MiSTed: Safe Fun for Halloween (Part 4 of 4)

And now for the close of this seasonal re-airing of the “Safe Fun For Halloween” MiSTing. (I’ll get back to my 60s Popeye encore tomorrow or so.) The whole of the series is collected here. Proposed as “safe fun” were activities like giving your friends electric shocks, blackening their eyes, sitting them on collapsing chairs, and stirring up confetti blizzards. Today’s stunts of making people listen to the Monster Mash seem rather socially respectable in comparison.

A Day In The Life Of Dennis Day was a radio sitcom starring Dennis Day. It was pretty much the same show as Mel Blanc’s Fix-It Shop, except Dennis Day does a song every episode and has some extremely long segment where he does a funny foreign accent. If we’re lucky it’s comedy French or German or Russian or something. If we’re not, he’s trying to do a Chinese guy and it is so cringeworthy. Stick with the Fix-It Shop.

> Ideas for Halloween costumes are pictured in Figures 9 and 10.

TOM:Let me guess: executioners and axe murderers?

> The frog suit is an ordinary union suit dyed a light green,

CROW: For everyone who’s got extra union suits laying around.

> with
> dark green cloth spots sewed or cemented on.

TOM: Cemented on, so your friend can sleep with the fishes.

MIKE: That *concrete* you’re thinking of, not *cement*.

TOM: Thanks ever so for saving me from my snarky ignorance.

> Cardboard,
> plywood, wire and doth are all that is necessary to make the
> turtle costume.

CROW: Or every movie we’ve ever seen.

> By cutting the back halves as indicated and
> joining along the ridge with adhesive tape, a very convincing
> shell can be made.

MIKE: Do it fast, before Roger Corman makes a movie out of you.

> The anchor is simply made of plywood and
> cardboard,

TOM: For those ‘floating’ and ‘falling apart in water’ properties every anchor needs.

> and the wearer should be clad in trunks and have
> tattoo figures on arms and legs painted with harmless coloring,

CROW: Harmless? Why start on harmless *now*?

> such as fruit juice.

MIKE: Or strychnine. Sheesh.

TOM: Time to blow this popsicle stand.

MIKE: [ Picking up TOM ] Mercifully.

[ ALL exit. ]

[ 1… ]

[ 2… ]

[ 3… ]

[ 4… ]

[ 5… ]

[ 6… ]

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. The desk. TOM, MIKE, and CROW are behind it; the decor is much as before, but a bowl of almonds wrapped in aluminum foil is on the desk. ]


CROW: [ Calling, as in the introduction ] MIKE!

MIKE: Bowl of tin foil to chew on, I saw the “dance floor” of greased roller bearings you wanted, and yet, you come out of this party pranking activity with what thoughts?

TOM: I ended up wondering how your grandparents survived to the age of marriage.

CROW: Heck, how did they survive to the age of six?

TOM: Yeah, I mean, magazines telling everyone how to kill each other in wacky party games?

CROW: No concept of avoiding nutritional deficiencies when you ate mounds of butter slathered on fried lard.

MIKE: Wait, that —

TOM: Trolley cars running at 35 miles an hour through packed city streets, never stopping or slowing down except when the piled-up corpses derail the train.

CROW: Black death sweeping across the continent because you won’t stop rubbing rat corpses in your eyes.

MIKE: That was like the 14th century and it didn’t happen.

CROW: Parents figuring the only time they had to touch their kids was for spanking and one handshake when they turned 14 and could drop out of school to throw hay into steam locomotives until the railroad police caught them.

TOM: Feeling a little off? Drink some mercury and drain a gallon of blood.

CROW: Dennis Day starring in _A Day In The Life Of Dennis Day_.

MIKE: OK, at this point I don’t even know what point you’ve wandered away *from*.

TOM: Well, fortunately, humans have robots now, so you don’t have to be stupid on your own.

MIKE: We can be stupid together.

CROW: Yes, and let’s make that our New Year’s Resolution.

TOM: Agreed!

MIKE: [ Shaking his head ] Sure. Thanks, everyone, and from the Satellite of Love, let’s all look into the New Year being a little less stupid together.

TOM: Yay!

[ MIKE pushes the button; the screen blanks out to … ]

CROW: [ Calling ] MIKE!

                            \   |   /
                             \  |  /
                              \ | /
                              / | \
                             /  |  \
                            /   |   \

Mystery Science Theater 3000, its characters and situations and everything are the property of Best Brains, Inc, and don’t think anyone is challenging that at all. The original article is used in what is honestly thought to be a spirit of fair comment and clean sportsmanship.

However you remember the Rankin/Bass special to be, it’s actually a weirder thing than you remember. And let’s be carful out there.

> The result is a sudden shock which is surprising but
> not harmful.

[ The End ]

Statistics Saturday: Some Old-Time Candies

  • Milk Choc-O-La
  • Squirrel Nut Fasteners
  • $75,000 Candy Bar
  • Thos A Edison’s Adequate Peanut Lumps
  • O Henry Senior
  • Quaker Trustworthy Chac-a-lot-a-luck
  • Fordson Model R Tri-Toffees
  • Cup-o’-the-Mallow
  • Patent Taffy
  • Boston Standard Redi-Bake Beans
  • M’s &c
  • Electro-liquorice

Reference: All The Best Rubbish: Being An Antiquary’s Account of the Pleasures and Perils of Studying and Collecting Everyday Objects from the Past, Ivor Noël Hume.

MiSTed: Safe Fun for Halloween (Part 3 of 4)

To continue the Halloween Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction fun, here’s another segment of a Popular Mechanics article from 1936, “Safe Fun For Halloween”.

The whole of the series is collected here. What we saw in the first two parts was a lot of stunts to shock, embarrass, or humiliate partygoers visiting your house for what will be the last time. It only feels like all these stunts are about getting your friends to touch exposed electrical wires.

Uneeda Biscuits were the first big hit product for the newly-merged National Biscuit Company. It had the winning slogan “Lest you forget, we say it yet, Uneeda Biscuit” which is pretty darned snappy for 1898. They were still making Uneeda Biscuits up to about a decade ago. They were sort of like a fat club cracker. Cottolene was a brand of shortening and one of the first mass-produced alternates to lard.

> Figure 4 shows an elaboration of the popular “grab-bag” idea.

CROW: So we just jumped out of order for Figure 11?

> In this case a large carton is equipped with three shelves,
> which fold up against the sides of the box, giving free access
> to the favors for guests in the bottom.

TOM: Ah, the giddy fun of playing The Refrigerator Game.

MIKE: Now that your friend’s inside the cardboard fridge, close the door up and abandon him in a junkyard to suffocate!

> Lights are arranged so
> that the inside of the box is dark.

CROW: Arrange the lights so they’re not on the inside. Got it.

> After two or three
> merrymakers have drawn prizes from the box, an attendant “in
> the know” lets down one of the shelves by means of a concealed
> string.

MIKE: Dropping a 16-ton anvil on your so-called friend.

> This shelf may have on it a shallow pan of lard, or a
> sheet of paper coated with lampblack or graphite and oil,

TOM: Whale blubber and bauxite.

CROW: Uneeda biscuits and cottolene!

MIKE: Greased slime and detonator caps!

> or red
> grease—anything that will not flow when the shelf is in the
> vertical position.

MIKE: What do you have in congealed blood?

> In the laughter which follows the victim’s
> predicament,

CROW: The shrieking, howling laughter of the mad.

> the attendant draws up the shelf and another guest
> is invited to draw from the box,

MIKE: He tears out a fistful of hair.

TOM: Maybe rip off a nose or two.

> this one of course brings out a
> favor.

CROW: A nose or two?

> Eventually the other two shelves are let down to provoke
> more laughter.

TOM: This is in case your parties don’t end in enough brawls.

> A collapsible chair can easily be made from a common kitchen
> chair,

MIKE: And set up above your conveniently available tiger pit.

> and, if others of the same design are placed in the room,
> the tricky one will not be noticeable.

TOM: Apart from how everyone who has dinner with you, dies.

> Remove the legs and
> round off both ends as in Figure 6.

CROW: Figure 5 was lost in a tragic “collapsible Linotype” prank.

> They are then joined in two
> pairs consisting of one front and one back leg connected with a
> rung.

MIKE: The rung snaps open, releasing cyanide gas.

> Coil springs, concealed inside of thin tubes are
> substituted for the front and rear rungs.

TOM: Sure, for *this* we have springs.

> The tubes should fit into the holes formerly occupied by the
> rungs, and are painted to resemble them.

MIKE: You sneer, but this is how the Italian resistance
got Mussolini.

> As soon as a guest
> sits on the chair the tubes pull out and the chair sprawls.
> Strong tension springs should be used.

CROW: Grab a tube and beat your friend even more senseless!

> A most surprising effect is afforded by the “X-ray” helmet
> shown in Figure 7.

TOM: Here, we put 500,000 roentgens into your friend’s brain.

> This, briefly, is a cardboard box with two
> mirrors arranged to throw the vision directly behind.

MIKE: Painted with radium.

> The user
> of the helmet will have the strange sensation of seeing what
> appears to be the foreground receding from him as he progresses,

CROW: He’ll never suspect unless he’s ever looked at a thing before.

> and although there may appear to be an open door ahead, more
> likely he will fetch up against a wall.

TOM: Cover the wall in foot-long pointed daggers.

MIKE: ‘Fetch up’? Did people back then just not know what words mean?

> For a confetti blizzard,

CROW: Only at Dairy Queen.

MIKE: The best 15,000 calories of your between-meal snacks.

> an electric fan is rigged as shown in
> Figure 8. This also can be operated by an extension switch.

TOM: Jab your friend’s fingers into the spinning blades.

> Make a large cardboard cylinder to fit over the fan frame,

CROW: Man, you could do everything with cardboard in the 30s.

MIKE: Also cylinders.

> paste
> a disk of tissue over the front end, just enough to hold it
> until the blast strikes it,

MIKE: Stand out of the way of the shock waves.

> and then fill the space half full of
> confetti.

TOM: No, no, only half. Six-elevenths would be too much!

> When the unwary guest steps in front of the fan, he
> is deluged with a shower of confetti.

CROW: So, this article. Here. This explains the irony of people who read _Popular Mechanics_ magazine not being popular, right?

TOM: Also not being mechanics.

MIKE: Also not being magazines.

CROW: Yeah, that … what?

[ To continue … ]

MiSTed: Skippy’s Mom (part 9 of 12)

It’s two-thirds of the way through “Skippy’s Mom”, a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction fresh to you from I think it’s got to be 1999 or so. The whole of the series should be at this link.

The discovery of a letter from Skippy’s Mom reveals that she can’t be Rita. Runt, with the help of Abu the monkey, finds his true mother, Romana, living alone in the desert and talking in wacky non sequiturs but not in the funny way. And now it’s a race to get her back to her son before he goes on to life as a kitten.

A binturong is a big civet-like creature from Southeast Asia. They smell like popcorn. Or, since binturongs evolved long before humans domesticated maize, I suppose popcorn smells like binturongs. It’s weird either way. And you see another of my riffs on “if Woody had gone straight [ sic ] to the police”. The Marrissa Picard line refers to Stephen Ratliff’s epic series of Star Trek fan fictions, in which Picard’s daughter ascends high in the Star Fleet Admiralty thanks to a suspicious number of explosions among key people. “Bunnie Rabbot” is from some of the Sonic the Hedgehog shows, and the riff seems weirdly mean since it’s not like it’s that bad a name. I think the line about folding an acorn is ripped from a late-50s Peanuts series where Linus tries folding potato chips or crackers or stuff that won’t fold. The line about being stuffed into Pinky and the Brain references that time they made Pinky, Elmyra and The Brain For Some Reason.

The line about the huge bomb prompted one of my all-time favorite riffs. Now and then I get the voice of one of the Brains.

> Epilogue
> ——–
> Runt and Slappy arrived back with Romana to find everyone else asleep.

CROW: I think that’s a typing school exercise.

> "This way.." Slappy said quietly, tiptoeing past Abu sleeping on the
> couch and into the spare room.

TOM: Which is where they keep all their tires.

> Skippy was snuggled next to Rita in a large padded basket.
> "Skippy…" Romana whispered.
> Skippy stirred in the basket,

JOEL: Added flour, sugar, and cinnamon; baked for 25 minutes. Served six.

> he groaned gently and opened his eyes.
> He stared up at the strange squirrel.
> "Skippy!" Romana shouted running towards Skippy (in slow motion natch!)

CROW: Well, dur.

> "MOM!!" Skippy shouted in return then he also started to run towards
> Romana.
> On the way there Skippy was engulfed in a bright flash of light,

TOM: You know, this was always my favorite scene in ‘His Girl Friday.’

> when
> the light cleared he was a squirrel yet again.
> Romana and Skippy met in the middle

ALL: Bonk!

> and gave each other a huge hug.
> "So why you been a cat?!" Romana asked.

