60s Popeye: Paper Pasting Pandemonium, but a polite pandemonium


We’re back to the Jack Kinney studios this week. The story is again by Ed Nofziger. The director is Rudy Larriva, whom you remember from those 1960s Warner Brothers cartoons that looked all weird and had six bars of background music, repeated endlessly. King Features paid for a little more music. There’s one unusual bit of music that stood out. It’s this sort of marching-music from when Popeye i sgetting to work. From 1960 here’s Paper Pasting Pandemonium then.

To believe in this premise we have to suppose Olive Oyl has a circle of friends besides Popeye and Brutus. All right, I suppose we can allow that. She’s spoken of going off to garden parties and there’s probably been a cotillion or something too. We also have the setup that she’s just decided, an hour before the party, that she wants her house re-wallpapered. I understand the narrative point of a deadline. And that Olive Oyl is somewhat fickle. It seems like a bad plan to me.

Still, Popeye and Brutus competing to wallpaper a room should be a good setup. The Platonic ideal of this cartoon exists, after all, in that Pink Panther cartoon where Pink and Big Nosed Naked Guy competitively paint a room. Still, the Pink Panther series remade the premise and got some good other cartoons out. And I’d have sworn there was a version of this in the Popeye series too, but I can’t track it down. (I thought there was one where Popeye and Bluto/Brutus/* were each building half of a building while sabotaging the other’s half? Am I just kidding myself?) There’s abundant room for physical comedy, too. Anyone can have an accident anytime, by their own clumsiness or because someone else sets them up.

That I’m talking about better versions of this cartoon tells you my dissatisfaction. And it’s a vague one. There’s no point where I can say a particular joke is wrong. It’s just not funny enough. It feels like a first draft. For example: Brutus gets a roll of paper stuck on his head, and it looks like antlers, so he charges Popeye like a bull. Good start. Why don’t we get more of Popeye as a toreador? The wallpaper sheets are a natural cape.

Brutus standing in front of wallpaper that's several days' worth of the Popeye daily comic strip.
I remember as a kid thinking it would be great to have comic strips for wallpaper. But I thought it wasn’t practical, because lining up strips between sheets would be hard. Also I couldn’t think of any comic strip page I’d want to re-read over and over every day. This is really weird since as a teenager and young adult I’d be a fan of hard science fiction and that’s all about reading the same twelve books that hit you Just Right and being unhappy with every book that isn’t exactly the same as those and also angry at everyone who points out those books are really not good and psychic powers aren’t hard science even if you say they’re the result of scientific breeding.

Yes, I spotted that the paste came in a sack labelled “Kinney Goo”. The comic strips pasted to the wall are, of course, from the comic strip. The Popeye Wikia dates them to when Tom Sims and Bela Zaboly were drawing Thimble Theatre. This is an era that’s not much collected; Zaboly and Sims worked on the daily strips together until December 1954, and the Sunday strips until 1959.

Popeye finally eats his spinach (soundlessly), and spends a sequence of tossing paper on the walls that seems like it takes more than the one minute he has to paper the room. It doens’t; it takes thirty seconds of screen time. That’s still a lot of screen time. It comes out as this bizarre criss-cross of unmatched patterns that, yeah, I kinda like. It harmonizes with the UPA-inspired backgrounds from the start, where the color and the outline of Olive’s furniture never matched up anyway. Her guests love it, of course, because this is a 1960 cartoon so the guests Olive Oyl wants to impress are — you snickering yet? — beatniks!

It’s all okay. I suspect the limited animation is really sinking this one. Good slapstick gimmicks like getting stuck to things needs to show frustrated movement. Throwing a colored rectangle over Brutus’s face isn’t enough.

Statistics Saturday: Top REM Studio Albums Of The Year, 1983 – 2011


Year Top REM Studio Album
1983 Murmur
1984 Reckoning
1985 Fables of the Reconstruction
1986 Lifes Rich Pageant
1987 Document
1988 Green
1989 Not Awarded
1990 Not Awarded
1991 Out of Time
1992 Automatic for the People
1993 Not Awarded
1994 Monster
1995 Not Awarded
1996 New Adventures in Hi-Fi
1997 Not Awarded
1998 Up
1999 Not Awarded
2000 Not Awarded
2001 Reveal
2002 Not Awarded
2003 Not Awarded
2004 Around the Sun
2005 Not Awarded
2006 Not Awarded
2007 Not Awarded
2008 Accelerate
2009 Not Awarded
2010 Not Awarded
2011 Collapse into Now

Reference: Rolling Stone Magazine, but not the music one. The Rolling Stone Magazine for people who put rocks into tumblers to make them more pretty and make their geologist friends mad.

In Which I Encounter Some Bambi LARP


It was another banner night for seeing nature when I took my walk yesterday. Three or possibly four rabbits along the sidewalk, for example. (I passed the same spot twice and there was a rabbit there each time but I could not attest under oath that they were the same rabbit, as I did not get the rabbit’s name, and would not have remembered it anyway.)

But the high point was seeing a rabbit alongside a skunk. The rabbit, more, was charging at the skunk, and circling around it, the way they do when they are very excited by a thing and would like it to be a thing somewhere else. The skunk, meanwhile, was hustling along. Making good speed, for a skunk. Skunks have really good de-escalation skills. Like, there’s Brooklyn bartenders who study skunks to learn how to get everybody to chill. The rabbit, though, was chasing down the skunk, for all that the skunk was trying to get out of this and hurry off to campus. Running around it, running up to it, backing off and running back up to it again.

I couldn’t follow this into the night to see how it resolved. But, night rabbit, I hope that scenario played out the way you had imagined it would.

Tales From The 80s


So if you’re in my age cohort you grew up seeing the opening credits of Tales From The Darkside. You know, where the camera pans across footage of a forest while the foreboding voice of Perilous McDoomenough intones, “Man lives in the sunlit world of what he BELIEVES to be … reality.” And then the screen fades to a posterized negative image about how there is “unseen by most an underworld”. And then you changed the channel because whatever was coming next would have to be way too frightening to watch.

I got thinking, you know, this has to be like slasher movies were. The hype makes it sound like this intense and barely-comprehensible experience. And it turns out to be about as scary as an SCTV episode. I was too much of a coward to watch horror movies as a kid. I mean, except the one time that they had us do a sleepover for Vacation Bible School and we camped out in some of the classrooms off in the CCD wing. And one of the things they showed was Friday the 13th. I thought it was pretty good. Also I don’t understand how this could have happened. We went to a pretty liberal diocese but still. I think we also watched Heathers. I know Vacation and European Vacation we watched at my friend Eddie Glazier’s bar mitzvah. I’m not sure I should be talking about this 35-plus years on. I might be getting somebody in trouble.

But that’s sort of how terror was for a white middle-class kid growing up in the suburbs in the 80s. And yes, I mean New Jersey-type suburbs, which in other states are what you would call “urbs”. Or “great undifferentiated mass of housing developments and corporate office parks stretching from the Amboy Drive-In to the Freehold Traffic Circle, dotted by some Two Guys department stores”. Still. I grew up a weenie and I would be glad for that if I didn’t think being glad about myself was kind of bragging.

And we knew how to be recreationally scared. We just had to think about the nuclear war. New Jersey enjoyed a weird place for that. I know in most of the country you came up with legends about why the Soviets had a missile aimed right at you. One that would be deployed right after they bombed Washington and New York City. “Of course the Kremlin knows Blorpton Falls, Iowa is the largest producer of sewing machine bobbins outside the New York City area. They’ll have to bomb us so the country can’t clothe itself well after World War III.” It was a way to be proud of your town and not be responsible for surviving the nuclear war.

Central Jersey? We didn’t have to coin legends. We knew, when the war came, we’d be doomed. It wouldn’t be for any reason. It’s just we’re close to New York City, we’re close to Philadelphia. Nothing personal. All we were doing was being near something someone else wanted to destroy. This turned out to be great practice for living in 2020 that I don’t recommend.

Oh, sure, there was the soccer field what they said used to be a Nike missile base that would have protected New York City from the missile attacks. Maybe the Soviets would have an old map, or refuse to believe that they built a soccer field in the United States in the 60s. That former-Nike-base could be a target, if the Nike missiles to intercept the missiles didn’t work, which they wouldn’t.

You might ask: wait, why didn’t they put the base that was supposed to protect New York City in-between New York and the Soviet missile bases instead? The answer is that in-between New York City and the Soviet missile bases is Connecticut. The construction vehicles for the Connecticut site set out on I-95 in 1961 and haven’t made it through traffic yet. Central Jersey was a backup so they could build a site that couldn’t work but could abandon. Anyway I don’t know the soccer field was ever actually a Nike base or if we just said it was. If it really was, I suppose it’s a Superfund clean-up site now. Makes me glad I realized I didn’t want to socc. I wanted to type in word processor programs from a magazine into my computer.

Anyway after thinking about that long enough, it turns out the movie threats we faced were kind of cozy. Yeah, they might turn you into an Alice-in-Wonderland cake and eat you, but at least you’d be singing all the way.

So back to Tales From The Darkside. You know what you find if you go back and watch it now? Tales From The Darkside never even had episodes! They knew everybody was going to be scared off by those credits. Each episode, for all four seasons, is one frozen negative-print posterized image of a tree while someone holds down a key on the synthesizer.

It is way more terrifying than I had ever imagined.

Of course knowing this doesn’t help me at the beach


So here’s my unsettling self-realization of the week. I feel so bad making a fuss about myself that if I were drowning, I would absolutely wait for the lifeguard to happen to look my way, and maybe ask if everything was quite all right, before I’d cry out for help. I wouldn’t want to demand their attention just for my petty issues like “breathing”. This could be a problem if I ever go into any water deeper than our goldfish pond again.

What’s Going On In Mark Trail? Is Mark Trail ever coming back? June – August 2020


There is no word, yet, on who King Features Syndicate is hiring to take over Mark Trail. Nor whether they are actually going to hire anyone. If I get any news about Mark Trail I will share it in a post at this link.

[Edited 25 September 2020: Good news!  Jules Rivera is taking over the comic as of the middle of October.]

Also on my mathematics blog I’m looking at mathematical terms from A through Z. This week: K. I’m not covering all the mathematical terms that start with K, not in one essay.

Mark Trail.

1 June – 22 August 2020

A story about Andy, Mark Trail’s dog, had just started last time I checked in. Andy, unsupervised, playing near a construction site. He’s accidentally locked into a truck trailer and driven off. Rusty and Cherry worry that Andy’s out and won’t come back, but Mark Trail is confident everything is fine.

Mark Trail, off-screen: 'Yes, Andy has ben gone before, but he always comes home!' Andy is seen running through a stream, startling a raccoon and deer and drawing the wary eye of a robin.
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 6th of June, 2020. That raccoon is auditioning for the Disney+ remake of The Hound That Thought He Was A Raccoon. (It’s a cute movie except when you realize what they had to be doing to the raccoon “actors” and an animated version would be great to have.)

