What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Is Something Happening In Apartment 3-G Suddenly? March – June 2018


Oh, what’s ever going on in Judge Parker? Lots of stuff. Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manely’s comic strip has not been sluggishly plotted. This is my best attempt, as of early-to-mid June 2018, to recap the last couple months. If none of this stuff seems relevant, you may need an essay at or near the top of this page, where its successors should appear. But if you’re reading this around June or July 2018, maybe this will help you out. Glad to help.

If you like mathematics in your comics, by the way, I’ve got another blog for you. Thanks for considering that too.

Judge Parker.

18 March – 10 June 2018.

Big personal revelations were on the way last time I checked in on Judge Parker. Randy Parker, shocked by his wife’s daring escape from Super Double Top Secret Federal Jail Prison, turned to obsessive paranoia. He got so busy wiring his house with cameras and watching everything. And not leaving the house. His father, the original Judge Alan Parker, points out he’s not doing enough judge work. And if you can imagine doing so little judge work that Judge Parker notices, well. But Randy stays resolute. After her prison break, disavowed CIA agent April Parker had come to the house, promising that she’d be back to take their child. Maybe Randy too. He’s determined not to let that happen.

But he does need groceries. And diapers. So he goes to the supermarket and cute-meets Toni Bowen. She’s the local reporter who leapt to the national desk covering the collapse of Godiva Danube and Neddy Spencer’s clothing factory. She also fell back to the local news after her next big story, Sophie Driver’s kidnapping, was too confusing to follow. And how she didn’t destroy Randy Parker interviewing him about April Parker’s prison escape.

Sam: 'I'm sorry, what? You're seeing Toni Bowen? The reporter who interviewed you about your wife on national TV? Less than four months ago?' Sophie: 'You're dating a celebrity?' Sam: 'Sophie --- ' Randy: 'Not dating! Seeing! I mean, kinda seeing, but ... you can't tell anyone, okay?' Sophie: 'Who am I going to tell? no one talks to me at school anyway.' Sam: 'Sophie, please --- wait, is that true?' Randy: 'I know it's complicated. And it probably won't last much longer. But for the first time in a while, I have a reason to smile. I ... I actually feel good.' Sophie: 'But how does Toni feel about it?' Sam: 'Good question.' Randy: 'Toni has numerous solid reasons why it can't possibly work.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 8th of April, 2018. New-relationship energy is such a powerful thing, isn’t it? Also, nice job of filling in backstory for new readers in the first panel second row there. Sincerely; it packs a lot of plot in without sounding too far off something an actual person might say.

Two months pass, per the caption on the 2nd of April. Randy and Toni are sharing Netflix passwords. Toni’s wary about this. Randy’s a former interview subject, after all. And is likely to be an interview subject again, considering that he’s still married, to a federal fugitive who’s also a hypercompetent CIA-trained assassin. She wants all this kept quiet. Randy would like to but he kind of mentioned it to Sam Driver. While Sophie Driver could overhear. Also all their relationship is taking place inside Randy Parker’s home. Which, Toni finally gets around to pointing out, is monitored by dozens of Internet-connected cameras.

So Randy accepts the argument that he’s got to live unafraid of April’s sure return. He turns off all the security cameras in time for Alan Parker to point out that April could be watching the house all the time. But what are the odds she’s doing that?

Randy, shutting down all the many cameras he's put up around his house: 'Okay ... Done. Entire security system's off-line. Now, how about you [ Toni ] and I get some brunch?' [ Elsewhere ] Voice, likely Norton: 'C'mon, April! Car's waiting!' [ Meanwhile ... in a dark office ] Man: 'He shut it all down.' Woman: 'No matter. We're going into active mode.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 20th of May, 2018. By the way, no, I don’t know exactly who those people are in the last panel. It’s easy to suppose they’re part of Norton’s organization, but that isn’t actually said. It’s easy also to suppose they’re part of some top-secret fugitive-detecting investigative squad, but again, not actually established.

