Yeah, I’d like to get a thing done today but a friend made me aware there was a comic book based on John Candy’s remembered animated series Camp Candy in the late 80s. And … just … like, I know they used to make comic books for just everybody, like Bob Hope or Jerry Lewis or … I’m going to guess Gene Autrey. But this? I had no idea and so that’s why I spent the whole day lying down and trying to figure this all out.
Month: November 2019
Some Things Which Are Not Alarming
But these are things that we do need alarms for as long as I am thinking about alarms.
First, we need a warning about putting things on tables. I have to preface this with a warning. I’m going to sound like a great big hypocrite. This is because I am a great one for putting things on tables. I come from a long line of people who put things on tables. Also footstools, bookshelves, chairs, slow-moving relatives, sofas, all kinds of things. We put things on any kind of reasonably horizontal-ish surface, and then putting some more things on top of that.
Look anywhere you like on my family tree and you’ll find stacked on it three magazines we figure to read someday and maybe an orange or a disused volleyball. Something in the greater orb family. On top of that is the cardboard box something was mailed to us in years ago and kept around just in case it could be used to mail something else. It will never be so used, because by that time it’s acquired too much sentimental value to just mail out like a piece of common boxery. Also by then it’s got four possibly expired credit cards, a sandwich baggie full of loose bolts and magic markers, plus an Underdog comic book, the broken-off wrist strap from a digital camera, and a block of lucite representing no clear purpose in it.
So please understand that it is not simply putting things on the table that I think needs an alarm. It is the placing of something that could get knocked off the edge of the table, that I’d like a warning system for. And here we have a problem. My love is the normal one in our relationship. I’m the one who, within the past week, has shared the cartoon where Mister Jinks acknowledges to Pixie and Dixie that he didn’t want to be transformed into a cow but he isn’t going to raise a fuss about it. (Mister Jinks is fibbing. He’s very cross, blaming them for his turning into a cow.)
My love therefore just puts, like, a can of soda down on the table. You know, anywhere that isn’t already covered by my stack of library books and unopened letters from the ham radio people and the DVD of Automan I bought two years ago and haven’t watched yet. Me, I feel uncomfortable with a soda can anywhere too near the edge. I define too near as “within three feet of a zone that could reach the edge of the table, if someone were to take a running start from at least twenty feet away, leap up, and attempt to tackle a Mello Yello Zero”. I would like the pop cans to be kept at least 28 feet away from all edges of the table, and surrounded by that little foam padding thing they use to wipe up chemical spills. And be watched over by a protective agency. I’m thinking mouse guards, dressed as Romans but carrying pikes because that would look great. They would be fully equipped with an antigravity mechanism to move the pop out of the way in case of flying tackles.
Obviously this scheme is impractical. Being 28 feet away from the dining room table would put the soda somewhere in the attic, possibly the roof of the house, depending on which side of the table we sit at. While this would prevent spills on the floor, it could cause spills on the beach gear, insulation, or squirrels casing the joint.
So I’m already the one in the wrong about whether “setting a can of pop on the table” is an alarming scenario. But furthermore, spilling a pop on the floor is maybe the best indoor place to spill it. The only thing that’s ever on the floor is our feet, which clean well, or the socks our feet are in, which also clean well, or the pile of computer cables topped with a bag of plush dolls that I got at an amusement park that I mean to give my nieces as presents and keep forgetting to do. Spilling something too near that pile on the floor might actually make me clean that nonsense up, which would be worth it. Spilling something on the floor is a boon to housecleaning altogether.
Spilling on the table? Now that’s a mess. That we have to deal with by getting the laptop computers out of the way, and maybe tablecloths, placemats, United MileagePlus reward catalogues going back to 2016, this packet of Splenda we snagged at a Tim Horton’s in Hamilton, Ontario, last summer, and four different hard drive cases, some three of which contain working hard drives that we use for backup backups. Getting all that cleared out ahead of the wave of spilled Mello Yello Zero is stressful. We should be placing our pop nearer the table edge just to make sure it spills in productive places instead.
I meant to have more things to be alarmed by but somehow ran out of space. I apologize for the inconvenience.
How Is That Word-Count-Lowering Project Going?
Theoretical linguistics tells us there should be a word “remise”, which would refer to supplying something with mise all over again, possibly after its demise.
(I thank everyone who stopped in last week, when I asked if something’s demise was its running out of mise. Please stop in next time when I’ll point out how, if The Family Circus never did a strip where one of the adorable little moppets talks about last year’s Thanksgiving by naming it “Thanksgiven” then they missed a major opportunity.)
Muskels Shmuskels: all right, that’s a Popeye cartoon then
This week’s another Larry Harmon-produced Popeye cartoon, Muskels Shmuskels. I admire Jack Mercer’s ability to actually say that title out loud.
Once again I wonder about the writing of these shorts. This one’s credited to Charles Shows. Was he working for King Features or for Larry Harmon? The story feels much like those of Interrupted Lullaby or Goon With The Wind, both Gene Deitch-made cartoons which carry no writing credits. Something about the scenario being pretty well-worn, but the story basically coherent except that I’m not sure how we get from one situation to another. (How does Popeye, shot up from a cannon, end up bouncing up and down on an acrobat safety net right next to a high-dive tower?)
Imposing a quirky restriction on a character — they Must do this, they Must Not do that — can be a good way to generate stories. Particularly comic stories. Particularly comic stories where the setup’s been done a lot. By my count the Popeye-and-
BlutoBrutus-fight-at-the-midway plot had been done at this point some 4,647 times, going back to the first-ever Popeye cartoon. But it’s a fair enough starting point, giving plenty of reason for Popeye and BlutoBrutus to show off feats of strength and get to punching each other.
So doing a midway cartoon, with Popeye under a compulsion to Not Fight, should be good. We can have the fun of Popeye finding ways to technically not break his promise. Or to sneak in a couple punches when Olive Oyl isn’t looking. Maybe to sneak in a full fight while keeping up the pretense when Olive is looking that he’s being innocent. Why it’s so important to Olive Oyl that Popeye not fight today is left underdeveloped, but that’s all right. The cartoon forgets that he is supposed to not be fighting. Like, why does Popeye figure he can just throw that great weight at Brutus at about 8:00? Right after Olive Oyl reminded him not to fight? It only parses if he throws the weight before Olive Oyl reminds him, but that’s not what he did.
It’s half-baked, which is something that kept bothering me this cartoon. Like, Brutus having set up a dumbbell weight that’s bolted to the ground, so no one can lift it? That makes sense as a setup: Brutus as a performer would want people to try it out and see how impossible his stunt is. But then how does Brutus lift the dumbbells? I suppose I’m being a bad audience in this, taking too literally the way the weights are bolted to the stage. But I don’t get how the showmanship is supposed to work if there’s no way Brutus could lift the weights either. (And in little half-baked moments: as the cartoon starts, do Olive Oyl and Popeye know who Brutus is or not? Popeye starts out, around 6:40, just calling him “Mister Strong Fella”, but Olive Oyl knows her name soon after. And Brutus knows Popeye’s name somehow.)
There’s stuff I do like. Brutus suggesting “a date for a late tête-à-tête” at about 6:25, which must have been fun for Jackson Beck to record. Popeye’s angry huffing and puffing right after. Its echo in Brutus puffing on a cigar at 10:55. That good old Larry Harmon Fight Cloud at about 10:30. And that moment of Fleischer-esque body mutability at about 10:42, when Popeye puffs his fist up into a great mitt to slam down on the high striker.
Still, it would have been so much more fun if they could have reliably remembered Popeye was supposed to not be fighting.
I’m Sorry But This Toilet Paper Roll Is Distracting Me
Yeah, I apologize for not getting things done on time today but I want to know the story of this lone non-conformist toilet paper roll and I think you do too. It’ll be a heartwarming children’s book about being true to yourself that will escape being turned into a CGI-animated movie on the grounds that nobody can work out how to make toys of the characters that won’t end in sad conversations.
What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? How did Valiant escape the lions? September – November 2019
This plot recap for Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant should get you up to speed for late November 2019. If you’re reading this after about late February 2020, you may find a more up-to-date recap at this link. Thanks for reading at all, though.