At a motel the truck driver opens the van and finds that weird noise was a dog in the back. Andy leaps out and runs into the woods. Mark Trail reassures Rusty and Cherry that sure, Andy’s been gone a long while, but “he always comes home”. And Mark Trail tells of how pets can find their way home over great distances. Like, how dogs can focus on scent. Rusty puts Andy’s bed out on the porch in case that extra bit of familiar scent might help. There is some neat storytelling to how it’s done. We see Andy bounding through the forest, passing turtles and raccoons and waterfalls and everything else. We hear Mark Trail explaining the clues that a dog might use to find home from a great distance away. And, sure enough, Andy finds his way home.

Mark Trail, explaining: 'As the dog gets closer to home, faint familiar scents will get stronger and stronger! As the scents get stronger, the dog will know he's headed in the right direction!' We see Andy on a rock, looking down on Mark Trail's log cabin and several other buildings in the vincity.
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 17th of June, 2020. So there’s several other cabins right beside Mark Trail’s, too? I guess Mark Trail’s neighborhood is gentrifying. There’s all sorts of nature-explainerers and poacher-punchers around now. There would be even more of them except new residents keep growing hipster beards and having to punch themselves.

And, yeah, as Mark Trail predicts, Andy finds his way home safe and sound. Which is all good for the Trails. “Don’t worry, dogs usually come home” is awful advice for anyone whose dog or cat has gone missing. The only useful thing was Rusty planning to put up Lost Dog posters. There’s not even a mention of getting your pets’ ears microchipped, so Animal Control will have a chance at contacting you. Or that you could watch your dog when’s playing at the construction site so he doesn’t get locked in a truck trailer or something.

But Andy is safe back home. And on the 22nd of June what proved to be James Allen’s last story started. It’s incomplete. If a new team is hired, I assume they will have the choice to complete this story or let it drop. They will also have the choice whether to see “Dirty” Dyer’s revenge against Mark Trail carried out.


The last story’s premise: Hollywood liked Mark Trail’s story about white-nose syndrome in bats. Not just for bats. Along the way Mark Trail discovered human traffickers. (This was the story from just before I started doing plot recaps. Mark Trail eventually caught the traffickers while he was in Mexico with Dr Carter, though.) And found an astounding cave system of wondrous beauty, most of which survived Mark Trail’s visit. So producer Marnie Spencer wants to make a film adaptation of this award-winning Mark Trail article. And she wants her boyfriend, bad-boy action hero Jeremy Cartwright, to play the lead. And the lead is Mark Trail. Also, yeah, they’re interested in the bats. Not the Yeti search. Could be they’re waiting to see how the civil suit from Harvey Camel’s family plays out.

Mark Trail’s open to making a movie, though. This provided money from it goes into fighting human trafficking. And he’s glad to have Jeremy Cartwright over to meet him. Learn what he’s like. Read his Starbuck Jones comic books while drinking hot chocolate and eating cookies. Rusty is impressed. Mark Trail is less so, noting how Jeremy Cartwright is just an actor and hinting about his reputed bad behavior.

Poacher: 'Hunting out of season is one thing but taking down these bighorn sheep is highly illegal!' Other poacher: 'We could make a small fortune guiding individual hunters out to bag a bighorn!' Another poacher, with a hacksaw, cutting the horn off: 'Yeah, a lot of money --- if we don't get caught!'
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 14th of July, 2020. And there we are, the last poachers of Mark Trail, at least before it goes into reruns for an unknown time! I don’t know why the poacher in the middle is Bill Bixby as Mark Trail’s evil twin, Mike Trail. Sorry. Anyway, just imagine living in a world where wanton, pointless cruelty to animals was punished. You know?

And then we get the return of a traditional Mark Trail guest star: poachers! Someone named Digby and someone who isn’t are hunting bighorn sheep. It looked like Jeremy Cartwright was being set up for the full Mark Trail experience.

Spencer is delighted to meet everyone and see everyone in the Lost Forest. Cartwright is smug and vaguely condescending toward the small town. We don’t see exactly what happens but Mark Trail describes him as not being “a very gracious guest”. He complained about the food, which Cherry shrugs off. And he’s not big on the outdoors. Of course, during James Allen’s tenure, the outdoors has done a whole lot of trying to kill Mark Trail. While fishing with Rusty Cartwright complains how he needs a drink, and wonders if they’re heading back to the hotel soon.

Movie Actor's Companion: 'I love these personal stories about your family, Rusty!' Rusty: 'Growing up in a wooded area has been a lot of fun!' Actor: 'Are we heading back to the hotel soon?'
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 25th of July, 2020. The last new daily Mark Trail for the foreseeable future. I am a little surprised King Features didn’t have the last panel rewritten, or if need be redrawn, so that Rusty said something about “let me tell you about a time that — ” so that we could pretend the reruns are a framed device within the story.

And that, the 25th of the July, is the end. James Allen leaves Mark Trail (dailies) and we go into Jack Elrod-era reruns. James Allen-produced Sunday strips continued for a few more weeks, because Sunday strips have a longer lead time than dailies. And this week we got back to Jack Elrod-written Sundays with a bit about squirrels.


With the 27th of July we enter Jack Elrod reruns. I don’t know when this story first appeared. It is, in odd symmetry with the last complete James Allen story, an Andy story, and a lost-pet story. In this case, it’s a cat “not wanted by its owners” that’s deliberately abandoned. Far enough away that the owner is sure it won’t find her way back. The cat, unfamiliar with wild life, approaches some animals, who all run away. Except for Andy. So the lost cat makes a friend.

The Trails are happy to take in the cat, dubbed Tabby. Tabby is happy to explore the farm. Also I guess Mark Trail has a farm? Maybe that’s the buildings so close to the log cabin? I do not know. Tabby’s chased off by a rooster, prompting Andy to rush in and protect her. Cherry Trail scolds Andy for harassing the rooster. So for all of you whose favorite Animaniacs segment was Buttons and Mindy, good news: you do not exist. Nobody’s favorite Animaniacs segment was Buttons and Mindy. Buttons and Mindy just made us all feel tense and bad.

[ Andy rushes to rescue Tabby from the skunk ... but he realizes his mistake before he can back off. ] Andy jumps over a log toward a skunk, who stands on its front legs, the warning before spraying. Andy tries to scramble away but can't. [ Later ] Cherry Trail, looking over a stinking Andy: 'WHAT is that smell? OH, NO!'
Jack Elrod’s Mark Trail rerun for the 19th of August, 2020. I do, sincerely, appreciate and like how much James Allen worked to make the Mark Trail storytelling less stodgy. Plots that are less linear, for example. Mark Trail sometimes having thoughts Mark Trail does not express aloud. The narration box’s role reducing to the minimum possible. (I like a narration box that’s also a character, myself. But I know that’s one of many old-fashioned things that I like.) But I also do like just how resolutely square Jack Elrod could be, and scenes like this are a part of it. Also it’s adorable seeing that skunk do the about-to-spray handstand from over here on the safe side of the page. Also a prime moment: the day before, as Tabby approaches the skunk, and according to the narration, “Andy, keeping an eye on the cat, can’t believe what he sees”.
Wild dogs raid a neighbor’s farm, and Mark Trail mentions how they need to keep a close watch. Not close enough to keep Andy and Tabby from wandering unsupervised, though. Andy tries to rescue Tabby from a skunk, realizing too late that this is not a rush-in-and-rescue situation. Even washed off he still stinks, though, so Andy goes off deeper into the woods to avoid bothering anyone. Tabby insists on following. The wild dogs, meanwhile, move into the area and surround Tabby. Looks serious.

Sunday Animals Watch!

  • Thorn Bugs, 31 May 2020. They know some things about not being eaten by predators. Do you?
  • Fossa, 7 June 2020. They’re nice and weird creatures and if I’m not wrong their name’s better pronounced “foosh”, which is pleasant to say. They’re doomed in the wild.
  • Blue Whales, 14 June 2020. There’s evidence they’re making a comeback. Nothing like how prairies dogs are making a comeback, of course, but still, a comeback.
  • Rhinoceros and Oxpecker, 21 June 2020. Great team. Some of our earliest sound films are recordings of this pair’s vaudeville act.
  • Lava Crickets, 28 June 2020. They’re doing all right in the volcano eruptions, if you wondered.
  • Maned Wolfves, 5 July 2020. Legs.
  • The Fly Geyser, Washoe County, Nevada. 12 July 2020. So as industrial accidents go this one is pretty cool. I hope it’s not screwing up the water table too badly.
  • Asian Giant Hornet, 19 July 2020. That is, the “murder hornet”; it kills as many as 50 people a year, which is about one-third of yesterday’s reported Covid-19 deaths in Florida alone. So let’s not get worked up about hornets.
  • Banksia, 26 July 2020. It’s a plant that relies on bush fires to grow and reproduce so at least it’s having a good year.
  • Iterative Evolution, 2 August 2020. So the Aldabra white-throated rail went extinct when their atoll sank. When the atoll emerged from the sea again, the animal re-evolved from its parent species, and isn’t this amazing?
  • Invasive Species, 9 August 2020. Kudzu, of course, and Tegu lizards, a “squamate scourge” intruding into Georgia.
  • Blanket Octopus, 16 August 2020. Last James Allen Sunday strip. So the male of this species “detaches a specialized arm and gives it to the female during mating”, which is a heck of a thing for Mark Trail to go out on.
  • Squirrels, 23 August 2020. First Jack Elrod Sunday rerun. Check out the flopsweat from that one on the bird feeder line, though. That’s just great. And I say this even though I have a squirrel feeder, to feed the raccoons.

Next Week!

How is Madi doing, living with her (uncle?) Saul while her dad’s busy getting arrested for his hilariously failed coup in Venezuela? We check in with Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth next Tuesday, unless things get in the way.

Why does Shoe look different? Is someone new drawing Shoe?


Oh, yeah, so, something I missed in how Gary Brookins was retiring from drawing Pluggers. Brookins has also been drawing Shoe, the other comic strip originated by Jeff MacNelly. That’s the more standard comic strip about a newspaper, diner, and politician, only they’re all birds.

According to D D Degg at The Daily Cartoonist, Ben Lansing is supposed to take over the drawing of the strip. I had thought that Brookins was retiring from both strips simultaneously but, looking at the original announcement, it looks like Brookins just said he’d turn over Shoe “sometime in August”. Last Saturday’s Shoe really did seem like a farewell to both, though.

