60s Popeye: Popeye’s Service Station, service with a sotto voce chuckling


Jack Kinney gets the story and the producer credits today. Animation direction goes to Volus Jones and Ed Friedman. Here fresh from 1960 is Popeye’s Service Station.

Another cartoon, another small business that Popeye’s running. He must go through so much seed capital in-between shorts. This time, no pizza; he’s running a gas station.

The cartoon spends a lot of time establishing what Popeye’s Service Station offers for free. Jackson Beck reads the whole list twice, once in Narrator voice and then later on in Brutus voice. It’s fair to spend the time on this. Half the cartoon is everybody demanding the free stuff, and without the narrator kids who can’t read fast could be confused. Does mean it takes a while for the action to get started. When the action does start, it’s Popeye chuckling odd resigned phrases like “what’s the use?” at how many cars don’t need service right this minute.

Eventually we get Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Brutus together on-screen and things proceed as you’d imagine. Brutus tries wooing Olive Oyl away from Popeye, by having his car eat Popeye. Brutus runs Popeye over, flat, twice. I was shocked by that in the (Paramount) Oil’s Well That Ends Well, but not so bothered here. I don’t know why it plays different this time around. Anyway, Popeye eats his flat spinach, there’s punching, Popeye keeps Brutus trapped on the car elevator for hours upon hours, the end.

Popeye holding a water hose up to the mouth of a camel standing in the back of a truck bed.
Popeye’s lucky he didn’t accidentally grab the air hose and inflate the poor camel out of the picture!

I suspect I’d like this cartoon more if I hadn’t just seen Popeye’s Pizza Palace. By any of the ordinary measures of story this is better-made. At no point do I wonder why a character chose to do that. Nor do I wonder how one action caused the next. I could describe the plot without it sounding like a dream. Popeye’s Pizza Palace throws together so many bizarre choices that the result delights me. Popeye’s Car Wash (from Harmon studios), another short built on a similar theme, has the repeating refrain of Popeye washing a conveyor belt of Very 50s Cars as an image. At Popeye’s Service Station, we have simple competence, the loopiest gag being the fellow who needs his camel refilled as he’s off to a caravan. I’m afraid that’s doomed to be forgotten.

Statistics Saturday: Some Failed Ways To Reheat Pizza


  • Set it in the microwave without turning the microwave on.
  • Transfer the pizza repeatedly from one thermos bottle to another.
  • Get people on social media talking about it a lot.
  • Give the pizza a stern lecture about the importance of conserving its heat.
  • Set the pizza in a hot bath.
  • Ask your neighborhood’s ice elemental to never cold your pizza up. This may involve a Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck-like argument about “you will” “I won’t” “you will” “I won’t” “You won’t” “I will” “Have it your way, Doc.”
  • Set the pizza on top of a coffee mug that, on inspection, turns out to hold iced tea.
  • Hypnotize the pizza.
  • Shine a laser on it, but it’s one of those keychain lasers you get as a gift when the department wants you to not actually feel better about working there.
  • Engage the pizza in a heated debate.
  • Embarrass your pizza by reminding it of that one time it had a Tweet go a little viral and it misspelled “public” and it was twenty responses in before someone pointed it out.
  • Wrap the pizza in some cute sweaters.

Reference: Airborne Trailblazer: Two Decades with NASA Langley’s 737 Flying Laboratory, Lane E Wallace.

(I didn’t plan to pair this with Popeye’s Pizza Palace, but what the heck.)

60s Popeye: Popeye’s Pizza Palace, an exciting journey into pizza-themed madness


Popeye’s Pizza Palace is a 1960 Jack Kinney joint. The story and the animation direction are both Eddie Rehberg’s doing. It’s … a cartoon, certainly.

It’s hard to imagine now but there was a time when just mentioning pizza was a sure-fire laugh line. Foods go through this as they become part of The American Diet. In the 80s, sushi was such a crazy idea that saying someone liked it was the shorthand way to establish they were Not From Around Here. Possibly not from the planet. I recall a Fred Allen quip, circa 1940, where he described a bagel as “a doughnut with a hangover”, an image funny enough it doesn’t matter it doesn’t make sense. Somewhere in my copybook is a note about H L Mencken protesting the people who eat olives instead of a good normal salty food like anchovies.

Snoopy, in his doghouse, which is just under the eaves of the Brown house from which a giant icile dangles, thinks: 'I'm doomed!' Inside, Lucy watches Charlie Brown place a call. Charlie Brown: 'Hello, Humane Society? We need your advice ... how do you get a dog out of a doghouse before an icicle falls on him?' To Lucy: 'He said to try coaxing him out with his favorite food ... something he just can't resist ... ' As he picks up the phone he asks, 'What's the number of 'Villella's Take-Out Pizza Parlor''?'
Charles Schulz’s Peanuts for the 12th of February, 1960, from a story that even as a kid I thought was weird because since when is Snoopy’s doghouse right next to the main house? And why the quote marks around “Villella’s Take-Out Pizza Parlor”?

So. The late 50s/early 60s were pizza’s turn to be really hilarious as everybody in America discovered they liked the basic idea. This observation gives us the premise, sure. It also gives us the choice to fit the word “pizza” into every line of dialogue. It’s a bold choice, one that works in a way I’m not sure Rehberg intended. Like, I believe Rehberg figured he was stuffing the dialogue with a zany funny word. But the endless repetition ends up creating this absurdist word music and I got into that.

Popeye holds up his 'parasol pizza', an umbrella whose surface, apparently, is a pizza. There's olives dangling from the edges.
Does … does Popeye know how people generally use pizza in their lives?

The whole — I can’t really call this a story. The whole scenario has this absurdist air. It starts with Popeye juggling pizzas and shuffling a stack of pizzas like cards, and ignoring Wimpy’s pleas for hamburger pizzas. The absurdity grows as Popeye lists a bunch of bonkers pizza concepts. This includes the doughnut pizza you eat from the inside out, the sun bonnet pizza, the parasol pizza, and the Leaning Tower of Pizza. (Every time my Dad drove me up Route 17 in North Jersey he’d point out where the Leaning Tower of Pizza restaurant used to be in the 60s.) There’s not a one of them that customer Brutus is at all interested in. It sneaks up on those Monty Python “dictionary” sketches where they run through asking the same thing four hundred different ways.

Popeye tugs a circle of pizza dough down his head, looking uncannily like the Fat Albert character 'Dumb' Donald. Both of Popeye's eyes are visible through the pizza dough.
You may ask why Popeye has two eyes peering through a layer of pizza dough here, but if we’re going to be honest, having just the one eye would somehow be hideous. Instead it just looks like that Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids character you remember as being named Mushmouth, but who was in fact “Dumb” Donald.

As a story there’s not much here to make sense. Wimpy trying to cadge “hamburger pizzas”, sure. Turning to Brutus when Popeye won’t even answer him? Sure. Brutus offering to buy Wimpy pizza? All right. Popeye then asking Brutus what he wants, leading to the long string of baffling concept pizzas? Introducing the weird pizza conveyor belt? Brutus deciding he wants a tamale pizza and Popeye getting red-hot furious at this idea? I can’t figure any motivation here. It’s all people tossing off strange sets of words into an absurd universe.

Because it’s an odd moment, to close off a string of odd moments, let me share Popeye’s closing rhyme:

I’m Popeye the Pizza Man
I’m Popeye the Pizza Man
I beats ’em and rolls ’em
As fast as I can
‘Cause I’m Popeye the Sailor Man!
Pizza!

This is an apt summary of the cartoon.

Popeye stands behind his counter, holding up a pizza, vertically, to the audience. On the pie are the words 'The Pizza Ends'.
Fun activity: what scene in this cartoon, if any, convinced you that the animators knew exactly what a pizza was and how it looked?

MiSTed: Dreams of a Lost Past/Loss, Part 4 of 4


And now to wrap up this vintage Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic, based on Doug Atkinson’s own Legion of Superheroes fanfics, “Dreams of a Lost Past” and “Loss”. The incomplete “Dreams of a Lost Past” was riffed in the first part of this series. It was starting from the second part that “Loss” began. It’s set after Supergirl died, part of the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Brainiac-5, super-intelligent but kinda dumb 30th century super-teen, has a plan he very much needs to be talked out of.

In the credit blurb at the end I mention having taken one sketch from another MiSTing I was procrastinating. I no longer remember what MiSTing that was, but imagine a time when I might have two whole projects under way at once. Seems impossible, doesn’t it?

And now, the conclusion. I don’t know what I’ll do next week, but I am leaning toward sharing another forgotten MiSTing.


> "All
> right, who says it’ll even work? Lightning Lad

JOEL: A daring hero from the world of typing exercises.

> wasn’t really
> dead when Proty used his life-force to revive him. I bet
> Mon-El wasn’t really dead when Eltro Gand

CROW: [ Giggles ]

> used this Exchanger
> to do the same thing. It probably just has some sort of
> mysterious healing powers that bring people back from comas,

JOEL: Maybe even semicomas and the occasional parenthetical expression.

> and Supergirl isn’t just in a coma. She’s *dead*, and people
> don’t come back from that. You wouldn’t want to die for
> nothing."

CROW: Not that you’d be in a position to complain about it.

> "I never had a good chance to examine Garth, because he
> was quickly shoved in that glass coffin and put on display.

JOEL: It was cool.

> I suspect he was really dead, though, because how many people
> in comas survive for weeks without food or water?"

TOM: Uhm…nine. No, thirteen.

> Jo
> shrugged. "And Superboy will tell you that Mon-El was dead,
> too. Lead poisoning kills Daxamites quickly,

JOEL: And Mon-El was a professional Daxamatician.

> and there was
> no breathing and no pulse. ‘Life-force’ isn’t something that
> can be isolated in a laboratory,

CROW: Unless it gets naughty and has to be grounded.

> but mystics like the White
> Witch will tell you that it exists. Although I reject terms
> like ‘soul’ that they would use,

JOEL: I also reject the term "pH balanced," so what do I know?

> the evidence requires me to
> agree with them."

TOM: That is to say, I reject the notion of a soul, but accept wholeheartedly the evidence for it and the consequences of that idea.

> "Not buying the arguments, I see. How about this? The
> Legion Constitution forbids killing.

CROW: Except for the badnasty jumpjumps.

> If you used this
> machine, you’d be killing yourself. That means you’d be
> kicked out of the Legion, and you don’t want that, do you?"

TOM: You’d miss out on Meat Loaf Mondays.

> "That is the most illogical–" Brainy caught himself,
> and smiled slightly. "You’re joking, of course."

JOEL: I have heard of these jokes; perhaps we might witness one someday.

> "A smile…there’s hope for you. Look, are you still
> going to do this?"

CROW: I don’t know; I have to wait for the zoning commission to meet.

> Brainy sighed. "Weighing the benefits and costs, I’m
> still forced to conclude that I’m willing to sacrifice
> everything for her."

CROW: Except my "McVote ’86" commemorative glasses celebrating the McD.L.T.

> "Wow…that’s selfless, since you wouldn’t be around to
> reap the benefits.

TOM: Unless she goes back in time to before when he’s dead and fulfills the relationship they didn’t have because she didn’t know she’d be dead later on.

> I think I love Tinya that much, but I
> don’t know if I’d be able to follow through. Think, though.

JOEL: Hong Kong Phooey and the cartoon Pac-Man had exactly the same voice. Doesn’t it make you wonder about the universe?

> You don’t think it was right for Supergirl to die, even
> though it slowed the Anti-Monitor and possibly saved the
> lives of billions?"
> "No, of course not."

CROW: How about if she slowed the Anti-Monitor, saved the lives of billions, and got you what’s behind door number three?

TOM: Mmm…I’m thinking.

> "So it would be even less just if she died for just one
> life…even if it was yours."
> "No. She’s too important to the universe, and to me."

CROW: Slowed the Anti-Monitor, saved the billions, door number three, *and* five hundred dollars.

TOM: Uhm…no, not this time.

> "Then why do you think she would want you to reverse
> your positions? You may think you’re below her, but I know
> she didn’t.

CROW: All of the above, with *seven* hundred dollars.

TOM: Maybe…no, not gonna take it.

> Was she that selfish, to put herself on the same
> pedestal you put her on?"
> Brainy was caught flat-footed. "I–" He paused. "I never
> saw it like that. You have a point."

CROW: Last offer, slow the Anti-Monitor, save billions, door number three, one *thousand* dollars and what’s behind the box!

TOM: I’ll take it! I’ll take it!

> "Damn right I do. Look, Brainy, all the Legionnaires
> are willing to put our lives on the line for others,

JOEL: Except Ray. He is not working out.

> and she
> was no exception. But it shouldn’t be robbed of its meaning,

TOM: Because heroism is negated by living afterwards.

> should it? All the dead Legionnaires gave their lives saving
> others. Ferro Lad…Invisible Kid…Chemical King…Karate
> Kid,

CROW: Actually, Ferro Lad just died of embarassment.

> just recently, and now Supergirl. Even Garth and
> Luornu’s third body were willing to give up their lives if it
> meant protecting others.

TOM: Even if those others were the cast of "Jesse."

> "That doesn’t mean that what you’re trying isn’t noble,
> of course.

JOEL: Just that it’s loopy.

> It’s just that those other deaths had some
> meaning, while you’d just be throwing your life away for
> someone who knew the risks she was taking.

CROW: So, if you become a superhero, you have to stop fighting the inevitability of your own death.

> All of us liked
> Supergirl, but we like you too, believe it or not. It’s not
> just a matter of weighing costs to the world–we’d miss you,
> and you’d be hurting a lot of people.

JOEL: ‘Course, that’s kind of balanced out by the people who won’t be accidentally killed by some goofy new invention of yours.

> Kara wouldn’t have
> wanted that, and I don’t think she’d want a second chance
> with a cost like that attached."

TOM: Maybe they could just keep the Exchanger and swap life-forces every week?

> Querl was silent. He reached out to the corpse and
> stroked its hair while contemplating.

JOEL: Ew, is this danduff shampoo? What the heck is this? Are people supposed to seep there?

> Finally he said, "My
> twelfth-level brain can’t compute emotional equations. I
> think you’ve convinced me, though.

TOM: But we’ll have to wait for my subcommittees to vote on it before I can go ahead with a new plan of action.

> As long as I have the
> body here, there’s one thing we can do, though."

CROW: Get the funny hat.

>
> * * * * *
>
> A group of Legionnaires stood on Shanghalla, the
> asteroid where the galaxy’s greatest heroes are buried.

JOEL: Those buried preposthumously were most upset about it.

> All
> the active Legionnaires who’d known Supergirl were here,
> while those who hadn’t–all the new members except Polar Boy
> and, surprisingly, Sensor Girl–remained to guard Earth.

CROW: Ooh, that Sensor Girl…one surprise after another.

> The
> others were gathered in the shadow of the Ferro Lad memorial
> to pay their final respects.

TOM: [ Whispering ] Psst! Did you bring the poem magnets?

> Brainiac 5 stood before the hole Element Lad’s powers
> had created. "The Twentieth Century has already paid its
> respects to one of its greatest heroes,

CROW: Back around the first couple times that Superman died.

> but I doubt they
> would deny us the chance for our own personal observance,"

JOEL: Even one made possible by grave robbing and borderline necrophilia.

> he
> said, his eyes on the black coffin embossed with the "S"
> symbol.

TOM: Ahem. Chuckles loved to laugh…tears were abhorrent to him…

> "All of us knew Supergirl, and fought alongside her.

JOEL: Except for *you*, Ray.

> We were her friends–some of us were more.

TOM: Some of us were androids she constructed in her sleep, too.

> "I am very poor at emotional speeches, as some of you
> know." Jo caught his eye briefly and smiled encouragingly.

JOEL: [ As Jo ] You’re doing a great job saying stuff that couldn’t be said at every other eulogy ever delivered.

> "It’s difficult to put Supergirl’s value to the universe into
> words.

CROW: Watch me try. "Slookelty bopplenerf weantroolub blix." See how difficult it is?

> Moreover, I know each of you have your own special
> memories of her. I would suggest we pause a moment and
> remember Kara."

TOM: HmmmmmmmMMMMMM…There! I’m done. What did you get?

> The group was silent for a minute. Some Legionnaires
> smiled as they remembered her; some cried softly; a few were
> incapable of showing their emotions on their faces.

JOEL: Some of the Legionnaires didn’t even exist.

> Brainiac
> 5 was stoic throughout.
> He broke into the reverie by putting his hand on the
> coffin. "Farewell, Kara. We will never forget you."

TOM: [ Stage whisper ] Who’s Kara?

CROW: [ As above ] I think we’re in the wrong room.

> He
> turned to the pallbearers and said, "You may commence."
> As Mon-El and Timber Wolf lowered the coffin into the
> ground, Element Lad prepared to fill in the grave again.

JOEL: Real friends show love by synthesizing manganese.

> Blok placed a block of marble at the head of the grave, and
> rumbled, "Wait until I am out of the way before you begin
> carving, Wildfire."
> "Hey, I’m always careful," said the energy man.

CROW: [ As Wildfire ] So — white or dark meat?

> He
> raised an arm of his containment suit and, with a tightly
> controlled beam of energy,

TOM: Is that the blue hand-ray or the red hand-ray?

JOEL: It’s the green hand-ray.

> carved words into the surface of
> the stone:
>
> Here Lies
>
> SUPERGIRL
>
> Kara Zor-El
>
> Linda Lee Danvers

TOM: Caroline Rhea.

JOEL: Angela "Scoop" Quickly.

CROW: Wheelie *and* the Chopper Bunch.

>
> Legionnaire and Friend
>
>
> When the burial was complete, the group split up.

JOEL: So, uh, wanna hit Big Stosh’s?

CROW: Knockwurst bar open?

JOEL: You bet.

> Jo
> and Tinya approached Brainy, who was still standing by the
> grave.
> "Great speech, man," Jo said, laying his hand on
> Brainy’s shoulder. Tinya gently put her hand on his arm.

CROW: It’s a slow-motion tackle.

> "Opening up like that was the bravest thing I’ve seen you do,
> Brainy.

JOEL: He opened up?

TOM: Yeah, didn’t you notice his eye twitching?

> I’m glad to see you’re coming to terms with this."
> "Indeed." He raised his eyes from the grave to the
> stars. "I was able to fight my obsessive tendencies for once,

TOM: And nobody new got killed by them.

> which is probably just as well. Who knows what might have
> gone wrong with the Exchanger?

CROW: He could have ended up with the body of a chicken and the mind of a Power Puff Girl.