1 September – 24 November 2019
All the player-characters were in North Africa last time I checked in. Fewesi the Healer had kidnapped Makeda, Queen of Ab’sabam. Bukota, Makeda’s exiled lover, caught up to them. She escaped Fewesi’s mind-control enchantment, and she and he team up to chase down Fewesi. And Prince Valiant, trailing all this, is busy fighting some lions. He’s doing all right but, after all, they have a whole hunting party while Valiant is off on his own.
As luck would have it, though, not for long. Fewesi is fleeing back the way he came. This takes him to the oasis where Valiant and the lions are having it out. Bukota and Makeda surround Fewesi, on the ledge. Fewesi lunges for Makeda; she whacks him good and sends him plummeting. He lands near enough Valiant. The lions break off from Valiant, going for the pre-dead delivery meal now that they can.
So that’s some major crises settled. Valiant cleans his wounds, and then the gang all run into the Idar Uhag. These are Fewesi’s people, the ones who taught the Healer his mind-control powers before turning him out as gads such a loser. Makeda asks why, when Fewesi brought her to them, they didn’t free her then? They hadn’t wanted any part of Fewesi’s stupid hold-Makeda-as-hostage scheme. The chief explains how, y’know, you don’t waste energy making Wile E Coyote’s scheme blow up. Anyway, they give Makeda, Bukota, and Valiant some camels as a parting gift.
They head back toward Paraetonium, where they landed in Africa. And meet up with the cavalry: Valiant’s daughter Karen, with her husband Vanni, and the armed party from the Misty Isles there to rescue Makeda. They start flashing back to Karen’s adventure when (rolling 1d10, checking the encounter table) an Egyptian army comes over the hill. They’re from the local government and somehow all testy about the Misty Isles sending an armed party through their city and into their lands.
At their head is Patape, the Governor of Paraetonium. He’s met Valiant. He and Bukota fell through his roof when they were chasing Fewesi through the city. Valiant tries to explain how they really don’t want any trouble. Patape points out there already is trouble and there’s no way they can’t have more. Vanni has an idea that could solve things, though: what if the Governor got a bunch of money? You know, in exchange for the fenugreek growing around Paraetonium. The Governor finds interesting this plan where he gets a bunch of money. Remember, they lived when it was acceptable for public servants to use their positions to directly enrich themselves. (And yet, for my snarking, I agree with the plan of seeing if there’s a way to buy our way out of a pointless, stupid fight. That it can be done as a trade agreement satisfies me that it’s at least honest corruption.)
So Valiant and party get to head home and all looks happy. Except that, yeah, Valiant took a bunch of scrapes from the lions. And now he’s got some infection. He collapses. Vanni puts some “herbs and honey” on him, and that’s the suspenseful hook on which we end today’s strip.
Wait, have Steve Roper and Mike Nomad really been brought back out of the void? If anyone could do it, Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy could do it. Check back here in a week for that, barring surprise developments. Also if you like comic strips that explore mathematical themes please try my other blog. Thanks for reading in any case.
Statistics Saturday: Occurrence of Thanksgiving, 2019 – 2020
Reference: Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations, Charles D Benson, William Barnaby Faherty.
(Note: United States Thanksgiving, although similar results apply to Canadian Thanksgiving.)
The trivial reason I’m running late today
I got to reading some trivia about Incredibles 2 and came to this remarkable revelation:
This movie and The Incredibles (2004) were released in the same year of the death of a voice actor of one of the iconic characters in Beauty and the Beast (1991). The Incredibles (2004) was released in the same year of the death of Jerry Orbach, and this movie was released in the same year of the death of David Ogden Stiers. Both Incredibles films were also released the same year of the death of a member of the heavy metal band Pantera. Incredibles was released the same year Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell was murdered and Incredibles 2 was released the same year Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul died of a heart attack
So who doesn’t need to lie down and rest a while after having trivia like that sitting on their head?
And Some More Alarming Thoughts
With another week since the strange disappearance of our leaves I feel less unsettled by it. Naturally enough. The more you live with something the more you think it’s normal to live somewhere people rip off your bagged leaves. I’m worried that it’s getting me complacent, though. What’s needed are some new alarms. Obviously for leaf thieves, or as my love puts them, “leaves”. But for more things, too.
And I know you’re figuring I’m going to put up a bunch of nonsense here. No. These are all alarms to reflect real problems that real people really have in reality. I mean if I count as a real person. I’m open to arguments on the matter, but if you win, how can you possibly feel proud?
So the first is about the phone. This morning my phone told me I had voice mail. A lot of voice mail. It had a bunch of messages going back two months to when we had the phone company out to do phone things to the phone line. Also the dentist reminding me about an appointment I went to anyway. Also about three hundred messages in which a robot from account services warned my Windows was expiring but we could get the extended warranty if I pressed five now. Also something where my boss called. So, yes, it’s a good thing that I check my phone for voice mails once a year, whether I’m using it or not. But also there needs to be some way that phones send you some kind of notice about there being voice mails.
Here’s another one. The other day I needed some cellophane tape. I was using it to … you know what? I’m not sure that’s really your business. I don’t mean to insult you. I just don’t know how much of my business I want the world to know. Anyway, I needed some cellophane tape and there was none in the house. I know tape was brought into the house. I would bring it myself. It’s not here, though, not when there’s things to be taped. What’s needed is an alarm that we are almost out of tape and therefore should do something about that. We could either get more tape or commit to getting fewer things that need tape. That’s hard given how Christmas is coming up. I suppose we’d have to switch how we wrap things up. Maybe staple the wrapping paper on. That’ll work out fine for me giving calendars to everybody I know. It’ll be less good in case someone is trying to give me, oh, a soap bubble. So maybe this is not practical. Anyway I handled this by going to the store and buying — here I am not exaggerating — ten rolls of cellophane tape. I have put one in every room where we might need to tape a thing to another thing or itself. I cannot find any of them.
While we’re at getting alarms where we need them, we should do some alarm-balancing. We have two kitchens in the oven, one a microwave and the other a real one. When we set the timer on the real oven we get this kind of alarm:
“[ whispering ] (bing.) Oh, well, that’s done. I suppose if no one comes check on me I’ll just sit here pouring 450 degrees into the curly fries until something burns down then.”
Whereas the microwave oven alarm has this level:
“BEEP! BEEEEEEEP! BEEEEEEEP! HEY! HEY HEY HEY! DO YOU PEOPLE NOT REALIZE! THERE IS A MUG OF TEA SITTING IN HERE! AND IT’S BEEN TURNING LUKEWARM FOR A WHOLE [ checks notes ] EIGHTEEN SECONDS! BEEEP, DARN YOU! BEEEEEEP! IS! NOBODY! GOING! TO! DO! ANY! THING! ABOUT! THIS!? BEEEEEEEEEEEEP!”
I’d like to balance these two out a little bit if we could.
Also I have to admit telling a fib there. I almost never let a mug of tea get lukewarm enough to put in the microwave. Coffee, yes, but not tea. I hope you don’t think worse of me for that.
Doing More Of Few Words
The demise of something is just when it runs out of mise, right?
(I had hoped last week that I would speculate about this. Next week, I hope to declare that there should logically be a word ‘remise’ that refers to supplying something with mise all over again. Stick around and see if I manage it!)
Popeye in another babysitting-Swee’Pea cartoon: Interrupted Lullaby
When I first watched this week’s cartoon, Interrupted Lullaby, I didn’t notice the credits. So I was trying to figure out what the deal is with the animation. Finally something in the motion, and something in the sound effects — I was watching it quietly — revealed. It’s a Gene Deitch cartoon. Normally, I like these, as the Gene Deitch style has a weirdness I enjoy. This time? Well.
So here’s a question I never fully articulated: why am I watching the 1960s King Features Syndicate Popeye cartoons? The universal consensus is that they range from awful to god-awful, they were made for about $35 each, and none of them advanced the Popeye canon significantly. Why not cartoons that have some legacy, like the Fleischer or even the Famous Studios cartoons? Or, like, Popeye and Son, which tried to change the canonical center and maybe screwed things up but at least did it in an 80s way?
Partly, well, because I started doing this by accident and never really examined my decision. Partly comfort; I grew up watching these and while they may not be good, they have nostalgia’s soft pleasantness. The best reason to watch these and write about them is discovery, though. The cartoons were made under ridiculous constraints of time and budget and material. Working out how they got work done is interesting. And instructive to all of us trying to do stuff despite all the reasons we can’t.
