Reposted: The 31st Talkartoon: Any Rags? Anybody?


When I started watching this cartoon again I wondered what I was on about, apologizing for the image quality. Then I saw; it’s all badly pixellated. Ah well. I may need to apologize a bit for the cartoon being one long earworm with interruptions for other, smaller earworms. But it is one of the Talkartoons that’s as pleasant just to listen to as to watch for the many visual jokes.


I have to apologize right from the start for this week’s Talkartoon. Not so much about the content. Although I should warn it does use several times the joke that it’s funny if a woman’s clothing should fall off. Men lose their clothes too, but it’s meant to be funny that you can see Betty Boop’s bra. What I have to apologize for is I can’t find a good version of the cartoon online. Archive.org has one with nasty compression artifacts. I don’t see one on YouTube that’s much better. Which figures, since this is a densely packed cartoon with a lot of visual jokes. Sorry; best I can do.

This was originally released the 2nd of January, 1932. It’s the first Talkartoon of that year. And it’s got credited animators: Willard Bowsky and Thomas Bonfiglio, a team that also gave us Twenty Legs Under The Sea.

Can a cartoon be made up entirely of side gags? Sure, especially in the 1930s, and especially from the Fleischer Studios. There is something holding all the jokes together. It’s Thomas S Allen’s ragtime hit of 1902, Any Rags?. It’s a catchy song; here’s a 1904 recording. You maybe haven’t heard of Thomas S Allen but you know at least one of his other songs: 1905’s Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal. Yes, I’m also shocked to learn that song is newer than, like, the Sherman Antitrust Act.

The song, and cartoon, are built on one of those jobs that today seems to come from another dimension, the rag-and-bone man. The job, of gathering up trash that can be put to a new purpose, is still there, of course. It’s just that it, too, has been industrialized, with metals and paper and plastics being gathered by the city every other week (or whatever), and clothing gathered every couple months. Or you see them in the people rooting around trash bins for soda pop cans that can be turned in for the deposits. Still the job as it was sounds daft: gather stuff people were throwing out, and then sell it to other people? Without Craigslist to mediate?

Betty Boop gets top billing, pretty good considering she doesn’t even appear until the cartoon’s halfway over, and is in it about a quarter as long as Bimbo is. Props to whoever her agent was. Koko gets a mention too, and he’s only in for one quick joke. Bimbo is the center of a lot of stray and amusing and often wild little jokes. He doesn’t seem to me to provoke most of them, to be an active participant. But he’s there while they happen, which is worthwhile.

There’s almost nothing but blink-and-you-miss-it jokes this short. I like the string of nonsense items the housewife hangs on the clothesline, starting about 1:30. But there’s plenty of choice. Bimbo swiping the moustache off a lion demanding to know what’s the deal with stealing his pants? Bimbo’s spurned valenteine-heart dropping out of scene on a parachute, about 3:25? The statue of Atlas eagerly showing off his globe to the auction attendees? Take your pick. I don’t spot any real body horror along the jokes. I would have expected, at minimum, the cat that’s put through the clothesline wheel to end up shaved. Maybe everyone at the studio was feeling kindhearted that week.

There’s a fair, not excessive, number of suspiciously Mickey-like mice in the short. A couple turns up about 1:10 in, in the birdcage that Bimbo fishes out of the trash bin. (This short summarizes so weird.) The housewife and her clothespin-attaching assistant at about 1:30 in are also mice.

I like this cartoon throughout. There’s very little story structure. I suppose the auction has to happen near the end, and the garbage turning into a home at the end, but the rest is arbitrary. That’s all right; the progression of music gives enough structure for the short to stay enjoyable and keep feeling like it’s going somewhere. It’s a good example of building a short without any real plot or big jokes. Just lots of little bits of business.

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? What does Morgan Le Fey have against Prince Valiant? July – September 2021


I don’t know. She’s Morgan Le Fey, she’s got a lot of projects going on. Unfortunately I’m not a devoted enough Prince Valiant reader to know what all their past history is. She had some roles in very early, 1930s, stories. Here are some panels from some of them. I can say Valiant was part of foiling her plan to marry Sir Gawain. I don’t know if there’s more.

So this should catch you up to late September in Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant. If any news about the comic strip breaks, or if you’re reading this after about December 2021, there might be a more useful plot recap here.

Prince Valiant.

4 July – 26 September 2021.

I foresaw last time that a new story was starting. It starts uneventful, with Valiant finding an inn to rest. But his arrival’s reported to a mysterious hooded, feminine figure. He drinks from a pitcher the figure had enchanted. And Valiant falls over, hallucinating, finding himself in a fairyland of legend. Past and future: the first panel includes the White Rabbit of Wonderland fame.

Madness! Immediately after having drunk from a pitcher of water proffered by the innkeeper, Val finds his world transformed into a fairyland. 'I have been bewitched!' he cries ... and the elvis creatures surrounding him hoot and chortle in reply. Then, through the forest gloom, three hulking riders materialize ... who, upon sight of the bewildered prince, begin a wordless charge! Their weird mounts seem to glide effortlessly forward, but with obviously malignant intent. Then the entire forest seems to turn on Val! The only thing he understands is that this world is no place to make a brave stand. He wheels his steed about and flees!
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 1st of August, 2021. I was tempted to link instead to the previous Sunday’s installment. It did a wonderful bit of the panel borders turning into great arches, a wonderful visual depiction of the world going mad. But this is more representative of what Valiant was going through. I notice that the White Rabbit appeared in the previous Sunday’s panel. And this strip includes the word ‘Chortle’, introduced to the English language by Louis Carroll. I don’t know if that’s coincidence or a little joke aimed at … me and only me.

We get several gorgeous weeks of fairyland artwork. I’m sorry I can’t justify including all of them. I never say enough about the art but it’s wonderful looking at.

Less wonderful being in; Valiant’s outmatched in a battle against everything in the world. Also the world, which swallows him up. He sees ravens, and cries to them to tell his wife Aleta. She, a witch with affinity for ravens, suddenly wakes. But she doesn’t get back into the story before the Kraken drags Valiant into the underwater throne room of the Queen of the Fairies.

As a confused Val had suspected, the 'Fairy Queen' is revealed to be Morgan Le Fay. 'I may be no fairy queen,' she cries, but so long as I hold his spear, Prince Valiant is mine to destroy!' What surprises Val more is that the ravens did carry his summons to Aleta. 'No matter how badly my husband behaves,' his wife retorts, 'you have no right to him!' Behaved badly...? Val feels a bit offended, but Aleta continues: 'No matter what ancient grievances you may hold against Arthur and the knights of his court, my husband's fate is not yours to decide!' The furious sorceress rises and gathers arcane and hypnotic energies. 'You have no idea of my grievances, foreign concubine! Will you still hold close to your husband ... when his wicked nature is revealed? How do you like your handsome body now?!' Val feels Morgan's magic envelop him, and suddenly he is no longer himself! He sees Aleta stare at him in horror!
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 19th of September, 2021. So first, this week’s revealed I had just assumed Morgan Le Fay was a fairy queen or some kind. I mean, it’s kind of in the name, right? I don’t know the Arthurian legends. Closest I get is I last saw The Sword In The Stone like 20 years ago and was annoyed that all Merlin’s dialogue, about the need for intelligence and planning and cleverness, was undermined by every bit of plot activity, in which Wart/Arthur gets saved by dumb luck and powerful friends and never does a witful thing. Second, yeah, I don’t know what Aleta is going on about Valiant behaving badly. All he had done to get into this fix was go to an inn for the night and drink water the innkeeper offered. Maybe they’re talking bigger-picture stuff.

“Wait,” you ask. “The Queen of the Fairies lives underwater?” Yeah, I don’t know either. But Valiant recognizes her. She’s Morgan Le Fey, from the time of King Arthur, just like he is. And from the waters rise Valiant’s Singing Sword, held by Aleta, who demands Le Fey release her husband. Instead, Le Fey transforms Valiant into some great sea monster, sending him to devour his wife. So that’s exciting, and we’ll see how that works over the next couple months.

Next Week!

What connects time-travelling camara drones, a stolen memorabilia collection, the kidnapping of the Moon Maid, and the murder of Tess Tracy’s father? They’re all things I need to understand when I recap Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy next week, if all goes to plan. We’ll see what happens.

Reposted: The 30th Talkartoon: Betty Boop’s Dizzy Red Riding Hood


Another Talkartoon repeat, and another fairy tale, this time Little Red Riding Hood. I pointed out the first time this ran that as far as I can tell, this is the first (American) sound cartoon version of the Little Red Riding Hood story. I haven’t seen anything to contradict that, although I don’t know there weren’t live-action adaptations. It’s still odd that they went so far off the story template. Interesting, though.


We’re back, in the Talkartoons, to ones with known animators. And a good hand, too: Grim Natwick, credited with the creation of Betty Boop in the first place. (There’s two more Talkartoons without known animators, which we should get to in late April and early May.) This is also the last Talkartoon of 1931: it was released the 12th of December. And if I’m not missing something, it’s the second (known) cartoon adaptation of the Little Red Riding Hood story. And the second Talkartoon in a row that’s a fairy-tale adaptation.

I do have to offer a content warning. There’s a joke at about 4:20 in playing on the meanings of the words “pansies” and “fairies”.

The title card narration suggests the cartoon will be risque, in the way that pre-Code cartoons are often reputed to be. This is borne out, at least some; the short is driven by Bimbo’s lusting after Betty Boop. Also maybe by the wolf’s lusting after Betty Boop, although that could just be the normal, empty-stomach sort of hunger.

And it’s got Bimbo in his non-screwball-character design. The one where he’s a bit dull. He’s less interesting than he was last week in Jack and the Beanstalk, yes. But he’s not the boring passive participant in the story that he would get to be. About halfway through he surprises me by beating up the wolf, chasing the wolf’s skeleton out of his own skin for a moment of honest-to-goodness horror, and taking his place. (The wolf also accidentally cuts his head off for a moment there, about 3:12 in, but that’s done so quickly it might not even register.) This is (apparently) the first sound cartoon adaptation of the Little Red Riding Hood story, and only the second in American animation (Walt Disney did a Little Red Riding Hood cartoon in 1922). It’s surprising that even that early on in animation history they felt they had to have the story go this weird.

Given how well Jack and the Beanstalk went, and that most fairy tales are public domain, it’s not surprising they’d try the trick again. But I don’t know how far they had developed Jack and the Beanstalk before starting work on Dizzy Red Riding Hood. They might have realized they were on to something good. Or both cartoons might have started development about simultaneously as the Fleischer Studios realized they had a story source just waiting around right there to be used.

It doesn’t come off as well as Jack and the Beanstalk, though. This cartoon isn’t so zany as last week’s. There are many good little bits of business, and so a wealth of choices for blink-and-you-miss-it jokes. I’d vote for right up front as the handle for the icebox keeps escaping Betty’s hand, and turns out to be a sausage link poking through a hole anyway. Also that Bimbo eats the fish Betty puts in her basket, and the sausage links leap into his mouth. And that’s before a friendly little frog turns into an outboard motor to help Betty through a large puddle.

There are a lot of good little bits of business. I like the forest leaping into Betty’s way. Also that when we first see the wolf, he, Betty, and Bimbo all enter the scene from different depths; it’s a rare bit of three-dimensionality. And I’m really amused that the wolf goes to the trouble of getting Betty Boop to plant flowers just so he can have flowers to stomp on.

There’s also some good draftsmanship on display in a challenging scene about 2:25 in, where Betty and the Wolf are walking along a curved trail in the woods, and Bimbo keeps poking his head out between trees. It’s the kind of angle that’s not seen enough in cartoons, for my tastes. It’s hard to animate so it looks right. This does look right, although it goes on a bit long, as if the studio was so impressed they’d got it right they were checking to make sure everyone noticed. Always the problem in doing the hard stuff right.

Still, none of the jokes feel that big, or land that strongly. There’s a lot that’s amusing; no real belly laughs. The closing scene, with Betty and Bimbo sitting on the moon as if it were a hammock, is a great image, but it’s a strange closing moment not coming from or building to anything. I like the Moon’s despairing expression, though.

There aren’t credits for the voice actors. The Internet Movie Database credits Little Ann Little with Betty Boop’s voice, plausibly as she’d been doing that the last several shorts. It also credits Billy Murray with Bimbo’s voice, again, credible. I don’t know who does the introduction. It sounds to me like someone impersonating Ronald Colman, but I’m not sure that in 1931 that would be a name people could be expected to recognize. The wolf’s voice — at least his singing voice — sounds to me like Jackson Beck. You’ll recognize him as the voice of Bluto and every other heavy in every cartoon and old-time radio show. But that is my speculation and I am not skilled in identifying voice actors.

The wolf, while singing his threats, rhymes “granny” with “bologna”. I have no explanation for this phenomenon.

Reposted: The 29th Talkartoon: Jack and the Beanstalk and of course Betty Boop and the heck?


For all of the nice things I said about this cartoon when I reviewed it, I couldn’t remember it without a rewatch. That’s weird and a shame since it is a good, fun, weird cartoon. Also it’s a bit weird seeing just how different Bimbo is in these cartoons where he’s more of a screwball than he is in, say, Minding The Baby. Like, if it weren’t for the title card would we even suspect they were the same character?


The next of the Talkartoon sequence is another one we don’t have animator information about. Sorry. Looking ahead, it appears there’s only two more Talkartoons without credits. Wikipedia also lists this as Betty Boop’s final appearance in dog form. It’s the first Talkartoon based explicitly on a fairy tale (unless one of the lost ones has something). It won’t be the last. From the 21st of November, 1931 — just two weeks after Mask-A-Raid — here’s Jack and the Beanstalk.

OK, so that’s kind of a weird one. It’s got all the major elements of Jack and the Beanstalk — Bimbo, with his earlier, more screwball design, as Jack; a beanstalk; a cow; a giant; a magic hen. The story’s presented in a lightly subverted form. Bimbo’s aware of the giant because of a dropped cigar. Bimbo just having the beans and needing the cow to tell him to use it. The Magic Hen coming out of nowhere. It’s interesting to me there are so many elements of spoofing the Jack-and-the-Beanstalk story. If I’m not overlooking something on Wikipedia this is only the second cartoon made based on the Jack and the Beanstalk story, and only about the fourth time the story was put on film. There are probably some more adaptations that just haven’t been identified. Still, it does suggest this is one of those fairy tales that are adopted more in parody than in earnest. It’s a curious state of affairs.

I mentioned Bimbo’s got his earlier character design here. He’s also got his earlier personality, the one with personality. He’s a more active person than he’s been since The Herring Murder Case at least. For a wonder in a cartoon billed Betty Boop and Bimbo, he’s actually the lead. I’m curious why he doesn’t stay this interesting. It gives the cartoon shape. And a screwball Bimbo can do random weird stuff to fill in jokes during a dull stretch.

There’s no end of casual weird body stuff this cartoon. It starts out with Bimbo taking his cow’s horn off to use as telescope. Bimbo’s arm turns into a rotary drill to plant beans. Bimbo untying Betty by taking her apart and putting her back together. The Magic Hen swapping her head and tail. The Magic Hen flying apart, then pulling herself together by putting her legs through her neck-hole and grabbing her head. File all these images away for a nightmare at some more convenient time.

Not only does a suspiciously Mickey-like Mouse appear about 4:48 in, but he figures into the plot. Makes for a really well-crafted cartoon, as well as the rare short from this era to have four significant characters. Five, if the Hen counts.

I’m not sure the short has any blink-and-you-miss-it jokes; everything is pretty well timed and set up. Also I’m surprised how big a laugh I got out of the bowl of soup smacking the giant in the face. Maybe you’d count the four eggs the Magic Hen lays turning into tires for her own morph into a car. And the car morphing back into the Hen. Both are such quick and underplayed bits of business it’s easy to not see them.

I’m surprised how well this short worked. Betty Boop cartoons would go back to fairy tales and nursery rhymes. This short gives good reason why.

Statistics Saturday: Some Promotions For The Coming Month


  • Rocktober. Self-explanatory, you’d think, but all right. Everybody’s into geology.
  • Shocktober. A whole month spent distinguishing between behing shocked and merely being startled.
  • Mocktober. The month for spoofs (good-natured).
  • Locktober. Three weeks we waste trying to remember the combination. It is 11-4-69.
  • Blocktober. The floor is covered in Legos.
  • Clocktober. We all engage in clock- and watch-themed crimes to overwhelm the Caped Crusader!
  • Spocktober. 31 days of serious inquiry into Dr Benjamin Spock’s program and how it differed from what the people trying to follow his guidance differed, with the final question about whether he was a net positive or negative force answered once and for all on the 29th, by a paintball fight. 9 pm Eastern/6 pm Pacific.
  • Hard Mocktober. The month for spoofs (nasty and a touch bitter).
  • Octoctober. You have eight arms! Finally! I mean that you can show.
  • Stocktober. You lay in enough durable supplies for the winter ahead, as it’s a bit late to lay them in for hte summer behind.
  • Docktober. We finally get all these breakbulk goods off these cargo ships.
  • Socktober. Finally something warm and comfortable on our feet.

Reference: Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!, Arthur C Clarke.

Reposted: The 28th Talkartoon: Mask-A-Raid, Where Betty Takes Top Billing


In The Shade Of The Old Apple Sauce misses out on my eye by virtue of being a lost cartoon. So here we move on to Mask-A-Raid. It’s a catchy cartoon, centered on a song that’s pretty fun if you cut out the racist verses. The Fleischers did that, but did also leave some stereotype images in the cartoon. I discussed that in my original essay, reprinted below.


So the next Talkartoon in release order, from the 16th of October, 1931, was In The Shade Of The Old Apple Sauce. Wikipedia tells me it’s a lost cartoon. Certainly I never found it. Wikipedia also says it’s “not to be confused with the Screen Songs from 1929 of the same name”. There was no such 1929 Screen Songs cartoon. They’re thinking of In The Shade Of The Old Apple Tree, based on the 1905 song. Shifting the name to “Apple Sauce” just shows how hep the staff of Fleischer Studios was around 1931; apple-based stuff was a slangy way to talk about something being nonsense back then. So that’s why really old cartoons will talk about something being “apple sauce” or someone being an “apple knocker” or something like that. And now, someone who’s a fan of the old-time radio comedy-detective show Richard Diamond understands why that time Richard takes on an assumed identity as “Harold Appleknocker” all the other characters react as if this were a joke the audience was supposed to understand. It would just be weirdly dated, like if a comic detective today gave her name as Allison Supertrain.

But there’s no seeing that cartoon. So I move on to the next, from the 7th of November is Mask-A-Raid. There’s no credits to say who the animators were.

Before getting there, though, I have to share a content warning. At the center of the cartoon is the song Where Do You Work-A John, also known as the Delaware Lackawanna Song. It was a novelty hit, five years old at the time, and written by Mortimer Weinberg, Charley Marks and Harry Warren. Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians made it a canonical hit, but Harry Reser and other bandleaders covered it too. Thing is it’s written with the sort of lighthearted stereotyping that was fine back in the days when big city police could start their investigation into the bomb set off in the business district by just looking up who they could think of who was Italian.

The verses used in the cartoon don’t get to the really troublesome ones, but there’s still a bit of an edge there. And there’s masquerade masks that get the stereotyping more on point, with Italian and, for whatever reason, Chinese faces. It doesn’t read to me as malicious, just absurd, but I don’t want to toss surprises up at you.

The short starts with an interesting title: it’s Betty Boop in Mask-A-Raid with Bimbo. It’s not surprising to us today that Betty Boop would have taken first billing, and is sending Bimbo down to guest-star status. But what was going on in 1931 that they saw this coming? Betty Boop’s turned up more and more, yes, but it’s hard to see what she’s done that’s more interesting than Bimbo has.

I mentioned with Minding The Baby that Betty Boop cartoons develop a stock plot. This one draws closer to it: Betty and Bimbo play a while, a big bad interrupts their fun, and then Bimbo has to rally into action. There isn’t the kidnapping and chase to this; it’s just a duel between Bimbo and the King (and his men). But it’s still early in the series.

There’s a lot of this cartoon I don’t get. Not the plot. It’s straightforward and silly and while there’s nonsense to it, there’s not crazy, surreal bits. What I don’t get is there’s a lot that seems like it’s got to be a reference to something. Take the droopy-faced, huge-nosed mask at about 2:20 in. That’s got to be a Chico Marx caricature, right? It seems to make sense, although I don’t think of him as having so large a nose that making it something you have to carry by wheelbarrow a sensible caricature. But if it’s spoofing someone else? … Okay, who? I feel like I should be more sure here. At the end of the short Bimbo goes into a little scat-singing reverie, and that makes sense so far as anything does in the short. But is Bimbo impersonating anybody particular? The body language feels like it to me. His hair grows out. Just a joke that he’s a singer now? But I had understood long hair, back then, to signify classical music fanatics. My best guess is Bimbo’s impersonating one of the band’s singers. I don’t know who that would be, though. I think the music was done by Harry Reser and whatever he called his band in 1931. But what do my ears know?

