What’s Going On In Alley Oop? Why was Lady Worthington killed? January – March 2021


Hasn’t been revealed yet why someone wanted to kill Lady Worthington at this dinner of inventors she’d summoned. Or why she summoned them. The obvious supposition is money, but the truth may be something sillier.

This should get you up to date on Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the end of March, 2021. If you’re reading this after about June 2021, there’s likely a more up-to-date plot recap here. The link also will have any news about the comic strip which I notice.

Alley Oop.

3 January – 27 March 2021.

Alley Oop, Ooola, and Doc Wonmug had contracted a case of shrinking last we saw. This after getting zapped by shrink rays several times over. They first settled in at paramecium-sized. Then spontaneously re-shrank to bacterium-sized. Then to DNA-sized. Then into the subatomic, coming to be the size of quantum strings. Also, in the Alley Oop universe, it turns out string theory is right. Once shrunken so, though, they meet someone.

Wonmug, Ooola, and Alley Oop meet a bald humanoid figure wearing a long robe, against a blank white space with closed dotted loops scattered around. Wonmug: 'So, Plank, who are you?' Plank: 'I'm just Plank. I'm ageless, genderless, and timeless. I'm infinite and nothing all at once.' (He turns into an octopus.) 'I don't even have a set physical form. I can be anything I want.' Alley Oop: 'Whoa. Can *I* be you?' Plank: 'No, friend. But you can have this cool scarf I made out of quantum strings.' Alley Oop: 'That's even better!'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 19th of January, 2021. I liked Plank, who was a consistently pleasant character. They didn’t have the snarky or mean streak that so many Lemon-Sayers characters do. I imagine they’ll be back, and hope they keep this otherworldly niceness.

Plank seems to be a pleasant, all-knowing, mysterious entity. They’re able to show Our Heroes the wonders of alternate dimensions and the Theory of Everything and all that. And then it’s time to shrink some more. And what happens when you shrink smaller than anything can be? That’s right: you end up bigger than galaxies. Like in that ancient science fiction short story. Plank guides them to shrinking all the way back to Earth, and their proper size again. Wonmug hopes to chat physics with Plank some. Alley Oop and Ooola dash back for home.


They get home the 2nd of February and get exciting news: Garg is getting married! He doesn’t know to who. He’ll find out at the ceremony. Also everybody else is getting married too. Why is everyone marrying at the same time? The Mighty Feather, their new spiritual leader, decreed it. So that’s looking creepy and evil, however much everyone denies their evilness, in unison. Also, the Mighty Feather talks about how everyone needs to jump in the volcano tomorrow, so this needs action.

Alley Oop, wearing his thinking-feathers cap: 'Maybe I could pretend to be the Mighty Feather.' Ooola: 'That will never work, Alley! You don't look anything like her!' Alley: 'Maybe you're right ... ' Moo resident, walking past: 'Excuse me, Mighty Feather, thank you for sharing your infinite love with your flock.' Alley, standing proud: 'It's all about the confidence.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 11th of February, 2021. Lemon and Sayers’s Moo is really developing this Springfield/Pawnee vibe for the mob picking up a goofy obsession of the week.

Alley Oop puts on his thinking feathers and realizes, why not pretend to be The Mighty Feather, cult leader, and guide Moo back to normal? And it turns out that’s all anybody needed. The story wraps up the 17th of February.


From the 18th the new, and current, story starts. They get an invitation to a “gathering of geniuses” at the palatial estate of Lady Worthington. The butler greets them, with a warning against “the butler did it” jokes. She’s gathered the finest minds in the world as she’s lost the key to her safe full of riches and needs help. Alley Oop finds it underneath a fake rock in the bureau, so on to a nice after-mystery dinner.

Lady Worthington, at the table: 'I must confess there is another reason I summoned you all here. I ... ' (Click; the panel goes dark. The lights return.) Alley Oop: 'That was weird.' Wonmug: 'Gasp! Lady Worthington is *dead*!' (She's slumped on the table, with a knife in her back.) Alley, looking away: 'Pfft. Why would she summon us here for *that*?' The butler looks in from the distant door.
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 6th of March, 2021. And, look at that last panel. You can’t say they weren’t playing fair with the audience about who the killer was.

At the dinner it turns out all the guests but Ooola and Alley Oop are inventors. As Our Heroes ponder this strangeness, Lady Worthington admits she gathered everyone for a second purpose. Then the light flicks out a moment. When it comes back, Lady Worthington is dead, stabbed in the back.

It’s easy to solve a murder when you have a time machine like Doc Wonmug. The time machine won’t work. Another inventor has a post-mortem communicator. It doesn’t work. Another inventor has a reincarnator. it doesn’t work. Nor does the robo-cloner. Alley Oop’s club even acts weird. Wonmug deduces the presence of a Faraweek cage, interfering with the workings of technology.

Our Heroes explore the manor and find the Faraweek cage in the basement. Ooola snips the correct wire and all the technologies become available. The reincarnator, for example, is able to bring Lady Worthington back to life, only to die again of her stab wound. The post-mortem communicator gets Lady Worthington’s spirit demanding that nobody get her money and hangs up. The robo-duplicator produces a dead robot Lady Worthington. Finally we get to the time machine.

Wonmug: 'We've traveled to right before Lady Worthington was killed. We should be able to see what happens and stop the murder.' They see the Butler stepping in, knife in hand: 'Heh heh, I sure do love a perfectly planned murder, that is virtually unsolvable.' He's startled to see Alley Oop (wearing a Sherlock Holmes hat) in his way. Butler, turning and walking way: 'Like I said, just going to go watch old episodes of 'Murder, She Wrote'.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 27th of March, 2021. Alley Oop picked up the Sherlock Holmes hat as he got into solving this cozy mystery the old-fashioned way. I enjoyed seeing him be enthusiastic in this little weird way.

So, yes, the butler did it. And since they went back in time and interrupted the murder, Lady Worthington now isn’t dead and we get another bit of timeline-changing.


In the Sunday strips, there was one Little Oop comic where Penelope took herself and Alley Oop back to Moo. This teased a resolution of the scenario where Little Alley Oop’s in the present day. But it wasn’t followed up on the next week. So there’s not a real story resuming there.

Next Week!

What’s got a lucha wrestler police deputy chief from Mexico breaking into a Rhodian prison? Who is Towns Ellerbee and where has he got off to? Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom (weekday continuity) gets a recap, if things go like I hope.

Some nostalgic thoughts about a path not taken


Just idly thinking back to that time around 1989 when Tiny Toons debuted. And I thought it would be a fun episode if they did a spoof of Back To The Future, starring Plucky Duck, that they’d call Duck To The Future. Never worked out what all would happen with it, except that the final scene would definitely be whoever the Doc stand-in is warning Plucky, “It’s your sequel! Something’s got to be done about your sequel!” That’s not a lot of anything, but, you know? That’s probably all about as much as the premise needed.

60s Popeye: The Green Dancin’ Shoes and worrying news about the Tasmania spinach crop


I’m not reviewing Westward Ho-Ho, which is the next cartoon in this series. That cartoon’s one in which Popeye tells of grandpappy sailing his prairie schooner to the West. Along the way he Pappy faces peril from the Cleveland Indians and the Milwaukee Braves. These are presented as tribes of Brutuses. They throw baseballs at Pappy; he bats them back. That’s unreal enough I was considering doing the cartoon anyway. But then Pappy’s ragweed allergy gets him sneezing — second cartoon in a row where sneezing comes into play — and he sneezes all the way to China. Where he faces a Chinese version of Wimpy who talks like 1960-era children’s cartoon writers would figure funny. And that crossed my poorly-defined lines. I’m not being paid enough to write up cartoons that offend me.

So the next one in line is The Green Dancin’ Shoes and it … also has a character get to China. And also see the Chinese Wimpy. He gets one line and gets out of the cartoon. I don’t know why Jack Kinney (producer) figured we needed this. But it’s small enough that I don’t feel a nope-out is appropriate. If your lines are harder than mine, you’re right, and you might want to skip this one.

The Green Dancin’ Shoes is a 1960 production from Jack Kinney. Story is by our old friend Ed Nofziger and animation direction by Ken Hultgren.

This is another cartoon using the frame of Popeye telling Swee’Pea a story; here, a “Popeye Fairy Story”. A Popeye Fairy Story is like a regular fairy story except people eat spinach. Here, it’s a version of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Red Shoes. This makes maybe three adaptations of the Anderson fairy tale I’m aware of in one decade. The other two are the Porky Pig cartoon The Wearing Of The Grin (1951) and the Donald Duck cartoon Trick or Treat (1952). The last maybe stretches a point, since Donald doesn’t wear shoes and doesn’t dance. But, like, Witch Hazel enchants Donald’s feet to move against his will. Anyway none of these adaptations pick up anything from the original story — not even red shoes — except the protagonist losing control of his or her own feet.

Within the story, Olive Oyl is a dancing fiend, wanting to do nothing but this big, silly move that Swee’Pea and everyone else asks, “That’s dancing?” Story-Popeye brings a gift, the kind that’s really for him: the “last can of rare Tasmanian spinach”. This seems like an ecological tragedy to me. But it gives Sea Hag a reason to want the rare spinach: she’ll use it to make Popeye be a pirate for her. Put that way it sounds daft, but I get where everybody’s coming from here. Apart from the story’s Popeye. Olive Oyl is not a hard person to shop for here. He shouldn’t be getting this wrong.

Olive Oyl, wearing the Green Dancing Shoes, bounds happily out into the forest.
How it started …

So now’s a good moment for a question: why is this framed as a Popeye Fairy Story? Why have Popeye read the story to Swee’Pea instead of having this be the things that are “really” happening? I guess Popeye cartoons tend to be set in the present day, instead of the generic fairy-tale past. But that’s not a hard rule, not even among King Features cartoons of the 60s. It’s not to keep magic out of the “reality” of Popeye’s and friends’ lives. The Sea Hag and a bunch of magic characters and items (not even counting spinach) are a part of the setup. The biggest advantage the frame offers is that the cartoon can skip dull parts of the story. Or Popeye the narrator can fill in exposition with a sentence to Swee’Pea. But that’s not relied on here either. It seems like they used the frame because they had it already.

Here’s a point where the frame maybe hurts things. Once Olive puts on the shoes, the Sea Hag enchants them to never stop dancing. Olive Oyl needs about four weeks to realize this is happening. But why does the Sea Hag do this? She got the spinach she wanted, and Olive Oyl’s enchantment doesn’t seem to be part of getting Popeye to do her bidding. If this all “really” happens, then the Sea Hag’s action can be justified. She was too caught up in the fun of making mischief to realize this wasn’t helping her. But as part of a story Popeye is reading — well, why did story-Sea-Hag make this mistake? That is, why didn’t the author of the book Popeye is reading work out the Sea Hag’s motivation there?

Yes, I know; Ed Nofziger wasn’t being paid enough to work that out. Fair. And, after all, a story about dancing shoes where the shoes don’t start dancing is even more flawed. I suppose framing this as a story allows Story-Popeye to fight the Sea Hag. The Real Popeye would have to fight her vulture, who’d need to be in the rest of the story. So the framing does save the screen time and animation budget Bernard would need.

Olive Oyl, wearing the Green Dancing Shoes, is strapped in a hole that the shoes keep digging deeper and deeper, while she cries out for help.
How it’s going.

Still, it’s trying to catch the out-of-control Olive that gets Popeye to run into the Sea Hag. And get the spinach from the Sea Hag, this while Olive’s shoes dig a hole that takes her all the way to China. We get that view of Chinese Wimpy who is, at least, reasonable in not understanding what he’s seeing, and leaves.

Popeye’s able to pull the shoes off Olive, thanks to eating his spinach. They get back home, punching a pile of rocks off, and the Sea Hag gets trapped in her own shoes and dancing into orbit.

This is, Chinese Wimpy aside, a fun cartoon. I enjoyed watching. I enjoyed Olive’s tuneless song to herself about dancing, dancing, dancing. It feels spontaneous and bubbly, with the spirit of children singing their delight at whatever they were doing already. I grant other people may hear Mae Questel tunelessly repeating the word dancing dancing dancing. Would still like reassurance there’s a future for Tasmanian spinach, though.

Statistics Saturday: Star Wars Movies versus Star Trek Movies


Bar chart showing the count of Star Wars and of Star Trek movies, per year, 1977 to 2020. Star Wars has a lead from 1977 to 1985; after that Star Trek takes the lead and never loses it again, although by 2019 Star Wars comes close to tying it.
Not pictured: that special 75-minute extended cut of The Omega Glory that Gene Roddenberry adapted from the original Star Trek to play in theaters in Italy and France in 1969 alongside the View-Master reel, nor The Ewok Adventures and Ewoks: The Battle For Endor, made for TV and aired in 1984 and 1985.