> "We should make haste. There won’t be room on the
> Legion cruisers if we stay here to long."

JOEL: Rush hour is horrible around these desolate cemetary asteroids.

> They hurried
> towards the spaceship, leaving the asteroid’s memorials to
> departed heroes behind them.

CROW: They tried taking the memorials with them but realized that was dumb.

> [Credit where credit is due dep’t:

TOM: Ooh, it’s the introduction to a Mad Magazine article.

CROW: I love these.

> Superman’s speech is
> quoted from CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS #7,

JOEL: Except on Earth Two, where it was Crisis On Infinite Earths #9.

> and was written by
> Marv Wolfman. The Exchanger was created by Jim Shooter,

CROW: Yeah — on a dare.

> based on a concept by Jerry Siegel. The initial inspiration
> for this story came from LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES (third
> series) #16,

TOM: Or maybe sixteenth series, number three…it’s hard to keep track.

> written by Paul Levitz.]

JOEL: You’ll love it, Paul Levitz!

CROW: And that’s a wrap.

[ 1.. 2.. 3.. 4.. 5.. 6.. ]

[ SOL DESK. JOEL is standing, a little embarassed, in a Superman-style costume with a cursive ‘J’ at the center. He looks around, puts his arms out and starts a tiny hop. CROW and TOM enter from the right. ]

JOEL: [ Noticing them, slapping his arms to his side ] Aaugh!

CROW: Uhm…Joel?

JOEL: No, no, citizen. I do not know this "Joel" of whom you speak.

TOM: Joel, you’re just embarassing yourself now.

JOEL: I am not Joel! I am a friendly but powerful being from another star, here to help save you from your imminent peril.

CROW: That’s nice, honey, but we’re not in any imminent peril.

TOM: The story’s already done, remember? And you’re going to embarass *us* if you keep that up.

JOEL: [ Crestfallen ] Aw, c’mon, guys. Do you have to be so cynical?

CROW: I’m not saying it’s a bad look for you, you understand.

JOEL: Why not be silly? What’s it going to hurt? What kind of a world do we live in if whimsy, if silliness, if daydreams are rudely and immediately squashed flat? Is a world without levity worth getting out of bed for?

TOM: We’re not calling for the death of the imaginative spirit, we’re just asking that it show some dignity.

CROW: Can I be your sidekick?

JOEL: Of course, Crow. We’ll pick out a sensible yet identity-concealing costume for you right after we’re done with this. [ JOEL pats CROW on the head. ]

TOM: Crow! You’re betraying your trust as a keeper of public decorum and sensible frivolity!

CROW: Yeah, but it’s fun.

TOM: But…but I…I…

JOEL: Aw, c’mon, Tom. Join the legion.

TOM: [ Sobbing, and leaning into JOEL ] I will, I will.

JOEL: [ Hugging and patting TOM ] That’s a good robot. [ Looking to the camera ] What do you think, sirs?

[ DEEP 13. DR. FORRESTER is studying TV’S FRANK’s snow brain. ]

FRANK: I’m so…woozy…

DR. F: Ah, yes, I think I see the problem… [ Noticing JOEL ] Ah, yes, Joel, a fine costume. I’ll be sure to whip up a hearty Kryptonite cheesecake to help you celebrate.
[ DR. FORRESTER takes out a container of fish food, pops open the top of FRANK’s snow brain, and sprinkles some food in. ]

FRANK: [ Sighs happily ]

DR. F: Until next time, Silverhawks…push the button, Frank.

FRANK: Can I do it with my mind?

DR. F: Oh, if you insist.

[ FRANK leans over, hitting his head on the desk. ]

                   \  |  /
                    \ | /                           
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                   ---o---                           
                     /|\                          
                    / | \                         
                   /  |  \

Mystery Science Theater 3000 and its related characters and situations are trademarks of and Copyright to Best Brains, Inc. The Legion of Superheroes is Copyright DC Comics, a subsidiary of Time Warner, a corporation so vast and powerful if it wanted it could have all traces of my existence wiped out.

Use of copyrighted and trademarked material is for entertainment only; no infringement on or challenge to the copyrights and trademarks held by Best Brains or DC Comics is intended or should be inferred. The stories "Dreams of a Lost Past" and "Loss" are by Doug Atkinson and are used with permission. Whatever original material is in this MST3K fanfic is the creation of Joseph Nebus. This MiSTing is meant solely for personal entertainment and is not intended to be an insult to the creators or fans of the Legion of Superheros, Mystery Scence Theater 3000, the Game Show Network, or the Silverhawks. Discontinue use if rash persists.

The midshow sketch started out as the introductory piece, and only moved when I had no ideas for the midshow sketch, and could steal an introduction from another MiSTing I’m procrastinating. Sorry if it seems weird.

> Brainiac 5 looked at Jo with undisguised hostility. "I’m
> working on a private project, Ultra Boy. Leave me alone."

60s Popeye: Popeye’s Museum Piece, in which he puts nothing into the museum


It’s another Jack Kinney cartoon, this one from 1960. The story is by Carol Beers and Ruben Apodaca, names I don’t seem to have recorded before. Direction is by Eddie Rehberg, who’s been around a lot. Producer is Jack Kinney. Here, with Professor O G Wotasnozzle as the museum director, is Popeye’s Museum Piece. Wotasnozzle’s name gets a second ‘T’ in the newspaper Brutus reads. That kind of thing happens to him all the time.

My generic joke about the King Features Popeye cartoons of the 60s is that they were produced in less time than it takes to watch. Obvious hyperbole, of course. But there is the feeling at least that no one cartoon ever got much attention. Many stories feel like first drafts, not quite developed enough to where they fully make sense. (And there are a fair number that overcome this and have good solid stories anyway.)

Popeye’s Museum Piece gives that impression of being a first draft. The premise seems good enough. Popeye’s a museum employee. Brutus breaks in to steal a masterpiece. Eugene the Jeep sounds the alarm. Everybody slips some and falls over things they shouldn’t. It never quite works for me and I’m trying to think out why.

I notice the slapstick. There’s a steady joke about, like, Brutus tripping over a mop causing him to fall down the stairs. The thing is that he could hardly avoid falling anyway. Later he trips in a water pail as he’s crashing into a wall. And this feels emblematic of what doesn’t work. The characters tripping over stuff makes sense, for the plot and for the comedy. But tripping over something to send them into an accident they were going to have anyway? That’s sloppy writing. You can’t be running so fast toward the stairs that you’d have tumbled down even without the mop in the way. There’s another bit, where Popeye trips over Eugene the Jeep and they fall in a heap, with Eugene wearing Popeye’s hat. That works. That pratfall makes sense.

Eugene the Jeep bounds off down the hall. Behind is a painting or diorama showing an angry rabbit poked out of his head and glaring at a woodpecker or possibly a fox poking out of a tree. A jaguar in the tree branch and a bear behind the tree trunk are ready to attack the woodpecker. Also, there's a lion leaping onto the offended rabbit.
What … what is that mural or diorama or painting or whatever on the wall behind Eugene? (Brutus and Popeye run past it several times over, too, since there aren’t that many backgrounds.) I mean, besides a not-cartoony-enough rendition of the animal mayhem for a Slylock Fox spot-the-six-differences panel.

There’s the usual little animation errors. The one that did distract me is Popeye looking at the new masterpiece Professor Wotasnozzle’s declared is so important. Popeye declares he can’t see what’s so great about it. Perhaps because the painting isn’t anywhere on-screen and he’s actually looking at the space between two unrelated paintings. It’s not an error that wrecks the cartoon. But would it have been harder to use a background with the painting in it?

This isn’t a misbegotten cartoon, or even one that’s far from being good. I’m not clear why Popeye is the janitor-and-security-guy at the the city museum. I suppose because if he weren’t, we wouldn’t have a museum cartoon. Given that, Brutus stealing a painting makes sense. Why is Eugene the Jeep popping in and out and occasionally flashing his nose? Why is Popeye so determined to ignore Eugene freaking out over something? These answers might not matter. My impression, though, is the writers didn’t have any reasons in mind for all this. The story ends up sloppy, Brutus tripping over a mop he doesn’t need to as he falls down the stairs.

Popeye refers at one point to “the valuable painting!” which fell into his arms. He doesn’t seem to have reason to think it’s that. But I appreciate the Animal Crossing vibe of naming it “The Valuable Painting”.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? What does Buck Wise do? February – May 2021


Buck Wise, who’s been the conduit for a lot of the stories in Rex Morgan, M.D., since I started recapping, is … uh … He does merchandising somehow, and that’s got him in touch with a bunch of comic artists. Some, like “Horrible” Hank Harwood, were famous in the old days. Some, like Kyle Vidpa, are rising stars of today.

This should catch you up on the strip to late May 2021. If you’re reading this after about August 2021 and need a recap? Or if news about Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. breaks out? An essay at this link might be more useful to you. Now let’s get into details.

Rex Morgan, M.D..

28 February – 23 May 2021.

My last checkup with Rex Morgan, M.D., saw Buck Wise acclimating to living with diabetes. Some diet changes, some exercise changes, and all that. It wrapped up about a week later.

And since then? … It’s been a gentle plot even for a story strip that was already full of gentle plotting. This started with Sarah Morgan feeling neglected by her parents and having a string of fantasies. So she imagined what if her father wasn’t a doctor? What if he was, say, a Western cowboy? So this started a series of fantasy sequences which let Terry Beatty show off different ways he could draw the strip if it had a different theme. The first sequence, Tex Morgan, ran from the 9th through the 17th of March. It was about Tex Morgan saving Sarah from kidnapping desperado Butch Belluso.

[ Sarah imagines Rex is a cowboy in the old west. ] Villager: 'Who's that *other* feller ridin' into town?' Tex Morgan: 'That's my sidekick, Buck. The ol' Buckaroo.' Second Villager: 'Why, sure. Every hero has to have a sidekick, don't he?' Villager: 'How come, though? All they ever do is get captured and such.' Third Villager: 'Well, that drives the *story*, see? Creates a conflict and all that here.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 13th of March, 2021. One can admire young Sarah’s understanding of the needs of drama without wondering why she doesn’t depict her teachers or babysitter or anyone besides her dad’s friend’s friends.

As happens, Sarah got tired of the setting, so she changed genre, and Beatty changed art style. And we got a couple weeks of Rod Morgan, a Dick Tracy-esque figure. This carried on her rescue from Shinytop, who’s another representation of Rene Belluso. So that ran from the 18th through the 26th of March. From the 27th, it shifted once more into a Batman ’66 pastiche, Doctor Rex and Princess. Here, again, foiling The Forger, another Rene Belluso figure, who’s been forging all sorts of classic bits of comic art. And that went on through the 8th of April, when Rex had some time away from not seeing patients to talk with Sarah. He promised to spend some more time with her, alone. And she promises to write out these stories she’s making up.


We get a short visit with Jordan Harris and Michelle Carter, from the 25th of April through the 2nd of May. They now plan to get married over Zoom, we get into the next and current story. It’s again through Sarah Morgan. Her new favorite books ever are the Kitty Cop series of books, by Kyle Vidpa. Who’s a client of Buck Wise’s, it happens. She can’t wait for the next book in the series. She starts writing a fan letter, encouraged by Buck Wise’s promise that he can get him to actually read it himself. Before you know it, Sarah’s on page 782 of her letter.

Which may work out for Kyle Vidpa. He’s been suffering writer’s block. After having Kitty Cop fight a giant robot, a giant robot dinosaur, a giant robot monkey, and a giant robot squirrel, what’s next? (My suggestion: two regular-size robot bunnies.) His wife offers limited sympathy since she figures children’s books are silly and thus easy. It’s an attitude I imagine gets her talked about when they go to professional conferences. But she does offer the advice that they’ve been stuck in one house for a year-plus now. Any kind of visit, even to see family, may help him.

Lauren Vidpa: 'Maybe you should just focus on the business stuff today. Look over those toy designs and get back to Buck. Don't worry about the new book.' Kyle Vidpa: 'Easy for you to say. You don't have FIVE MILLION nine-year-olds desperately waiting for YOU to deliver a new volume.' Lauren: 'You can't think about that. Just take a day to do the business stuff, and relax --- a new story will come to you --- it always does.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 15th of May, 2021. Sure, Lauren here doesn’t have five million nine-year-olds waiting for the new Kitty Cop volume. But she does have several hundred parents of those nine-year-olds who are blaming her, specifically, for the Kitty Cop books not coming out faster. And they’ve found her Facebonk page, so she’s having a great time, really.

And that’s where things stand. We have a children’s book writer with no ideas for his next work. We have a child about to unleash an 86,398-page fan latter on him. The child’s been shown to have an energy for creating at least fragments of stories in traditional comic-strip or pulpy modes. Will those come together? I don’t know. My experience with writers block is sometimes someone else’s ideas, without my using them, will shake my own thinking loose.

Couple curious things in Sarah’s imaginary versions of her father. One is that these stories are self-aware, with the characters talking about how they know they’re sidekicks or villains or whatnot. Sometimes complaining about their parts in the story. I’m fine with that, though. Self-aware stories are some of the most liberating and wonderful things a child can discover and it’s natural to imitate that.

[ Sarah Morgan's imaginary adventures of DOCTOR REX and Princess - It's not over yet, folks! ] Belluso, The Forger, to the camera: 'I'm the villain of this thing, and I'm STILL on the loose! So MANY clown portraits left to paint!' He's in front of an erzatz Emmet Kelly clown portrait. [ SARAH's imaginary adventure continues. Having escaped the Forger's death trap in the art museum, DOCTOR REX and THE PRINCESS track the nasty and notorious FORGER to his secret lair! ] Rex and Sarah crash through the skylight. Rex: 'Time to take your MEDICINE, you dime-store doodler!' The Forger: 'ARRGGHH! You escaped my trap! Impossible!' Buck: 'Well, it's clearly *possible*, Boss. I mean, look, they're right there!' Forger: 'You are the WORST henchman ever. You know what? You're fired. Just FIRED. I am SO done with you.' Buck: 'Do I still get my severance package?' Forger: 'WHAT? NO! Now get out so I can defeat these caped crimefighters!' Buck: 'NEITHER of them wears a cape. LOOK --- no CAPES. Y'know, for an ARTIST you're really not very OBSERVANT.' [ To be concluded --- SOOON, we hope! ]
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 4th of April, 2021. All right, he doesn’t pay attention to capes, but he can just nail a bicycle, from memory. Anyway, you see how much fun Terry Beatty was having with this. I’m not sure how much of this reflects how fun it can be to do a bunch of story beats without worrying about needing a resolution.

More curious is that in all of them Rene Belluso is a villain, and particularly an art forger. The real Belluso is both. Last we saw him he’d been arrested for running scams on Covid-19 victims, and before that he was running a Celestial Healing health scam. Before that, he was forging art, too, yes. But when Sarah did know him (mostly before Terry Beatty took over the writing) it was him as an art instructor. Does she actually know any other side of him? I do not remember. But we can suppose Sarah’s parents said something about why she was suddenly no longer seeing this adult. I can’t answer what Sarah knows about Rene Belluso is all.

Next Week!

High school sports! Which gets us hip-deep into Public Library Politics. How? I’ll explain as I recap Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp in one week, unless circumstances interfere.

On How Technology Has Changed the Way We Discover Dialects


Overall, yes, I appreciate how easy the Internet makes it for people to discover dialects and regionalisms. Not just learning of others’, but of learning of your own unique phrasings and common idioms and vowel mergers.

But the change is losing something too, and that’s worth mention. Think, now, of going through your whole college career without that night of hanging out in the dorm lounge, and discovering, in a moment of giddy delight for your friends, a moment which earns you a nickname that lasts intensely for two weeks and then makes occasional reappearances for the rest of your four years, that it is only people from your half of Livingston County, New Jersey (plus a zone around New Danzig, Oklahoma) who have ever called mayonnaise “sandwich gravy”. I don’t know if this is the world we would choose, but it’s the one we’re coming to live in.

60s Popeye: Quick Change Olie and another Whiffle Bird cartoon


We’re back with Paramount Cartoon Studios today, in a 1960 cartoon. Quick Change Olie has a story by I Klein, and direction and production by Seymour Kneitel. And two special guest stars, too! Let’s watch.

We start (and end) at the Rough House Cafe, getting a view of Rough House himself. We don’t get any dialogue from him. But what could he do that would be useful? Complain about Wimpy calling his food poisonous?

They have some talk about ye olden days, with Wimpy imagining the chance to eat things like roast venison, roast boar, or roast full oxen. Wimpy’s gluttony shifting from hamburgers to “just lots of food” is a change of character although not a ridiculous one, seems to me.

A still-hungry Wimpy catches the Whiffle Bird with plans to eat her, because he did not learn from that time he got turned into a werewolf. Yes, yes, that cartoon’s from 1961 and only a fool demands continuity between Popeye cartoons anyway. Whiffle explains how rubbing her feathers grants wishes. Wimpy wishes them back in Ye Olden Days, and they’re lucky the Whiffle Bird doesn’t think this is a caveman cartoon or something. A minute and 57 seconds into the cartoon we’re finally at a castle.

A king crying woe is me, and who for a wonder is not Blozo, tells his tale. Olie the Wicked Magician kicked him out of his castle and kidnapped the princess. Popeye doesn’t need much encouragement to go saving the day. Wimpy, who got everyone into this fix, meanwhile vanishes.

Olie turns out to be Brutus, wearing robes, saying “ye” instead of “you” and sometimes affecting a generic accent. He’s a legitimate magician, though, using his powers to disappear when Popeye tries to punch him, or turn to flame when Popeye grabs him. Popeye counters with spinach magic, and a jackhammer punch that shrinks Olie to half Popeye’s size. This drives him off, because the cartoon is running out of time. Otherwise, like, this is the first thing Popeye’s done that’s at all effective against Olie. And I’d think if you can make yourself a giant at will it’s no great threat to be shrunk.

In a vaguely medieval castle, a large and ugly Princess holds Popeye in her arms and off the ground. Popeye's reaching a hand eagerly to the Whiffle Bird, who looks sad at having been captured again by Wimpy.
Is it possible that the Whiffle Bird isn’t actually good at magic and that’s why she keeps getting into these fixes?

But as I said, there’s not time for more action, or something that would exhaust Olie. So the King has his castle back, and Popeye would get to marry the princess except — ho ho — she’s ugly! And fat! And has a grating voice! Not to worry; Wimpy’s reappeared in the story. While he was out, it seems, he couldn’t find anything to eat, so he grabs the Whiffle Bird who also decided to be in the story again. Wimpy figures to eat her, an unaccountable lack of insight from a normally sharp operator. Popeye knows what to do and wishes them back to Rough House’s Cafe. Or restaurant, whichever.