I’m not sure whether this is a blink-and-you-miss-it joke. But there is a lot going on in Bimbo’s first scene, when he’s the bandleader and a bunch of smaller animals are playing the hippopotamus. There’s a lot going on there and if you notice, say, the suspiciously-Mickey-like mouse playing his toes like a xylophone you maybe missed the dog(?) drumming on the hippo’s head. It’s also easy to miss how the suspicious mice who carry Betty’s cape come to riding on her cape. But that’s also less funny, at least to me. (And there’s more mice in the big scrum around 4:55.) Maybe the guy who tosses peanuts into the trunk of the elephant blowing a fanfare at about 4:25. That’s not a lot of joke, but I don’t remember ever noticing it in twenty years of watching this cartoon. As for body horror, well, there’s not a strong candidate. The gag where two knight’s swords go into each other at about 5:10 creeps me out for reasons I can’t explain, so I’ll go with that.

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 11 of 16)


I hope that you’re still enjoying this MiSTing of Carrie L—‘s Reboot fan fiction “Breaking the Barriers”. I’ve enjoyed looking back at this Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction I wrote around 2003. You should be able to read the entire MiSTing at this link.

In the story so far Carrie has discovered a portal between small-town Ontario and the digital world of Reboot. Fortunately she lives in small-town Ontario and has a great time meeting the show’s heroes. Unfortunately the show’s villains emerge into small-town Ontario and threaten Melonville’s mall. She with the help of series hero Bob is able to get Megabyte back into the computer, but the digital virus Symble is getting into the action, and maybe even the mall.

If I wrote this today I wouldn’t use the leadoff joke about “can we go?” “No”. I feel the jokes about being stuck watching the source material work in the context of the actual show. Joel/Mike/Jonah and the bots are trapped watching. But, here? It’s harder to disbelieve that I chose to spend my time reading this, and that I must enjoy it enough to continue reading it. Plus it might give my readers ideas.

Houghton is a small town in Michigan’s upper peninsula, at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula, which pokes out into Lake Superior. I used to know someone who went to school there. That said the last actual Radio Shack I saw in Michigan was around 2016 in Suttons Bay, a tiny town off the Grand Traverse Bay in the lower peninsula, and I think they were having a going-out-of-business sale.

I no longer remember the meaning of the “Thinkit” reference. Enik was the “good” Sleestak from the original, 1970s, Land of the Lost series. Yes, I know, he was actually one of the Altrusian forebears of the Sleestak propelled by a time-portal accident into (for him) a post apocalyptic future he hoped he could escape and somehow prevent, but it’s important not to add unenlightening complications when you explain something.

The Compute!’s Gazette thing about undoing the ‘NEW’ command. ‘NEW’ was the command you typed in to erase whatever program was in your Commodore’s memory. But it didn’t really erase your program. It just put zeroes at the start of the program’s memory, the code for ‘end of program’. If you started typing a new program, that would replace what used to be there. But if you didn’t? If you used the ‘POKE’ command you could change those zeroes back to a sensible start of your program, and undo this ‘erasure’. Learning this kind of thing is what I did in the 1980s instead of having fun.

You can tell this is my sort of humor writing because no successful writer would leave in a joke about tariff rates within the British Commonwealth.


>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *
>

JOEL: That’s actually a very funny joke, but only on Hollerith cards.

> Part Twenty-Two

CROW: The house is busted. Can we leave?

TOM: No.

>
> Bob stood silently, watching the computer screen for any sign
> that Symble had succeded.

CROW: The smiley face isn’t sign enough?

> He had teamed up with him in the hopes that
> Symble would be trustworthy enough to keep helping him.

JOEL: That’s probably wiser than teaming up with Phong, Dot, and Enzo.

> He had heard
> rumours about a sprite and a virus initializing a child, but he had
> passed it off as fanciful speculation.

TOM: Mixed dating? Unthinkable!

> When Symble told him he was a
> hybrid, he had remembered all those rumours and whispered stories.

CROW: But after he met Symble’s lovely parents Sarek and Amanda, he underestood.

> Suddenly, Carrie’s computer began to beep,tearing him from his
> thoughts. Bob looked over at Megabyte. "That should mean that
> Glitch was successful."

TOM: Or that she’s wanted on Yahoo Messenger. I’m not sure.

> he told him, "This should take you to
> Mainframe. I’ll follow after."

CROW: [ As Bob, snickering ] Right behind. Yup. Just head on in…

JOEL: Doctor *Robotnik* wouldn’t fall for a stunt like *this*.

> Megabyte looked down at Bob. "I
> trust you wouldn’t try to doublecross me."

TOM: Even though he’ll never get as good a chance again ever.

> He rumbled, suspitiously.
> "I can’t." Bob said. "I don’t belong here either."

CROW: I’m not even supposed to be here today.

>
> Bob turned and walked over to Carrie. "I’m going to go after
> Megabyte

JOEL: [ As Carrie ] But he’s right here.

TOM: [ As Bob ] No, I mean I’m going in after him.

> so I can keep my end of the bargain." Bob said,

CROW: The bargain was he’ll let Megabyte go.

> "You’ll be
> okay. Won’t you?" Carrie nodded. "I know about vampires."

JOEL: How?

> she
> assured him. "He didn’t do enough damage to seriously hurt me.

CROW: She can replicate spare parts and be back to operational in just a couple star dates.

> But I
> want to go with you!!" Bob shook his head. "I don’t want you to be in
> any danger." He whispered, "You’ll be safer here."

TOM: Besides, I don’t want to tell your parents about the vampire thing.

> He turned to see
> Megabyte being pulled into the computer screen.

JOEL: It’s a good thing Carrie has a wide screen monitor. Can you picture them all squeezing into a Macintosh SE?

> Carrie forced herself
> to sit up.
>
> "I’m going with you." She told Bob, then pulled herself up
> onto her shaky legs. She lost her balance, and started to fall.

JOEL: Looks like she picked the wrong week to start roller skating everywhere.

> Bob
> caught her, and Carrie wrapped her arms around him, startled by her
> inability to stand.

TOM: [ As Bob ] Carrie, uh, me leaving is more effective if I go.

> "Be careful!" Bob said. Carrie looked up into
> his eyes as he supported her weight.

CROW: Meanwhile Megabyte’s had enough computer time to conquer the mainframe ten times over.

> She hated not being able to
> recover quickly, but yet, she loved being held by Bob.

JOEL: Like she was the entire walk back from the mall.

> She smiled at
> him sheepishly, and he returned it with his killer smile. Carrie’s
> imagination began to fly. She had hoped for this moment for so long!
> To be held by Bob was a dream come true!!

TOM: To hold Bob here while Megabyte conquers his home computer and all he holds dear!

> She continued to stare into
> his eyes, hoping he would sweep her off her feet, like he did in her
> dreams.

[ ALL hum theme from ‘Romeo and Juliet’ ]

> Instead, he picked her up and put her back on the couch.
> "You just stay here."

JOEL: Or I’ll turn this computer around and take you right … oh, you’re home.

> he said, softly brushing her cheek. "I’ll be
> seeing ya!" And he dove through Carrie’s computer screen.

TOM: Wait, they should’ve swapped e-mail addresses.

>
> Carrie wasn’t about to be left behind. She got to her feet
> again, and dove towards her computer before her legs could give out.

CROW: Unfortunately, only her head and torso made it through before the portal closed again.

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

JOEL: It’s an ergonomically designed light saber.

>
> Part Twenty-Three

TOM: Skidoo!

>
> Symble stood warily as this virus approached him. He didn’t
> like the way she was looking at him.

JOEL: He’s creeped out by that popping out the eye and waving it around.

> It made him feel like a peice of
> hardware on sale in the shops lining Picadilly Circuits.

CROW: Picadilly? I hardly even know a … wait.
[ JOEL puts a hand on CROW’s shoulder. ]

TOM: Since this story was written Picadilly Circuits has become a Radio Shack in Houghton, Michigan.

> "Who are
> you?" he asked. The virus smiled, revealing sharp teeth.

TOM: Martha Ray, Denture Wearer.

> Symble
> stepped back cautiously. "You needn’t fear me yet." Hexadecimal said.
> "I am Hexadecimal,

JOEL: Thinkit will be so glad to know.

> and I control Lost Angles, for now." She stepped
> closer, and Symble hissed warningly, baring his fangs.

CROW: Wouldn’t it be funny if his teeth fell out right now?

TOM: The vampire fangs would be scarier if he didn’t have the kooky googley eye glasses and Groucho nose too.

> "I may be half
> virus, but don’t provoke me.

TOM: Unless his other half is Neville Chamberlain.

> I will erase anyone who threatens me.
> Virus or Sprite." Hexadecimal giggled.

CROW: Hey, they’re chattering vampire teeth!

> It was a rather unpleasant
> sound, and it made Symble all the more uncomfotable around this virus.

JOEL: He should change his laugh sound to that charming ting noise.

> He was getting very close to the portal now, and he could feel the
> energy radiating from it.

TOM: [ As Bela Lugosi ] PULL the STRINGS!

> "Come now." Hexadecimal said. "You’re new
> around here, and I want to know who you are."
>

CROW: Why not check his web site?

JOEL: There’s spiders in it.

> Suddenly, someone stepped out of the portal. He was a virus
> once again, and he prefered it that way.

TOM: We now join our plot already in progress.

> He looked over to find the
> virus that had sent him through the portal in the first place standing
> in front of Hexadecimal.

JOEL: Enik?

> This virus was poised defensively, and he
> could tell that Hex found this rather amusing.

CROW: It is … oh, you kind of have to be here.

> Megabyte extended his
> claws.

TOM: I bet it’s a real bad day when that happens by accident.

> Virus or no virus, this newcomer had meddled in business other
> than his own, and he would pay dearly. Before Megabyte could do
> anything, he was hit from behind.

JOEL: Uh … woops … I meant to say, ‘Fore’ …

> He was thrown to the ground, and he
> could feel someone standing on his back. "Attack my partner?

TOM: Please!

> I don’t
> think so." Bob looked down at Megabyte, and then stepped off him.

CROW: This way Megabyte can escape and wreak havoc again.

> "I
> agreed to get you here, but I’m still not going to let you hurt anyone
> ." Megabyte stood up, and casually brushed himself off.

TOM: Oh, he’s doing his classic "Little Tramp" routine.

> Symble
> turned and looked at Bob. "So, you’ve returned." He said. "I guess
> this means the next move is mine."

CROW: They’re playing checkers by e-mail.

>
> He turned toward the portal, fully extending his blades.

JOEL: And he’s embarassed because today he only put on the cheese slicers.

> Before he could reach it, someone came diving through it.

TOM: Uh-oh … we could be looking at a Carrie-ka-bob.

> Symble
> caught the figure, and looked into the face. It was Carrie. She was
> unconcious and partially erased.

CROW: Fortunately, Bob read the article in Compute!’s Gazette about how to undo the ‘NEW’ command.

> Symble turned to Bob as he ran
> forward. "Oh no!" Bob said, "I told her not to follow me!"

TOM: Maybe this was pure coincidence.

> He took
> Carrie from Symble and picked her up. She was very weak. Her energy
> had been almost completly drained.

JOEL: The Pizza Hut didn’t save her life after all?

> She was even becoming transparent.

CROW: Aw, that’s just because her skin’s the Chroma-Key color.

> *I have to get help!* he thought. He pulled out his zip-board.
> Before he could get on it, Megabyte grabbed his arm. "Guardian." he
> said.

TOM: You said you’d call.

> "You still have your end of the bargain." Bob just looked at
> him. "I’ll keep my end." he told him.

JOEL: Look, it’s the fifth door on the right, just after the bathroom. Sheesh.

> "But first, I have to help
> Carrie." Megabyte frowned. "Only if I go with you." he rumbled,
> ominously.

TOM: Or what, he’s going to attack Bob and almost kill Carrie?

> Bob started to protest, then thought the better of it.
> "Alright." he said. "Let’s go."
>

TOM: Did they even need to *go* to Canada?

JOEL: With those scenes the story qualifies for better tariff rates in the Commonwealth.

TOM: Oh.

[ to continue … ]

Reposted: The 26th Talkartoon: Minding The Baby, where Betty got her name


We’re back to another merely good cartoon. Considering it has to star an annoying kid to make sense, that’s doing well. The short really brings you back to a time when teens, given a window of time when their parents aren’t around, would go over to a desirable person’s house and skip rope. I can’t tell you whether audiences of 1931 were supposed to find that silly.


The title card this cartoon credits it to “Betty Boop and Bimbo”. I think that’s the first time we’ve seen Betty Boop’s last name established in one of these cartoons, and I’m surprised that doesn’t rate mention on the Wikipedia articles about this cartoon or about Talkartoons in general. This short also lacks animator credits. Talkartoon credits Shamus Culhane and Bernard Wolf, on what grounds I don’t know. Its release date was either the 9th of September, 1931, according to the Talkartoons page, or the 26th of September, according to its own page. Leonard Maltin’s Of Mice and Magic was the 26th, which makes for a neater arrangement of things altogether.

Most serieses grow stock templates for stories. It’s not laziness or anything exactly; it’s just that the people making a series realize they’ve got these characters who do this kind of thing well, and so go to telling that kind of story more. There is a loose template for Betty Boop and Bimbo cartoons: Betty wants to play with Bimbo, and they do, and some monster comes in and spoils the fun, often kidnapping Betty, until Bimbo rallies into action and everything collapses into chaos. Minding the Baby isn’t there. But I can see that template in embryo. Bimbo’s kid brother isn’t your classically-formed monster. But he does serve a lot of the same role, spoiling Betty and Bimbo’s fun and taking the initiative away from them.

We start with a crying baby and a gently wicked-in-that-30s-cartoon-way version of Rock-a-Bye-Baby. Bimbo’s got to watch his baby brother Aloysius. Also Bimbo has a baby brother Aloysius. This brings the ratio of Fictional People Named Aloysius To Show They’re The Comedy’s Annoying Character to Actual People Named Aloysius In Real Life to infinity-to-zero.

The cartoon’s a buffet of “Hey, that tune!” moments; right as Bimbo’s mother drops off Aloysius there’s background music burned into my brain as the tune for Betty Boop’s Birthday Party (“This is Betty’s/Birthday party jaaaaam”). There’s some incidental music around 2:00 that’s just in everything or at least feels like it. Similarly the jaunty little tune as Bimbo jumps rope. “Rock-a-Bye-Baby” and “How Dry I Am” and “By The Beautiful Sea” are cartoon staples, not just for this studio. The player piano-scroll music that the hippo plays with his snores has been driving me crazy because I can’t pin down the title. This whole paragraph is making me sound ill-prepared. The songs are there, though.

The cartoon’s got a story. It’s a loose one. Aloysius can go on making trouble, or at least old-baby jokes like smoking cigars and checking the Stuck Market, as long as it needs to. But there is reason for stuff to happen, and for Aloysius’s mischief to get bigger and bigger until it ends in some calamity. Surprising to me on rewatch was that Bimbo just gives up on watching Aloysius pretty early on. I’d expect good comic tension to be driven by his having to be both at Betty’s and keeping Aloysius from falling out the window. Instead, mostly, Aloysius gets into and out of his own trouble. Makes you wonder if they really need to watch the kid after all.

There’s no mice at all, suspiciously Mickey-like or otherwise. There’s a couple good bits of body horror. For me the biggest is the cat that gets pulled inside-out by the vacuum. I know there’s other people who’ll find more primal the punch line of Bimbo zipping Aloysius’s mouth closed. By the way, at the time zippers were a basically new thing. I mean, they had been invented decades earlier, but it was only in the 20s that design and manufacturing had got good enough that they could be used. To put the joke in a modern context it’d be kind of like synch’ing Aloysius’s voice to an iPhone that you then mute. I admit it’s a sloppy translation.

I’m not sure about a good blink-and-you-miss-it joke. There’s several nice bits of statues coming to life long enough to participate in the action. But they’re also pretty well-established. Bimbo dangling down a floor and licking a windowsill cake would be a good one, except it’s done a second time. Yes, in service of setting up a third dangle, where he licks a cat (to the same hilariously pathetic little “mew” as in Bimbo’s Express, I think). Still, the cartoon shows a good bit of polish. The setup’s reasonable, it’s developed well, and it comes to a conclusion that’s very nearly a full conclusion. The cartoons don’t feel slapdash at this point.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (weekdays)? Are we about to see the death of the 21st Phantom? June – September 2021


I know I answered this last time, but: no, The Phantom is the Man Who Cannot Die. It’s right there in the premise. Ghost Who Walks and all that.

That said, we are seeing what sure looks like a death of the current, 21st, Phantom, at the hands of Gravelines Prison guards. And Old Man Mozz, wilderness prophet, warned that going to Gravelines Prison would kill him, and also keep Kit Junior from being the 22nd Phantom. And even end the journey of the Walkers in Bangalla. So: is that what we’re seeing here?

Odd as this is for a plot recap essay, I’m going to give a spoiler warning. Stuff regarding the next year of The Phantom will come up. I come by this knowledge through a special edition of X-Band: The Phantom Podcast. Its about 17 minutes long, and in it Tony DePaul, Mike Manley, and Jeff Weigel discuss the current story and how the 21st Phantom dies.

So this should catch you up on Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, through late September 2021. If you’re interested in the Sunday continuity, or you’re reading this after about December 2021, you may find a more useful recap at this link.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

28 June – 18 September 2021.

The Phantom was ready to go to Gravelines Prison, in fascist Rhodia, to free Captain Savarna Devi. Savarna’s an oceangoing vigilante who could host her own action-adventure comic strip if action-adventure comic strips were sustainable yet. She’s helped The Phantom often. Most notably, she helped him free Diana from Gravelines in 2009-11’s 18-month-long Death Of Diana Palmer Walker. Old Man Mozz warns of a dire vision, that if he frees Savarna, The Phantom will ruin everything he holds dear. The Phantom pauses to hear what will happen.

Old Man Mozz, sitting, as The Phantom sprawls out and listens: 'The tale begins here, O Ghost ... on the path you take when you refuse to hear me. When you *don't* turn around ... no matter what I say.' In a panel with jagged corners we witness The Phantom riding Hero away, ignoring Mozz's warning: 'If you free Savarna, Kit will never return to the Deep Woods ... Never be the 22nd Phantom!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 30th of June, 2021. The second panel is a redrawing, from a different perspective, of what we saw on the 26th of June. Which is part of how I missed the significance: story strips often repeat important beats, to help readers who missed a day or did not catch it first time around.

And this strip — the 30th of June — is critical. Notice the broken panel borders. The story from this point continues to The Phantom busting into Gravelines Prison and breaking Captain Savarna out. But it is the story Mozz is telling, explaining to The Phantom what happens if he goes in as he plans. Yes, I missed the significance of this when it happened. In my defense the 30th of June was a busy day for me. Also, at least one of the X-Band Podcast hosts missed it too, and they’re hardcore Phantom fans. They’re people, with, like, collections of souvenirs and ranked lists of opinions and everything.

In Mozz’s vision, The Phantom disregards his warning that if he frees Savarna Kit Junior will never return to the Deep Woods. The Phantom regrets that he has to do this right after breaking out Captain Ernesto Salinas. Security will be more, if not more competent, right after that jailbreak. But many of the usual tricks still work. He stops a truck by putting signal flares in the road, and sneaking in the back doors. He sneaks through the prison by catching one guard at a time, knocking them out and tying them up.

Phantom, lurking around the corner, watching a lone guard come back from his smoke break, thinking: ( Timing's on my side. The other two are likely to be looking the other way when I ... ) He grabs the guard, who cries 'Gurkk!', but is unheard as the other guards light their cigarettes.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 14th of July, 2021. So in response to this incident, Gravelines Prison has required guards to switch to vaping.

I did see one commenter say this reads like a first-person shooter video game. I grant the resemblance. Whether you find this plausible, I suppose, depends on whether you think Gravelines Maximum Security Prison guards should be bad at their jobs. The comic does try to anticipate snarkers. The Phantom reflects how yes, they’ve increased the number of guards, but by dragging people who didn’t want to be prison guards into this job. (Seen the 17th of August, and reinforced the 28th of August.) That they’ll be people who will find good reasons in the rulebook about why they didn’t rush toward the gunfire.

And that I accept. First, the Phantom isn’t going to sit and listen to a story where he can’t even break open Gravelines. Second, what authoritarians rely on us forgetting is that authoritarians are incompetent. Making a competent organization requires getting subordinates to say what things are wrong, and what’s needed to fix them, and how it’s taking longer to fix than they expected. Authoritarianism demands reports that everything is swell. It can only create illusions of capability, which shatter in crisis. Third, the guards are people who grew up in a world where The Phantom is real and sometimes strikes Gravelines Prison. They have good reason to want to avoid him. So I buy most of the guards working to rule when The Phantom beelines for Captain Savarna’s cell.