Last week in discussing Goon with the Wind I noticed things that have to have cost money and time. Popeye and Olive Oyl in different outfits. An island of Goon-esque characters. Some slick moments of animation. Some good special effects. All that had to be paid for somewhere. … I do not know the production order of these cartoons, or whether anyone knows it. But, boy, do we have a candidate here for where the resources for that cartoon came from.
We start off, after all, with the cartoon failing to synchronize Popeye blowing his pipe in the opening credits. It’s a weirdly unnecessary stumble to the start. We get a couple repeats of the Popeye-the-sailor-man fanfare while reading in the Morning Star how Swee’Pea today “beanie [sic]” a millionaire, inheriting from “his late great granfather [sic]”. After staring at that for long enough, Popeye finally reads the news aloud. Later, Bluto or Brutus gets to see the paper for a fraction of a second; it’s like they misplaced a few seconds of establishing.
Swee’Pea being a millionaire, or thought to be one, isn’t a bad premise and I think the comic strip’s done that a few times. But all it serves for the plot here is a reason for Bluto or possibly Brutus to try kidnapping the kid. I guess we need the motivation but if all it amounts to is Swee’Pea’s given a box of “gold-wrapped” chocolates to eat? He could do that on fifteen hundred dollars.
There’s some good stuff here. Popeye beating up Bluto a couple times without even noticing it is a decent joke. Some of the scenes have actual depth to them, such as Popeye petting Swee’Pea’s back while a fly buzzes around and, behind the curtains, Bluto schemes to do them a mischief. Swee’Pea carefully reads out the letters s-p-i-n-a-c-h and takes the word to mean “Popeye”. Everything has actual backgrounds, rather than solid blocks of color.
But, gads. Nobody looks right, or even looks wrong in an interesting way. Mouth movements in limited animation are always going to be impressions of speech. But they looked really loose this time. I am not convinced that Jack Mercer read the line “That’s the first time I ever heard a fly say ‘OUCH’!” in one session, but why on earth would they have spliced in an “OUCH” from another cartoon? How did Popeye, tied up and trapped in a barrel, roll downstairs and pop out the storm cellar door?
This feels to me like a cartoon that didn’t get so much attention. The storyline is fine enough. I’d be interested in seeing money go to Swee’pea’s head, but that would be a different cartoon that they chose not to make. There are moments where they’re clearly saving budget, like holding on the newspaper for a good long time, or focusing on Swee’Pea eating chocolates instead of people around him talking. My impression is that the cartoon spends a little more time than, like, last week’s on this sort of animation cheat. Not enormously, but maybe enough to let them do nice things like Popeye’s circling around the Goon King last week.
I may be wrong. I don’t know any real detail of how these cartoons were made, including basic things like who did the writing. All I can do is make inferences, and wonder how they were made.
For someone fifty years from now wondering about these essays: Oh, I watch a cartoon, then watch it again, made a couple jibberish notes, and then the next day watch again while writing actual paragraphs. You know, about like you imagine. My budget is tight but I have never gone over it yet.
Yes, I’m also having a delightful time reading Buz Sawyer lately
Just wanted folks to be assured that yes, I’ve been following Comics Kingdom’s vintage Buz Sawyer storyline. The story so far: the Sawyers, driving cross-country, had a freak car accident with the Cobbs that sent their car down a thousand-foot ravine. Fortunately the Cobbs are wholly accepting of all blame, and eager to make it up to them, and have the money to buy them a replacement car, luggage, and what the heck, treat them to hotels and restaurants all the rest of the way to Los Angeles. And it’s been a madcap spree since then, Chuck Cobb spontaneously deciding to drive hundreds of miles out of the way, sometimes driving hundreds of miles back because the waitress at a restaurant thinks she recognizes his picture from the paper. Disappearing without warning. Coming back with buckets of cash hidden under his wife’s handbag, and his wife getting her hair dyed “always” changing it. And then, today in 1956, we got to this point.
So yes, I am delighting both in how uproariously dense Buz is acting. Also waiting enthusiastically to see what goofball contrivance Roy Crane has in store to explain why Buz was, well, actually, right all along. I can’t rule out that he’s been doing all this under secret orders to find and keep contact with the Cobbs and the thing where the bear cub set off the accident was all a Part of the Mission. Or that it’s all a wacky coincidence of the kind you’d never believe. I can’t wait.
What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? Why are art students heading to Wambesiland? August – November 2019
Hi all. This recap for Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, should get you caught up to mid-November 2019. If you want the separate Sunday continuity, or if you’re reading this after about February 2020 and want the weekday continuity, I should have a more relevant essay at this link. Thank you.
The Phantom (weekdays).
26 August – 16 November 2019
When I last checked in, The Phantom had rescued Imara Sahara from terrorist militias and American bombing. Imara Sahara is the mother of Kadia Sahara Walker, Heloise Walker’s former roommate. Kit Walker was feeling pretty good about having got out of a pretty intense situation without serious harm.
The Phantom and Imara Sahara settle overnight at a safe house. It’s a pretty nice-looking lair and he seems to have the absent owner’s permission to be there. He takes a shower and over a meal answers Imara’s most urgent questions, like, who is he? And why did he save her? OK, he doesn’t so much answer them as say they’ll head out to somewhere else in the morning. But there’s nothing that could go wrong by needlessly withholding information about identity and motivations and objectives from a woman rescued from captivity by a massive, three-party firefight that obliterated her longtime home.
Overnight, Sahara is tormented by thoughts of her husband, and fear of the strange man who’s taken her to an unfamiliar place. While The Phantom sleeps, and relives the day in his dreams, Sahara steals one of his guns. And one of the homeowner’s cars. The Phantom discovers this only in the morning.
And, in a further surprise, The Phantom doesn’t have an idea where to track her down. He had given Sahara instructions to write The Phantom’s secret post office box, and they can watch that. In case she wants to make contact with someone the person she just fled wanted her to contact. And they’ll have to pay the homeowner for the stolen car. The Phantom jokes how he’ll get a terrible AirBnB review for this and, so help me, I don’t know if he’s joking.
Still, at least, Imara Sahara is alive and they can provide evidence of this to Kadia. And The Phantom got out of this all right. Diana Walker asks, you know, given all this, could they maybe bring Kit Junior back from his secret hiding place? (It’s a Himalayan monastery that earlier Phantoms had visited, and who remember them.)
That, the 28th of September, ended the 251st daily-continuity story, Heloise Comes Home. It had started back in December 2018, running 42 weeks overall.
The current story, The Rhodian Column, started the 30th of September. It’s the 252nd daily-continuity story.
It starts with a couple bikers in the Bangallan forest. They notice someone peeking at them, and shoot at him. Missing the Bandar man, but still. The gunfire attracts a warning from the biker’s superiors. No shooting. Use knives if they have to. And spread out more, for crying out loud.
The Bandar know what to do about this, and consult The Phantom. The data: there’s an alarming number of strange travellers moving through the jungle. Kipawa, heir apparent to lead the Bandar tribe, finds them suspiciously inoffensive. Like, if they were really innocent, at least a couple would be jerks. These have all been non-threatening, I guess because nobody mentioned the one that shot at somebody.
The Phantom goes looking. At one part of the trail he sees three pairs of tourists marching past the same spot over three hours. All the travellers on the trail, he learns, stop at the same moment for the night. He sneaks into one of the travellers’ tents. They’re quite well-armed. But this checks out: they were posing as artists. They got paints and canvas from somewhere, and armed robbery is the least difficult way to afford that. But they also don’t have any cards about how to donate to their ko-fi or what their Patreon is, which is suspicious. So he does another another test: he swipes their guns and ammunition. In the morning the artists blurt out how they’re useless to the mission. So now The Phantom is all but sure something is going on.
The trail of people go through Ogoru and then Llongo territory. They seem to be heading for the Wambesi lands. Next night, the Phantom wakes a different camping pair. He demands information about this whole plan. He warns he recognizes them as carrying papers forged in Rhodia. And part of an column moving to the Wambesi. He warns them to go back, and to invite all their comrades to walk back to Rhodia. He demands they tell what they know about the Python; they insist they don’t know anything about a Python. He knows well enough. And then he has some flashbacks, to help readers who don’t know who this Python is.