I feel like these descriptions get more plot-recappy the less I like what’s going on. There’s a fair enough premise here. And I liked in principle that Ye Olden Days characters weren’t King Blozo and, for the princess … well, I don’t know. Olive Oyl if you want the princess to be attractive, the Sea Hag if you don’t. But that creativity’s messed up by having Olie be Brutus in a new costume. I like Olie being actually able to do enough magic to mess with Popeye. And, yeah, once Popeye eats his spinach the villain is vanquished. This all felt too abrupt, though. An extra half-minure or so in Ye Olden Days could have done very well. Let Olie come back from being shrunk, and Popeye punch (or whatever) him out of the castle. Then I think I’d be more satisfied.

I don’t understand the cartoon title. It nags at me. I want to say it’s an old theatrical or vaudeville, term. Maybe meaning something that explains why the villain isn’t called Brutus. I can’t confirm or refute that, though.

Statistics Saturday: Comic Strips That _Starlog_ Thought Were Being Made Into Movies in 1987


Not listed: that time Ralph Bakshi thought he was making a primetime TV cartoon version of Blade Runner.

Starlog magazine MediaLog entry: 'Animation: it's not a dream. Really. Back in the animation races after a career hiatus to concentrate on painting, Ralph Bakshi has acquired the rights to a recent SF classic. Bakshi is developing an animated version of Blade Runner, aimed at a primetime TV slot. This projected Blade Runner would combine some animated characters with some live-action background elements.'
Wait, an only partly-animated Ralph Bakshi project? How could that ever happen?

Also not mentioned: that Tintin project because I don’t think Tintin was ever a comic strip and, like, Betty Boop had a short-lived comic even if it wasn’t good.

Also, coming back to the mentioned: Motley’s Crew? Really? Huh. I mean, I guess that’s a comic strip that existed all right, but … Really. Huh. I mean … huh. You’re passing on Bill Schorr’s The Grizzwells for this, then.

Reference: Nathaniel’s Nutmeg: How One Man’s Courage Changed The Course of History, Giles Milton.

60s Popeye: Operation Ice-Tickle, and I don’t get what that’s a pun for either


So, first, Stephanie Noell of the OOC Popeye Twitter feed published a new pay-what-you-will zine, The Rainbird. This collects a Thimble Theatre story from 1939-40, by Tom Sims, Doc Winner, and Bela Zaboly. Popeye, having decided at last to marry Olive Oyl, sets out to Neutopia to find the magic rainbird that controls its weather. His reasons for this make sense in context. In the grand tradition of Thimble Theatre the action peters out with the original incident forgotten. Fun, though.

Less fun: the next King Features Popeye in their YouTube channel’s order is the Jack Kinney-produced Spinachonara. It opens with Popeye offering Swee’Pea an “Oriental-type kind” of fairy story so uh yeah yikes. I trust they meant to respect that non-white-people should get to be the stars of stories too. But I’m not paid to deal with Jack Mercer, Jackson Beck, and Mae Questel doing their Japanese Or Chinese Or Whatever Accents. You want me to do 600 words on that, ask for my PayPal.


Next cartoon, then. That gets us safely back in Paramount Cartoon Studios territory. Story by Joseph Gottlieb, with direction and production by Seymour Kneitel. Here’s the 1961 short Operation Ice-Tickle.

What we have here is another Popeye-and-Brutus compete cartoon. This time not to do a job but complete a task. That task? Bring back the North Pole. This because they happen to be in front of a statue of Admiral Peary when Olive Oyl has enough of Popeye and Brutus’s quarreling. The reward? A date with Olive Oyl, you know, like the one Popeye had been on when Brutus interrupted. All right. Popeye and Brutus are lucky they weren’t in front of the Science Center’s Planet Walk model of Saturn.

The premise is a bit goofy. Brutus buys a very slow rocket from a surplus store. Popeye hits up the surplus store too, getting an 1886 hot air balloon. And somehow this is not the only cartoon that I have reviewed that’s about flying a balloon to the North Pole. What the heck?

There’s this absurdity at the heart of the cartoon. At many of the details, too. Like, Popeye takes his burst balloon, builds a replacement using an inner tire and a car engine, and catches up with Brutus’s rocket? But it’s all well-constructed. The more I think of the story the more impressed I am with its fitting together. Like, does a kid notice the absurdity of a hot air balloon catching up with, and overtaking, a rocket? That is a joke they wanted us to notice, right?

Popeye rests in a hot-air-balloon basket, which hangs from a giant overinflated rubber-tire doughnut, and propelled by a small car engine hanging off the back. Through the center of the doughnut is the candy-cane-striped North Pole. On the top of the North Pole (in front of Popeye) is a frozen Brutus.
“Now there’s something you don’t see every day, Chauncey.”

“What’s that, Edgar?”

“Lighthouse making a home delivery.”

And then there’s little bits of crafting. Like, Popeye secures the North Pole by landing his doughnut-tire airship around it. There’s some foreshadowing there, as Brutus tries to pop this second balloon but misses because his rocket slides through the hole. (I assume that’s how we’re supposed to read that scene. The animation skimps on what we do see.) Or, when Popeye’s trapped in ice? He’s freed by the little flame of his own homemade engine. That flame’s there because Brutus is stealing his balloon, but doesn’t know how to work it. That’s a good reason for Brutus to have the flame pointed at Popeye and not turn it off. And, of course, it’s a thing that couldn’t have come about if Brutus hadn’t popped the original hot air balloon.

This is in the upper tier of the King Features shorts. The premise is absurd and if you can’t get into that, there’s nothing for you here. But grant the premise and the story makes solid sense. The animation’s the typical Paramount Cartoon Studios competence. There’s a couple of nice shots, like seeing Popeye and Olive Oyl and Brutus walking together from a camera above their heads. The closing joke is a weird one, but it does get everyone out in good order.

MiSTed: Dreams of a Lost Past/Loss, Part 3 of 4


Thanks for joining me on another day of reusing a late-90s Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction. This continues Doug Atkinson’s “Loss”, a story about talking Brainiac-5 out of doing something really dumb, which the Legion of Superheroes gang had to do a lot back in the day. Probably still does. I don’t know; I haven’t read a recent Legion of Superheroes book except for the crossover issue they did with Batman ’66, which was everything I had hoped for. Nothing against comic books, I’m just not very good at reading new ones. At heart, I like the Silver Age Nonsense parade.

So the mid-show host sketch here is inspired by some Silver Age Nonsense. I’d picked up a collection of Silver Age Superman story reprints from the closing sale of a comic book shop in the legendary Latham Circle Mall. So that’s where that sketch comes from, and I’m happy to say I was ahead of the curve on the Internet noticing Silver Age Superman was like that. Of course, nobody cared that I was there ahead of time. All the references are accurate and unexaggerated.

I regret the line that just assumed obesity was by itself a health threat. I accepted uncritically the social consensus about that. I stand by the thesis of the sketch; I would hope I’d write it better today.

Part 1 of the MiSTing covered the incomplete “Dreams of a Lost Past”. And then Part 2 started “Loss”, set in the aftermath of the death of Supergirl in the Crisis on Infinite Earths.

I haven’t decided what to do after this is done. I’m leaning toward bringing out another MiSTing. If you dimly remember an old piece of mine you’d like to see reprinted and maybe apologetically explained, please let me know. I’ve got stuff I forgot I ever did. Not sharing the Lynn Johnston piece.


[ SOL DESK. JOEL is sitting behind the desk, playing with the courderoy starship. ]

JOEL: [ Looking up ] Welcome back, folks. It’s quiet right now, but I expect my youthful wards Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot to come to me momentarily with some silly but endearing crisis of faith in our pop cultural world.

TOM: [ From offscreen ] JOEL!

CROW: [ Also offscreen ] We need to talk!

JOEL: [ Calling ] That’s what I’m here for, guys.

[ TOM and CROW suddenly enter on opposite sides of JOEL. TOM is holding "Giant Superman Annual" #1. ]

CROW: OK, we were reading this bunch of old Superman stories.

TOM: And there’s this sick one where Lois Lane witnesses a murder but can’t give a good description of who did it.
[ JOEL picks up TOM’s comic book and shows it to the camera. ]

CROW: But afterwards she gets accidentally zapped with this experimental ray that’s supposed to make plants grow better and it makes her enormously fat.

TOM: And it turns out Metropolis is basically worldwide headquarters for ways to embarass fat people.

CROW: And after a month of feeling horribly ashamed at Superman seeing her overweight Lois runs into the murderer and he gets ready to shoot her when Superman comes and catches him. Turns out he was watching her the whole time for the muderer to show himself.

JOEL: [ Nodding ] I’m with you so far.

TOM: OK, but then Superman reveals Lois *wasn’t* accidentally zapped with the fat ray. He arranged for it to happen on purpose while he used her — without *telling* her — as bait to drag out the bad guy.

CROW: And he knew how to get her back to normal anytime he wanted.

TOM: So why did Superman want to do anything that changed how she looked?

CROW: The fact is, putting aside his non-consenting use of her to trap a crook, the Supester subjected the putative love of his life to an experimental ray that did all sorts of screwball stuff to her metabolism, inflicted who knows what long-term trauma to her cardiac and skeletal systems, and blasted her self-esteem into subatomic pieces, without even thinking to ask her…

TOM: And for absolutely no comprehensible reason other than he wanted to watch her being fat!

JOEL: Well, hey, nothing wrong with liking a heavy-set girlfriend, right?

TOM: Nothing wrong with it, except what kind of *creep* do you have to be to *mutate* your girlfriend to please your own eye?

CROW: Yeah! Where’s the consideration? Where’s the respect? What kind of animals raised Superman anyway?

JOEL: That would be his foster parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent.

CROW: And could they not take a moment to explain to Clark he should ask someone before transmogrifying her?

TOM: Isn’t this basic, common courtesy?

JOEL: Guys, it’s just an old comic book…you shouldn’t try to read too much into it.

[ MOVIE SIGN. General alarm. ]

JOEL: We gotta run, guys!

CROW: Oh, and don’t get us *started* on the comic where Lois gets turned into a witch!

TOM: Crow, come on!

[ 6.. 5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1.. ]

[ ALL enter theater ]

TOM: And then right here in the back of the book, Batman and Superman play this duel of mind-warping games in pursuit of some mad birthday prank!

CROW: Not to mention the mermaid!

JOEL: I wouldn’t.

> Whacked-out Querl Dox,

JOEL: [ Singing ] Querl Dox…a little dox’ll do ya!

> who builds the machines
> that go berserk."

CROW: Just ’cause they accidentally blew up seventeen planets you think I’m the problem.

> He pointed the electronic spanner at Jo
> viciously.

TOM: Heh…you know what he’s *really* saying…

CROW: No, actually, I don’t.

TOM: [ After a pause ] Me neither.

> "Supergirl died to save the universe from the
> Anti-Monitor.

CROW: Isn’t that always the way?

> She was always risking her life to save
> others.

TOM: And vice-versa.

> That devotion…that selflessness shouldn’t be
> allowed to perish from the universe before its time! She was
> only in her twenties…

JOEL: Oh, but that’s actually in dog-twenties.

> who knows how long she could have
> lived, fighting all the time to save others."

TOM: Uhm…I’ll say eight. No, ten. Definitely ten.

> He dropped his head and arm abruptly. "Not like me. I
> try to good, and what happens?

CROW: Maybe if he tried to great instead, things would average out?

> People die. I build the
> Earth’s most powerful AI, and it rampages through Metropolis.

JOEL: That’s Metropolis’s fault, though, for not enacting those no-rampaging-AI ordinances a few years back.

> Pulsar Stargrave uses my genius, and I channel all the
> universe’s evil into Omega."

TOM: I set the VCR to tape "Pokemon" and it melts Spain.

> A broad arm gesture took in the
> Exchanger, the two flat bed with the powerful apparatus
> connecting them.

CROW: So this exchanger is pretty much your generic Two-Victim Bad Guy Machine.

> "Once this is working again, I’ll be able to
> transfer my life energy into Kara and bring her back to life.

JOEL: Even though everything else I’ve ever tried has screwed up in horrible, terrifying ways.

> I’m willing to die to bring her back."
> _Dr. Frankenstein has entered the headquarters_, thought
> Jo. "Don’t talk like that, Brainy.

TOM: Let’s just cuddle instead.

> You don’t really want to
> die. Is it really worth it?"
> "Ask Matter-Eater Lad,

CROW: Oh, he’s the guy with the power to turn anything in the world into garlic bread.

> who went insane because of me.
> Ask Duo Damsel, whose third body was killed by Computo.

JOEL: Fortunately Duo doesn’t hold grudges.

> Ask
> the people whose homes were leveled by Omega, or whose loved
> ones he killed. They’d say it’s a fair exchange."
> Jo held his hands up in a T. "All right, time out.

TOM: Offensive holding; ten yard penalty.

> Enough with the death talk for a moment, and for God’s sake
> put down the spanner."

CROW: You have no idea where it’s been.

> Jo’s blue eyes met Brainy’s yellow-
> and-green ones, and locked with them. Finally Brainy lowered
> his gaze and placed the spanner on a table.

TOM: Secretly unknown to Brainiac 5, Jo is his older brother Rex who disappeared in the mountain ranges of Krypton several years earlier.

> "Now. I understand that we aren’t the best of friends.
> You’ve never been the type to pal around, and we tend to move
> in different circles.

JOEL: Plus there was that time you tore my brain out of my skull and planted it in a large wolverine.

> But I know that it’s difficult losing
> a loved one, and that’s it’s good to talk things out.

TOM: Yes, a bland, impersonal conversation with a casual acquaintance helps you recover from losing the love of your life.

> Especially for someone like you,

CROW: Such as Benton Frazier’s boss on "Due South."

> who keeps his feelings
> bottled up all the time.
> "Why are you having so much trouble accepting her death?

JOEL: ‘Cause I wasn’t there to sign for it and the delivery company’s a pain.

> Not to sound insensitive, but it wasn’t exactly a surprise."
> Brainy kept his eyes on the floor for a while.

TOM: Hey…the wood trim isn’t level.

> When he
> spoke, his voice was hoarse. "I loved Kara from the time we
> first met, at her membership trial.

CROW: I told her so after she got her first twelve CDs for a penny.

> I never stopped loving
> her during all the time she hardly ever came to the Thirtieth
> Century. I valued the short times I spent with her, knowing

JOEL: That if we stand on tippy-toes the times would seem taller.

> I wouldn’t have very many of them.
> "It hurt when she decided not to pursue our romance any
> further.

TOM: It was like she had the idea I was some borderline-psychotic mad scientist who keeps accidentally unleashing destruction on the world.

> I went a little crazy then…you remember the
> Supergirl robot I built in my sleep?" Jo nodded.

CROW: Did you ever build a Supergirl robot in your sleep, Joel?

JOEL: I’ll talk with you about that when you’re older, dear.

> "And all
> that time I had to keep my distance a little, because she was
> living under a death sentence. It was like loving someone
> with a terminal disease, except that she didn’t know it was
> coming…and I couldn’t tell her.

TOM: Mind you, it is really hard to work into casual conversation.

> Knowledge of the future is
> a curse…it’s why Superboy quit for a couple of years.

CROW: Er, why he’s going to quit, next year.

> "I never learned to let my feelings out as a child–
> Coluans aren’t encouraged to.

JOEL: And, by the way, I’m Coluan.

TOM: You know, when in Colua, you should do like the Coluans do.

> My parents were dead, and the
> other children resented my intelligence so much that I never
> made any friends.

CROW: The only guy who’d play with me was that Keith Aksland guy.

> I’d never had someone I could let myself
> open up to before. But I resented having this barrier
> between us,

TOM: And it hurt all the worse that it was the Cone of Silence.

> that I always knew we wouldn’t have much longer,
> and she didn’t. Perhaps if she had, she’d have visited more
> often, I thought, but telling her would be far too cruel.

JOEL: Unless I broke it to her with sock puppets. They make anything fun.

> It
> might also cause a paradox, and even I couldn’t predict the
> results.

TOM: Heck, who couldn’t call *that* one from miles away?

> "I hate feeling powerless, Jo. My whole scientific
> career has been devoting to pushing the limits of natural
> law.

JOEL: Except for that sabbatical year I spent developing new flavors for Velveeta.

> Science tells us that time only moves forward, so I
> work on time travel.

CROW: Actually, it tells us the most probable sequence of events is one which maximizes entropy, which is commonly interpreted to represent the forward flow of time.

> Science tells us that tons of material
> can’t be stored in a closet,

TOM: Unless you try.

> so I invent the storage
> tesseract. Science tells us that inanimate materials can’t
> think–Blok notwithstanding–so I design a supercomputer.

JOEL: Science just keeps calling up late at night, snickering at me, and hanging up.

> I
> don’t like thinking that there are forces behind my control
> that I can’t harness.

TOM: If we could just make the forces of nature run on a really *big* hamster wheel…

> "I especially don’t accept the idea of ‘fate,’ or
> whatever you want to call it.

CROW: OK. I want to call it "Destiny."

TOM: I want to call it "Thor."

JOEL: How about "Mookie?"

CROW: On second thought "Fate" is fine by me.

> Projectra or the White Witch

JOEL: Hey, they were bit characters on H.R. Pufnstuf.

> would call me hopelessly hard-headed and small-minded, but I
> can’t accept that Kara had a predestined time to die, and
> that nothing could have been done to stop it.

CROW: I mean, c’mon, she’s a superhero. They never die for more than maybe two months at the outside.

> It’s in my
> hands to reverse that." He cast a glance at the Exchanger.
> "Perhaps you don’t understand–you and Phantom Girl have been
> together for years now."
> "I understand losing a loved one.

JOEL: I still have a shrine to my dead hamster Benny.

> Maybe you remember An
> Ryd? Y’know, the woman you killed and framed me for the
> murder?

TOM: [ As Brainiac 5 ] What, you’re not over that yet?

> I know it wasn’t your fault, but I still loved her
> once." Brainy bit his lip, and Jo decided to change the
> subject.

TOM: [ As Jo ] What do you think of ginger ale?

> "What about the paradox problem? I’m no temporal
> scientist like you, but I thought the history books couldn’t
> be changed. History says that Supergirl died in 1985."

JOEL: ‘Course, History also says Jay Ward was the 14th president of the United States. I think it’s drunk or something.

