What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Why did Judge Parker help fake Norton’s Death? A Special Report.


I feel the need to break my format a little. There’s a major question in the backstory of the current Judge Parker plot. That current storyline doesn’t actually depend on parts of the plot not previously revealed. But Francesco Marciuliano writes the story as though we should remember the circumstances of Norton’s faked death. At least he writes the characters as though they know it. So let me reveal what we do know about this.

Some things are staying as usual, though: I looked at mathematically-themed comic strips on my other blog this afternoon. You might like reading that too.

Judge Parker.

What Exactly Is The Deal With Judge Alan Parker Faking Norton’s Death?

To be honest, this has been annoying me a long while too. And I didn’t think I could untangle it, especially not now that Comics Kingdom redesigned their archives so it’s harder to read old strips. I was saved by this essay by Mark Carlson-Ghost. It lays out the characters of Judge Parker in some depth. I’m impressed by his diligence. The essay includes people not seen since the 1960s, according to itself. Without it I’d have no hope of tracking down enough story to explain any of this.

April: 'Dad ... where are you, my darling?' Abbott/Norton, arms wide: 'Don't I get a hug?' April: 'Not with that tarantula on your shoulder!'
Woody Wilson and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 12th of February, 2014. So far as I can determine, the first appearance of Abbott/Norton in the comic strip. I don’t remember what’s come of the tarantula. April’s creeped out by the tarantula. I’m honestly a little creeped out she calls her father “darling”. Anyway the conversation went quickly into how Flaco and Franco Gardia blamed Abbott for the sinking of a ship full of “Romanian AKs” and wanted revenge.

The story goes back several years and to the previous writer, Woody Wilson. The artist, Mike Manley, was the same, so at least the art will be familiar. In the backstory to this backstory, Alan Parker had retired as judge and occasional comic strip character. He’d written some of his experiences into a novel, The Chambers Affair, which everybody in the world loves. People fall over themselves to talk about how much they love it. And Randy Parker has found love in the form of April Bowers. She’s a CIA “asset” who claims to be a single linguist, but who keeps having stuff pull her away from linguistics. They were readying to marry.

So first, his name was not Norton, which may be why I have always had trouble figuring out what his last name is. He’s presently “Norton Dumont” by the way. On his introduction he was known as “Abbott Bower”. At least, until the wedding of Randy Parker and April Bower, a sequence which ran from February through June 2014.

Abbott: 'So how do you feel about having arms dealers and spies in the family, Alan?' Alan Parker: 'I don't judge people anymore, Abbott! My philosophy is live and let live! I was actually hoping you might agree to become my technical adviser ... and take a look at this aerial drone we captured up on the mountain!'
Woody Wilson and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 28th of March, 2014. Yeah, you know, “live and let live”, respecting the renowned and long tradition for arms dealers and spies.

The wedding was also the occasion for Abbott Bower to meet the Parkers and their gang. They had come to the jungles of Mexico because, Abbott was unable to travel away from his clinic. He was dying from radiation exposure, the result of some CIA mission he’d been on. This was by the way presented as of course true by the strip’s then-writer Woody Wilson. Current writer Francesco Marciuliano is eager to indulge in every soap-operatic plot twist. So I accept that Wilson intended that this was an old CIA agent turned gun runner who was dying of exposure to patriotism. (Seriously, the strips from this era lay on really thick the “thank God we have super-spies ready to Save America” bunk.)

Over the wedding, Abbott gives to April a bag full of diamonds. His “retirement fund”, he quips, now a wedding gift. The evening of the reception, Flaco and Franco Gardia launch a bungled raid on the wedding party. The Gardias have the idea the diamonds are theirs. And that April killed Flaco’s wife. I don’t deign to declare whether the Gardias or Abbott have the greater title to the diamonds. But Flaco’s wife is in a Mexican prison, thanks to Abbott’s work.

I don’t mind that the raid is a fiasco. My reading of this sort of thing is that pretty much every attempt at armed force is largely a fiasco. Afterwards the winners organize a narrative that makes it, sure, a close call at points but ultimately inevitable. But part of the last few years of Wilson’s writing was that anything bad that might happen to a Parker or Spencer or Driver would fall apart of its own accord. In the raid it turns out April is one of those movie-style super-spies who can grab someone’s surveillance drone out of the sky. Katherine gets captured, but stays pretty in control of the situation. She even talks to one of the Gardia brothers about surrendering to her, and he at least hears her out.

Flaco, holding a gun on Katherine: 'You're the man from the ship!' Alan: 'That's right! And that woman is my wife! I demand you release her!' Flaco, pointing the gun at Alan: 'What is it with you people making demands all the time?' Alan; 'Untie my wife before somebody gets killed!' Katherine: 'Flaco, my husband is a novelist! Perhaps you've heard of him ... Alan Parker! He just wrote a best-seller!' Flaco: 'Alan Parker? The same Alan Parker who wrote 'The Chambers Affair?' I loved that book! I finished it on the ship just before Li Hai disappeared!' Alan: 'I'm glad you enjoyed it! We're writing the movie script now!' Flaco: 'You know, I thought it would make a wonderful movie!' Sniper-y type working for Abbot: 'Now we have Mr Parker in the picture! What now?' Radio contact: 'Stay on target ... wait for Abbott!'
Woody Wilson and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 8th of June, 2014. Fun fact: the way people treat Alan Parker the moment they recognize his name? This is exactly the life experience that everyone who writes or draws a nationally syndicated comic strip has. Ask any of them. They mention, like, “oh, I drop in a couple gags now and then for Frank and Ernest” and the ShopRite cashier begs to be allowed to pay for whole order. The National Cartoonists Society recommends allowing them to pay for no more than four boxes of Marie Callender’s broccoli-and-cheddar-potato pot pies or six two-liter bottles of soda.