The Python is another terrorist leader, from the Wambesi tribe originally. He’s been in stories since 2003’s Terror In Mawitaan, sometimes under the name Chatu. The Python was behind a massive, five-part storyline that started in August 2009 and ran about a year and a half. This is long before I started doing What’s Going On In recaps. It started with The Death of Diana Walker. In this the Python feigned the death of Diana Walker, secreting her away in a Rhodian jail under a false identity.
With the help of Captain Savarna and her highly automated freighter with guns, The Phantom found and broke Diana out of jail. And captured the Python, whom he brought to a secret prison in Wambesi territory where the locals keep watch. I can’t say I like The Phantom’s civil-rights record here, but I do understand how he came to this point. And, incidentally, putting the Python away like this gave Eric “The Nomad” Sahara his big break, so, you know. Probably something about the unending struggle of life in there.
And that’s where we stand on the field: some armed force is moving, in pairs, towards The Python. The Phantom knows that they exist, but their exact motives and goals are not actually yet known. There’s a lot of sinister explanations, though.
We check in on the time of King Arthur with Mark Schulz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant, barring surprises or breaking news. Also please consider looking at the comic strips discussed in my mathematics blog. Thanks for reading.
Statistics Saturday: British Folklore Spirits That I Think Someone On Wikipedia Made Up
As opposed to being made up properly, for fun and to hurtle clothes at and stuff.
|Cellar Ghost||Guards wine in cellars from would-be thieves|
|Lazy Lawrence||Protects orchards|
|Awd Goggie||Scares children away from unripened gooseberries|
|Melch Dick||Guards nut thickets|
|Kilmoulis||Has no mouth; inhabits mills|
Reference: A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, Barbara W Tuchman.
Yes, I Caught Mary Worth Today And Maybe You Should, Too
I just wanted people to know that yes, I saw today’s Mary Worth. And yes, it is that wonderful. It is not quite so wonderful as to make me jump the comic in its queue. I expect Sunday to share what’s going on in The Phantom, weekdays continuity. But today’s was a wonderful Mary Worth and it might be a shame to let it just sit there an extra month without attention. When I next do a proper recap of the plot of Mary Worth it should be at this link.
What’s happening is that Estelle, rebounding from being taken by an online romance scam, has been dating Wilbur Weston, Chartersone’s leading sandwich enthusiast. Wilbur is not even slightly over his ex-girlfriend Iris. But Estelle and Wilbur set up a double date with Iris and her new, young, handsome, financially successful boyfriend Zak. Wilbur prepared for this by combing his hair and getting too drunk to function. Estelle took him on the double date anyway, because what could she have done? Apologized that Wilbur wasn’t up to this tonight and reschedule for “sometime later”?
Anyway, after the fiasco, the disaster, and the embarrassment, she went home and had this dream about what it might be like to have a life with Wilbur.
I can barely exaggerate how wonderful the comics snark community has found this. The first panel, the one-eyed cat Libby peering over a sleeping Estelle, is nice enough. But that second panel? That’s … wow. That’s … you know, that sure looks like it’s a riff on something but I can’t place what it is. If you have any ideas, please let me know. Trying to think of what is driving me … oh, about two-thirds as crazy as you might think. It’s not that urgent.
I have seen in some comment threads people snarking at how Estelle, a retiree and comfortably past the age of menopause, could be having a nightmare of having four children. These commenters are correct: there is no logical way that Estelle could have children with Wilbur, and I hope that before the story is out we shall see Estelle file a Report of Factual Inaccuracy or Inconsistency with the Bureau of Dream Management. (And to step my snark back a bit, my love has several times woken up from a dream upon realizing that details in it did not make logical sense. So, dreams, you know? What the heck?)
Anyway, I don’t know how long this dream sequence will last. It’s only on its second day now. If it could keep giving like this, then we’d have to say it could not go on too long. But there’ll probably be a limit, and we won’t see Wilbur’s Four Children again. On the other hand, Popeye’s nephews started out as a dream-story quartet of children and they were eventually promoted into real-cousinhood. Maybe someday we’ll have people asking the difference between Welber, Walber, Wulber, and Woolber.
In Which I Am Alarmed By My Neighborhood
I do not have pictures of this year’s leaf harvest for reasons that will soon be obvious. It’s not the most obvious thing: we did have a bunch of leaves. Start anywhere in our yard and walk eight feet in any direction. This will neatly faceplant you into a maple tree. Not the kind of maple tree that makes syrup you can use. I mean use as syrup.
But what normally happens come autum is all these leaves fall. They gather on the lawn and attract more leaves. I had plans to do something about this. I figured to run the leaves over with the lawn mower. I mean while the lawn mower is still mowing. This way I turn an unmanageable heap of leaves into an unmanageable heap of leaf chunks. But I never got around to it. This wasn’t my fault. Like, there was a lot of rain and you can’t go mowing down wet leaves. That leaves you with wet leaf chunks. How are you supposed to get anything done like that?
Then this guy knocked. I mean on the door. Our door. He was holding a bunch of paper leaf bags, and he had two rakes bundled against his back, held to him by his jacket. He asked if I wanted the leaves raked. And, here, I thought hard about this question. I mean, on the one hand, I could avoid spending hours puttering around the yard, cursing my inability to wear gloves in that way where my hands feel less cold, raking stuff up into two fewer leaf bags than we need for the job, and freeing up my weekend to do fun things instead. On the other hand, to say yes I’d have to talk to a person.
Well, I took the risk and let him go at the leaves. He really knew what he was doing, too, working swiftly and efficiently. I guess if you do a lot of yard-to-yard leaf raking you really pick things up. At least once you have a good rake. He probably had good tools. He seemed to know what he was doing. In maybe an hour the yard was cleared of leaves and we had five neat bags of lawn stuff, sitting on the extension, waiting to be picked up. Yes, he’d taken the rakes out of his jacket and used them like normal.
So, Sunday, we were out doing fun things and not worrying about the leaves. I admit even if we stayed home we wouldn’t have been worrying about the leaves. But while we were out, all our bagged leaves disappeared. They hadn’t gone getting scattered back on the lawn or anything. They were just off to wherever bagged leaves go.
Which is great but then how? The first explanation is that the city came and picked them up. But the city picks up leaves on Tuesday. Maybe Wednesday if they were quite busy on Tuesday. Maybe Thursday if they were quite busy on Tuesday and found Wednesday was a day they just could not. I could see also some eager types collecting leaves on Monday, before everyone’s set their leaves out, and so getting it done more quickly. But a Sunday? Who’s doing leaf work on a Sunday?
But the other explanation makes even less sense. Who would just go up to our lawn and take leaves? I know our neighborhood. You can’t get people to take a coffee table that’s in fair shape off your lawn. Who would take bags of leaves? If they’re hoping to take them to the store and get the deposit back on the leaves good luck. The machines at the front of Meijer’s take forever to handle even clean, dry leaves. Wet bagged leaves? It’s just not worth it.
So if they didn’t take the leaves for the deposit, then we have to suppose they just took the leaves to take them. It’s a somber thought to imagine we live in a place plagued with leaf thieves. But then my love pointed out you could call them “leaf thieves, or for short, leaves”. That’s made me smile about every 35 minutes nonstop since we discovered the leaves back on Sunday, and it isn’t showing any sign of losing its power. So it’s not all bad. It’s just peculiar is all.
Let’s Keep Trying To Hold My Average Wordcount Down, Now
Would it do anything useful to shortening my average post length if we could turn the word “awkward” into “awayward” for some reason? If not, why did I typo “awkward” as “awayward” repeatedly, then? Huh?
(I said last week I was going to do this, and I’m glad to say I haven’t overlought that promise. Please check in next week when I will speculate that the demise of something is when it runs out of mise.)
Popeye: Goon With The Wind, a cartoon in which the wind affects nothing
I guess I’ll do another couple King Features Syndicate Popeye cartoons. Goon With The Wind turned up, just in the title credits, two things I like. First, a mention of the Goons, who’re one of Elzie Segar’s nice weird creations. They look big and monstrous and then somehow they end up being oddly likable. The second? Gene Deitch listed as the director. His style might not be yours, but it is mine. I expect animation that’s strange, a little impressionistic, and with sound effects that are … what, a reversed spring noise recorded in an echoey bathroom? Something surreal, anyway. I’m disappointed there’s not more animator credits to know who actually put pencil to paper here.
But that’s nothing I can do a thing about. So let’s watch Goon With The Wind.