> "First of all, I don’t think history is all that
> trustworthy. Supergirl was seen to die,

CROW: But heck, who hasn’t been seen to die at least a couple times?

> but we all saw you
> killed in an explosion, too. As I recall, you returned in
> Superboy’s body and calling yourself ‘Reflecto.’

TOM: So he lost his sense of dignity in the explosion.

> While I
> don’t pretend to understand that convoluted series of events,
> it tells me that Supergirl’s perceived ‘death’ isn’t
> incompatible with her living under an another name."

JOEL: As…uh…Superlady…woman…hero. Or something.

> Brainiac seemed to animate with the argument.

CROW: Sketch Quick Draw McGraw in only four easy moves.

> "Secondly,
> who says history is immutable?

JOEL: R. L. Stein, that’s who.

> The Legion decided early on
> to go back in time and meet Supergirl, invite her to join us.
> Later on we did the same thing with Superboy.

TOM: Still later we traveled back in time to warn our younger selves not to request "Clyde’s Car Crusher" as a birthday present.

> Later on we
> found historical evidence that they’d time travelled
> occasionally.

CROW: The evidence for this being that the Sphinx suddenly resembled Gleek the Wonder Monkey.

> Were the time trips predestined? As I said, I
> don’t accept that. I believe history would heal itself,

JOEL: Or would wipe us out of existence. Whichever.

> and
> we’d come to accept that Supergirl miraculously returned to
> life, after she was thought dead. Alternatively, she could
> live in our century, causing no conflict with our history
> books."

TOM: Alternatively, she could move to Long Island and come into the city for special occasions.

> Jo realized that Querl could run circles around him in
> temporal arguments. He decided to change his tactics.

CROW: [ As Jo ] If I invade Russia in winter it’s bound to impress him!


[ To be concluded … ]

60s Popeye: Golf Brawl, which doesn’t actually have fighting to speak of


Finally! It’s been over a half-year since we saw a bit of this cartoon. It was among those featured in the deeply baffling Popeye’s Testimonial Dinner. Now, we get to appreciate how much it did not fit that clip cartoon.

This is, as with the earlier cartoon, a Jack Kinney production. Kinney’s also credited with the story, such as there is. Animation direction is credited to our old friends Volus Jones and Ed Friedman. And now from 1960, take in a Golf Brawl.

As said in the prologue, Jack Kinney’s credited with the story, such as it is. The catch is there isn’t much story. There’s a string of golf jokes at the Meatball Meadows Championship Golf Tournament “to-day”. Popeye, Brutus, Olive Oyl, and Wimpy start as a quartet but go mostly into their own separate threads. The exception is that Popeye and Brutus do taunt one another, most often with the chant to “play the ball where it lies”, one of many repeated refrins. The cartoon flits between these and there’s not much development.

This isn’t to fault the cartoon for not having a plot or story or such. It’s an observation. There is an almost hypnotic pace to the cartoon. This especially with bits like coming back to Olive Oyl hitting the ball only to have it loop around the rim of the hole and come back to her. Or Wimpy counting up from “fore” to “five” to “six” all the way to at “one hundred and twenty-four” without hitting the ball. I can’t even call it antihumor, since it’s clear what’s supposed to be funny about this. It’s closer to that Sideshow-Bob-and-the-Rake thing of repeating a mildly funny joke to an extreme.

Cutaway view showing underground that Popeye is digging a tunnel in his attempts to hit the golf ball. The tunnel is dangerously close to the water hazard, in which Brutus stands, trying to hit his own submerged golf ball.
I mean, I’d even take a two-stroke penalty instead.

Popeye and Brutus have the thread nearest to a story here, as they keep getting into terrible lies and carry on. At one point Brutus hits a ball wild, and it bounces off several trees before klonking Popeye. This bit got used as a clip in Popeye’s Testimonial Dinner and there’s no way to see it as Brutus’s perfidy here. Eventually Brutus ends up stuck in a water hazard, and Popeye’s bad drives dig a tunnel out underneath, releasing the water in a tiny cataclysm. Somehow that isn’t the end of their thread. Nor is Brutus accidentally swallowing Popeye’s ball.

Olive Oyl finally putts her ball into the hole. This earns her the Popeye-the-Sailor-Man musical flourish. It earns her thread the only real resolution of anything this cartoon. Otherwise, given this group’s ability? There’s no reason the cartoon couldn’t carry on forever, drifting between strange failures to play golf.

It won’t be everyone’s taste, but if it is yours, it’s really yours. In any case it doesn’t match the clip show use at all.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? Who’s this Ghost Phantom haunting the Phantom? February – May 2021


We don’t yet know! The current story has a mysterious Visitor who looks and acts like The Phantom apart from walking past everyone, ignoring them. Our Ghost Who Walks is sharing what he knows, from the Chronicles, about That Ghost Who Walks Too. But we haven’t got much specific information yet. It’ll be a good gag if it turns out there’s a parallel line of fathers passing down to sons a sacred obligation to sometimes mess with The Phantom.

This should catch you up to mid-May 2021 in Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity. For the weekday continuity, or for a Sundays plot recap after about August 2021, you may find a more useful post here.

The Phantom (Sundays).

21 February – 16 May 2021.

The story of The Phantom’s rescue of The Detective was all but wrapped up when I checked in in February. Over the next month it completely wrapped up. Detective Yusuf Ali Malango reported in about busting up that crime syndicate. And about how The Phantom made it possible. His supervisor keeps this out of the record as they’re not dealing in legends here. Malango hikes out to that carved mountain where his grandmother’s been waiting for news, and all’s happy. This, the 14th of March, wraps up “Vigil at Phantom Head”.

In the deep woods. The Detective: 'Bibi, what are you doing way out here? I go on a little vacation ... and you? You move into the jungle with your crazy little dog?' Dog: 'Arf!' Bibi, hugging her grandson: 'Oh, Yusuf! You're HERE! You're really here!' The Detective: 'I'm here, Bibi ... let's get your camp picked up.' [ Bound For Home ] The Detective, finishing packing: 'That looks like everything ... it's a long trek home, Bibi. Ready?' She's looking into the distance. 'Bibi?' The Detective follows her line of sight: '!! I should have known he'd be here ... ' In the far distance is The Phantom, riding his horse, away from the mountain carved with The Phantom's face.
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 14th of March, 2021. The Phantom is lucky the 7th Phantom didn’t happen to get all the pudgy-face genes, so the Emperor Joonkar’s Phantom Head Peak matches well enough.


The 191st and current Sunday continuity story, “The Visitor”, began the 21st of March.

It begins with Babudan, master tracker of the Bandar people, seeing The Phantom walk right past, ignoring him. Which is strange on several grounds, not least that The Phantom is away from the Deep Woods. Dozens of people, including Diana, see The Ghost Who Ghosts Them, including inside Skull Cave.

The Phantom knows what this is, though. And he’s excited, almost giddy. It’s fun to see. He invites the Bandars’ “best listeners” into Skull Cave, so he can show off his newly-renovated Hall of Costumes. The renovations better show off the outfits past Phantoms wore. He’s been waiting for an excuse to show this off.

The Phantom, holding up several Chronicles and smiling to Guran and Babudan: 'Today I'd like the tribe to her what the 3rd, 6th, 12th, and 16th Phantoms had to say!' [ Who should hear the tale? ] 'The young! After all, the lore will be in their care when none of us are here to tell it.' Guran: 'Agreed!' The Phantom: 'Send your best listeners to Skull Cave --- we'll rely on them to tell the tale to the tribe.' Babudan: 'Why not speak before the village yourself, Phantom?' Phantom: 'We'd need Mandrake to pull off that trick, Babudan! The etire village can't squeeze into the Hall of Costumes!' Babudan, exiting the cave: 'Hall of Costumes?' Guran: 'His home improvement project ... he's bursting with pride to show it off! Don't say I told you ... ' The Phantom, unlocking a door with Skull and Good Mark ring patterns on it: 'Wait'll the kids see this!'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 18th of April, 2021. The Skull disc on the left represents the Skull Ring. The Phantom punches the true evildoers with it so hard they keep a skull impression on them for life. So what happens if they reform? How do they get their good name back? I guess that’s the use for the other pattern, the thing that looks like four P’s laced together. That pattern’s on the Good Mark ring. For those who’ve done significant good The Phantom … uh … it seems out of character that he would punch them so hard they get left with that on their foreheads. Apparently they’re more likely to get a medallion. I don’t know how they prevent counterfeits. Helen Walker used one so she and Kadia Sahara could escape into the Bangallan Embassy.

So what’s the deal with Other Phantom? The 3rd, 6th, 12th, and 16th Phantoms encountered it too. He’s started telling about the Third Phantom’s encounter. This is the encounter that gave The Ghost Who Haunts The Ghost Who Walks And Who Also Walks the less cumbersome name of “The Visitor”. The Visitor, too, appeared in the contemporary Phantom’s garb and walked past Bandar villagers, shunning them. The Visitor left footprints, so is not a ghost. The footprints vanish, the way a ghost’s might. And that’s about all we know so far.

Next Week!

Why was Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. a Western comic for a while, and why did it stop? And then go be a superhero comic a bit? We’ll explore next week, if all goes well.

New Discoveries in Old Star Treks


So like everyone in my age cohort I’ve seen the Original Star Trek episode “Journey to Babel”, where Spock decides all right he’ll save his father from death this time, I’d estimate 136 times. And yet I continue to discover new things in it. Most recent watching, particularly, showed something in the cocktail party scene. You know the one, where they have those two little gold guys in fezzes who’re very excited to drop some of the good sculpted soap that’s for guests only into their drinks. So, this time I spotted:

Cocktail party scene on the starship Enterprise. In the foreground Kirk and McCoy are joking around. In the background a purple woman in sparkling leggings and miniskirt, with a vest the color of her long hair so she doesn't quite look like she's wearing a top, smiles while looking at a guy with short, curly hair who's wearing a blue jumpsuit.
Screen shot from TrekCore. Also, props to the purple woman for managing to wear her hair long enough that NBC didn’t even notice she was topless!

So yeah, look at that purple woman on the far left, who’s heroically managing not to pass out dead while Chief O’Brien explains dogecoin all over her.

And that’s not even the end of her life story, as you can see from the next scene at the cocktail party:

In the foreground Ambassador Sarek pours a drink from a very tall lab cylinder. In the background Ambassador Gav readies his courage to come up and yell at Sarek. In the mid-ground, a purple woman in sparkling tights and miniskirt walks across camera, accompanied by a short-haired man in red Star Fleet uniform.
Screen shot from TrekCore. Is … is her miniskirt made of a low-cut shag carpet?

And how bravely she’s managing to not gnaw her own shoulder off while Other Chief O’Brien explains how to find the buffet table again.

How many Chief O’Briens do they even need in the 23rd century?

60s Popeye: Abdominal Snowman (it’s not clear he even *has* abs)


We’re with Larry Harmon’s studios for today’s Popeye of the 60s. Also with 1960 for the 1960s. The story is once again by Charles Shows. Directing the future stars of Filmation are Paul Fennell. Here’s Popeye searching for the Abdominal Snowman.

Abominable Snowmen were in the air, in the late 50s and early 60s. It’s reasonable enough to send Popeye after one. The premise seems clean enough so it’s odd there’s so much setup. Olive Oyl’s never-before-seen Uncle Sylvan gets introduced like he should play a bigger part in the plot. Claiming to finance things is about all he does that Wimpy couldn’t do as well. I also can’t make out a pun on Sylvan Oyl’s name, which makes him a real anomaly in the Oyl family. Maybe it was the company Larry Harmon got his heating oil from.

At the Explorers Club Popeye keeps asking when it’s time to eat, and when they can eat. I’ve seen this food-obsessed version of Popeye before, although I can’t find just which cartoon did that. I think it was another Larry Harmon-produced one. After maybe two minutes of setup we finally get to Popeye chasing the Abominable Snowman, which is where I’d have started the cartoon.

They crash into Mount Idiot. Why is it Mount Idiot? At Sylvan’s urging, Popeye yodels. The echo scat-sings back. Getting the wrong thing back from an echo is a solid joke starter. But all I get from the “Mount Idiot” name is the worry that if Charles Snows explained to me exactly what the joke was I would be offended. The Popeye Wikia says the name is “because the mountain can never make correct echoes”, which is consistent with what we see, I guess. But with one example it’s not clear the “idiocy” isn’t just scat singing.

Popeye, trapped under a mound of snow in an ice cave, looks up to see two giant green Abominable Snowman figures staring down at him.
“Ahoy! I don’t suppose any of youse Aplombinable Snowmen has seen Doc Harvey Camel, has ya?”

Popeye falls through the ice and meets the Abominable Snowman, who’s tiny and vaguely cute-shaped. He’s been sick, he explains, in a Wallace Wimple-esque voice. The Internet Movie Database credits only Jack Mercer and Mae Questel for this episode, so I suppose it must be Mercer doing the Snowman’s voice. And we get to the Abominable Snowman’s Gift Shop, where Popeye can get all sorts of trinkets including a “life size” snowman suitable for the Explorers Club. The idea of the Abominable Snowman supporting himself on gift shop sales is, again, a good joke starter. It doesn’t work for me and I can’t pin down just why.

Popeye pays for a “life size” snowman doll with a spinach sucker, the only spinach that gets eaten. It gives the tiny Snowman energy and vitality and good cheer. I’d have thought it would also restore the height he lost due to being sick.

Back at the Explorers Club, Uncle Sylvan talks up his heroism in bringing back the creature and conceding that Popeye assisted. So Popeye, in the doll’s mouth, growls and makes threatening noises. Once everyone’s scared he pops out and reveals it’s all in good fun here. It’s an odd ending. It feels like the ending to a different draft, one where Sylvan had more clearly annoyed Popeye.

Episodes of _Alice_ I still remember for some reason


Special thanks-I-guess to Thomas K Dye of Projection Edge and Newshounds web comic fame for getting me on this topic.

  • The one where the waitresses go out on strike and they explain that to be a legal picket line the people in it have to stay in motion at all times, although it’s probably okay if Vera gets on roller skates so she can just slide around, even though she doesn’t know how to stop or steer and she goes rolling off into … traffic, I guess? It seemed bad for her, anyway. I think her injuries shamed Mel into settling the strike. Anyway it’s a good lesson to not learn US labor law by watching Alice.
  • Flo leaves so she can start her own spinoff series, and she gets replaced with … uh … her cousin or maybe sister or someone who’s a lot like her except she doesn’t have that great “Kiss my grits” catchphrase to fall back on.
  • There’s definitely one where a wrecking ball smashes through the diner, right? I couldn’t be imagining that of all things?
  • There’s probably one where Alice’s kid gets to say No to having a Drug even though his bestest best friend forever who we never saw before or after is having them.
  • Mel sells the diner for the last episode so everybody has to go and achieve their lifelong dreams now and what do you know but they do.
  • I’m just guessing that there was one where a major character discovers like six seasons in that they never learned to read, so they learn now. But I don’t know for sure.

Not listed: the Saturday-morning cartoon spinoff of Alice which pop culture theory tells us ought to have existed. The most generally accepted hypotheses suppose that they would all be working their way around the world selling stuff from a funny Wienermobile-like contraption with astounding powers, possibly including flight and the ability to operate as a submarine, and meanwhile there’s spies after them for some reason. They might have a zany pet or it might just be Alice’s flying submersible Wienermobile has a talking computer.

And if I may bring things down with a little harsh reality here: how is it that every season of Alice has been released on DVD while only three-fifths of The Muppet Show have? Well? Huh? You know?

Reference: The Unknown Dominion: Canada and her People, Bruce Hutchison.

60s Popeye: I Bin Sculpted, a remake with a difference


Today’s is one of the rare Gerald Ray-produced cartoons. Direction for this 1960 short is credited to Bob Bemiller. There’s no story credit, always a shame. But there’s something interesting in the story. So let’s watch I Bin Sculpted.

There’s a couple genres of Popeye cartoon. One nice reliable one is Popeye and Bluto/Brutus competing at doing some job for Olive Oyl. That frame covers cartoons as diverse as Shoein’ Hosses, Popeye for President, and I Wanna B A Life Guard. There’s an even smaller genre, though, the one where the competition turns perverse. Hospitaliky, from 1937, and its color remake For Better Or Nurse, are the prime examples of that. In those shorts the boys are competing to get injured all the more, in the hopes Olive Oyl will nurse them back to health.

Olive Oyl’s not a nurse here; she’s an artist. She’s doing a sculpture to be titled “Pooped”, and she wants a model as worn-out-looking as possible. And so Brutus and Popeye compete to get themselves as battered as possible. The gimmick’s a good one, and probably could be used even more than it already was. Here, we get that basic structure, with the extra twist that Brutus and Popeye try sabotaging each other’s doom. In Hospitaliky and For Better Or Nurse, they go their separate ways until fighting at the railroad track.

Popeye, painted red all over (you know because of the paint bucket labelled 'red' beside him, even if you're watching this on a black-and-white TV) stands in a bull pasture with his hands comfortably behind his head. He's unaware that he's becoming invisible, and is at about 50% transparency already.
You know, you just don’t see invisible ink gags like you used to. I’m joking but I’m also in earnest.

So it’s an odd cartoon that is so much a remake of some theatrical shorts. Popeye tries to get run over by a steamroller in For Better Or Nurse; in the same short Bluto jumps off a skyscraper. In Hospitaliky Popeye goads a bull into attacking him; in For Better Or Nurse it’s Bluto. in both earlier cartoons Popeye uses an airplane, to jump from or to deliberately crash. But you notice none of these jokes gets done quite the same way here.

The theatrical-short vibe even extends to the introductory segments. Popeye and Brutus crash through Olive Oyl’s door simultaneously. That’s a joke done several times in Popeye-and-Bluto-compete shorts. There’s even a tattoo gag, of the kind I thought was abandoned in the 40s, with Popeye’s destroyer tattoo shooting a torpedo so sink Brutus’s battleship ink.

This is a model for remaking a theatrical short. It’s built on a solid premise. And while it uses joke setups that people might remember, it has different outcomes to them all. The plot complication of Popeye and Brutus foiling each other’s injuries, rather than chance working against them, makes for a fresher story too.

MiSTed: Dreams of a Lost Past/Loss, Part 2 of 4


Last week I began sharing a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic from the late 90s. This was based on two pieces of Legion of Superheroes fan fiction, the incomplete “Dreams of a Lost Past” and the complete “Loss”. “Dreams … ” was run in full last week. Now, let me begin “Loss”.