The cast of 'Shoe' reading about how 'Our cartoonist buddy is retiring'. 'Good old Gary, what a sketch!' 'He made his mark!' 'Hard to picture him leaving.' 'But we'll always be drawn to him.' Narrative box: 'From Roz and the entire Shoe team: THANK YOU, Gary! Jeff would be proud.'
Gary Brookins and Susie MacNelly’s Shoe for the 22nd of August, 2020 as seen on GoComics. So you know that the GoComics Master Database was not designed by comic strip nerds, because the “created by” field is one entry for the whole run of the strip. Nobody told them that comic strip artists, writers, or both have been changed out for like a century-plus already! Also because they got rid of the thing where users could put keywords so that you could, later on, search for comics about “word problems” or “Star Trek” or whatnot.

Rick McKee, who’s been sharing Pluggers work with MacNelly, has that strip all to himself now, so far as I know. And because things are always confused, the GoComics page for Shoe gives a credit to Rick McKee right now, even though we’ve still got Brookins-signed strips, and that so far as I know Ben Lansing is still supposed to take over drawing Shoe. I have no explanation for this phenomenon. Comics Kingdom, which also runs the daily Shoe because of the reasons, is still crediting Gary Brookins for the art.

60s Popeye: Tiger Burger, which you can go ahead and join in progress


I came pretty near noping out of another King Features Popeye cartoon this week. I’m not saying you’re wrong if you do. Tiger Burger, another from the Jack Kinney studios, has a story by Cal Howard and animation direction by Harvey Toombs.

It is set in “Darkest Injia”. This is bad. But the use of “Injia”, as though Popeye’s quirky pronunciation were the “correct” thing, cut the bad down a little. The start of the cartoon is all like that. If you want to get to the part of the cartoon that doesn’t need excuses? Start from about 19:30 and proceed from there. My embedded link will be the whole cartoon, though.

So. Yeah. The first two and a half minutes of this are stuff you have to rationalize to keep watching. It bottoms out about 18:08 when we get the sign “You are now entering Puka-Puka, Fastest Growing Slums In Kasha County” which ugh. This is undercut, not swiftly enough, by going to the sign for the Optimists Club. If this cartoon were aimed at adults, this could be a wry comment on the misery of society. And how some people refuse to acknowledge that, a thing both good and bad. The cartoon is not thinking deep enough to get away with that. Not 60 years on, anyway.

The village of Puka-Puka doesn’t look great either. Not crazy about Popeye wondering about the native hospitality, but at least he does address everyone as “sir”. The cop that Popeye talks to is given a British accent and puffs a Churchill-class cigar, icons that are … oh, a bunch to unpack. They do seem to me to be things that would, to a white middle-class American audience of 1960, signify “civilized” and “respectable”, so there’s that. If the cop had been Jackson Beck trying to do Apu I might have dropped this whole series never to touch it again.

Anyway, all this — all this — is to establish that Popeye and Wimpy are hunting Gonga the man-eating tiger. (Yeah, I see the reference.) Gonga’s given a big build-up as “the most vicious, cruel, meanest, low-down, ferocious, good-for-nothing, low-down, fiendish man-eating tiger in all of Injia”. We don’t see a lot of Gonga’s fiendishness. He just yoinks Wimpy off of their turtle. But since Wimpy’s been whining the whole cartoon about wanting to eat hamburgers it’s hard not being on Gonga’s side.

A tiger has one paw wrapped around Wimpy's shoulder, and looks at the camera, with one eye drooping. Wimpy, both eyes open just a tiny bit, is holding up one finger while looking off-camera and apparently whispering.
Look, let them have their time together.

Monomania usually works great for comic characters. And Wimpy is almost the definition of a monomaniacal comic character. I’m not sure why it doesn’t work here. Possibly because there’s so much of him talking hamburgers with nothing else going on. Wimpy can’t interrupt the action with his little thing if his little thing is all the action.

It’s hard to sell me on a Popeye-hunts-an-animal cartoon. While he’s far from consistent, his “always be kind to children and dumb animals” philosophy is a great statement of goals. There’d be some respectability in the plot if he were protecting the village from a menace. I guess that’s the point of the cop’s declaration of Gonga’s wickedness. But Popeye and Wimpy didn’t know about this tiger going in. And we didn’t see Gonga doing anything particularly wicked. So it’s hard to get past the impression Popeye’s being a jerk here.

There’s a couple bits that try to salvage the cartoon. Popeye challenging Gonga to “come out and fights like a man” and Gonga calling back, “come in and fight like a tiger”. Popeye answering how he didn’t come to India to eat hamburgers which, yeah, I wouldn’t. Or the wacky choice to have Popeye and Wimpy riding on a turtle, rather than an elephant. It seems to have been done for the silliness of a howdah on a turtle. And to let the cartoon stop on a joke about how turtles are slow. And if we just stick to that the cartoon is all right. But it’s not much salvage and it comes after a lousy start.

Statistics Saturday: Disney Direct-To-Video Sequels By Whether They Rate Roman or Arabic Numerals


Roman Numeral Arabic Numeral Neither
Pocahontas II Lilo and Stich 2 Aladdin
The Little Mermaid II Brother Bear 2 Beauty and the Beast
The Lion King II The Lion King 1½ Aladdin (again)
Cinderella III The Fox and the Hound 2 Beauty and the Beast (again)
Cinderella II An Extremely Goofy Movie
Lady and the Tramp II The Little Mermaid
Mulan II Tangled
101 Dalmatians II Atlantis
Tarzan II
Bambi II
Hunchback of Notre Dame II

Not listed: Mickey’s Twice Upon A Christmas because it is a Wikipedia prank and does not exist.

Reference: Joseph Henry: The Rise of an American Scientist, Albert E Moyer.

What lyrics have me late today


I’m sorry, I’ve been busy going to lyrics sites again and changing `dance` to `pants`, although I admit I’ve been trying to do better because I know everybody’s making pants jokes these days. But there’s limits to what fits there. It really looks like `hands` ought to fit, but only if you say it `hants` and you just don’t do that unless you think your audience will think they must have heard it wrong.

What Your Favorite Polygon Says About You


Triangle. You’re simple, solid, reliable. While you maybe fear being thought unimaginative, you feel a special affinity for triangles: they’re the shape that introduced the young you to the term “obtuse”. Knowing the word gave you many times you could insult a younger sibling without their catching on, and after they did catch on, let you insist that you were just describing the triangle they were making by doing something or other, and then they punched you. Good times.

Rectangle. You were caught off-guard by the question and figured this was the safest answer. Nobody’s ever going to say your judgement is bad, just vanilla. But, you answer, vanilla is only the most popular flavor of anything on the planet, even better-liked than chocolate, pentagons, fresh garlic toast, and the glue on security envelopes.

Pentagon. You actually like five-pointed stars but you’re not sure if they count as polygons.

Hexagon. You read somewhere about how this was the most efficient shape and you’re going to stick with that even though you never learned efficient at what. Alternatively, you play a lot of area-conquest strategy games and just like thinking about all these many paths of hexagons and having at least twelve types of cards to keep track of things. Alternatively, you are a flock of bees.

Heptagon. You don’t know what a heptagon is but you like the old-timey 1920s-slang feel to any word that starts “hep”.

Parallelepiped. You so enjoy the sound of this word you don’t care that it’s a polyhedron, not a polygon. If asked to name an actual proper polygon you will try to distract the questioner. “Is that a flock of bees?” you might say, pointing to the city’s new hexagon district, which is very efficient but has lousy traffic signals.

Circle. You have never, not once, ever completed a task without an argument about what the instructions precisely mean.

Parallelogram. You like how it suggests a rectangle, but by tilting to the side one way or another it looks like it’s moving faster. Or like it’s braking really fast. You can’t get just any shape to look that lively.

Heptadecagon. You are a mathematics major and were crazy impressed by the story of how Carl Friedrich Gauss figured out how to draw a regular 17-sided polygon with straightedge and compass. You’re still so impressed by this that you’re angry they inscribed a 17-pointed star, instead of a 17-sided polygon, on Gauss’s gravestone. You’ve never seen a picture of his gravestone, and you haven’t ever looked up how Gauss did this 17-gon. “It was really easy,” Gauss once explained. “I just drew a 17-pointed star and then connected the points.” You’re nevertheless still offended on his behalf.

Chiliagon. You were paying attention that day in philosophy class where they talked about a regular 1000-sided polygon and how you couldn’t even tell that wasn’t a circle. Very good.

Octagon. But not the stop-sign octagon. The octagon you get by putting, like, one long skinny table off the center of another long skinny table, because it looks like that shouldn’t even be an octagon but it is, and anybody can count edges and see it is, and that’s just great.

Myriagon. You like that chiliagon idea but think it’s getting just a little too much attention so you’re going for a 10,000-sided regular polygon instead. This is the sort of thing people warn new acquaintances you do.

Trapezoid. You have loved this shape ever since you first heard about it, and were able to go home and ask your little sibling if they wanted to see a trapezoid, and they said sure, and you informed them that they were a zoid and you grabbed their arm and wouldn’t let go, and said now that’s a trap-a-zoid and they ended up yelling and punched you with their free arm. That spot on your arm was sore for weeks. Good times.

Megagon. You’re the person who dragged the philosophy class into arguing whether it mattered that the Trolley Problem wouldn’t literally happen exactly like that, instead of letting the class explore the point of the problem about whether it’s more ethical to actively cause or to passively allow harm. Sigh. Fine. You are unimaginably clever. Now go play outside.

Dodecagon. You were trying to express fondness for that 20-sided die shape and then halfway through remembered that’s a polyhedron but you were committed. Had you started out with polygons in mind you would have said “heptagon”. The dice shape is the “icosahedron”. The dodecahedron is the 12-sided die. This is how everything in your life goes.

After the recycling truck has left


A couple pieces fell out of the recycling bin when the truck picked it up this week. There’s no doubting it was our recycling. I recognized the brand of vegetarian imitation tuna that’s somehow cheaper than real tuna. (That’s probably nothing to worry about.) The salad dressing bottle. Couple of other things that were definitely ours and were just sitting in the street. So I took these things, that had until yesterday been in the to-be-recycled bag in the breakfast nook, until they were put in the bin and taken to the curb, back from the curb to go inside and get put in the to-be-recycled bag in the breakfast nook. And at that point I realized I was in some existential comedy/drama and I don’t know that I can handle that in 2020. Please send meaning.

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? Is Gasoline Alley in repeats still? May – August 2020


I can’t tell whether the current storyline in Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley is a repeat. From May through early July the strip repeated a story from 2010. We assume this was to give Jim Scancarelli some time to research and work ahead for the February 2021 centennial of Skeezix’s debut.

So a story began the 6th of July. It feels like a repeat to me, and to many of the GoComics commenters. But nobody has found it in the archives, to my knowledge. Those archives only go back to April 2001, true. But it would be odd to reprint a strip from more than twenty years ago; strip sizes have changed since then. But there’s no definite word either way.