JOEL: Why aren’t you a binturong, like God and Tex Avery intended?

> "That was the hospitals fault, they said my INK was that of a cat…."
> Skippy cried angrily.

TOM: [ Authoritative Voice ] If Skippy had gone straight to the police, this would never have happened.

> Slappy looked slightly evily at the mention of the hospital…
> The next morning the hospital which had given Skippy the INK test had
> mysterousily blown up into several thousand peices,

JOEL: Oh, great, now Marrissa Picard will be in charge of Starfleet *forever*.

> fortunatly there was
> a big warning and nobody was hurt (well nobody that wasn’t already
> hurt..)

CROW: And that makes it all O.K.

> "Hi I’m Mary Hartless

TOM: I wonder if she was named by the same committee that came up with "Bunnie Rabbot."

> and you join me live at the 5th Burbank toon
> hospital where last night a huge bomb went off,

JOEL: People got big for blocks in every direction.

> police said they have no
> leads…"

CROW: But they’re making do with the non-repro markers and light inking.

> Slappy smiled coyly at this news.
> "I guess we’ll be leaving then.." Rita said.
> "Yeah, we’re defenitly out of here!" Runt quipped.

JOEL: They have to go do…

> "Hey Aunt Slappy…" Skippy started, it was the first time in quite a
> while that Skippy had called her that.

TOM: Did you know you can’t fold an acorn?

> "Can Rita and Runt come back and visit?" Skippy finished.
> "Well that would only be fair…" Slappy replied.

CROW: Considering how they were inconvenienced by being given a home and family for a month, and now are being thrown out on the street the instant their usefulness is questionable.

> "Thanks Slappy… Thanks for everything…" Rita said.
> "I should be the one thanking you,

TOM: What with the way you tore all the labels off our canned goods and all.

> but before you go tell me; would he
> have made a good cat?"
> Rita glanced at Skippy, "Nah,

CROW: I was just stringing along his hopes to crush them later.

> he did not have the claws for it…" She
> joked. Skippy hearing this tried to pounce on Rita but she moved out of
> the way.
> "See what I mean…" Rita concluded.
> Rita and Runt left waving bye to Skippy, Slappy and Romana

JOEL: Romana mana fo fana…

> as they went.
> "And what of you Romana?" Slappy asked.

TOM: You know…

CROW: Don’t.

TOM: *Romana* … wasn’t bilked in a day!

CROW: Thank you so much.

> "Well I think I’ll try again in showbiz.." she said jokingly. "And then
> who knows…"

JOEL: Maybe they’ll throw me into "Pinky and the Brain" too.

> "You would always be welcome here…" Slappy offered.

CROW: You know, where your *child* is?

[ To continue … ]

MiSTed: Safe Fun for Halloween (Part 2 of 4)

And here’s the second part of the repeat for my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction riffing on the Popular Mechanics article “Safe Fun For Halloween”. That’s all a coherent thought, I promise. The whole of the MiSTing should be at this link. You you can read all the MiSTings that I’ve posted here at this link.

The first part suggested you invite friends over and fingerprint them. But not just that! Have the ink pad rigged to give electric shocks. What else was safe fun for Halloween in the 1930s? Read on.

> To offset suspicion, it is a good idea to place
> the left-hand electrode under a tablecloth.

TOM: Plus, the tablecloth helps you cover up the fried corpse.

> Direct contact with
> the metal is not necessary.

CROW: Just ramp it up to 186,000 volts there, Tesla.

> A long strip of metal along the
> edge of the table is better than a small plate

MIKE: As it’s a much easier cudgel to wave about.

> as any one seated
> at the table naturally rests the left hand somewhere along the
> edge.

TOM: [ In a nerdy voice, as the Victim ] “Do you electrocutify *all* your friends?” [ Whimper ]

> Another shocking episode, which may take place right on the
> “welcome” mat,

MIKE: [ Making air quotes ] “Welcome” mat.

TOM: No solicitors or emergency medical technicians. Thank you.

> is shaking hands with the “ghost host” who is
> a head taller than anyone in the party. See Figure 11.

CROW: Figures 2 through 10 omitted for the giddy fun of it.

> He
> stands near the entrance and extends his hand to the guest who

TOM: … who foolishly came to the party not expecting to struggle for his life.

> takes hold of a cloth glove having four wiggly coil-spring
> fingers.

MIKE: Ah, the Six Dollar And Thirty-Nine Cent Man.

CROW: Hey, in the Depression that was a lot of money.

> These and a metal door mat are the electrodes, and are
> connected to a vibrating coil or a toy shocking machine operated
> by someone behind the ghost.

TOM: I just think it indecent this is how they killed Bruno Hauptmann.

> The ghost has pearly eyes, which
> look as if they were suspended in void space of an empty hood.

CROW: [ As the Victim ] “I’m haunted by Muppets!”

> The next job to get the records straight is mugging.

MIKE: First, fashion your brass knuckles and find a stick as in Figure 24.

> This is
> done in a semidarkened room with a cardboard camera as in Figure
> 2.

CROW: A cardboard camera?

TOM: Yeah, my kid made it in second-grade art class. You get a Polaroid from it by drawing with magic markers.

> The startling effect comes when the light is suddenly
> flashed and a cap pistol is fired at the same instant.

MIKE: Ha ha! Now you’ve shot your friend in the face!

> After
> this, everything tried on the newcomer will be looked upon with
> great suspicion

CROW: [ As the Victim ] “Well, the mugging and the electrocution may have been accidents but *now* I suspect something’s up.”

> but he may be convinced to observe Mars without
> a shock or a scare.

TOM: Yeah, heck, why not?

MIKE: In the 30s you could not lose money asking people to observe Mars.

> He will actually see something through the
> enchanted telescope, pictured in Figure 3.

CROW: Now we’re on Figure 3?

MIKE: The “enchanted telescope”.

TOM: [ As the Victim ] “Are we entering your magic fantasy land?”

> When the star gazer
> first puts it to his eye he sees nothing, and is told to revolve
> it until he does.

MIKE: Ooh hoo.

TOM: I smell the bubbling-over of wacky.

> The eyepiece has a felt rim dipped in
> lampblack, which leaves an interesting ring around the eye.

CROW: Lampblack?

MIKE: Yeah, you know, so you don’t have those pesky “bright” lights.

> However, the victim has his reward for with one complete
> revolution of the telescope,

TOM: I have the sad feeling this isn’t just gonna be a ring around the eyeball.

CROW: I’m stuck on ‘lampblack’ still.

MIKE: It’s for offensive minstrel show light bulbs. Move on.


> a swinging switch lever makes
> contact

TOM: Well, of *course* it does.

> and a small light inside reveals a witch or comic
> figure.

MIKE: And a 75,000-volt discharge right into the corneas!

> To make the telescope, use a mailing tube about 14
> inches long and 2-1/2 inches in diameter.

CROW: Like the dozens you have around your house already.

> Cardboard partitions
> hold the lamp bulb and the revolving switch, which are joined by
> a copper strip.

MIKE: Won’t they notice the little witch figure hanging off the front of the telescope?

> The switch must work freely. By making the
> tube in two parts, the assembly is easy.

TOM: Would it be even easier if I made it in four parts?

CROW: No! That way lies madness!

> Paper wrapped around
> it completes the joint. Four bands of black paper are wrapped
> around the telescope to make the sooty eyepiece less
> conspicuous.

MIKE: The lampblack doesn’t seem to be an important part of this.

[ To continue … ]

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? What’s with the witchcraft lately? August – October 2022

This year’s seen Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant leaning into the witchcraft. At least the supernatural-women side of things. This, in large part, is from focusing more on Morgan Le Fay, a choice I understand. As a character she opens a lot of strange, weird story possibilities. And it shores up Prince Valiant’s taking place in the time of King Arthur, like the title panel used to tell us.

I’m less sure I like the current story, which has a woman captured by a witch-hunter. I don’t dispute this kind of thing happened. (And I’m aware the story is much distorted in the popular culture, of which Prince Valiant is part. In particular, witch-hunting mostly happened in what we call the Renaissance or early Enlightenment.) But I start out uncomfortable with stories about witch-hunting in a setting that posits witches actually exist. The historical lesson of witch-hunting is about how authoritarian group-think targets the helpless. This often with heavy doses of misogyny and racism. Adding in a layer of “also they kept missing the real ones” needs to be done with thought. So far I feel Schultz and Yeates are aware of this. The text is explicit this witch-hunting craze is Camelot’s population going wrong and the characters are coming to realize it.

Since my pre-roll started with a downer let me try fixing the mood. First, a puzzle on the old game show Whew! rebroadcast the other day mentioned how Prince Valiant is a Viking. That’s … I mean, a little like calling Cotton Mather an American writer but let’s allow it for the sake of only experts knowing what to call pre-Viking cultures. This does mean that if I had a nickel for every time the story of a wholesome Viking family became the subject of a long-running syndicated American newspaper comic strip, I’d have two nickels. Which, like the kids say, isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it happened twice.

And Prince Valiant got a bit of screen time and amazing trivia in this Sunday’s Thatababy comic. Thought you’d want to see that too.

Thatababy addressing the audience that after a recent strip mentioning Beetle Bailey, people wrote in with the trivia about how Beetle Bailey's sister is Lois from Hi and Lois. So Thatababy reveals things their research crue has discovered, including: Prince Valiant, Hagar, and Rodney (B.C.) attended the same high school, with a picture of them all on the football team. Also: Alley Oop, B.C., and Barney Rubble were college roommates! And Judge Parker, Rex Morgan, Gil Thorp, and Mary Worth 'were entwined in a sordid love quadrangle'.
Paul Trap’s Thatababy for the 23rd of October, 2022. Yes, I’m keeping panels in reserve for my Alley Oop, Judge Parker, Rex Morgan, Mary Worth, and Gil Thorp plot recaps.

So now let’s catch you up to late October 2022 in Prince Valiant. If you’re reading this after about December 2022 I should have a more current essay here.

Prince Valiant.

7 August – 23 October 2022.

Prince Valiant’s son Nathan and the Ab’saban teen Yewubar, out late at night, saw something unsettling. Morgan Le Fay, in a glade, alongside Queen Aleta, and her daughter Maeve, queen-to-be of Camelot. Le Fay has a dire warning for the other witches: times are getting worse. There’s a fear of witchcraft coming, and all women are becoming suspect. She admits she was wrong trying to steal Prince Valiant’s mind, which is not quite an apology, but is at least something. And warns that Valiant is becoming aware of this corruption at the kingdom’s core. Then something inaudible, and the women vanish. Nathan and Yewubar run away, only for Le Fay to block them.

But all she does is warn them. Nathan is Aleta and Valiant’s son and so has her protection. Yewubar is a visitor from Africa (her father’s an emissary) and apparently strong in the craft too. So she bids them to “choose to help those in need”. This seems more reasonable on Le Fay’s part than I had gathered from that time in 2003 my eyes passed over most of the words in The Once And Future King. I don’t think she’s in it. That’s Madame Mim I’m thinking of.

Having witnessed a clandestine meet between Aleta, Maeve, and the sorceress MOrgan Le Fay, Nathan and Yewubar flee in a panic, only to find their path blocked by Morgan herself! The sorceress smiles wickedly. 'So, little spies, have you learned surprising things tonight? You are clever - but not as clever as you think ... You, boy - I know you are the son of Queen Aleta and Prince Valiant. And as such, you shall always have my protection - but you must be schooled. And you, girl - you are of the visitors from far Africa. I have studied among your bonsams, and I see that you may be strong in the craft too. Listen! Remember what you have heard here tonight ... and choose to help those in need! Now, go!' Nathan and Yewubar run as if the devil were on their heels. As Morgan looks fondly after them and muses: 'It has been a productive night. Seeds have been sown.'
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 21st of August, 2022. Yeah, I did not know that Morgan considered herself a protector of Prince Valiant’s children. I don’t have any backstory on that, I’m afraid. It’s a twist I’d love to know more about and if there’s some Price Valiant expert who could fill us in, please say something. If she’s just messing with the kids please let me know that too.

By light of day, Yewubar and Nathan debate: the heck was all that? Did they see what they thought they saw? They decide to investigate Le Fay’s castle, but get distracted on the way by a parade carrying a bound woman. The captured woman is Afton. We saw her, as Aleta, Queen of the Witches, declared her under protection, in summer 2020 our time. Afton’s partner Aubrey, following the captors, meets up with Yeubar and Nathan and shares an incredible story. She insists that the villagers were cool with her and Afton and their strange ways and knowledge far beyond the customary. But then Dialyodd, who styles himself God’s avenger, came searching for witches. That is to say, women who seemed all uppity what with not dying of famine like his sort are. While the villagers protected them, that didn’t mean Dialyodd and his followers couldn’t just kidnap them.

Dialyodd’s plan: burning at the stake in the town square. Yewubar has a plan for rescue, though. She sneaks through the crowd and spreads the bee-attracting scent used in that bee-swarming stunt we saw set up a couple months ago. So a sudden unforeseeable swarm of insects interrupts this witch-burning. Yewubar thinks she’s helping.