Reference: Anxious Decades: America in Prosperity and Depression, 1920-1941, Michael E Parrish.

In Which I Am Very Petty About The Suez Canal


Yes, I understand that everyone is intrigued by that ship that’s blocked up the Suez Canal and messing up the weeks of so many logistics people. It’s all good harmless fun until it turns out everything you need is going across Antarctica by sled horse because that’s the least-bad alternative remaining. But this has got everybody going out and learning about containerized cargo and, dang it, I’ve been the nerd who knows things about Panamax and Malaccamax and all that.

Photograph of the front cover of Brian J Cudahy's _Box Boats: How Container Ships Changed The World_. It shows a container ship with stacks of boxes atop it, sitting in a harbor.
And, again, this is not my only book about containerized cargo. It’s just the only one I can get without having to stand up and walk to another room.

It’s not fair to have a bunch of johnny-come-latelies rushing in on my turf. If only there were some way to block them up somehow or delay their talking about TEUs and other intermodal transport terms.

Photograph of the back cover of Brian J Cudahy's _Box Boats: How Container Ships Changed The World_. It's full of the sort of cover press one might expect. It also has the price label from Borders Book Store, US$29.95.
And just to show you I’m completely in earnest, here’s the back cover of my personal copy of Brian J Cuday’s Box Boats: How Container Ships Changed The World. Yes, that is a price sticker from Borders Books, thank you, so you know I didn’t just grab this book off eBay twenty minutes ago, thank you.

MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Raccoon, Conclusion


I decided to write a concluding host sketch for my MiSTing of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale Of Fatty Raccoon. It’s just the Brains aboard the Satellite of Love. If I ever did reassemble these chapters into a full, complete, MiSTing, I might rewrite or replace this.
https://nebushumor.wordpress.com/tag/fatty-coon/


[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. TOM zips in, wearing a nightshirt, cap, and an eye mask over his transparent dome. CAMBOT is close on TOM. ]

TOM: I’ll change, I’ll change, I’m not the raccoon I was! [ Looking to the opposite corner of the screen ] You there!

[ CAMBOT pulls back, revealing GYPSY in front of the desk, at the corner of the screen ]

GYPSY: Me?

TOM: What day is it?

GYPSY: What day? … Why it’s Thursday.

TOM: Thursday! Then I haven’t missed it! The spirits must have done everything in one night!

GYPSY: Uh-huh.

TOM: Well, of course they can, they’re spirits — Tell me, Farmer Green’s house, does he still have those turkeys there?

GYPSY: The ones as big as me? They’re still there.

TOM: Quick, run there and tell them I’m not going to eat them! Do it in less than five minutes and I’ll give you half a crown!

GYPSY: Uh-huh.

[ GYPSY leaves the frame; CAMBOT pans back in on TOM ]

TOM: [ Sing-song, dancing about ] Oh, I don’t know anything, I never did know anything, I don’t know anything … I need to … I need to stand on my head!

[ TOM wiggles a bit and, of course, does not ]

TOM: I *don’t* need to stand on my head! … Oh, oh, to work, now. To setting things right.

[ TOM zips off-camera, and reappears with a decent coat and a hat on. As he crosses the desk, the off-camera voice of CROW becomes audible. He’s singing ‘Barbara Allen’. TOM comes up to MIKE, who’s holding a feather duster and wearing a ruffled collar to evoke a maid. TOM looks wistfully out of frame, in CROW’s direction. MIKE gently takes TOM’s hat, smiles the tiniest bit and nods, and steps out of frame. CAMBOT pulls back to reveal CROW, wearing rabbit ears, and pink eyes. CROW is singing and whooping it up in front of an imaginary party. ]

CROW: [ Singing ] For love of Barbara Al — [ Abruptly stopping ] Uncle Fatty!

TOM: Jimmy … is it too late to accept your invitation to dinner?

CROW: Too late? Too late! I’m delighted, Uncle Fatty. [ Talking to the air ] Brother, look who it is!

TOM: Can you forgive a pigheaded old fool? For clinging to my soreness about the barber shop thing? For not visiting you recovering from your pink eye?

CROW: Of course, dear Uncle! Oh, bless you, you’ve made me and my brother [ waving his arm out to nothing ] boundlessly happy!

TOM: Yes, Jimmy. You … [ looking to the camera, shaking his head ] … and your ‘brother’. [ He looks down, sad, a moment ]

CROW: Jasper, a polka! o/` Pol-i-tics and foreign wars! o/`

[ Music; CAMBOT focuses in on TOM as the light dims and he moves back to the original side of the desk. After a short while, the lights come on again. MIKE, holding a pitchfork, enters from the opposite side of the screen. ]

TOM: [ Surly ] Farmer Green! You’re late! What do you mean coming in this time of day? Mmm?!

MIKE: [ Baffled ] I’m … sorry?

TOM: Well, we won’t beat around the bush. I’m not going to stand for this sort of thing any longer; I have *no alternative* but to raise your corn. …

[ MIKE shows no sign of understanding any of this ]

TOM: Oh, I haven’t taken leave of my senses, Green. I’ve come to them. I’ve seen what my gluttony, my selfishness, my pettiness has done. I — I want to try to help you and that boy Johnnie of yours. No one should grow up without benefit of raccoon.

MIKE: [ Jabbing TOM with the pitchfork ] Shoo! Shoo, raccoon! Go on! Get out of here!

TOM: No! Wait! I’ve learned the errors of my — Ow! Ow! Stop! I know what —

[ MIKE jabs a bit more ]

TOM: These spirits showed me how my refusal to connect —

MIKE: Git on home!

[ MIKE connects with the pitchfork again; TOM moves away, eventually going off-screen ]

TOM: Stop it! We could make viral videos together!

MIKE: Crazy old forest animals. Don’t know what gets into …

TOM: [ Simultaneously ] I HOPE YOU GET EATEN BY A FLIVVER!

CROW: [ Leaning into camera ] God … bless us? Everyone?

                            | 
                         \  |  /
                          \ | /
                           \|/
                         ---O---
                           /|\
                          / | \
                         /  |  \
                            | 

Mystery Science Theater 3000, its characters, its setup, and whatever else I’m overlooking are the property of someone who isn’t me. Satellite of Love, LLC, I guess. Arthur Scott Bailey’s _The Tale of Fatty Raccoon_ is in the public domain and so *does* belong to me, and to you, and to anyone else who wants to create something new that brings joy to the world. So now you go out and bring some world-joy with all this. No pressure. But start … *now*.

> “Ho, ho! That’s a good one! That’s a good joke!” The tramp
> raccoon laughed heartily.

What’s Going On In Spider-Man? When will you stop covering Spider-Man? December 2020 – March 2021


I figure to stop covering Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man the end of August. The current, Ant-Man, story, has ended. Peter Parker and Scott Lang (Ant-Man) take the subway home from Egghead’s mansion because they forgot they rented a car to drive there. Then we learn Mary Jane’s Broadway play is closed for a few more weeks. The theater’s getting more repairs. But there’s publicity for her film Marvella 2: The Quest For Peace to do. They go driving off to Los Angeles and along the way meet Rocket Raccoon and Ronan T Avenger. In its original run this story ran from the 20th of November, 2016, through the 30th of April, 2017. I make that out as 24 weeks, which is one week out of phase with my 12-week comic-strip cycle.

The end of that story is when I first started covering story strips regularly here. So that’s when I’ll bow out. That unless they rerun stories I haven’t covered, or they put the strip into new production. I don’t expect either case to happen, but this is a strange world we’re in. Still, any news about the Spider-Man strip should be posted here. And I have six months to figure out what to do with my content hole here. I’ll take suggestions.

The Amazing Spider-Man.

27 December 2020 – 21 March 2021.

The Daily Bugle has a new publisher since the death of J Jonah Jameson’s cousin Ruth. It’s Ruth’s widower, Elihas Starr, who’s known to Ant-Man as the villain Egghead. Starr demands Peter Parker get photos of Ant-Man. Why? Peter Parker doesn’t know. He guesses Ant-Man might know what Egghead’s up to. He doesn’t know the current Ant-Man, though. He only knows Dr Henry Pym, the original Ant-Man. So he takes the subway way out to the end of the world to the scientist’s lab.

The lab is deserted, and trashed. Spider-Man breaks in, and gets punched over and over by an invisible and intangible opponent. It turns out to be Scott Lang, the current Ant-Man. He’s staying small and unshrinking long enough to sucker-punch Peter Parker. Not even out of suspicion for anything. Newspaper Spider-Man has such big punchable-sucker energy nobody can resist.

Spider-Man: 'I didn't turn Hank Pym's lab into a war zone. I just got here.' Ant-Man: 'Me too. When I saw somebody crawling in the window, I figured I'd check him out.' Spider-Man: 'So you didn't turn invisible in between slugging me?' Ant-Man: 'No. I just shrank real small. It's what I do. [ Shrinking out of frame ] Like so!' Spider-Man: 'Stop *doing* that! It freaks me out.'
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s Amazing Spider-Man rerun for the 5th of January, 2021. Spider-Man’s a couple days out of having to deal with Dr Strange’s nonsense and the Nightmare dimension, and this guy clowning around is freaking him out? I guess when you reach your limit, you crash hard against it.
The punching satisfies the Ritual of Super-Heroes Fighting When They Meet. Ant-Man doesn’t know what Egghead’s deal is either. Given the state of the lab, they guess someone kidnapped Dr Pym. Egghead’s the obvious suspect. So they go to J Jonah Jameson’s penthouse, guessing that he’d know where his cousin Ruth lived, and that’d be the place to hide Pym. Not sure I agree with the logic there — have they considered the Abandoned Warehouse District? — but they have to use what leads they have. Spider-Man stays outside, figuring Ant-Man is the one who could avoid raising Jameson’s ire. It goes well.

[ Spider-Man waits impatiently, on the balcony ] Spider-Man; 'How long can it take Scott Lang to explain the situation to Jameson? All he has to do is find out --- ' Ant-Man, inside: '--- where Elihas Starr lived when he was married to your cousin Ruth!' Jameson: 'Why do you need to know?' Ant-Man; 'Hank Pym --- my predecessor as Ant-Man --- has vanished, and we think Starr's behind it.' Jameson: 'We think? Who's 'we'?' Ant-Man, shrinking: 'Uh --- I don't --- I meant --- my ants and me!' [ Getting on a winged ant to fly away ] 'Mr Jameson, I'd like you to meet Huey, Dewey, and Louie!' Jameson, grabbing his shotgun: 'ANTS - in my bedroom? GET OUT OF HERE --- and take those SIX-LEGGED PESTS with you!'
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s Amazing Spider-Man rerun for the 24th of January, 2021. There’s a recurring bit this story where characters bring guns against insects, or insect-size humans. This seems like the worst way to try killing a bug to me but maybe there’s aspects of ant-killing I don’t understand.
Still, they get an address, and plant the idea that Jameson might come into the story later and save our heroes from an impossible fix. You know, in case that comes about. They rent a car, drive out to the estate, break in, and set off an alarm that sprays them with shrink gas. It’s not one that Ant-Man can reverse, either. The modified shrink gas also shrinks Ant-Man’s strength from that of a Man to that of an Ant. Egghead vacuums them up, which is the kind of thing that keeps miniaturizing superheroes from achieving dignity. The shrunken heroes pass out in the vacuum because it’s a modified vacuum cleaner, okay? And wake to find themselves encased in plastic blocks. And Dr Pym tied up and bound to a chair right next to them.

Tiny Spider-Man, encased in a box: 'Okay, so you were after Hank Pym's Ant-Man formula. But why'd you scheme to get control of the Daily Bugle?' Egghead: 'I'll need to launder all the money I'll be paid for that formula ... and who would suspect that a newspaper was being utilized for that purpose? .... Too bad Jonah Jameson's COUSIN RUTH had to get in the way!' Tiny Spider-Man and Tiny Ant-Man, similarly encased, exclaim shock and surprise.
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s Amazing Spider-Man rerun for the 16th of February, 2021. Egghead’s plan could only be detected if there were something weird about newspapers earning large sums of money. … In hindsight maybe he should have tried hiding the money by getting one of those suspicious used-car lots that are never open and where all the cars are labelled NOT FOR SALE but they change over every three weeks anyway.

So now it’s time for Egghead to explain his deal. he figured to steal and sell Pym’s shrinking formula. He wanted the newspaper as a way of laundering the sale money from this. He’d have been fine just romancing Ruth Jameson if he could have controlled the paper through her. But she wasn’t having any of that, so he married and killed her instead. And since Egghead was going to be busy with this, he assigned Peter Parker to photograph Ant-Man and so keep Ant-Man preoccupied.