If I get word that this is definitely a repeat, or definitely new, or any other Gasoline Alley news I’ll post it here. Also, I expect, a new plot summary around November 2020.

Gasoline Alley.

25 May – 15 August 2020.

The story as repeated: Gertie, Walt Wallet’s caretaker, worried about the side effects of his medications. Like, they can cause hallucinations. They seem to be working: Walt calls Gertie out to see a mass of exotic tropical birds. The birds vanish before Gertie gets outside. Then there’s monkeys swinging from the trees, except when Gertie steps outside. A hippopotamus on the lawn. Gertie worries about the hallucinations until she comes face-to-face with a lion.

Gertie: 'Mr Walt! You were right! There ARE critters everywhere!' Walt, surrounded by monkeys, exotic birds, a hippo, an elephant, and so on: 'I told you so!' Gertie, pointing to a friendly lion: 'Hoo-wee! This one didn't brush his teeth!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 13th of June, 2020. This is what it’s like to have a furry convention set up in your town, by the way. You’re walking to that place where you build-your-own-tacos and whoop, hyenas!

It draws a crowd, including Polly Ballew, oddly young sister of Bob and Ray reporter Wally Ballew. (Hi, Dad!) And, finally, it draws an answer: “world’s greatest animal trainer” Clyde Bailey. These are circus animals, who escaped after “hungry vagrants” broke into their cages and stole food. Bailey’s able to round up the animals and get them back, and bring this repeat to a close.

Animal trainer Clyde Bailey, calling the animals: 'Tantor! Simba! Tarmangani! Oongowah!' The next panel the elephant and lion screeeeech to a sharp halt. The birds flying around them are probably also stopping too.
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 26th of June, 2020. I’m sorry not to share more pictures as Scancarelli draws a great cartoony animal. It looks like he had a blast with this action. I would pay for a cornball funny-animals comic book like they published in the old days drawn by him. Give me that elephant and that lion swapping vaudeville patter.

The current and possibly new story started the 6th of July, with Rover Wallet and son Boog driving home. This would fit from the end of the previous story, the Farm Collective one, by the way. They pick up a hitchhiking Joe Pye, and his three sons. On W-PLOT Radio, they hear of four “armed and dangerous” escapees from State Prison. The Pyes jump out of the truck.

On the truck radio: 'I repeat! The FOUR escaped convicts are armed and dangerous! This is not a fake report!' One of the Pye kids, riding in the truckbed: 'It IS too! We ain't armed!' Joe Pye: 'Joe Pye and his boys will sue em fo' desperation of character!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 13th of July, 2020. Wh … why are the bunnies spying like that in the first panel? Are they hoping to nab the escapees and grab the reward?

It’s hard to believe in a Scancarelli character being “dangerous”. But the Pyes agree they’re fleeing the cops, and go tromping through the wilderness. They tromp through the water, figuring this will wreck their trail. And then come the dogs. They surrender to what they take are police dogs. But they’re not; the dogs, Flotsam and Jetsam, are a woman’s.

Shari Pye, cross, and arms crossed: 'The Joe Pye I'm talking about had three sons named Red Tommy, Milferd, and Roscoe Baby!' One of the Pye kids: 'Roscoe BABY? Ha ha ha! Oh! BABY mine!' Shari: 'What're YOUR names?' Pye kid: 'Gulp! Uh ... ... Manny!' Next kid: 'I'm Moe!' Last kid: 'An' I'm Jacques!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 10th of August, 2020. I’d like to help by tagging which of the Pye kids is which but I just don’t know. They seem to reliably be shown together which makes it hard to say who’s who. Also, I know Scancarelli fought the impulse to have them declare they were Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered/Bemildred. (They were the trio of bats in Walt Kelly’s Pogo.)

The woman thinks Joe Pye looks familiar. His name is familiar too. She’s Shari Pye. Joe Pye knew someone by that name, years ago. Married her, in fact. She’d married a Joe Pye, it turns out. And had three sons who fled with Joe. Joe Pye comes clean: he’s her long-lost husband. Also, when he told his sons that their mother had died he had mixed up his phrasing. So the family’s reunited, then, that’s sure to be a good thing, right?

And that’s where the storyline stands as of the middle of August. Again, if I find evidence this is a repeat, or is definitely not, I’ll pass word on.

Next Week!

It’s a comic strip I know to be in repeats! I’ll look at the last weeks of James Allen’s Mark Trail and the start of Jack Elrod repeats. Unless something disrupts the plan. Thank you for bearing with me as we hope there is a plan.

The last new Mark Trail just ran on Sunday and it’s all reruns for now


Per D D Degg’s article in The Daily Cartoonist, yesterday was the last of James Allen’s Mark Trail Sunday panels. The dailies have been reruns from the Jack Elrod era for several weeks now. Allen continues to publish his Edge of Adventure comic strip on GoComics.

Since the world is a strange one, of course the last new Mark Trail for the foreseeable future is about octopus sex.

Although new species are found regularly, there are at least 800 known species of cephalopods! Cephalopods can be found in oceans all around the world! Asie from a species of squid that tolerates brackish water, no cephalopods live in fresh water! Aptly named because they seem to be draped in bed linens, the blanket octopus has one of the largest size differences between the sexes in the animal kingdom. While the females can reach 6 feet in length, the males are the size of a walnut. The male detaches a specialized arm and gives it to the female during mating. She will then use the arm to fertilize her eggs, producing the next generation of deep-sea denizens.
James Allen’s Mark Trail for the 16th of August, 2020. And, wow; it’s amazing to think things have come to an end just as Mark Trail got relaxed enough to not button the top button of his shirt. While he’s walking on the beach. And no other time. Ever.

There’s no word yet on a new creator (solo or team). If I get any, first, it’ll probably be through The Daily Cartoonist. And second, I’ll pass word along in an essay at this link. I am still planning to do plot recaps, at least unless I get word that the strip has been retired into permanent reruns.

[Edited 25 September 2020: Good news!  Jules Rivera is taking over the comic as of the middle of October.]

Degg’s article, linked at the top of this piece, shares the first-and-last pages for the comic strip’s various artists and writers. Also the first appearance of Cherry Davis, eventually Mark’s wife. And some promotional art. And some fan art. Also the revelation-to-me that James Allen had a writing partner, Brice Vorderbrug. Maybe this was generally known to the community, but I didn’t, and that’s why I didn’t credit him in my various plot recaps. (Vorderbrug has been credited all along on Edge of Adventure.)

60s Popeye: Swee’Pea Soup plus a cartoon I noped out of


So if things continued in their ordinary course, the next cartoon would have been Two-Faced Paleface. Produced by Larry Harmon, directed by Paul Fennell, written by Charles Shows. The title had me wary because Popeye does not have a good track record with American Indian characters. The story starts with Popeye mining for gold, and finding some. Brutus horns in on this, pretending to be an Indian.

Popeye protests it can’t be Indian land, “we just discovered gold here”. This would be a good, witty, dark comment on American history if I thought they meant it. But, you know? I don’t like Brutus dressing up as “Big Chief Pain-in-the-neck” of the Cha-cha-cha Indian Tribe. I don’t like Popeye joining in. And you know? I’m not going to do it. You want 600 words from me about this? I want $25 minimum. I’m on PayPal.


So let me get that taste out of my mouth by going to the next one on my schedule. This is 1960’s Swee’Pea Soup, directed by Gene Deitch. There’s no other credits, so I can’t tell you who did the story, which I quite like. Or the animation, which is a delight for being this limited. Also, we get not one but two special guest stars.

We start in media res, rare for any children’s cartoon of the era but especially for Popeye. The mob demands the removal of King Blozo. They want someone lovable, like Swee’Pea. King Blozo is another long-time Thimble Theatre character, and a great one. He rules a land that’s usually called Spinachovina. He’s really not up to the job, and would do something else if he was any good at that. He spends most of his time worrying about how bad everything is. His only solace (not seen this cartoon) is reading the funny papers. This may sound basic, but, you know? A character doesn’t need depth to be good. He needs to commit to his bit.

Popeye, seen from behind, scratching his chin while King Blozo walks in circles, hunched over and worry-worry-worrying.
And here’s a rare angle for seeing Popeye. This is a very characteristic pose for King Blozo, though, and you do get a good handle on who he is just from looking at that.

Blozo summons his mad scientist, Professor O G Wotasnozzle, to make him as lovable as Swee’pea is. Wotasnozzle intuits the way to do it is to make Swee’Pea soup, and kidnaps the child. This is a weird turn for Wotasnozzle, who was mischievous but not villainous when created for Sappo (Elzie Segar’s non-Popeye gig). Possibly the story writer wanted to keep the cast to known characters, and Watsnozzle had to contort to fit the part.

We get some action, we get Popeye captured under Wotasnozzle’s giant boot device. We get the mob throwing spinach that contrives its way into Popeye’s mouth. (It’s normal to have a small drain that funnels water directly into your basement.) Popeye launches the double-decker pot of Swee’Pea soup into the air, and Swee’Pea falls into Blozo’s arms. Swee’pea’s approval confers popularity on Blozo and everything can be peaceful and happy again.

This is a lot of story. And, daft as it is, it all hangs together. There’s a neat bit of storytelling that all the trouble in it comes from innocent motives. Swee’Pea brings the kingdom to rebellion just by paying a friendly visit. Blozo, a character almost as innocent as Swee’Pea, causes Swee’Pea’s kidnapping with the unobjectionable order to “make me lovable”.

I would like to know if this is a condensation of a story that ran in the comic books or the daily strip. It’s heavily plotted for a five-and-a-half-minute cartoon. It doesn’t waste time introducing characters. It has changes of fortune and a solid mix of drama and comedy. If this is all Gene Deitch or his writers, they deserve credit for doing something quite good with the form. If they condensed an original story, I’m curious what the original story was like.

King Blozo standing on the balcony of his castle, surrounded by a mob. Blozo has Swee'Pea in his arms and the two are rubbing heads together happy; this is making the mob very happy.
So a happy ending all around. And it is a great touch that they rubbed their heads against each other. It’s more animation than the scene requires and that’s gratifying to see.

The animation, too, is nicely done. It’s expressive and it’s all a little more fluid than mere needs of the story demand. Look how Popeye’s stance changes, at about 0:55, as he guesses the People are looking for a new king. He scratches his head, he pats his chest, he leans his head forward, he moves one arm down and the other up. It makes Popeye’s thinking better-shown. Look at how Blozo, walking in circles about 1:50, starts circling the opposite direction. None of this is essential. It makes the cartoon more fully animated, though. I imagine this is the budgetary advantage of animating in Eastern Europe. They can afford more pencils.

Even if the animation were worse, though, the story would likely win me over. If more of the shorts were like this the series would have a respectable reputation.

