What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Special Zippy the Pinhead Edition, May – August 2018


I thank you all for your interest in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth. My most recent posts about the strip should be at this link. If it’s past November 2018 by the time you read this, I may have a less out-of-date essay for you. And I’ve got comic strips discussed by their mathematical content over here. Please enjoy that, or this, as you like.

Also please enjoy this bit from a sequence of Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead. It’s from an August 2002 sequence where a strangely realistically-drawn woman turns up in the underground-styled comic strip. I discovered this from reading a strip compilation I borrowed from the library and felt as though Griffith were drawing a storyline just for me. (The woman turned out to be from — well, I won’t spoil the story unnecessarily.) And it’ll make a nice graphic for those times, like today, when the auto care place hasn’t updated its inspirational-despair sign.

[ Back to GRIFFY, on his quest --- he enters the MARY WORTH strip! ] Jeff, on the phone: 'What should I do? There's this oddly drawn guy here, looking for a missing girl!' Griffy: 'I need so see Mary!' [ Soon ] Griffy: 'Morning, Ms worth! I'm from th' Zippy comic! Can we talk?' Mary Worth: 'Young man, you need help, all right. Th'kind only a MENTAL HEALTH professional can provide!' (Griffy, thinking) 'Uh-oh! I'm frozen in place and unable to speak under th'withering gaze of Mary Worth!!'
Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead for the 19th of August, 2002. I’m seriously considering using the last panel of this as my icon for What’s Going On In Mary Worth essays. There’s a similar, though less great, panel for Judge Parker and a fair one for Mark Trail. The one for Apartment 3-G would be great but that strip exists only in Vintage form anymore.

Mary Worth.

14 May – 5 August 2018.

Mary Worth had just talked a despairing Wilbur Weston off the cliff face last time I checked in. He’d been going through a rough time. His column got dropped from the local newspaper. His former girlfriend had a shiny new boyfriend. His shower radio broke. His daughter’s off in Europe arranging a major professor-student relationship scandal. But she promised him things weren’t as dire as all that. And he figured he could go along with a gag.

It worked out well, too. The local newspaper reinstated his paper, citing reader demand. I swear I didn’t write in. I’m cutting back on my ironic reading of stuff. His daughter writes in to say how he’s happy and nobody from the college Human Resources department has asked any questions. And Mary treats Wilbur to a dinner with friends during karaoke night. And they push him to actually performing for once. It’s one of those moves that either turns out great or disastrous. Here it turns out great. He sings the theme from The Golden Girls. It’s one of those moves so corny that it falls over the edge to be sweet again.

[ At Karaoke ] Wilbur: 'SING in front of all of you? No, I can't!' Mary Worth: 'You can! We're here to cheer you on!' Iris: 'Let it out! We know you want to!' Professor Papagoras: 'What have you got to lose?'
Karen Moy and June Bridgman’s Mary Worth for the 31st of May, 2018. “Will you be less anxious singing in public if we tell you we’ve all heard you singing in your shower for years now? No? Huh. Well, uh, what if we tell you we were fibbing about hearing you sing Frank Crumit’s `The Parlor Is A Pleasant Place To Sit On Sunday Night’ every morning, then? No?”

And that’s followed by a week’s victory lap. Mostly Jeff telling Mary Worth how great it is that she can fix people up and not marry him. The new, and current, story started the 10th of June.

It’s about Iris’s son Tommy. He’s flirted successfully with coworker Brandy. They have a late-night dinner together that goes well. He’s figured he’s in love already, and he’s only more sure when they go to see Action-Adventure Movie. They do talk about the movie a little, about what you do when you lose choices and about trusting in strained circumstances. It all feels like foreshadowing. Also slightly foggy movie discussion, but I accept this as a convention of the medium. (Any actual movie, even if it were on point, would be out of the theaters before Moy and Bridgman could depict it in the strip. And there’s not the space to describe a made-up movie’s plot in detail.)