We get Popeye and Olive Oyl outside their usual costumes this cartoon. And you know what that means: they won’t be able to afford animating the whole cartoon. So we get some obvious cheats, like looking close up at a boulder on top of Popeye’s cage instead of Popeye complaining about that. And we get some animation that just doesn’t work. The second time the Goon is pushing Popeye’s and Olive Oyl’s boat, for example (at about 18:14) it could not look less like the boat is actually moving. And I have no idea where the cage that drops on Popeye dropped from, or why.
But the animation budget gets thoughtfully used. When the characters are just talking, they move between extreme poses. It’s a good trick to make “standing around talking” resemble action. Jay Ward cartoons relied on this. There’s some wonderful little bits too, particularly Popeye circling, as if on skates, the Goon King at the wedding, around 21:19. There’s also a really good shower of sparkles at about 21:22, by the way; I recommend freezing the frame to look at that effect. There’s also some nice water effects, like at 18:19, as the Goon pushes the boat to the Goon island. There’s other, small bits that animate well, like at about 20:00 where Olive Oyl runs away from the Goon King, to be easily caught by the guard, whom Popeye slugs from inside his cage. Or about 21:50, Popeye setting down the still-tied-up Olive Oyl, who falls over in the sand without drawing attention otherwise.
The Goons get a new model for this cartoon. Well, these are called Goons from the Moon; maybe they’re different from the Earth Goons. I can see the resemblance to the original, Alice-the-Goon type Goon. The great long floppy nose, particularly, and that particularly Segar-ish fat lower arm. But this cartoon does away with their large size and broad shoulders and skinny lower bodies. Oh, and their furry hips look a lot like grass skirts now. And instead of speaking in pulsed vibrations, they talk in high-pitched English With Bad Pronouns. Here, I get uncomfortable. The character design, the bad speech, the plot — the Goons kidnapping Olive Oyl to serve as their Queen — evoke some blend of the Jungle Princess and the Mighty Whitey threads. But the cartoon avoided getting to “yipes” territory to my eyes. Possibly there was enough plot to keep me interested in where this is all going, and how it’ll get there.
This is the rare cartoon that starts with Popeye sailing and not ending up in a shipwreck. Olive Oyl is the one to notice that the boat is moving opposite the direction of the wind, which Popeye and the audience need explained to them. Good for Olive, who comes out pretty well this cartoon. It does re-invite the question: is Popeye is actually a good sailor? He gets shipwrecked or lost a lot. But a kidnapping can happen to anyone.
Popeye and Olive Oyl work pretty well togethere here. Olive Oyl is tempted, naturally, by the chance to be Queen of an island. But I imagine most of us would at least consider the possibility. Popeye has a good reason not to have a can of spinach on him. And Olive Oyl doesn’t screw around not getting his spinach. They act like they know how to get out of this kind of fix.
I’ve wondered about the writing for these shorts. Were the cartoons written by the animation team, or were they scripted and just sent off to whatever studio was up today? The story here feels stronger than usual and I’m curious whether that’s Deitch’s team’s doing, or just the luck of the draw.
Just Thinking About Those Alarmed Skunks
So I was thinking about those skunks who’ve been alarmed by things so much this year. I’m this close (please imagine two things close together. No, not that close. Only this close) to going out at night and asking them if everything’s all right, and if they would maybe like to talk it out instead of getting into whatever fights it is they’ve been getting every four days lately. Well, that probably wouldn’t be a good idea. I’d keep trying to understand more of the context of what they’re so upset about and we’d never get the issue settled. Hm.
What’s Going On In Alley Oop? Who blipped Alley Oop and Ooola out of existence? August – November 2019
Hi, person wanting to complain about Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop. This is a good place to talk about the strip, as I have a plot recap bringing people up to date for about early November 2019. If you’re reading this after about February 2020 there’s probably a more up-to-date recap at this link. Thank you for disliking the comic strip, but I trust, liking me.
19 August – 9 November 2019.
I last checked in as Ollie Arp and Eeena, from Universe 3, finished sanctioning the comic for being all wacky and stuff. Universe 3, annoyed with how the new Alley Oop,
Oona Ooola, and Doctor Wonmug were messing up time, gave them a ticket, and left. They haven’t played an explicit part in the story since, as of the 9th of November. But, gosh, it sure would be wild if they had something to do with the vanishing of Wonmug’s time lab staff after a really big messing up of time, wouldn’t it?
(This is my inference. I don’t read the strips ahead of the day of publication. I am given to understand that other comic strip bloggers have the Secret Knowledge of ways to get future strips. It requires something more sophisticated than hacking a strip URL to a future date, so, I’m not going to bother.)
And they left Alley Oop and Ooola with their previous mission. This was bringing Plato back to the present day. Genevieve Collingsworth, (fictional) Pulitzer-prize winning writer, hoped to interview him. The disappointment: Alley Oop and Ooola had gotten Plato from a time before he was doing philosophy. It’s from the era when Plato was doing puppetry. Collingsworth makes a Pulitzer-winning book out of it anyway.
With the 6th of September, the new and current storyline starts. It’s to the Galapagos Islands of about two million years ago. Dr Charles Losthouse thinks there was then an advanced tortoise species that used a sharp stick as tools. What’s needed is evidence.
The first two turtles Alley Oop and Ooola meet, two million years ago, push them into the sea. Dolphins pick them up and carry them to another island, one with a stone statue of a tortoise. They find a tortoise playing a flute. The tortoise, Sharp, brings them back to the local city. It’s a futuristic megalopolis.
They explain to Uldo and Sharp that they’re from the future. Uldo, a scientist, understands. Tortoise society has discovered time travel but never been so reckless as to use it. They don’t dare change the timeline. But then why would future primates not know tortoise scientists? … And Ooola drops the news that in their time, tortoises aren’t, you know, smart. It’s humans who are the scientists. Uldo declares they have to change the timeline immediately.
Alley Oop starts feeling it’d be wrong to let the intelligent tortoises die out. President Shellington can’t believe the news. But she laughs at Alley Oop’s offer of help, and claim that they’re “from the future and kind of smart”. Alley Oop and Ooola go home.
Meanwhile back in the present, Dr Wonmug is annoyed they haven’t brought back the Galapagos Apparatus, needed to prevent the end of the world. Yes, this is the first we’ve heard about the end of the world. Ooola tries to explain what they saw. Dr Wonmug calls in his colleague, Dr Silverstein, a tortoise scientist. In the changed timeline there’s both humans and tortoises. Ooola and Dr Silverstein were good friends. Alley Oop used to date a tortoise. This is bad.
I’m surprised that when this dropped, mid-October, I didn’t see a flurry of people angry at Alley Oop. So far as I am aware the comic strip hasn’t had a malleable timeline. But I am only dimly aware. I’ve read a little bit of V T Hamlin’s original strips, and a couple years of the Jack Bender and Carole Bender era. That’s it. All sorts of shenanigans might have happened and I wouldn’t know, any more than I’d know what happened in the original-run Doctor Who. Which also mostly didn’t have a malleable timeline.
Anyway, in the new timeline, the world is doomed. Environmental collapse. A combination human/tortoise civilization is too much for the planet. Yes, we have to pretend this makes sense. Doc charges Alley Oop and Ooola with stopping the world from ending. Doc stays with Dr Silverstein. He pledges he’ll “breed a species of hyperintelligent giant tortoises that will rebuild my forgotten society”. Yeah; take a number after the Time Raccoons.
Alley Oop has his doubts about making the giant tortoises not exist. Ooola points out there’s saving the rest of the earth that’s worthwhile. Which, all right, but this is why it’s bad to stare into the ethics of changing history. Anyway, Alley Oop’s first plan to save the timeline is to go back to Moo and stop himself from being born. That way, he can’t go back to the Galapagos Islands of two million years ago. In a serious story this could have a nice moral balance, atoning for destroying so many people by also destroying oneself. In this story, he completely fails to talk his parents out of having children. Which is at least a fun ironic conclusion.
Ooola has the more sensible plan of just interfering with their own Galapagos Island mission. They go back to about five minutes before their original arrival. The new plan: keep the tortoises they first met from knocking them onto the dolphins. The easiest way to do this is grab the tortoises and hide them. The now alternate-past Alley Oop and Ooola don’t find anything and, presumably, go back to the present. Where, uh, Dr Wonmug has vanished. Ooola disappears in the next panel, and Ava and finally Alley Oop. So I guess the comic strip has ended and nobody will be angry about it anymore? That’s good, right?