Statistics Saturday: Some Lists


  • Ten Exhalations
  • Beatles Songs By U2
  • Fifteen Things You Were Going To Get Back To When You Had The Time
  • Twenty Thunderstorms the Forecast for Which Changed Away About Two Hours Before They Could Have Broken This Heat Wave Finally
  • Best Eight Episodes Of The 90s Get Smart Revival
  • Ten Thumbs In Alphabetical Order
  • Top Five Political Stories In Peanuts
  • Sixteen Turtles All The Way Down
  • Twenty Plays Of “Wonderwall” In A Row
  • Twelve Boring Technocratic Micromanagement Video Games Besides the Time Zone One
  • U2 Songs By Taylor Swift
  • Twelve Imaginary Numbers
  • Fifteen Innuendos about Plastic-Man that do not Logically Hold Up Under Scrutiny
  • Ten Things There’s No Telling Whether Are Heated Online Debates Or Just Social Media Dadaist Comedy
  • Unamusement Parks of the Mid-Atlantic States

Reference: Numerical Recipes in C, William Press, William Vetterling, Brian Flannery, and Saul Teukolsky.

In which I am cranky about an honestly impressive thing someone else did


So I just happened across a news item from 2006. I don’t promise I didn’t run across it before, but I ran across it again, all right? It’s about a pretty neat stunt, the first flight of a human-carrying airplane powered entirely by batteries. Dry cell batteries. In particular, powered by AA batteries. So that’s a neat accomplishment.

It took 160 AA batteries. And now I’m annoyed because “they needed a hundred sixty AA batteries” is precisely the easy, hacky joke I wanted to make about it, and then there it was in the second paragraph of the article. Why can’t I have painted the picture of unwrapping all those annoying blister packs of batteries and trying to load them in and finding you can’t tell whether the positive end is supposed to go to the right or to the left? Where’s the justice?

The Mystery Of The Call To Customer Service


“You did just give us your account number. We ask again so people can’t cut in the phone queue. Just because something’s physically and logically impossible is no reason not to have a policy.”

“Put like that it almost makes sense. Can we say my number is ‘forty’?”

“It doesn’t look that old, but I’m game. For quality-control purposes this call may have been pre-recorded. What is a problem?”

“You know how there’s an Internet? Not for me.”

“The web site could be down.”

“I tried Google, YouTube, archive.org, The New York Times, and Comics Curmudgeon, and the browser kept pointing and laughing that I wasn’t on the Internet.”

“Someday all those sites will be down simultaneously and we’ll cackle smugly at everybody thinking we’re the problem.”

“You do need quality controlled. You wouldn’t want it running wild.”

“That didn’t sound submissive.”

“Thinking about quality control. Am I being pre-recorded?”

“We can’t tell. It’d ruin the control group’s self-esteem. If you’re in the control group it’d spoil a relationship starting so well.”

“That’s considerate, unless I’m in the other group.”

“We thought you’d agree. Could you give us your account number again?”

“This time I’ll say ninety-four.”

“Oh, you are a giddy prankster. What’s your cable modem model number?”

“Hold on, I have to get the cat off it … … hold on, I have to find bandages … … It’s a model 327W.”

“That’s not the model number.”

“It says that’s the model number on top.”

“Yes, and don’t think this hasn’t lead to fisticuffs. The model number is on the bottom where you can’t read it in your light.”

“Could I give my phone number again?”

“I was just fixing to ask. Would you like it to be ‘six’ now?”

“No, I feel like ‘four’. On the bottom the cable modem is a model 327-W.”

“That’s better. … I’ll have to transfer you to a guy named `Jeff’. He’s usually hanging around and probably works for us. We don’t get many fans, though if he is one that explains his applause.”

“I like chances to talk with people named `Jeff’.”

“For Jeff, you’ll have to describe the problem, and give your customer number, and your model number. You’ll still have the problem.”

“Does he give the numbers back after?”

“He should. It’s bad practice to hog numbers. We lost `fourteen’ for months to one sourpuss tired of having people to turn things off and on.”

“Does he control quality too? — Never mind, it’d hurt my feelings if one of us lied. Should we give him an encore?”

“Would you please re-say your account number?”

“It’s forty, in that case. How did he like it?”

“He says he’s `Paul’ and we have him confused for someone else. Security is escorting him out.”

“Are they confused?”

“They know the way. This is about the twelfth Paul this month.”

“Would it help mentioning my customer number is 101?”

“It makes me more secure after this shocking Paul incident. Have you got another computer we might try something on?”

“I don’t.”

“Then we’re can’t do anything without someone actually named ‘Jeff’.”

“In that case, I do. I just didn’t want to confuse this issue.”

“Could you plug it in to your cable modem?”

“Any particular connection?”

“Yes, one into the cable modem. And go to the site 192 dot 168 dot … ”

“Dot 1 dot 1?”

“You act suspiciously like someone named ‘Jeff’.”

“Should I mention my customer number is 327?”

“No, that’s your model number. Do you see under Network Settings anything for DCHP/IP?”

“DCHP?”

“Yeah, let’s act like that matters. Do you see any pull-down menus?”

“I do, but hoped to ignore them.”

“Have you rebooted things?”

“I considered rebooting the refrigerator, so I could eat the ice cream.”

“I recommend trying that and calling back. My customer number is twelve.”

“That’s my number too. I bet it’s why we get along so.”

“Your supposition satisfies me. Were there any other issues?”

“There, the Internet came back. Thank you. There’s nothing else, Jeff.”

“You’re welcome — wait, how did you know?”


What clue told the caller the operator was Jeff? Read tomorrow’s puzzle and check your solution!

Fascinating coincidences of South West England


I was reading about the town of Pensford in Somerset, England, because hi there I guess we’ve only just met for the first time. That’s the sort of thing I do, is all. Pensford’s Wikipedia page has this to say about famous residents:

Philosopher and physician John Locke FRS 1632-1704, known as the “Father of Liberalism” lived in John Locke’s Cottage in Belluton within the parish of Publow with Pensford from shortly after his birth until 1647.

And, gosh but that’s a lucky coincidence on John Locke’s part. Just imagine the quarrels he might have got into if he had been living in Thomas Hobbes’s cottage instead. They probably still had the quarrels anyway, but they would have had to argue about who was in whose cottage too.

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? Who is Dethany and why does she look like a villain? May – August 2020


Dethany Dendrobia, the pale Goth guest star is from Bill Holbrook’s On The Fastrack. I’ll get to what she’s doing in Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy some paragraphs down. On The Fastrack is a longrunning workplace-humor comic strip. It turned up often enough when I was Reading the Comics for my mathematics blog. Dethany Dendrobia is the comic strip’s third protagonist. She took over the strip about a decade ago from previous lead character, Wendy Welding. Dendrobia is Goth, yes, and I forget whether her paleness is makeup or her nature.

Holbrook’s three comics (On The Fastrack, Safe Havens, and the web comic Kevin and Kell) go in for a cartoony world. In it, for example, the Computer Bug, source of so many problems, is a real literal character, who can speak with and negotiate with you and all. Dendrobia, hardworking and cheerful, is also Goth, fascinated by death and time’s ravages. So her “freakish”, Morticia Addams-influenced, appearance codes her in Dick Tracy as a villain. But in her home comic strip this is how a normal person looks.

While the characters are crossing over there are some differences between the comic strip universes. Dick Tracy is carrying on as though the Covid-19 disaster weren’t happening. Except for the Crimestoppers tips at the top of Sunday panels, which carry warnings about scams. People faking being from the IRS asking for stimulus check information. People running fake health screenings. Scammers telling you the schools are “safe to reopen” for in-person classes. People claiming that employers should not be legally liable for their employees getting the coronavirus at work. People selling fake vaccinations. The frauds you would expect.

On The Fastrack, meanwhile, has made the characters being locked down an important part of the story. The easy way around this is to say the Dick Tracy events happened, like, last year or so. Except both strips have built in how Dendrobia is preparing for her wedding, to Guy Wyre, this coming Halloween. (Dick Tracy also recently made a guest appearance in On The Fastrack, there as a hologram, to avoid spreading non-ironic death.)

It gets more “inconsistent”. In Holbrook’s other newspaper comic, Safe Havens, Fastrack built and launched a spacecraft to Mars. That crew went and bioengineered that planet into new life. In that strip, Dethany is the chief flight director for Fastrack Inc. There is no good reason I haven’t been doing plot recaps for that comic. But that’s even harder to reconcile with what we’ve seen here. Especially since Holbrook decided to freeze the On The Fastrack characters’ ages, when Dendrobia took over. But Safe Havens continues aging the characters in loose realtime. You never hear this mentioned by people who say they can’t understand the relationship between Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean.

(Tom Batiuk’s Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean both take place in the present day. But Funky Winkerbean is also a decade “ahead” of Crankshaft. That is, if a Crankshaft character appears in today’s Funky Winkerbean he’s ten years older than he “should” be. A Funky Winkerbean character appearing in Crankshaft is about a decade younger. That’s all.)

Dick Tracy.

17 May – 9 August 2020.

Actress Fortuna Dyer was getting into character for her Breathless Mahoney bio-pic. Thing is Breathless Mahoney was a villain. Dyer wants information out of B.O.Plenty, who back before his heel-face turn kind of got pretty near murdering her. Tracy gives Dyer an interview, recapping the Mahoney-Plenty story of the 40s. And asks her not to contact Plenty, who’s gone all good.

Dyer bails Shaky out of jail, a surprising fast return for last story’s villain. Shaky’s uncle, the original Shaky, was married to Breathless Mahoney’s mother. Dyer says she wants more background on Mahoney. So he’s got a job now, that’s great. The job seems to be talking about their relatives over dinner with Dyer. That doesn’t cause any conflict at all with Edison Lighthouse, Shaky’s girlfriend, whom he starts missing date nights with.

Shaky: 'Breathless, we've been at this for two weeks now. What would you say to dinner with no movie talk?' Dyer/Breathless: 'I wondered when you'd bring that up. Sure, we can go out. But tell me something ... do you shake *all* the time?'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 30th of May, 2020. “Because if you do shake all the time, well, this could be even better than that time I was dating Chef Wiggly!”

Lighthouse, annoyed at her abandonment, turns to her one friend: Ugly Crystal. You know, whom she met while fleeing the cops last time around. Over coffee at the mall Crystal recommends dumping Shaky. She doesn’t know what his deal is. But she knows someone sending his signals is not good. Lighthouse challenges Shaky, who admits to what’s going on, even though it’s a little weird.

Meanwhile Dick Tracy learns that Shaky’s out of jail, when Sam Catchem notices Shaky at the filming location.

In another mall hangout, Ugly Crystal mentions how her dad’s got a cool Oklahoma Days centennial belt buckle. And there’s a whole world of belt-buckle-collectors who’ll pay good money for that sort of thing. Shaky, eavesdropping, hears how this could be worth thousands. He forms a plan. Shaky is confident in his plan, even though his plan is quite bad. He needs cash. Dyer’s been pumping him for information, but all she’s delivered is the promise of a movie cameo. When she puts off a dinner date, he breaks in to Ugly Crystal’s home to steal her dad’s belt buckle.