After a tense standoff with mutual groups of hostages they compromise. The Gardias will take half the diamonds. Oh, also Alan Parker’s autograph on their copies of his best-selling novel The Chambers Affair. And then they’ll leave the strip forever. And they do. This sort of convenient working-out of things happened all the time in the Woody Wilson era. Especially with people so loving Alan Parker’s book. It’s a great running joke if you don’t suspect that Woody Wilson meant it sincerely. At the time, I thought he meant it sincerely. In retrospect, and on reading a lot of these strips in short order, I’m less sure. It reads, now, to me more like a repeated punch line.

Randy, to April and Alan: 'So you've added Abbott to your screenwriting team?' April: 'Let's just say he's a technical consultant!' Alan: 'Besides, La Cura was just a gang of quacks! He'll get real treatment here!' April: 'And his name's not Abbott now ... it's Norton ... Norton Dumont!'
Woody Wilson and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 2nd of October, 2015. Oh, ‘La Cura’ was the name of the medical compound deep in the Mexican jungle where the wedding and the armed raid and all that happened in 2014. The “bunch of quacks” were mentioned as specifically having cured a Kuwaiti prince with pancreatic cancer, whose renovated suite became the Parkers’ bridal suite.

After the wedding various other plots go on. In October 2015 it’s revealed that Abbott has left the Mexican clinic. He’s returned to the United States. He’s helping Alan Parker write the screenplay for The Chambers Affair. And that his name is now Norton Dumont.

And finally, months later, the money shot. Or as near a one as we get. It’s in December 2017. Alan Parker declares how “Abbott Bower died of cancer in Mexico. There’s even a death certificate!”

Sam Driver: 'It was great meeting you, Norton.' Norton: 'Same here, Sam! I look forward to getting you know you better!' Alan: 'I'll walk you out, Sam.' Sam, to Alan: 'Well, Abbott ... uh, Norton is everything you said and more!' Alan: 'He's a piece of work, isn't he? The good news is that Katherine likes him, too! That makes life a lot easier in the family, if you know what I mean!' Sam; 'Absolutely! But do you really think a man like Norton can just vanish by changing his name?' Alan: 'Abbott Bower died of cancer in Mexico! There's even a death certificate!' Sam: 'Do you think he can maintain that cover indefinitely?' Alan: 'He's keeping a low profile, Sam1 All he wants is to change his life!' Sam: 'I understand! You guys get to work on the script! I'll check back with you in a couple days!'
Woody Wilson and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 27th of December, 2015. So, Sam Driver has known all along that Norton faked his death. What’s new is the explicit involvement of Alan Parker in the project. And one can fault lawyer Sam Driver for not asking the obvious follow-up questions. But part of what makes a con artist like Norton is the ability to make it seem like, well, of course everything’s been bad but now it’s going great and thank you, personally, so much for your part in setting things right. There’s none of us who won’t fall for the right line, and do it by not even thinking to ask the question that’d be obvious for someone else.

As best I can tell this is as much as the strip laid out the circumstances of Norton’s previous faked death. It is quite possible that I have missed some strip between June 2014 and December 2015 that made it more explicit. But what I infer is that Abbott Bower got himself declared dead, the better to escape people like the Gardias who might hold his life against him. The extent to which Alan Parker helped in this was, as best I can find, unstated at the time. It transpires only now, as Francesco Marciuliano writes what “really” went on.

I hope this is of some help.

Next Day!

Now tomorrow, I plan to post the recap of the past three months’ worth of story developments. That should appear at this link, which hosts all my Judge Parker plot recaps. I thank you for your patience.

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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.

4 thoughts on “What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Why did Judge Parker help fake Norton’s Death? A Special Report.”

  1. How do we get the madness stopped. I can hardly read the strip anymore. It is stupid and keeps getting worse. I think they need a reset. Nobody is bombed by so many atrocities as this family has.

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    1. Aw, well, I’m sorry that you aren’t enjoying the strip. Certainly the characters are getting an implausibly great number of disasters dropped on them, and altogether too fast to deal with. But it seems to me that gets at a particular kind of soap opera. It’s ridiculous, yes, and a bit trashy, but that’s not necessarily unlikable.

      And, if you don’t like it, you’re right. It’s your enjoyment and I’m sorry the strip isn’t working for you just now. Maybe it’ll adjust to something you find more plausible. Maybe you’ll decide its preposterousness is fun after all. Maybe Marciuliano will decide he’s got too much on his plate and turn the writing over to someone else. The world’s vast and not finished yet; things can get better still.

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