In a desperate plot to disrupt Afton's firey execution, Yewubar quickly moves through the crowd, opening her amulet and spreading the Queen Bee pheromones within. Very soon, swarms of excited bees appear, and panic erupts! As the crowd, including Dialyodd's henchmen, falls into chaos, Nathan grabs Audrey. 'Find Yewubar and stay together! I'll meet you back at the horses!' Then he draws his knife and runs toward Afton kicking away the just-lit woodpile beneath her before leaping onto the platform upon which she is bound! He begins slashing her ties, as the accused witch recognizes her old friend. 'No, Nathan,! Run, before ... 'but it is too late! Dialyodd's cold, quick eyes have already cut through the chaos, and seen his victim's wood-be rescuer!'
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 16th of October, 2022. I wonder what Old English word the translator decided was best rendered as ‘pheromones’.

This is all quite distracting, giving Nathan time to free Afton. But also time for Dialyodd to see Nathan, and snag him as the devil who conjured the winged demons. And that’s where we’ve gotten, which, must admit, seems like it could have gone better. But is well-timed for an October cliffhanger too.

Next Week!

When I last checked in on Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy, Earth was about to be conquered by Lunarian extremists. As we look over the comics today, a small-time gangster tries to get into a musical comedy based on an early 20th-century comic strip. How did we get here? I’ll try and explain Dick Tracy in a week, all going well.

MiSTed: Safe Fun for Halloween (Part 1 of 4)

I don’t intend to overload you with the mocking of other people’s writing. But this is the Halloween season so it’s only fair to bring back my MiSTing of “Safe Fun for Halloween”. It’s a handy guide to make sure everyone you know has an unspeakably miserable time at your parties!

The whole of this MiSTing should be available at this link when I post it all>. And the whole of all of the MiSTings I’ve posted are here.

Back in the good old days when blogging was popular Popular Mechanics’s web site reprinted ancient stuff like this, and it was often bonkers. I miss those days.

[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. The Desk. The decor is “several days past Christmas” with lingering wrapping and such cluttering the set; wrapping paper even covers the movie/commercial sign lights. TOM and CROW are behind the desk; MIKE is off-stage. ]

TOM: [ Eagerly ] Mike! Hey, Mike!

CROW: [ Gleeful ] MikeMikeMikeMikeMikeMikeMike!

TOM: C’mon, Mike, it’s important!

[ MIKE, carrying some plastic electronic gizmo that’s not working, and a screwdriver which will not improve matters, saunters on screen. ]

TOM: Mike! Mi–

MIKE: Yyyyyyes?

CROW: [ Still calling ] MikeMikeMikeMike!

[ MIKE puts a hand on CROW’s shoulder, making him stop. ]

TOM: Okay. Mike —

CROW: [ Quickly ] Mike!

TOM: Have you given any thought *what*soever into plans for our Halloween party for this year?

MIKE: It’s December 29th.

CROW: Exactly! We have to hurry!

MIKE: The 29th day of *December*.

TOM: Yes, yes, your true love gave to you and stuff. But we can’t just stand in an awkward line in front of haphazardly strewn decorations and call that a party.

CROW: [ Calling ] Mike!

MIKE: Two days to New Year’s.

CROW: So, *MIKE*, we called Pearl —

[ MIKE groans. ]

TOM: Yeah! And she promised to send us a bunch of fun ideas!

[ MIKE groans louder. ]

CROW: And, ah, it’s going to be from a _Popular Mechanics_ articlefrom, like, the Great Depression.

[ MIKE covers his head as he groans. ]

TOM: Plus we have to get into the theater and read it when movie sign goes off or else and you know what else that else is or of.

[ MIKE, face-covered, groans and doubles over. ]

CROW: And, ah, Movie Sign went off like five minutes ago so we’re in *real* trouble.

MIKE: What?!

[ MIKE puts the gizmo down and pulls the wrapping paper off the signs, which start flashing MOVIE SIGN. General alarm among the BRAINS. ]


[ 6… ]

[ 5… ]

[ 4… ]

[ 3… ]

[ 2… ]

[ 1… ]

[ THEATER. All file in. ]

MIKE: Haven’t I told you about having ideas without me?

CROW: Well … no.

TOM: You should tell us about it sometime.

> http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2011/10/28/safe-fun-for-halloween/
> SAFE FUN for HALLOWEEN (Nov, 1936)

CROW: Halloween in November! The best time of year.

MIKE: December 29th.

> Source: Popular Mechanics ( More articles from this issue )

TOM: Well, I hope so.

MIKE: There’s just the one article, thinnest edition they ever printed.

> Issue: Nov, 1936

CROW: Halloween ran a month late in 1936 because of the Depression.

MIKE: 29th day of the twelvth month.


MIKE: New, joy-less fun occupies time while leaving spoilsport parents secure.

> UPON arriving, every member of this Halloween party must be
> fingerprinted and “mugged” as regular routine for
> identification records in the archives.

TOM: Well! Already it’s a merry time.

MIKE: Last party I have planned by J Edgar Hoover and Meyer Lanski.

> The newcomer presses
> the thumb of his right hand down on the “ink pad,” for which
> purpose ordinary carbon paper will do.

CROW: Alternatively, ink pads may be used as ink pads.

TOM: Crow, that’s mad talk!

MIKE: You know, they were hard years, we had to make a single ink pad last through four years of Halloween safe fun!

> This is pasted to a
> piece of sheet metal on a small box which contains two dry cells
> and a Ford vibrating coil,

MIKE: A vibrating coil?

TOM: Man, these Model A’s were *kinky*!

> connected together as shown in Figure
> 1.

CROW: Figure omitted for clarity.

> The “guard” presses a push-button switch

TOM: Shouldn’t he *push* a push-button switch and *press* a press-button switch?

> the moment the
> guest touches the carbon paper and has his left hand on the
> table

MIKE: Oh, did I mention you need a table?

> directly over another sheet-metal plate also wired up as
> indicated.

CROW: A table and *another* sheet-metal plate? Man, fun is too complicated, this is why I like boring.

> The result is a sudden shock which is surprising but
> not harmful.

MIKE: B F Skinner sez, “That’s the Halloween for me!”

[ To continue … ]

60s Popeye: Where There’s A Will, there’s Gerald Ray

My little encore takes us back to Gerald Ray studios. I’m sorry this recently-discovered ‘Episode 42’ of King Features’s Classic Popeyes didn’t also include a Gene Deitch and a Larry Harmon short, so it could be a farewell tour of all the studios.

As it’s a Gerald Ray-produced cartoon I don’t have a story credit to gie you. Direction is credited to Bob Bemiller, who’s directed four other credited cartoons here. These include the introduction of Deezil Oyl and that remake of a Woody Woodpecker cartoon. So from 1960 here’s Where There’s A Will.

Barnacle Bilge is dead! Yes, we’re all heartbroken. But lawyer Clarence Barrow summons Popeye by phone to the reading of the will, at noon today, or he’ll be shut out of the will. Popeye volunteers to tell Brutus, also mentioned, so that they can collect whatever Bilge’s estate offers.

You, having seen cartoons before, know where this is going. Brutus launches a campaign of schemes to stop Popeye from getting there. They don’t just fail, sometimes they fail so badly Popeye doesn’t even know he’s being stopped. Despite Brutus’s best efforts, Popeye gets there anyway, and it turns out Barnacle Bilge’s fortune is worthless. Except, ah, once Brutus is kicked out of the cartoon it turns out there is a fortune after all, and now it’s all Popeye’s. (Popeye donates it to the orphans, as is his custom.)

The story outline seems like one you could do with any set of characters. Thinking it over, I don’t remember any that are quite like this, at least not in theatrical cartoons. There’s a Droopy cartoon circling similar territory (Wags to Riches, remade as Millionaire Droopy) but not quite this. I can think of a Bullwinkle story that also circles this territory (Rue Brittania) but isn’t there.

At a formal table that looks like a dinner table. Clarence Barrow the lawyer drones on, reading the will. Brutus reaches across the table, holding Popeye by the neck, readying to slug him. Brutus is holding a small can of spinach, although not for long.
Gentlemen, please! Brawling? In the great Clarence Barrow’s dining room?

There’s little about this setup that needs it to be Popeye or Brutus to work. The discovery that Bilge’s fortune is a can of spinach, and Popeye using that to beat Brutus up, is about it. Still, there’s a lot I enjoy in this short. The more I thought about what essay to write the more I liked the cartoon. The jokes may not be very deep, but they are nice and broad and goofy in a charming way. Maybe I’m an easy touch for “walk this way” gags. They seem well-aimed for the intended audience, though. And they’re well-paced. If you don’t like a joke that’s fine, they’re not lingering and there’ll be another one soon. This reflects an important insight of Jay Ward studios, that Gerald Ray — who worked on Bullwinkle — seems to have picked up. You can make a slender animation budget look like more with good editing and good voice acting.

Adult me better appreciates small jokes that I’m sure I never noticed as a child. Like the lawyer reading the will, oblivious to Popeye and Brutus knocking each other out around him. Or Brutus tossing Bilge’s can of spinach out to Popeye and us hearing the Popeye-the-sailor-man fanfare and saying he should not have done that. It’s common in Gerald Ray shorts that jokes are presented well. It helps me think fondly of the shorts after I’ve watched them, and as I think out what I want to write about them.

Statistics Saturday: Some Significant Data

Year Data
2015 287
2016 586
2017 1.415 inches
2018 677
2019 2,381 to the liter
2020 $1.00/credit, 3 for $2.00
2021 29 to 46
2022 25 or 624

Really makes you think, huh?

Reference: Symmetry: A Journey Into The Patterns Of Nature, Marcus du Sautoy.

In Which I Offer to Help Fix the United Kingdom’s Political Crisis

So. I know my well-intended offer to help Australia fix its political crisis a couple years ago didn’t draw any response. But Australia did get its political crisis figured out. At least I never hear about it anymore, although I grant that’s possibly because everyone in Australia except the guy who draws Ginger Meggs has been killed in a frightening wildfire/emu/Daylight-Saving-Time catastrophe.

Still, I’m aware the United Kingdom has been going through a crisis. I mean here the government crisis of 2022. I mean October 2022. In case something develops between when I write this and when I post this, I mean of early October 2022. I’m vague on what exactly happened myself, but if I follow it correctly it has something to do with the British public realizing that what it really wants in a prime minister is someone who’s kind of boring, and the last kind of boring person they had as prime minister had to resign after it turned out he had sex with a dead pig’s head.

Anyway. I like helping people out through their little problems. And, you know, I could use a job, even if it’s just a part-time one. So I’m extending an offer to come over and prime ministrate for a little while. Again, I figure to only head a “caretaker” government, where I won’t undertake any initiative bolder than asking if Alton Towers is still open this time of year and visiting if it wouldn’t be a bother. Maybe straightening out that numeral ‘0’ on the door at 10 Downing Street. Sorry if I just made you notice and obsess about that. But that’s as much as I figure to straighten out while the United Kingdom finds someone adequately boring who is not me. I’m boring enough for the job, understand, it’s just that I don’t want to miss out on pinball league more than I have to.

Also I think the guy who draws Ginger Meggs lives in New York City.

MiSTed: Skippy’s Mom (part 8 of 12)

We’re almost two-thirds of the way through “Skippy’s Mom”, another Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction that I finished writing somewhere in the late 90s, I’m pretty sure. The whole of the series should appear at this link.

The story so far: After an INK test confirmed Skippy Squirrel was a match for Rita the Cat, the young rodent turned into a cat and went to live with his presumptive mother. When Slappy re-reads the note Skippy’s actual mother left with the foundling, they made an astounding discovery: Rita can’t read. Runt has an idea to find who her mother might actually be.

On the obscure riffs front: Crusader Rabbit and his sidekick Rags the Tiger were Jay Ward’s first cartoon series; it plays as a sort of prototype to Rocky and Bullwinkle, though with slower pacing and less animation. Ignatz Mouse and the brick refers to what George Herriman’s comic strip character would to Krazy Kat. Dervish and Nemi are a pair of coatis, which are sort of long-nosed raccoon (hence the riff), from Jannan V Jenner’s 1980s animal-fantasy novel Sandeagozu. And it’s a bit cheeky of me to call out the original author’s “not wacky non sequiturs, but an incredible simulation” given my struggles with wacky responses. Well, on with the action.

> Chapter 6 – The Nevada desert
> —————————–
> "R?" Abu asked, "Hmmm, Well It’s worth a try."

TOM: All right. Putting aside that Abu is a character from another show, from another company, from another hemisphere, from another millennium… uh… I’m lost; what else is there to put aside?

CROW: That he speaks as intelligibly as Donald Duck the day after he got a dental retainer?

> Abu typed in some characters on the keyboard.

JOEL: Daniel Striped Tiger… Falstaff… and Beldar Conehead. Let’s see what comes up.