Spidey breaks loose, and Egghead tries to shoot the shrunken heroes. This doesn’t work. Egghead instead sprays Pym with the new shrink gas, reducing him even beyond the Ant-Man norm; Our Heroes leap into the gas cloud to join them. They have to fend off a spider, which they do by using a Spider-Man and also a convenient wasp.

Miniature Spider-Man lunging at a relatively giant-sized (normal) spider: 'I'm the only one of us three who can handle that arachnid --- because I've got the proportionate strength of a spider' Miniature Hank Pym: 'Yes, but so does it! And it's way bigger than you, so it's got a lot more OF it!' Spider-Man, already captured: 'Yeah --- guess I should've figured that out --- for myself!'
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s Amazing Spider-Man rerun for the 2nd of March, 2021. Spider-Man isn’t very good at being tiny.

They also have to fend off Egghead’s modified bug-bomb. Thing is Pym never goes anywhere without enlarging gas. Even when he’s kidnapped by supervillains and tied up and sedated. Lucky, huh? And then J Jonah Jameson arrives and whacks Egghead in the egg with a lamp. Egghead recovers enough to repeat his boast that he killed Ruth Jameson. So now there’s four witnesses to Egghead boasting that he killed his wife. And there’s the camera Spider-Man planted in the corner when none of the readers were there. Its photos may well show Egghead trying to shoot, spray, and set on the shrunken Pym, Ant-Man, and Spider-Man. That should be good for prison, right?

The camera, by the way, we saw Spider-man planting outside the estate. Ant-Man commented on this as how Peter Parker got such great action shots of Spider-Man. On the 21st of March Spidey explained to Ant-Man that he brought the camera inside while Egghead was unconscious. This in the hopes of getting incriminating pictures. Also, Jameson would like to know why Spider-Man’s taking pictures of Spider-Man. There’ll be some quick rationalizations and that trip back home.

Next Week!

There’s a murder mystery with a room full of scientists, and a weird effect keeping technology from working right! Yes, it’s time travel, shenanigans, and time-travel shenanigans. Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop comes back to my attention. See you then, then.

In which I apologize for not opening up more


I’d like to share my thoughts with you, but a lot of those thoughts are a continuous-play loop of the theme song to forgotten Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Cattanooga Cats, so you probably don’t want that. I’m sorry.

60s Popeye: The Big Sneeze (warning: sneezes not all *that* big)


Today’s is another Gerald Ray-produced cartoon. Direction is credited to Tom McDonald and there’s no story credit. I can tell you it’s copyright 1960, at least. So here’s The Big Sneeze.

This is not an Abominable Snowman cartoon. It’s circling around the idea, though. I guess Popeye cartoons come closer with the Alice the Goon cartoon Frozen Feuds. But Popeye, Swee’Pea, Olive Oyl, and a St Bernard are out enjoying the mountain peaks and playing with the echo and all that. I thought the St Bernard might be the dog that turns up in Hy Eisman’s Popeye strips on Sundays, the one whose name I can’t remember. His name is Chester, in Hy Eisman’s take on things. Or Birdseed, in earlier Thimble Theatre comics and comic books. Anyway neither seems to be the dog here, who gets called Bernie.

The story’s this amiable, mostly nonsensical stuff going on. While Popeye is off skiing, figures unknown swipe Olive Oyl’s new raccoon coat. She storms off, following it, to a little door on a cliff side. There she’s encased in ice and captured by Jackson Beck doing his French Guy accent. Popeye, Swee’Pea, and the dog follow the tracks and Swee’Pea gets caught in ice too. We meet the mysterious figure: it’s Quasimodo, the Halfback of Notre Dame.

This is an identification aimed at kids smart enough to know there’s something called the Hunchback of Notre Dame. And who are so pleased that the cartoon acknowledges they know of such a thing that they don’t care the reference makes no sense. So I thank Gerald Ray for thinking of young me. Also adult me.

Bernie the St Bernard breaks into an ice-covered cave. Inside Olive Oyl and Swee'Pea are frozen into blocks of ice, and Popeye and Quasimodo are encased in snow.
Popeye wasn’t really worried about being trapped in snow until he noticed he was shaded in graphite and didn’t have animate eye holes, the mark of being immobile for the whole scene.

Quasimodo’s the echo of Echo Peak. He stole the coat for good reason: this is the first time he’s been warm in years. Why not light a fire? Quasimodo shows, by lighting a fire, which melts enough of his ceiling that everybody gets frozen. At its worst, this gets him to sneeze, get buried in an avalanche, and be lost until spring, which cuts into his work as an echo. Fair enough. And then Quasimodo pours water over Popeye to freeze him until spring. Popeye protests he only has a two-week vacation (from what? Or is that the joke?).

Everything works out basically nicely, though. Bernie’s able to dig in and pour spinach into Popeye’s pipe. He punches Swee’Pea and Olive Oyl free of the ice, and she grabs her coat back. And Olive Oyl has a plan for Quasimodo to get warm. Bernie goes off and gets little collar-casks of spinach for him. Happy ending for everybody.

This isn’t a zany cartoon. It’s more silly, with a few doses of wacky humor like making the menace be Quasimodo the Halfback of Notre Dame. It feels rather like a comedy sketch about the Old Man of the Mountain that Popeye and company got cast in. I’m amused by it all, anyway.

Statistics Saturday: Some imaginary _Star Trek_ movies


  • Star Trek: Revolution
  • Star Trek: Blackbird
  • Star Trek: Nobody’s Child
  • Star Trek: Nowhere Man
  • Star Trek: The Night Before
  • Star Trek: Yesterday
  • Star Trek: Across the Universe
  • Star Trek: Tomorrow Never Knows
  • Star Trek: Here, There, and Everywhere
  • Star Trek: Octopus’s Garden
  • Star Trek: She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
  • Star Trek: I’m Happy Just To Dance With You

Reference: The Gutenberg Galaxy, Marshall McLuhan.

MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Raccoon, Chapter XX


And now, dear patient readers of my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction, I bring you the end of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale Of Fatty Raccoon. This has been fun to do, for me at least. I tel you truthfully I do not know what I’ll do here next week. These MiSTings have been good for me, in that they’ve been nice manageable things carrying me through a stressful time. Leaping right into another Sleepy-Time Tale might be a bit much, though. We’ll see.

Although this concluding chapter largely stands on its own, it does lean a bit on something from Chapter X, which you can read here.

And this and all the chapters of Fatty Raccoon’s adventures are at this link. I have not yet gotten around to editing the earliest chapters to revise his last name to Raccoon; I intend to. And the earlier chapters lean into fat jokes, which I regret.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy.


> XX

TOM: The departure of Xander Cage.

>
> THE TRACKS IN THE SNOW

CROW: o/` Go round and round, round and round … o/`
[ MIKE puts his hand on CROW’s shoulder.]

>
> One fine winter’s day Fatty Raccoon

MIKE: Who *had permission* by the way. He wasn’t just swiping days off of winter.

> came upon the queerest tracks
> in the snow.

CROW: It’s just the Gay and Non-Binary Rail Road. No big deal.

> They were huge—a great deal bigger, even, than
> bear-tracks,

TOM: Maybe they were Big Bear tracks? Did you think of that?

> which Fatty had sometimes seen, for once in a while,
> before the weather grew too cold,

MIKE: After the weather grew that tall, though.

> and he fell into his winter’s sleep,
> a bear would come down into the valley from his home on Blue Mountain.

CROW: That is a lot of comma-splicing.

MIKE: Everybody’s got to have some writing quirk.

>
> But these were six times as big as bear tracks.

TOM: Is that six times in diameter or in area?

MIKE: Six times in popularity.

> And Fatty felt
> a shiver of fear run up and down his back.

CROW: I won’t believe he’s scared until his tail spirals like a barberpole, just like in the cartoons.

TOM: Jimmy Rabbit?

>
> He followed the trail a little way. But he was very careful.
> He was always ready to scramble up a tree,

CROW: Bringing his frying pan, some melted butter, a little shredded cheese, some onions and chopped peppers and he’s set to scramble a tree for you.

> in case he should suddenly
> see the strange animal—or rather, in case the strange animal should
> see HIM.

MIKE: The strange animal’s the only creature in the forest who doesn’t hate Fatty!

>
> The great tracks led straight toward Farmer Green’s house.

CROW: [ As Fatty ] Farmer Green has one of those walking houses?

> And
> Fatty did not want to go there.

TOM: Too many painful memories of saying something awkward.

> So he hurried home to ask his mother
> what he had found. Mrs. Raccoon listened to Fatty’s story.

MIKE: [ As Mom ] This is more of a scenario than a story, Fatty. Where’s insight into how people act?

>
> “I think it must be the monster that almost caught me in the
> road last summer,”

TOM: Ooooooh, yeah.

CROW: Oh, this is it! This is where all the threads of Fatty’s life come together!

> said Fatty, meaning the automobile that had given
> him a great fright.

MIKE: It wasn’t that *great* a fright. Just a pretty good fright.

> “Maybe he’s come back again to catch Farmer Green
> and his family … Do you suppose he’s eaten them up?”

MIKE: [ As Mom ] Oh no, child. When Farmer Green’s eaten it’ll be by finance capitalism pushing him into debt and stripping the right to own his equipment or even his seeds, at the same time industrialism demands ecologically suicidal chemical spraying alongside climate change.

>
> Mrs. Raccoon was puzzled. And she was somewhat alarmed, too. She
> wanted to see those strange tracks herself.

TOM: Mrs Raccoon doesn’t get to do a lot of fun things for herself anymore.

> So she told her other
> children not to step a foot out of the house until she came back.

ALL: [ As Fatty’s siblings ] Yes, Mom … *again*.

MIKE: You figure Fatty ever has to stay home while Mom deals with Fluffy’s issue?

> And
> then she asked Fatty to run along and show her where he had come upon
> the monster’s trail.

CROW: [ As Fatty ] It’ll be easy to find because I left it on the ground!

>
> Fatty Raccoon felt very important,

MIKE: From his moustache on down.

> as he led the way across the
> swamp and into the woods. It was not often that he could show his
> mother anything.

TOM: He’s been showing her something every two chapters all book!

> And he was so proud that he almost forgot his fright.
>
> “I guess you’re glad I have sharp eyes,” he said, as they
> hurried along.

MIKE: Fatty’s got a smooth technique in fishing for compliments.

>
> “If the tracks are as big as you say they are, your eyes
> wouldn’t have to be very sharp to see them,” his mother told him.

TOM: Ouch!

CROW: Major smackdown from Mrs Raccoon.

> Mrs.
> Raccoon never liked to hear her children boast. She knew that boasting is
> one of the most unpleasant things anyone can do.

CROW: Next to eating potato chips with your mouth open.

>
> “Well—maybe you don’t think I saw the monster’s tracks at
> all,” said Fatty.

TOM: [ As Fatty ] Maybe I don’t even exist! Mom, you’d tell me if I didn’t exist, right?

> “Maybe you don’t think I heard him screech—“

CROW: [ As Mom ] I think you think it’s important whether you think I think you heard him screech.

TOM: [ As Fatty ] Yeah! … … What?

>
> “When did you hear him screech?” Mrs. Raccoon asked. “This is the
> first you’ve said about SCREECHING. When was it?”

MIKE: Was it in the screechery zone? We can get them ticketed if they were outside the screechery zone

TOM: Fatty showed his Mom the monster last summer! Why doesn’t she know about the screeching?

>
> “Last summer,” Fatty answered.

TOM: [ As Mom ] Last summer?! How long did you *take* to get home?

>
> Mrs. Raccoon didn’t smile. Perhaps she was too worried for that.

MIKE: She’s trying to figure out. How does this involve the Tramp Raccoon, Jimmy Rabbit and his imaginary brother, Jasper Jay, Farmer Green’s son, and a flivver?

>
> “It may not be the same monster,” she said. “It may not be a
> monster at all.”

CROW: [ As Fatty ] Don’t tell me it’s our own ids being projected against us *again*!

>
> But by this time Fatty was sure he was right. He was sure he
> knew more than his mother.

TOM: Ah, raccoons that age, think they have the whole world figured out.

>
> “Why can’t we go right over to Farmer Green’s and take some of
> his chickens?” he asked.

MIKE: Why *mayn’t* we go right over to Farmer Green’s and take some of his chickens.

> “The monster has probably eaten him by this
> time, and all his family, too.”

TOM: Feels like Fatty is being an accelerationist with this monster issue.

>
> But Mrs. Raccoon would do no such thing.

CROW: [ As Mom ] ‘That’s a Snuffy Smith thing to do, child. We stay classy.’