Phantom, at Savarna's jail cell: 'I didn't come all this way to leave you here, Savarna, but I will.' He thinks: (I won't. But she doesn't know that.) Savarna: 'Revenge!? Is *that* what you're asking? I'm *done* with it, Phantom! Yes! You have my word! *Enough* revenge!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 11th of August, 2021. Revenge here coming into play as she murdered Rhodian flag officers after they sank her ship, which she was using to harass pirate ships in and around Rhodia’s waters.

The Phantom pauses for an oddly indirect question before freeing Savarna. When she pledges she’s had enough revenge he lets her out, and they begin the escape. They swipe a jeep and pretty near drive right out, helped by the number of guards who don’t want to be shot at over this. But there are the hardcore guards, the true believers in their mission, and they’re the ones who block the road. They shoot a lot at The Phantom and at Captain Savarna, who manage to drive through. The Phantom pulls off the road where he left his horse, Hero, tied up. He tells Savarna how to let Hero carry her back to Bangalla. As for The Phantom himself …

Well, this takes us out of the proper date range for this recap. But Savarna got a good look at The Phantom and gasped “Oh my god!!” And he’s bleeding. This is explained in the characters’ dialogue and action, but unfortunately is muddled in the coloring. Rather than use Guran’s wound-healing super-powder, he asks Savarna to let him rest a while.

The Phantom's pulled their jeep up to Hero, his horse. Savarna: 'Why on earth would I be riding your horse out of here, Phantom?' Phantom, getting up: 'Because Mozz was right ... ' He reveals ... it's not perfectly clear. Bullet marks across his side? Savarna: 'OH MY GOD!!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 20th of September, 2021. Mozz had warned that if The Phantom succeeded, then his body would “for all coming time” lie in the landscape he hallucinated during The Llongo Forest.

Again, we are not seeing the death of the 21st Phantom. We’re seeing a death, something to happen if The Phantom disregarded Mozz’s advice. And, my understanding is, we’re to see more of what happens after this death, and what ruin it brings to the Walkers’ project. Tony DePaul said he thought the story might be the longest yet, at least comparable to the 18-month Death Of Diana Palmer Walker story. I trust it won’t all be warnings of how The Phantom’s marching towards death. I also expect there’ll be some clever way to rescue Captain Savarna from death row. But that’s the thing about expectations; so much of storytelling is subverting them.

Next Week!

Fairies and sea monsters! Some of my favorite material. It’s Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant, if all goes well. Not to spoil things, though, but I haven’t had a thing go well since the 11th of August. Please send words of comfort and also large checks made out to Cash.

Reposted: The 25th Talkartoon: Bimbo’s Express, a moving cartoon


After two spectacular cartoons we return to the world of merely good ones. Bimbo’s Express is a decent cartoon, a bunch of nice jokes well-arranged. If it’s disappointing it’s only because The Herring Murder case and Bimbo’s Initiation were that much better. It does add to Bimbo’s world a bunch of minor characters, none of whom turned into anything. But one can imagine where the gorilla-and-cat pair might have. They have a good energy together. The horse is pretty snappy too.


This Talkartoon was released the 22nd of August, 1931. This was not quite a month after Bimbo’s Initiation. But Wikipedia tells me this was the first entry of the 1931-32 film season. It doesn’t seem like much of a season break. But there are changes. Most importantly, Bimbo’s no longer the sole credited lead character. There’s no credited animators, and I don’t see any clear guesses about who’s responsible.

So one of those things I never knew was a thing growing up: “Moving Day” didn’t used to just be whenever it was you roped a couple friends into lugging a couch down three flights of stairs and back up a different three flights. Used to be — per Edwin G Burrows and Mike (Not That Mike) Wallace’s Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 — a specific day, the 1st of May. Most leases would expire then and the city would convulse in a mad dash for cartage as everybody tried to get to a new spot. Gotham doesn’t make clear to me when this Moving Day lapsed. I would guess during World War II, given the housing shortages, when rational people might leap at the chance to sleep inside the fireplace since at least it’s a warm spot in walking distance of the defense plant. But my point is that when this cartoon was made, and when it was first shown, “Moving Day” likely had this suggestion of a specific, big event that people went through nearly annually.

The core of any Moving Day cartoon is, yeah, how to carry stuff in silly ways. The short doesn’t disappoint in having good approaches for this. My favorite is the overall busy scene breaking out at about 3:24 in, when movers toss furniture down the rain gutter and pop the roof off to throw stuff down to the patio and so on. It’s got that big-complicated-mechanism action so dear to the Fleischer Brothers. There’s some other fine silly bits, such as carrying the stove or the bathtub out. Or Bimbo carefully bringing furniture out the window and untying it to drop. And very well, too, with an almost perfect call from below of “I got it!” after each drop.

At least when the moving action finally gets started. The short does take its sweet time getting there. It isn’t all wasted time. Yes, we’ve got the idea that it’s Bimbo’s Moving Van after about three seconds of seeing the moving van. But there is some fun to be had seeing the horse pull the van in a silly way. Also to spot the well-done background, moving at an angle and years before multi-plane cameras were a thing. Also there’s establishing the gorilla and the small cat. Also, I’m apparently incapable of not giggling every single time the cat gets squashed or walks underneath the gorilla and emits that poor, sad little “mew”. I’m not sure it needs as long as it gets. But, oh, that helpless “mew”. Also there’s one of the few jokes you could miss this short if you blinked; a wheel falls off the van and the vehicle staggers until it gets things back.

I’m still more tickled by the cat’s many little “mew” cries. Between those and the guy down below yelling how he’s got the furniture Bimbo’s dropped, this might be a new high-water mark for Talkartoons having funny lines from characters.

This is the first cartoon titled Bimbo and Betty — no Boop, yet — which I suppose shows how the Fleischers realized that Betty had something Bimbo just hadn’t. I’m surprised they recognized it so early. Here she’s got more screen time than, I think, since The Bum Bandit. But all Betty does is spend her time clipping her toenails (complete with a face on her toe, a joke the studio would come back to) and setting up a decent if stock, slightly racy, joke from Bimbo. She could bring a little more to the proceedings.

It’s not a bad cartoon. Lesser than Bimbo’s Initiation, but most cartoons are. It’s got a larger cast than average, and I keep finding the extra cast more interesting than the main. I’m not sure if the horse, gorilla, and cat show up in other cartoons. They make a good impression, especially considering how little they get to do. It’s got to be in the cat’s pathetic little crushed “mew”.

Reposted: The 24th Talkartoon: Bimbo’s Initiation, the only Bimbo cartoon you ever heard of


So here in this repeat performance we get to the one Talkartoon people who aren’t into black-and-white animation might have heard of. It’s really good. Funny, well-paced, weird, with snappy music and amazing technical skill. The only reason not to use it to convince someone of the worth of black-and-white cartoons is they might expect everything will be like this. And this comes right after the high point of The Herring Murder Case. The studio was having a great season. This cartoon has an edge over The Herring Murder Case and Swing You Sinners! by avoiding obvious ethnic or racial jokes.


I knew when I stumbled in to reviewing the Talkartoons that there were few cartoons my readers might plausibly have seen. There’s The One That Introduced Betty Boop (Dizzy Dishes). There’s The One Where Cab Calloway is a Walrus (Minnie the Moocher). And then … there’s this. It’s always listed as the best Bimbo cartoon. It’s often listed on the top-50 or top-100 cartoon shorts. It’s listed as one of the best Betty Boop cartoons, on the basis of a few seconds of cameo appearances. I learned, almost memorized, it watching it on the eight-VHS Complete Betty Boop series in the 90s. The animator is uncredited. This is so unfair. Everyone says Grim Natwick. It was originaly released the 24th of July, 1931, and Wikipedia says it ended the 1930-31 film season for the Talkartoons.

Let me clear out the bookkeeping. There’s a Suspiciously Mickey-Like Mouse at 0:35, putting the cover on the sewer and locking Bimbo into his adventure. The strongest body-horror gag has to be when Bimbo’s shadow gets beheaded. I’m inclined to think all the jokes here are so well-framed there’s not a blink-and-you-miss-it gag. But I also remember the guy I hung out with weekends in grad school blinking and missing the bit where Bimbo reaches for a doorknob and it flees to the other side of the door, so that counts for that. On to the bigger-picture stuff.

There’ve been several Bimbo-trapped-in-a-surreal-landscape cartoons. I’d rate this as the best we’ve seen, but would entertain arguments for Swing You Sinners!. It’s certainly the most nightmarish. Previously Bimbo’s at least transgressed in some way, however minor, before getting tossed into the nightmare. Here he’s minding his own business and the weirdness comes out to eat him. Hurrying right to the craziness also means there’s plenty of time to stuff the cartoon full of it.

This cartoon shows an incredible amount of skill behind it. There’s no slack points. There’s some quieter moments in the craziness, yes. They’re deployed with this great sense of pacing, chances for the audiences to rest before the action picks up again. Too much frenetic action is exhausting; here, the tempo varies well and reliably enough that the cartoon stays easy to watch.

And the cartoon is framed so well. There’s a healthy variety of perspectives. There’s changing perspectives, several times over, as Bimbo comes to the end of a tunnel and gets dropped off into a new room. Changing perspectives is always difficult for animation. Even in the modern, computer-drawn or computer-assisted era it’s difficult to make look right. And Bimbo’s Initiation pulls the trick several times over.

The segment that most amazes me every time I watch it starts at about 4:45, after Bimbo’s swallowed by the innermost door. Watch the line of movement. Bimbo’s falling towards the camera, tossed side to side by the chute. He then runs toward the camera and to the left, in roughly isometric view, as axes fall. Then he hops onto the spiral staircase, running down while the camera rotates around his movement. Then he jumps off the staircase into a hall to run to the right. His second, beheaded shadow, runs up and joins his actual shadow. Then he turns and starts running toward the camera as steel doors snap shut behind him. This is all one continuous, seamless shot, without an edit until 5:26. And when it does edit it’s to zoom in tighter on Bimbo, with the doors behind. He keeps running toward the camera until he falls out that chute and the camera pivots to the side, at about 5:42. It’s such an extended and well-blocked sequence. That 57 seconds alone shows how misleading it is to say cartoons of this era were nearly improvised. There was planning going in to how much stuff would fit here, and how it would fit together. The music supports this too. I’m not sure there’s been a Talkartoon with as tight a connection between the tune and the action.

I’m not sure there are any poorly-composed or poorly-considered shots in the cartoon. The shot of Bimbo lighting a candle, seeing the rope snap tight, and then following that to the spikey trap above is as perfect as I’ve ever seen in any cartoon or movie.

Insofar as there are any weaknesses here, it’s that the setting does obliterate Bimbo as a character. There were a couple cartoons where he was developing into a low-key screwball character. He could be sort of an Early Daffy Duck that isn’t so tiring to imagine around. Here, he can’t say or do anything interesting enough to stand up to the setting. Looking at the list of future Talkartoon titles I don’t see any that feature Bimbo as much of a character. The studio’s shifting to Betty Boop. It’s an interesting choice considering she hasn’t had a good part yet. Bimbo’s moving to be her boyfriend or partner or the guy who’s around while she’s center stage. Shame he doesn’t get better parts, but at least he could be the star of this. How many characters never get even one good outing?

Statistics Saturday: Some Cartoons In Which Popeye Does Not Each Spinach


  • Goonland (Fleischer Studios, 1938)
  • Spree Lunch (Famous Studios, 1957)
  • Bimbo’s Initiation (Fleischer Studios, 1931)
  • Sleepy Time Donald (Disney Studios, 1947)
  • The Woody Woodpecker Polka (Walter Lantz Studios, 1951)
  • The Ruff and Reddy Show: The Mad Monster of Muni-Mula (Hanna-Barbera Studios, 1957)
  • Poppa Popeye (Paramount Cartoon Studios, 1960)
  • Rickey Rocket: The Count Draculon Caper (Ruby-Spears Productions, 1979)
  • Gilligan’s Planet: Too Many Gilligans (Filmation, 1982)
  • 2 Stupid Dogs: Let’s Make A Right Price (Hanna-Barbera Studios, 1993)
  • Dave the Barbarian: Night of the Living Plush (Walt Disney Television Animation, 2004)
  • Loonatics Unleashed: Planet Blanc: In Search of Tweetums (Part II) (Warner Brothers Animation, 2007)
    • Reference: The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age, Alan Trachtenberg.

Reposted: The 23rd Talkartoon: The Herring Murder Case


When I first reviewed this one I mentioned its strange lack of a dedicated Wikipedia page. It still lacks one, for reasons not obvious to me. It’s one of the strongest Talkartoons. I might nominate it as the best-plotted one, too. It’s got a lot happening, almost all of which works. And it’s the sort of cartoon that shows why black-and-white cartoons get devoted fans. I’m sorry not to have a cleaner print, or one with better sound. But you can still enjoy a packed, almost over-full, cartoon here.


I’ve been trying to watch these cartoons in the order of their release. And that I get from Wikipedia’s page about Talkartoons. Some individual cartoons have their own Wikipedia pages. Many of the earliest don’t, but as the series shifts from “any old thing with a song” to “Bimbo” and finally “Betty Boop Cartoons” fewer entries lack pages. This week’s hasn’t got a page and I’m surprised by that. It’s talked about in Leslie Cabarga’s The Fleischer Story in the Golden Age of Animation, the book on the studio’s history. Not much, but think of all the cartoons that don’t get even that.

Wikipedia does credit this as the first appearance of Bimbo in his “canonical” form. And as the first sound cartoon appearance of Koko the Clown, the character that made the Fleischer Studios and star of extremely many cartoons about him being drawn, getting into a fix, and then being poured back into an inkwell. Would really have thought those two points noteworthy enough for a page to be made. Anyway, the credited animators are Shamus Culhane (then listed as “Jimmie”; when he went into business for himself he took on a more distinctive-to-Americans name) and Al Eugster. Both have already had cartoons in this series before. Originally released the 26th of June, 1931 — more than a month after Silly Scandals — here’s The Herring Murder Case.

Quick content warning: there’s a pansy-voice character and a couple lines approaching (Jewish) ethnic humor. I don’t think they spoil the cartoon (one could even say the ethnic-humor bits are just characterization). But they are there.

So, for the record, the first words spoken aloud by Koko the Clown — at the time, a character a dozen years old and the flagship character of the studio — were “[ stammering gibberish ] my come — come on, the poor — poor herring- herring was sh- sh- shot, oh my, come on, help”. Not an auspicious start. But it is plot-appropriate, for the rare Talkcartoon that has a clear and direct plot.

That friend you have who doesn’t quite like anything however much he likes it has a complaint about Who Framed Roger Rabbit. And, like your friend at his most irritating, he kind of has a point. Toontown looks like a great place. But it has an inauthenticity to it. Actual cartoons of the Golden Age of American Animation weren’t so frantic and busy and packed as the Toontown sequence was. It’s defensible artistically. For one, the daily lives of each Toontown citizen is their life story with themselves as protagonist; that we normally only have to take six minutes of a character at once doesn’t mean the rest of their days aren’t like that. But it does mean there’s much more stuff happening visually than an actual cartoon of around 1947 would have.

Most of the time. Some cartoons do get that dense and packed with weird activity. And here, from 1931, is one that’s like that. Especially right after the Herring’s murder: the scenes of the city are full of everything happening, including buildings come to life and writhing in a panic. And then special effects get in the way. After Koko comes on, in animation I assume is swiped from an older Out of the Inkwell cartoon, he runs through a city street haunted by ghostly cat heads for the reasons. It’s one of a lot of showy bits of animation technique in the cartoon.

Another: Bimbo following footsteps up the stairs. It’s a walk cycle, yes, but it’s one that moves in very slight perspective. It’s well-done, and a bit hypnotic. They’ll do a similar walking cycle on steps in the next cartoon, one with more amazingly done animations. But there are a lot of extreme perspectives and stuff moving in on the camera and tricky camera moves throughout the short. In ranking of animation ability the studios have always been Disney first, and everybody else behind. But the Fleischers were often second, and this is one of those times they were a close second.

Among my favorite cartoon motifs is doing simple stuff in complicated ways. The short offers plenty of that, starting with the gorilla’s shooting a gun that itself shoots out a bird that does the shooting. Koko putting his head through the window twice while trying to lead Bimbo to the crime scene. Koko running ahead of his “shadows” and having to go back to get them. The elevator opening up to a set of stairs.

Did you blink and miss that the level indicator makes two full circuits while getting the stairs down to ground level? That’s my favorite quick little joke. But there’s plenty to choose from, such as the moon being blown along by the heavy winds as Bimbo and Koko get to the house. The secret panel offering Bimbo a short beer is too well-established to be a blink-grade joke. But it gets a little more charge when you remember the short was made in 1931, still during Prohibition.

The female herring gets Mae Questel’s voice this short, so there’s no figure who can at all be credited as a proto-Betty-Boop. A shame, since Betty’s involvement however fleeting would probably have got this cartoon more notice. Its got a clear story, quite a density of jokes, a soundtrack that clearly ties to the action, and even a sensible ending. I like 30s cartoons, especially from the less-than-Disney studios, but recognize that as one of my eccentricities. This is one I don’t think an ordinary person would understand as funny.

There’s another of those mice popping in, one with Happy Feet at about 5:21, and then possibly a different one fleeing the gorilla at about 5:50. I trust that “They shot me! Holy mackerel, is this the end of the Herring?” is an imperfect quoting of Little Caesar, which opened in January of that year and made Warner Brothers all the money in the world. Can’t blame the Fleischer studios for riffing on that.

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 10 of 16)


Welcome to part 10 of my Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of Carrie L—‘s Reboot fanfic, “Breaking the Barriers”. You can read, and I hope enjoy, the whole story at this link. You can read, and I hope enjoy, all my MiSTings at this link.

A mysterious portal opened between our protagonist and author Carrie’s home and the world of Reboot. After journeying into the pioneering animated series, its characters went and pioneered right back into Carrie’s small Canadian hometown. Big series bad guy Megabyte, translated into the real world, turns out to be a vampire and to hang out at the mall. And what’s on at the food court but Carrie?

Back when I wrote this around 2002, that Google could give you results in any language or even “Elmer Fudd-ese” was a new and fresh and weird discovery. The Thundarr the Barbarian riff alludes to one episode where Ariel magically gigantifies some dimes so they can be shields. I have replaced one riff that I think was too easy to mis-read as sexist. And otherwise I’m not sure there are any other riffs that could benefit from explanation. So, failing that, please enjoy.


>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *
>

JOEL: Hadrian’s Wall, the early years.

> Part Twenty
>
> Carrie’s mind began to whirl. Nothing like this had ever
> happened to her before.

CROW: Except that one weekend she saw Yancy Street.

> She began to panick, kicking and fighting
> feebly against Megabyte’s iron grip. She could feel herself losing
> conciousness, when Megabyte suddenly pulled away and looked at Bob.

TOM: His venom turned her into Silver Age Lois Lane.

> "Now, Bob." he rumbled, " Your friend will not be harmed any further
> if you do as I asked."

JOEL: Hey, should Carrie and Bob have garlic breath that chases him off?

> Carrie hung limply in Megabyte’s arms. She
> tried desperately to speak or lift her head, but she had no energy.

CROW: Her neck deflated!

> She could see Bob out of the corner of her eye, and she watched in
> horror as he looked down at the ground, submissively. "Alright,
> Megabyte."

TOM: Megabyte is *this* close to crossing the line.

> He whispered. "I’ll bring you back, but you have to allow
> me to look after Carrie." Megabyte chuckled.

CROW: [ As Megabyte ] "Dilbert" was really funny today!

> "You are in no position
> to bargain, Guardian." Then he smiled, "But, I am not totally without
> mercy."

TOM: Aren’t you supposed to be?

> He held Carrie out for Bob to take. Carrie could feel Bob’s
> arms, and suddenly she was free of Megabyte’s grip.

CROW: [ As Megabyte ] Whoops — slipped!

>
> She felt safer in Bob’s arms, yet she was terrified at the
> same time.

JOEL: Megabyte doesn’t have a way of soothing people around him.

> Bob couldn’t let Megabyte into the Supercomputer!! He
> could conquer any system if he got into the Armory!

TOM: Within days the world could be flooded with spam and dopey online petitions.

> She struggled to
> force her body to move. She had to tell Bob not to do it!! Then she
> realized something.

JOEL: Turning into a vampire could be really cool.

> If Bob had Glitch, then the tear wasn’t a portal
> anymore.

CROW: That’s a sentence we’ve never seen before.

> How had Bob gotten through?

TOM: Maybe the tear was still a portal.

> Did he have someone helping
> him? Her mind was a jumble of questions as they entered her house and
> went down into the basement.

JOEL: [ As Carrie ] Why does Megabyte want my laundry?

> As they approached her computer,
> Carrie’s fear grew.

CROW: They might find her archive of naughty Animaniacs pictures!