> "Right I’m searching for anyone called R who had a baby 8 years ago."
> The computer screen came up with the familer egg timer….

CROW: Search entry found. Deleting data. Have a nice day.

> Several hours later the computer beeped loudly.
> Abu looked around in a daze, "Oh.." He said.

TOM: "I should’ve turned the computer on first, right?"

> Abu typed some more things in and the computer spoke in a mechanical
> voice.

> "Report: Found three matches. Rags Dog, Romana Squirrel and Roz Cat."
> "Okay I think we can rule out Rags to start with…" Abu said ironcily.

JOEL: Separated from his loyal pal Crusader Rabbit and mistaken for a dog, poor Rags the Tiger finds himself unable to even get screen time in an Animaniacs fanfic.

> "What about the other two?" Slappy asked.

CROW: We can rule them out too. What now?

> "Let’s split up, You and Runt can go after Roz. Rita, Skippy and I will
> go for Romana."

TOM: Shaggy and Scooby can check down by the old saw mill.

> Runt and Slappy arrived after an overnight ride on the bus in the middle
> of nowhere, the Nevada desert.

CROW: Oh, this is the one where Slappy and Lucy and Ethel think they found a Uranium mine, and Fred and Ricky try to cheat them out of the claim.

> "This is pleasant." Runt said yawning widely.
> "Hmmm, it could do with some re-decorating…" Slappy quipped.

JOEL: Meanwhile, a horribly confused Ignatz Mouse throws a brick at Skippy.

> "So where is this Romana?" Runt asked.
> "How am I meant to know?" Slappy asked.
> "You still got that letter?" Runt suddenly asked.
> Slappy pulled out half of the letter and showed it to Runt.

TOM: "It’s either an A, an F, an R, or a P. I don’t know which.

> Runt took a
> deep sniff of the letter and then smelt the air around.
> "This way…" He said excitedly.

CROW: Look! There’s a sign that says "This way to Skippy’s Real Mom!"

> Runt lead Slappy to a small hole in the
> ground.
> "THIS IS IT?!" Slappy shouted.

TOM: No, the hole we want is inside this one.

> "Smell’s like it…" Runt replied.
> "Okay then, you’re the one with the nose…." Slappy pointed out.

JOEL: Since Dervish and Nemi are nowhere around.

CROW: Huh?

> A female squirrel poked her head up from the hole.

TOM: Eew! The hole’s got girl cooties now!

> "YELLO!" It screeched.

CROW: Teal!

TOM: Aquamarine!

JOEL: Maroon!

> "Hello, do you know this boy?" Slappy asked showing the squirrel the
> picture of baby Skippy.
> "ME no, I no nothing of cream cheese!" The squirrel replied not looking
> at the picture.

TOM: Not wacky non sequiturs, but an incredible simulation.

> "Are you sure?" Runt asked.
> "Why of course Mr Strawberry top…"

CROW: She’s not mad so much as she is annoying.

> The squirrel started, then it saw
> the picture and calmed down. "Skippy?" She asked very quietly.
> "Yes, Skippy!" Slappy said happily.

JOEL: No, we mean Skippy.

> The squirrel took the picture of skippy and held it close to her.

CROW: "I *loved* Animaniacs back when it was on real TV stations!"

JOEL: "Hey, we’re on Cartoon Network these days!"

CROW: "So is The Funky Phantom."

> "Are you Romana?" Runt asked.
> "Why yes I am." The squirrel replied.

TOM: "I’ll be your court-appointed attorney. Have you ever been in traffic court before?"

> "Romana, your Son needs you…" Slappy said gently.

JOEL: Before he permanently becomes a member of the most media-saturated species on earth.

> "Slappy! I knew I recognised you! Is Skippy all right?" Romana asked.
> "You’ll have to come with us to see if he is okay…" Runt said slyly

CROW: Now, I would believe in Elvis Presley coming back to life *just* to pick other people’s eye boogers on Letterman’s show before I’d believe in Runt speaking slyly.

> to
> both Romana but mostly to Slappy.
> Slappy imediatly so that the dog had a plan

TOM: [ As Slappy ] If I collect enough bendy straws, nobody will care who Skippy’s real mom is!

> and followed his lead.
> "Yesss.. Skippy really needs to see you." Slappy followed.
> "Well come on, what are we waiting for? Let’s go see my son!"

JOEL: After eight years of complete neglect.

> Romana
> yellped.

[ To continue … ]

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? Why are we seeing the death of The Phantom? August – October 2022

OK so, once again I am asking people to get this straight: the Phantom is the man who cannot die. If we see what looks like him dying, it’s because that is not what we’re seeing.

Which is, indirectly, a key point in a lovely essay Tony DePaul published recently. In The Death of the 21st Phantom DePaul explains why this was a story he needed to write, and get into print, now rather than later. One core insight is that the whole run of the comic strip — 86 years now — we have been seeing the same Kit Walker, Phantom. 21st of his line, in the comic strip continuity. And that he has not died tells us of a choice the writers of the comic strip have collectively made: he is not going to die on-screen in the comic strip.

But we can’t know when the comic strip will die. Not that there’s any specific reason that this strip should end. But the newspaper industry is near failure under the relentless assault of vulture capitalists. It’s hard to imagine most comic strips surviving its last collapse. And from these insights DePaul discusses why he wanted to spend so much time on an imaginary story … if it is imaginary. Also with some thoughts about what went into it, including confirmation about the role an earlier story served for this. It’s also a really good summary of where this quite long story has gotten, to the point that I’m not sure I have anything to add but typos. We’ll see.

My goal, though, is to get you up to speed on Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, as of mid-October 2022. If you’re reading this after December 2022, or you’re interested in the Sunday strips, or news about the comic strip breaks, you may find a more useful essay here. Or, you know, that X-Band Phantom podcast, they talk about the comic strip a lot, and several times a month.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

1 August – 15 October 2022.

Last time I checked in we were still watching Mozz recount his prophecy of The Phantom’s ruin to The Phantom. This despite Mozz letting The Phantom — and us — know that he would deceive if that’s what was needed to save him from ruin. To that end Mozz had coaxed The Phantom into letting him write his own Chronicle. Mozz’s Chronicle would look like The Phantom’s own Chronicles of his and his ancestors’ adventures, and be kept in the Skull Cave like them.

Chronicle book in hand, Mozz tells of a dire future. The Phantom, seeking his son — who’s become a guerilla leader in northern India — is mistaken for an assassin. Manju, Kit Junior’s trusted partner, now an expert sniper, finds the already-wounded Kit Senior and shoots him through the chest. And shoots his eyeglasses off. A mysterious figure demands he stand, and The Phantom looks up and — we the readers see his face, unconcealed by sunglasses or a mask or even deep shade. It’s stunning.

The fatally wounded Phantom sees a pair of tall boots in front of him. The boot-wearing figure demands, 'You heard me ... on your feet.' He starts to look up, and we see The Phantom's eyes for the first time ever(!). The yet-unseen boot-wearer orders, 'I said stand up ... '
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 15th of August, 2022. I’m not sure it’s wise for me to share this since now that you’ve seen The Phantom’s face you’re going to die. I mean, I guess you were probably going to anyway so that maybe doesn’t spoil your plans but it’s a rude thing for me to do to you.

Tony DePaul confirms that this has never happened in the strip before. Not only does nobody in The Phantom universe see The Phantom’s eyes, but none of us readers outside have seen it either. Even for an imaginary story — and after he’s taken a fatal wound — it feels illicit.

The demand to stand came from the 20th Phantom, appearing — with all the Phantoms before him — before the dying man’s eyes. The spectral voices promise he was the 21st Phantom. He staggers back to his feet, to Manju’s shock and amazement. She will conclude that he’s the one assassin who could have killed Kit Junior. Manju’s not so awed as to not shoot him again. But he’s all right with embracing this end.

The final thoughts of the dying Phantom, which are of his holding his wife close, as they fade to black.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 27th of August, 2022. Tony DePaul points out that in the final panel you can see a skull in Diana’s hair, a touch that’s entirely Mike Manley’s brilliance.

Manju and the soldiers with her bury him. She toasts him, even, when she gets back to camp, and shows Kit Junior souvenirs taken from the dead man. They’re the Phantom’s rings, the “Good Mark” ring with the four swords and the “Skull Mark” ring with you-know-what. Kit Junior recognizes this, and has Manju take him to his father’s grave, without saying who it was she killed. He says a regretful farewell and … what else is there to do? Die, similarly, in a year’s time, tells Mozz, his body left unburied in some valley of the Nyamjang Chu river (in Tibet and India).

And this concludes his prophecy. The Phantom, eager to get on to saving Savarna Devi from Gravelines Prison — the mission that started this wrack-and-ruin — promises it’ll be different. For one, he’ll bring Devil, his wolf, with him, something not done in the prophecy. And he knows what will happen if Savarna learns that her former enslaver Jampa is the constable who butts heads with Kit Junior’s mentor Kyabje Dorje.

The Phantom takes the Chronicle that Mozz held, as he read, to keep his promise to set it in Skull Cave for all tim. He intends a trick, to keep his wife or Guran or anyone else reading it, and so inters it in the burial vault reserved for him. And, confident he’s outwitted fate, he rides off to Gravelines.

Mozz, thinking, while Diana reads his prophecy-Chronicle: 'Have I forestalled the death of the 21st Phantom? Or merely incited fate to bring him to that same grave by a path I've not been permitted to see?' To himself, he says, 'This is why I wanted you here in the Deep Woods while I recorded my prophecy, Phantom ... and why, on our final reading, I stepped forward to select a Chronicle you would naturally see as MINE!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 29th of September, 2022. This isn’t a thought that could fit naturally in my essay, so I’ll stuff it here. I was surprised to realize that the Phantom we’re currently reading is the same one since 1936. I would have bet money that there would have been at least one on-screen transition from the Original to a New Phantom, plausibly either in the 70s or 80s as comics took a different representation of emotional truths, or in the 90s when a lot of characters tried to reboot and refresh into edgier forms. (Remember ‘Electric Superman’?) I’m fortunate nobody had ever come up to me and said, “Hey, Joseph, do you feel like betting five bucks against my ten that the Phantom introduced in 1936 had at some point in the comic strip continuity died and passed his mantle on to the Phantom we’re currently reading in today of, oh, let’s say 2004? Does 2004 sound like a good year for this bet?”

Diana is aware that Mozz has been writing a Chronicle. But Mozz is sworn to not say a word of his prophecy. His silence when Diana asks about it fires her curiosity. And, wordlessly, enters Skull Cave and takes his Chronicle off the shelves. He had handed The Phantom a different Chronicle, confident this would trick The Phantom. One may think he was lucky that The Phantom didn’t leaf through the book to make sure what we was hiding in the vault. But if there’s any character we can say will know what someone else will or won’t do in a situation, it is Mozz.

Anyway, Diana starts to read Mozz’s Chronicle. Her learning of Mozz’s prophecy of The Phantom’s death was enough to avert it in The Curse of Old Man Mozz. Could history repeat itself? Mozz claims he doesn’t know. And with that, the 1st of October, the story Phantom’s End, 261st daily continuity story, concludes.

The Phantom wakes from his campsite to see his wolf Devil growling at a large flaming skeleton.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 7th of October, 2022. “Settle down, Devil, it’s just the Now That’s What I Call 80s Heavy Metal album I had delivered.”

The current story, conclusion to this project, The Breakout, began the 3rd of October. The Phantom’s resolved to rescue Savarna, despite Mozz’s warnings. And to avert everything he’s foreseen. At his campsite, he’s revisited by the flaming skeletal ghost of his ancestors, last seen in the Llongo forest in a hallucinatory vision. The Phantom isn’t intimidated by this now-familiar portent of doom, though. So that’s something.

Next Week!

We relax a bit from all this heavy talk about prophecy and supernatural visions with some witch-burning. Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant gets my attention in a week, if all goes as has been foreseen. We’ll see.

I Have No Idea What This Compu-Toon Means

I’m sorry to only bring up Charles Boyce’s Compu-Toon when it has me particularly baffled but I’m not so sorry I won’t do it. In my defense, tell me what I should do when I’m having an ordinary enough Saturday and then face this:

Cartoon of what looks like a small office, but it's labelled 'Inside An ATM'. A sign reading 'Automatic Teller Machine' - backwards, as it would be from inside - is in the upper left corner, and through the slow beneath a person pokes their head in. Inside the small office is an open vault, and two cops or security guards sitting on chairs; one cop has two spray cans in his hands. A floating box reading 'reload' occupies some space somewhere within the structure. The cop with the cans says, 'Which one should we use this time ... the red spray paint or the shaving cream?'
Charles Boyce’s Compu-Toon for the 15th of October, 2022. I have no complaints about the inside of the ‘machine’ being just a couple guys sitting around a boring office-type hangout. Machines being actually a guy hiding are a solid enough strategy for a joke. It’s everything else that’s like, you know, this.