>
> “Show me the tracks,” she said firmly.

TOM: She wants to get some prints for Raccoon Scene Investigations.

> And so they went on
> into the woods.
>
> “There they are!” Fatty cried, a few minutes later.

MIKE: Told you they were in the ground!

> “See,
> Mother! They’re even bigger than I said.”

CROW: Oh no, the monster’s gaining weight!

> He heard a funny noise
> behind him, then. And when Fatty Raccoon looked around he saw that his
> mother was actually holding her sides, she was laughing so hard.

TOM: Literally a funny noise.

>
> “Those are Farmer Green’s tracks,” she said,

CROW: And over here is Farmer Green’s beatboxing.

> as soon as she
> could stop laughing long enough to speak.

MIKE: This seems funnier to Mrs Raccoon than to me.

TOM: Thing is this dialogue is a complicated pun in Raccoon.

>
> “What—as big as that?” Fatty pointed at the huge prints in the
> snow.

CROW: [ As Mom ] Oh, you’re right. Not as big as *that*. Say hi to the monster for me, bye!

>
> “Snowshoes!” Mrs. Raccoon said.

TOM: Is she explaining or is she avoiding a cuss word?

> “He was wearing snowshoes—great
> frames made of thongs and sticks,

CROW: [ Snorting ] Thongs?!

> to keep him from sinking into the
> snow.”

CROW: Between the thongs and the tank-ini he’s completely safe!

>
> So that was all there was to Fatty’s monster.

CROW: Thongs, a tank-ini and a great big set of novelty sunglasses.
[ MIKE puts his hand on CROW’s shoulder. ]

> Somehow, he was
> disappointed.

TOM: Fatty was looking forward to being eaten by a monster.

> But he was very glad he had said nothing to Jasper Jay
> about his strange animal.

MIKE: [ As Groucho ] Weeird animal.

> For if he had, he knew he would never have
> heard the last of it.

CROW: Is it Jasper or is it Fatty who’s holding on to the turkeys thing?

TOM: Jasper Jay will be portrayed today by Ben Murphy.

>
> And Fatty was glad about another thing, too.

MIKE: [ Holding his arms up for attention ] Oh, oh, here it is, guys. The thesis of the book! What we should know about life as a young raccoon in the wild!

> He felt very
> happy that his mother had not let him go after Farmer Green’s
> chickens.

MIKE: [ Clapping ] A message for all time!

>
> THE END

TOM: *That’s* what we end on? That’s *all*?

CROW: There’s also that cute ringed tail dangling from the end, that’s something.

>
> End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Sleepy-Time Tales:

MIKE: THIS IS YOUR FINAL WARNING.

> The
> Tale of Fatty Raccoon, by Arthur Scott Bailey

TOM: Imagine if after all this we learn his name’s Scott Arthur Bailey, would that be wild or what?

>
> *** END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE TALE OF FATTY COON ***

MIKE: OKAY, THIS! *THIS* IS YOUR FINAL WARNING!

TOM: Let’s blow this popsicle stand.

CROW: Done.

[ MIKE picks up TOM and ALL file out. ]

[ And we’re done! See you next time, whatever that is! ]

What is it like to be a Beatle?


Sorry to be distracted like this. I just got to wondering, like, how often does Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr, like, just freeze up in the kitchen and think, “I was in the Beatles! And now here I am, peeling an orange! How does something like that happen?” I’m assuming that they occasionally peel oranges. The only reason I can imagine they wouldn’t is if they don’t like oranges. I realize that no life can be all transcendant experiences, but, you know,every now and then Buzz Aldrin must think, “I walked on the Moon and here I am peeling a banana. How?”

I guess it’s a good thing that the biggest thing that ever happened to me was sneezing on the President of Singapore or I’d never be able to handle the small stuff.


By the way, over on my other blog I looked at the Pi Day comic strips. How many of them were about serious mathematics and how many were about pie? The answer may surprise you!

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Why was Neddy angry at Godiva? December 2020 – March 2021


Godiva Danube is dead, killed by April Spencer just days after Neddy had a huge public fight with her ex-friend. The fight was over accusations that Danube had been manipulating Neddy their entire relationship. One problem with the Neddy-versus-Godiva fight is that it key elements were retconned in.

The relationship-wrecking catastrophe was the start of Francesco Marciuliano’s run on Judge Parker. This was the collapse of a clothing factory Danube and Neddy Spencer were opening. It fell into a sinkhole right in front of the press, particularly local reporter Toni Bowen. The factory idea was the last story of former writer Woody Wilson. Wilson had a lot of stories where people lavished riches and wealth and good fortune on the main characters. Here, for example, Danube had pressured her ex-boyfriend and head of Europa Aerospace to just give her the factory site. I have no doubt that Wilson meant the giving to be sincere. (On the characters’ part. When I re-read strips from that era I suspect Wilson was having fun seeing what it would take to make an editor say that was a bit much.)

Godiva Ghost: 'If this is how you really felt, then why didn't you tell me? I was always straightforward with you.' Neddy Spencer: 'Why is it always the biggest liars who say they're straightforward? You lied in plain sight --- to family and friends --- as if nothing mattered but what you wanted. We all suspected you were getting money from some drug lord you were cheating on Rocky with to fund the factory. We all stayed quiet. That's our fault. Because it's hard to realize the person you love can only love themselves.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 25th of February, 2021. This should bring Neddy some peace except she has the same argument in her head, in bed, for at least 25 minutes before falling asleep every night.

Marciuliano has put into the backstory that “everyone suspected” Danube was running drugs. Or otherwise cheating on people to fund the project. Danube did flee after the sinkhole, on Marciuliano’s watch. Her relationship with Neddy collapsed then. We saw all that. But wanting to flee a disaster like that is human enough. And it’s hard to see how the sinkhole could be blamed on Danube or Neddy. If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s whoever failed to survey the grounds properly. Or whoever covered up the grounds results. Which would be a decent retcon explanation for why an aerospace company gave up a brand-new factory to a minor movie star and a young woman with money.

Establishing that Danube was a narcissist, though, is no great stretch. She had a job that selects for narcissism. And a problem dealing with narcissists is it’s hard to distinguish between their thinking of you and their wanting you to think of them. (It’s hard to know this for anyone. But when you see the narcissism you realize how much you don’t know the person.) When you suspect a relationship with a narcissist has gone sour, or become abusive, it forces a lot of difficult memory-parsing. Were they helpful at this delicate moment to be kind to you, or to teach you that kindness comes from them? Your answer depends on your feelings about them, and that affects your future answers about how their motivations. It’s always hard to tease out motivations, and when the narcissist is impossible to cross-examine, there’s not much to do but yell in your head.

So this essay should get you up to date on the plot Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for mid-March 2021. If you’re reading this after about June 2021, or any news breaks about the strip, I should have a post here of more use to you.

Judge Parker.

20 December 2020 – 13 March 2021.

When I last looked in, around Christmas, Neddy Parker was planning to go back to Los Angeles and work on script stuff. Sophie was planning to go to New York City and work on school stuff. And young Charlotte was asking whether mommy — April Parker — would be around. Last we saw April Parker she and her Mom were busy with super-ultra-hyperspy assassin murder agent work. Also April and Randy Parker divorced over the whole CIA scandal thing. I’m not sure when or, in the circumstances, how.

Sophie, in masked line at a coffee shop: 'But really, Soph, if you want to make friends, you have to be more open to conversation. You have to meet people. You have to say --- ' (She notices at the front of the line and says aloud) 'Toni?' Toni Bowen, ordering: 'I'll have a venti ... '
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 3rd of February, 2021. Hey, I’ve been in that coffee shop, but it was in Grand Rapids. They sometimes have vegan muffins that kind of work.

Sophie won’t be completely alone in New York City. Toni Bowen will be there too. Her failed bid to unseat Mayor Sanderson drew enough attention for University of New York to hire her to teach a course on local politics. Unfortunately that’s about as not-alone as Sophie gets. It’s hard meeting people at all, and in pandemic times it’s even worse.

With the kids gone Abbey wonders whether she and Sam should downsize. Or even leave Cavelton altogether. She’s lonely, yes. And regrets the bed-and-breakfast, “a money pit” and business the mayor’s determined to make fail. She talks of wanting a change, although to what and where is open.

Sam, sharing coffee while sitting on the cold patio: 'Just because the mayor's company opened a boutique hotel in town doesn't mean he'll get all the business. Some people really prefer a B-and-B.' Abbey: 'What people, Sam? How many customers have we had? We spent all last year fighting the mayor and we lost. I'm exhausted.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 23rd of January, 2021. Does anyone remember not being exhausted? I don’t remember not being exhausted.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Neddy faces several challenges. One is that Ronnie Huerta has a new roommate, Kat. (I’d give her last name but can’t find it.) She’s playing the Neddy role in the April Parker TV series. Kat is very eager to help Neddy move out, shoving hard in that way people who think they’ve figured out how to solve your problem do. But Kat does have some fair observations. The poor little rich girl whose problem is doing her dream job can maybe find an apartment in the second-biggest city in the country. Also that Neddy not doing this writing is screwing up her, Kat’s, job. (One leitmotif in Marciuliano’s writing is characters explaining how one of the main cast looks to people who have to live with them. And how the main cast needs to get over themselves.) While talking this out with Ronnie, Kat lets slip that she wants to spend the rest of her life with Ronnie. That was something they didn’t realize they were ready for.

And Neddy does get down to work work, as opposed to househunting work. The TV producers want Godiva Danube to be a bigger part of the show, so they need Neddy to write more of her. And Neddy is still angry with the dead Godiva. How do deal with that? Hallucination is a good, tested method. That and my favored technique, a good argument with someone who can’t outwit you.

Ghost Godiva Danube refuses to play fair, though, insisting that while she fled, Neddy didn’t chase either. That she had to recover from the disaster herself. That she was “always there for” Neddy. Which Neddy admits, but argues was because Danube wanted to be the star of Neddy’s suffering. The one that guided where it went. Neddy comes out of this convinced that what she needed wasn’t to tell Ghostdiva off, but to face her own anger. And as Ghostdiva storms off, Neddy feels triumphant that she has.

Charlotte: 'Did you hear what I said? I didn't see Mommy today.' Randy: 'Well, yes, Sweetie. Mommy isn't here.' Charlotte: 'But I see her every other day! Why not today?' Randy: 'I'm sorry, what?'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 2nd of March, 2021. I admire Marciuliano’s courage in having a complicated development explained by interrogating a child too young to know how to tell a story. It’s several levels of difficulty, with the kid needing to lack focus but also share information. And that a child that age isn’t necessarily reliable. Unreliable narrators are always hard to do, but especially so in a comic strip. There aren’t many narrative conventions to fall back on, to hint to the readers about what’s wrong and in what ways it’s wrong.

And then the 1st of March started the current and exciting thread. Charlotte Parker, Randy’s and April’s couple-years-old daughter, says she didn’t see Mommy “today”. You know, like she sees her every day. Which was a development catching Randy by surprise. April’s been busy with that super-hyper-ultra-etc assassin agent nonsense. I did see this excite a bunch of comics snarkers pointing out the idea that April Parker had been secretly visiting Charlotte made no sense at all.

The next week of the strip — the last full week, as I write this — showed Marciuliano explaining how this might make sense. That this was going on for only the last two weeks. That April, if it is April, had signalled to Charlotte to keep it secret. That Charlotte could recognize April because they keep pictures of her in the house. And yes, it may be dumb but it’s a recognizable human dumbness. And that they can’t find anything on the security cameras. Randy got rid of the network of security cameras when he realized April had tapped them all. (I’m not sure we saw that it was April and not the super-hyper-ultra-etc spy network that was holding Norton in mega-secret spy hyper-jail.) This implicit threat to take Charlotte does quite good, fast work in driving Randy crazy. But Randy is right that it’s within April’s demonstrated power set to do something like this, even if it is only to mess with Randy’s head. And, as Alan Parker noted this Sunday, they don’t yet know it is April.

Next Week!

I go back to the top of my cycle, for … I think the next-to-last time. It’s Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man repeats, as we about wrap up Ant-Man and get on to Rocket Raccoon.

The comic strip Buckles is ending in like eight minutes


[ 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.


More, and startling, news from The Daily Cartoonist: David Gilbert’s comic strip Buckles is to end this coming Sunday the 21st. The comic strip, about a (talking) dog and his human keepers, is to end four days short of its 25th anniversary.

I’m sorry for this, not just for my regret at seeing any comic strip end. It was a pleasant comic of that style where the animal talks but is still an animal. And I liked the style of art. I’m not sure where I first encountered the comic. It might have been in the Strips weekly newspaper, which in the 90s would distribute … not all, but a broad slate of the weekday comic strips out there. The paper was a great way to discover new or obscure strips; I know it introduced me to Big Nate, On The Fastrack, Safe Havens, and others that have become regular habits. Buckles would have fit right in.