The Legion of Superheroes written about here were a 30th Century team of teenagers using their superpowers to play a never-ending bonkers game of “The Floor Is Lava”, each round of which had a 15% chance of blowing up the Universe. Anyway, a longrunning piece of the setup was how Brainiac-5, descendant of the city-shrinking-and-stealing computer-brain supervillain Brainiac, had a doomed crush on Supergirl. Not because Supergirl lived in the 20th century — they were up to their hips in time-travel — but because she died for real and good and this time we mean it in a pivotal issue of the Crisis On Infinite Earths series. And Brainac-5, most intelligent being in the galaxy, with a whole twelfth-level computer brain, with access to a time machine and the ability to make robot duplicates of whatever the heck he pleased, couldn’t figure a way to keep her in the 30th century while she’s seen to have died in the 20th. If you’re going to keep looking at me like that we aren’t going to have any superhero comic books to read at all. Anyway, “Loss” is about Brainiac-5 dealing with how Supergirl just died in 1985. Let’s read.


>
>
> LOSS

CROW: The inside story of the New Jersey Nets.

>
> An untold tale of the Legion of Super-Heroes

TOM: All the tales too ticklish to untell.

>
> by Doug Atkinson

TOM: Or At Dougkinson. Whichever.

>
> The Man of Steel soared into space,

JOEL: Hey, look, there he is.

> carrying his grim
> red-wrapped burden.

CROW: So that’s Krypto’s Super-Pooper-Scooper.

> He came to a stop somewhere outside the
> orbit of Jupiter,

TOM: He’ll have to swerve to avoid hitting the monolith.

> and released it with a gentle push. As it
> slowly tumbled towards the giant planet,

CROW: Bet Irwin Allen’s behind this story too.

> he bowed his head
> and whispered, "Good-bye, Kara…Linda Lee…Supergirl.

JOEL: And all the ships at sea.

> I
> will miss you forever."

TOM: At least if you keep ducking.

> He remained there for a moment, then
> turned back towards Earth. There was a Crisis that demanded
> his attention.

JOEL: Wendy and Marvin need help on their homework.

> The corpse of Supergirl, wrapped in her cape of
> stretchable Kryptonian cloth,

CROW: [ Singing ] It’s magically delicious!

> drifted until it impacted the
> surface of the moon Callisto. With a faint spray of methane
> snow, it settled into the ice.

CROW: Give me a Supergirl, straight up, on the rocks.

> A short time later, a large sphere of metal and glass
> appeared from nowhere. Its front opened, and a purple-clad,
> green-skinned man stepped forth.

JOEL: The Incredible Hulk?

TOM: The Mask?

CROW: Rattfink?

> Although seemingly
> undefended from the vacuum and near-absolute zero
> temperature, his molecule-thin transuit served as more than
> adequate protection.

TOM: So don’t think he was a dummy.

> Gathering the corpse into his arms, he whispered, "At
> last I have a chance to correct one of the greatest
> injustices in history."

JOEL: Excuse me, it’s called Social Studies now.

> He cradled the corpse for a second
> before stepping back into the time sphere and activating the
> return control.

TOM: No, Mr. Beckett, I’m not going to give you a ride home.

> The sphere entered the time stream, vast
> bands of hallucinogenic color shooting past with neon
> numbers.

CROW: Or neon colors with hallucinogenic numbers. Whichever.

> 11111000001….11111001011…11111010101…until he
> at last 101110101001 flashed past, and the sphere came to a
> stop.

JOEL: [ Singing, roughly, "21" ] So it seems like 101110101001 is gonna be a good year…

> Its pilot stepped into an enormous laboratory and
> carried his prize to a strange device, which looked archaic
> and out-of-place amongst the high-tech wonders surrounding
> it.

TOM: It’s hard to explain the love a person has for his first Mattell Aquarius.

> He gently placed the body on a bench that had been
> specially cleared for this purpose, and turned to work.

JOEL: You know, sawing a woman in half doesn’t have the same suspense when she’s dead.

>
> * * * * *
>
> A brown-haired man in an exotic red-and-green costume
> stood before the thick door and hammered futilely.

CROW: So he’s visiting a Christmas ornament?

> "C’mon,
> Brainy. Open up already. You don’t want me using my ultra-
> strength to tear this door open, do you?" There was no
> response.

TOM: [ Whining, nerdily ] Aw, c’mon, let me in… I’ll cry!

> His hands and feet were braced to rip open the blast-
> shielded door when a foot-wide sphere of metal and energy
> floated to him.

JOEL: Ooh, Carl Sagan’s spaceship is visiting.

> "*breep* Legionnaire Jo Nah will refrain from
> damaging Legion headquarters. *breep*"

TOM: [ Sinister voice ] Oh, yes, you will *indeed* refrain from damaging Legion headquarters. Mwuh-ha-ha-ha-HA!

> Jo turned from the door to face the floating major-domo.
> "Computo, I have to talk to Brainy. Open the door."
> "*breep* My master has set the privacy warning

JOEL: Bet he’s looking for dirty pictures of Catwoman on the Internet.

> and has
> indicated his desire not to be disturbed. No one is allowed
> past this door. *breep*"

TOM: You know, I think Computo is being typecast as the *breep*ing boy.

> _I hate this obstinate bundle of
> circuits_, Jo thought.
> "This is on Element Lad’s orders,

CROW: Element Lad.

JOEL: A lad, a plan, a canal, lanthanum.

> Computo, on his
> authority as leader. Priority override the door…now."

TOM: You cross me, boy, and I’ll get the whole series of actinides on your case.

> "*breep* Complying…" The doors slid open.

JOEL: Such airtight security. You really see why computer locks have replaced latch and key ones that can’t be overridden.

> Jo didn’t
> bother to thank the computer; he just walked in, the doors,
> shutting behind him.
> Brainiac 5

CROW: Detroit 4, in ten innings.

> looked at Jo with undisguised hostility. "I’m
> working on a private project, Ultra Boy. Leave me alone."
> "Yeah, I know what your ‘private project’ is.

TOM: Gerbil farming for fun and profit.

> He
> squinted. "My penetra-vision shows me Supergirl’s body on
> that bench, so don’t try to pretend.

CROW: You’re planning to go to the Genesis planet!

> I figured this was what
> you were up to."
> "How did you know?

JOEL: I don’t…actually I’m kind of winging this whole deal.

> I hid my traces when I stole the
> time sphere."
> "Rond and Dr. Chaseer knew something was wrong when you

CROW: Put on that Afro wig and demanded we address you as "Courageous Cat."

> got that look in your eyes and took of from the bar like a
> Korbalian lightning beast was on your tail.

TOM: The lightning beast’s not Korbal?

> You may have
> designed the time travel monitor at the Time Institute,

JOEL: I mean, sure you may have. I don’t know. Heck, I don’t even know who you are.

> but
> you can’t sabotage humanoid intuition. And when we saw the
> Exchanger was gone from the security room, it didn’t take a
> twelfth-level computer brain to figure out what you were up
> to."

CROW: So… what are you up to?

> "Well, now that you’ve satisfied your curiosity, you can
> leave." He turned back to the Exchanger and began making
> small adjustments to its circuitry.

JOEL: Stupid picture-in-picture button never works…

> "Not so fast, pal. Dreamy thinks you’re going to try
> something desperate, and I think she’s right. You’ve never
> been good at handling emotions.

TOM: But you make up for it with your telephone skills.

> You need someone to talk to
> before you do something crazy."

CROW: Now step away from the corpse, return the magic machine to the library, and leave the frozen moons of Jupiter in peace.

> "Crazy?" Brainy’s voice raised for the first time as he
> spun on Jo. "Crazy?

JOEL: [ Cheery ] And proud of it.

> That’s what I am, isn’t it?

CROW: [ As above ] Well, yeah!

> The crazy
> Legionnaire!

TOM: Man, it’s like you’re reading our minds.

JOEL: Let’s blow this popsicle stand.

CROW: Sure.

[ ALL file out. ]

[ COMMERCIAL BREAK ]

[ To be continued … ]

Buckles up again


A bit of happy news for fans of David Gilbert’s Buckles, which ended back in March. The comic strip about a dog and his family has moved over to GoComics, which is rerunning the strip from its beginning. I don’t know whether there’ll be archives of the whole quarter-century run of the comic, but at least something’s available.

GoComics’s blog has a short interview with Gilbert which doesn’t answer my big question: why Gilbert ended the strip, on short notice, days before the 25th anniversary of the comic’s beginning. There’s a reference to his post-retirement happiness at not having a deadline to meet. But that’s not much to go on.

Paul, human: 'Buckles, wanna go out?' Buckles: 'Yeah!' Paul: 'Do ya wanna go out, boy?!! Huh? Do ya?!' Buckles: 'Yeah!! Out!! Yeah!!' Paul: 'Do you really, really, REALLY wanna go out?!!!' Buckles, dancing: 'YES!!! PAUL!!! YES!!!' Buckles, in his doghouse outside, moping: 'I thought he meant out to a movie or something.'
David Gilbert’s Buckles repeat for the 10th of May, 2021. This ran originally the 25th of March, 1996. I’m aware the link calls this “First Buckles”, but GoComics prepends “First” to the start of any of their comic strip archives; see “First” Agnes or “First” Gil or “First” Peanuts. I don’t know why they do that rather than have the “back” button bring you to a page that warns that’s the start of the archive.

Gilbert does say he has a few things in mind for what to do next, including “a new idea for a comic strip”. That would seem to conflict with a love of not facing deadlines. But in this web comic era it is easier to schedule one’s work so the deadlines don’t overload you.

What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Why is some woman screaming at Drew Cory? February – May 2021


That woman is Ashlee Jones. She did not take well Drew Cory’s having to cancel their photoshoot when he got called in to his actual work.

There’s a bunch of content warnings I need to give for this plot recap of Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth. The first is that the main story, the one that began at the end of December and wrapped up in mid-April, concerns a survivor of spousal abuse. It also takes a detour into pet endangerment. The pet is physically unharmed and quickly recovers from his ordeal in this case. But the pet is also shown to have been physically harmed in the past. If that isn’t enough, the current storyline features a character that looks ready to become a stalker. Certainly emotionally dangerous, anyway. If any of that is stuff you don’t want to deal with in your recreational reading, you are right, and we’ll catch up next time. My next Mary Worth plot recap should be linked here, sometime after mid-August 2021. So should any news I have about the strip. Thanks for reading.

Mary Worth.

7 February – 8 May 2021.

Last time I checked in the story was about Saul Wynter and new Charterstone resident Eve Lourd. Lourd froze up, crying, at a men’s clothing store in the mall. After avoiding Wynter a while she explained. The suit reminded her of her late husband, who was emotionally and physically abusive. And from here I’m putting things behind a cut.

Over dinner. Saul Wynter: 'Bad memories can be hard to escape.' Eve Lourd: 'I still struggle with them.' Wynter: 'I used to have that problem too and it made me a cranky old man. Greta helps me to enjoy the present.' Lourd: 'If I didn't have Max, I don't know what I'd do!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 12th of February, 2021. One of the little threads of Saul Wynter’s story has been his transition from gleefully cranky old guy into a pleasant person to be around. I can’t say it quite feels like the Personality Transplant Fairy of soap opera lore visited. It’s heartening to think that even really well-worn grooves in one’s personality might be given up, and happier ones found, given a fair chance.

Over a dinner at home Wynter asks if Lourd has talked to a professional. Yes, she has started talking to a therapist. This would seem to resolve the story, but doesn’t. It continues another two months. One small slice of this is discussion of Wynter’s own problems. His parents pressured him to marry someone he didn’t love, and he grew bitter and cranky over that for decades. But then he got a great dog and he feels he’s all better.

If you feel that “great dog” is a redundancy, good news: Karen Moy and June Brigman agree. Much of the two months covered here is Wynter and Lourd agreeing how dogs are great, and then getting worried when one goes missing.

The one who goes missing is Max, Eve Lourd’s Labrador retriever. They have a very tight bond. When her husband once tried to shoot her(!), Max got in the way, taking the bullet instead(!!). It’s a heck of a moment to take.

[ When Eve's dog Max runs away during a storm ... ] Lourd, describing: 'He bolted past me and before I knew it, he was gone! The thunder sounded like gunshots! After Gary shot Max, sudden loud noises scare him!' Wynter: 'We'll find him, Eve! The storm is letting up, and Greta has a great nose! IF anyone can find him, she can!' Lourd: 'We HAVE TO FIND HIM, Saul! Max is everything to me! I don't know how to go on without him!' Wynter: 'With Greta Wynter leading the way ... WE WILL!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 28th of February, 2021. I grant someone might say the illustration of Greta in the last panel there looks silly, but have you ever looked at a dachshund, or any other short dog, running? I mean really looked? Thank you.

A couple nights later a heavy storm rolls in. Max, scared, races out into the storm. Lourd goes to Wynter for help. He doesn’t need cajoling to start a search. He has the idea that Greta, his dachshund, might even be able to track Max down. I’m skeptical that a dog who wasn’t trained for that would be able to. But Wynter also might be telling Lourd this as reassurance, even if the actual work will be their looking around. Wynter does have a thought balloon where he wonders if Greta isn’t following the scent, though.

They find Max, though, at what I think is a bench along their usual walking path. They celebrate with lunch and with treats and praise for their dogs. And talk about how great dogs are. They even speculate whether their dogs could make good therapy dogs. I again wonder if they’re underestimating how hard it is to be a therapy dog. But few people doubt that their own pets are extraordinary members of that animal kind. I say this as caretaker for the most adorably snuggly and flop-prone rabbit in existence.

After this we get the ritual week of thanking Mary Worth for … uh … something. I guess she advised Wynter to let Lourd open up as she felt comfortable. we also get some time with Lourd talking with her therapist about moving on from a toxic or abusive relationship. It seems to be working, though. On a return visit to the mall Lourd isn’t thrown by the men’s clothing store.


And finally, the 11th of April, with Wynter and Lourd sharing frozen yogurt, that story ends. The new, current story began the 12th of April.

It centers on Dr Drew Cory, son of Mary Worth’s eternal paramour Dr Jeff Cory. Drew Cory’s become an Instagram nature-photo person in his spare time. Ashlee Jones, waitress at a diner, recognizes him over lunch. She loves his wildlife and forest scene photos. She’s a photographer too, specializing in selfies as she hopes to be a model. And she has a great idea: why doesn’t he take pictures of her?

Ashlee Jones: You have some nerve! You think you're BETTER than me ... don't you? You think you can just BLoW ME OFF, Drew Cory? Huh? Do you?' Cory: 'NO, I had to go to work ... I was called in unexpectedly, Ashlee. I'm sorry I cancelled our photoshoot! We'll do our photos another day! I'm about to take my break now ... Let's go out and get something to eat ... ' Jones: 'Okay.'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 9th of May, 2021. I for one am glad this problem’s resolved quickly! I see no warning signs here! Apart from that Plato quote which I bet was created by BrainyQuote.

He’s skeptical but willing. Unfortunately, he has to break their photo-session date when he’s called in to the hospital, and leaves a voice mail with the bad news. She shows up at the hospital anyway, crying and cursing him out for standing her up. He talks her into calmness, for now … and that’s where the story stands.

Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!

The auto care place up the street continues to simply thank the local economic development council for help staying open through the disaster. So let’s get on to the things that famous people mostly didn’t say.

  • “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” — C S Lewis, 7 February 2021.
  • “Instead of forcing yourself to feel positive, allow yourself to be present in the now.” — Daniel Mangena, 14 February 2021.
  • “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” — Roger Caras, 21 February 2021.
  • “We live in a rainbow of chaos.” — Paul Cezanne, 28 February 2021.
  • “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” — Henry David Thoreau, 7 March 2021.
  • “Everything I know I learned from dogs.” — Nora Roberts, 14 March 2021.
  • “This life is worth living … since it is what we make it.” — William James, 21 March 2021.
  • “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” — James Beard, 28 March 2021.
  • “Forgiveness is just another name for freedom.” — Byron Kate, 4 April 2021.
  • “Be present — it is the only moment that matters.” — Dan Millman, 11 April 2021.
  • “I have found that if you love life, life will love you back.” — Arthur Rubenstein, 18 April 2021.
  • “The secret to life is meaningless unless you discover it yourself.” — W Somerset Maugham, 25 April 2021.
  • “Attraction is beyond our will or ideas sometimes.” — Juliette Binoche, 2 May 2021.
  • “Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.” — Plato, 9 May 2021.

Next Week!

It’s a Ghost Who Walks out of Skull Cave and through the Deep Woods. And it’s messing with The Phantom for a change! It’s Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity, if all goes to plan. See you then.

60s Popeye: Madame Salami, not the fortune-telling cartoon I expected


It’s another Jack Kinney-produced and directed cartoon today. The story’s by Tony Benedict and the animation direction Harvey Toombs. Here from 1960 is Madame Salami.

Yesterday’s was a Jack Kinney cartoon that presented a standard enough plot done well. Today’s is not done as well. Olive Oyl visits the fortune-teller at the worst-attended carnival on record. The fortune-teller is Brutus in disguise, and sees a chance to break up Popeye and Olive Oyl.

From this setup I did expect a clip cartoon. That Brutus would show a bunch of scenes where Popeye had been a jerk. And Popeye would answer by showing how nuh uh, it was Brutus was the jerk all along. It would have been a cheap cartoon, but it would’ve worked. This is still a cheap cartoon. But it’s all original material. But consider: it manages to use the same footage for both Popeye and Brutus being knocked into the air to land halfway across the park. That’s some economical use of footage.

I don’t know why Brutus is working as Madame Salami, but allow that he has his reasons. He gets Olive Oyl to test Popeye’s love by commanding him to do things liable to get him killed. Bit grim but in character. Popeye has to go do unspeakable things with a lion. I mean, yes, context tells us he must be trying to stick his head in the lion’s mouth. But we never even see the lion on-screen. And all we hear is Popeye confirming that she wants “this” done. Like I say, a very cheap cartoon. Since he’s not dead yet, the next challenge is … to … walk off the edge of a downtown building? And since he’s still not killed — Brutus gets in a good quick crack about that — the next challenge is Popeye going off in a rocket. You know, in those extraterrestrial rockets that badly underattended carnivals of the 60s have. Finally Madame Salami orders Olive Oyl to marry Brutus, today, and she resigns herself to her fate. When Popeye gets back he sees Brutus running back to Madame Salami’s tent and eats his spinach, I have to suppose because he guesses that’ll help. It usually will, but why did he think this particular problem needed super-punching?