On my third day of pondering this I’m thinking maybe it’s that floating ‘reload’ box and the guard is figuring what to use to shoot it? But then what does the angry guy peering into the teller ‘machine’ have to do with anything? Is this the setup for a physical comedy where some guy goes to use the ATM and peers inside to see money come out and instead gets something funny sprayed in his face? I don’t have any idea what this is setting up at all.

60s Popeye: Popeye and the Herring Snatcher (it’s Brutus, you think Sea Hag is going to steal fish?)

The next part of my King Features Popeye reunion tour takes me back to Jack Kinney’s studios, and to 1960. The story is credited to Joe Grant and Walter Schmidt, and animation direction to old friend Eddie Rehberg. And now settle back, get comfortable, and watch the tale of Popeye and the Herring Snatcher.

Factories are great settings for cartoons. The lusher the animation the better the setting. The Platonic ideal of the modern industrial factory is a great mass of well-timed movement, a symphony of its own. Many cartoons have observed this and used it for the same great effect. Wacky shenanigans play great against the hard discipline of a complex piece of music or motion. So Grant and Schmidt start things off perfectly by dropping Popeye into a factory.

Grant and Schmidt also have a great idea in the setting. Popeye as the watchman and Brutus as a burglar feels like a classic dynamic for the characters. It’s not done much — maybe at all? — outside this, though. Credit to them for having a fresh reason for these people to be interacting like this. Also for having a setup where they can get right into the silly fights. It also gives a built-in reason for Olive Oyl to drop in at the lucky moment when Popeye needs a spinach sandwich. And we even get to hear Jackson Beck doing the narrator voice he used for five million old-time-radio shows, introducing the Finnan Haddie’s Herring Cannery and the herring-snatcher premise. (‘Finnan Haddie’ sounded so needlessly specific I had to look it up. It’s a cold-smoked haddock, originally from eastern Scotland. It got a couple mentions in cartoons and movies in the 30s and 40s, sometimes as entendre.)

Setups are half the game. The other half is execution. And here, well, it’s a Jack Kinney cartoon. The story logic holds together well enough, Brutus knocking out Popeye, stealing herring, going back to shoot at Popeye some more. And then we get weirdness. Mostly in Brutus talking to the audience — this is the most fun he’s had since he played football for dear old Rugby. (I was all ready for Brutus to become the second cartoon character known to have attended Rutgers.) Brutus taking the chance of shooting Popeye’s pipe as an excuse to give himself a cigar? That’s a bit wacky; it wouldn’t be out of place for 1940s Daffy Duck. Popeye building a castle of herring boxes and Brutus shooting them down, awarding himself even more cigars? This is weird, feeling more like a dream than an escalation of wackiness. There’s also the strangeness that we see Olive Oyl coming in relatively early — I believe we see her in shadow at 7:27, and see her knocking on the door at 7:44 — but she doesn’t come into the story for another full minute yet. Add to that how the music is the usual Kinney-studios needle-drop and you get this detached, floating mood to the whole thing.

Popeye and Brutus, on conveyor belts going opposite directions. Brutus has just slugged Popeye, and we've caught them mid-reaction, with Popeye's head and upper body stretched way out of shape as he's about to fly backwards on the conveyor belt.
Ah, another successful day of injuries at the Cartoon Factory!

It worked, more or less, for me this time. I think remembering that this is set after midnight, a time that’s supposed to be strange and dreamy, improved it for me this time. But I also remember watching this when they released a third of the King Features Popeye shorts on DVD and thinking this was gibberish. Or at least that it had such weird, loopy logic that its main virtue was unpredictability. You don’t set something in a herring factory unless the characters are going to get stuffed in a can. Past that, what would you predict might happen? I mention this as a reminder that all these reviews tell you something about the mood in which I watched them. There’s not a unique right answer about any of them, besides that Popeye’s Testimonial Dinner is a bonkers sloppy mess and exciting for it.

I don’t have a good place to mention this so have it here. I like that Popeye’s muscles become a set of bongo drums that he knocks on, to the beat of that bongo-drum-stock-sound. It’s an unnecessary weird joke and I like it.

Statistics Saturday: The Tongue Holidays

Day When
Sweetest Day 3rd Saturday in October
Saltiest Day 2nd Monday in March
Sourest Day 5th Thursday in May (where applicable)
Bitterest Day 18th Wednesday of the Year
Savoriest Day 10th Day before or after the New Jersey Big Sea Day, someone should look that up
Salted Carameliest Day 2nd Friday in December

Reference: The First Space Race: Launching The World’s First Satellites, Matt Bille, Erika Lishock.

Wait, the Pepsi Cops have a cinematic universe?

So I thought that bonkers word from Pepsi the Pepsi-Cola Cop I shared the other day was just some amusing odd little set of comic strip advertisements. And then I ran across a startling video apparently from 1946, in Technicolor:

Who would have imagined that the adventures of these very round cops gain astounding powers of limited-animation by drinking soda pop as though it were spinach? Also from being injected by Horse Drugs? Of many odd things that exist, this is among them.

MiSTed: Skippy’s Mom (part 7 of 12)

Happy now to rejoin “Skippy’s Mom”, a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction fresh to you from somewhere around 2000. The whole of the series should appear at this link.

The story so far: when an INK test shows Skippy Squirrel to be a match for Rita, he leaves his Aunt Slappy for the cat who didn’t think she had any children, but, you know, weirder things happen. As Slappy sinks into lonely depression, Runt — who stayed with her because Rita can only handle so many sidekicks at once — tries to bring her around.

There’s not a lot that needs explaining this time around. Hm. Well, in the late 90s it seemed more mysterious trying to pin down Barney Rubble’s job. The Internet hadn’t tumbled onto figuring out why Clarice was on the Island of Misfit Toys. Percy Crosby is mentioned because he had an influential and, at the time, very popular comic strip named Skippy. The peanut butter people ripped off Crosby’s style for their labels, to suggest his work without actually licensing the character. Crosby’s heirs spent a half-century on and off suing about this. Charles Schulz — who adopted a lot of Crosby’s attitude of treating children’s problems with emotional maturity — testified at one trial about this back in the 80s and wrote about what a weird experience that was. In the 90s at least one of the Crosby heirs got into more than one pointless argument with nobodies on the Internet about this. I think some of the arguments were also over posting then-rare examples of the strip online. (I may have the details off; it was a long time ago and confusing even then.)

I’m happy to say that GoComics runs the original Skippy comic strip, and it’s so worth the reading. It’s a rare pre-World-War-II comic strip you can read and easily see what’s supposed to be funny and why. There were also two movies that occasionally run on Turner Classic Movies; I’ve only seen the first and it is very good right up to something that’s a big spoiler to discuss. I have more thoughts about the movie, though.

I don’t have any riffs I really regret, although there’s some strained ones, like the one mentioning potato chips, that tried for wacky and missed. Could have used a bit more time thinking before I originally published.

> "What, oh it’s you.." Slappy said sadly.
> "I’m worried slappy; about you and about Rita.

JOEL: Why do you wear bagels?

> You just sit there
> everyday doing nothing, the C.E.O. Called,

TOM: Apparently, you have a job.

> he says that unless you come
> in they’ll revoke your pay or play contract and make it play for pay, he
> said the same thing about Rita and Skippy…"

CROW: But if being a wandering homeless cat is just a part why did Rita need a home or…

JOEL: It’s really not healthy to wonder about the metaphysics of cartoons.

TOM: Yeah, if you keep that up you’ll end up trying to establish Barney Rubble’s job.

> He stopped himself
> mid-sentence, "I don’t think anyone has told the studio about him yet."
> Slappy just ignored Runt and stared at an old picture of Skippy.

CROW: I think she’s missed the point of a screen saver.

> Runt snapped his claws and Slappy came around.

TOM: [ As Slappy ] "You know, no matter how packed with peanuts, Snickers just doesn’t satisfy me."

> "Slappy a wise old friend of mine once said actions do things;
> thoughts don’t…" Runt said gently.

JOEL: Coincidentally, Slappy said that too, but not anywhere near Runt.

> Slappy for the first time in a while listened, she sat up.
> "You know something Runt, you’re right…"

CROW: Playing tennis with potato chips is just dumb.

> Slappy replied leaving her
> chair, she walked over to a large desk and opened it, from inside she
> took another key

TOM: Ah, the key to the mystery!

JOEL: There is no mystery.

TOM: That’s why we need the key to it.

JOEL: Ooooh…

> and went across the room to a small drawer which she
> unlocked as well, there where a row of 10 keys she counted along to the
> 8th key and took it

CROW: She then ignored the eighth key and took the first one.

> she then went a picture of skippy and herself hanging
> the wall she moved on it away to revel a safe.

JOEL: It’s a 1/6th scale safe, she had to build it from a kit.

> "I’ve never seen that before.." Skippy suddenly said.
> "No, nobody except me has…" Slappy replied without looking.

TOM: Also except for Acme Safe Installers.

> She put the key carefully into the lock and turned it to the left.
> The safe slowly opened with a hiss of air.

CROW: Inflatable safes. Much cheaper than the real ones.

> "I found this the same time I found you Skippy."

JOEL: Before that you were Hoppy and occasionally Jumpy.

> Slappy said removing
> a small wicker basket from the safe. Inside there was a small tartan
> blanket a picture of Skippy as a baby (Really Cute!!)

TOM: As opposed to the hideous monster Skippy grew up to be.

> and a small letter;

CROW: It’s just a ‘J’ printed two Angstroms high.

> Slappy unfolded the letter, "It’s been almost 8 years since I last looked
> at this..

TOM: And since I found Skippy four years ago…

> /————————————-\
> | Slappy, I know that you are busy and|
> |have a carreer but I am completly mad|
> |and unable to take care of Skippy now|

JOEL: Percy Crosby’s heirs are not doing credit to his estate.

> |I know that you will make a good and |
> |loving mother, more then I could so |
> |take care of my little one and keep |
> |him from the shadows… R|



CROW: Ar! Skippy learns of his pirate heritage!

> \————————————-/"
> She finished reading the letter, "I never knew who sent this, or who your
> mom was." Slappy finished.

JOEL: Course, I never did check the return address. Hey, think that’d be a clue?

> "R? Rita!" Skippy excalimed

CROW: Isn’t that an Italian squid dish?

> brushing against rita.
> Rita backed off and shook her head.
> "I’m afraid not kid, I could not write that letter…" Rita said sadly.

TOM: I swore off R’s after their despicable actions in the Great Vowel Rebellion.

> "Why not?" Skippy asked.
> Rita suddenly extened a claw and cut the letter.

CROW: Here, kid, let me shred the last elements of your identity.

> "Becuase I can’t write…" Rita admitted proudly.
> "Then what does R stand for?" Skippy asked sadly.

JOEL: Skippy’s real mother is Roy Hobbs!

> "I think I know who might know…." Runt interjected.

TOM: [ As Runt ] "But I am the dumbest character on the show, so you may want to double-check."

[ To continue … ]

What’s Going On In Alley Oop? Why is Doc Wonmug visiting his past self? July – October 2022

The current story in Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop sees Doc Wonmug finding his young self living a ‘wrong’ life. It appears to be from someone meddling with his own past. But he didn’t have any hint this was going on, when he started this. He had started out with moping about his childhood.

The seed of this moping may have come from the previous story. It revealed that, to hold the devices he was solving Moo’s problem with, he went back to swipe some of his own childhood toys. Ooola observes that’s a weird choice to make. Wonmug says yeah, he had an unconventional childhood; “some guy kept stealing all my stuff!” Though it’s not explicit, we could suppose this is what got his childhood on Doc Wonmug’s mind.

All this should catch you up to mid-October 2022 in Alley Oop’s story. If you’re reading this after about December 2022, or if any Alley Oop news breaks, there should be an essay here of more use to you. In the meanwhile, let’s go messing with the time stream again some.

Alley Oop.

25 July – 8 October 2022.

A new, futuristic city appeared in Moo, with skyscrapers popping up daily. Newly-elected President Krash sees this and runs fast. Alley Oop and Ooola are left to investigate.

The settlers are from New Cleveland, from the overpopulated world of 2155. A weird portal popped up there a couple days ago. They’re taking the chance to go somewhere there isn’t a waiting list to see the sky or get on the sidewalk. A quick trip to 2155 to see overstuffed cities in a world with 100 billion people convinces Ooola and Alley Oop there’s maybe some justice in their fleeing? It’s not like Moo doesn’t have empty space?

First Moovian: 'I know we haven't met those settlers yet, but why not? Seems shifty to me. They should stay away.' Second Moovian: 'Aren't we all settlers, in a way? I, for example, sleep at Alley's house when he's out of town.' Alley Oop, off-screen: 'Wait, what?' Third Moovian, clutching a small boulder: 'Are they going to outlaw our rocks? I'm not giving up my rock.' Fourth Speaker 'The settlers are destroying Moo's way of life, which is fine, because I don't even live here.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 11th of August, 2022. By the way, 100 billion people isn’t really that enormous a population, if people are living in high-density places like we see in New Cleveland. Some of these are going to have to be in climactically challenging places like northern Canada or Texas, but build a dome city and you can have a pretty nice place and still have lots of raw wilderness. Earth is a really big planet, when you get down to it.