> This meant that Bob really was going to allow
> Megabyte into the Supercomputer to save her. She had to stop him!!

TOM: They’re not saying a lot on this hike home.

JOEL: It’s that awkward silence where they were quiet too long to just start talking again.

>
> "Now, Bob. I want a portal to the Supercomputer’s Armory."
> Megabyte demanded.

CROW: [ As Bob, bargaining ] I know how to make Google’s translate-to-Elmer-Fudd your home page.

> Bob gently placed Carrie on her couch, brushing
> the hair off her forehead gently. "Don’t worry," Bob whispered to
> her. "I know what I’m doing."

TOM: First time for everything, huh?

> Carrie smiled weakly, "I don’t want you
> to let him through just to save me." She whispered hoarsely.

JOEL: But a promise is a promise…

> "Now,
> Guardian." Megabyte interrupted. Bob stood up and turned to Megabyte.
> "I’ll do it." Bob said,

TOM: But before I do, I want you to sing "You’re A Grand Old Flag." Two verses.

> "But you have to allow Carrie to stay behind,
> to make sure she’ll be okay."

CROW: [ As Bob ] Uhh… will you fall for that?

> Megabyte smiled. "Certainly," he said
> softly,

TOM: We wouldn’t want to keep his hostage around until after his demands are met.

> "We wouldn’t want her to suffer, would we?" Bob pulled Glitch
> from his pocket and opened it.

JOEL: Scotty, beam us up.

> He quickly pressed the ‘send recorded
> transmission’ button Glitch had provided.

TOM: He’s pirating free TV!

> Silently, Glitch sent the
> message to Bob’s accomplice waiting on the other side.
>

JOEL: Unfortunately, it’s mistaken for that Nigerian financial scam.

> * * * * * * * *
> * * *
>

CROW: It’s a road map of Shipshewana, Indiana.

> Part Twenty-One
>

TOM: This is the chapter Charles van Doren helped with.

> He stood silently, peering at the tear before him. *Why do I
> always do this?* he thought.

CROW: For the love of the game?

> *I have better things to do.* He
> crouched down, extending his right blade slightly, and started to draw
> in the dust on the ground.

JOEL: If Marvel Comics owned Marvin the Paranoid Android.

> He was just becoming interested in his
> doodles, when his Web-Echo Collector chirped softly.

CROW: He accidentally created Flash animation.

> Looking around
> quickly, Symble made sure there were no more viral binomes around.

TOM: He sent them all back to Newton for binomial expansion.

> He
> had dealt with the ones that had followed Megabyte quickly enough that
> they had no time to call for backup.

JOEL: And by ‘dealt with’ we mean ‘killed.’

> He pulled the small Collector
> from his belt and listened to the message from Bob.

TOM: [ As Collector ] Bob Bob bo bob, banana fana fo fob, mee mi mo mob —

CROW: Click! Bzzzzzzz…

> ‘Symble,’

JOEL: Shephard.

> his
> Collector said, ‘I need you to open a portal to the Chalo Omega
> System’s energy transport.

TOM: Wouldn’t it solve the problem to beam Megabyte to whatever company owns Amiga this week and let them go bankrupt?

> You have to be ready for Megabyte.’
>

CROW: How scared can we get of a villain who fits on one three and a half inch floppy?

> The transmission ended and Symble stood up. He walked toward
> the tear, and extended both blades.

JOEL: Oh, this scene’s just here for the symbolism.

> He stopped just in front of it,
> and closed his eyes in concentration.

TOM: Ohwaaaaa…

JOEL: Tagooooo…

CROW: Siammmmm…

> His breathing slowed and he
> lifted his blades toward the tear.

TOM: If those are conductive blades he could be setting himself up for a *nasty* shock.

> As they approached the sides, he
> opened his eyes again. They had become completely silver.

CROW: The sides, the blades, or his eyes? You make the call.

JOEL: Silver the color, or silver the metal?

> He looked
> forward unseeingly as his blades touched the sides of the tear. The
> energy began to course through his arms, and then his body,

CROW: Found the capacitor!

> yet he
> didn’t react in any way. He stood like that for a nano, then
> something incredible happened.

JOEL: He was hired as acting coach for "Enterprise."

> The tear flickered briefly, then
> became a silver sphere,

CROW: It’s a giant dime! Thundarr the Barbarian was looking for those!

> the same silver as Symble’s eyes had become.
> He stepped back and, blinking, his eyes returned to the usual black on
> red.

JOEL: This is a strange form of color-blindness to catch.

>
> Another person was looking on, quietly from the shadows.

CROW: Polonius!

> She
> had witnessed the whole scene with Megabyte and a sprite she had never
> seen before.

TOM: It’s Carrie’s mom, she’s reading the story!

> The Guardian had followed behind, after foolishly
> testing this new virus.

JOEL: These British newspapers are quirky.

> What she couldn’t figure out was why this
> virus had helped Bob follow her brother. Hexadecimal was glad to see
> him go.

CROW: Binary, octal, and sexagesimal were torn and undecided.

> Now she had all of Mainframe to herself. Yet, she felt
> compelled to simply sit and watch the virus as he guarded the portal.

TOM: It’s not the virus so much as it is the flying toasters.

> She found him intriguing, almost as though she knew him from
> somewhere.

JOEL: She saw him on an earlier episode of the show!

> What she found especially facinating was the fact that
> this virus could also form portals, but by using tear energy, rather
> than his own, as she did.

CROW: Never underestimate the power of a good cry.

> *I must meet this new one.* she thought,
> then stepped from the shadows.
>
> Symble’s ears turned as they picked up a sound behind him. He
> whirled and looked around warily. "Who is out there?"

CROW: Carrie hasn’t decided yet who to have in the story. Sorry.

> he asked the
> silence, "Show yourself!"

JOEL: At least do some funny shadow puppet tricks!

> He stood, poised on the balls of his feet,
> ready to pounce, when a very feminine virus stepped out from the
> shadows.

TOM: What makes a computer virus feminine?

CROW: When she holds your files you only pay 71 cents on the dollar ransom.

> "You don’t have to worry about me." she murmured,

JOEL: I worry for me, so you don’t have to!

> "I pose
> you no harm…yet." Symble watched as her mask changed to a
> suspitious one.

TOM: [ Laser noises ] Ptoo… ptoo ptoo…

> "But, what are you doing in my brother’s territory?"
> Symble looked at her, surprised. "Your….Brother?"

CROW: Luke?

[ to continue … ]

Reposted: The 22nd Talkartoon: Silly Scandals, My Second Look


I thought, and Wikipedia confirms: this is the first time Betty Boop’s gotten the name “Betty”. She doesn’t have a last name yet. Looking at this cartoon yet another time, I’m struck by how huge the stage is, and how big the putative production is. I suppose it isn’t preposterously out of line for what real productions were like at the time. But it still seems like, wow, that’s a lot of penguin dancers the show has to pay for. No wonder movies creamed this sort of show. Probably I shouldn’t watch this and think about what the weekly payroll would have to be. Well, it’s better you learn that I’m like this sooner or later.


I’ve looked at this Talkartoon before. It was part of my sequence of Betty Boop firsts. This is credited as the first cartoon in which Betty Boop is named, and that’s half right. She’s named Betty, at least, which is a step up from what she’s been before. And it’s animated by Grim Natwick, at least according to Wikipedia; the animator goes unnamed by the actual credits. From the 23rd of May, 1931 — two and a half weeks after Twenty Legs Under The Sea — here’s the next Bimbo cartoon, Silly Scandals.

So in 1930 everyone who was capable of making a sound recorded a version of Walter Donaldson’s You’re Driving Me Crazy. I’m up for that. It’s a solid, catchy song about the sense of obsession with a lost love. And the singer avoids sounding terrible about their obsession. I’m surprised it hasn’t been used more in cartoons. But perhaps its use was limited by how the song doesn’t make sense unless there’s a credible target for this obsession in the cartoon. And once you get past Betty Boop there’s a shortage of female cartoon characters who are, at least in-universe, supposed to be sexy. Desirable, perhaps, but someone who could appear on stage with a racy song and not seem at least a bit ridiculous for doing it? Might have to wait for Jessica Rabbit there.

This is listed as one of the early Betty Boop cartoons. There’s good reason to call this Early Betty: she’s nearly reached the canonical character design. She’s got Mae Questel’s voice. She’s doing Betty Boop things: singing and receiving a male’s gaze. She’s not the lead of the cartoon; rather as in Dizzy Dishes, she’s just something that Bimbo stares at for the middle third of the picture. (Also as with Dizzy Dishes, someone else gets her “Boop-oop-a-doop” line.)

But it’s a Bimbo cartoon. He gets some nice business early on trying to sneak into the vaudeville theater. The best business is also the first bizarre visual gag here, his pulling up his own shadow to disguise himself as an umbrella. I like that sort of endlessly-morphing world joke in cartoons. They were more common in silent cartoons, which also tended to be high-contrast black-and-white stuff. Without having to worry about grey value or, worse, actual colors you could turn one shape into another with a minimum of distractions. After sneaking in there’s Betty’s song, and a bunch of standard someone’s-in-the-way-at-the-theater jokes. They’re done well enough, they’re just ordinary. And yeah, there’s a couple iterations of Betty’s dress falling down and revealing her bra. It’s not a very racy joke, but it is the sort of thing they’d never do after the Motion Picture Production Code got serious in 1934.

Bimbo once more ends up helpless and caught in a bizarre, surreal environment. It’s a good story shape. And it lets the cartoon close with a minute of weird body-morphing gags, hands and feet growing to weird shapes. And then 25 seconds of pure special effects, dancing circles and spirograph shapes and all that. It’s the sort of close that unimaginative people are joking about when they say the animators must have been on drugs back then. But it’s also structurally weird. The story has got the structure of “Bimbo transgresses/is caught/is thrown into a wild, surreal punishment” that he’s been through several times already. But the transgression — sneaking into the theater — isn’t one that the magician could have known about. Unless the transgression is just meant to be laughing at the flower trick not going according to plan. But that’s not a lot of transgression; if the magician can’t take someone giggling when a flower sasses him back, he’s in the wrong line of work.

There’s two blink-and-you-miss-it gags. The first, that I like better, is the curtain lifting to reveal two janitors shooting dice and getting the heck off stage fast. The other is just the curtain lifting again to show the tattered, ugly base. There is a solid bit of body horror, in the magician (meant to be the Faintly Mickey Mouse character this cartoon? He hasn’t got the ears but the snout and nose are evocative) terrifying a dog into becoming two strands of sausage links. Creepy stuff.

What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? Will Spider-Man ever come back to the comics? June – September 2021.


It’s not impossible that Marvel and King Features will decide on a new creative team to draw Amazing Spider-Man comic strips. But I don’t see any reason to think they will. They’ve had several years and there haven’t even been rumors.

But the world is vast and defies predictions. If any news breaks out about the Spider-Man comic strip I’ll post it here. It’ll fit along with all my other essays about Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man. For now, though, let me give what I expect is my final plot recap for this superhero comic.

The Amazing Spider-Man.

13 June – 12 September 2021.

Peter Parker and Mary Jane, driving Route 66, had teamed up with Rocket Raccoon last time I checked in. Rocket was there on the trail of Ronan The Accuser, a Kree alien with a space hammer. Ronan The Accuser was there on the trail of an ancient Kree Sentry buried at Petroglyph National Monument. The Sentry was there in case someone needed a killbot to destroy Albuquerque someday. Well, Ronan figures he needs a killbot to destroy the Guardians of the Galaxy, but he can test it out on Albuquerque.

Spider-Man: 'The Kree Sentry was imprisoned in that dormant volcano! It must be 20 feet tall!' Rocket: 'The Kree built 'em in all sizes.' Ronan, to the Sentry: 'You are programmed to OBEY me. And I order you - to DESTROY!' The Sentry robot is large, and blue, and has a face that somehow looks like Moe from the Three Stooges.
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 24th of June, 2021. The Sentry has many modes of attack, but the worst must be when he tells you to pick two of his fingers and you do, and he pokes them into your eyes.

While the Sentry goes off to Albuquerque, Ronan fights Rocket and Spider-Man some. It’s a tough battle, since Spidey and Rocket can’t get through one day’s strip without saying how much they’re doomed. But, with a bit of help from Mary Jane, Rocket remembers that Ronan needs his space helmet to breathe Earth air. So the two go for a new approach, Rocket being jumpy and annoying while Spider-Man sneaks up from behind. It’s a great plan except for how Ronan falls over backward and maybe kills Spider-Man.

It’s a trick, of course. Newspaper Spider-Man is used to much worse head trauma than that. What he wanted was a solid perch on Ronan’s shoulders, so he could peel at the helmet until Ronan was really annoyed. As Ronan tries to use his magic space hammer to knock Spider-Man, Spidey’s able to tug his arm and make Ronan hit himself, knocking his helmet off. The Accuser falls unconscious.

Ronan, wrestling Spider-Man: 'My weapon will REPEL you from my helmet!' Spider-Man: 'It probably WOULD! If I hadn't stopped tugging at your headgear - and pulled your arm at the last second - so that your MALLET blasted the helmet loose!' Ronan: 'NO! Without it --- I can't breathe --- !'
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 16th of July, 2021. With bits of slapstick like this you see why it’s hard to get past the “Sentry looks like Moe the Three Stooge” thing this story, right? Anyway yes, this dialogue is a challenge to read so it sounds natural. But how else could one communicate what was going on within the constraints of a daily comic strip? I’m not being snarky; this is probably the least awkward way to carry out this fight.

And we get a moment that defines Spider-Man, at least his newspaper incarnation, very well. With the Accuser defeated, Spider-Man grimaces and acknowledges he has to put the helmet back on. He can’t let a beaten enemy die like that. Mary Jane points out this is crazy: once revived, Ronan will try to destroy the planet. Rocket points out this is unnecessary: Ronan doesn’t need his helmet to live, only to breathe. He’ll be fine in Earth’s atmosphere without his helmet, unconscious. It’s a line that Spider-Man buys, and even turns out to be true.

Spider-Man: 'You said Ronan needs this helmet to breathe. Then without it, he's a deader, right?!' Rocket: 'Maybe that's how it works for *your* species ... all lack of 'air' does to a Kree is send him into suspended animation.' Spider-Man: 'Then - that means - ' Mary Jane: 'That *you* two can go try to save Albuquerque from the Sentry!'
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 23rd of July, 2021. So, you know, as long as we all agree we pretend we believe this, all right. Hurry on to Albuquerque, where the Sentry is blowing up one car or street light or billboard at a time. I mean, I wouldn’t want this to come to my town, but it’s a low-key rampage. Mostly it seems like it’s Rocket and Spider-Man agreeing they’re slowing the Sentry down.

Meanwhile, oh yeah, Albuquerque. Rocket and Spider-Man head out to save the city from the Sentry. Mary Jane stays behind, to watch Ronan and call the superheroes if he shows signs of life. The Sentry turns out to be hard to fight. And Ronan shows signs of life, which Mary Jane doesn’t call about. But Ronan stirs enough to say how the Sentry is programmed to never hurt a Kree like him, and passes out. She sees in this a world-saving tool, if she can get Ronan to Albuquerque.

Truck Driver: 'You crazy, girl? You coulda been killed!' Mary Jane, fishing for her purse: 'I need your day laborers to load an alien spaceman onto your truck and rush it to the city!' Driver: 'Huh? What kinda nut do you think I --- ' Mary Jane, holding some cash out: 'What if I buy your truck - and your time?' Final panel, Ronan's on the truck bed, surrounded by day laborers, riding down the highway.
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 3rd of August, 2021. Putting aside the whole buying-a-truck thing: did the driver not hear on the radio about how a giant alien robot was blowing up Albuquerque? Where was he planning to go?

So she stops a truck, offering to buy it so it and the day laborers on it can rush Ronan to the city. Also Mary Jane carries around enough cash to buy a truck? Or can plausibly present herself as writing a valid check for this? In a story about a space raccoon and a radioactive spider-bite victim saving Albuquerque from a 20-foot-tall, 80,000-year-old killbot, we’ve hit a point I don’t buy. They even repeat it, Mary Jane explaining to Spider-Man how she got the truck there. I think I’d buy it more if the laborers were all fans of Movie Star Mary Jane Parker and did her a favor.

But if we don’t buy this, we can’t get to the end of the story, so there we go. Mary Jane brings the unconscious Ronan to Albuquerque and explains the rules. So Spider-Man grabs Ronan’s body, using him as what is technically not a human shield because Krees aren’t humans. This befuddles the Sentry while Rocket climbs inside to rip out wiring. It’s a close-run thing, Rocket trying to decide what things to yank out before the Sentry decides what limbs of Spider-Man’s to yank out. But he pushes a button, and it turns out to be the “turn off forever” button and it’s a happy resolution.

Mary Jane: 'Who *are* these Guardians of the Galaxy you keep talking about?' Rocket, surrounded by thought balloons of the other Guardians: 'Well, there's Gamora, she's green. And Drax, big dude, they call him the Destroyer. And Groot ... he's sort of a tree ... oh, and then there's Starlord. Actually, he's fro your world!' Mary Jane and Spider-Man: '?'
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 2nd of September, 2021. “Starlord”? You can’t fool me, that’s a guest appearance by Bruce “Incredible Hulk” Banner that last panel there. I assume these are all approximations of the way the characters looked in the comic books. At least before the comic books got all airbrushed and loaded up with special effects. You know, when they looked like the newspaper comic strip. Anyway, appreciate these great heroes who aren’t in this story and who we don’t learn anything about, here, to make us appreciate them! The guy who writes Funky Winkerbean approves!

So they haul the Sentry off somewhere, stuff Ronan into Rocket’s spaceship, and say their goodbyes. Rocket finally gets around to saying who the other Guardians of the Galaxy are, but not why none of them came along on this mission. And says hey, you never know, we all might team up again. With that, the 4th of September, he flies off into the skies.


And there we conclude Spider-Man’s encounter with Rocket Raccoon and Ronan The Avenger. From the 5th of September we started an adventure with the Mole Man hoping to rekindle his relationship with Aunt May. He figures he has a chance now that he’s been deposed as the subterranean king by Tyrannus the Conquerer. Also, Tyrannus the Conquerer is hoping to conquer the surface world, starting from Los Angeles. That’s a story that first ran in spring and summer of 2017, and I have it adequately recapped in essays starting here.

And from there … well, if the newspaper Spider-Man strip keeps repeating comics in this order? There’s not much sense my writing these plot summaries. I suppose it’d be an easy week of work, which is something. But for the foreseeable future, I intend this to be my sign-off to the Marvel Comic Strip Universe. Thanks for reading, everyone who enjoys action, adventure, and energy beams surrounded by black bubbles. It’s been fun and I’m sorry it isn’t continuing.

Next Week!

Old Man Mozz warned The Phantom that if he freed Captain Savarna from Gravelines Prison, he’d be ruined and Kit Walker would never be the 22nd Phantom. And now The Phantom’s gone and broken Captain Savarna from Gravelines Prison! Has this ended five centuries of the Walkers’ project to rid the world of piracy? I’ll check in on Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, next week, if all goes as foretold. And if I don’t, well, send someone into Gravelines Prison to free me, they’re used to it.

Reposted: The 21st Talkartoon: Twenty Legs Under The Sea (there’s more; I counted)


When I first reviewed this I seem to have missed a couple good little jokes. One has the Sun angrily squirted in the eye by a whale, leading the Sun to pop out of place, on a spring, trying to bite the whale back. Good bit of business. I mention the two fighting but the sun popping out like that should get a mention. There’s also two minor characters who look like Betty Boop mermaids. I understand not including this on any lists of Every Betty Boop Cartoon (neither character says or does anything, and they’re only briefly there at all) but it’s neat to see the Fleischers working out they have a character there. I feel a bit warmer about this cartoon today than I did in 2018, but agree with my original assessment that it’s a pretty decent cartoon, lacking a strong enough story to be good on that end, but not arbitrary enough to be a good surreal nightmare-landscape cartoon.


There’s a new animator credited in today’s Talkartoon. Willard Bowsky’s turned up repeatedly here, including in Wise Flies and Swing You Sinners!. The new name is Tom Bonfiglio. He’d do a couple more Talkartoons and then, if I’m reading this right, jump over to Disney studios. After that I have a looser sense of what’s happened to him. At some point he changed his name to Thomas Goodson. I can find one biography of Joe Barbera suggesting Goodson worked at Van Buren Studios in the mid-30s. And I can find another biography suggesting Goodson was working in educational films in the 1960s. That’s not much, I admit. It’s what I have.

So here, from the 5th of May, 1931 — just a week and a half after The Male Man — is the next Talkartoon in the series, Twenty Legs Under The Sea.

There’ve been a lot of underwater scenes in animation. They’ve always been hard to do. There’s great freedom in characters not having to stick to the ground. But it’s also hard to convey the resistance water offers to movement. And there’s the convention of putting a wavy-motion visual effect over everything, even if a real camera wouldn’t see anything like that. I think it took until Finding Nemo for a cartoon not to use that convention.