Underneath several panels of art that's all limited-palette, starkly-silhouetted, with low or no outlines, we see a dog posing like a wolf, stalking deer. The narrator: 'Buckles THE CARNIVORE is on the hunt! HUNGER has led him down a BLOODTHIRSTY path! A herd of potential PREY have gathered in a clearing, unaware of their own EXTERMINATION! The great predator readies his ATTACK! DEATH IS IN THE AIR!' A panel of Buckles leaping, wolflike, at the camera, howling. Final panel, the usual light cartoony figures. Paul holds Buckles the dog back from a pile of grocery bags. Paul: 'Oh no you don't! Stay away from the groceries, Buckles!' Buckles thinks: 'Nuts! Thwarted from the side!' Jill tells Paul: 'If somebody had helped me put them away when I asked ... '
David Gilbert’s Buckles for the 14th of March, 2021. One of many appealing bits of business is Buckles’s fantasy life as a savage predator. Gilbert (like many cartoonists) uses the fantasy sequence as a chance to vary up the art style, and show how exciting strips can be with the space and the time to produce them.

I haven’t heard anything about why the strip is ending. Nor why it’s ending with so little notice. If I learn anything it’ll be by reading The Daily Cartoonist, and I’ll pass it on, because that’s less work than writing 800 words about a 60s Popeye cartoon.

In the past Comics Kingdom has dropped all links to discontinued strips. So if there’s any Buckles strips you quite like, you should download a copy now. If there’s any you wanted to buy a print or other merchandise of, too, do that before Sunday the 21st. I don’t know whether links will completely disappear but it is better to be safe.

60s Popeye: Beaver or Not (Popeye’s swimming in air)


It’s several kinds of unusual in today’s King Features Popeye cartoon. The first is it’s a Gene Deitch-directed short. So, unfortunately, there’s no credits given for story or any of the Czechoslovakian animators. Just Deitch and producer William L Snyder. It’s from 1961, also, which I think makes this the first 1961 cartoon that isn’t from Paramount.

And then the distinctive thing: this is a cartoon where Popeye interacts with no other humans. There’s rather few like that. We know where that’s several cautions. But, here we go, Beaver Or Not.

Does Popeye ever think to try giving up when he notices he’s in a Popeye-Versus-The-Animal cartoon? These cartoons never show him at his best. They run against his (inconsistently followed) “be kind to children and dumb animals” ideal. He usually looks like the jerk. He ends up having to give in and letting the animal have his way. And Popeye is one of those characters who recognizes he’s in a cartoon. Does he ever think to jump to the happy ending?

This time around, Popeye’s battling a pair of beavers. Not sure why a pair, other than to give them a reason to say stuff to each other. Popeye doesn’t need an excuse to say his thoughts aloud, but a beaver needs some pretext. Popeye’s gone to a cabin in the woods for his vacation, and the beavers just then dam the river up. He tries tearing the dam apart so he can have his river.

One can sympathize with Popeye for wanting his vacation to be free of nonsense. But the need to draw the beavers as damming the river up right beside Popeye’s cabin damages the ability to sympathize. So, what he has to walk twenty feet upriver to get to the water? This is worth getting upset about? I grant it’ll be annoying paddling his canoe back through the mud to get home. He already had to paddle about eight minutes of screen time to get to his cabin. That’s an annoyance for off at the end of the vacation, though.

An angry Popeye stands in a dried riverbed, scowling at the two beavers sitting atop their dam which blocks it.
Popeye gets partly or fully covered in mud at least twice this cartoon. Getting covered in mud feels like something that happens a fair bit in Gene Deitch cartoons but I worry I’m just remembering wrong.

Like with any Popeye-Versus-The-Animal cartoon, Popeye tries various ways to get the animals to do what he wants. They don’t care. There’s some good cartoon action about batting dynamite back and forth. Popeye finally resorts to his spinach, with the beavers wondering “what’s he up to now?” and shrugging “who knows?” Popeye does take the gentlest approach, at least, lifting the dam out of the way and tossing it aside. Could have been meaner.

But the animals must prevail. They do it by discovering more spinach. (Often the way the animal gets the upper hand on Popeye.) “Let’s try it!” “Why not?” Reasonable. They cut Popeye’s cabin down into the river, for an even more of a dam. And finally Popeye yields to the cartoon he’s in and accepts he has to swim with the beavers or not at all. It’s a happy ending that Popeye could have gotten to sooner if he remembered every past cartoon starring an animal.

It’s all pretty good if you don’t feel like Popeye should be to smart to get in this fight. You know what Gene Deitch cartoons will look like, lots of good funny drawings and a strange soundscape. Sometimes mixed poorly: when he’s done changing Popeye can hear “a sawmill”. I can’t hear it at all. Or working so hard to be funny they don’t quite make sense, as in how the beavers roll around laughing and weightless. They look better for the short segment they’re under water, which is a feat. Usually animating something in the water is the hard part. Solid enough cartoon.

Here are some Popeye-Versus-The-Animal theatrical cartoons:

I bet I’m overlooking some, even besides the hunting cartoons and the bullfighting cartoons. And this is without looking into the many made-for-TV cartoons out there.

Statistics Saturday: Papal Regnal Numbers Over Time, 1900 – Present


Line chart of Papal regnal numbers for each year from 1901 to through 2021; eg, Leo XIII (13), Pius X (10), Benedict XV (15), up to today's Francis (I). Also across this is a red line showing the number has been, on average, decreasing with time.
The red line is the best-fit linear interpolation of these numbers over time. The projection is that if trends of the past 120 years continue then sometime in the year 2070 we can expect a Pope with regnal number of 0.

Reference: Pluto and Charon: Ice Worlds on the Ragged Edge of the Solar System, Alan Stern and Jacqueline Mitton.

60s Popeye: Popeyed Fisherman, which can’t land a whale pun


After a trip into 1961 — and 1936 — with Myskery Melody we’re back to 1960. And to the Jack Kinney studios. This is another cartoon with story credited to Jack Kinney. Animation direction is given to Murray McClellan, a new name in my records here. This is the only time he’s credited as animation director for a Popeye cartoon, too. The Internet Movie Database has him listed mostly as animator, for things ranging from a bunch of Disney shorts through to 60s made-for-TV animation like The Archie Show, the Batman/Superman Hour, and Fantastic Voyage. Also, this is the first I learn that there was a cartoon based on Fantastic Voyage. I don’t know how many stories I expected could be told about a team of heroes who get really small. They made 17 of them.

That takes me off point. But it is a wonder. Here’s the cartoon he has an animation director credit on, though. Here’s Popeyed Fisherman.

This cartoon suffers from coming right after Myskery Melody, I admit. I couldn’t say enough about that one; this is just a normal cartoon. It’s got a nice absurdity. The prompt is that Olive Oyl and Swee’Pea want to learn fishing. Its first joke is given by Popeye in the tag: “inexperience is the best teacher”. For all Popeye’s patient instruction and legitimate-sounding advice about how to fish, Swee’Pea and Olive Oyl are actually able to catch fish. Traditional setup for a fishing joke.

It gets bigger and loopier with fishing from a boat, as Swee’Pea determines to catch a whale. While Popeye instructs them and ignores everything, the boat’s swallowed by a white whale. Popeye finally freaks out, and gets kicked out of the whale. Swee’Pea declares he wants to eat the whale for dinner and Olive Oyl, embracing the daftness, gets out a mop and pail to get ahead on cleaning the ‘fish’. The whale eventually returns to Fishland amusement park, and the cartoon concludes that the whale is Fishland’s somehow and Swee’Pea gets a reward and there we go.

A passed-out Popeye slumped over the tail of a white whale. The whale, on the surface of the water, glides through the sea gate of 'Fishland', clearly some kind of water park; there's a King Neptune figure on the side of the gate. Men along the line of the pier wave their hats and cheer.
Though it’s not my intention to critique the realism of this cartoon, I will say I’ve been fishing twice and nothing like this has happened to me.

It’s easy to claim that any cartoon that doesn’t make sense is ‘dreamlike’. This has a better claim than most, though. It starts from a reasonable, even dull, premise. Going to sea and having weird things happen is an escalation that makes sense. Swee’Pea and Olive Oyl behave daftly once the whale swallows them, but perhaps they’re wiser than Popeye is about how dangerous an early-60s TV cartoon could be. Though what happens is ridiculous, it feels thoughtfully so. It does not make me wonder how the story is supposed to make sense.

MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Raccoon, Chapter XIX


So now I reach nearly the end of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale Of Fatty Raccoon. Again, I don’t know what I’m doing with myself two weeks from now. This chapter is one you can understand without reading much of what’s gone before. It does refer to a loggers’ camp established in chapter 18. But now that I’ve mentioned that, you know as much as you need to from that chapter. Still, that and the rest of Fatty Raccoon’s adventures are at this link. Thank you.


> XIX

TOM: Xixi of Ix.

>
> FATTY GROWS EVEN FATTER

CROW: [ As Fatty ] ‘I thought we were dumping the fat jokes!’

>
> When Fatty Raccoon’s burned feet were well once more,

MIKE: Ah, continuity again. Serial adventures.

> the very
> first night he left his mother’s house he went straight to the
> loggers’ camp.

CROW: [ As Fatty ] ‘I swear if they’re doing Monty Python routines I’m giving them all dysentery.’

> He did not wait long after dark, because he was afraid
> that some of his neighbors might have found

TOM: That sweet Moon that Farmer Green’s son was leaving out.

> that there were good
> things to eat about the camp. And Fatty wanted them all.

MIKE: Fatty’s a big fan of Queen.

>
> To his delight, there were goodies almost without end. He
> nosed about, picking up potato peelings, and bits of bacon.

CROW: Pumpkin scraps.

TOM: Remaindered butter.

MIKE: Irregular porks.

TOM: Off-brand onions.

CROW: Second-hand hash browns.

MIKE: Good-as-new eggs.

> And
> perhaps the best of all was a piece of cornbread, which Fatty fairly
> gobbled.

MIKE: Fairly. He gave the cornbread a chance to get away.

> And then he found a box half-full of something—scraps that
> tasted like apples, only they were not round like apples,

TOM: Ah yes, ‘Fool’s Apples’.

> and they
> were quite dry, instead of being juicy.

CROW: Then there’s the spikes they eject and the wailing of the doomed they emit, but otherwise? Great stuff.

> But Fatty liked them; and he
> ate them all, down to the smallest bit.

MIKE: Animals are famous for liking to eat strange and painfully dry foods.

>
> He was thirsty, then. So he went down to the brook,

CROW: Raccoons are natural problem-solvers.

> which ran
> close by the camp. The loggers had cut a hole through the ice,

TOM: [ As the author ] Uh — did I mention it’s winter? … Because it’s winter.

> so they
> could get water.

MIKE: [ As the author ] Oh and, uh, maybe I didn’t say before but the loggers are all French-Canadian but *not* Catholic. Not sure it’s important, just think you should know.

> And Fatty crept close to the edge of the hole and
> drank.

CROW: [ As the author ] Oh yeah, also remember the animals all wear clown hats, that’s going to be really important next chapter.

> He drank a great deal of water, because he was very thirsty.

TOM: [ As the author ] Sorry, one last thing, they’re all robots who don’t know they’re in a band.

> And when he had finished he sat down on the ice for a time. He did not
> care to stir about just then.

CROW: Lucky thing he’s at one of those newfangled self-stirring rivers.

> And he did not think he would ever want
> anything to eat again.

MIKE: What’s a ‘fangle’ and what makes a fangle ‘new’?

TOM: Um …

>
> At last Fatty Raccoon rose to his feet. He felt very queer. There
> was a strange, tight feeling about his stomach.

MIKE: [ As Fatty ] ‘Am I being strangled by a boa constrictor — *again*?’

> And his sides were no
> longer thin. They stuck out just as they had before winter came—only
> more so.

CROW: Raccoon with attached porch.

> And what alarmed Fatty was this: his sides seemed to be
> sticking out more and more all the time.

TOM: [ As Fatty ] ‘I keep seeing this happen to cartoon characters but never dreamed it could happen to me!’

>
> He wondered what he had been eating. Those dry things that
> tasted like apples—he wondered what they were.

CROW: Bad luck of Fatty that this was the summer of the apple-flavored self-inflating life-raft fad.

>
> Now, there was some printing on the outside of the box which
> held those queer, spongy, flat things.

MIKE:> Oh yeah, there it is on the label: ‘Queer, Spongy, Flat Things to Inflate Your Raccoon’, should have expected that.