Popeye beaten and scratched up, flopped forward on his face, in front of the sign pointing to the Lion's Den.
The worst part is the Lions Den wasn’t for the animals, it was for the service organization that, like, fundraises for people who have vision impairments. Something went wrong.

I lay the plot out like that and it’s a little wacky but within reasonable bounds. It doesn’t make Olive Oyl look good, but being petty or jealous or insecure is part of her personality. And it’s not like Popeye is so reliable an attentive, involved boyfriend that the idea of testing him is obviously unreasonable. But there is something mean in her ordering Popeye to risk death over and over. We’re supposed to take it that she’s convinced by Madame Salami that Popeye needs more testing. But it also looks like Olive Oyl doesn’t understand carnival fortune tellers. The tests are odd, too. Fine to have Popeye do unspeakable things with a lion. That’s close enough to sensible that I’ll allow it. Walking off a building? That hardly seems to be from the same cartoon, never mind the same carnival. And the rocket? I guess it can be a carnival attraction but it’s still weird.

A plot doesn’t need to make sense if it’s presented well. But I don’t care for most of the jokes. The ones I do care for are side effects of the animation cheapness. For example, Brutus walking over Popeye like he’s not even there is funny but I also recognize that’s using a stock walking cycle. Being cheap doesn’t make a cartoon inherently bad. But there is something slipshod in the whole production. Consider the early exchange where Brutus asks, “What is it you would ask of me?” Olive Oyl answers, “And how will I know whether Popeye really loves me or not?” What is that “And” doing there? It makes sense if Olive Oyl had a line that got cut, but why not cut the “And” also?

An interesting bit of character, though, is that Brutus seems eager to marry Olive Oyl. When does comedy writing of this era show the man as wanting to get married? It’s refreshing, but I wonder how that got through production.

60s Popeye: Pest of the Pecos, containing one (1) Old West cartoon


It’s back to Jack Kinney studios; he’s the producer and the director. Animation direction is credited to Harvey Toombs and the story to Raymond Jacobs. Here’s 1960’s Pest of the Pecos.

This is a great example of how execution matters more than originality. The plot is the first thing that pops into your mind for the idea “Outlaw Brutus messes with Town Marshall Popeye”. But it’s carried out with energy and humor enough to stay interesting.

We start with Brutus stopping and robbing a train, demanding “ten gallons of loot”, a good enough idea. I had thought Olive Oyl was on the robbed train, suggesting that she and Popeye might not even share any scenes. It’d be a rare if not unique distinction for the short. No, though; it was a woman with the same voice actor. Brutus goes to the nearby quiet town of Gravestone Flats and riles up the villagers. Olive Oyl is one of the people with complaints. Swee’Pea’s stolen lollipop riles Popeye into direct action.

Popeye makes a curious marshall here. He’s not portrayed as irresolute or anything, just a little bit not competent. That’s mostly shown by his terrible handling of his gun. He tries rolling it on his finger and drops it. He tries to shoot at Brutus, holding the pistol two-handed and looking away and still gets knocked backwards by the recoil. I understand presenting this for your cowardly-hero type, a part that Bob Hope or at least Don Adams might play. For Popeye it seems weird. It’s easy to blame this kind of thing on Concerned Parents who don’t want children imitating their heroes’ gunplay. But 1960 seems early for that, and I’m not sure that clumsy gunplay is any better. It seems to me more likely Raymond Jacobs figured it was funny if Popeye fumbled his gun.

A sad-looking Marshall Popeye sits, humiliated, on a smashed watermelon while surrounded by a circle of accusatory pointing arms.
Oh hey, it’s my nightly anxiety dream, that’s great.

I like the energy and the tone of this cartoon. Brutus gets, as you’d expect, most of the fun bits, including a nice casual air of shooting anywhere he figures needs to be a little more riled up. And smaller jokes too, like complaining that the wanted poster doesn’t look like him. Or the wanted poster listing crimes: school marm pinching, tilting pinball machines, and income tax evasion. Won’t say anything about pinching or income tax evasion, but your debt to society is cleared when you tilt the pinball machine. You get your penalty right then and there.

Wimpy gets a job as the undertaker long enough that we can see he’s got a lay-away plan. It’s the easiest joke for the spot, but it’s not like Wimpy is going to work hard.

I still don’t understand the line of action when Brutus shot that painter’s scaffold out from under. Doesn’t matter, I suppose.

Statistics Saturday: The Official Ordering of the Star Wars Movies


  1. Star Wars: A Star Wars Story
  2. Star Wars: A Wars Star Story
  3. Star Wars: A Star Stories War
  4. Wars Star: A Stars War Story
  5. Star Wars Stars: A Story
  6. A Wars War: Star A Star Story
  7. Star Star: A Wars Star Stories
  8. Star Wars Star: A Wars Star War Starry Story
  9. Star Wars: Star Wars Story A
  10. Star Star War Star Wars: A War Stars Story Wars Star Story
  11. A Star Wars Story: Star Wars

Honorable mention: Star Wars: Sraw Rats, the secret movie for people who know Star Wars forwards and backwards.

Reference: Who’s Who In Mythology: A Classic Guide To The Ancient World, Alexander S. Murray.

60s Popeye: Poppa Popeye, about Popeye as a pop, not Popeye’s poppa Pappy


We’re back at 1960 Paramount Cartoon Studios today. This is another Seymour Kneitel showcase. He’s got credit for the story, the direction, and the production. This is Poppa Popeye.

Some of these shorts are condensed stories from the comic strip or comic books. I thought this might be too, but the Popeye Wikia doesn’t hint that it is. There are stories where Swee’Pea’s mother returns for him. There’s at least one version of the Popeye continuity where Swee’Pea’s the lost prince of Demonia. That all suggests this isn’t adapted from the comics.

But you see where I get the impression. There’s a solid premise here, with Swee’Pea kidnapped by a fake father. And a lot of story. There’s no wasted time in the cartoon. After one moment of Popeye entertaining Swee’Pea, establishing his father-ness, Sando enters. He takes Swee’Pea away, and we have a story less time than some cartoons need to get Popeye to Olive Oyl’s house. Even the stuff that’s meant to be silly, like Popeye’s regression to childhood, is quick and efficient. And the plot is more serious than usual. It’s not as moody as Myskery Melody, a comic strip adaptation (and Seymour Kneitel show). But it is more focused and more serious than usual.

I’m not satisfied with the cartoon, though I can’t pin down a specific thing it does wrong. The starting incident makes sense, and Popeye breaking down at the loss of Swee’Pea fits his character well. What everybody does from there makes sense. There’s some good business along the way, too. My favorite is Swee’Pea — running away from the circus to join home — writing a gibberish note.

Popeye, wearing a baby bonnet, lies in a baby carriage, looking sad to the point of crying. Olive Oyl stands over him, worried.
I don’t mean to be harsh but in my opinion Popeye is overreacting to Swee’Pea being at half-day preschool.

Popeye is a passive character here. But the story wouldn’t make sense if he were any other way. He does take the step of (somehow) nailing Swee’Pea’s clothes to the floor, to ensure the child can’t join Sando at the end. But that’s only revealed after the fact, and it’s not clear it was needed. It’s also cheating, but then Sando cheated first by carrying a bunch of toys in for the “let’s see who he goes to” contest. And, Popeye being knocked out as the protagonist gives Swee’Pea the chance to take charge. Maybe the trouble is we see so little of what Swee’Pea goes through that his initiative doesn’t register.

Motivations are a bit underdeveloped. Sando wants a kid for his acrobatics act, fine, but why Swee’Pea? Well, otherwise he wouldn’t be in this cartoon. Popeye gives up Swee’Pea pretty quick. And Sando gives him up at the end of the cartoon as quickly. These steps make sense if the story is condensed from a comic strip or comic book, where the obvious questions could be addressed. But the cartoon is only five minutes, after credits. There’s only so much time that should be spent explaining why we’re going to do the thing we have to do for the cartoon to happen at all.

If this premise had the two or three minutes more that it’d have as a theatrical short, it could have been an all-time great. As it is, it does well confirming a side of Popeye we knew was there, if we’re honest.

MiSTed: Dreams of a Lost Past/Loss, Part 1 of 4


So I have another Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction to share here. This is a really old one, first published on Usenet in the 1990s. You’ll only be able to tell by how dated some particular riffs are but, you know? I like just how extremely dated they are.

This pair of stories — the incomplete “Dreams of a Lost Past” and the complete “Loss” — are fan fiction for the Legion of Superheroes, a comic book I had never read at the time and knew almost nothing about. I have since learned a bit more about the bonkiest superhero group outside the Metal Men. It turns out everything preposterous I made up about Brainiac-5 and his gang was pretty much real and actually literally true. So that’s fun.

I believe that this pair of stories was volunteered by their author, Doug Atkinson, to the Web Site Number Nine Dibs List, an e-mail chain that tried to match up original fanfic authors and Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic writers. I can say that, at least back then, Atkinson was pleased with my work. I hope that, wherever he is, he still is, or at least that he is no more embarrassed by his youthful writing than I am by mine.


[ OPENING SEQUENCE ]

[ 1.. 2.. 3.. 4.. 5.. 6.. ]

[ SOL DESK. CROW is wearing a polyester suit and has a card propped up in his hand. TOM is standing in front of JOEL, with the cap on his head replaced with a balloon-like pad. JOEL is holding his hands over TOM’s head. TOM is making sound effects. Sketch is fast paced; no break between lines. ]

JOEL: Come on, big money, big money, no whammies… [ Hitting TOM’s head ] STOP!

TOM: Ow!

CROW: OK, you stop on our survey question; we asked 100 people at random the following question; top five answers on the board. ‘What is a refreshing treat on a hot summer’s day?’

JOEL: I’m gonna say… an ice cream soda!

TOM: Good answer, good answer.

CROW: Show meeeeeeee…ice cream soda!

TOM: Ding ding ding ding ding!

JOEL: Wahoo!

CROW: Bringing you to the Speed Round; seven-letter word on the board, you start with an L and a D and twenty-five seconds.

JOEL: L!

TOM: Ping!

JOEL: J!

TOM: Ping!

JOEL: E!

TOM: Ping!

JOEL: D!

TOM: Ping!

JOEL: ‘Pharmacist’

TOM: Ding ding ding ding ding!

CROW: That puts you on the board with a Five.

JOEL: I’m gonna say, 300 dollars, higher! [ Pointing up with both thumbs. ]

CROW: Reveals a Three.

TOM: Ding.

JOEL: 250 dollars, Lower, lower. [ Again motions with his thumbs. ]

CROW: Got a Jack.

TOM: Ding.

JOEL: Everything I got, higher!

CROW: And we have an Eight!

TOM: Ding.

JOEL: Gonna freeze.

CROW: Freeze, freeze at four cards in, and that takes you to the prizes.

JOEL: [ Looking around ] I’d like the Amana freezer for three hundred forty-nine dollars…

CROW: Freezer.

JOEL: The microwave oven for one hundred eighty-five…

CROW: It’s yours.

JOEL: The Presidential chess set replica for seventy dollars…and the rest on a gift certificate.

[ CAMBOT pulls back to reveal GYPSY ]

GYPSY: Things you see on the Game Show Network. Things that were junk the first time around. Things you remember too well.

TOM: Ding ding ding ding ding!

[ TOM, CROW, GYPSY, and JOEL start jumping gleefuly as CAMBOT flashes $25,000 on the bottom of the screen and a simulacrum of the $25,000 Pyramid plays. ]

JOEL: We did it!

[ COMMERCIAL SIGN flashes ]

MAGIC VOICE: Thanks for playing, and we’ll be right back after this word from our sponsors.

[ COMMERCIAL BREAK ]

[ SOL. Calmed down considerably from above. JOEL is polishing CROW’s beak.TOM is reading a comic book. ]

JOEL: We ever figure out what to buy with that gift certificate?

TOM: They gave us a service certificate instead.

CROW: What’s the difference?

TOM: This wasn’t good for anything.

JOEL: Still, that was fun.

CROW: We should do that more often.

TOM: Can’t. You can’t be on another game show for at least ninety days.

JOEL: Says who?

TOM: It’s a rule.

CROW: I never heard that rule.

TOM: You dare question me?

JOEL: Hang on, boys, the trylon and the perisphere are on the line.

[ JOEL taps MADS SIGN ]

[ DEEP 13. DR. FORRESTER and TV’S FRANK are wearing large sacks covering some kind of globes on top of their heads. ]

DR. F: Ahoy, hoy, lackeys and layabouts. Are you prepared to see yourselves bested in yet another Invention Exchange?

FRANK: I know I am!

[ SOL DESK. JOEL and the bots have a model spaceship covered by a piece of velvet. The desk is cleaned and TOM has nothing in his hands ]

JOEL: You bet.

TOM: We were thinking, as we often do, about the 70s.

CROW: And we realized there were some stylistic touches about that much maligned decade which, while goofy, were still kind of fun.

JOEL: So, combining that with our own precarious situation in space, we decided to create… [ Pulls off the velvet to reveal…]

ALL: The courderoy starship!

CROW: Warm, durable, and easily washed, this vision of tomorrow from the days of yesterday is sure to keep you at least as comfortable as a wood-paneled station wagon while waiting in line at the antimatter refilling module.

JOEL: Plus it makes the cutest little "fwit-fwit" noise when you go into warp.

TOM: [ Disclaimer voice ] Stephen Collins and Robert Forster sold separately. James Brolin not available in all areas.

[ DEEP 13. As before; their heads are still covered. ]

DR. F:Fascinating. Now then: Many, many — perhaps too many — science fiction and comic book writers have tried to look into the future of human evolution and concluded that in the future, people willhave vastly larger brains.

FRANK: Which means they’re going to need bigger heads.

DR. F: Right. But since evolution is slow, inexact, and ugly, we’re giving it a little hand up.

[ DR. FORRESTER and TV’S FRANK pull of the sacks, revealing snow globe-like shapes on their heads. ]

FRANK: But rather than fill this extra space with hair, we got creative!
[ They turn around, revealing cityscapes with the white snowflakes. ]

DR. F: So that you can display civic pride or make an amusing conversation piece while you wait for superhuman intelligence and psychic powers.

FRANK: We call them, ‘Snow brains.’

[ They turn back to the camera. ]

DR. F: Now then. Your medicine this week is a pair of "Legion of Superheros" works by one Doug Atkinson — the start of a story called "Dreams of a Lost Past," in which events almost happen, and "Loss," in which the main character is argued out of doing something interesting. Read ’em and weep, boyos.

[ SOL DESK. JOEL is holding the starship and making fwit-fwit noises ]

TOM: I think they stole my look.

CROW: They can keep it.

[ MOVIE SIGN flashes. General chaos. ]

JOEL: We got movie sign!

TOM: Yaaaaa!

CROW: Woo-hoo!

[ 6.. 5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1.. ]

[ ALL enter theater ]

> DREAMS OF A LOST PAST

CROW: An untold tale of another tomorrow in which "Squiddly Diddly" rules the world!

>
> An untold story of the Legion of Super-Heroes

TOM: Not any more. Thanks *so much*, Doug Atkinson.

>
> by Doug Atkinson

JOEL: Oh, the defendants have to go talk to him after they see Rusty the bailiff.

>
> Jacques Foccart tossed on his bed as his slumbering
> brain was wracked by uneasy dreams.

CROW: [ As if talking in his sleep ] Scott Adams…stairmaster…horse shampoo…term life insurance…AAAUGH!

> In his sleeping visions,
> he was in a vague land of mists and shadows, seen as if out
> of the corner of the eye.

TOM: So he’s mostly seeing the annoying network logo.

> He wandered aimlessly, but there
> seemed no escape.

JOEL: Danged foolproof travelers’ alarm clocks…

> A blurred, humanoid figure drifted in front of him. It
> began to say something…

CROW: [ Gasping ] Warranty restrictions…may not be valid…in some states.

> Jacques awoke and sat bolt upright. _Sacre couer…what
> a dream. I cannot say why it disturbed me so,

TOM: Maybe ’cause it was a *bad* dream?

> but my sheets
> are soaked in sweat. Perhaps it reminded me of something?_

CROW: I know…it’s a signal. This time, I must be serious. I must reorganize my spice drawer.

> He shook his head and resolved to put it out of his
> mind. Element Lad had assigned him to Mission Monitor Board
> duty,

TOM: Element Lad really knows how to let other folks in on the party.

> and it would not do to be distracted when other
> Legionnaires’ lives depended on him.

JOEL: He should be asleep instead.

> Blearily he pulled on
> his yellow-and-black costume and wandered to the command
> center.

CROW: Commander honeybee is on the job!

>
> * * * * *
>
> Blok looked up from the Legion history holo he was
> viewing.

JOEL: Those who do not study their history are doomed to see it in flashbacks.

> "Good morning, Invisible Kid," he rumbled. "Are you
> here to relieve me?"
> "Yes," said Jacques, rubbing his eyes. "Oh, good
> morning.

CROW: That’s a relief.

> Forgive my not observing the pleasantries, but I
> had an uneasy sleep, with strange dreams."

TOM: Hey, does it mean anything in your dream when your parents become 500 foot tall giants moaning about how you’ve failed them in everything you’ve ever tried and then when they notice you they think you’re a fly and stomp on you repeatedly?

> "Curious. I confess I do not fully understand these
> ‘dreams’ you organic beings experience. If you wish, I could
> take your turn at Board duty."
> "No, thank you." He suppressed a yawn. "I should not be
> derelict in my duty.

JOEL: It’s much better if I do it in an inattentive and distracted manner.

> Which Legionnaires are on missions?"
> Blok instructed the board to show current mission
> status. "Lightning Lass, Polar Boy,

CROW: And his sidekick, the amazing Cartesian Kid.

> Phantom Girl, Sun Boy,
> and Magnetic Kid are investigating a solar-powered satellite
> on Mars.

JOEL: Superheros just never stop having a good time.

> Tellus, Quislet, Wildfire, and the White Witch are
> undertaking extended duty on Tellus’ homeworld of Hykraius.

TOM: Rock me, Hykraius!

> Shadow Lass and Mon-El are returning from investigating
> Starfinger’s corpse on Labyrinth. Dream Girl is off-duty and
> somewhere in Metropolis, I believe."

CROW: You know how those Dream Girls get.

> "Thank you." Blok left, and Jacques pulled a normal
> chair to the Board to replace the heavy-duty and
> uncomfortable one Blok used. Idly he ran a duty check,
> confirming Blok’s information.