This is another cartoon where Bimbo’s pulled into a surreal landscape. He isn’t quite simply minding his business. If he’s going fishing, it’s fair that the fish respond. Even in Swing You Sinners Bimbo did something to earn his torments. But it supports my idea that the animators knew they had a reliable story here. The good part of these Bimbo-in-surreal-landscape cartoons is they give lots of space for weird gags, and the Fleischer Studios were really into weird gags. The bad part is that it wipes out Bimbo as a character. If he’s too screwy a character then he’s not inconvenienced by being in a screwy setting. A strong character in a crazy setting can work, because Duck Amuck, but Bimbo’s no 50s Daffy. He’s not got enough to do to stand up to the setting.

Also this isn’t so wild and surreal a cartoon, really. It starts off promising: Bimbo trying to fish, having a few little weird incidents, and then getting pulled undersea by a giant fish/whale who’d asked for help putting the hook in his mouth. He gets a shave from a lobster barber, and then … is … the King of the undersea world suddenly? Some more songs and then he leads his people to their death. It’s a punch line reminiscent of the grimness of The Cow’s Husband although after many fewer gags.

It’s weird that what we see underwater is a barber and then a throne room. My understanding is that in the silent era shorts were plotted by giving a lead animator the theme and letting them do what seems amusing. I’m not sure how much that was still going on in this era; making the cartoon match with a soundtrack loosens how much the people drawing it can improvise. Bimbo puttering around a town where everything’s normal but it’s done by sea creatures makes sense as a cartoon. Bimbo finding himself somehow king of a weird place makes sense as a cartoon. Shifting between them without obvious reason doesn’t make sense, and in the bad ways. I wonder if one scene was animated by Bowsky and the other by Bonfiglio/Goodson. I also wonder if some connective tissue was lost, or just never animated. The short comes in at 5:52. The last couple weeks have been just over six minutes, and, for example, The Cow’s Husband is seven and a half minutes long. Even ten seconds can be a lot of plot.

There is a lot of music. After the lack of any really featured cartoon last week there’s an abundance now. Anchors Aweigh, My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean with some good bits of a whale and the Sun fighting it out, a bit of doggerel that I guess you’d call We’re Going Over To Maggie’s (which I can’t find information about, so I guess it’s original to the short? Or a now-forgotten folk song, maybe), what I guess is an original piece about We Are The King’s Bodyguards. The last has a riff that sounds to me like Merrily We Roll Along, which was a then-very-new song. (And isn’t it weird to think that song was ever new?)

There’s no mice. Where would they even fit in? (Easily: just put a couple in the boat.) There is a really solid body-horror gag as a pair of fish swim ahead of their own bodies, so their faces and skeletons can eat tiny turtles about 4:25. (Yes, their skeletons swim ahead with their faces. It’s a little hard to make out with the contrast as it is here. Watch as they emerge from their bodies and as their bodies catch up.) The sun trying to bite at the whale/giant fish is a nice touch of weirdness. And I would rate as a blink-and-you-miss-it joke how Bimbo’s lighter doesn’t work when he’s in the boat (he has to do a nicely complicated bit of lighting a candle), but works perfectly when he’s underwater.

I can’t call this a good cartoon. It’s an amiable one, and I’m not sure that We’re Going Over To Maggie’s isn’t going to become part of the soundtrack of my puttering-around-in-life. But there isn’t a story, just a string of set-pieces. And the set-pieces are all nice enough, but not all that exciting or funny or weird. There’s some stronger ones coming.

Reposted: The Twentieth Talkartoon: The Male Man


This is a post office cartoon. I didn’t ask, on original publication, why there aren’t more post office cartoons. This one’s pretty great, with a lot of nice weird action and several changes of setting and pace that make sense and stay interesting. On the other hand, maybe there aren’t all that many post office jokes to do. Sometimes one cartoon is all you can do with a premise. Still, it’s a good showcase for Bimbo, who’s more interesting than his usual. And a great showcase for the Fleischer Studios imagination, stuffed full of weird little jokes. I regret the print archive.org has of this cartoon is so muddy. Maybe we aren’t missing any important jokes but we are seeing them more dimly than we ought.


I went in to the next Talkartoon in release order, the 24th of April, 1931’s The Male Man, not knowing anything about it but guessing that it would probably be a bunch of post-office jokes. If not those, then body-building jokes. Wikipedia hasn’t got a specific entry on the short. The credited animators — Ted Sears and Seymore Kneitel — aren’t new ones to this series. Nor is Grim Natwick as the uncredited animator. So past that, it was an open field in which anything might well happen.

I had certain expectations once I knew for sure this was a post-office cartoon. A bunch of door-to-door jokes, mostly showing the person at home not wanting to be bothered. Maybe getting bad news and retaliating against Bimbo. Also a bunch of the mechanization-of-daily-life jokes, in sorting and routing packages and stuff. Maybe some scenes of dealing with customers come to the post office. And that’s more or less what’s delivered. Bimbo never works the post office customer counter, but otherwise it’s about what I expected.

A hobo living inside a mailbox? That’s a good joke. The mailbox that gets smaller as Bimbo squeezes letters out is also a solid one. That Bimbo keeps dropping letters is also about what I’d expect. (And not all letters; there’s a fair mix of packages, so that even a boring setup scene is more interesting than it has to be.) That another of those omnipresent mice would appear at 1:17 in and start scooping them up, the way the Department of Street Cleaning people are always cleaning up after parades in this era of cartoons, also works. The mouse throwing the letters down the sewer at 1:31 surprised me, yes; I thought he’d just be one of those quietly helpful minor characters helping chaos from breaking out. The letter-sorting slots (with amusingly equal space given to Africa, New Jersey, Mexico, Harlem, Egypt, and B’kly’n, and what work is done by that second ‘ there?) feeding back to the same bin has that classic-cartoon sense of pointless modern activity. All quite properly formed stuff and I was amused by this all and appreciated the energy with which it was delivered. It also has some nice technique: Bimbo walking along a curved path in perspective at about 2:50. And Bimbo walking along rooftops, moving in perspective, at about 3:00. A couple good Prohibition-era gags. Santa Claus, for crying out loud.

Then about 3:40 in things change. Bimbo delivers a letter to the abandoned, haunted house, and gets pulled down to the basement and a panel of a dozen shrouded skeletons who demand a letter be sent. The letter morphs in strange, surreal ways: turning into teeth, growing, squirming out of his hand. Menacing Bimbo. And the threat of the envelope dominates the next two and a half minutes of cartoon. More envelope menace than I would have guessed a cartoon could support.

That might make it sound like I wasn’t amused. No, no, I had a great time with this. I never saw this coming. It foreshadows the classic Bimbo’s Initiation in how Bimbo is pulled into a strange, surreal, threatening setting through no fault of his own. It also echoes the action in Swing You Sinners, although there at least Bimbo had done something to morally deserve retribution. It gives him great stuff to react to, although the side effect of that is he as a character gets lost. Personality is, to a large extent, the stuff you do that wouldn’t be done by anybody else in the same situation. If a skeleton hands you an envelope which then falls on the floor, turns into a pair of dentures, and bites your finger, what is there you can do? There’ve been times in this series when Bimbo’s threatened to become a character in his own right, a screwball looney kind of like we’d see later in the decade with Daffy Duck. But here’s another case where the setting overwhelms him. All he can do is react.

Stuff ends with a cascade of letters that’s spectacular to behold and beyond the limits of what the digitization process could sustain. It does remind us that when the Fleischers wanted their cartoons could be as technically proficient as anyone in the business, which is to say Disney.

I don’t quite get Bimbo in the post office remarking on the fish who’s addressed Alaska. I mean, I get it, but only as a bit of weirdness. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be a deeper joke, or to refer to anything in the pop cultural air at the time. Might just be that sending something to Alaska, a remote territory where Presidents go to die of food poisoning, was something Bimbo could reasonably find remarkable.

Not sure there’s a real blink-and-you-miss-it gag. Maybe the Washington stamp on the skeletons’ letter licking itself and patting itself back down. I’m also surprised there’s not really a featured song this short. There’s a couple appearances of Abner Silver, Al Sherman, and Al Lewis’s I’m Marching Home To You. But it’s not much featured. (Here’s a version, with Billy Murray and Walter Scanlan, that has a lot more lyric and some comedy bits. And here’s a surprising appearance of the song.)

I’m not sure whether the short ends properly. I feel like the octopus closing in on Bimbo while gathering letters was the setup for a possibly trimmed joke. But it is acceptable that the octopus just wants the letters delivered too. Hard to read that ending.

Statistics Saturday: Even More Counting Numbers


Beyond even July’s counting

  • Fifteenteenteen
  • Sixteenteenteen
  • Seventeenteenteen
  • Eighteenteenteen
  • Nineteenteenteen
  • Teenteenteenteen
  • Eleventeenteenteen
  • Twelveteenteenteen
  • Thirteenteenteenteen
  • Fourtenteenteenteen
  • Fifteenteenteenteen
  • Sixteenteenteenteen
  • Seventeenteenteenteen
  • Eighteenteenteenteen
  • Nineteenteenteenteen
  • Teenteenteenteenteen

Reference: Conan Doyle: Portrait of an Artist, Julian Symons.

Reposted: The Nineteenth Talkartoon: The Bum Bandit, my second look


Now my third look, I suppose, if this counts as a fresh look. Not sure I have much to add to these comments from 2018. But I am amazed again to look at the animation and see how much better, in technique, the Fleischer studios got in only two years. I mention it in my original comments, but rewatching all these shorts in a month’s time emphasizes how fast they improved.


I’ve already covered the next Talkartoon, The Bum Bandit, a while ago, when I was doing a review of milestones in Betty Boop cartoons. But it’s been a while, and I’m a slightly different person from whom I was then. And there’s a difference between looking at a cartoon as part of the Talkartoons series and looking at it as part of Betty Boop’s character development. We’ll see what comes out different this time. I’m not looking at my earlier comments before writing this.

The Bum Bandit was originally released the 3rd of April, 1931. Its main animators were Willard Bowsky and Al Eugster. We’ve seen both animators before, although not teamed like this. Also animating, without credit, was Grim Natwick, says Wikipedia. I don’t know that they have evidence for this other than that Betty Boop appears. We’ll see.

Slight content warning: there’s a racist joke at about 3:57 in, with a blackfaced character and five, presumably stolen, chickens up his sleeve and going “yassir”.

There’s an easy way to think of the Talkartoons. They were this bunch of things the Fleischers did, with sound and extended music bits, while they were busy discovering Betty Boop. Then once they did, they had the Betty Boop series in all but name and, by the end of 1932, in name too. It’s kind of a Whiggish history. Going through each cartoon, even the ones forgotten because they don’t have Betty Boop in them, shows what it was more probably like: poking around to find some good ideas, finding a fairly decent one in Bimbo, and gradually realizing they had a much better character in Betty Boop.

And this cartoon is almost a miniature of that progression. It starts with Bimbo, certainly. And he’s puttering around doing nothing in particular. This allows a couple of pretty good shooting gags, as none of his shots hit anything near where they ought, and what they do hit makes no contextual sense. One hates to over-praise randomness as a comic virtue, but to unintentionally shoot a cow out of the sky has this gleeful, childish chaos to it. And then, as he tries to rob a train, Betty Boop takes over. Bimbo stays in the cartoon, but he’s not driving the action anymore.

At least, it’s mostly Betty Boop. She’s finally gotten the rail-thin body that marks Canonical Betty. She hasn’t got the right voice, though. She’s voiced (not badly) by Harriet Lee, rather than by Mae Questel (or some others) doing a Helen Kane impression. And she’s introduced as Dangerous Nan McGrew. I’m open to the argument that this isn’t Betty Boop yet. She doesn’t act like Betty.

Curiously, perhaps, Dangerous Nan McGrew was also the titular character of a 1930 Mack Sennett comedy starring Helen Kane. I haven’t seen that movie, so won’t venture any guesses about how that movie might have influenced the character or this cartoon. I mean, Wikipedia puts the movie in the “See also” section for this short, and vice-versa, but that falls short of saying whether there was deliberately a link or what it was.

The cartoon has a slightly weird story setup: we spend some time with Bimbo, establishing that as a bandit he’s kind of a menace. At least he’s willing to shoot, if ineptly. Then Betty Boop/Dangerous Nan comes on, harangues him, and takes him off back home. And that’s it. I’m used to a Fleischer cartoon rambling its way around the plot; it’s surprising to have one that’s basically two scenes and no development of anything.

I can’t say there’s a blink-and-you-miss-it joke. There’s a lot of jokes, some quite ridiculous, but they’re all given enough time to be noticed and appreciated. And none that run on too long, which is a nice feat. Maybe Bimbo’s sheepish “No” after Dangerous Nan asks whether he’s found that cow yet. I’m tickled by Bimbo’s robbing the squirrel, but your tastes are your own. There’s several mice, passengers on the train, although there’s enough mixed species that none of them stand out as obviously Mickey Mouse riffs.

Also the scene of the train screeching to a halt, with this long zooming in until Bimbo stands front and center, is really well-done. The Fleischer cartoons get some respect for technological innovation, albeit mostly in stuff like the multi-plane camera with real-world sets in the background. They get less credit for stuff like this. It makes a simple scene more exciting than it needs to be, and good for them for that.

The center of the short is this song “The Holdup Rag”. I can’t find evidence that the song existed before this cartoon. If it is original for this short, then that’s the more impressive since it is a really catchy tune that I could see being modestly popular in its own right. I don’t remember it being used for similar hold-up or robbery scenes in other cartoons. This seems odd and probably I’m just not thinking of reuses of the song.

And now on looking at my earlier comments: I’m relieved I don’t say anything that seems particularly ridiculous to me now, especially since apparently I just reviewed this back in June? It doesn’t seem like that recently, but 2017 was a lot of a year.

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 9 of 16)


We’ve reached the halfway point in my current Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction. This is of Carrie L—‘s Reboot fan fiction, “Breaking the Barriers”. You can read the whole MiSTing here, and I hope you enjoy it. The mysterious portal that brought Carrie into the world of beloved animated series Reboot has returned, dropping her, Bob, Glitch, and the villain Megabyte in her Canadian hometown. And now — Megabyte has gone to the mall!

This was always one of my favorite MiSTings and the whole mall sequence is one of my favorite parts. I felt, at the time, like everything was landing well, and I still think so. The mall riffs have dated, but gloriously so. I couldn’t have written the jokes to be so late-90s/early-2000s if I’d tried. The host sketch to open this is also a weird delight. I kept up the conceit of playing out the Monopoly game while talking about other stuff. I think the Adam West jokes were from a first draft at a show-opener sketch that I could’t make work. But it served as a great introduction to Tom Servo’s thing. This sketch is packed with local riffs, and they’re based on Troy, New York, where I had just finished grad school. So the Latham Circle Diner, the 76 Diner, and the Chinese restaurant just south of it were real places. As the name suggests they were near, though not attached to, the Latham Circle Mall beloved in dead-mall … circles. Shalimar’s was this Pakistani-Indian restaurant in downtown Troy that I never ate at enough, but enjoyed each time I did, and am delighted to learn is still there. (Also the comic book shop across the street is still there, somehow.)

Kaya buns, meanwhile, are this kind of Malaysian/Singaporean treat, bread buns with sweet coconut jam filling. Also in the early 2000s Coke experimented with flavors like Lemon Coke, thus, the Durian Coke riff. Scooter Computer and Mister Chips (they’ve got the answers at their fingertips) was a set of public service advertisements ABC ran on Saturday mornings in the 80s trying to explain computers to kids. The “Kirsten to Bridge? Kirsten to Engineering?” riffs reference the legendary Stephen Ratliff Kids Crew/Marrissa Picard stories. I participated in the riffing on many of those. I’d like to share them, but I’m not sure if I ought without permission from the co-authors. At least the editor. (Where possible. Bill Livingston, one of the greatest MST3K fanfic writers of the era, died about a decade ago, for example.)

This segment closes on the riff “If Carrie had gone straight to the police, this would never have happened”. This was a line I put in pretty near every MiSTing I wrote for a long while. It was drawn from the Woody Woodpecker cartoon Bunco Busters, a cop show spoof, in which Woody keeps falling for Buzz Buzzard’s cons while the stern narrator tells us how this could have been avoided. Turns out I got the line wrong. The narrator says “If Woody had gone right to the police, this would never have happened.” The difference is tiny but it hurts me that I got it wrong. But it had been like fifteen years since I’d seen the cartoon, and it was basically impossible to watch videos online in 2002, even if Woody Woodpecker cartoons had been online. So I must live with a misquoted riff in, like, everything I wrote. Too bad.

Alex Trebek was from what is now Greater Sudbury, Ontario. This fact exhausts what I knew of the place in 2002 as well as what I know now.



[ SATELLITE OF LOVE DESK. The Monopoly set is still on the desk, with the pieces pretty well moved around; a few houses are scattered around the board, including one on Free Parking. GYPSY, CROW, and JOEL are waiting. CROW seems deep in thought. ]

MAGIC VOICE: Why is it always the guy whose turn it is who goes missing?

GYPSY: Would you notice if somebody else left?

JOEL: OK, we give him another minute then go on.

[ TOM SERVO pops up. ]

JOEL: Hey, Magic Voice, can I buy the Peanuts edition from you?

MAGIC VOICE: But you can’t do anything with it.

JOEL: I know, but I like Peanuts.

MAGIC VOICE: Give me a turn to think it over.

JOEL: Fair enough. Hey, Crow, buddy, you awake?

CROW: [ As JOEL nudges him. ] Oh! Joel, do we really know that Ariel (Disney’s The Little Mermaid) and Adam West were different people?

JOEL: [ Taken aback ] Well, one was a cartoon, who could sing, and who was surrounded by colorful and zany characters.

GYPSY: And the other was a mermaid.

CROW: Yeah, but did we ever see them both at the *same* *time*? And if we did, did we know the ‘Adam West’ wasn’t a robot or Alfred in disguise?

JOEL: Uh … well …

[ As ALL ponder this, TOM jumps up. ]

TOM: Greetings!

JOEL: Ah, Tom, it’s your turn. [ He rolls the dice. ]

TOM: Please, do not be alarmed by my presence!

CROW: We’re not. We want to know if you’re buying the Disney edition.

TOM: Yes, I am Thomas Servo. I come to you from the “real world”! In it, you are all the beloved characters from a famous television show.

[ Two beats. ]

CROW: All right, Tom, and where are you going with —

TOM: I’m new to this world! Don’t fear me.

GYPSY: He’s not gonna buy the title.

JOEL: [ Giggling ] So would you like some of our un-real food?

TOM: Why, yes, please.

JOEL: OK. So what do we give a visitor to our reality?

CROW: Ten seconds to go or pass.

GYPSY: How about a RAM chip?

JOEL: Or a block of cheddar cheese?

TOM: White Castle burger would be nice.

CROW: Roll for Cambot, Joel.

[ CAMBOT quickly nods. JOEL rolls; he moves the piece. ]

JOEL: You know what I’d like, my first meal in a new dimension? A thick chocolate shake.

CROW: Fine, then. Kaya buns.

GYPSY: Hey, that’s my square. [ JOEL takes $80 from CAMBOT’s pile and gives it to GYPSY. ] Maybe we should take him to a restaurant?

JOEL: Old Country Buffet for somebody from another dimension?

TOM: I’d be fine with Popeye’s too.

CROW: Now, see, I’d say the Latham Circle Diner or Shalimar’s is more representative of our reality.

GYPSY: Or the 76 Diner, on Route 9.

JOEL: The Chinese buffet just south of there.

[ JOEL rolls, advances GYPSY’s token. ]

MAGIC VOICE: The one with the pizza slices? And the Philly cheesesteaks?

GYPSY: Yeah!

JOEL: That’s the one.

TOM: Yes, this will do nicely.

CROW: Ok, you going to drive, Joel?

JOEL: Yeah, let’s go.

[ JOEL starts to leave; GYPSY and CROW follow, leaving TOM alone. ]

GYPSY: Shotgun!

MAGIC VOICE: [ A moment behind GYPSY ] Shotgun!

CROW: [ Leaving camera ] Aw, you always get shotgun.

JOEL: [ Leaving camera, voice fading ] The rules are the rules. Hey, what’s with this Adam West/Little Mermaid thing?

GYPSY: [ Off-camera, fading ] Usually you think like that at the start of the day’s experiment.

CROW: [ off-camera, faint ] I don’t know, it just came up is all.

[ Several beats. ]

TOM: I don’t think I’m interacting with this reality well.

[ TOM looks around. ]

TOM: Hey, the Coca-Cola edition’s mine! Crow owes me!

[ MOVIE SIGN flashes ]

TOM: And now we’ve got movie sign too… JOEL!

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

[ THEATER. TOM is by himself. ]

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *

TOM: It’s a very confused trail of ants.