So a thing Ugly Crystal maybe never mentioned to Shaky when he mistook her place for a safehouse? Her dad’s Lafayette Austin, undercover cop. Also he has like a dozen belt buckles so it’s easy to find one’s missing.

On the movie set, Shaky, playing Original Shaky, says, 'Come on, Breathless. I said I was sorry.' Dyer, as Breathless: 'No, Shaky. I don't take that from anyone. We're through!' Shaky: 'Please, baby?' Dyer: 'No. I've filed charges.' Shaky: 'You what?' Dick Tracy: 'Shaky.' Shaky: 'Buzz off! This is none of your business!' Tracy: 'Oh, but it *is*. You're under arrest.' Shaky: 'Ugh ... Dick Tracy!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 21st of June, 2020. Having yet another instance where characters play Dick Tracy characters, particularly with Current Shaky playing Original Shaky for this movie cameo, made this a confusing strip to read when it came out. What we’re seeing here, through the first panel of the bottom row, is a movie scene being filmed with Shaky playing his uncle the Original Shaky, and Dyer playing Breathless. The last two panels are the real Dick Tracy intruding, breaking up the scene with an actual real-world arrest. This seems needlessly jerky of Dick Tracy. Like, he couldn’t have waited one minute for the scene to be clear? But, Shaky responding to something off-script so plausibly suggests that maybe his real calling was an actor. He’s certainly not a competent crook.

Tracy goes to the movie set to arrest Shaky, who’s doing his cameo as Uncle Shaky. The arrest is for “harassment”, and I’m not sure who he’s harassing. But he’s got the belt buckle on him too. There’s a short fight, and a new arrest, and that’s it for Shaky.

Also maybe for Dyer. On Shaky’s arrest she drops her method-actor pose of demanding everyone call her Breathless. .

Oh, and that $2,000 buckle was actually a $20 buckle. Ugly Crystal was “worried” about Edison Lighthouse being with Shaky. And Shaky thought that baiting Shaky into stealing from Austin might “[help] save Fortuna Dyer”. Which … I guess succeeded, but it feels like some class of entrapment at least. Also it’s not clear that Tracy did much besides have the matter solved for him.


The current story began the 5th of July. It brings in Dethany Dendrobia from Bill Holbrook’s On The Fastrack. Fastrack itself is a company with a slightly vague portfolio, but a lot of what it does is data warehousing.

Dendrobia’s in Tracy Town because Fastrack is buying a new warehouse. Dendrobia’s investigating the string of construction accidents. Someone’s following her, and took a shot, tearing her overcoat. The warehouse is one that used to belong to Stooge Viller, whom GoComics commenter Neil Wick writes was the fifth-ever Dick Tracy villain, back in 1933. Viller survived a couple stories and died in 1940.

The antagonist is someone named Coney, a rotund fellow whom we meet buying a double-wide ice cream cone. And the motive: there’s a rumor that Viller hid millions somewhere in the building. But after a month of work Coney’s gang hasn’t found anything.

Tracy and Dendrobia investigate the warehouse. They find Coney and his gang. Coney insists he’s the building’s owner. So, all right. That stalls things for a couple days. Coney goes to Wilson Properties, complaining about these snoopers. Alex Wilson says the warehouse was sold by mistake and they haven’t been able to negotiate anything with Fastrack. It’s … a heck of a mistake. But, don’t worry. The real estate investment trust that fraudulently sold the building? Whose mistake results in the attempted murder and actual kidnapping and possible death of several people? They will never face a consequence.

Alex Wilson: 'What have you tried to persuade Miss Dendrobia to leave?' Coney: 'The usual cat and mouse. But she won't scare. After the last try she brought Dick Tracy into the situation.' Wilson: 'We may be on borrowed time, Coney. You've had no luck finding Viller's Millions?' Coney: 'No, but too many of his old mob remember his bragging about it being hidden in that warehouse. It MUST be there!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 30th of July, 2020. OK, yeah, but, like, Villiers was operating in the 30s. There was probably some candy bar named “Villiers’ Millions” and it was advertised as the combination bar that filled you up like a five-course dinner served to a member of the Sugar Trust. They sponsored Stoopnagle and Budd for three months in 1934.

Still, it gives underling Howdy a new chance to get rid of Dendrobia or else. Howdy by the way looks rather like Howdy Doody. This makes me think we’re supposed to recognize Coney from something, but I don’t know what. He looks generically like an ice cream mascot but that could just be good character design. He also doesn’t look anything like the iconic “Tillie” caricature of Coney Island showman George Tilyou, which knocks out the other obvious association.

Howdy gets some information from Bookworm, which might be a shout-out to the Adam West Batman. With that information he drives over to On The Fastrack and kidnaps Dendrobia’s fiancee, Guy Wyre. Howdy gives Dendrobia the ultimatum: get her boss (Rose Trellis) to let go of the warehouse and she gets Guy Wyre back.

And, the 9th of August, Sam Catchem meets up with Sleet. Catchem knew her back when she was a racketeer and paid $500 to kill him. So it’s nice they’ve gotten past that. What relevance it has to these proceedings is unknowable as of Sunday. (He was getting information about Wyre’s kidnappers.)

This catches you up to mid-August 2020. If you’re reading this after about November 2020, or want what Dick Tracy news I come across, I may have something at this link. Thank you.

Next Week!

I look through a couple months’ worth of Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley, unfortunately still in reruns for the dailies. I believe at least some of the Sunday strips are new, but haven’t checked. I’ll let you know what I find.

And one last note. Over on my mathematics blog I’m spending the rest of the year explaining one mathematics term at a time. I’m leaving a lot of mathematics terms un-explained. But you might like what you see. Thanks for reading.

Vintage Phantom: I can see Aunt Elsie’s point


I like to think I’m a good audience member. Like, I’ll try to accept the premise, best I can. My best is maybe not as good as the author hopes, but if I can see where the conclusion follows from the premise, I’ll agree the problem is me getting stuck, not them. Also, I’m aware that the conventions of storytelling, even in comic strips, have changed over the decades. That the author has a point of view and trusts that most readers will default to that point of view, at least while reading.

So, in ComicsKingdom’s current vintage daily Phantom story, written by Lee Falk and illustrated by Wilson McCoy, Diana Palmer’s aunt Elsie is visiting. And she’s learning about this strange masked man from a jungle cave whom her niece is delighted by. She tries to Mary Worth her niece into dating someone more acceptable, a rich athlete name of Jack.

Diana's aunt/caretaker Lily, explaining The Phantom: 'He wears a mask and a strange suit .. and lives in a cave in the jungle ... ' Aunt Elise: 'This is Diana's boy friend? You keep the big guest room --- my room --- for him? What it has no furniture --- except two straw mats? And why is the window open on a cold day like this?' Lily: 'Diana always leaves it open. That's the way he comes in. We never know when he'll come. He doesn't use beds. He sleeps on the mat. The other one's for his wolf.'
Lee Falk and Wilson McCoy’s The Phantom for the 26th of June, 1953, and reprinted the 6th of August, 2020. I know it’s 1953 in the strip here, and a long-distance phone call to say “I’m going to be in town Thursday” could take upwards of six days and the involvement of three battalions of the Signal Corps and maybe the ionosphere allowing for long-distance radio bouncing. But still: Why does The Phantom need a suburban house’s bedroom window to be left open? Are we supposed to believe The Nomad kept him at bay for ten years by latching the little plastic handle on the sash?

And, yeah, I know The Phantom’s a good guy, and Diana knows he’s a good guy, and all the readers know he’s a good guy. And that Jack’s being presented as … maybe not conceited, but at least a bore. But, still … yeah, when Diana’s aunt Lily lays out the facts of the matter like this? There are some flags.

60s Popeye: Spare Dat Tree and where it lost me


We’re back with Jack Kinney studios this week. The story is again by Ed Nofziger. That usually signals some genial weirdness. The animation director is Ken Hultgren. Don’t have a large enough sample to say what to expect there. I was on edge when I saw the spelling of “dat”, but I suppose they were trying to approximate how Popeye would say “that”. The title’s referencing a poem and song — “Woodman, Spare that Tree!” — published by George Pope Morris in 1837. I only know it from the occasional cartoon that references it, and a song adaptation that Phil Harris did.

With that all introduced, here’s Spare Dat Tree.

I believe I’ve adequately documented how I was a weird kid. I was in fact as many as three weird kids stacked on top of each other. I do remember something weird about this cartoon bothering me as a kid. It bothers me today.

The cartoon starts at Popeye’s Boring Suburb House. We’re saved from that by it being a Swee’Pea “tell me a story” frame. In this, a nature story, Popeye’s the forest ranger and protects two monarch trees, each five thousand years old. Brutus — a Brutus, the cartoon notes, as if it were an occupation — comes to chop down the trees. Eventually Popeye gets to eating some spinach … some wood spinach, that I guess is its wild counterpart(?) … and punches him to the state capitol, in Poland.

The trees are presented with faces, and voices, done by Jack Mercer and Mae Questel. It would be a cute riff on Popeye and Olive Oyl’s voices if I thought it was a choice. The cartoons only had three voice actors. And there is this strange dreamy circularity to their dialogue. Especially the Queen Tree’s asking the King if it hurts and the King answering variations of “only when I laugh”. Little exchanges, though, like the Queen Tree fussing about how cute Ranger Popeye is, share that light dreaminess. Also the Queen Tree telling the King to get back down here, once he’d been blown into the air, and his wearily agreeing to comply.

It’s a small thing but Ranger Popeye spends a lot of this cartoon squinting angrily. It’s a good look.

Scene showing Brutus having burrowed underground, and having dug open a tunnel wide enough to chop the subterranean trunk of the King Tree.
By the way I was surprised to see that Jack Mercer’s credited for the old male tree’s voice since I did not expect him to do that good a job sounding different. But then I remember he was tagged to do a lot of old-man voices for Paramount cartoons. Still, this tree put me in mind of Allen Swift’s portrayal of Simon Bar Sinister, which maybe better shows you how long it’s been since I watched Underdog.

What bothered me as a kid, and bothers me today, is after Brutus goes underground to cut the King Tree. (And that’s a good loophole-joke way around “no logging on these grounds”.) Brutus succeeds! He cuts the tree the whole way through. And I knew there was no coming back from that. I would accept the trees talking with Popeye and maybe Brutus. I accept unquestioningly Popeye’s spinach-induced super-strength. Also the tree trunk going a good eight feet underground instead of being roots. But that all the tree needs is to be set back in its hole?