They take the issue to the Moovians. Moo is, unfortunately, a very new democracy, and it’s filled with people. The community meeting to discuss what to do winds around some very Springfield/Pawnee doddering. That’s when Doc Wonmug pops back in from the 21st Century, promising to fix whatever problem they’ve got now. He snags some toys of his childhood and using some Time Cube-like technology sends the settlement to the seventh-and-a-half dimension. Somewhere beyond normal perception, at least.

Alley Oop: 'So, is the settlement gone for good?' Wonmug: 'Yes and no. It's still right here, but in a half dimension. So it occupies the same space but sort of ... diagonally.' Alley Oop, waving his arms, 'So can hey feel this?' Wonmug: 'No.' In the half dimension one settler asks, 'Do you feel that?' Second settler: 'For some reason, I feel like I'm at a nightclub where nobody knows how to dance.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 27th of August, 2022. Oh, I remember this short story about trillion-person Earth sending the surplus population off to other dimensions. It … reached two punch lines at once.

Wonmug then pops into the year 2155 to figure out why the world is so crazy overpopulated. Especially considering that by 2160 it’s not nearly so crowded. By the mid-22nd century humanity managed to overcome every known disease and cause of premature death, so, what could ruin that? And we see some kind of bug hop off Wonmug’s arm and into the soon-not-to-be-overpopulated world of tomorrow. So that’s a bit of a grim joke to end the story on.

With the past, at least, saved, it’s time for a new story. This one started the 5th of September. Doc Wonmug gets to moping about his childhood and decides to go to his childhood home. He ditches Alley Oop and Ooola, somewhere in his past, to find his nine-year-old self. His nine-year-old self, though, has sworn off inventing in favor of visual art. It’s not something Doc Wonmug remembers from his own past. He takes young Elbert forward seven years, to find their 16-year-old self.

Wonmug: 'Elbert, it's time to come clean.' Young Elbert: 'Sounds good, person who randomly showed up on my doorstep while my parents were out.' Wonmug: 'I'm you from the future. More accurately, you'll be me someday.' Elbert: 'Wow! I live to be 100 years old?' Wonmug: 'I'm not THAT old! I just have precocious wrinkles. But the question is HOW can I be you? Because the you you are isn't the me I was.' Elbert: 'This is so interesting. Stay right here while I definitely don't get the Creep Eviscerator 5000.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 15th of September, 2022. Well, now, mm. Doc Wonmug first appeared in the comic strip in 1939, and was an adult then, so he has to have been born at least a quarter century before then, so in a sense he has already lived to be a hundred years old? At least in the same way Fritzi Ritz is a hundred years old.

This self, Burt, is a snide, sullen teenager. He’s not winning science competition; he’s reading comics. Doc Wonmug can’t figure what’s gone wrong, but Burt and Elbert offer something. Several months ago — to both of them — an old guy came, convincing them that science was a waste of time. Also paying a couple hundred dollars to convince them. But neither can offer a useful description of the guy who bribed them. So — leaving Elbert with his alternate-teen-self — Wonmug goes ahead to find his 25-year-old self.

Burt: 'Hey, Gramps. I remembered something you might want to know. A few months ago, some old guy came and convinced me that studying all that science junk was a waste of time.' Elbert: 'Yeah, the same thing happened to me!' Wonmug: 'And you both believed some random nobody? That makes *no* sense!' Burt: 'You're right. It made *dollars*. Two hundred of them, to be exact.' Elbert: 'Hey, the old guy only gave me a hundred!'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 27th of September, 2022. I’m a little curious what the history-alteration mechanism is that Old Guy felt the need to talk both 7-year-old and 16-year-old Wonmug out of science while 100-year-old Wonmug doesn’t know anything about it. But I’m also curious why I’m getting a better Young Funky Winkerbean vibe from seven-year-old Elbert in the second panel there than I get from the actual Funky Winkerbean strip doing flashbacks.

His 25-year-old self has a lab, as he ‘should’. But it’s not a science lab. Instead, this The Lab a free jazz club. Wonmug could not be more horrified, or helpless. But Benny, sax player for The Lab, recognizes Doc Wonmug as looking familiar. He sketches the familiar-looking person, who has a weekly gig at The Lab. He looks like Doc Wonmug with ‘an evil mustache’. This might be Doc Wonmug from an evil or villain timeline; who of us could say? I imagine we’ll learn in the weeks to come.

Next Week!

The Ghost Who Walks now knows how his rescue of Savarna Devi will bring wrack and ruin to his family — or does he? And he marches on regardless, to save a kindred spirit from an unjust judicial murder — or does he? I’ll summarize the goings-on in Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom (Weekdays) in six days — or will I? I’ll make the attempt at least, yes.

Though I Am Not an Opponent of Daylight Saving Time

First, I apologize, but I have to put off my Alley Oop recap for a day. Not because I was caught unprepared by my weekly custom here but I don’t know how it is we got to Tuesday quite this early in the week.

That done, I have to say I’m going to really look forward to the end of it this year. I’ve been doing a lot of scheduled calls, and it’s hard enough to convince people that Michigan is in the Eastern Time Zone. When they start setting the time for “Eastern Standard Time” when it’s actually currently Eastern Daylight Time, though? And I realize there is absolutely no way that I can clear up whether they actually mean Standard Time or if they mean Daylight Time without getting everybody more confused and vaguely angry with me? Nope. There are many things I do not need, and this is one of them. To sum up: all I ask is that people please stop scheduling phone calls with me. Just send me an e-mail saying that you’ve decided to give me a hundred thousand dollars a year for reasons even you’re not clear on.

60s Popeye: Autographically Yours, my King Features Popeye Encore!

You are not imagining things! At least not this thing. Finding all my reviews of King Features Popeye cartoons of the 60s let me discover the ones I had not reviewed. And, better, I discovered that some of the ones I had not reviewed have been posted to King Features’s YouTube channel of “Classic Popeye”.

This short, and three others, were in what they bundled s “Episode 42”. This episode was, for some reason, marked private for a long while, until I forgot about going back and checking. At some point it became public again so I can bring you these four shorts. The first one up is Autographically Yours.

It’s from 1961 and is another Paramount Cartoon Studios short. So Seymour Kneitel gets credit as both producer and director. The story’s credited to Carl Meyer and Jack Mercer. And now, let’s watch.

This is another cartoon where Popeye and Brutus/Bluto compete by showing off spectacular skills. Paramount’s team had done this a hundred thousand times in the three decades leading up to this. The stunts even hearken back to the earliest Fleischer Studio shorts. Shooting the eagle out of a gold dollar, and having it fly off, is the sort of thing that wouldn’t stand out in 1934. Popeye shooting a match to light it, and using the falling match to light his pipe, would also fit. It’s also a startling moment of Popeye using his pipe as a pipe. He mostly used it to toot or to inhale spinach. Actually suggesting smoking feels transgressive, especially in a cartoon made-for-tv. Eventually Brutus decides to try doing something stupid, risking everyone’s life. In this case it’s accidentally letting out a hungry lion. Popeye wakes, eats his spinach, and saves the day. All right.

What makes this stand out, and intrigue me so, is the setup for this. Seeking the autograph of movie-star Popeye is a vaguely UPA-styled kid. As far as I know he doesn’t appear in anything else. It would’ve been very easy to cast Olive Oyl as the autograph-seeker and I’d love to know why she wasn’t. I’m sure the 1951 version of this cartoon would have.

But then Brutus/Bluto’s motivation would have been easy. He’d be hitting on Olive Oyl. Here he’s driven by a jealousy that feels more mature. He wants the acclaim that Popeye gets, noting that in all those pictures that “Marathon Cartoon Studios” makes, Popeye’s written to win. That doesn’t mean he isn’t as amazing as Popeye. It forces us to think of Popeye and Brutus as actors playing the parts of themselves. It’s a motivation you could imagine driving the “real” behind-the-scenes Brutus.

Popeye, dressed as a Western sheriff, stands proud while a little kid with a severely stylized head holds his autograph book out. In the background Brutus, dressed as a Western gunslinger, stands sheepishly holding his hands behind his back.
You can really see this kid bonding with Popeye over their experience having chins that reach way the heck far out.

I doubt that Meyer and Mercer were thinking to write a story about struggling against the roles we play. They happened to hit one, though, and it usually works for me. (I credit watching The Muppet Show while young. The show was about half about performances and half the nonsense that goes into those performances.) Brutus wanting to be celebrated circles that. There is some kind of irony when he asks himself what the writers would have him do, forgetting his complaint the writers make Popeye look good. It’s at least a starting point for someone trying to rebel against his lot in life without yet having the tools for it.

Another neat bit which makes this short stand out: Brutus and Popeye start out as friendly, as they do many shorts. But they end as friends too, Brutus even being a fan of Popeye’s. That’s much more rare, especially if we discount shorts such as Fightin’ Pals where their fighting is key to their friendship. I don’t think I’m overly crediting the novelty in appreciating seeing Brutus from an unusual angle that doesn’t feel out of character.

I’m also interested in the choice to have Popeye and Brutus being on set for a Western. I suppose that reflects the then-popularity of Westerns. And that making their ‘show’ a Western justifies their being able to do any stunts, including gun tricks, automatically. I wonder if it’s an unconscious acknowledgement that it’s kind of weird Popeye the sailor has like sixty cartoons where he’s a sheriff or a cowhand or at least living in the desert or prairie. Probably that’s more subtle than the writers were thinking, but it is a coincidence that adds depth to the story.

I’m glad I can start this review encore on an up beat like this.

Statistics September: How Many People Wanted Me To Tell Them The Phantom Wasn’t Dead Last Month

If there is a refrain for 2022, it’s “boy, remember when we thought 2020 was a rough year?”. But the other is that Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s project, to show what it would look like were The Phantom to die, sends people here to check if he’s dead. Four of the five most popular posts around here in September were various What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays) essays. Seeing the list assembled like that reveals that I have not been consistent about whether to capitalize the (Weekdays). Don’t think that isn’t bothering me. (The other piece was me explaining a Far Side that I only got in October 2022, thirty-plus years after first seeing it.)

Still, I like taking this near-the-start-of-the-month chance to look at what was popular that I published recently. The five most popular things I published in September were being upset about comic strips, so I guess thanks, Tom Batiuk? Here’s what people most liked:

I sometimes write things that are not me being angry about comic strips! The ones that people are interested in are me describing what’s happening in the story strips. My plan for the next couple weeks is to publish about these strips which, yes, includes the weekday Phantom run:

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months hovering around 4500 views per month, without strong direction one way or another, until a new peak emerged in April 2022. A smaller peak reappeared in August and September 2022.
Between The Hypothetical Death of The Phantom and the new-look Gil Thorp and Tom Batiuk being all like that it’s good times for me. I just know that we’re heading into something like four weeks of Les Moore sulking about how people don’t remember the Death of Lisa Moore the way Lisa would have wanted them to, though.

Popularity is one thing. Quantifying popularity is another thing, a way of being unhappy for no reason. WordPress has a handy reference of how many of various kinds of interaction happened here in the month. For example, it reports that in September there were 7,217 page views from 3,890 unique visitors. That is, if I haven’t missed something, my third-highest number of page views ever. It’s way above the twelve-month running mean of 5,250.5 views, and also the running median of 4,729.5 views. The number of unique visitors is also well above the running mean of 2,795.0 and the running median of 2,721. If I could just be this annoyed by Funky Winkerbean all the time …

But I am not. And looking at measures of things more like interactions and less like gawking at my rage gets us a more average month. There were 163 things liked in September, not all of them September-published pieces. This is above the running mean, 154.4, and the running median, 154.5, likes. But it’s not that more than average. There were 80 comments given, and that is a big number for me, highest since July 2021. The running mean was 46.7 and median 47.