>
> Part Eighteen

TOM: This was the original title of Part Twenty-Two.

>
> As Megabyte wandered through the crowd, he wondered if
> everything about him had changed.

TOM: You ever feel like the world’s Manhattan and you’re Greater Sudbury, Ontario?

> He certainly felt different. His
> normal viral impulses had given way to stronger and stranger ones.

TOM: He’s becoming a compulsive spender.

> For some reason, all these people surrounding him, seemed like prey.

TOM: Even his bunny books seem empty to him.

> Yet, they only talked to and interacted with each other. He could see
> no evidence that anyone looked upon him as a predator.

TOM: Maybe Canadians just don’t naturally distrust mall-walkers.

> And he also
> had this knowledge that he was now able to infect them, but not as a
> virus.

TOM: So interdimensional portals give you a lot of exposition?

> Unsure of these feelings, he simply continued to wander
> through the crowds.

TOM: And he’s attacked by a focus group that wants to know if he likes new Durian Coke.

>
> As Carrie and Bob ran into the crowd of people, they began
> looking for Megabyte.

TOM: He’ll be easy to spot, since he’s the only guy at the mall with a proper name.

> "Can you see him?" Carrie asked. "No." Bob
> said.

[ JOEL, CROW file in. JOEL cracks open a fortune cookie. ]

TOM: About *time*, guys.

JOEL: "Your friends are often surprised by your kindness."

TOM: That’s an ambiguous fortune.

CROW: It’s your cookie, Tom.

[ JOEL feeds the cookie pieces to TOM. ]

> "He’s no where in sight." "Maybe we should split up and look
> for him that way." Carrie said. Bob thought about that for a second.

JOEL: Scooby, Shaggy, and Velma can check the basement. We’ll check the attic.

> "O.K." he said, "But, I’m giving you Glitch’s extension peice. If you
> find him, call me through Glitch. Don’t confront him alone."

CROW: Yeah, that advice will last for seconds.

> Carrie
> blushed at his concern for her well being. "Thanks," she said, taking
> the extension. "I’ll be careful."

MAGIC VOICE: [ Startling JOEL, TOM, and CROW ] Fifteen seconds until Carrie is captured. Fifteen seconds.

JOEL: [ Recovering his composure ] I knew that.

TOM: Did *not*.

> Bob smiled shyly, then did
> something really unexpected. He stepped close to Carrie, and kissed
> her gently on the cheek. "I don’t want you to get hurt."

CROW: But it is, after all, Ape Law.

> He
> whispered, then turned and entered the crowd. Carrie just stood there
> for a moment, shocked and pleasantly surprised.

JOEL: [ As Carrie ] Boy, this couldn’t be any better, nothing could possibly happen to me now …

> *I’m glad Dot’s not
> here.* she thought, *Or I’d be in BIG trouble now.*

CROW: [ As Carrie ] I’m glad I started wearing high heels today. And this chic tight skirt, sure, I can’t run, but I look great!

> Smiling, she took
> off in the other direction to look for Megabyte.

TOM: [ As Carrie ] It’s going to be a nice easy shift, and good, ’cause it’s just two days until my retirement.

>
> As Bob ran swiftly through the crowd, his mind raced at an
> even greater speed.

JOEL: Did you know the fastest computer in the world is a PDP-11 that’s been dropped from a helicopter?

> *Where did that come from?* he wondered, *Why in
> the world would I kiss Carrie, and never Dot? Is she so different?*

TOM: [ As Bob ] Maybe it’s me. Maybe *I’m* Carrie, and she’s Dot. Does that make sense?

> His mind was a flurry of questions as he realized something. He
> didn’t even know what Megabyte looked like as a human.

CROW: D’oh!

TOM: Just because he’s the Guardian of Mainframe doesn’t mean he can handle a Kaybee Toys.

> Carrie hadn’t
> told him. *Well, no wonder,* he thought, *After what you did, how
> could she be thinking straight?*

JOEL: ‘Cause girls turn stupid when they kiss.

> Bob knew Carrie liked him. He
> turned, deciding to see if he could find her.

CROW: You left her ten seconds ago, how hard do you have to look?

> *Wait,* he thought, and
> pulled Glitch from his pocket. "Glitch," he said, "communication to
> extension."

JOEL: Kirsten to Bridge?

> Glitch beeped, then processed the request. After a
> couple of seconds, it beeped again, this time, puzzledly.

JOEL: Kirsten to Engineering?

> ‘Connection
> unsuccessful. No reply.’ Glitch displayed. Bob stared at the screen in
> shock.

CROW: Bob’s the kind of person who hangs up on the second ring.

> "Glitch, trace location of extension." Glitch displayed a
> small map with a blinking dot.

TOM: You’re here, and she’s got the traveller’s cheques there.

> Closing Glitch, Bob ran to the spot it
> had shown him. Looking around, Bob couldn’t see Carrie anywhere.

CROW: I bet he wishes he had traceroute up and running now.

> Then, he looked down at the ground. There was Glitch’s extension, and
> it was crushed.

JOEL: Absolutely heartbroken!

> The gravel on the ground showed signs of a struggle.

TOM: Yes, Carrie’s pager fought back brilliantly.

> *No!* Bob thought, then something else caught his eye. Picking it up,
> he realized what it was.

CROW: Shiny things are pretty!

> It was a broken necklace, bearing the name
> ‘Mouse’.

TOM: [ As Bob ] Somebody else had a "Mouse" necklace too!

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *
>

CROW: Couple more pieces and we can make a Lego axe.

> Part Nineteen
>
> Carrie struggled and fought against Megabyte, trying
> desperately to break free.

JOEL: She should trace a little green marker around his edge.

> "Now now," He rumbled, "You know that
> won’t do you any good."

TOM: You’d think this could attract the attention of the mall cops.

> Carrie continued to fight, hoping to loosen
> his grip enough that she could slip away. *If I can just get to Bob,
> or tell him about this somehow!!*

CROW: [ As Carrie ] Oh, why couldn’t I have been pulled into the world of Scooter Computer and Mister Chips?

> she thought, *He could get me out of
> here.* Megabyte dragged Carrie behind one of the generator trucks,
> and set her on the ground. "If you scream," Megabyte said,

TOM: You’ll be in SOOOOO much trouble…

> "Your
> punishment will be very severe." Carrie’s eyes widened as he spoke.

JOEL: He’s not a very good makeout artist.

> *Oh, God!!* she thought. Megabyte was no longer a virus, but he
> wasn’t human either.

TOM: Not to suggest that all Armani-wearing white guys are evil inhuman monsters out to destroy the world.

CROW: There are nearly two dozen guys who aren’t.

> He looked normal, except for one thing. He had
> fangs. *Just like a…Oh No!!* Carrie’s mind raced. Only one kind of
> creature had teeth like that, but they weren’t supposed to exist.

CROW: They’re not real, like Megabyte.

> They were myths!! *He’s a….a ….Vampire!!* Carrie’s mind screamed
> at her. She sat unmoving as Megabyte removed his hand from her mouth.

TOM: Oh, sheesh… now cut that out!

JOEL: I dunno, I could buy it when the computer pulled Carrie into "Reboot," but this is getting kind of out there.

> "Good." he said, standing up straight. Carrie looked up at him.
> "What do you want with me?" She asked him. He chuckled richly. "You
> are the bait to catch a Guardian." He said.

JOEL: You and this can of mealworms.

> "You are my ensurance
> that he will send me back to Mainframe."

TOM: You just *left* Mainframe.

> He thought silently for a
> few seconds, then smiled, evily. "Maybe even to the Supercomputer!"

CROW: Did he even have to *go* to the mall?

JOEL: His plan was to get out of Carrie’s bedroom, lose Carrie and Bob, wander around, find Carrie and Bob, and get to Carrie’s bedroom.

>
> Carrie pulled her knees up to her chest, and hugged them
> tightly. *What am I going to do?* she thought, *I can’t let this
> happen!*

TOM: Dare him to squeeze into a wireless networking card!

> She started to try and come up with a plan. If she could at
> least get him away from the Carnival, that would help.

CROW: What good luck — outside the Hudson’s Bay they just opened a new "World of Garlic and Silver Bullets"!

> She looked
> over at Megabyte. he was turned, looking at the Midway, expecting Bob
> from that direction.

TOM: We all expect Bob from one direction or another.

> *Maybe I can get away by going around the other
> way.* She straightened her legs, silently, then tried to stand up.

CROW: With her legs straightened that’s kind of tricky.

> "I wouldn’t try that if I were you." Megabyte said, not even turning.
> Carrie looked at him, surprised. *How did he know?* she wondered.

JOEL: He’s got eyes in the back of his head!

TOM: It’s not well known, but Megabyte *is* a Mom.

>
> Suddenly, Megabyte was hit in the chest by a flying brick.

CROW: Ignatz Mouse is *way* off base this time.

> He
> stumbled slightly as Bob came racing around the corner of the booth
> beside the truck. "Alright, Megabyte."

TOM: I’d give Carrie ten bucks to put Dig Dug here instead.

> He said, "This ends here!"
> Megabyte picked up the offending brick, and casually tossed it to the
> side. "Now, Bob."

JOEL: You could have hit someone with that. In fact, you did!

> He rumbled, "If you want your friend returned in
> one peice, I suggest you take me into the Supercomputer."

CROW: And, uh, any supplies of Krazy Glue you have would be appreciated.

> Reaching
> over, Megabyte caught Carrie before she could even attempt to run.
> Carrie turned to Megabyte.

TOM: [ As Carrie ] Oh, yeah, big strong guy, you can catch a girl who’s *sitting*.

> "I don’t care what you do!" She shouted at
> him. "I would rather have you kill me then see you get into the
> Supercomputer!!"

JOEL: [ As Bob ] Don’t look at me, I don’t know how you get into the Supercomputer from here.

> Megabyte smiled evily, and Carrie began to tremble
> with fear.

CROW: [ As Megabyte ] Run that first part by me again …

> "I don’t have to kill you," he said, "I have another
> ability I can use."

TOM: He can apply his extensive knowledge of Gilbert and Sullivan.

> Carrie’s eyes widened in fear as he once again
> clamped his hand over her mouth. He lifted her off the ground
> slightly, and pulled her head to the side.

JOEL: Bob’s got other things to do this scene.

> Smiling quickly at Bob, he
> opened his mouth, revealing his long fangs, then his head descended
> towards Carrie’s neck.

CROW: How does he know to do that?

> *Nooooo!!!* Carrie’s mind echoed Bob’s scream
> as she felt Megabyte’s fangs sink deeply into her skin.

JOEL: We’re veering dangerously close to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" territory now.

TOM: If Carrie had gone straight to the police, this would never have happened.

[ to continue … ]

What’s Going On In Alley Oop? Did the Apollo astronauts meet an alien on the Moon? June – September 2021


No. Alley Oop and crew observed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin going through a mysterious door in the Sea of Tranquility. It turned out to be the bathroom. The Apollo 11 crew did not find the Moon Alien, Frodd. Alley Oop, Ooola, and Doc Wonmug met him later.

So this should catch you up on Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the start of September 2021. If any news about the strip breaks out, or if you’re reading this after about December 2021, there may be a more useful essay at this link. If there isn’t, well, we live in complicated times.

Alley Oop.

20 June – 4 September 2021.

This story almost exactly fit my publishing cycle. It started a week before my last Alley Oop update, with the gang going back to 1969 to watch the Apollo 11 moon landing. They start with understandable celebrity-creeping behavior. Pretending to be NASA workers. Messing around in training facilities. Then it escalates to following Apollo 11 all the way through the landing.

In front of a Saturn V rocket signed 'Apollo 11B', Doc Wonmug says, 'Guys, I think I found our ticket to the Moon!' Ooola: 'Doc, this sign says 'for display use only. Not for space travel'.' Wonmug: 'I'm sure we can make it work. I am a scientist, after all. I have a brand-new roll of duct tape.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 6th of July, 2021. Sure, you may sneer at using a display prop as a rocket. But almost exactly this idea appears in renowned science fiction author Stephen Baxter’s 1997 novel Titan. In it, the Saturn V Structural Test Article — used in the 60s to develop processes for handling the actual rockets — is refitted and launched into space as part of sending a space shuttle to Saturn’s moon Titan. And do we call Baxter’s Titan bad? Yes. It was appalling in its badness. It was a novel I finished because if I threw it across the bus someone else might have picked it up and read it, and I could not inflict that on an innocent stranger. The comic strip, though? That’s cool.

So Our Heroes watch Apollo 11’s moonwalk. This in a strip that ran the 21st of July, a timing miss I’m sure keeps Lemon and Sayers from getting a decent night’s sleep. After solving the mystery of the door, Our Heroes walk over to the far side of the Moon, where it happens also to be dark. There they discover a bored-looking alien playing at a computer.

Doc Wonmug, to Frodd, who's at a video game console on the Moon; 'So, you've been here on the back of the Moon, controlling all life on earth for billions of years? Why?' Frodd: 'Every kid from my world has to do a planetary simulation to graduate. It's like part of our school.' Ooola: 'And you lucked out and got Earth?' Frodd: 'Ha! No. I pushed my teacher's hafktq into a aabaao and got in big trouble. Earth is my punishment.' Alley Oop: 'Yep. Same thing happened to me one time.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 5th of August, 2021. So, folks who played SimEarth on the Mac back in the 90s. Remember there was an easter egg, a little thing where you typed in ‘JOKE’ and got this weird little Dadaist message? Right. So, anyone remember what it was exactly? I can’t find the joke for the Mac port listed in web sites listing video game easter eggs. There’s emulators to play SimEarth, but it’s the PC version, where the joke is it shows an image of the Earth in a giant frying pan, next to some space bacon and eggs, and labels it ‘Pan-Gaia’. I could swear that on the Mac SimEarth, the easter egg joke was something like “How many Glenn Campbells does it take to screw in a light bulb?” (Hit OK, and get the answer) “Two.” But I can’t find any evidence anyone else has this memory at all. Do I have a weirdly detailed false memory?

Frodd’s playing Earth as a “kind of a video game”, for a school project. Frodd starts to defend his Earth-playing skills, but has to come home for dinner, and takes Our Heroes with them. Frodd’s mother sees the humans and grounds Frodd, for “a Froddulon Millennium”, which is something like a billion earth-years.

So Our Heroes escape, Alley Oop along the way swiping some kind of necklace from somewhere. Turns out the thing makes Our Heroes invisible, which is good for getting them away from alarmed Froddians. They get to Frodd’s spacefaring bubble, which turns out to be able to get them anywhere instantly. They return to the Moon, planning to resume the Earth that Frodd left paused. Turns out Frodd’s there. He passed his school project, with a C-.

Ooola: 'I think we're invisible!' Doc Wonmug: 'I don't know about that. I can see you.' Alley Oop: 'Let me try something.' The invisible Alley Oop approaches a Froddian: 'Excuse me, may I ask you a question?' Froddian; 'Who said that?! Oh, no! The inquisitive ghosts are back! Everyone run for cover!' Alley Oop: 'Hmph. I was just going to ask how this necklace worked.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 19th of August, 2021. While it is jumping for a silly punch line, the Froddian’s declaration that “the inquisitive ghosts are back” works for me. I don’t know why it works and others don’t. Maybe because it suggests other stories, relying on the idea the world has more stuff in it than we could get to see.

They talk Frodd out of shutting down this Earth simulation, and even snag a nice moustache toggle for Alley Oop. With a pretty successful week, then, they head home. It’s too early to say what the next story will be, although Doc Wonmug has gone back to prehistoric Moo with them.

I admit some dissatisfaction with the story. A little bit from not caring for the reality-is-a-video-game premise. It’s something a certain streak of nerd loves without learning enough philosophy to know what issues it’s not addressing. But most of us enjoy pop culture items that raise issues it doesn’t address. Besides, if it address an issue well then it stops being a pop culture thing and becomes culture. I’m also a bit dissatisfied that Alley Oop, Ooola, and Doc Wonmug don’t have much to do. For most of the story, they’re just present. Note how little I had to break down what Alley Oop did, versus what Oola did, versus what Wonmug did.

Doc Wonmug: 'Frodd, please don't shut down Earth. There are so many great things about it.' Alley Oop: 'And many terrible things.' Frodd: 'I don't know, guys. Another Froddian left her Earth running, and she got in big trouble.' Wonmug: 'Wait, there's *another* Earth?' Frodd: 'In *this* galaxy? There are thousands. ... Aw, did you think you were special? That's so cute.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 30th of August, 2021. The notion of thousands of Earths is the sort of thing I mean, raising issues the comic strip isn’t dealing with. But those are essentially the issues raised by the multiverse idea — and the changeable-timeline idea — that’s been part of the Lemon and Sayers run on Alley Oop anyway, so it’s not a new issue.

My bigger dissatisfaction is that, in the strip’s focus on having a punch line and a plot development every day, we get some conflicts. I don’t want to call them continuity errors. For one, there’s very little that can’t be harmonized. But we get things like Frodd starting the 40,000-light-year journey to Froddulon A (the 9th of August) by altering Our Heroes’ source code so they won’t age. Later on, when we get back to the Moon (the 2nd of September) Our Heroes just miss some aliens hoping to find someone to bestow immortality on. There’s no contradiction here. But it feels sloppy to do this joke twice in one story. Frodd first explains he’s simulating Earth to get on the high score table (4th of August). The next day he explains it’s an unwanted school project (5th of August). Frodd gets grounded for a millennium (the 12th of August); he’s on the Moon later that day (the 27th of August).

More like a continuity error is Frodd needing to alter Our Heroes’ source code to not age. But we see (the 21st and 23rd of August) that Frodd’s space bubble can travel instantly. We can rationalize that, yes. (And it would wreck the story’s pace if Our Heroes’ escape took 40,000 years.) Puttering around at NASA Alley Oop discovers an Alien Alley Oop (28th of June). But their little launch causes NASA to think they’ve discovered aliens (14th of July). Again, anyone trying could reconcile this. And if an artist has a better idea for an ongoing project they should use the better one. But this feels to me more like they use every idea, which can’t always work.

Alley Oop, kneeling down at some rocks: 'Ooola, Doc, you have to come see this!' Ooola; 'Alley, if it's another rock that looks like someone famous, I think I'll pass.' Doc Wonmug: 'Yes, we do have rocks on Earth, you know.' Alley Oop, to a trio of mouse astronauts in a tiny lunar module: 'It was really nice meeting you. Congrats on being the first Earth creatures to reach the moon.' The tiny lunar module lifts off, and Wonmug asks, 'What was *that*?' Alley Oop: 'Oh, just a rock that looks like Dolly Parton.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 24th of July, 2021. As with the Inquisitive Ghosts, this throwaway joke works for me. Part of it may be that it’s about expanding the world, albeit in a way that makes human-mouse interactions in the strip somehow worse than they are in reality. But also that it’s a basically nice joke, Alley Oop having a nice time with new friends, which is easier to take than the cynical or mean jokes.

And the drive for a punch line every day has good sides too. For example, on the 24th of July, Alley chats with the mouse astronauts who beat Armstrong and Aldrin to the moon. It’s a scene I liked.

Next Week!

It’s been one week longer in arriving than usual, but I look at Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the final time. Did Spider-Man save Albuquerque from destruction at the hands of an alien war machine using nothing more than Rocket Raccoon and the secret alien war machine’s commander? The only person I knew in Albuquerque moved away years ago, so I have no way of knowing. Sorry!

Reposted: The Eighteenth Talkartoon: The Cow’s Husband


I apologize that I must be late in recapping the plot of Alley Oop. I did not have the time to write up the summary as I’d hoped. I intend to post tomorrow and then get back to the usual weekly schedule.

When I first posted this review my comment about (American) bullfighting cartoons seeming to always come down on the bull’s side started an interesting conversation. Partly, about whether the cartoons really are on the bull’s side. Like, in this short, the bull attacks first. Doesn’t that show the bull is villainous? My instinct is to say the bull’s fighting for his life, after all; we wouldn’t hold it against the protagonist if he got help. (And, since Bimbo is a screwball character here, the attack doesn’t do any harm anyway.) I still feel that way, but it is an attitude I’m bringing to the cartoon. Is it the cartoon’s attitude?

When I first reviewed this I didn’t say anything about the trash-talking song between Bimbo and the Bull. It’s wonderful stuff, though. Great little song.


This week’s Talkartoon is from the 13th of March, 1931. One of the credited animators was Shamus Culhane again. The other, Rudolf Eggeman, didn’t get listed in the credits for anything we’ve seen so far. And I don’t know much about him. The Early NY Animators blog has a tiny bit more, including attributions for some scenes in “Dizzy Dishes” and “Barnacle Bill”, plus cartoons I hope to get to. Early NY Animators found recollections of him working as far back as 1916, for the Pat Sullivan studio, but with the note that he had a reputation for crude and messy work. If Eggeman animated anything after 1932 they don’t know about it, and nor does the Internet Movie Database. (The IMDB doesn’t have anything from before 1930, when Eggeman joined Fleischer Studios, though.)