April asks her father, Norton, what it means that the security cameras have been turned off. She’s had a storyline that’s mostly played out in the Sunday strips. She’s strained by her new life. She’s travelling the world murdering people with her father. Who’s constantly making jokes that aren’t even Dad Jokes. There’s a lot of jokes, mind you. Often ones that seem contextually inappropriate, like in the aftermath of a murder pointing out there’s milanos in the glove compartment.

It’s part of Francesco Marciuliano’s writing. The characters do joke. Many of them are weird little not-quite-non-sequiturs, such as many of Norton’s little asides. Many of them are moments of self-deprecation as characters realize they’ve been acting foolishly. A bit of this is refreshing self-awareness. Too much of it sounds sitcom-y. Not to the extent that Dan Thompson’s Rip Haywire gets. Several times the past few months it’s gotten more snarky than I like. It feels like reflexive snark. Snark is fun, but it’s corrosive when done without thought. And that’s unfortunate, since I’ve been enjoying the plotting. Marciuliano has embraced making the stories as crazypants as possible. He’s also made good use of bouncing soap-opera-loony plots off of characters who, if belatedly, come to their senses. It keeps the stories from being too absurd for my tastes.

And the style can work. For example, in the third major plot developing the past several months. This is in Los Angeles, where the scene transitions are flagged by the narration box with movie-script format. This thread follows Neddy Spencer, who’s solving all her problems by moving to a new city and working in the field of becoming famous. She’s having trouble making friends, which changes when Godiva Danube turns up at her restaurant.

Ronnie: 'Okay, the secret is to own the situation. Just go up to your table and say, 'Oh, hi, Godiva!' before she says word one. Automatically, you're exuding self-assuredness and you're in control of the conversation.' Neddy: 'I keep saying the wrong thing to you. Why are you helping me?' Ronnie: 'Because apparently, I'm the magical non-white, non-hetero sidekick character lazy writers think exists solely to help the white protagonist. By the way, that changes pronto.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 27th of April, 2018. Also the moment when Ronnie becomes more than just the other person in the restaurant. She’s still serving the role of support character. But she’s gotten enough screen time talking about herself, not always in such an Abed Nadir style, that one could believe she’s a character with as much going on as Neddy is and we just happen to be following Neddy first.

Godiva had urged Neddy to come with her to Los Angeles; Neddy had seen this as emotional manipulation on Godiva’s part. But you see where this is a heap of awkward. Her coworker Ronnie tries to guide her through the scene. And she starts to like Neddy, the way anyone starts to like a person they do a favor for. Ronnie dives in to rescue Neddy when the quarrel with Godiva gets too intense.

Abbey, picking up the phone: 'Neddy? Is everything okay?' Neddy: 'Hey, abbey. Yes, everything's fine. It's ... it's just been a while since I called.' Abbey: 'I'm sure you've just been busy. Sophie tells us you're really finding your footing in LA.' Neddy: 'Yeah, I'm .. .I'm trying. You okay? Sam?' Abbey: 'We're all fine, Neddy ... we miss you.' Neddy: 'I miss you too. And I'm sorry I'm not there today, but I wanted to wish you a very happy Mother's Day.' Abbey: 'Oh, Neddy. Thank you.' Neddy: 'I love you, Abbey.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 13th of May, 2018. As part of bonding Ronnie and Neddy talked over their family relationships, and this strip — which ran Mother’s Day — reflects Ronnie’s encouraging Neddy to take better care of her relationship with her mother.

And here — this past week — these three threads crash together. Norton and April are in Los Angeles to kill someone. Who’s staying in Room 237 (get it?) of some hotel. Toni Bowen gets promoted from the break-of-dawn to the 5 pm newscast. The first story: new developments in an old story. And Ronnie has news for Neddy: Godiva’s dead.

So every now and then I get to writing one of these essays well ahead of time. Like, get the whole thing roughed out by Monday or Tuesday before it needs to be published. Every time this makes my weekend so much easier. Do I learn from this to get stuff done early? Maybe even, if I have a free hour, write up story-so-far paragraphs for the comics I know are coming up soon? No, I absolutely refuse to learn and do things that make my life easier. But, c’mon, if you’re going to drop something like that on me, the day before this What’s-Going-On-In essay publishes, you’re just teaching me to write as close to deadline as possible. It’s not fair, is what it isn’t.