JOEL: Well. I’m done for the day. Anyone wanna hit Friendly’s? Got a coupon for free Fribbles.

> He saw that Star Boy had not
> been removed from the list of active Legionnaires, and began
> to instruct Computo to make the correction. _No. It is not
> my place–it should be left to Element Lad or Brainiac Five._

TOM: Red-hot protocol activity!

> He looked at the holo Blok had left behind. It was an
> account of one of the Legion’s earliest missions, when they
> captured the Concentrator from Lucifer Seven.

CROW: Finally, the orange juice consortium will bend to our will!

> He remembered
> the Concentrator–a fabulously powerful weapon that could
> take energy from any source and focus it against any target.
> It hadn’t been around the arsenal lately, however.

TOM: It had dropped out of its afterschool activities and rarely talked to its old friends. Many suspected it was depressed.

> A quick
> check with Computo told him that Element Lad had decided it
> was too dangerous to keep active; he’d turned its wires into
> Inertron and moved it to the trophy room.

JOEL: Isn’t Inertron the thing that makes tires resist hydroplaning?

> The holo was one
> he’d seen before, so he put it aside with a mental note to
> make sure Blok returned it to the library.
> That just about exhausted his ready sources of
> amusement.

CROW: [ As Jacques ] I wonder what joysticks taste like.

> Unless there was some emergency requiring the
> Legionnaires’ presence, Monitor Board duty didn’t take a lot
> of thought.

TOM: Uhm…I like twine.

> He yawned again, not suppressing it this time.

[ JOEL pantomimes throwing something into his yawn. ]

> Slowly his eyelids began drifting downwards. His head
> nodded…
> And he was back in the land of mists.

CROW: *And* honey.

> The figure
> hovered before him again. Although it was transparent, it
> was now distinct enough to be seen as female.
> *who are you?* he asked/thought.

TOM: [ Pleading ] Please say Mary Tyler Moore. Please say Mary Tyler Moore. Please say Mary Tyler Moore.

> Sound didn’t seem to
> work in this strange land, but he made himself understood
> nonetheless.

CROW: Finally his habit of carrying semaphore flags everywhere pays off!

> *ask lyle norg,* she responded. *he knew.*
> *lyle is dead,* he thought in alarm.

TOM: [ Chanting ] Long live the Lyle.

> *are you the dream
> demon?*

JOEL: The acid queen? Who’ll tear your soul apart?

> She shook her head. *no. just one who is unjustly
> condemned to an eternity in the beyond.

CROW: Uhm…wait. This is Ebeneezer’s house, right? The afterlife has lousy maps, y’know.

> my time had come…*
> *what do you need?*
> *free me…*

TOM: Well, 50 percent off me and the rest is a mail-in rebate.

> She drifted away, and Jacques was alone. A soft hand
> was on his shoulder. "Jacques…Jacques…wake up!"

CROW: You’re missing your boring, mind-crushingly routine job!

> His eyes opened and looked into a blue, long-lashed
> pair.

ALL: [ Jumping back ] Aaaugh!

> "Trying to take my niche? Jan wouldn’t like it if he
> found you napping on duty."
> "Dream Girl…" He blinked a few more times, bringing
> himself to full consciousness. "You are right.

CROW: You’re the only one who’s good at sleeping on duty.

> I should
> have some stim-bev.

TOM: Stim-bev: An exciting new flavorful liquid from TechCorp Inc.

> Oh, by the way…I must ask you about
> something."
> "Sure." She gently ran her hand down his arm.

JOEL: [ As Jacques ] Remember they did this remake of "Duck Amuck," only it’s Bugs Bunny who gets tormented by the animator who turns out to be Elmer Fudd? How come they never show that anymore?

> "If
> Monitor Board duty is that dull, I’m sure I could keep
> you…entertained."

CROW: Have you ever played…Go Fish?

> _Sacre bleu, if only she were still with Star Boy she
> might be under control…_ "Just talk, please, Nura. Your
> powers are the closest to what I have just experienced."

TOM: Only superpowers can match a bad dream.

> "All right." She sat in the chair next to him, crossing
> her long legs. "Shoot."

JOEL: [ Shuffling around, slightly embarassed ] I got my legs tied in a knot again…sorry about this. Won’t be a second.

> "A woman has been speaking to me in my dreams. She says
> she is entrapped, and that the first Invisible Kid, Lyle,
> knew her. I do not know what to make of this."

JOEL: I suspect she may have been his sled.

> "Hmmm. You’ve read about Lyle’s death, right?"
> "Of course. I have studied everything about my
> predecesor, in the hopes of emulating him."

CROW: Except I think I can do a cooler death than him.

> "I wasn’t in headquarters when it happened, but I heard
> about it. There was something about an interdimensional
> realm and a ghost…

TOM: Oh, the usual.

> that could be your mystery woman. Let’s
> look it up. Computo!"

JOEL: [ As if suddenly waking up ] Mommy! Oh, uh, nothing, nothing.

> The energy-and-metal sphere drifted to her. "*breep* May
> I serve you, Nura Nal? *breep*"
> "Connect the Monitor Board to the Legion holo-library
> and Brainiac Five’s log reports.

CROW: We need everything he’s got on dutch elm disease by five o’clock or we’re dead!

> We need June and July of
> 2981. Oh, and get Jacques a stim-bev."
> "*breep* Connecting…"
> Nura’s manicured fingers slid deftly across the control
> panel. "Okay. This seems useful."

TOM: Must’ve gone to http://www.what’s_wrong_with_Jacques.com.

> The board lit up with scrolling Interlac text. Nura
> pressed a key, and the system began transmitting the vocals.
> "Brainiac Five’s medical log, 26 June 2981.

JOEL: About…call it sixish.

> Report on
> condition of Lyle Norg.
> "Norg collapsed in the trophy room for no apparent
> reason.

TOM: On second examination it was determined his head was chopped off.

> When connected to the mento-scanner, he displayed
> memories of the realm he sometimes enters when becoming
> invisible (ref. log entry, 19 September 2978).

JOEL: In the Arts and Leisure section, page four.

> "Subject encountered humanoid woman (species unclear),
> addressed as ‘Myla.’

CROW: Which is of course ‘Alym’ spelled backwards.

> Interaction indicated several previous
> meetings and apparent mutual attraction. Myla stated she had
> a revelation for the subject. At that moment, the screen
> shattered and subject awakened.

TOM: He reported his faith in professional wrestling was shattered forever.

> He became upset when
> confronted with Myla, and refused to speak further.

JOEL: Subject was unable to tell a cabbage from a lettuce.

> "Suggested to Mon-El that subject was experiencing
> hysterical amnesia, causing scanner overload. Recommended
> placing Norg under surveillance.

CROW: Noted he was a boogerhead.

> Mon-El agreed to discuss
> matter with Phantom Girl." Nura pressed another key, and the
> screen faded.
> "Yes, it has occurred to me that Myla might have been
> the one to whom I spoke," said Jacques, rubbing his chin.

TOM: Hey…if I glued a big box of tissue paper to my chin, would it get me invited to more parties?

> "I
> am unsure if it is her, however…she spoke of her time
> having come, and being unjustly entrapped."
> "Well, let’s take a look at the holo-record.

JOEL: Oh, yeah, if you have an adaptor you can play those on a hi-fi turntable.

> I think we
> have one of her…June 27, 2981."
> An image appeared of the old Legion headquarters. Lyle
> lay unmoving and crushed on the floor, while Phantom Girl
> wept and Mon-El and Superboy consoled her.

TOM: [ As Superboy ] It’s all right, Phantom Girl…we’ll get a new Tamagotchi.

> Nura fast-
> forwarded until the spectral form of a long-haired woman in a
> dress appeared.

CROW: The Spirit of Saint Louis, graphically depicted.

> "Myla–the girl from the invisible world!" said Mon-El,
> his jaw dropping in astonishment.

TOM: Boing-oing-oing-oing-oing…

> "Not a girl, Mon-El…but a ghost! When I told Lyle
> what I really was…he couldn’t accept the truth!

JOEL: But I must follow my heart! I must edit plastic scale modeling magazines!

> He went
> into shock and collapsed at your feet!
> "I, myself, died several years ago…

CROW: That really hurt my ability to participate in community bake-offs.

> but my spirit-form
> was stranded in this dimensional realm Lyle discovered when
> he became invisible!

JOEL: Cool beans, huh?

> I-I loved him…but I had to tell him I
> wasn’t among the living!"

TOM: Oh. Civil service.

> Myla faded out. "Sh-she’s fading…" Mon-El began.
> The scene vanished abruptly as Nura stopped the replay.

CROW: I’ll need a note from your mother to show you more.

> "That’s the relevant part. That thing about her time
> coming could refer to her death, and she’s obviously trapped
> there."
> "Perhaps. My experience was somewhat different,

JOEL: Like it occured later, under a different writer.

> although the mists were somewhat similar to what Lyle
> described. I entered other dimensions with my power myself,
> you know, until Brainiac Five removed that ability.

TOM: I was kinda peeved, but I guess I earned it when I transported a miniature solar system into his ear lobes.

> Could my
> dreaming mind still be able to reach into other worlds?"
> "Well, I know about reaching through time and space in
> dreams firsthand.

JOEL: It’s a neat way to gain valuable experience points and impress your Dungeon Master.

> There’s another possibility, though…"
> Her face went grim.
> "What is it?"

CROW: Space donkeys.

> "Lyle only encountered Myla a little while before
> Validus killed him. What if she’s some sort of banshee…a
> being who can only be seen by those who will die soon?"

TOM: What if she’s a lively puppet portrayed by a highly trained team of Brady siblings?

> "That is tres ridiculous, Dream Girl. Unless–have you
> had a vision of my death?"

CROW: Yup.

> "No." She looked uncomfortable.

TOM: [ As Dream Girl ] That means the same thing as yes, right?

> "What are you not telling me?"

JOEL: Uhm…I’m not telling you "yes."

> "I have had a vague dream about some sort of death or
> destruction. I didn’t sense any details, though…which
> means it might not have been a prophetic dream.

CROW: It might just have been foreshadowing.

> Those are
> usually pretty clear." She waved her hand. "It’s probably
> nothing.

JOEL: [ As Dream Girl ] By the way, long as we’re talking, next Thursday at 4:17 p.m., I’d avoid going to the Blockbuster Video and loitering around the fourth row, and absolutely don’t lean towards the stand of Comedy movies, accidentally knocking it over, dropping down on a display table causing it to fling a package of "Power Rangers" episode tapes into the ceiling, where it shorts out the electrical system and starts the sprinkers, which accidentally pour into just the spot to cause a massive sinkhole that swallows you and the building and the rest of the postal subdivision, killing you instantly. But you knew not to do that anyway.

TOM: C’mon, Joel, breathe.
[ JOEL gasps ]

> She’s not the dream demon you fought before, is
> it?"

[ JOEL coughs ]

> "I do not think so. I would know the feel of that mind
> if it attacked me again, and it is too clever to raise my
> suspicions this quickly.

CROW: So this would be a good disguise for you.
[ JOEL gulps ]

TOM: You all right, man?

JOEL: Yeah, I am.

> Perhaps I should wait until I have
> another dream to make a decision."

TOM: But I’m going to wait before making up my mind to do that.

> "I’d talk to Phantom Girl, too. There’s no record of
> what Lyle told her. Where is Tinya, anyway?"

CROW: You know, ‘Tinya’ is an anagram of ‘Viola.’

TOM: No, it isn’t.

CROW: Oh, right. I was confused.

>
> [end]

JOEL: That was a good place for the dramatic release.

[ To be continued … ]

Here’s how to get rid of WordPress’s Block Editor and get the good editor back


I posted this earlier today to my mathematics blog. I’m re-posting it so more people can get the good news and avoid the awful, awful, awful Block Editor wants people to use.

This is how to dump the Block Editor and get the classic, or ‘good’, editor back. WordPress’s ‘Classic Editor Guide’ explains that you go to your — not your blog’s — account settings. That would be https://wordpress.com/me/account. Under ‘Account Settings’ look for the ‘Interface Settings’ section. There’s a toggle for ‘Dashboard appearance’. Click it to ‘Show wp-admin pages if available’, and save that setting. There! Now you have the usable editor again.

Screenshot of https://wordpress.com/me/account showing the Account Settings / Interface Settings section. A red ellipse outlines the 'Show wp-admin pages if available' toggle.
There it is! ‘Show wp-admin pages if available’ and if they ever stop being available, I’m out of here.


Now for how I came to this knowledge.

About two months ago WordPress pushed this update where I had no choice but to use their modern ‘Block’ editor. Its main characteristics are that everything takes longer and behaves worse. And more unpredictably. This is part of a site-wide reorganization where everything is worse. Like, it dumped the old system where you could upload several pictures, put in captions and alt-text for them, and have the captions be saved. And somehow the Block Editor kept getting worse. It has two modes, a ‘Visual Editor’ where it shows roughly what your post would look like, and a ‘Code Editor’ where it shows the HTML code you’re typing in. And this past week it decided anything put in as Code Editor should preview as ‘This block has encountered an error and cannot be previewed’.

It’s sloppy, but everything about the Block Editor is sloppy. There is no guessing, at any point, what clicking the mouse will do, much less why it would do that. The Block Editor is a master class in teaching helplessness. I would pay ten dollars toward an article that studied the complex system of failures and bad decisions that created such a bad editor.

This is not me being a cranky old man at a web site changing. I gave it around two months, plenty of time to get used to the scheme and to understand what it does well. It does nothing well.

For example, if I have an article and wish to insert a picture between two paragraphs? And I click at the space between the two paragraphs where I want the picture? There are at least four different things that the mouse click might cause to happen, one of them being “the editor jumps to the very start of the post”. Which of those four will happen? Why? I don’t know, and you know what? I should not have to know.

In the Classic Editor, if I want to insert a picture, I click in my post where I want the picture to go. I click the ‘Insert Media’ button. I select the picture I want, and that’s it. Any replacement system should be no less hard for me, the writer, to use. Last week, I had to forego putting a picture in one of my Popeye cartoon reviews because nothing would allow me to insert a picture. This is WordPress’s failure, not mine.

With the latest change, and thinking seriously whether WordPress blogging is worth the aggravation, I went to WordPress’s help pages looking for how to get the old editor back. And, because their help pages are also a user-interface clusterfluff, ended up posting this question to a forum that exists somewhere. And, wonderfully, musicdoc1 saw my frustrated pleas and gave me the answer. I am grateful to them and I cannot exaggerate how much difference this makes. Were I forced to choose between the Block Editor and not blogging at all, not blogging would win.

I am so very grateful to musicdoc1 for this information and I am glad to be able to carry on here.

If you are one of the WordPress programmers behind the Block Editor, first, shame on you, and second, I am willing to offer advice on how to make an editor. First bit of advice: it should be less hard than using a scrap of metal to carve a message into Commander Data’s severed head for recovery 500 years in the future. There’s more that’s necessary, but get back to me when you’ve managed that at least.

What’s Going On In Mark Trail? What makes crickets “land shrimp”? January – May 2021


“Crickets are land shrimp” is the odd catchphrase of the current Mark Trail storyline. Wikipedia claims that spider crickets are sometimes called “land shrimp”, but that’s Wikipedia. I can find some older articles saying that spider crickets resemble shrimp, and … I guess? There’s a stronger way that crickets could be “land shrimp”, though. Note this Slate article from 2008 about a company selling crickets as food that pitches them as “land shrimp”. So it looks like some of the people who think they can sell Westerners on eating crickets instead of beef are calling them “land shrimp”.

In context, Mark Trail was pressed to say something interesting about a cricket, on no notice. It would be natural to pick up something weird that caught his mind once. So I guess that’s what happened. He remembered an odd bit about trying to sell cricket-eating and the line was popular.

So this should catch you up to the end of April 2021. If you’re reading this after about August 2021, or if any news breaks out about Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail, I should have a more up-to-date article for you here. Thanks for reading.

Mark Trail.

31 January – 1 May 2021.

Mark Trail had returned home. It wasn’t happy. His father, Mark “Happy” Trail, has made a successful trail-mix company. He’s done that, in part, by despoiling the former farm of his and Mark’s old friend Jolly Roger. Mark’s already stolen his father’s speedboat and led the maritime police on a chase that sure seems like it should have got him arrested. There’s only one way to finish his agribusiness story for Teen Girl Sparkle: interview his father.

Mark Trail: 'I didn't come here to fight. I'm sorry I lost my temper earlier.' Happy Trail: 'You started a fight with me over a speedboat! Which you destroyed!' Mark: 'And I should have destroyed it! That's what you raised me to be! What have YOU become?'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 11th of February, 2021. The touch of the older-style Mark Trail is one of the things Rivera does to reinforce that, different as it may be, this isn’t intended as a reboot of the Mark Trail universe. The 18th of March included a more explicit one, referencing the Jack Elrod-era rerun used between James Allen’s departure and Rivera’s arrival.

Mark approaches Happy Trail with backup. The harm speedboats do to manatees. Jolly Roger and his daughter Niecy. Cherry Trail and their son Rusty, whom Happy Trail seems not to have known about. It changes things.

Niecy makes the case for economic and environmental justice. Jolly Rogers’ land was appraised about one-third what it would have been for a not-Black landowner. It’s now poisoned by algae blooms. Niecy proposes selling it back, at cost, and letting Jolly fix it. Meanwhile Mark Trail looks at the crazy number of hunting trophies Happy has. His mother never allowed that. And Happy doesn’t have any, like, friends’ photos on the walls. Is he alone? And where is Mom Trail?

Faced with how he’s done a lot of harm and driven away many people who cared about him, Happy Trail makes an extraordinary decision. He tries to do better. He sells Rogers’s farm back to him, and works to help him clear the algae blooms. He’s delighted to know that Rusty, like he, is adopted. He makes up with Mark.

Happy Trail: 'By the way, you sucker-punched me on the pier, boy! You wouldn't get so far in a fair fight.' Mark: 'What?' Niecy Rogers, dragging her father out: 'Okay, now we bounce.' Jolly Rogers: 'Wait, I wanna watch this.' Niecy: 'No, you don't.' Mark: 'You're twice my age, Dad. Stop.' Happy: 'Really? Who taught you the two fists of --- JUSTICE?!' (Smacking Mark Trail in the face.)
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 26th of February, 2021. I understand people bothered to have beloved snarky commentary like “Mark Trail’s two fists of justice” put into the text. But it’s done so playfully. And, after all, Mark Trail did come around with facial hair. What did he expect?