Do bullfighting cartoons always come down on the bull’s side? At least in the American tradition. I confess my deep ignorance of other countries’ animation patterns. I can’t offhand think of one, though, where the audience is clearly expected to be on the toreador’s side. Even when the bull is a big, menacing, unfriendly presence. I suppose the knowledge the bull would really be doomed however the fight goes makes him unavoidably sympathetic.

So this gives the cartoon some plotting trouble. You can have a sympathetic character be the toreador; Popeye, Bugs Bunny, and the Pink Panther did some great work in their bullfighting cartoons. But Bimbo’s a weaker character than any of them, even here where he’s doing the sorts of reality-warping gags that you’d get from screwball Daffy Duck. Take the bull, who’s naturally sympathetic to start with, and start his cartoon with a minute of teary farewells to his children and even his fly, and there’s no hope for Bimbo to actually star in his own short.

The teary farewell does give the first line of Talkartoons dialogue I remember making me laugh aloud though: the second child’s reassuring “Don’t worry, daddy, we’ll collect your insurance” is great. It makes more shocking the next child’s “never mind, Pop, momma’s gonna buy us a new daddy”. It feels like a joke from a more modern, cynical-edging-on-nihilistic cartoon. I didn’t like that; it felt like a shock-for-the-sake-of-shock joke, and I’m less fond of those these days. But that cynicism is of a piece with the end, and the bulls marching off unknowingly into the butcher’s.

So Eggeman had a reputation for sloppy work, albeit work that the Early NY Animators blog credits with good, funny expressions and movement. This makes for an interesting counterpoint because this cartoon features rotoscoping. Max Fleischer invented the rotoscope (the patent was issued 100 years ago this past 9th of October). It made the studio. Thanks to tracing the movement of a real figure they were able to make Koko the Clown move in more natural, believable ways in-between being melted into a blob of ink or stretched into a hammock or something. It’s still one of the indispensable tools for the animator. Every studio would use it when they had some movement they needed to get right. It’s at least intellectually part of the heritage of motion-capture animation.

The bull’s dance is rotoscoped. I’m curious who the original dancer was, but that’s probably lost to time. The animation suddenly bursting into this smooth, gracious ballet figure, though, still stands out. I haven’t got any idea who did the actual tracing and adaptation of the original movement to a bull’s body shape. Maybe it was Culhane, who did have a strong drafting hand.

The cartoon several times uses the gag of someone’s accessory going about its business while they do something else. That’s a Fleischer Studios staple. It’s also got a nice proper fight-cloud, that I don’t remember encountering in the Talkartoons before. I only spot mice once, a trio of them on the giraffe’s neck at about 6:38 in.

I like the logic of the parade reversing course after the cop warns they’re going the wrong way down the one-way street. But my favorite blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gag is Bimbo and the bull staring one another down, nose to nose, until Bimbo’s nose comes off him and attaches to the bull. I was worried they’d repeat the joke, spoiling its whimsy, their next face-to-face showdown.

Statistics August: How August 2021 Treated My Humor Blog


August 2021 was a bad month for me. I don’t wish to get too personal here. But you see how bad it was from my mid-month crashing out of reviewing 60s Popeye cartoons. The Popeye cartoon reviews were already a thing I did to conserve energy, so you see how bad it’s been I had to switch to reposting old Talkartoon reviews. I hope that things are getting better, and that I’ll be able to get back at least to the Popeye-reviewing. However, I intend to rerun all the rest of my Talkartoon essays to give myself time to recover. Between those and the MiSTings, right now, the only things I’m writing each week are the Statistics Saturday and the What’s Going On In story strip recaps. That feels as much as I can commit to right now.

How did a month with such a limited creative output work out? To my surprise, it brought more readers than the previous several months did. Here’s the numbers:

Bar chart of monthly readership figures for two and a half years' worth of the blog. There's been a modest three-month upswing in views and unique readers. But both views and unique readers are below the twelve-month averages leading up to this, in part because of a large spike in April 2021.
Some may ask why I do these monthly recaps that are alla bout myself. One answer is that they’re not hard to do and they prove strangely popular. Another is that I want to reassure other WordPress blogger that it’s not you, the whole platform is slowly dying and nobody knows what to do about it.

So there were 4,678 page views in August. That’s below the twelve-month running mean of 5,565.3 for the twelve months leading up to August 2021. That figure’s a little distorted from April, when one of my images was posted in a Fandom Drama thread on Reddit and I got spurious hits. But it’s also below the twelve-month running median of 4,996 views. Medians are less vulnerable to fluke events.

There were 2,665 unique visitors in August. That’s below the running mean of 3,365.8, again affected by that Reddit thread. It’s also below the median of 3,036.5 unique visitors, though, suggesting people are not actually that interested in four-year-old reviews of Bimbo cartoons. Their loss.

And maybe they are interested anyway. There were 137 likes given to posts in August, which is almost dead on the averages. The twelve-month running mean was 135.1 likes, and the median 132 likes for a month. There were 63 comments given in August, above the running mean of 51.0 and the running median of 42.


None of the Talkartoon reposts have been among my most popular posts for August. No, what people did want to see were these, and fair enough:

My story comic summaries are still the backbone of my popularity here. And I still feel enough energy to write them. My plan for the next month is to do these recaps:

The Amazing Spider-Man recap I intend to be the last one I do, unless the strip somehow emerges from reruns, or jumps around in the rerun cycle. This because the strip has reached the point where I started doing recaps back in 2017. Though I could do a better job recapping these strips now, my alternative is to do less job.

That is unless I decide to replace Spider-Man with another strip to recap. I’ve held off on Rip Haywire, partly because I had felt it was driven more by the comedy than the plot. But, heck, I don’t complain about Alley Oop being a comedy-adventure strip. I suppose I feel my dividing line is story strips that appear in newspapers and I’m not sure whether Rip Haywire does. That division is arbitrary, yes, but I want some compelling rule that explains why I won’t do, like, Endtown or The Martian Confederacy.


98 countries or country-like entities sent me readers in August. 18 of them were single-view countries. Here’s the map, and here’s the table listing them:

Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink.
Oh, I just missed out on a complete South America. You know, if you complete a continent (Australia excepted) they put you on the Freshly Pressed page. Also, is the Freshly Pressed page still a thing? I never got on it and I never see blogs boast about having been on it anymore.

Country Readers
United States 2,969
India 233
Canada 198
United Kingdom 195
Australia 69
Brazil 61
Germany 57
Spain 57
South Africa 49
Italy 37
Kuwait 37
Philippines 37
Saudi Arabia 37
Sweden 35
Austria 32
Turkey 32
Finland 29
France 28
Nigeria 27
Mexico 26
Japan 21
Ireland 18
Ecuador 17
New Zealand 17
Denmark 15
Malaysia 14
Peru 14
Taiwan 14
Indonesia 13
Israel 13
Norway 13
Qatar 12
Colombia 11
Romania 11
South Korea 11
Thailand 11
Argentina 10
Jordan 10
Oman 10
Russia 10
Egypt 9
Lebanon 9
Netherlands 7
Greece 6
Macau SAR China 6
Pakistan 6
Bulgaria 5
Hungary 5
Paraguay 5
Portugal 5
United Arab Emirates 5
Algeria 4
Belgium 4
Czech Republic 4
Hong Kong SAR China 4
Lithuania 4
Montenegro 4
Nepal 4
Switzerland 4
Vietnam 4
Chile 3
Croatia 3
Iraq 3
Morocco 3
Puerto Rico 3
Uruguay 3
Bahamas 2
Bangladesh 2
Barbados 2
Belize 2
Bolivia 2
China 2
European Union 2
Guatemala 2
Kenya 2
Libya 2
Poland 2
Singapore 2
Tanzania 2
Venezuela 2
Bahrain 1
Costa Rica 1
Dominica 1
El Salvador 1
Guadeloupe 1
Guyana 1
Jamaica 1
Malta 1
Mauritania 1
Panama 1
Papua New Guinea 1
Serbia 1
Sri Lanka 1
St. Lucia 1
Sudan 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1
Tunisia 1
Ukraine 1

This month was a clean sweep. No countries that sent me a single reader in August were single-reader countries in July, and vice-versa. Haven’t had that happen in ages.


WordPress figures I posted 26,178 words in August, for 844.5 words per posting. WordPress has no idea how many of these words are reprinted from earlier, including in this blog. I won’t tell it if you don’t. It brings me to a total of 175,025 words for the year, as of the start of September, and an average 720 words per posting, which is exhausting and I’m glad the number is now complete bunk.

Between the final episode of The Facts Of Life and the start of September I’ve posted 3,134 things to this blog. They attracted 251,025 views from 144,101 unique visitors. And, what the heck, a total of 4,703 comments too.

If you’d like to be a regular reader, please do. The easiest way to be sure you don’t miss anything is to use the panel in the upper right corner of the page to follow Another Blog, Meanwhile via e-mail. This will send every post the moment it’s published, and before its typos are corrected, to your inbox, where you can mark it as read and intend to get back to it sometime.

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And I am @nebusj@mathstodon.xyz, the mathematics-themed instance of the Mastodon network. I’m not very funny there, but then, I hear you making the inevitable joke for the other half of that sentence. In any case, thank you for reading.

Reposted: The Seventeenth Talkartoon: Teacher’s Pest


Back to another Bimbo cartoon but don’t worry, it’s a likable one. One that has a bunch of weird little jokes in it and ends, in great fashion, with an unmotivated surreal musical number. I mentioned when this first ran how the girl Young Bimbo encounters in the hall could have been a proto-Betty Boop. I stand by that assessment. I also notice the music playing behind her appearance was used for Betty Boop’s Birthday Party, in 1933. (See around 3:45 when she starts playing the piano.) That’s got to be coincidence, though. Just someone recognizing a good bouncy line of music.

When this originally ran, my paragraph about how there were no more lost/near-lost or misnomered cartoons to mess up my progression of Talkartoons. I then went on to remark on how “Teacher’s Pest” was, for some reason, released just four days after the previous cartoon, which I called “Teacher’s Pest”. I have fixed this.


So there’s no lost-or-good-as-lost cartoons or, as best I can tell, misnumbered entries or any other weirdness. Last week I talked about the Bimbo cartoon “Tree Saps”. This week, “Teacher’s Pest”. The one odd thing about this: it was released the 7th of February, 1931. That’s four days after “Tree Saps”. I’d like to say that obviously Bimbo-mania was sweeping the country. But the next Talkartoon after this wouldn’t come out for a full month. They must’ve just had a slot that needed filling. This is a cartoon animated by Grim Natwick and Seymore Kneitel and who knows if anyone uncredited was in there too.

The action gets a bit out of synch with the animation. I’d think that’s an error of how the short was digitized and uploaded. But these were still very early days for sound-synchronized cartoons, and I can’t rule out that the animators just misjudged the timing. It’s striking to me that in the bit of singing about “who’s the greatest man in history” the students’ responses are perfectly timed but one answer off.

This short features a Young Bimbo. At least, one who’s a kid young enough to go to school and have an off-screen mother and all that. I think this is the first time he’s been shown in a variation from the generic young adult who could work in a lumber mill or get hauled into court for harassing women. There’s also a girl who looks, to me, plausibly like a Young Betty Boop. This isn’t normally listed as a Betty Boop cartoon, and I’m not at all sure they meant the girl Bimbo meets in the hallway to be anyone particular. I’m not sure the knew yet that Betty Boop was going to be anybody either; she wouldn’t be named until “Silly Scandals”, released in late May 1931.

One thing I like in old cartoons, and that the Fleischer studios were prone to doing, is basic stuff made complicated. So I’m tickled that Bimbo gets out of bed by climbing through the footer. Or that he travels the last couple feet into school by going up the see-saw and using that to propel himself, and then his books, into the building. This is an era that didn’t tend to have strong narratives or much of any dialogue. Doing things in roundabout ways is not yet worn out. I also appreciate that a lot of Bimbo’s motion is in perspective, approaching or receding the camera. It makes walking across the screen something more.

The song that the teacher leads everyone in, after “Good Morning To You”, is a folk tune named “Bulldog on the Bank” or “Pharaoh’s Daughter” that I never heard of either. Here’s a transcription of at least one version of the lyrics, and a recording of date unknown to me. It’s a shame the cartoon’s recording is bad because I couldn’t understand the joke in the verse just by listening to it.

A pair of mice pop in, quickly, at about 2:16 in. A monstrously large one shows up at 6:56 in the dance. I’m tickled by the early joke of Bimbo setting his alarm clock back an hour, and by the quick moment of the clock’s retaliation. I have to call that the best blink-and-you-miss-it joke; there’s not a lot of competition in this short. Arguably competition: Bimbo stopping in to feed the pet frogs in the lowest stair-step. (Also, did anyone ever keep frogs in a stair-step? It seems ridiculous but not impossible.) Their first pair of names, Max and Dave, are funny if you are the kind of person who remembers the names of the Fleischer Brothers. Their second pair of names, Amos and Andy, are of course a reference to radio’s long-running contemporary examination of the effects the Great Migration on the American experience.

I have no idea why the short ends in a string of musical instruments morphing into one another as Bimbo plays them. Nor have I got an idea why it should end in a string of letters and arithmetic problems and stuff dancing around the background. Possibly they didn’t have a better way to conclude the short. I sympathize with the problem.

Statistics Saturday: Trivia about The Facts Of Life I’ve been having a hard time dealing with this week


  • Dana Plato was not a regular on The Facts Of Life. She was on Diff’rent Strokes.
  • There were many more episodes made after the gang was at the Academy (122) than there were when the Academy was the premise of the show (79).
  • In fact, Dana Plato wasn’t on The Facts Of Life at all, except for the stealth-pilot episode that aired as part of Diff’rent Strokes‘s original run and the first episode of the first season.
  • Molly Ringwald played one of the characters first season, until the show decided they had too many characters and she was one of the ones that got cut.
  • Heck, Dana Plato played her character Kimberly Drummond on more episodes of Hello, Larry (three) than The Facts Of Life (one or maybe two depending how you count the stealth pilot).
  • Had Soviet Air Defece Force officer Stanislav Petrov not kept his cool during the 1983 false nuclear alarm incident, and had allowed the mistaken reports of a sneak attack by the United States to escalate into a nuclear “retaliation”, the first episode of The Facts Of Life which would have been preempted for nuclear war was #80, titled “Gamma Gamma or Bust”.
  • There are five episodes of Diff’rent Strokes that Gary Coleman was not in. This has nothing to do with The Facts Of Life, but it is hard to accept.
  • The Facts Of Life has been mentioned in more host sketches, through season twelve, of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (one) than have any works of science fiction legend Ray Bradbury (zero).

Not listed: the first Diff’rent Strokes episode that would have been preempted had the world destroyed itself in nuclear war in 1983 was the one where they’re filming an episode of The A-Team in the Drummonds’ apartment for some reason and so Arnold (Gary Coleman) makes himself up as a miniature Mister T.

Reference: Naming Infinity: A True Story Of Religious Mysticism and Mathematical Creativity, Loren Graham, Jean-Michel Kantor.

Reposted: The Sixteenth Talkartoon: Tree Saps


There’s another gap in my Talkartoon knowledge, as Ace of Spades was for decades lost. A copy was found in 2010, I’m told, and I haven’t seen it. This one, it’s a lumberjacking cartoon, one with a content warning for a blackface joke, something animators kept putting in to otherwise good cartoons so we could enjoy them less. But it also inspires some thoughts about the phenomenon where referencing a thing is taken as joking about a thing. I don’t have an answer for why we do that, or why it’s so often successful. It’s interesting to see how that’s always been with us, though.


I have to skip another cartoon in this Talkartoons progress. The fifteenth, Ace of Spades, was apparently lost for decades. Wikipedia says the cartoon was found in 2010. I don’t have a copy. If you have one, let me know, I’d be interested to see.

So here’s the next of them. It was originally released the 3rd of February, 1931 — a busy week; next week’s Talkartoon was released the 7th — and animated by Grim Natwick and Ted Sears, both of whom have had mentions here before. It’s “Tree Saps”. And, ah, a quick content warning. Al Jolson. (Well, a blackface gag.) It’s the tag of the short, after the building finishes falling down.

I’ll get to the first 7 minutes, 16 seconds of this 7 minute, 35 second short in a bit. But I have got a rhetorical question: why did like every cartoon of this era think it was a killer gag to have a character get blackened up and then call out “Mammy?” I mean, yes, I get that Al Jolson was as big a star then as he isn’t now. And that it’s a easy joke to make. But it’s not much of a joke. It’s more a moment of “remember this popular thing and giggle!” I know, we always have these things. And it’s easy in a moment of twitchiness while trying to think of something funny to call on it. I suppose it stands out because blackface gags have a social charge to them that, like, an Austin Powers impersonation hasn’t gathered. I’d rather they have worked a little harder back then.

Up to that point, though, it’s an amiable cartoon. The title suggests a logging camp and that’s just what we get. I’m a little curious what the earliest logging camp cartoon is; it doesn’t seem like it’s a setting anyone uses anymore. Standing out to me is how many of the lumberjacks are asleep, or near asleep. I feel like there’s a payoff to that which is missing.

It’s otherwise a long series of spot jokes about how cutting down trees might go wrong. Easy enough, and the sort of cartoon that can run as long or as short as you need to fill time. Here, it’s about five minutes before the short figures that’s enough lumberjacking, let’s do a chase. And not much of a chase, as a tornado for some reason gets entered into the narrative? I guess it ends the action, and makes for a bunch of silly action in the climax. But why a tornado?

Bimbo doesn’t get to act all screwball this time around. He’s probably the most responsible lumberjack of the bunch. And he keeps losing focus to his seal(?) partner who needs a steady bribe of fish to act. I’m curious why Bimbo’s given such a dull role this cartoon. It’s possible to be an entertaining straight man, but he’s not doing it.

There’s a mouse showing up regularly in the cartoon as one of the lumberjacks, appearing at just before 1:30, 2:15, 3:30, 4:40, and 5:30, the half-minute mark through the whole short. There’s a surprising lack of really body-horror-ish jokes. Also of jokes you miss by blinking. I mean, I like the seal uprooting and replanting a tree that Bimbo keeps missing, but that’s too well clearly presented to miss. I love the musicians playing instruments while thrown in the air, particularly the cats on the fiddle, but again they’re too central to miss. Bimbo grabs and drinks a glass of water while falling, but that isn’t much of a joke either. It’s just activity.

That the lumberjacks play instruments in the end doesn’t come from nowhere. They’re set up for it in the introductory scene. It does give the cartoon the chance to end with action set to the William Tell Overture. Good piece, certainly. The sort of thing that gives a strong beat for the action to play against.

MiSTed: Reboot: Breaking the Barriers (Part 8 of 16)


And now we reach the halfway point in my Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of Carrie L—‘s Reboot fanfic “Breaking the Barriers”. The whole MiSTing of this work should be at this link.

The story so far: Carrie, our author, was messing around on the computer one day when she got zapped into cyberspace! Or at least into the world of Reboot. She goes with Bob to investigate a weird energy portal thingy and finds series villain Megabyte. Megabyte captures her, and Symble the cat virus shoves the two of them through the portal before she can break free.

The riff about Chuck Woolery after a mention of “greed” referenced a short-lived game show, Greed, that he hosted back when every network was trying to clone Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. The mention of “Valentina” refers to a series of novellas that Analog Science Fiction ran in the early 80s about some science types who accidentally created an artificial intelligence computer goddess. You know, like people did all the time back then. In hindsight, science fiction writers overestimated the capabilities of programming in PILOT. The stories got collected into a book that I remember as being a fast read.

The reference to Megabyte trying “to comprehend an Eckart” confuses me too. I think that it’s a typo and I meant “an Eckert”, as in Max Eckert’s various map projections. If it’s not that then I have no idea what it could mean. Crow’s riff about the fake note from Carrie’s parents strikes me as terribly mean, now, and I wouldn’t make it if I were writing this today. I say this acknowledging that it’s the sort of joke the show would make, at least in the 90s. (I can think of specific riffs, many delivered by Crow, built on the same premise.) Canadian 2-for-1 pizza was a Singapore pizza chain. I liked their pizza, but their gimmick — two pies for the price of one — meant they were selling too much pizza for me to get often. “Marlboro Day” reflects that I used to live in Marlboro and now and then they had Days.

I’ve edited this slightly, removing the name given to Carrie’s hometown, out of the concern for not unintentionally embarrassing her eighteen years later by naming what seems a pretty small place. This took out one riff, also, that was just the obvious riff to make about the place’s name anyway. I left in the bit where she named her best friend because I believe the character to be fictional.


> Part Sixteen
>
> As Carrie came to, she struggled to remember what had
> happened.

TOM: It’s kind of that way for us, too.

> She looked up to find her computer running and her chair
> tipped over on its side.

CROW: It must have been a very small, localized earthquake…

> *Now I remember!* She thought, standing up.