> Of course, Fatty Raccoon could not
> read,

TOM: Of course?

> so the printing did him no good at all. But if you had seen the
> box, and if you are old enough to read,

CROW: Arthur Scott Bailey pandering to his audience here.

> you would have known that the
> printing said: EVAPORATED APPLES

TOM: E … Evaporated apples?

CROW: Consolidated grapes!

MIKE: Abbreviated radishes!

CROW: Imaginary corn!

TOM: Dark matter potatoes!

>
> Now, evaporated apples are nothing more or less than dried
> apples.

MIKE: To the lay audience, anyway.

> The cook of the loggers’ camp used them to make apple pies.

TOM: Not to get in good with condensed teachers?

> And first, before making his pies, he always soaked them in water so
> they would swell.

CROW: [ As Logger ] ‘How do the apples look?’

MIKE: [ As cook ] ‘Swell!’

CROW: [ As Logger ] ‘So they’re ready to go!’

>
> Now you see what made Fatty Raccoon feel so queer and
> uncomfortable.

TOM: He missed out on apple pie?

> He had first eaten his dried apples.

CROW: Okay, okay wait, let me write this down.

> And then he had
> soaked them,

CROW: All right, keep laying out the clues, I’ll figure it out.

> by drinking out of the brook.

MIKE: Brook water? What’s wrong with *real* water?

> It was no wonder that his
> sides stuck out, for the apples that he had bolted were swelling and
> puffing him out until he felt that he should burst.

TOM: So evaporated apples take revenge. Got it.

> In fact, the
> wonder of it was that he was able to get through his mother’s doorway,
> when he reached home.

MIKE: Not because of the fatness, because he was out after curfew.

>
> But he did it, though it cost him a few groans. And he
> frightened his mother, too.

CROW: Mrs Raccoon is a long-suffering character this book.

>
> "I only hope you’re not poisoned," she said, when Fatty told
> her what he had been doing.

TOM: Oh, c’mon, where would humans even *get* poison from? Be realistic!

>
> And that remark frightened Fatty more than ever.

CROW: [ As Fatty ] ‘Poissoned? I didn’t even *see* any fish!’

MIKE: [ As Mom ] ‘No, I … you know, I’ll let this one go.’

> He was sure
> he was never going to feel any better.

TOM: This is me whenever I have *anything*.

>
> Poor Mrs. Raccoon was much worried all the rest of the night.

MIKE: Wonder what Fatty’s siblings are up to tonight … ah well.

> But
> when morning came she knew that Fatty was out of danger.

CROW: Aaah?

> She knew it
> because of something he said.

MIKE: Oh, classic Fatty line coming in.

> It was this:

TOM: He’s gonna say it? He’s gonna say it!

>
> "Oh, dear! I wish I had something to eat!"

[ ALL go wild as a sitcom audience, cheering and clapping. ]

>
>

[ To be concluded … ]

The lost opportunity in the Dr Seuss debate


I’m annoyed at all the waste. All this time the past week with people giving bad takes about Dr Seuss books when we could have been having artists draw pictures of us as Dr Seuss characters instead. There’s nobody I know who wouldn’t be delighted to be drawn as Kind Of Walrus-y, I Guess, Maybe With A Pom-Pom. Wearing nothing but gloves, a top hat, and giant bow tie. And if you’re being honest with yourself, you agree. I’m not blaming the artists for this. This is something we have all failed to do.


I am grateful to, and thank, my love for the walrus observation.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Why was that kid going on about the 90s Detroit Pistons? December 2020 – March 2021


The kid, Vic Doucette, was going on about the 90s Pistons because he researched them. He researched them because Coach Gil Thorp referenced them and he wanted to do his job as game announcer well. Not that anything about the Pistons is likely to come up in a Milford basketball game. But a marker of excellence in a field is enthusiasm for its trivia. Doucette’s decided he wants to be an announcer and he is throwing himself wholeheartedly into the role.

This should catch you up to mid-March 2021 in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. If you’re reading the strip after about June 2021 there should be a more up-to-date plot recap here. There’ll also be any news about the comic strip that I learn from reading The Daily Cartoonist.

Gil Thorp.

14 December 2020 – 6 March 2021.

It happens that last time I checked in was the week the story wrapped up. I often feel like these recaps happen suspiciously close to a new story’s start. That’s an illusion created by “close” feeling like “within two weeks, give or take” and that covers, like, a third of my cycle. Still, the new and current story started the 14th of December, neat as I would hope.

We start basketball season. First major player: Vic Doucette. He’s not an athlete, owing to cerebral palsy. He asks Coach Gil Thorp to be the announcer for boys’ basketball games. Thorp is impressed with Doucette’s knowledge of basketball trivia and also his existence as a living body willing to do this job.

Next major player: Shooting guard Doug Guthrie. He has a 1966 Pontiac GTO, which I am informed is an impressive car to have. He’d found and rebuilt it with his dad. And he keeps ducking out for thinks like go-kart races in Florida. Like, real kart racing at 70 mph and so on.

Third major player: Tessi Milton, forward for the girls’ basketball team. And teammate to Corina Karenna, who’s transferred over from volleyball. The girls’ team feels disrespected, relative to the boys’ team. She comes into significance later in the proceedings.

Narrator: 'Milford gets hot, the crowd combusts --- and Vic Doucette fans the flames.' Doucette, announcing: 'Three-pointer by Mark 'Fear Of' Godleski!' Narrator: 'Late 4th Quater, Milford by 1 --- and a collision!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 6th of January, 2021. To get a handle on Doucette’s character: we see him working on these nicknames before the game starts, including things like asking Tessi Milton if “Tessi” is short for anything, so that he can look more spontaneous. That’s a level of professionalism I hope to someday achieve.

Doucette got the job of announcer because he was willing. It turns out he’s eager, though. Enthusiastic even. He works out catchy nicknames for everyone, he rallies the crowd, he shows open and unbridled delight in a high school thing. He goes to away games — where he’s not an announcer — to take notes about the team. He follows Gil Thorp’s mention of the 90s Pistons to study how Ken Calvert announced players, and pick up moves from that work. In short, he shows unbridled interest in a thing. In high school. Vic Doucette is braver than the troops.

At a postgame dinner at The Bucket, Guthrie talks about Doucette’s car. It’s a modified 2004 GMC Safari. The modifications are to help Doucette when he’s having a harder day. They bond over the car talk, though, Guthrie asking about the MV-1, identified as “the first van designed for wheelchairs from the start”. So you know how deep the car thing interests Guthrie.

The girls’ basketball team, meanwhile, wants for attention. Tessi Milton figures to get Vic Doucette to announce their games, too. It’s not a bad plan. In boys’ basketball he’s advanced to running in-game givewaways and stuff that plays well with the crowd. (He’s giving away the hot dog and soda that are his “pay” for announcing. I mention because the strip made a point of mentioning it. I appreciate the craft of that. You can fault Gil Thorp for many things, but it does justify most everything that appears on screen. It may be the story strip that most improves on rereading twelve weeks’ worth at a go.) Fun enough that Guthrie even skips a car-racing thing to play. Doucette even has some decent sports-psychology, talking Guthrie out of the funk of a lousy game.

Tessi Milton: 'The girls need you, Vic. Can you do the announcing at our games?' Doucette: 'Umm ... Well ... Hmm ... ' Later, Guthrie: 'What did you tell her?' Doucette: 'Mostly, I sputtered. I should study more, not less. And I'm already not seeing my friends enough.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 4th of February, 2021. I don’t know whether we’re to take that last panel as Doucette smoking or just that the air is cold. I suspect the latter, on grounds of dramatic economy: if we were supposed to think Doucette smoked, some panel would make that unambiguous.

So Milton asks Doucette to announce their games. He’s not sure. He needs time to study, after all, and see his friends and do stuff that isn’t basketball announcing. Also, I notice, he uses a crutch reliably from mid-January on; he hadn’t needed one earlier. This may be a signal that he’s getting worse.

He decides to announce girls basketball games, though, saying, “studying is overrated, right?” And he brings the same level of research and hard work to this that he did the boys games. It goes well, and Milton’s grateful, to the point everyone tells Doucette that she’s flirting with him. So he asks her out and she “can’t this weekend”.

Guthrie, with Tom Muench, are late to a practice. They’re pulled over by a traffic cop, who recognizes that they’re popular white athletes and lets them off with a little car talk. But, running laps at practice, Muench sprains his knee and is out for a couple games. And this throws Guthrie way off his game.

Doucette notices all this, and tries to sort out Guthrie’s problem. He observes how Guthrie’s interested in someday driving racecars at 200 mph; it’s hard to do that when you’re worried about running laps. And this bit seems to help.

Tessi Milton: 'Vic asked me out. It's awkward.' Corina Karenna: 'Why? It seemed like you were flirting with him.' Milton: 'A little. ... We needed a PA announcer. But seriously: would you go out in that grandpa van?'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 5th of March, 2021. The rest of the team is aghast at describing a 17-year-old Pontiac as a “Grandpa Van”.

After a girls basketball game, Tessi Milton dodges Doucette, whom she points out to her teammates has asked her out twice now. Her teammates point out she was flirting with him. Which she owns up to, yes, but they needed an announcer. And while he’s “a nice guy,” well, “would you go out in that grandpa van?” Which does support Karenna’s earlier assessment that Milton is a deeply shallow person. To be empathetic, though, Milton is in a lousy place herself. Suppose you’ve agreed the team needs Doucette to announce their games; what tools do you have to get him to do it? There’s no pay available, and no glory either. What option does she have but flattery? And — I write before seeing Monday or Tuesday’s strips so may be setting myself up to be a fool — faulting Doucette’s car is less bad than sneering at the idea of dating someone with cerebral palsy.

And that’s the standings as of mid-March. It does feel like Milton’s being set up for some comeuppance. But the story might resolve to something as simple as hurting a guy who’s been quite giving. It does feel to me significant that Doucette’s repeated his worry he’s ignoring friends and school for all this announcing work, though. Also that he’s seen using the crutches more than he was early in the story. Maybe not significant is Guthrie mentioning how his dad teaches driving to the area cops, part of why he and Muench were let off with small talk. I’m not making detailed predictions, though.

Milford Schools Watch

Who’s Milford playing? The past couple months, these teams. If you want the win-loss record, oh, I don’t feel up to tracking that. You have your fun.

Next Week!

Is super-hyper-ultra-duper extra-special spy agent April Parker back in town? I’ll check in on Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker if things go to my plan.

Statistics February: People Are Acclimated To The New Mark Trail


As the month is well underway, it’s fair to look at what the readership around here last month was like. I can see from the most popular posts that people were upset about Mark Trail. But the number of people looking up Mark Trail, or other comic strips, dropped for the fourth month running.

It’s almost at a transition point, too. According to WordPress there were 4,778 page views here in February. That’s just below the twelve-month running mean, from February 2020 through January 2021, of 4,851.3. It is still above the twelve-month running median of 4,385.5. This tells me I’m benefiting from people who want the change in artist explained if not justified. The thing is, February’s also a short month. There were on (arithmetic mean) average 170.6 page views per day in February. The twelve-month running average was 158.9 leading up to February. The twelve-month running mean median 143.9. So I’m coming back to normal, after the Mark Trail boost, but not quite there yet.

Bar chart of about two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. The past five months have seen a steady decline; in February 2021 were 4,778 views from 2,780 visitors.
Thinking of starting a rumor that Olivia Jaimes is taking over The Far Side just so I can enjoy the sweet popularity of clickbait and outrage.

The story’s similar for the unique views. There were 2,780 unique viewers in February, a mean of 99.3 per day. The twelve-month running mean was 2,879.4 unique viewers per month, but that’s 94.3 per day. The running median was 2,564 unique viewers per month, or 84.1 per day.

On things that are exactly in line with everything? There were 101 likes given my blog in February. The running mean was 101.8. The running median 99.5. Prorated per day, it’s a little less in-line. This was an average 3.6 likes per day, compared to a running mean of 3.3 and running median of 3.2.

And comments! I had comments in February, always to my amazement. In particular there were 38 comments. The running mean was 35.5 and running median 38.5. This is an average 1.4 comments per day, with a running mean of 1.2 and running median of 1.2 for the twelve months leading up to February.

This all suggests I’m losing the Mark Trail outrage readership. The Mallard Fillmore controversy might help me out a bit this month.

I intended to link the five most popular articles from the past two months. This ended up with another tie for fifth place. That’s convenient, though, as it lets me reach to one of my long-form pieces.