I trusted that The Ghost Who Walks was about to take Imara Sahara back to the fabulous Skull Cave. How’d that turn out? We’ll see as I look at Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom (Weekday continuity) next Sunday, I hope.
Also this week, on my other blog, I talk about mathematics through the filter of comic strips. You might enjoy that too.
Statistics Saturday: Top United States Of The World
- United States of Mexico
- United States of Central America
- United States of Brazil
- United States of the United Provinces of the Netherlands
- United States of America
- United States of Greater New Zealand
- United States of Mongo
- United States of the United States of Travancore and the United States of Cochin
- United States (2007, Smashing Pumpkins)
- United States of Mexico 2.2
Reference: Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World, Margaret MacMillan.
My Moneymaking Scheme based on the Rise in Streaming Services
So you know how there’s some new subscription streaming service every couple minutes now? (Look, there’s one just started up now!) Well, I’m going to start a streaming service providing a stream of subscription streaming services, or SSpSoSSS.
Of course, I am smart enough to know you never make money doing a thing. You make money by selling the tools for someone else to do a thing. So what I’m really selling is SSpSoSSS-as-a-service.
It’s looking good! SSpSoSSSaaS is already quite popular with developer snakes and among pool toys with slow leaks.
Some Alarming News
I don’t mean to alarm everyone. But there have been an alarming number of alarms here lately. In fact, as I write this, I hear one that’s completely new. It sounds — oh, there, it’s just stopped. Well, it sounded like someone was running a vacuum cleaner that has just inhaled a throw rug. Whatever that means can’t be good. My guess it is it means the dogs nearby aren’t nervous enough.
Anyway that’s just the latest strange and alarming-like noise here. Another one only stands out when I go outside. This is … well, it sounds like a smoke detector complaining about a low battery. This is a more successful alarm than that vacuum cleaner that’s swallowed the throw rug, which is back, by the way. It’s not just more unsettling because the smoke alarm’s been going on a week now. The smoke alarm is unsettling because it implies there’s some house on the block where it’s always 4:30 am. This seems improbable. If it’s always 4:30 am in there how do its residents know when to oversleep for work? But more, how am I hearing the smoke alarm from some other house? It can’t be the neighbors. I know them, kind of, and they’d absolutely have replaced the batteries or smashed the smoke alarm with a sledge hammer by now. But what other house could possibly be near enough to hear? Unless all their windows were open, and they had set up a megaphone right by the smoke alarm and aimed it right at our driveway?
But what other explanation makes sense? Could someone have set a smoke alarm in the park at the end of the block? This would be great, since the local squirrels and raccoons need some warning of brush fires. The skunks do too, but they need something less alarming, for the obvious reason. The local skunks have been very alarmed by many things all summer and fall, I infer. We don’t need to add to that.
Anyway — there’s that vacuum cleaner again — there’s a bunch of alarms in the area. Like, this past Saturday they did the usual monthly tornado siren test. My area of Michigan, despite being in the Midwest, doesn’t actually get that many tornadoes. It gets tornadoes about as often as my old area, New Jersey, does. And New Jersey doesn’t get tornadoes. When I grew up we only ever heard about tornadoes touching down in warehouse districts of Brooklyn. These days, tornadoes have been entirely priced out of Brooklyn. Where are they even going to go, Staten Island? So the point is we don’t really need a tornado siren in Lansing, Michigan. One Halloween they tried using the torando siren to announce the official start and end of trick-or-treating hours. The catch is that year it was so rainy, and windy, and turbulent that everyone figured we were getting a tornado, so everybody stayed home, confused. This foiled our plan to get a good reputation by giving out full-size peanut butter cups.
And then this Tuesday they tested a different alarm. This is one they’ve set up to warn people that the dam has broken. Also that there’s a dam which, if broken, could be a problem. We’re near a river, but not the one that’s got a dam so far as anyone has told us about. But we are near enough that other river that I could hear the siren. It was this kind of quick, rising tone, with silent intervals, sounding like someone was trying to hurry through the tornado siren and made a mistake and had to start over again.
After like thirty seconds of that, the siren gives way to a prerecorded announcement. Here, this booming voice gives people the useful emergency information: I don’t know. We’re far enough from the river that by the time the sound reaches us, it all sounds like Charlie Brown’s French teacher. So, if the dam does break, I’ll have to follow the instruction of “le hrronk, la bwooonk-wa-wa-honk et les nous hawrooronkarronk sur ta plume”.
I think that vacuum cleaner has digested the throw rug, so whatever problem that is has cleared up. I know I feel more secure now.
Because conjugation is a group decision this week, too
You know, if we all wanted to, we could decide that the past tense of “overlook” is “overlought”, and cut “overlooked” entirely out of the deal. This would solve nothing.
(This follows up on what I planned last week, thinking about how “quanch” could be the past tense of “quench” if we worked at it. Please visit next week when I’ll see if I can extend this to somehow turning “awkward” into “awayward” for whatever reason.)
Popeye goes Ski Jumping this time
We’ve finally got a break from Jack Kinney-directed episodes. This one’s … oh. Larry Harmon. You know, the with the crew that would go on to be Filmation. I mean, I like Filmation. They made a lot of the cartoons so deeply weird that they appealed to the young me. Who else would think to do a cartoon refresh of Gilligan’s Island by just moving everyone to a new planet? I don’t expect great animation. I’m happy if I can get a weird cartoon, though. So here’s Ski-Jump Chump, another 1960 piece.
This isn’t the first skiing cartoon from Popeye. It’s also not the first one where Jackson Beck plays Bluto as some wholly new character with a French accent. Maybe French-Canadian. Beck was apparently comfortable with that accent; he has it on a fair number of old-time radio characters too. Here he’s Gorgeous Pierre, greatest ski jumper in the world. I too wonder if that’s a riff on Gorgeous George, the 50s pro wrestler who’s the guy being riffed on in those cartoons where a pro wrestler has curly blond hair and a perfume bottle.
And it’s not even the first cartoon this month where the story is Popeye and
Bluto Brutus Gorgeous Pierre doing stunts to win Olive Oyl’s affections. What makes this stand out mostly is the animation getting weird. Like, in the first scene Popeye’s right eye keeps doing this little fluttering that made me think they were accidentally opening it. No; it’s just that his eyebrow jumps between spots. Which is a mistake that curiously makes his face look much more alive and real than the animators wanted. So that’s worth talking about because it’s an animation error that makes the cartoon kind of better, somehow. It’s superior to Bluto Brutus Gorgeous Pierre using a jack to lift the end of a ski jump, which my eye keeps trying to parse as an optical illusion. And I have no idea what’s supposed to be happening about 3:04, when Popeye skis into the rope.
This all comes to a ski race because I guess they needed some structure for the back half of the cartoon. We see
Bluto Brutus Gorgeous Pierre being all devious by going right after the race starter says to “go”, while Popeye stands around blinking. And here I realized I have mixed feelings about the character designs here. They’re very simple ones. Like, I look at them and think, “I could draw that,” which is a sign of a very simple character design. But simple isn’t the same as bad. I admire how they’re able to get Popeye and Olive Oyl and You-Know-Who drawn and recognizable with so few lines and as many as five colors.
We do get that cartoon-race motif where the villain would win easily if he didn’t keep stopping to sabotage the hero. In the last minute and a half the cartoon finally gets weird for weirdness’s sake. Gorgeous Pierre paints a tunnel into a tree. It’s a Coyote and Road Runner gag, except for being senseless. There’s a reason to take a tunnel through the mountain; why aim for the one tree on the hill because you think you can pass through it? That said, I apparently like this sort of nonsense because I didn’t think about that until the third time through. Another bit of nonsense I like is Popeye drinking spinach juice for whatever reason. I wonder if this is riffing on some commercial people in 1960 would remember. The cartoon ends with a fight cloud, and a small-pawed bear being roped into things. The bear gets to win the ski race. And Popeye declares “like Napoleon said, you can’t win them all” and spontaneously dons a Napoleon costume. Why? I have no idea.