JOEL: It was stuffing *instead* of potatoes!

> *Was it only a dream?* She picked up the chair, then noticed that
> the top was scratched.

CROW: It must’ve itched something terrible.

> As she inspected the gouges, her throat
> tightened. Only one thing could account for marks like that.

JOEL: She’s got a cat!

> She
> turned slowly, hoping against hope that she wouldn’t find him there.
> She gasped and stepped back when she saw him. He had changed.

CROW: He was trying to make himself good enough for her.

> He was
> dressed elegantly, in an expensive looking Armani style suit.

TOM: Withholding antecedents doesn’t make the story more dramatic!

> His
> hair was like fire,

JOEL: And vice-versa.

> but his skin was pale.

CROW: Oh, yeah, computer science guys.

> He was powerfully built as
> he had been as a virus,

TOM: Only now he wasn’t that scared of Norton Disk Doctor.

> and his face looked like the envy of every
> male model. He had the classic GQ gentlemanly look,

CROW: This is not to suggest every man wearing an Armani suit is evil.

TOM: But they are.

> yet he still had
> a look of power and greed to him.

JOEL: President Chuck Woolery!

> Even unconcious, Carrie recognized
> him immediately.

CROW: I thought she woke up?

> *So, * she thought, *that’s what Megabyte looks like
> as a human.*

TOM: I wonder what other humanoid bodies he might have turned into.

> She had often wondered that, but now, she would rather
> not have had to find out.

CROW: If her parents walk in this is going to be *so* weird to explain.

>
> Suddenly, her computer began beeping strangely.

JOEL: Is that you, Valentina darling?

> She turned,
> and then she was struck by something. She fell, with a limp body
> sprawled across her.

TOM: I hope telemarketers never figure out this trick.

> She pushed out from under it, and gasped as she
> saw the face. "Oh my God!" she whispered. It was Bob. He had
> followed her through the portal.

CROW: You’ve got male!

> He was dressed in blue jeans, a grey
> T-shirt and had a jean shirt over top. His hair had become light
> brown shoulder length dreads and his skin was a deep tan.

JOEL: He’s in the real world and he can still fit in the Commodore 64 color set.

> "Bob!"
> Carrie said. "Wake up!" she shook him gently. "Please, wake up!"

CROW: Oh, now he’s just being difficult.

>
> He stirred, and Carrie smiled.

JOEL: Someday he’ll be able to mix his own hot cocoa.

> Bob sat up, holding his head in his
> hands. "Oh, man." he moaned.

TOM: He looks around and discovers *he’s* been pulled into the world of *his* favorite cartoon.

>
> Carrie got up and helped him to his feet. "Thank goodness
> you’re alright!" Carrie said. Bob looked up at her and smiled.

CROW: [ As Bob ] Actually, half of me is —

TOM: [ Sternly ] No.

> "Nothing can bring a Guardian down."

JOEL: That’s why he’s so bad in escalators.

> He said, then winced in pain.

TOM: Aw, he’s going to Shatner all over the place.

> "Oh, brother," he said, "Does my head ever hurt!" Carrie giggled,
> then turned and stiffened. "We’ve got a problem."

CROW: I hope it’s not a word problem.

TOM: Yeah, that stupid dancing paperclip is back.

> She told Bob. Bob
> looked at her, puzzled. "What?" He asked.

TOM: There’s like eight thousand words to go and the only thing going on is some flirting.

> Carrie pointed at the
> floor beside them. "What? There’s nothing there." Bob said. Carrie
> nodded.

CROW: Those two trains left Chicago!

> "Exactly." she whispered, "Megabyte’s gone!"

TOM: So he regained consciousnessness, figured out where he was, planned what to do, and snuck out under cover of day, all in about sixteen seconds.

>
> * * * * * * * *
> * * *
>

JOEL: [ Singing ] Well, she was …

> Part Seventeen

JOEL: [ Continuing ] — you know what I mean —

>
> Megabyte stood silently, surveying the land that spread before
> him.

TOM: Most people don’t know this, but Megabyte’s a top geologist.

> He had never seen anything like this. *Quite strange.*

CROW: Megabyte tries to comprehend an Eckart.

> he
> thought, as he inspected the horizon. Carrie’s hometown [ … ] was
> a small place, dominated by empty feilds, even though she lived in
> what was considered the heart of the town, closest to the small
> shopping mall.

TOM: It’s not so much a town as it is the setting *for* a town.

> Even from here, Megabyte could hear people and
> laughter. Turning, he headed toward the source of the noises.
>

CROW: That’s a pretty loud mall.

TOM: Both of Canada’s rowdy guys are there today.

> Carrie and Bob raced upstairs. "MOM!?!" Carrie shouted,

JOEL: Wait, that’s not his name, it was …

> "DAD!?!

JOEL: Yeah, that’s it … or, wait, was it …

> Anybody!?!"

JOEL: They’ll have to answer me now!

> She ran into the kitchen

JOEL: Oh, no sense waiting.

> to find a note on the
> table.

CROW: Dear Carrie: Saw you drawn into computer, couldn’t pass up chance, goodbye forever — hey, wait!

> *Dear Mouse, we decided to out to dinner, and when we couldn’t
> find you, we figured you’d gone to see Bob.

TOM: But you don’t know anyone named Bob, so we worried about you. We hope it’s just a phase.

> We’ll be back by nine
> o’clock. There’s leftover pizza in the fridge for you. Love Mom.*
> Carrie sighed. "Thank goodness!" she said.

CROW: She’s at that awkward age where she needs her parents, but is embarassed to be in the same fan fiction with them.

> She looked at Bob, and he
> gave her a puzzled look. "How did they know you’d end up in
> Mainframe?" Carrie giggled.

TOM: It was a lucky guess.

> "Not you, silly!" she said, "My best
> friend!

JOEL: Bob Bobbobbobovich.

> His name is Robert T. Gardien,

TOM: Famed for Crockett’s Victory Gardien.

> but everybody calls him Bob!"

CROW: I wonder what the ‘T’ stands for.

> Bob smiled "Bob T. _Gardien_?" he said, "And I just happen to be Bob
> the _Gaurdian_? No coincedence, right?"

TOM: Heh heh heh heh heh … I don’t get it.

> Carrie blushed. "If you’re
> ego gets any bigger," she teased, "you won’t fit in my house!"

JOEL: How’s he going to fit back in her computer?

> Then
> she grabbed his hand. "Come on!" she said, "We still have to find
> Megabyte!!"

TOM: He’s in the living room watching "The Raccoons."

>
> Before she left, she turned to the fridge. "Oh, just a sec."

JOEL: She needs to leave it a few instructions before she goes. [ As Carrie ] Ahem. Stay cool. There, that’ll do.

> she said, tugging the door open. "I’m hungry."

CROW: Forget saving the world! I want a Tim Horton’s doughnut!

> She pulled out a pizza
> box with the Pizza Hut symbol emblazened on it.

JOEL: Hey, product placement.

TOM: On second thought, let’s try starving to death.

> She put it on the
> table and opened it. "Yumm!" she said, "Full toppings! My fave!!"

JOEL: Toppings’ll make us sleepy.

> She pulled out a peice and took an enormous bite out of it. As she
> chewed enthusiastically, Bob looked down at the contents of the box.

CROW: That’s … not … pepperoni.

> "What’s that?" he asked. Carrie started to choke, swallowed hard,
> then started to laugh.

TOM: It’s funny ’cause it’s pizza.

> "You don’t know what a pizza is?" She asked
> him, surprised. "No." Bob said.

CROW: Think of it as a "Burger Time" gone horribly wrong.

> "Remember, you never had an energy
> shake, either."

JOEL: Shouldn’t she be eating Canadian 2-for-1 Pizza instead?

> Carrie blushed again. Then she offered her peice to
> him. "Wanna try some?" she asked.

TOM: How can a computer guy not live on pizza and Mountain Dew?

JOEL: He eats a lot of Thai.

> Bob took it gingerly, then, took a
> bite the same way Carrie had. She smiled as Bob closed his eyes in
> pleasure.

CROW: The warm and tender moment is interrupted only briefly by the screams of Megabyte’s victims.

> When he had swallowed it, he opened his eyes and looked
> into hers. "That’s delicious!!" He said, and Carrie giggled. "I knew
> you’d like it!" She said. She grabbed another peice, "Let’s go."

JOEL: And, hey — let’s be careful out there.

>
> As they entered her backyard, they could hear noises coming
> from the area of the mall. "Oh no!!" Carrie shouted,

TOM: Augustus has fallen into the gloop!

> "He must have
> gone over there! It’s the Carnival this weekend!!"

CROW: They’re just celebrating the idea of malls.

> She turned to
> Bob. "There’s got to be tons of kids over there!!"

JOEL: Cumulatively, anyway, sure.

> Bob put his hands
> on his hips, and looked over at the mall.

TOM: I’m Hans Christian Anderson!

> He could see the midway
> rides and could hear the people laughing and shouting.

CROW: It’s terrible! They’re celebrating Marlboro Day! And it’s not Marlboro!

> "Glitch," he
> said, raising his left arm, only to find nothing there. "Glitch!?!"

JOEL: Uh, more like minor blooper, thanks.

> Carrie turned to find Bob looking at her, worry etched into his face.
> "Where’s Glitch?" He said. Carrie looked at the empty spot above his
> left wrist.

CROW: Shouldn’t there be a hand there?

> "I don’t know." She said. "Wait! What’s in your pocket?"

TOM: Twenty-two cents, an unidentified key and three pieces of string.

> Bob reached into his pocket, and pulled out what looked like a tiny
> computer.

CROW: Awww…

TOM: Oh, it’s so cute at that age!

CROW: Bet it wants its mommy.

> It was grey and black with the word ‘Glitch’ inscribed on
> it in metallic blue. "Glitch?" Bob asked, and the little computer
> beeped almost cheerfully.

JOEL: I hope we get to see it grow up into an Artoo droid.

> "Well," Carrie said, "Now I know what
> Glitch looks like in my world, too."

TOM: Yup.

CROW: Sure do.

TOM: There’s no gainsaying the obvious.

> Bob smiled, and put Glitch back
> in his pocket. "O.K.," he said, taking Carrie’s hand, much to her
> delight. "Let’s go!" and they headed towards the mall.

JOEL: [ Picking up TOM ] Oh, let’s just go to Borders instead.

[ TOM, JOEL, and CROW exit. ]

[ COMMERCIAL BREAK ]

[ to continue … ]

Reposted: The Fourteenth Talkartoon: Mysterious Mose, perhaps Betty Boop’s first showing


As mentioned in the original text, I have to skip the 13th Talkartoon, Accordion Joe, as it’s not generally available. Now, though, we’re back in the cartoons I remember extremely well from having the Complete Betty Boop Cartoons VHS collection in the 90s. Bimbo gets a great showing here, possibly his best showing as a character capable of strange, surreal, fluid and logic-defying stunts.


I can’t do the thirteenth Talkartoon, not for want of will. That one, Accordion Joe, is not technically a lost cartoon. The UCLA film library has prints of the title. But that’s as good as lost for someone like me who isn’t near Los Angeles and can’t be bothered to, like, try finding a copy. So we move on to the next.

I’ve enjoyed the last several Talkartoons, no question. They’ve been nice discoveries, cartoons I had never seen before, or not seen in so long I’d forgotten them. This week’s is different. It’s one I know well. She’s not named in it, and she’s still not quite found her right model yet. But it’s got Betty Boop. And unlike her previous outings, she’s the protagonist, at least for the first half of the cartoon. For the first time she’s important to the goings-on. From the 26th of December, 1930, and animated by Willard Bowsky, Ted Sears, and (Wikipedia says) Grim Natwick, here’s Mysterious Mose.

This is almost the type case for a minigenre of cartoons the Fleischers would do: the surreal adventure set to a jazzy tune. Here the tune is Mysterious Mose, which Wikipedia tells me was a new song in 1930. I had assumed it was a folk song given new form. Live and learn, if all goes well.

These cartoons-set-to-jazz include some of the best of the decade, or of all time. They would give us beauties like Minnie the Moocher — apparently some of the earliest known footage of Cab Calloway performing — and Snow White. And lesser but still fantastic pieces like Popeye’s Me Musical Nephews. I don’t have a good idea why a surreal jazz cartoon works so reliably. I understand classical music playing well against cartoons: the strong structure gives the chaos of the cartoon more room to play. A good jazz piece has the illusion of a looser structure, though, so what is the cartoon playing against? I suppose you could argue that the apparent freedom of a jazz piece harmonizes well with the apparent visual freedom of the cartoon. But that seems like we’re getting near an unfalsifiable hypothesis. On the other hand, maybe it’s just that animated cartoons go well with both classically-structured music and the strong beat of this kind of jazz (and swing, come to think of it).

So the cartoon is great throughout. It starts out nice and creepy, the proto-Betty sitting up in bed surrounded by mysterious noises. And haunted! I’m not sure if we need to see Betty put her blanket over an invisible creature in her bed three times, but it is such a solid gag I can’t fault them doing it. It’s a neat bit of business and I don’t think I could resist.

I’m not sure that I like Betty Boop’s nightshirt flying off twice. I’ve been getting less amused by women left vulnerable. But it’s as close as they probably dared to having her be frightened out of her skin. And for the early, most normally scary parts, vulnerability is emotionally correct.

Halfway through Bimbo shows up, as Mysterious Mose. And more strongly the screwball character I’ve realized he was in his early days. We lose the spookiness as Bimbo brings a string of inventive weirdness in. And then even Bimbo fades out of the protagonist’s role, as stuff gets crazier without him until he takes drastic action with a tuba. I think all the jokes work, but it does reach a point where there’s no longer narrative. We don’t necessarily need narrative, but it does leave the cartoon without a good reason to end now rather than a minute sooner or later, other than that the song’s run long enough.

Take your pick for the body-horror joke of the cartoon. There’s plenty of choice. I’d probably take the cat who recovers from being smacked by turning into nine cats, or the chain of fish that turn into a caterpillar. There’s also Betty’s toes growing faces and arms to hug each other. The shadow of Mysterious Mose popping his head off and bouncing it. Then slipping in through the keyhole and snipping his own shadow off. Mose moving so much by turning into an ink dot and changing the shape of that mounted moose head. A couple mice show up, around 4:55 in, to add to the music and signal the action getting out of Bimbo’s lead for a minute.

There’s a nice blink-and-you-miss-it joke, at about 3:50. It’s when Betty’s heart flutters out and over to Bimbo, and Bimbo’s heart reaches out to grab it. Bimbo’s heart is wearing a robber’s eyemask. Great touch.

I’d thought that while scared Betty’s eyes spiralled, a use of this effect for something other than “character is being hypnotized”. I was wrong, though. They’re just flashing in concentric circles. Well, it looked like an eye spiral initially.

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? What happened to Randy Parker? June – August 2021


Randy Parker had taken his daughter Charlotte and disappeared, at the urging of ex(?)-wife April, last time. This to foil a vaguely-reasoned CIA plot to murder Randy and Charlotte to flush April out of hiding. We have seen nothing of Randy and Charlotte and April since then. We don’t even know that they got away and that the evil CIA plan failed. That doesn’t mean their disappearance hasn’t devastated the rest of the cast. And that’s been much of the focus the past three months.

So this should catch you up on Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker to the end of August 2021. If you’re reading this after about November 2021, or any news about the comic breaks out, you may find a more useful essay here. And now, to recap what has gone on.

Judge Parker.

6 June – 28 August 2021.

Some, more inclined to snark than I am, will say nothing happened. Hardly so, but I’ll grant that much of the last twelve weeks read like setting up for new things to happen. These things divide into four major focuses and I’ll take them as separate pieces.

First: Neddy Spencer. Her plans to hang around Los Angeles and someday find a place get kicked up when Ronnie Huerta and Kat get engaged. Which makes it even harder for her to keep crashing at Huerta’s place. She picks out a “beautiful little 1930s Hollywood-style bungalow apartment” that’s not guaranteed to not be haunted. As her first visitor, Huerta points out Spencer has been doing Los Angeles stuff for three years and not had a romance plot yet. So I’m looking forward to Neddy Spencer finding whoever is the exact opposite of Funky Winkerbean main character Les Moore.

Ronnie Huerta, toasting: 'Get this --- our series is premiering this November! Right after Thanksgiving!' Neddy Spencer: 'Our show about a murdered actress, assassins, and a drug lord is being pitched as a holiday show?' Huerta: 'No, no, I mean, I hope they don't mean that. Huh ... Maybe we should ask if we can get a peek at the marketing ... ' Spencer: 'Either way, that does deserve a toast.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 28th of August, 2021. Oh, also, the show that Neddy and Ronnie Huerta pitched is actually made and airing. Remember they wrote it under April Parker’s direction to tell The Truth About Her Life. And they (as would make sense) lost control of the series and had little but a created-by credit for it. Still, that’s great work for them. And it sets up a new conflict with April Parker, if she gets out of Secret CIA Jail.

Second: Alan Parker, original Judge of the strip, and Sam Driver, who took over the comic in the 60s. Alan’s been hit hard by the loss of his son and granddaughter, finding comfort in drink and misanthropy. He also blames Sam Driver for not doing something to keep Randy out of CIA Jail or a Norton plot or whatever. Driver pushes his way back into Parker’s life, arguing that they need a mission and he has a useful one. This in forming a new law partnership, one that can sue Cavelton Mayor Sanderson for gentrifying the people out of the city. Parker, in time, accepts. And it gives him a new energy and purpose.

Mayor Sanderson, ranting: 'What was that? I'm blindsided at my own press conference by a baseless lawsuit?! FROM DRIVER AND PARKER OF ALL PEOPLE?!' Stewart: 'We can --- ' Sanderson: 'Did you know anything about this, Stewart?!' Stewart: 'Um, I found out in the middle of your press conference ... ' Sanderson: 'From who?!' Stewart: 'Someone on my staff texted me.' Sanderson: 'So why didn't they tell ME directly?' Stewart: 'Because you told everyone to go through me so you wouldn't have to deal with them.' Sanderson: 'So you're saying it's my fault I'm out of the loop. Real classy, Stewart.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 25th of July, 2021. So you feel a bit for Stewart as we’ve all had to deal with a person who interacts like this with everyone. But he did decide he wants to be Deputy to this Mayor. I am interested how we’ve several times seen him noticing the boss is nuts but without (so far as we know) taking any effective action.

Their first lawsuit starts great. They file on behalf of tenants arguing they were wrongly evicted so Sanderson could sell property to a corporate donor. This catches Sanderson off-guard at a press conference. And it lets Deputy Mayor Stewart add to his collection of faces of pouty concern.

Third: Sophie Spencer. She’s facing a second year at college having made no friends in New York City. And her only serious friend in Cavelton is Honey Ballenger, who she hasn’t been talking with much. Ballenger calls, though, and they reconnect. Partly over lunch, more over early-morning jogging. They never meant to stop talking, they just lost the power to call the other first. It’s a feeling I know and I wasn’t even ever kidnapped by Abbey Spencer’s previously-unknown half-sister. One early-morning jog they’re almost run off the road by fire trucks, heading …

The top, throwaway, row is Sophie Spencer crying 'Nooooo!!!' The main Sunday panel is a single picture of fire crews working on a massive fire destroying Abbey Spencer's bed-and-breakfast.
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 8th of August, 2021. The local news mentioned (16 August) the fire as “captured on multiple cell phones”. But it was also a fire that started during Sophie and Honey Ballenger’s 5 am run, and in a place that’s out of town. Who were all the people with cell phones? It’s possible that’s a plot point for development. Or it could be that a massive fire lasting for hours with smoke visible from miles away drew onlookers. In theory, I suppose.

Fourth: Abbey Spencer. Her bed-and-breakfast, made out of converting (part of?) the horse barn, has been a money pit, from doing the renovations and from opening at the start of the pandemic. Indeed, its first event — a rally for Alan Parker’s mayoral campaign — brought Covid-19 to Cavelton (17 August). So is it a good thing that the whole structure burned to the ground in a catastrophe that hurt no person (or horse)? Is it a suspicious thing? Mayor Sanderson was happy to assert, on TV, that the city would investigate every reason Abbey might burn the place down for the insurance money (18 August). We have yet to see what caused the fire, or that it was the CIA trying to make Randy Parker’s family suffer enough that he turns in April Parker. Or that something else happened. (Now I like the notion that Randy and all have been in Secret CIA Jail as we assumed April’s super-spy super-skills got them super-out of super-trouble.)

And this is where we stand at the end of August.

Next Week!

Time and space travel! A secret discovery at the Apollo 11 landing site! All this and video games as I look at Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop next week, all going well. And yes, ordinarily I’d be looking at The Amazing Spider-Man. I’m bumping that a little bit so I can cover the end of the Rocket Raccoon story and, so, have a neat wrap-up to the What’s Going On In Spider-Man series. Not to spoil things too completely, but Spider-Man and Rocket Raccoon save the Earth.

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