I do expect to finish off The Tale of Fatty Raccoon this month. I haven’t decided whether to go back to writing wholly original long-form pieces or what. I might do some more MiSTings. They’ve been pleasant to do, although much of that pleasantness depends on how Arthur Scott Bailey is good source material. I can’t guarantee that another book would be as good. Also I don’t know that I want to go another twenty(?) weeks on some forgotten animal-adventure book. I’m open to hearing opinions, if anyone has them, though.

What I do plan on writing are comic strip plot summaries. My plan for the month ahead is to take this order, provided breaking news or special circumstances don’t get in the way:

Yeah, The Amazing Spider-Man is never coming out of repeats. I figure to do a couple more recaps, to get back to the story where I started doing plot recaps, and then retire it. I might start recapping Rip Haywire to make up the gap, or shift to an 11-week cycle. Or if there’s another good story strip I’m overlooking, and that could use recapping, let me know. It’s what people like to see me do, and it’s fun doing, so that’s a good match.


Map of the world showing the United States in darkest red, with Canada, India, and the United Kingdom in a moderately dark red, and then pink for much of the rest of the Americas, Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and some of the Pacific Rim. There's few readers in Africa or in the arc from Iran through China.
Not sure which of these are small islands with one or two page views and which ones are my need to clean my screen. Please let me know of any world islands you don’t see.

77 countries sent me readers at all in February. Here’s the roster:

Country Readers
United States 3,505
United Kingdom 167
Canada 159
India 150
Philippines 81
Australia 63
Germany 53
Brazil 52
France 44
Spain 36
Finland 29
Italy 28
Peru 22
Mexico 21
Norway 20
South Africa 19
Sweden 19
Latvia 18
Malaysia 18
United Arab Emirates 15
Poland 14
Portugal 12
Denmark 11
Kuwait 11
Austria 10
Indonesia 10
Jamaica 10
Saudi Arabia 10
Netherlands 9
Singapore 9
Belgium 8
Costa Rica 8
Egypt 8
Ireland 7
Japan 7
Serbia 7
Chile 6
Puerto Rico 6
Thailand 6
Hong Kong SAR China 5
Lithuania 5
Nigeria 5
Switzerland 5
Croatia 4
European Union 4
Greece 4
New Zealand 4
Argentina 3
Czech Republic 3
Hungary 3
Turkey 3
Vietnam 3
American Samoa 2
Cayman Islands 2
El Salvador 2
Georgia 2
Iceland 2
Israel 2
Kenya 2
Romania 2
Slovenia 2
South Korea 2
Sri Lanka 2
Taiwan 2
Zimbabwe 2
Bangladesh 1 (*)
Belize 1 (*)
Bhutan 1
Bulgaria 1
Colombia 1
Guam 1
Iraq 1
Jordan 1
Liechtenstein 1
Pakistan 1
Russia 1
St. Martin 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1

Thirteen of these were single-reader countries. Only Bangladesh and Belize have been single-reader countries for two months running. Nowhere has a three-month or longer streak going.


WordPress says that I posted 19,578 words in February, which comes to an average 699.2 words per post. To date for 2021, I’m averaging 686 words per post. I need to stop having such verbose discussions of Popeye cartoons. It’s been 40,444 words for the year, up to the start of March.

Between the first publication of the nursery rhyme Mary Had A Little Lamb (the 24th of May, 1830) and the first of March, I’ve published 2,950 things to this blog. They drew a total 217,379 views from a recorded 123,380 unique visitors.

I’d like to have you as a regular reader. I don’t know how this would convince you. But you can add my posts to your RSS reader. If you lack an RSS reader, you can sign up for a free account at Dreamwidth or Livejournal. Then add any RSS feed to your reading page through https://www.dreamwidth.org/feeds/ or through https://www.livejournal.com/syn. If you’re on WordPress already, you should be able to use the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button to add it to your Reader page.

Thank you all for reading, including those of you that are bots seeking blogs to which you can post “Great topic with lots of valuable information to think about thanx! amazorn-11824500683037495538aqprd.zabooty.narf”. Those are the ones that make it all worthwhile.

60s Popeye: Myskery Melody, a cartoon people have been asking for


For today I have a 1961 Paramount Cartoon Studios-produced cartoon. Myskery Melody is credited to Seymour Kneitel for the story and the direction. And it features something that Garrison Skunk has been asking for! So let’s watch the cartoon.

The story credit is a bit of a fib. Not to discount Seymour Kneitel’s work in putting the story together. But it was based on the 1936 comic strip storyline Mystery Melody. As often happens with the conversion of a print story to screen, the print version is better. But the print version had five months at six strips a day to tell its version. The cartoon has five minutes. Kneitel had to do serious work to shrink and adapt it. He’s helped by reducing the character set to the bare minimum, and cutting out side stories. And by Elzie Segar’s tendency to get caught by a funny idea and do that for three weeks straight while he thought of the next plot point.

Dark, foggy, swamp-bound scene of the Sea Hag on a raft, the full moon in back of her. She plays her flute with her vulture sitting up ready to launch.
I don’t know why she covers her face to play the flute. I know she was introduced that way in the comic strip, as part of making her the more mysterious and inexplicable, but I don’t know if that signifies anything more than we’re supposed to find her mysterious.

The story as we get it animated: Poopdeck Pappy’s haunted by a weird melody that Olive Oyl and Popeye can’t hear. We see it’s the Sea Hag playing her flute in a wonderful dark, spooky swamp. She sends her vulture to grab Pappy’s hat, and he tells the backstory. When a young sailor he courted the beautiful Rose of the Sea — “afore I was married”, a reassurance that Popeye is not literally a bastard. But when he finally kissed her, she transformed into the Sea Hag. He freaked out and ran, and the Sea Hag has held it against him for 80 years. Pappy looks a bit shallow, but he was young and saw his girlfriend transform to a witch. It’d be strange if he weren’t freaked out. And it’s got the feel of a folk take. I’m too ignorant to pin down one that quite works like this, but discovering your beloved is secretly an evil spirit has got to be done before.

Pappy says the Sea Hag’s been looking for him for 80 years, which indicates he has a high opinion of himself as a suitor. Well, he is a guy. It doesn’t seem like she must have been looking for him long. He was sitting in jail on Goon Island for forty of those years. But this may be a continuity separate from the Goonland short. I mean, I know it is. The continuity of Popeye is about personality and attitude, not about what happened when. In the comic strip Mystery Melody was only the first major story after Pappy was found.

In a bright purple sitting room, young Poopdeck has opened his eye in horror that the woman he's kissing is the Sea Hag.
I’m looking at how Sea Hag’s shoulder and neck have to be twisted so she can hold her hands like that while kissing Poopdeck. I can’t see where that’s comfortable for her.

The Sea Hag uses her flute to bewitch Pappy. She gives him a chance to love her as Rose of the Sea and when he refuses, she puts him in the dungeon. Popeye reasons that what he could use is Eugene the Jeep, who what do you know but is right there. Eugene charges for the castle and chases off the Sea Hag, shooting electricity from his tail, a thing we didn’t know he could do before. Didn’t know it in the comic strip version, either. The Sea Hag’s vulture tries to take Popeye away, but he eats his spinach and punches his way free. And pushes the castle out of the way, freeing his father. We have a happy ending, with the last joke being Pappy spooked by a mysterious whistling that’s the tea kettle. It’s one of the few jokes in the short.

I like this short. It’s one that gives the Popeye characters history, the illusion that there’s a world going on even when Popeye isn’t on-screen. And it has some nice haunting moments; that shot of the Sea Hag playing her flute in the swamp is a good spooky one. And the Rose-of-the-Sea backstory for Pappy feels like the sort of folklore that belongs in a story about a rough-and-tumble sailor from a rough-and-tumble family. The time spent on setup does mean there’s no time for development; we have to go almost directly to the resolution. It’s a good trade, though, as the setup is good.

It’s unusual for the cartoons in being dramatic rather than comic. And it’s unusual for the King Features era in being plot-heavy. (Though Paramount cartoons seem to be the most plot-driven of the King Features run.) Nobody’s acting dumb, or even petty. It’s even got structure, with Pappy telling his history while the vulture flies back to the Sea Hag. Popeye cartoons don’t usually have things developing in parallel.

The Sea Hag runs, screaming, down a hill while Eugene the Jeep shoots electric bolts from his tail, jabbing her back.
This seems harsh but you do have to remember, she kissed Poopdeck without revealing that she was secretly ugly. Also there was that thing where she kidnapped Poopdeck too.

That I know the comic strip version of this story spoils things a little. Comics Kingdom reprinted it in the Vintage Thimble Theatre run. So I know the pieces of the comic strip story dropped, most of them for time. Much of this is Wimpy coming along and getting his greedy hands on the Sea Hag’s flute. I’ve mentioned the relationship between Wimpy and the Sea Hag before. Mystery Melody isn’t the comic strip series that established that relationship, but it did build on it. The comic strip also had two disturbing sequences. In one, Popeye beat up the Sea Hag’s vulture, literally tearing him apart. She used her flute to stitch him back together and restore his life. Great stuff, inappropriate for this cartoon. This audience anyway. But if they wanted to make an animated Popeye Movie? That would be a powerful scene.

Wimpy, speaking of the Sea Hag: 'Do you think she really has passed on?' Popeye: 'A'course, I ain't positiff, but I think the Jeep turned her into a mummy. ... We can't leave her standin' there against the wall ... le's put'er into a easy chair.' Wimpy, exiting: 'Well, that's that. Let's be going.' Popeye: 'Jus' a minute, Wimpy.' A somber-looking Popeye carries a pillow over, and sets it behind the seated, mummified Sea Hag's head. He walks off, mournful, and carrying his hat in his hand.
Elzie Segar’s Thimble Theatre for the 22nd of August, 1937, reprinted the 20th of August, 2020. The story had been quite a lot of silly fun before this, and right after this bit of Maybe Eugene Just Killed Her, went into several weeks of jokes about what they could do with the Jeep’s electric-power tail. Elzie Segar: master of a consistent and not-at-all jarring tone.

The other bit from the comic strip dropped here is the battle between the Sea Hag and Eugene the Jeep. In the cartoon, the Sea Hag’s terrified and runs off. In the comic strip Eugene hunts down the terrified Sea Hag, electrifying her until he finally leaves her “mummified”. That, too, is a downright disturbing moment, especially as it comes after a lot of funny bits where Eugene surprises the Sea Hag. It gives Popeye a fantastic moment, though, mourning the possibly-dead Sea Hag and scolding his father for not pitying her in that state. Again, so inappropriate for a cartoon with this scope and audience, but also, a great bit for the full-length movie.

There’s some other things dropped from the comic strip version. Toar, for one, but also Alice the Goon and the Sea Hag’s new lackey of Bolo. I can’t fault them cutting these characters, who didn’t have much to do in the comic strip version anyway.

You see how enthusiastic I am about this cartoon and the original comic strip story. The 1960s run of cartoons had much working against them. But this shows how much they could work well, too.

Statistics Saturday: Tunes I Remember Learning For Introductory Violin In Elementary School


Part of my recurring series, On Reflection I Don’t Understand My Childhood At All.

  • Mary Had A Little Lamb
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • Jingle Bells
  • Memory (from the musical Cats)
  • Tomorrow (from the musical Annie)
  • Theme from Masterpiece Theater (from the not-necessarily-musical Masterpiece Theater)
  • I Love Rock and Roll
  • Daisy, Daisy

I think it was even in that order in the music instruction book too.

Reference: Asimov’s Chronology of the World: The Story of the World From the Big Bang to Modern Times, Isaac Asimov.

Why did Mallard Fillmore stop running in the newspaper?


So I learn, from reading The Daily Cartoonist, as usual, that the Gannett Group of newspapers has dropped Mallard Fillmore. This hasn’t affected me any, as I dropped Mallard Fillmore decades ago and don’t intend picking it back up. But Bruce Tinsley — who created the strip, and has been sharing it with Loren Fishman lately — reports that the entire chain of newspapers has dropped it.

Tinsley, according to The Washington Times, claims people at King Features Syndicate explained “they weren’t sure exactly why” Gannett dropped the comic, “except that they were sure it was about those two cartoons”. This references two recent strips in which Mallard Fillmore came out against human rights; you can see them at the Daily Cartoonist link above.

This is possible, although such an explanation demands one believe in a corporation that cares for human rights. And supposes that this thirdhand story about someone’s guess is correct. Another possible explanation is that this follows Gannett’s recent merger with GateHouse Media, after which they dropped all staff editorial cartoonists. They may not be very interested in editorial cartoons as a genre. And, too, Mallard Fillmore has long had as a selling point that it provides “balance” to Doonesbury. Doonesbury has not run a new daily strip since Joe Biden was vice-president. It’s not unreasonable that newspapers might figure they don’t need to “balance” that anymore.