Every story depends to some extent on suspending disbelief. Many of these are small things, like stories reaching a clear resolution. Or they’re things that we accept if we’re taking in the story at all, like how spinach makes Popeye even more super-strong for a while. Why was “the giant talking tree just needs to be set back in the ground again” too much ask of me? I don’t know.

I’m sure if Popeye had fed the tree spinach then I’d have accepted it. That would have made good sense.

Statistics Saturday: Apollo Astronauts who are also former producers of The $1.98 Beauty Show


As requested by Garrison!

  • Gordon Cooper [ Apollo 10 backup; producer, 1979-80 season ]
  • Bill Anders [ Apollo 8 prime crew; associate producer, 2012 mini-webisodes revival (three episodes out of the four produced) ]
  • Chuck Barris [ snuck aboard Apollo 15 as part of the stamp cover scandal; executive producer, full 1978-80 run of original show ]

Reference: Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, Tom Shachtman.

In which I wish to return the unused portion of this dream for a full refund


I know not every dream will be some bonkers adventure with John Larroquette and the Muppets. Or that it will turn out I spelled “John Larroquette” right on the first try, considering I have spelled Cincinnati wrong so many times my spell checker will not even flag the wrong version anymore. Nor will they all involve high-ranking nudists barging through or even necessarily being chased by something so frightening that I cry out in a haunting, half-paralyzed voice that wakes my love. But.

Last night? I dreamed that I noticed I had more money than I expected in my savings account, and since I was all caught up on bills, I transferred a thousand dollars over to my IRA. Did this go wrong in some way? No, not at all. It took like three steps, and the computer responded “right”, and all was done. It wasn’t even a frustration or futility dream. It was just a dream about telling a computer to move one number to a different column and succeeding.

I hate to complain to the Commissioner of Dreams, especially since I need most of my workdays to fight with Nintendo about getting them to fix my Switch, but this? This is just … there is nothing dream-appropriate about that.

Some more things to say about The Story Of Brick


To get back to The Story of Brick, as told by the American Face Brick Association. I don’t want to over-sell the joy I feel in this book. I know these are hard times. Maybe things that bring me a little cheer are intensified. Still, I think there is a lot to enjoy here.

There’s a stretch of book trying to show what the different brick-laying styles are. In the text this is done by pictures. The eBook reader that for some reason gave me this, though, puts some of them as text. So it’s full of weird ASCII art. Like, here:

The Common or American bond, in order to secure transverse strength of wall, can be treated in a way to produce pleasing effects, as may Fig 7.

m
	ZZ3EZ~]C~Z3CZZI]CZrj.
	Fig. 3.
	Common
	ME
	oc
	:es3c
	U^r

The Flemish bond (Fig. 5) is secured by

mi
	nm
	immzznm
	izmmz.
	DCZS3
	IIEE3E
	nnc

Header Diamonds

|/>)(\(//-/>
<<|//-<-\|<|(\-///\\)|)--</>
())((//<-<
(-/(<\|/-(|(
/(>>/()|-->
(\))|(()(/|-->|/)-->)>>-)||</\/\|(|/<((<|/-(\\|)-)/\>-(>|/)\
	

Herring!

               .-_|\
              /     \
      Perth ->*.--._/
                   v  <- Tasmania

And despite that fine presentation of good new LinkedIn passwords for me, it just runs a picture for “Chimney Top”. I know what a chimney top looks like. I have one on my house. At least I did last time I checked. It’s been a while.

OK, I’m back. Yes, my chimney top is still there, along with all the chimney middle. You may mock me for checking that nothing had come along and swiped my chimney top without my knowing, but I remember that this is the year 2020. You know what would be stranger than something stealing the tops of chimneys of otherwise untouched buildings? Every single day since the 14th of January.

I don’t fault the book having a pro-brick agenda. I’m sure there’s a comparable book from the American Wood Shingles and Shakes Association that keeps pointing out how lousy bricks are. This if the shingles and shakes people get along. But the enthusiasm this book brings to bricks sometimes paints weird scenes. For example, remember the Great Baltimore Fire that destroyed over 1,300 buildings in February 1904? Me neither but I’ve only over driven through 1904 on the way to 1908 or 1894. Yes, I’m a Coxey’s Army hipster. But the American Face Brick Association notes “there was something saved, however, for a special committee … reported that between 200,000000 and 300,000,000 usable brick worth $5.00 a thousand were recovered”.

So now this paints a scene of a time when “brick” was the plural of brick? Maybe it was a character-recognition error. No, but they do this all over the book. All right. Let me move on.

So this also paints a scene of Baltimore, smashed by a catastrophic fire. Through the smoldering ruins, though, a civic leader stands up. I’ll assume his name was “Archibald”, since that’s an era when civic leaders had names like Archibald or Edwin or Vernon or all that at once. “It is not all lost, my fellow Baltimoreans,” cried Archibald, holding up two pretty good brick in his right and one fractured brick in his left. “There is merchantable salvage comprising a million and a half of dollars of brick here!” I bet his news was greeted with deep, impressed looks from the survivors picking through ruin. I bet they shared their joy and brick with him. And then Archibald interjected, “Herring!”

So it’s a good thing to know there were a quarter-billion still-usable bricks in Baltimore in 1904. It shows what kind of a craftsman I am that actually using them seems like maybe more effort than they’re worth. Of course, what they’re worth was a million and a half dollars, according to Archibald Edwin Vernon. That is a lot of effort to not go to. It’s just I think of my own uses for used bricks.

There’s one set behind the microwave so we don’t push it up against the wall when we press the door-release lever. There’s a brick I use to get a crowbar in the right place, when I do my annual prying-open-of-a-window-some-cursed-former-resident-painted-shut. There’s one we keep in the basement, next to the stairs, so that we can stub our toes if that hasn’t happened already. I think if we stretched our imaginations we could use as many as two more brick.

So that covers a market for five used brick. This leaves 1904 Baltimore with needing to find applications for only a quarter-billion more brick. They could solve this by building more houses, sure, but that’s still 40 to 60 million houses to use up all that brick. It makes one wonder what they were doing with all those brick in the first place.

Herring!

Statistics July: how July 2020 treated Another Blog, Meanwhile


I say that, but I always mean how the readers treated Another Blog, Meanwhile. And by “treated” I mean “looked at one or more pages”. That’s what I’m really here for. Page views and the chance to think of a good joke about Prince Valiant, since nobody else is.

According to WordPress’s counter, in July there were 4,175 pages read here. It’s nice to see that above four thousand. It’s also above the twelve-month running average of 3,911.4 page views. These views came from 2,447 unique visitors, which is higher than the 2,260.6 running average.

Bar chart of about 30 months' worth of readership figures. The July figures are rising after a slight drop in June. There was a peak in April.
The tease to ‘accept payments for just about anything’ is a nice sentiment but it’s not as though I was turning away payments before. The trick is getting anyone to give me money for doing the stuff I have fun doing.

There were 95 things liked in July, which is a bit below the average of 100.3, but at least if my figures are representative, people don’t go liking stuff on WordPress anymore. I get about two-thirds as many likes as I did a year ago, and this with more page views and unique visitors. There were 35 comments given, gratifyingly above the average of 21.8, though.

So regarding the most popular posts: I’m getting a little tired linking to that months-of-the-year-in-reverse-alphabetical-order one. So I thought I’d just list the top five posts from July here. That’s a fine idea except there was a three-way tie for the fifth-most-popular piece, so, fine, have seven links. I’m glad that this includes at least one of my long-form pieces and also a Statistics Saturday piece. It gives a little more balance to things.

I should probably do something to account for, like, a post the last day of the month that gets most of its views the next month. But that’s getting to be a little too much work for me.


Where do my readers come from? For July, they were from 82 countries, a bit above the 77 that I’d seen in June and in May. 28 of them were single-view countries, which is up from the 20 of June and of May. Here’s the roster:

World map showing the United States in deepest red, most of the Americas, South and Pacific Asia, and Europe in a more uniform pink, and few countries in Africa or central Asia with any readers.
I missed my goal of getting all the nations formerly part of the Federal Republic of Central America: no readers from Costa Rica or El Salvador last month. Maybe next time!
Country Readers
United States 3,044
India 301
Canada 155
United Kingdom 131
Australia 78
Brazil 40
Finland 38
Germany 33
Sweden 29
Spain 25
France 24
Italy 22
Norway 18
Philippines 15
Austria 14
South Africa 14
South Korea 10
Portugal 9
Taiwan 9
Argentina 7
Indonesia 7
Ireland 7
Mexico 7
New Zealand 7
Poland 7
Netherlands 6
Singapore 6
Belgium 5
Colombia 5
European Union 5
Guatemala 5
Kenya 5
Peru 5
Denmark 4
Malaysia 4
Zambia 4
Bangladesh 3
Hong Kong SAR China 3
Japan 3
Nigeria 3
Russia 3
United Arab Emirates 3
Albania 2
Belarus 2
Czech Republic 2
Dominican Republic 2
Jamaica 2
Oman 2
Paraguay 2
Saudi Arabia 2
Switzerland 2
Thailand 2
Turkey 2
Venezuela 2
American Samoa 1
Barbados 1
Bermuda 1
Botswana 1
Brunei 1 (*)
Chile 1
China 1
Croatia 1
Cyprus 1 (*)
Ecuador 1
Egypt 1
Estonia 1
Honduras 1
Hungary 1
Israel 1
Jordan 1
Kuwait 1
Lebanon 1 (*****)
Mali 1
Mauritius 1
Nicaragua 1
Pakistan 1
Puerto Rico 1
Romania 1
Slovakia 1 (*)
Ukraine 1
Uruguay 1
Vietnam 1

Brunei, Cyprus, and Slovakia got a single view two months in a row now. Lebanon has had a single page view for each of six months in a row now. I’m not sure whether my longest streak is seven months or what, but that’s one of the longest single-reader streaks out there.


I’m continuing my plan for stuff to write this coming month. A long-form essay posted Thursday evening, Eastern Time. A Statistics Saturday piece posted Saturday evening, Eastern Time. More Popeye cartoons on Sunday evenings. And on Tuesday evenings What’s Going On In the story comics. My plan, barring special circumstances, is to cover the story comics in this order:


As of the start of August I’ve posted 2,738 things. These have drawn 179,564 page views from 101,044 unique visitors. Sorry to have missed you, visitor #100,001. You should have said something. In July I published 15,701 words, for an average of 506.5 words per posting in the month. And that brings my words per posting average for the year down to 541.

I’m happy to have more readers, if you know anyone who’d like to be one. You can subscribe through WordPress by using the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button. Or you can put the RSS feed for posts into any reader you have. This includes free accounts at Dreamwidth or Livejournal, if you don’t have anything else. You can add an RSS feed to your Dreamwidth page from https://www.dreamwidth.org/feeds/ and to your Livejournal friends page from https://www.livejournal.com/syn. I also announce new posts on my @nebusj Twitter account, that I can only sometimes post to manually. So if you need to contact me use literally any other method, including asking people you know if they happen to know me. It’s that bad, but somehow, too low-priority for me to sort out or just use a different web browser on. Sorry.