There were 80 countries or country-like constructs sending me page views in September. 15 of them were single-view countries. Here’s the roster:

Country Readers
United States 4,455
Australia 947
United Kingdom 233
India 227
Canada 209
Italy 150
Brazil 86
Philippines 71
Germany 66
Nigeria 55
Spain 54
Portugal 53
Serbia 45
Norway 44
Japan 35
Finland 29
Saudi Arabia 28
South Africa 28
France 27
Sweden 27
Singapore 19
Austria 17
Netherlands 16
Romania 16
Mexico 15
New Zealand 14
Pakistan 14
Russia 14
Denmark 13
Thailand 13
Ireland 12
Hungary 11
Turkey 11
Argentina 10
Belgium 10
Indonesia 10
United Arab Emirates 8
Colombia 7
El Salvador 7
Barbados 6
Greece 6
Israel 6
Malaysia 6
Switzerland 6
Guatemala 5
Kenya 5
South Korea 5
Ukraine 5
Croatia 4
Cyprus 4
Kuwait 4
Hong Kong SAR China 3
Jamaica 3
Latvia 3
Slovakia 3
Taiwan 3
Trinidad & Tobago 3
Albania 2
Costa Rica 2
Czech Republic 2
Egypt 2
European Union 2
Peru 2
Poland 2
Uganda 2
Antigua & Barbuda 1
Armenia 1
Azerbaijan 1
Bosnia & Herzegovina 1
Bulgaria 1
Cameroon 1 (**)
China 1
Luxembourg 1
Montenegro 1
Mozambique 1
Puerto Rico 1
Slovenia 1
Somalia 1
Venezuela 1
Vietnam 1
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.
This month’s baffling anomaly is why I had nearly a thousand views from Australia for some reason? Did I toss in a really good Barassi Line joke I forgot about?

Cameroon has been a single-view country for three months now. No other country can presently make a multi-month claim without fibbing.

WordPress figures that I published 17,279 words in September, which brings me to 155,805 words for the year. Between the release of The Secrete of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue and the start of October I’ve published 3,529 posts that drew 321,250 views from 181,533 unique visitors.

Folks who’d like to be regular readers I suppose know what they’re doing. Still, if you need help, try using the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button that’s on the right-hand column of this page. It’s called “Another Blog, Meanwhile” because of a thing that happened to me in 2015 that I’ve explained, like, twice since then. So that’s the sort of person I am and if you still want to follow me, thanks for the patience. It’s kind of you.

MiSTed: Skippy’s Mom (part 6 of 12)

We’ve reached the halfway point in “Skippy’s Mom”, another Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction fresh to you from sometime in the late 90s or maybe early 2000s, I forget. The whole of the series should appear at this link.

Skippy, taking an INK test, learns that his genetics are a perfect match for … Rita, from Rita and Runt?! In shock the squirrel transforms into a kitten. Rita and Slappy agree to trade sidekicks while Skippy gets in touch with being a cartoon cat.

When I wrote this the idea that every dumb Hanna-Barbera cartoon of the 70s was going to be revived into a movie or new show was fanciful. (I am surprised there hasn’t been a dedicated Speed Buggy or Jabberjaw project, though.) I like the chatter about “we made everything up … it’s the only way to be objective”. The long, confusing riff about “Black even, raider six, green odd, seven” and so on is lifted from a long, confusing bit of dialogue from one of Stephen Ratliff’s famous Marissa Picard stories, the epics that made MiSTings a thing. I have thought a good deal about sharing some of those MiSTings, although those were all riffed collaboratively and people who weren’t me did the final editing and ‘publishing’. The “periodi-stories” were a collection of fan fictions Charles Brown wrote about some kind of teamup between Runt, of Animaniacs fame, and Abu, of Disney’s Aladdin. Despite the tease, so far as I know, nobody ever riffed any of them. Bit of a shame since, as you can see, Brown wrote stories that are riffable but not unpleasant to read.

[ SOL DESK. GYPSY, CROW and TOM are reviewing papers on the desk. JOEL enters, playing paddleball. ]

CROW: Oh, yes, fascinating.

GYPSY: Keen.

CROW: It’s like a blueprint to our futures.

JOEL: [ Continuing to play ] Having fun, guys?

CROW: [ Pretentious ] Fun, Joel? We seek our destiny.

TOM: And it’s real easy to get, too.

JOEL: I’m going to dig deep here and guess you guys have decided to give INK tests to yourselves?

CROW: Of course not.


CROW: We don’t have INK.

TOM: So we took the B-O-T tests.

CROW: And worked them out for ourselves.

TOM: Not just ourselves! Everyone! History belongs to those with the perfect B-O-T sequence coursing through their bloodstreams.

CROW: For instance, it turns out my future will lead inevitably to me being fed ice cream sandwiches all day while watching E! network fashion specials.

JOEL: Uhm… yeah.

TOM: And I shall someday have a lucritive career constructing models of ‘Arcee,’ the sometimes-seen female Transformer, out of everyday articles found around the house while being treated to pudding cups and frozen White Castle hamburgers by my kind and willing servents.

JOEL: Uhhuh. And Gypsy?

GYPSY: I’m going to direct the live-action "Speed Buggy" movie.

TOM:And be Executive Producer for "Jabberjaw: The Next Generation."

JOEL: With an able-bodied, devoted staff of followers, right?

TOM: Follower, actually.

GYPSY: Just one.

JOEL: Would this be the same guy serving Crow and Tom all day?

GYPSY: Oh yeah.

TOM: He’d get regular coffee breaks. With popcorn priveleges.

CROW: Yeah. And it could be any… kindhearted, kinda cute guy, really.

JOEL: But it’s going to be me, right?

CROW: Well, we’d have to work up your BOT tests to know.

TOM: Pump it through the gene sequencer, test sample growth within controlled media, extensive electron microscopy…

CROW: But, yeah, it’s gonna be you.


TOM: No way around it, Joel.

JOEL: Could I see the raw data on this?

GYPSY: We made everything up.

CROW: It’s the only way to be objective.

JOEL: I’ve got to get you three more board games.

TOM: Can we get a DVD player instead?

[ MOVIE SIGN flashes ]

JOEL: Later — we got movie sign!

[ General pandemonium. ]

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

[ ALL file in ]

> Chapter 5 – The start

JOEL: Shouldn’t that have happened before the fifth chapter?

> ———————
> Rita and her new son Skippy had moved in with Slappy almost a month ago
> now,

TOM: No, no, not a month ago now — a month ago back then.

CROW: When, just now?

JOEL: No, we passed then already. It’s nearer now.

TOM: Nearer to now or nearer to then?

CROW: Then, then, or the then just now?

JOEL: Will Rick Moranis please clear the theater? Thank you.

> Skippy had almost forgotten about being a squirrel entirly except

CROW: In restaurants that offer discounts to rodents under the age of ten.

> when late at night he’d wake from a horrible nightmare and not be able to
> remeber it, which was a shame as he would never know if it was the or not
> nightmare remebering which was worse.

JOEL: Black even, raider six, Green odd, seven, Green even, eight, Red even reassigned to nine, Red odd, four, leaders assist as necessary your wings.

> Rita too had forgotten what it was like to be free, as far as she was
> concened Skippy was the most important thing in the world.

CROW: Next to the TV Food Network.

> Much to the amazement of Runt who after saving the world several times

ALL: [ Shaking in disbelief ] Bleahlelalela.

> <See the daily perodi-stories if you really want to know..>

TOM: There’s a periodic table of "Runt" stories?

CROW: I just had a chilling vision of our future.

> had returned only to find that his best friend had new responsiblities.
> Slappy did very little, she mostly just sat in her rocking chair staring
> at Rita and Skippy playing happily like cats normally do.

JOEL: This is the fourth-worst New Year’s party I’ve ever seen.

> "Erm Slappy.." Runt said agian.

CROW: Agian? See?

[ To continue … ]

In Which I’m Watching Old Game Shows Again

So this episode of the 1960s Password came up, and the password they were supposed to guess was “Tweet”. Well, sure, I watched that and thought, boy, if this were today you’d just give ‘Twitter’ as the prompt. And then the celebrity prompted with ‘chirp’ and the contestant guessed ‘Twitter’. So I just wanted to say to time-travellers, please, I understand the temptation but we need you to stop the collapse of the ecology and the descent of the world into fascism. Let’s make “messing with Arlene Francis’s head” like, job number six, okay?

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Is there even a Judge Parker anymore? July – October 2022

There is not! We all supposed it already. But Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker confirmed that Randy Parker is no longer a judge. It’s hard to see how he could have kept his post, what with disappearing for a year or so to be in hiding with his superspy ex(?)-wife April. But this was, I think, the first time it was said on-screen that he’d been replaced.

Randy’s father, Alan Parker, retired from the judiciary a long while ago to write law thrillers. So there is, for now, no Judge Parker in the strip Judge Parker. It’s looking likely that Randy Parker’s successor, Matt Duncan, may not be in the post much longer. But it’s hard to see how Randy would get the job back given that whole “ran off to be with his fugitive wife for a year” thing in his recent history.

Also, I’m still not sure whether Randy and April are married. Another character referred to April as Randy’s ex-wife, but that may just be the reasonable supposition. I admit I don’t know whether you can get divorced from a fugitive, as April Parker had been for years. I would think it has to be possible; it’s abandonment if nothing else, right? But then I remember my parents teaching young me how to guess who was going to win a case on The People’s Court. Think of which party seems obviously in the right, and take the other side, as there’s usually something in the law that makes the ‘wrong’ thing right. It sets one on a path to a useful cynicism.

So this sets you on a path to understanding Judge Parker for the start of October 2022. If you’re reading this after about December 2022, there should be a more useful plot recap here. Thanks for reading.

Judge Parker.

17 July – 1 October 2022.

My last check-in with Cavelton’s favorite family came as Sam Driver told Abbey Spencer about the forged video. And that he had accepted as plausible that then-Mayor-Sanderson had a drone video of Abbey burning down her money-pit bed-and-breakfast. And had sat on it in trade for then-Deputy-Mayor-Stewart’s support in kicking the corrupt and bonkers Sanderson out of office.

Toni Bowen, on the phone: 'So let me get this straight, Soph ... the previous mayor illegally spied with drones and the new mayor doctored that footage to convince Sam that Abbey burned down her own B-and-B for the insurance money?' Sophie: 'Pretty much it. And I want both mayors to pay.' Bowen: 'I still have connections back with my old news show. And yes, they'd jump at this story. But you have to think this through ... '
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 12th of August, 2022. Incidentally we still don’t know who did burn down the bed-and-breakfast, nor who forged the video. If Sanderson had done it he’d surely have used the video when he was mayor to drive Abbey Spencer out of town. Stewart knew the video was fake but that’s not the same thing as faking it. And the scheme of “burn down my boss’s rival’s business and fake a video of her doing it so her husband will support me when I become mayor” seems to me too risky for too slight a reward. He didn’t need to buy their help working against Sanderson. Someone else, though? We’re short on suspects.

Abbey is heartbroken. That her family knew about this and didn’t tell her for months, for one. That her husband thought she might have burned her place down, the more devastating thing. She decides she has to divorce Sam, who accepts the decision.

Amidst all this misery Sophie thinks of revenge. She wants Mayor Stewart to pay for blackmailing Sam. And Ex-Mayor Sanderson to pay for spying on Abbey. She turns to Toni Bowen, former Cavelton reporter and failed mayoral candidate, for advice. Bowen advises to talk to Abbey and Sam first. Revealing the forged video could humiliate Stewart and Sanderson. But it’s going to humiliate the Spencer-Drivers first, and more.

Sam, on the phone :'I told no one, Abbey! Things are a mess as it is ... ' (He notices the TV.) 'Though I have an idea who did ... ' On the TV is former mayor Sanderson, saying: 'Though I did check on certain individuals with drones --- for our town's own well-being! I never would have doctored footage like Mayor Stewart ... '
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 9th of September, 2022. Have to say, Cavelton is having a heck of a time when “former mayor admits spying on the population with drones” is not the scandal. Anyway, enjoy the surveillance state, folks.

Meanwhile Abbey has decided to sell the Spencer Farms. Yes, they’ve been in her family for generations. But she’s fed up with town and with the complicated set of memories. Especially in the dramatic years since Francesco Marciuliano took over the writing. Sophie calls as Abbey is talking this over with the real estate agent. And then the news breaks. Someone’s told the news media about the doctored video. Abbey suspects Sam, but he’s innocent. It’s Sanderson who broke the news. (This suggests, but doesn’t prove, that he only recently learned of the video.)

This re-energizes Abbey. She cancels the sale and Marciuliano jumps the story ahead a couple months, keeping Abbey and Sam from having to be humiliated by this. Abbey has joined the special race for mayor, becoming the third major character to run for mayor of Cavelton in as many years. (Alan Parker and Toni Bowen made their tries in 2020.) Say what you will about Francesco Marciuliano as a writer: he loves his mayoral elections.

Abbey Spencer, addressing the media: 'our town has fallen prey to corporate and political self-interests. As mayor I will make Cavelton a place for all, not just a select minority.' Reporter: 'But weren't you just planning to leave the very town you now wish to run?' Abbey: 'Like a lot of people, I had lost hope in my home. But I have chosen to stay and fight.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 14th of September, 2022. That seems like a lot of podium for a press conference attended by four people.

And then, from the 16th of September, we settle in to a new story. And a new kind of story. The divorced(?) Sam Driver has a case, the sort of action-adventure detective stuff he was originally introduced to the strip to do. I don’t know what to expect in this shift. There has been crime drama in the strip before. The two big examples were the kidnapping of Sophie Spencer and her bandmates, and in Marie’s husband faking his death. But none of that was stuff that characters were expected to investigate. They were supposed to live through drama. This is about solving a mystery that the main cast could let pass by.