Anyway, I’m sure the market will swiftly correct the problem. Otherwise there might be some bad side-effects from having every newspaper published by one of three companies. If Mallard Fillmore is that well-liked, surely another newspaper in each city will scoop it up and reap the rewards of happy subscribers. And it still runs online, through Comics Kingdom or many newspaper web sites.


[ Edited 7 March 2021 to add ] The Daily Cartoonist has a follow-up report about the strip’s removal. Amalie Nash, senior Vice President for the USA Today Network, said the decision was made after a “review of the recent work showed it did not meet our standards” and it did not relate to any specific strip. Tinsley finds this implausible and blames “Cancel Culture” for his woes. It does indicate he lost 55 newspapers in the cancellations.

MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Raccoon, Chapter XVIII


And welcome all to the 18th chapter of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Fatty Raccoon, in MiSTed form. Yes, I don’t know what I’m going to do when I reach the end, which should be in a couple more weeks. I’m open to suggestions. Basically if you’ve got Fatty Raccoon in a Kids Crew adventure? I’m interested.

This chapter stands on its own. But if you’d like to read what led to this point, all the chapters of this Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction are at this link. Enjoy.


> XVIII
>
> THE LOGGERS COME

MIKE: Episode 18 … I don’t know, the Star Wars movies aren’t doing it for me anymore.

>
> Fatty Raccoon was frightened;

CROW: By what? Everyone in the forest mocking him, Jimmy Rabbit shaving him, or Farmer Green’s son trapping him?

> he had just waked up and he heard a
> sound

TOM: ‘Waked up’?

> that was exactly like the noise Farmer Green and his hired man
> had made when they cut down the tall chestnut tree where he was
> perched.

MIKE: Major breakthrough in the tree-falling-in-a-forest problem.

>
> "Oh, Mother! What is it?" he cried.

CROW: ‘Oh, Mother!’? Is Fatty dressed in a Lord Fauntleroy costume?

>
> "The loggers have come," Mrs. Raccoon said.

MIKE: Yup, this year’s got brood-X cicadas and brood-IV loggers.

> "They are cutting
> down all the big trees in the swamp."

TOM: The final week of _Pogo_.

>
> "Then we’ll have to move, won’t we?" Fatty asked.

CROW: Picturing Fatty’s family tromping off somewhere with a bunch of bindles.

TOM: Oh so cute!

>
> "No! They won’t touch this tree," his mother told him.

MIKE: ‘They signed my quitclaim deed, the fools!’

> "It’s
> an old tree, and hollow—so they won’t chop it down. It’s only the good
> sound trees that they’ll take."

CROW: Yeah, keep telling yourself that.

>
> "But I thought this was a good tree." Fatty was puzzled.

TOM: Fatty about to learn his home is actually on the wrong side of the deer tracks.

>
> "So it is, my son! It’s a good tree for us.

CROW: Wallpaper peeling off.

MIKE: Cabinet falling loose in the pantry.

TOM: Raccoon infestation … wait, wait.

> But not for the
> loggers. They would have little use for it."

CROW: But what if the loggers are just jerks?

>
> Fatty Raccoon felt better when he heard that.

MIKE: Just to be sure, Mom hires a spider to write out ‘SOME RACC’ in the branches.

> And he had a good
> deal of fun, peeping down at the loggers and watching them work.

TOM: Joking around with that Robin Williams Bat and watching the loggers summon that liquid ooze monster.

> But
> he took care that they should not see HIM. He knew what their bright
> axes could do.

CROW: They could curl his moustache!

>
> When night came Fatty had still more fun.

MIKE: More fun than watching loggers? Sure you can handle that, Fatty?

> When the loggers
> were asleep Fatty went to their camp in the woods beside the brook and
> he found many good things to eat.

TOM: Ah, playing his hits. Nice.

> He did not know the names of all the
> goodies;

CROW: ‘My name’s *Jimmy*!’

MIKE: ‘Yeah, and I remember your barber shop!

> but he ate them just the same. He ‘specially liked some
> potatoes which the careless cook had left in a pan near the open
> camp-fire.

TOM: Potatoes au gratin? In only fifteen minutes!

> The fire was out.

MIKE: It had errands in town but if you want to wait, I’ll let you know when the fire gets back in.

> And the pan rested on a stump close
> beside it. Fatty Raccoon climbed up and crawled right inside the pan.

CROW: [ As Fatty ] ‘FOUND ANOTHER THE MOON!’

> And
> after he had had one taste of those potatoes he grew so excited—they
> were so good—

TOM: They weren’t *that* good. They were only *so* good.

> that he tipped the pan off the stump and the potatoes
> rolled right into the ashes.

MIKE: Oh no, the potatoes are getting dirt on them!

>
> Fatty had jumped to one side, when the tin pan fell.

CROW: [ muttering ] Tin pan … alley … all … eat?

TOM: Needs work.
[ CROW grunts, agreeing ]

> It made a
> great clatter;

MIKE: Quick, rush to the window and see what’s the matter!

> and he kept very still for a few moments, while he
> listened. But no one stirred.

CROW: Not even a mouse.

> And then Fatty jumped plump into the
> ashes.

TOM: Hey, Fatty wins a cricket tournament.

>
> WHEW! He jumped out again as fast as he could; for beneath the
> ashes there were plenty of hot coals.

MIKE: It’s ‘hot’ as in ‘spicy’. Don’t be a food wimp.

> Fatty stood in them for not more
> than three seconds, but that was quite long enough.

TOM: Don’t want to over-braise your raccoons.

MIKE: That’s … not braising.

> The bottoms of his
> feet burned as if a hundred hornets had stung them.

TOM: Is it parboiling?

MIKE: No, not even remotely.

>

TOM: Sous-vide?

MIKE: I’m not letting you cook anymore.

> He stood first on one foot and then on another.

CROW: And still had two feet to go!

> If you could
> have seen him you would have thought Fatty was dancing.

MIKE: It’d be a cakewalk if someone brought some cake.

> And you might
> have laughed, because he looked funny.

TOM: [ As Fatty ] ‘Hey, I’m in actual pain here! Also I need potatoes.’

>
> But Fatty Raccoon did not laugh. In fact, he came very near
> crying.

MIKE: Jeez. This book was *fun* back when it was Fatty eating sweet corn.

CROW: Tom Batiuk wrote the back half.

> And he did not wait to eat another mouthful. He limped along
> toward home.

CROW: Loggers wake up to this scene and figure, job well done.

> And it was several days before he stirred out of his
> mother’s house again. He just lay in his bed and waited until his
> burns were well again.

TOM: Mom writes a note to keep him home from Raccoon School.

>
> It was very hard.

CROW: I don’t know, I wouldn’t mind if I had never stirred from bed since 2015.

> For Fatty did not like to think of all those
> good things to eat that he was missing.

TOM: Like … sausage and Duraflame logs.

> And he hoped the loggers would
> not go away before his feet were well again.

MIKE: And before he gets his new tongue installed.

TOM: It’s wireless!

>
>

[ to be continued ]

The Guy Who First Drew Beetle Bailey Had Seen Squirrels


Yes, it’s time for another installment in my sequence of mocking a successful cartoonist for not solving the problem of how to render animals using a style optimized for caricaturing humans. But we had a development this week, thanks to Comics Kingdom’s run of vintage Beetle Bailey strips from nearly 60 years ago:

Chaplain, outside his tent, setting bread on a feeder hanging from the trees: 'Something for my friends the birds.' He hands a bit of bread to a suspicious but interested squirrel. 'ALL the animals of the world are my friends.' We see him walking away from Sarge, shaving at a tree set up with a mirror nailed to it; he's put a piece of bread in the confused Sarge's hand.
Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey for the 13th of August, 1964, reprinted the 1st of March, 2021. Also this past month I learned that Sergeant Snorkel’s look was based on an actual person Mort Walker trained under, First Sergeant Octavian N Savu, who apparently never knew anything about it himself. The Chaplain’s name is Stainglass, by the way. I have no information about the squirrel’s name or real-world inspiration.

So, yes, we can say that Mort Walker had seen squirrels in 1964.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? Is it all about Buck getting diabetes? December 2020 – February 2021


The last three months? Yeah, it’s been all that story. In what I am sure is not Terry Beatty undermining me, this past Sunday’s strip summarized it all anyway. Well, if you’re reading this after about May 2021, or any news breaks out about Rex Morgan, M.D., I’ll have an essay at this link. Thanks for reading.

Rex Morgan, M.D..

6 December 2020 – 28 February 2021.

The current story was just a week old when I last checked in. Buck Wise, who has a job doing … something … with collectibles? … was feeling tired and thirsty. Like, a lot, even considering it was 2020. Still, Rex Morgan was opening his clinic for virtual visits. So even though he can’t point to any particular complaint, and has been losing weight, he gets a checkup.

Buck, over the video: 'I sorta slowed down on the exercise. And I'm always hungry --- emotional eating, I think.' Rex: 'And you've lost weight anyway?' Buck: 'Yeah. But that's good, right?' Rex: 'That depends. Are you thirsty more than usual?'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 17th of December, 2020. I do want to credit Beatty with the deft little touch that Buck and Rex look, on the laptop screens, awkward in the way that people do look awkward while video conferencing. It has to have demanded some restraint to not draw them at angles where you could pretend the screen was a comic strip panel. This is not me being snarky. By the time an artist is professional it takes conscious effort to draw so a figure is “wrong”.

Rex Morgan suspects a medical condition, but has Buck come in to his clinic anyway. The results of the blood draw: he’s got a crazy high blood glucose count, and needs a second screening. And to not finish the fries and triple-thick butterscotch malt he just got from the fast food place.

The second draw confirms Rex’s suspicion. Buck’s got type-two diabetes. They’ll start with oral medication, regular blood glucose checks, and diet changes. Buck comes into the clinic for a third time, to learn how to test his blood glucose levels. And on the way home gets one last bacon cheeseburger, fries, and triple-thick malt. Which, yeah, hard not to empathize.

Narration Box: 'Newly diagnosed as a diabetic, Buck breaks down and cheats on his diet.' Buck, slurping a malt and eating fries, thinks: 'Okay, I'll give all this up ... but after this one last time. Oh, man, this is SO good. I may still have to do a cheat day once in a while.' Narration: 'Not a good idea, Buck --- but some people have to learn their lessons the hard way.' Buck: 'So good!'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 1st of February, 2021. It’s rare in the story strips for the Narration Box to get so personally involved! It’s fun to see and makes a bit more out of what’s otherwise just a guy giving in to his appetites. As it happens, so far, he hasn’t had to learn anything the hard way, but Beatty’s been basically kind to the major characters and right now? In these times? I’ll take the kindness.

He feels lousy after the cheat on his diet. But he uses the stationary bike until his glucose numbers look not-awful again. He does confess to Mindy, his wife, who’s kind about not making him feel worse for the occasional backslide. (Yes, the “backslide” happened before anything else could, but I’m aware I wouldn’t do much better.) And she’s happy to find diabetic-friendly meals in a good variety.

So, yeah, that’s been the story. Buck’s learned he has diabetes and his family is positive and supportive. It’s not been much of a conflict and it did feel like a lot of the story was Buck going back in to the Morgan Clinic. But, you know, what else should happen?

Next Week!

It’s the other comic strip you’d expect to address Covid-19! But isn’t doing so. Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp gets its innings, even though it’s not yet softball season, if all goes well.

In Which I’m Upset About Comic Strips, Yes, Again


I mean to be sympathetic and kind toward comic strip artists, and especially the ones who do puzzle comics for kids. It’s hard to put in a puzzle worth pondering, in so little space, and when you can’t be sure what your readers can do. So it’s just impossible to hit them all, all the time. But the big puzzle this Sunday in Slylock Fox? The dry-cleaning problem? With the alligator taking a couple of capes in? I have issues. And, just to show that I’m trying to be fair to the cartoonist I’ll put my complaints behind a cut.

The puzzle: 'Slylock Fox and Super Cluck dropped off identical-looking capes for cleaning. Slylock stepped in after solving a cyber crime and Super Cluck arrived after rescuing occupants from a burning building. The clerk accidentally mixed up the capes. How were the proper owners determined?' Solution: 'Super Cluck was recently in a burning building. The cape that smells of smoke belongs to him.' In the six differences panel there's a drawing of a man in the background; in one, he has a slight mustache and in the other he does not.
Bob weber Jr’s Slylock Fox and Comics for Kids for the 28th of February, 2021. Also I haven’t before noticed Super Cluck in the Slylock Fox universe and I’m happy to suppose this is a SuperChicken reference and appreciate that.

Continue reading “In Which I’m Upset About Comic Strips, Yes, Again”