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? Wait, Aleta is Queen of the Witches? May – August 2020


Yeah, she said on Sunday that she’s Queen of the Witches. That she’s a witch hasn’t come up much lately. But when Valiant first saw her he was enchanted, and they teased a while about whether that was literal or figurative. And she’s done magic stuff lately. I don’t know if this Queen of the Witches thing is established or whether that’s a bluff, though. So that catches you up on Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant as of early August 2020. If you’re reading this after about November 2020 there’s likely a more up-to-date plot recap at this link.

Also on my other blog I’m explaining words from the mathematics glossary. No promise of comics there, but you might find something interesting. Thanks, and now back to the time of King Arthur.

Prince Valiant.

10 May – 2 August 2020.

Prince Valiant and team were just outside Camelot, dealing with local issues. Imbert, local landlord, died. His son Gareth died shortly after. The suspect: Afton and Audrey, with whom Imbert was quarreling about some land. Sir Gawain had arrived in the story to sort that out, but he hasn’t been much use to anyone. The locals figure Afton and Audrey are witches, what with how they have good crops and aren’t dead of the plague. Valiant’s son Nathan believes the women are good students of nature and learned how to farm.

Audrey lead Valiants and Nathan to the cave, key to the land dispute. Some say it contains eternal youth. What it mostly has is bats, loads of guano that are indeed good fertilizer. Valiant also notices it has a curious yellow ore, and he keeps a sample.

Audrey had brought Nathan and Val to the bats' cave, with the task of gathering fertilizer for her and Afton's gardens. As she and Nathan put their backs into shoveling the bat droppings, Val peels off to look farther along. He finds strata of tin ore running along the walls --- not uncommon in this part of Arthur's kingdom. And there is another stratum. This of a dull yellowish color, which angles down into the spring waters. The prince digs out a chunk of the yellowish ore and inspects it closely --- suddenly he believes he has found the answer to the mystery surrounding this place. He returns to assist the shoveling and the loading of the guano. When the wagon is full, the three begin their return ... while in the dark thickets outside Afton's cottage, menacing figures skulk forward. Next: The nightjar.
March Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 24th of May, 2020. This made me wonder whether guano is something you really have to gather at night. But then I guess at night most of the bats will be out, so you don’t have to worry about disturbing them? So I guess that’s an advantage? So anyway, if you somehow didn’t know what kind of person I am, now you know, it’s “person who wonders about the best guano-gathering practices because of reading a comic strip”.

Meanwhile the villagers have had enough of this, and attack Afton and Audrey’s cottage. Gawain tries to defend it, but he’s just one person, and not main cast(?) I guess(?). Afton escapes being feathered. But the mob burns her cottage. Valiant sees this and races to the scene. He bellows that the women are innocent and he can explain the deaths. As soon as they get back to Imbert’s estate, anyway.

The proof is in Imbert’s kitchen. The cook recognizes Valiant’s ore. It’s arsenic. This gives Schultz and Yeates the problem of having characters who think this is a good thing not advise newspaper readers to take poison. Valiant settles on saying how “it is rumored to aid good bodily health”. So Imbert was stealing ore from the cave, and taking it for his health. But Valiant knows arsenic is a poison, used “by assassins in the court of a distant land”. So Imbert arsenic-poisoned himself. Gareth, trying to have the same meals as Imbert, had the same poison.

With Val having solved the mystery of Imbert's death, Gawain announces his verdict to the gathered villagers: 'Matter the first: the royal archives prove Afton's claim on the land in question. Lord Imbert had no right to take possession of anything on Afton's land. Matter the second: Afton and Audrey are blameless in the deaths of Imbert and Gareth. Imbert's theft from Afton's land was responsible for his and Gareth's inadvertent deaths by poison. As the representative of the court of Camelot, I forbid any further persecution of these two women!' Then, unexpectedly, Aleta's voice rises above the crowd's murmuring 'You have accused Afton and Audrey of using witchcraft for evil purpose but I assure you, they are no more witches than are any of you! I know this because I am a witch! A witch queen from the far south! And these are my familiars, who will watch and assure that no harm comes to those I protect!' The crowd gasps as two huge creatures suddenly appear at her call! Next: the greater fear
March Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 26th of July, 2020. Aleta’s not a stupid woman. So we must ask, then. What are the experiences she has had which make her believe this is an effective way to protect women reputed to be witches?

Gawain reports that the royal records confirm Afton’s claims on the disputed land. Also, that Imbert and Gareth’s death was their own fault, and there’ll be no further persecution of Afton and Audrey. Aleta steps in to support Afton and Audrey against the claims of witchcraft. She declares their innocence and she would know, as she’s Queen of the Witches. She summons her raven familiars to put Afton and Audrey under her protection. Aleta thinks she’s helping. Our heroes leave. They trust Afton and Audrey will have a good time next week, when I look at Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy.

Next Week!

You know, I did get the Prince Valiant plot summary finished way ahead of deadline. I should be getting to work on the Dick Tracy plot recap like, four days ago. Well, shall try to have that for next week. Thanks for reading.

There’s nothing particular going on with the comic strip _Buckles_


[ Edited 12 May, 2021 to add ] The comic strip Buckles is being archived and rerun at GoComics. No word on exactly why it ended, although the cartoonist mentions having ideas for new projects.


[ Edited 8 April 2021 to add ] Everything below was true when I wrote it, in August 2020. Since then things changed. The comic strip ended abruptly in March of 2021. I have not yet heard why Buckles ended. Nor have I heard whether it was the choice of cartoonist David Gilbert or the syndicate or both. Should I learn anything I will pass it along.


Like I say, there’s nothing particular going on with David Gilbert’s comic strip Buckles. Not that I’ve heard about, anyway. This isn’t at all important but there’s been so much comic strip news around here lately I felt like it’s a shame not to keep it going.

Dog sitting up, panting, then starting to growl and finally 'ARRRGH!' as his fur gets all ruffled up and he lurches around, monster-like. Jill: 'There's a full moon tonight, Paul.' Paul, pointing towards the dog, 'Yeah ... I saw the werewolf in the hall.'
David Gilbert’s Buckles for the 3rd of August, 2020. So, you know, have fun.

60s Popeye: Frozen Feuds to warm the Goonish heart


This week’s is another Jack Kinney-produced cartoon. The story’s by Eddie Rehberg, who also did the direction. And layout. It suggests possibly a story that reflects an individual vision. Or a disaster as a writer is pressed to direct, or vice-versa. (Or, perhaps, a disaster but because a writer wanted the experience of directing.) Let’s see how Frozen Feuds works out.

Elzie Segar liked creating weird animals for Thimble Theatre. Two and a half of them stuck in the pop culture. The half is the Whiffle Hen, who’s mostly remembered by people who want to show off they remember what Popeye’s first line in the comic strip was. Eugene the Jeep is the big success. And the last is Alice the Goon. She got introduced as a terrifying minion to the Sea Hag, then defanged a good bit when it was revealed she was a guh guh guh girl. Goons got one appearance in the Fleischer-era cartoons, and somehow didn’t rate more mentions. Alice got her first animated treatment in the 60s cartoons and I’m curious now whether this was the first-produced cartoon with her.

It’s a fair introduction to her. Goons may be fearsome-looking creatures, and in Goonland they’re quite the menace. But Alice is gentle, even genial. It’s the kind of clash between appearance and personality that can really drive a story. Also about 80% of Harvey Comics protagonists. That said: does she need so much introduction? I don’t remember that she needed much setup in other appearances. She just was, and we accepted that she looked strange. On the other hand, if you have a good character why not give them a rollout?

(Yes, I remember Goon With The Wind, although that was produced by Gene Deitch. And it’s a different design for Goons. If any of them are Alice it doesn’t show.)

The story feels like it drifted between the original idea and completion. Starting out with a Vaguely Claghorn-like senator promising to rid Alaska of the critter ruining their tourist trade. If you accept the hypothesis that a strange humanoid cryptid would hurt the tourism industry. It’s an interesting premise, though: 1960 was just before the Bigfoot legend really caught on. But it was several years after the Abominable Snowman legend got big enough for, like, Sir Edmund Hillary to explore whether there might be a Yeti in the Himalayas.

Popeye, making finger-gun poses, walks past Alice the Goon. Alice is sprawled out on the ground, one arm on her hips, holding a rose in her mouth, and looking hopefully at Popeye.
Look, fine, if you want my DeviantArt account you can have my DeviantArt account, just stop creeping on my DeviantArt account.

Olive Oyl gets a good long earwormy song telling the legend too. It seems seems to make the Senator’s speech (to who?) unnecessary. But then we finally swing into action and get an Alice sighting. Popeye saying that’s just Wimpy, who ducked out after writing a stack of IOUs. Olive Oyl asking how come she’s turned white, then? So Popeye’s off to find Alice.

Which is then where we turn from a cartoon about a menace to a goof. Olive Oyl wants the Goon’s hat. Alice is smitten with Popeye and tries to get his attention. He misses her wholly, until she finally tosses a note tied around a rock at him. Oh, and now Popeye can understand Alice and arranges a trade, his picture for her hat. Olive Oyl’s thrilled with the hat. Popeye’s picture is actually pictures of him on TV. Alice sings us out of the cartoon. The Senator’s promise goes unresolved.

It’s an odd shift and I wonder what motivated it. A serious search for an exotic creature is fine. A goofball search for an exotic creatures is fine. Why patch them together? Did Rehberg start out writing one way and find there wasn’t enough story, then try the other? Really, if the Senator’s introduction were cut out the cartoon would flow with a reasonable if dreamy logic, and there’d be some more time for Alice flirting with Popeye. Was Rehberg just too fond of the Claghorne pastiche to cut that?

Once again I’d love to know more of how these cartoons were made.

Some nice animation bits I didn’t have a good place to mention: when Olive Oyl sings her song, she gets her foot caught in a spitoon and tromps around in that. She slides when she steps with that foot. It’s a touch you never see done in cheap made-for-tv cartoons like this. And later, when Olive Oyl tells of her horror at seeing the Goon, we see her head from front-on. Her head’s swinging clockwise and counterclockwise, while her mouth stays fixed. It’s eerie and unnatural and I believe that’s a deliberate creepy wrongness to it.

Statistics Saturday: Some British Spellings


  • colour
  • glamour
  • sacked
  • popcourn
  • web brouseur
  • fourty
  • gaolatin
  • newspapre
  • forego
  • Naency
  • flavour
  • manikin
  • Aengland

Reference: We Freeze to Please: A History of NASA’s Icing Research Tunnel and the Quest for Safety, William M Leary.