairies have stepped in. But at least in this example the strip reads well. I would rather the strip were well-drawn and well-plotted. But it’s astounding how much effect simply making the artwork better has.