By now, you know me. I found this a dull but okay cartoon through most of its length. I got more interested as the cartoon got more ridiculous. Also that bear was adorable and I reliably like the comic premise of the character who’s important but asleep through the whole thing. I will not call this a great one, since it isn’t. Popeye turning into Napoleon is a nice surprise, but it’s not the sort of joke which won’t wear out.
What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? Also, turns out it’s not safe to read Funky Winkerbean. August – November 2019
So, first, the content advisory business. I thought last week that Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean was done with the storyline involving a character’s suicide. The strip was into its third week of other, more lighthearted topics. Well, this week that’s changed. The eminently punch-worthy Les Moore was in today’s strip, meeting up with someone married to the person who died. So, again, if you don’t need that in your recreational reading, give this strip a pass, certainly for this week, possibly for the next several. I’ll try to give a warning when the storyline isn’t the direct focus anymore. Also maybe when Les Moore is not part of the story, because, jeez, that guy.
Back to main focus. Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man is still in repeats. I still haven’t heard anything of it coming out. I’ll at least carry on recapping the repeats a while longer yet before dropping it. Or being fair and picking up Mandrake the Magician and Flash Gordon. If I hear any news, or if February 2020 rolls around and it’s time for another recapping, I’ll try to post it at this link. And as ever, I use comic strips to explore mathematical topics, over on my other blog. Thanks for reading.
The Amazing Spider-Man.
11 August – 3 November 2019.
Spider-Man and Black Widow were teaming up to project Mary Jane Parker, last we saw. Mary Jane, trying again to film Marvella 2: Mo Mar, Mo Vella, had been kidnapped by and rescued from The Hobgoblin already. This irked Peter Parker, since he thought Harry Osborn had outgrown being The Hobgoblin. Osborn was Peter Parker’s old high school best friend. And Mary Jane’s former fiancee. Harry Osborn blames Spider-Man for murdering his father, Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin.
Spidey asks Black Widow to bodyguard Mary Jane. She doesn’t see a good reason why, so Black Widow pushes her off a roof ledge. And saves her, yes, but still. And Spider-Man doesn’t lift a finger to rescue his wife from plummeting from atop another yet another building. His excuse is that Black Window was going to rescue her. And Mary Jane had to be convinced that he would not always be able to rescue her. Still, you know, you remember the web site Superdickery? Just saying.
So they put Mary Jane up in a hotel to hide out. And then Spidey and Black Widow go off together to chase down The Hobgoblin. Spider-Man’s first thought: check on Harry Osborn. Mary Jane’s first thought: how does she know Peter Parker isn’t making the loves with Black Widow? Black Widow’s first thought: hey, isn’t Mary Jane married? Should we check in on her husband or anything? Anyway, Spider-Man fills Black Widow in on the Green Goblin storyline and why Hobgoblin wants revenge.
Spider-Man and Black Widow break into Harry Osborn’s penthouse apartment. He binds and gags the bodyguard, and they find Osborn asleep. But when he wakes he’s agitated by the man who killed his father having broken into his house and webbed his bodyguard and hovering over his bed in the dark. He reaches for a gun, but Black Widow slams his arm in a drawer. So the questioning gets off to a rough start. But Harry insists he knows nothing about the Hobgoblin and has been asleep all night. Spidey comes away from this convinced that Harry Osborn represses his memories of Hobgoblinning. Or maybe someone’s trying to frame him, whatever. There’s no way to tell unless they also manage a crossover with Slylock Fox.
With nothing else to learn Spider-Man swings by Mary Jane’s hotel room. She’s prickly about Black Widow, certainly. Some of it on reasonable grounds: if Black Widow is watching Mary Jane, won’t she figure out Peter Parker is Spider-Man? Peter’s casual about that, claiming that she’s someone he can trust.
At movie filming the next day, Black Widow’s on hand to be Mary Jane’s stunt double. There’s a great chance, a stunt requiring yet another fall off a building, which Mary Jane’s got to have built up an immunity to by now. But that goes perfectly, both Mary Jane’s short fall and Black Widow as stunt double’s several-stories fall. Another stunt goes well too: while Peter Parker very obnoxiously drops in on set, a “dummy activated by a timer” swings past and they both point it out. “See that, Black Widow? I, Peter Parker, and pointing out Spider-Man! Who is another person, there, in your, Black Widow’s view! At the same time that I, Peter Parker, am, even though we are in different places! So it would be ridiculous for you to start thinking that I, Spider-Man, am also Peter Parker! I mean. That Spider-Man is not. I. Um. Look, a big distracting thing!” And then he runs into a shop door that’s actually a mural painted on a brick wall.
There’s several more days of dangerous stunts coming off perfectly. So Spider-Man figures he just has to shadow Harry Osborn. He follows Obsorn to his psychiatrist’s appointment. And listens to the whole thing. Which is a jerk move, yes, but you have to remember the context. He could follow Osborn by secretly planting tracers in Osborn’s shoes that night he broke into his apartment. I’m pretty sure Spider-Man is the good guy here? Yes, that’s what my notes say. Well.
After Osborn leaves Spider-Man pops in to ask Dr Mark Stone, what’s the deal here? Why are you just validating Osborn’s assertions that his father was a hero brutally slain by the villain Spider-Man? Stone points out it’s not his business to clear Spider-Man’s name, it’s his job to listen to Osborn’s problems and try and give advice. And hey, Spidey looks like he’s got issues. Would he want to talk about them any? Peter almost goes for it, then recovers his senses. What possible use could therapy be to a person haunted by how a moment of petty self-indulgence allowed the murder of the man who raised him?
Also recovering her senses: Mary Jane. Spider-Man swings by the movie set again, though to check in with Black Widow. They swing off to go patrolling for Hobgoblin or something. Mary Jane grabs a taxi to follow them. The taxi driver’s a fun guy who talks about other times that superheroes have grabbed his taxi, which I trust all happened in the Silver Age. He asks Mary Jane why she’s spying on Spider-Man. And she realizes, yeah, she’s got no good reason to.
This was, by the way, the high point of the last couple months for me. What I think of as the great breakthrough in Marvel Comics was a touch of psychological realism. Mostly that’s reflected in how people discover that their problems don’t go away when they get superpowers. They just change, in the ways they change when you grow up too. Mary Jane realizing that, yeah, her doubts about Peter Parker’s fidelity are ridiculous and she needs to get over them? That’s got truth behind it. So she goes home.
Spider-Man and Black Widow see Harry Osborn pulling up. So Spidey sheds one disguise and Peter Parker “happens to” bump into Osborn. In a car drive while nominally looking out for Spider-Man, Osborn reiterates that he wants revenge on Spider-Man for killing his father. And then WPLOT, New York City’s 24-hour all-plot radio channel (550 on the AM dial), breaks in with a Hobgoblin sighting.
They race there, and both look up at Hobgoblin flying about on his bat-gliders. Peter Parker reflects how that proves Harry Osborn is not this Hobgoblin, at least. He’s forgotten that he himself set up a dummy Spider-Man to trick someone out of recognizing his secret identity just a couple days before. It’s easy for Spider-Man to catch this Hobgoblin; this because it’s a booby trap. It explodes on him.
And that’s where things sit, and there I’ll leave it. But if you do want to read ahead, and you have a Comics Kingdom account, you can pick the story up from the 29th of June, 2015 and proceed from there. The Hobgoblin storyline, with a couple bits about the movie, wrapped up around the 23rd of August. So, if Marvel and King Features really and truly mean to restart the comic with new adventures they’ll have a seamless chance to in eight weeks, about the 29th of December. It would be an auspicious time to start a new team, but they would need that team in place, like, today. I haven’t heard anything to imply they have. But the world is vaster than I imagine; many things can happen.
Time travel and tortoises! It’s everyone’s chance to complain about
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop. See you then, unless the Time Tortoises get to me first.
I Didn’t Have Time To Deal With Spider-Man’s Stuff Today
So please here take a moment to point and snicker at a pepper plant that, despite having ALL SUMMER LONG to work on it, never managed to grow more than about four inches tall. And then used that chance to spit out like fourteen green peppers, most of them taller than it is.
So to sum up, plants: what’s the deal, huh? Seriously, what the heck? You know? Right?
Statistics Saturday: October Birthdays Per Year
Reference: Signor Marconi’s Magic Box: The Invention that Sparked the Radio Revolution, Gavin Weightman.