So What’s The Deal With This Apartment 3-G Talk?

Well, that was interesting. As Norton and April approached what I have taken to be Godiva’s hotel room [*] there was a fake-out strip. On the 2nd of June, a black-haired woman accepted a pizza delivery. She’s at a door marked 3-G.

Woman at door: 'Who is it?' Voice behind door: 'Pizza delivery.' (She opens the door, conspicuously labelled 3G. It's a pizza delivery.) Woman: 'Oh, finally! I'm starving!'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 2nd of June, 2018. I know the serious Apartment 3-G fans are hoping for news on what’s become of Lampey. But I keep looking at that pizza box and asking, ‘Now that’s a spicy T-shirt’? It feels like seeing an in-joke. Yes, I understand the spicy meatball’s referent. But how do you get from a meatball to a T-shirt? Well, by dropping it down your shirt, but that still doesn’t explain the pizza box.

An Apartment 3-G reference? Of course; what else makes sense here? What’s interesting is the question of whether Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley are planning to bring an Apartment 3-G thread into the storyline. King Features Syndicate (I assume) holds the publication rights on both properties, after all. And it’s not a frightening innovation to have characters from a cancelled strip appear in a still-ongoing one. The cliffhanger on which the comic strip Annie ended was eventually resolved in Dick Tracy. And characters from Brenda Starr, The Spirit, and the Green Hornet have popped up in Joe Staton and Mike Curtis’s comic. (Of course, who hasn’t? Characters from Popeye, Terry and the Pirates, and Harold Teen have made cameos there. Yes, yes, Popeye is technically still in production, as far as we know, but it’s barely seen.) Keeping the property alive by references in other strips, until it can be grittily rebooted, would make good sense.

And Marciuliano might be game. In Sally Forth he’s several times written flash-forward strips, where Hilary Forth and her friends Faye and Nona are young adults sharing an apartment. Many Sally Forth readers note how that setup is close enough to Apartment 3-G‘s for jazz. I’m not aware that Marciuliano has expressed any interest in doing a quiet Apartment 3-G revival. The 2nd of June’s strip is adequately explained as faking out the reader. But I can’t rule out that Marciuliano might intend to plot something wild. I am checking with the rules committee about whether it is possible to take my Apartment 3-G essay tag out of retirement.

[*] We have seen Norton and April enter a hotel room. We’ve seen a woman laying on the bed. We’ve gotten the news that Godiva is dead. But we have not — as of Saturday, the 9th of June anyway — seen a direct statement that this woman was Godiva, nor that she was killed by Norton and April’s action. I’m aware of soap opera rules too.

Next Week!

Stan Lee, Larry Leiber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man! I left off as giant irradiated green monsters in purple pants were deep in the swamp, mocking one another. Did the story somehow get even better? Has the next story started out delightfully? I’m eager to say.

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Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

7 thoughts on “What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Is Something Happening In Apartment 3-G Suddenly? March – June 2018”

    1. I should have been more clear. I’m not puzzled by the illustration; like you note, it’s an iconic pizza box illustration. It’s the text beside the pizza chef that’s got me. Above the chef’s fingers reads Now That's A Spicy T-Shirt!''. It's in the spot that would ordinarily readYou tried the rest, now try the best” or possibly some lesser pizza box motto. The line is clearly referencing the 1960s Alka-Seltzer commercial, but why? And why change spicy meatball'' tospicy T-shirt”?

      “Piping Hot Heat Press Fresh” at the bottom of the box doesn’t make sense either. But that looks like it’s supposed to register as, oh, a box like that would mention the freshness or the hotness of the food inside. And it doesn’t matter what other text is on the pizza box; the shape and the chef’s image explain what it is. So the fact that it’s a sentence which reads like the sort of nonsense joke you develop with friends catches my eye.

      Like

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