[ When Brnady reveals why she doesn't drink ] Brandy: 'I saw firsthand what the misuse of alcohol and drugs can do to a person you love.' Tommy: 'I'm sorry about what you went through growing up.' Brandy: 'Sigh. It affected my trust in people. My father became a different person when he drank and used drugs! He beat my mother ... and he cursed at me! When he suddenly left us ... we struggled to make ends meet! That's why I don't drink or do drugs! Just the thought of it makes me sick!' [ Tommy feels ashamed of his past. ] Tommy, with that deer-in-headlights stare, thinks: 'GULP!'
Karen Moy and June Bridgman’s Mary Worth for the 15th of July, 2018. So for people who weren’t reading along, Brandy was named for that song about what a fine girl she was and a good wife she should be. Tommy correctly recognized this reference and sang a bit of the song to her. Tommy also recognized the wordplay implicit in a woman named Brandy who resents drink. She likes him anyway, so we know this is true affectionate coexistence.

Going to the bar afterwards reveals the drama. Brandy doesn’t drink alcohol. Her father was an alcoholic and drug abuser. She doesn’t want that kind of trouble in her life. Tommy doesn’t drink either. He quit after getting addicted to alcohol and painkillers. He’s been clean for over a year now, and has a support group that he feels comfortable with. Brandy’s talk about how this damaged her ability to trust people, and how she can cope with it only by banishing drink and drugs from her life, shatters Tommy’s hopes.

He’s spent the time since then in a self-inquisitive spiral. He’s clean now, yes. But he did get hooked. And he worries about relapsing. He started using alcohol and painkillers after he was badly injured at work, yes. So, you know, he’s not one of those people who have drug problems because they’re bad. He just needed relief from never-ending severe pain. Still, he can foresee Brandy learning about his past and blocking him out. (And for all my snark, I agree both Brandy and Tommy have reasonable fears that they act on appropriately.)

[ As Mary returns from shopping ] (Her grocery bag breaks open, with cans of tomatoes falling out.) Mary Worth: 'OH NO!' [ She's offered a helping hand! ] Tommy, picking up cans: 'I GOT IT!'
Karen Moy and June Bridgman’s Mary Worth for the 24th of July, 2018. I admit this is not a load-bearing strip for the current storyline. But I am tickled by the first panel making a grocery bag tearing into an action scene. And also that Brigman does so well with it.

But Tommy remembers what comic strip he’s in. He lays out the situation for Mary Worth. She offers the reasonable advice that she would have to learn of his past. But also that Tommy is not Brandy’s father. But this is serious stuff, so she kicks the problem up a level, to God. Tommy goes to confession, revealing that I guess he’s Roman Catholic too. And he gets some decent talk about growing through your sins.

So that’s the standings as of early August, 2018.

Dubiously Sourced Quotes of Mary Worth Sunday Panels!

  • “The greatest test of courage on the Earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.” — R G Ingersoll, 13 May 2018.
  • “There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.” — Bernard Williams, 20 May 2018.
  • “Find a place where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” — Joseph Campbell, 27 May 2018.
  • “My friends are my estate.” — Emily Dickinson, 3 June 2018.
  • “To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.” — Marilyn vos Savant, 10 June 2018.
  • “Don’t fall in love; rise with it.” — Amit Abraham, 17 June 2018.
  • “Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.” — Dag Hammarskjöld, 24 June 2018.
  • “The simple act of caring is heroic.” — Edward Albert, 1 July 2018.
  • “Gamble everything for love if you are a true human being.” — Rumi, 8 July 2018.
  • “We all have our secrets. We all have our vulnerabilities.” — Brett Dalton, 15 July 2018.
  • “Fear is the mother of morality.” — Friedrich Nietzsche, 22 July 2018.
  • “When in doubt, tell the truth.” — Mark Twain, 29 July 2018.
  • “Repentance means you change your mind so deeply that it changes you.” — Bruce Wilkinson, 5 August 2018.

Next Week!

The Rat Must Die! So did The Rat die yet? I check back in on the Sunday continuity of Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom. See you then!

Author: Joseph Nebus

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

8 thoughts on “What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Special Zippy the Pinhead Edition, May – August 2018”

    1. Thanks for the invite! I’m curious what GarbageApe.com is, beyond obviously a Heathcliff reference.

      (For those who haven’t any idea what I’m on about: as part of its transformation into a Dadaist nonsense comic strip, Heathcliff has featured a recurring character, the Garbage Ape, a Santa-like figure who brings merriment and trash cans to the nights. You can see where this is well-suited for the right audience.)

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