With friendships and family healing many things get better. Happy Trail’s even able to arrange for the long-term care that Cherry Trail’s mother needs. Turns out having health care makes Cherry’s relationship with her sisters rather better. And Happy himself is able to work with Jolly Rogers in fixing that farmland.

Mark also asks Amy Lee, his editor at Teen Girl Sparkle, if she knew she was sending him to investigate his father. She allows that yes, she had an idea that Mark Trail, a nature guy from Florida, might have some relationship to Mark Trail, a nature guy from Florida. That settles the question of how she could have not known that. But it raises the question why she sent him to do investigative journalism against his father.

Still, that, the 6th of March that closes the story of Mark Trail facing his family shame.


The current story started the 8th of March, though pieces of it were set up earlier. Those pieces would be Rusty Trail making little BikBok videos. Rusty shows Mark how it’s done, challenging his father to say something about this cricket he found. Mark offers, “Crickets are land shrimp,” a declaration so odd it goes viral.

Mark Trail: 'So you're telling me the throwaway video my kid made got sampled by a hip-hop artist?' Amy Lee: 'Yep! Reptiliannaire's people are ramping up to shoot the 'Crickets are land shrimp' trap remix video and they want you in it! This is a golden opportunity to build your brand with the Teen Girl Sparkle audience. I suggest you take it!' Mark Trail: 'Because I'm such a good rapper?'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 25th of March, 2021. Hey, when fame comes, it is never for the thing you want. Or so I am told.

And it catches the attention of eco-rapper Reptiliannaire. The hip-hop artist sampled Rusty’s Bikbok video and that’s been popular. Reptiliannaire is re-shooting the video and wants Mark Trail for a cameo. Teen Girl Sparkle sees that as a great brand-building opportunity and all right, Dad, I see what you mean about not connecting with this strip any more.

Reptiliannaire is glad to meet Mark Trail and takes him into his weird but fun-looking home. The video’s getting a budget, too, from “Cricket Bro”. He’s a guy who turned his dumb tech fortune into a cricket protein powder startup. Turns out Mark knows him: it’s Rob Bettancourt. Rob knew Mark all the way back to grade school, when everyone called him “Marky Trail”.

Rob Bettancourt: 'Thanks so much for coming, professor. Say, have you met my old friend, Marky Trail?' Mark Trail: 'MARK TRAIL, award-winning nature journalist.' Professor Bee Sharp: 'Ah! I HAVE heard of you! Read your article on bats and human trafficking. Intriguing, if a little confusing.' Mark: 'My son is on the phone. Can you say a few --- ' Sharp, snatching the phone: 'GLADLY! Hiya there, sport!' Mark; 'But my phone!' He lurches toward Sharp and is blocked by a woman declaring ,'If you touch him, I BREAK you.' Narrator: 'Mark knew Hollywood women could be tough, but not *this* tough.'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 23rd of April, 2021. And here’s another reference to older stories, this one from early in James Allen’s tenure. The bats-and-human-trafficking story was from shortly before I did recaps, sorry to say. But Mark Trail went to do a story about white-nose syndrome in some bats in Texas caves, and got tangled up with human traffickers. Also an extremely long though gorgeous progression through caves with neat rocks and stranger (though realistic) life. The traffickers were eventually caught in Mexico. And the last James Allen story, never completed, was to be Hollywood adapting the story. So this was rather a keystone story in Allen’s tenure for Rivera to reference.

Mark also knows that Rob’s inspirational self-start origin story is nonsense; Rob’s parents are rich and that’s why he is. But Rob is also throwing a party and invites Reptiliannaire and Mark Trail and all.

All includes Professor Bee Sharp, a science video guy that Reptiliannaire geeks out over. Rusty, too, when he hears about this. Rob ostentatiously offers Mark help in building his career. Mark, harboring old pains, is not having it.

Meanwhile, Cherry Trail gets irritating news about her landscaping. The Sunny Soleil Committee, a homeowners association, wants her to take down the palm trees she and Mark Trail planted. Mark, scared by Cherry’s fury, downplays how the trip to Los Angeles is for something ridiculous and fun. He volunteers to send the committee an e-mail on her behalf.

Mark Trail: 'Cherry, I won't leave you hanging. I am gonna give that Sunny Soleil Committee the two fists o' justice ... in an e-mail.' Cherry: 'I appreciate that, sugar.' Mark: 'Oh, and I will get you the biggest agave I can get through airport security!' Cherry: 'Mark, don't do anything silly, now.' Narrator: 'Mark decides now is NOT the time to tell her he's flying to Los Angeles to star in a music video with a lizard-themed eco-rapper.'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 3rd of April, 2021. The narration box has been a much bigger player this story, and has been a wonderful commenter on the story. I do not know what Mark Trail did tell Cherry was his reason for flying to Los Angeles if it wasn’t this music video business.

Cherry meets with Violet Cheshire, who oversees the society. Cheshire explains that palm trees are prohibited, as exotic plants don’t belong. Cherry explains how there was one exotic palm, but the sabal palmettos otherwise planted are native. Cheshire says the society won’t have the villagers’ gardens looking like “unkempt jungles”.

Violet Cheshire: 'I cannot speak to whatever agreements you have with your landscaping clients, but the Sunny Soleil Society has its guidelines.' Cherry: 'My husband sent an e-mail explaining the situation.' Cheshire: 'I am well aware of your husband's e-mail. It was ... ' [ Flashback. Cheshire sees a man (her husband?) reading e-mail: 'By jove! This e-mail felt like it punched me in the face with two fists!' ] Cheshire, continuing: '... Confrontational!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 29th of April, 2021. I don’t know whether we are supposed to take the third panel as literally what happened or as Cherry Trail’s fantasy of what happened. Either way, it brings me delight. The only way it falls short of perfection is not having Cheshire and the man with her wearing monocles.

So that’s rather a standstill. And that’s where things stand as of the start of May.

Sunday Animals Watch!

  • Cicadas, 31 January 2021. Got any?
  • Barred Owls, 7 February 2021. Plus tips on how to get barred owls, in case you need some barred owls.
  • Lovebugs, 14 February 2021. Some more animals who’ve come to Florida, although apparently on their own initiative.
  • Virginia Opossums, 21 February 2021. They’re pretty great, really. Should give them a break.
  • Feral Hogs, 28 February 2021. They’re invasive, of course, and they’re probably smarter than us.
  • Southern Toads, 7 March 2021. They seem to be cute enough.
  • Crickets, 14 March 2021. The strip pushes the line about how crickets might replace cows as a source of protein, which they will not. The cricket-eaters will never accept this.
  • Foxes, 21 March 2021. It’s got three panels where a fox steals something, which is fun.
  • Eastern Black Rat Snakes, 28 March 2021. Which is the species of Ralph, one of the snakes Mark Trail talks with regularly now.
  • Beavers, 4 April 2021. OK, but have you ever seen a video of a beaver in a zoo carrying a bunch of carrots around? Look it up sometime. You’re welcome.
  • Ed Dodd, 11 April 2021. A special biographic panel to celebrate the strip reaching 75 years.
  • Five-Lined Skinks, 18 April 2021. They’re the ones with blue tails, as juveniles, that are able to drop off as decoys when predators come predating.
  • Striped skunks, 25 April 2021. Mark Trail feels they compare favorably with honey badgers.
  • Sabal palms, 2 May 2021. I did not realize they weren’t native to Southern California, and were imported to make the place look better. All right.

Next Week!

Romance! Inspirational quotes! Post-traumatic stress disorder! Working for “exposure”! All this and a lot of thanking Mary worth, in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth, if all goes to plan.

Statistics April: how Mark Trail once again gets people to sort of notice me


I do not keep obsessive, day-to-day track of my readership figures. I’m too prone to obsession for it to be good to track things that flutter so. But the panel used to post things has a little readership graph.

So I noticed a spike of views, and viewers, the 12th of April. And a bigger one the next day. Most of that spike evaporated by the 14th. But the readership was still appreciably larger than average for a week or so. And it wasn’t the spike from my post about what color tablet produces which Easter egg color. There was a spike from that, yes, but in the days leading up to Easter, like you’d expect. So what explains this 51st-anniversary-of-Apollo-13 spike?

(Daytime) photograph of the exit gate for Lakeside Amusement Park (Denver, Colorado), with the word 'REDIT' spelled out in (not yet illuminated) lights.
By the way, if you should have the chance to visit Lakeside Park in Denver, I highly recommend it. It’s got great piles of gorgeous 1930s-era amusement park architecture, a fantastic wooden roller coaster we didn’t get to ride enough, and one of the strangest carousels you could hope to ride. Also a fantastic and strongly democratic philosophy about ride pricing.

Yeah, it’s Reddit’s fault. A thread on the Hobby Drama Reddit described how James Allen left Mark Trail and how Jules Rivera joined it. The thread linked to one of the strips I’ve used in a What’s Going On In … post. And a lot of people clicked on that. So WordPress credited me with a lot more views, and viewers, than I’d otherwise expect. This was my most popular month by far, but, must be said, there’s an asterisk attached. I can’t fault anyone for linking to a picture I copied for fair use from Comics Kingdom. It reassures me in my judgement that these are important, representative strips I’m selecting. But I would like it if sometimes writers linked to my blog, or at least the tag, directly. It’d be nice to pick up a regular reader or two from these flash floods sometime.

Granting there is an asterisk, though, this gives me quite happy-looking readership figures. WordPress credits me with 9,423 views in April. This doesn’t quite double the twelve-month running mean of 5,160.6 views, nor does it quite double the twelve-month median of 4,930 views. It’s close to doubling, though, so I look forward to this messing up my mean and median comparison for a year to come. I’m also credited with 6,594 unique visitors, and that is more than double the twelve-month running mean of 3,047.7 visitors. And the twelve-month median of 2,937 visitors.

Bar chart of monthly readership for two and a half years. After several months that were higher than average April 2021 was extremely high, nearly double the average month from the past year.
Bar chart of monthly readership for two and a half years. After several months that were higher than average April 2021 was extremely high, nearly double the average month from the past year.

In the figures that show some engagement? That’s all much more average. There were 140 things liked in April, which is pretty good lately; the twelve-month mean was 108.3 and the twelve-month median 108.5 likes per month. Nothing like the flush days of 2015, though, when there wasn’t a month below 279 likes. And there were 40 comments. This is exactly the median of the previous twelve months. The running mean was 42.0, so, I probably had a typical enough month with a heap of Reddit splashed on top.

So. I like looking at what posts were popular. The six most popular things this past month which were posted in March or April were:

I went to six, rather than give, just because I’m so stupidly fond of that Movie Mis-Quotes one. It might be my dumbest post ever and I don’t care. It’s glorious.

Of course, the things most sought-after are my comics posts. My plan for the coming month is to explain what’s going on in:

That’s just the plan, of course, and it’s subject to change if circumstances call for it.

World map with the United States in deepest red, and most of the Americas, Europe, South Asia, and the Pacific Rim countries in a more uniform pink. A handful of African countries are also in pink.
Wow, strange that it looks like nearly all those Reddit readers interested in Mark Trail drama were from the United States. How could that happen?

There were 93 countries, or things like countries, sending me readers in April. 27 of them were a single view each. Here’s the roster.

Country Readers
United States 6,785
Canada 444
Australia 408
United Kingdom 286
India 251
Germany 200
Philippines 83
France 79
Brazil 67
Italy 50
Sweden 49
Finland 46
Spain 42
South Africa 36
Norway 34
Singapore 33
Ireland 32
Portugal 31
Malaysia 27
Japan 26
European Union 23
Romania 21
Sri Lanka 21
Netherlands 20
Switzerland 20
Mexico 19
New Zealand 19
Indonesia 18
Thailand 15
Denmark 14
Puerto Rico 14
Chile 13
Belgium 12
South Korea 12
Greece 11
Poland 11
Pakistan 9
Turkey 8
Austria 7
Hong Kong SAR China 7
Russia 7
Argentina 6
Lebanon 6
Peru 6
United Arab Emirates 6
Bosnia & Herzegovina 5
Colombia 5
Hungary 5
Israel 5
Ecuador 4
China 3
Czech Republic 3
Kenya 3
Serbia 3
Trinidad & Tobago 3
Vietnam 3
Bahamas 2
Brunei 2
Costa Rica 2
Croatia 2
Egypt 2
Estonia 2
Jordan 2
Mauritius 2
Slovakia 2
Ukraine 2
Algeria 1
Bangladesh 1
Cambodia 1
Cayman Islands 1
Cook Islands 1
Cuba 1
Dominican Republic 1
El Salvador 1
Fiji 1
Georgia 1
Ghana 1
Isle of Man 1
Jamaica 1
Jersey 1
Kuwait 1
Latvia 1
Lithuania 1 (*)
Macedonia 1
Malta 1 (*)
Panama 1
Qatar 1
Sint Maarten 1
Slovenia 1 (*)
Taiwan 1
Tunisia 1 (*)
U.S. Virgin Islands 1
Venezuela 1 (*)

Lithuania, Malta, Slovenia, Tunisia, and Venezuela were single-view countries in March also. Nowhere’s been a single-view country three months in a row.


WordPress figures I posted 16,856 words in April, setting a new low for the year. This was an average of 561.9 words per posting in April. It gets me to 75,911 words so far in the year, an average of 633 words for each of 120 posts.

Between Margaret E Knight’s design of a machine to create flat-bottomed paper bags (1871) and the start of May 2021 (1st of May, 2021) I’ve posted 3,011 things here. These have drawn 232,879 views from 133,569 unique visitors.

I’d be glad to have you as a regular reader. This link is the RSS feed for my posts. If you don’t have an RSS reader, you can get one with a free account at Dreamwidth or Livejournal. Add any RSS feed to your reading page through either https://www.dreamwidth.org/feeds/ or through https://www.livejournal.com/syn. If you’re on WordPress, you should be able to use the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button to add it to your Reader page. And if you want, the link underneath “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” should let you sign up for e-mail delivery. I’m terrified of that one, since that sends out posts before I realize the three typos left in the article however much I proofread. But if that’s what you’re interested in, that’s what you’re interested in. Also every time I re-read an old post there’s more typos. No one has ever been able to explain this phenomenon.

60s Popeye: Model Muddle, featuring one model, who’s not confused about it


Today’s is another Gene Deitch cartoon. There’s more credits than usual for this 1960 production: we’re told the animation was by “Halas and Batchelor”. We saw those names before, on Weight For Me, the one where Olive Oyl is fat. Is this another cartoon that’s got no toxic attitudes built in to a timeless premise? Only way to know is by watching Model Muddle, or reading my thoughts about it.

Olive Oyl has a surprise: we’re doing Modern Art jokes! Comic strips and cartoons have had a curious antipathy for Modern Art ever since both modes started. It’s curious because it’s not like either is a threat to the other’s cultural niche. It’s like if train enthusiasts were always mocking fire engine enthusiasts. I get that Modern Art leads itself to easy jokes. Well, to an easy joke. That’s because a lot of it will carry the question “what makes something Art?” and sometimes you don’t want to deal with that. But even in 2021, when society’s dropped all support for the humanities, we’re still interested in the question “what makes (this) and (something)”. Else your STEM friend would not have Opinions about whether a corn dog is a ravioli.

Still, we’re set up for this being a cartoon about Modern Art and don’t quite deliver. We get a couple minutes of Popeye in the museum. For me, this is the high point of the cartoon, sold by Popeye’s disproportionate anger. Jack Mercer reads his lines like Popeye is supposed to have been wounded by all this and it’s great. Characters reacting way out of line with the scene makes for hilarity.

Popeye stands proudly beside his sculpture, a giant marble figure of Olive Oyl's head, while Olive Oyl swoons at the work.
Yeah, it’s great work until you notice Popeye’s house doesn’t have any doors big enough to get that thing out.

But after that we move to Popeye as an artist. I appreciate the cartoon letting us suppose Popeye drew inspiration from the Modern Art after all. Seems to be a lot of traditional, representational work, but you have to start somewhere. He invites Olive Oyl over and she skips merrily along. Brutus overhears and takes up sabotage. He smashes Popeye’s tall marble sculpture of Olive Oyl’s head, and gets a mallet to his own head for the trouble. That in time for Olive Oyl to arrive and treat the rubble as Art.

Then for some reason she poses while Popeye makes a new An Art, in an abbreviated remake of 1937’s My Artistical Temperature. Popeye way over-explains why he can eat his spinach off a painting, and we get a longer fight with Brutus than usual. Like, for the King Features shorts I expect Popeye to hit Brutus once or twice to knock him out of the cartoon. Here, we get a lot of action. Particularly, Popeye swinging Brutus again and again at the marble to carve a new Olive Oyl head. It’s more painful than I expect. I think that’s from all the time Popeye spends swinging around a hollow-looking, dazed Brutus. The pain is less real when it looks like Brutus would clobber Popeye if he could get a fist in edgewise.

So, in the end, Brutus is dazed, a lot of marble has been quarried and destroyed, Popeye’s made a pretty representative head of Olive Oyl, and Olive Oyl is happy. I guess the museum trip was a success?

Statistics Saturday: How Much States Are Messing With You by When They Observe Arbor Day


State Observance Messing With You Level
Ohio Last Friday in April Not at all
Kentucky First Friday in April Not much
Nevada Last Friday in April Considerably, as Nevada has only 16 palm trees, and they’re all on a golf course that consumes two-thirds the volume of the Colorado River to maintain
South Dakota Last Friday in April Messing with North Dakota, not you
North Dakota First Friday in April Messing with South Dakota, not you
Washington Second Friday in April Only a little
Georgia Third Friday in February What
New Hampshire Last Friday in April Not particularly
Vermont First Friday in May Just picking a fight with New Hampshire
Nebraska Last Friday in April Thank you for getting things back in order
Maryland First Wednesday in April Just checking if you’re paying attention
Maine Third full week in May Up to moderate mischief here
California 7th – 14th of March Up to even more mischief here
Alabama Last full week of February Now cut that out
Wyoming Last Monday in April Adorable attempt to pretend there’s trees in Wyoming
Oregon First full week of April This is refugee Californians messing things up, right?
Colorado Third Friday in April Why not
Pennsylvania Last Friday in April Not at all
North Carolina First Friday following March 15 Ugh, this again?
Texas First Friday in November What the heck?

Reference: Stan And Ollie: The Roots Of Comedy: The Double Life Of Laurel And Hardy, Simon Louvish. With special thanks to my love without whom I’d never have realized Arbor Day isn’t the same day in every state and that some of them put a whole week to Arbor Day.

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