Statistics October: People Want Me To Talk About Comic Strips
I continue to have spreadsheets alongside my monthly readership review. This may not seem important to you but, trust me, I love having them to look at. They let me do this running-average stuff that’s so gratifying to work with.
It’s gratifying because the trend has been good the last few months. I did not quite break my November 2015 readership high point. That month, when the collapse of Apartment 3-G got me a bit of attention from the Onion A.V. Club, still has my highest number of page views. It’s now got only the third-greatest number of unique visitors in a month. October 2019 now has the second-greatest number of page views and largest number of unique visitors on record. Let’s get to the specifics.
There were 4,363 page views here in October. These were spread across 469 pages, including the home page that I imagine people default to reading. There’d been 460 such in September. 162 of them got a single view each. There were 166 such in September. The count of page views is rather above the twelve-month running average of 3,349,9 page views. The November 2015 peak was 4,528 page views, so, mm. Better luck next month.
In October there were 2,420 unique visitors. That’s above the twelve-month running average of 1,909.3. That’s also above the longstanding November 2015 record of 2,308 unique visitors, and the more recent April 2019 record of 2,418 unique visitors.
The things that reflect reader engagement, as opposed to just letting pages load, continue to dwindle, though. There were only 119 things liked here in October, well below the twelve-month average of 155.0, which itself was down from years gone by. There were only 14 comments, too, down from the average of 35.8. That’s also in a long secular decline. I don’t know why, especially as more people read posts.
The per-posting averages show just the same trend. There were 31 posts in October; there were 140.7 views per posting, above the average of 11.0. 78.1 unique visitors per post, above the average of 62.7. 3.8 likes per posting, below the average of 5.1. 0.5 comments per posting, below the average of 1.2.
The most popular postings in October were, mostly, not things published in October. The top six (there was a tie for fifth) postings were:
- S J Perelman: Insert Flap ‘A’ And Throw Away
- What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? What’s this Celestial Healing nonsense? April – July 2019
- Wait, did Funky Winkerbean just have a talking monkey kill someone?
- Thinking About Mort Walker
- What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? How did The Phantom not die from getting stabbed in the heart? July – October 2019
- On Richard Thompson
The most popular long-form essay was from way back in October 2018, Everything There Is To Say In Explaining How Computer Graphics Work. That was the most popular thing in September too. I suspect it might be getting spurious results from people looking for computer-graphics advice.
76 countries sent me any readers in October. In September this was 73; in August, 74. 23 countries sent me a single page view in October, way up from September’s 13 and August’s 14. Here’s the full roster:
|Hong Kong SAR China||4|
|United Arab Emirates||4|
|American Samoa||1 (*)|
|Bosnia & Herzegovina||1|
Algeria, American Samoa, Bahrain, and Qatar were single-view countries in September. No countries have been single-reader for more than two months running now.
For November, as ever, I intend to have a long-form essay of about 700 words published every Thursday evening, Eastern Time. Saturday evenings should continue to have some kind of formalistic joke dubbed “Statistics Saturday”. And every Sunday evening I work out what’s happening in one of the story comics. My plan for the coming month, subject to revision if breaking news requires, is:
- Roy Thomas and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man (3 November)
- Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop (10 November)
- Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom (Weekdays) (17 November)
- Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant (24 November)
- Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy (1 December)
And again, The Amazing Spider-Man is in repeats, and I don’t know if or when it’ll ever come out. For now I’m keeping the flame alive, but we’ll see how long that holds up. If I do decide to keep recapping the strip despite it being in repeats, maybe I’ll be forced by logic to add Mandrake the Magician or Flash Gordon into the cycle.
From the start of 2019 through the start of November I published 303 things here. This made a total of 172,159 words, for an average 571 words per post. This was a laconic month. The 14,721 words over the 31 posts brought my average down from 581 words per post. Yeah, I’m surprised it was not quite 15 thousand words too; just the What’s Going On In posts tend to run, like, eight thousand words each. But this averaged only 474.9 words per post in October, down from the September 556.2. I must have saved minutes over the course of the month that way. There have been 1,456 likes on anything over the year, an average of 4.8 per posting. It’d been an average 4.9 at the start of October. There’d been 403 total comments on the year, an average of 1.3 comments per post, which is where the year’s average had been the start of October too.
If you’d like to be among my regular readers, please do join in. You can use the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” link at the upper right corner of this page. Or you can put https://nebushumor.wordpress.com/feed/ into your RSS reader. If you don’t have an RSS reader, you can fake it by getting a free Livejournal or Dreamwidth account and putting that feed on your friends page.
I’m still officially on Twitter as @Nebusj, although I haven’t checked in on it in ages. I had a good month or so where it wouldn’t let me connect at all. Maybe it’s worth checking in again.
Some Kinds Of Jack-O-Lantern, With Such Warnings As Apply
Jack O’Lantern. The original and still classic. Carved by anyone who’s suspiciously vague about how they acquired a pumpkin.
Jack O’Lateen. Tall, triangular net of pumpkins mounted to the patio or house by a long yard, running fore-and-aft. Popular with coastal trick-or-treaters and people confident that their houses have little need to tack.
Jackal O’Lantern. Pumpkins carved by, or for use at events organized for, the local jackal community. Also welcome are hyenas, wolverines, and (per the famous 1712 Act of Parliament) “such badgers as are haveing a rotten daye ande do not wish to tallke aboutt-itt”. Honey badgers are customarily accepted, but this is a house rule, and should not be assumed.
Jonathan-O-Lantern. Jack’s grandfather, who’s swell and all but just a little bit formal in the way nobody has been since wearing hats stopped being a default.
Jake O’Lantern. Pumpkins which mean well but which are repeating jokes about Jake From State Farm or any other insurance-company commercial. Which is all fine except that you got it right away, and were a little amused, but they’re going to keep asking if you get it until you insist you’re riotously amused. Be ready for the trick: if you concede that you’re riotously amused for the sake of getting on with things, they will get smug about how they’re just that clever.
Jock-O-Lantern. Sports-themed pumpkin ready for a good workout session and good-spirited about it. Warning: is somehow sincerely disappointed that they never made that Hans and Franz movie.
Cyberlantern. The hardcore 1990s Internet-capable carving of a pumpkin. Features a device that, when you run it over a bar code printed in a Radio Shack catalogue, will take you to Radio Shack’s web site for that thing! Also if you want to watch a video, you can spend three hours downloading an update to something called a “codec” and then another two hours of downloading the video, which will let you see a postage stamp-sized frame of a movie, with ten short green horizontal lines on the picture, and then crash.
Jack-O-Lectern. Extremely worrying configuration of pumpkins in which they grow into something that a person urgently warning you about the Pagan Origins of Halloween stands behind.
Jeckle-Lantern. One of a pair of cartoon magpie pumpkins, possibly the one with the British accent. Maybe the Brooklyn one. Really fun to remember although if you go and actually pay attention you realize it’s mostly all right, really.
Jack-O-Lectern II. Further worrying configuration of pumpkins in which they grow into something that a person enthusiastically explains to you the Pagan Origins of Halloween stands behind.
Jack-y-Lantern. Carved in the style of that feminist newspaper that you could never figure out the publishing schedule of back in college. And that, you know, you took as being kind of flakes back in the day, but you’ve come to realize were right on all their major points about sexism and racism and ecological problems and the structures of companies and government and all that. And you’re starting to wonder if they had something about how it’s weird on Star Trek: The Next Generation people talked consistently about, like, Commander Riker and Mister Data and Counsellor Troi, but called the chief engineer just “Geordi”.
Jack-o-Lasers. Multiple thinly carved layers of internal shell allow this kind of carved pumpkin to amplify a single candle flame to the point it’s visible from the Moon. Or so they tell us, confident that we aren’t going up to the Moon to check these days.
Jack-O-Lectern III. An Internet-generated hoax. There is nothing you need do about this except shake your head at the folly of people who are not you, the lone person who never falls for dumb stuff.
Pterodactyl-Lantern. Great prehistoric flying pumpkins and they’re maybe even moving in packs! Flee to shelter!
Jack-O-Lectern IV. The most alarming possible configuration of pumpkins, in which they grow into something that a humorless STEM-type man debunking the Pagan Origins of Halloween stands behind.
Jack-O-Lanyard. A necklace-sized miniature lighted pumpkin perfect for going about to your work doing some tech stuff that nobody actually wants, but all the guys wear khakis and sometimes the group eats at Chili’s.