This story, by the way, involves gun violence and murder, so please consider whether you need that in what has been, for years now, a family-drama soap strip. If you do want to carry on with reading about this in your recreational reading, you’ll find the rest under this cut.

Continue reading “What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Is there even a Judge Parker anymore? July – October 2022”

Finally, the Best of Possible News

We’ve got that woodchuck hanging around our backyard! All it took was a split pumpkin tossed on the lawn for squirrels to nibble on, and the woodchuck followed their much smaller relatives in, and then wandered back to disappear under the hostas. This is going to do great stuff for us on Squirrel Yelp and maybe get us an interesting review on Hosta Yelp.

What I Thought About All The Jack Kinney Popeye Cartoons

And now, finally, I come to the last of my recap essays. The thoughts I have about Jack Kinney’s Popeye cartoons. This ended up a bigger task than I imagined: the Kinney studios produced over a hundred of the 200-plus shorts of that era. Just reading all my old essays and getting their URLs for this essay took twice as long as I imagined. As always happens, my feelings got more complicated the more I thought about them.

Popeye sprawled on the floor, looking behind him at an empty table. Brutus is photobombing, holding up one finger on an arm he sways back and forth while singing.
Popeye is haunted by the voices of people he cannot perceive, while Brutus? Brutus just has fun.

It’s not that the Kinney cartoons are the hardest to love. For my money I’d say the Larry Harmon shorts, which are all fine if indistinct in that way Filmation cartoons would be, are the hardest to love. Jack Kinney’s studio produced stuff that would have reactions, though. Most of the time. Fred Grandinetti, author of Popeye The Sailor: The 1960’s TV Cartoons, notes how the studio had to produce a cartoon a week. It’s a schedule more grueling than you imagine. The only theatrical studio that ever came close to that was Terrytoons and — I say, loving both Mighty Mouse and Heckle and Jeckle — nobody thinks of Terrytoons as a source of good cartoons or even necessarily animation. (Also, Grandinetti has an interview on the Cartoonerific Podcast that people might find interesting.)

Olive Oyl, holding her hands together, looks up at Popeye, who's been transformed into a giraffe and stands so tall that nearly his whole neck is out of frame. The giraffe wears an adapted version of Popeye's shirt.
“Popeye! You come down here this minute and explain why your shirt changed to fit you as a giraffe but your pants just disappeared!”

And as hard a schedule as that is, Kinney’s production team made it even more challenging for themselves. Paramount Cartoon Studios had a decent number of stock animation poses — walk cycles for Popeye, this bit of the Sea Hag waving her hand like a claw at the camera, and such — that could be slotted in as needed. While there are a couple times that Kinney studios reused animation, it’s only a handful. O G Wotasnozzle having fun with his time machine might be the most-used bit. They would save on the animation budget by having stuff happen off-screen, or have the characters watch the simple-to-animate thing that does move, but they mostly drew new stuff.

A grueling, unbearable production schedule can be liberating. It means that ideas which might otherwise be scrapped as unpromising get used because there’s a content hole that needs filling. It means that revisions and editorial oversight and other things that might stamp out the weirdness of creation fail. Think of the comic strip that the guy in your college’s daily newspaper ran, compared to any of the syndicated strips they were running. The syndicated strips would be more reliable, more professional, less bizarre. But the amateur strip has a weird unpredictable personality to it; anything might happen, and if it’s not necessarily going to be tasteful or coherent, all right. That’s the tradeoff. Jack Kinney’s studio didn’t get tasteless, by the standards of white people of 1960. The qualifier needed because of portrayals of Indians — American and Asian — and Chinese and Japanese people that I trust we’d not put into syndication today.

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

What we do get is a lot of weirdness, though. This often looks like shorts that didn’t get refined. Stories that needed another draft so the logic held up and the dialogue corresponded to things other characters were saying. Animation errors that become so common it was boring to mention. But I like this to an extent. It’s easy to say I’m just liking these shorts ironically. But I like them anyway, appreciating that they are weird, and unpredictable, and part of me looks for that especially in a series I know as well as Popeye. There is something liberating when the story has a dreamy, unnatural flow to it.

But I also know how offputting that is when you want to simply pull up a cartoon and enjoy it. A person dipping into one of these cartoons at random is likely to find something boring (as many of the entries are, I admit) or baffling. Maybe it takes watching a lot of these to see what is delightful in being baffled. I feel more engaged by these than by Paramount (always competent, sometimes dull) or Larry Harmon (never incompetent). Pull up a cartoon at random and I may not like it, but I will probably feel something about what I see. That’s a triumph for a production constrained like this was.

An infant purple dragon, holding his tail over one arm, holds his other arm out and looks away, eyes closed, to reassure Popeye's great-great-grandpappy.
Huh. Wonder what this character’s like, there’s so many ways this pose could be read.

Now, finally, in the order by which these are listed at the Popeye Wikia for some reason, are my reviews of the Jack Kinney-produced Popeye shorts of the 60s. Enjoy!

  • Battery Up – withdrawn video of a surprisingly clean baseball game.
  • Deserted Desert – Popeye searches for the Lost Dutchman Mine.
  • Skinned Divers – featuring the 500-pound man-killing-clam!
  • Popeye’s Service Station – basic jokes about a gas station.
  • Coffee House – cool, cool man, cool. Coooool. Cooooooooooool.
  • Popeye’s Pep-Up Emporium – Popeye runs an exercise gym until the live commercial messes things up.
  • Bird Watcher Popeye – Popeye tries watching birds; features that penguin take on Popeye and Brutus.
  • Time Marches Backwards – back to caveman times; features Caveman Wimpy trying to catch a cowasaurus.
  • Popeye’s Pet Store – Popeye matches people up with the pets they didn’t ask for until Brutus is maybe the dogcatcher about it?
  • Ballet de Spinach – Popeye will wear a tutu for Olive Oyl but he’s not going to not be a jerk about it.
  • Sea Hagracy – Sea Hag’s broke, after paying taxes, so she tries hiring Popeye on and then … what? I really wonder if this is a condensed story from the comic strips, which often started with a great premise that they forget to resolve.
  • Spinach Shortage – Brutus corners the world spinach market maybe not even trying to give Popeye a hard time.
  • Popeye and the Dragon – Popeye has to fight an awfully nice-looking dragon.
  • Popeye the Fireman – There’s a high-rise fire and Popeye’s the only one who can do something about it.
  • Popeye’s Pizza Palace – or as I headlined it then, “an exciting journey into pizza-themed madness”. From the days when just saying ‘pizza’ was a guaranteed laugh.
  • Down the Hatch – Not reviewed and I don’t see why. It looks like King Features didn’t post it for some reason?
  • Lighthouse Keeping – Popeye’s a lighthouse keeper and Brutus accidentally kidnaps Olive Oyl and there’s a shark or something?
  • Popeye and the Phantom – no, not that The Phantom, this one’s just a ghost who’s being a little annoying.
  • Popeye’s Picnic – withdrawn video, where this time Olive Oyl is obsessed with butterflies and Popeye’s all about eating and changing a tire.
  • Out of This World – O G Wotasnozzle sends Popeye to the future where not enough cool stuff happens, sorry to say.
  • Madam Salami – Brutus as a fortune-teller gets Olive Oyl to challenge Popeye to all sorts of deadly stunts.
  • Timber Toppers – another withdrawn video, this one about cutting down trees.
  • Skyscraper Capers – Popeye tries building a skyscraper under boss Brutus, who’s maybe trying to kill him? Hard to say.
  • Private Eye Popeye – Can Eugene the Jeep help Popeye foil the Sea Hag’s diamond-theft plans?
  • Little Olive Riding Hood – another withdrawn video. Popeye tells a fairy tale about the Olive Oyl being Little Red Riding Hood while the Sea Hag’s the Wolf.
  • Popeye’s Hypnotic Glance – will a hypnotized Alice the Goon love Popeye to death?
  • Popeye’s Trojan Horse – Popeye tells Swee’Pea the story of the Trojan Horse and everybody’s a bit silly about it.
  • Frozen Feuds – We meet Alice the Goon by way of Olive Oyl’s 28-minute-long song about Alice the Goon.
  • Popeye’s Corn-Certo – Popeye and Brutus compete to see who’s the better musician. Lot of nice little jokes here.
  • Westward Ho-Ho – Skipped for its depictions of Native Americans.
  • Popeye’s Cool Pool – Popeye builds a pool in a pleasantly gentle absurdist tale that spans a year.
  • Jeep Jeep – we meet Eugene the Jeep for the first time, this time because Eugene discovers him.
  • Popeye’s Museum Piece – can museum-guard Popeye foil Brutus’s robbery with only Eugene the Jeep to help him?
  • Golf Brawl – a big pile of golf-themed spot jokes that get weird.
  • Wimpy’s Lunch Wagon – Popeye looks after a restaurant and Brutus is a jerk about it.
  • Weather Watchers – Brutus is sabotaging Popeye’s weather-forecaster job so what can the sailor do but sabotage him back?
  • Popeye and the Magic Hat – yes, the one where Popeye gets turned into a giraffe and Olive Oyl into a seal and then a flamingo.
  • Popeye and the Giant – another withdrawn video. It’s not a Jack-and-the-Beanstalk story, though. It’s just one where Brutus turns Wimpy into a giant to sell him to the circus.
  • Hill Billy Dilly – What if the famous McCoy-Hatfield feud but everybody is Brutuses?
  • Pest of the Pecos – an Old West cartoon with Popeye as an inept marshall.
  • The Blubbering Whaler – another withdrawn video for some reason. Popeye tells Swee’Pea the story of how he signed on to a whaling ship and refused to hunt whales.
  • Popeye and the Spinach Stalk – now this is that Jack-and-the-Beanstalk story you were expecting a few lines ago.
  • Shoot the Chutes – Popeye and Brutus are in a parachuting contest for Olive Oyl’s affections. Also Olive Oyl is being annoying.
  • Tiger Burger – withdrawn video, which is maybe fine, as there’s a painfully long introduction to a cartoon India before it settles down to Popeye and Wimpy hunting a man-eating tiger.
  • Bottom Gun – another withdrawn video, of another western cartoon where this time Popeye’s a chicken farmer standing up to Brutus.
  • Olive Drab and the Seven Sweapeas – Popeye tells us a fairy tale and somewhere along the way we lose one of seven Swee’Peas.
  • Blinkin’ Beacon – the Sea Hag has captured Swee’Pea! And that even before the cartoon’s started! Fortunately, Popeye knows how this is supposed to turn out. Also here’s another cartoon where he’s a lighthouse-keeper.
  • Azteck Wreck – Not reviewed because of the way the cartoon depicts Mexican people.
  • The Green Dancin’ Shoes – Olive Oyl is dancing, she’s dancing, she’s dancing, dancing, dancing, she’s dancing.
  • Spare Dat Tree – Popeye tells Swee’Pea a slightly dreamy story about saving the two Monarch Trees, who appreciate Ranger Popeye’s support in this trying time.
  • The Glad Gladiator – Popeye’s a gladiator in Ancient Rome and Ham Gravy of all people is a spectator.
  • The Golden Touch – Popeye tells of how King Midas overcame his curse, using Eugene the Jeeps. Features cameos from Alice the Goon, Oscar, and maybe Toar and Geezil.
  • Hamburger Fishing – Popeye reads Swee’Pea a fairy tale where Wimpy catches an enchanted cow version of Olive Oyl.
  • Popeye the Popular Mechanic – Popeye builds a robot but forgets to program it only to do good, not mischief.
  • Popeye’s Folly – Popeye tells Swee’Pea of how his ancestor who built a steamboat and beat out Brutus and Sea Hag.
  • Popeye’s Used Car – Popeye goes shopping for a used car and ha ha, have you seen how wacky the new cars are?
  • Spinachonara – Yeah I’m not reviewing Popeye But He’s Japanese As Written In 1960 unless someone pays me cash.
  • Popeye and the Polite Dragon – Did you know Popeye was part dragon? Learn the story of how that came about here!
  • Popeye the Ugly Ducklin – Popeye tells Swee’Pea of his childhood among the Goons.
  • Popeye’s Tea Party – O G Wotasnozzle sends Popeye to the Boston Tea Party.
  • The Troll Wot Got Gruff – Popeye tells Swee’Pea a fairy tale about the Three Billy Goats Gruff.
  • Popeye the Lifeguard – another withdrawn video, this one where Olive Oyl flirts with Brutus to get lifeguard Popeye jealous.
  • Popeye in the Woods – yet another withdrawn video, a camping video in which it’s possible that Wimpy invented the bacon cheeseburger.
  • After the Ball Went Over – a loose, dreamy cartoon built around ping-pong.
  • Popeye and Buddy Brutus – they start off skin-diving buddies and then end up in Atlantis except everybody’s an octopus and it’s the old west, got it?
  • Popeye’s Car Wash – Popeye and Brutus compete at rival car washes in a cartoon that becomes a weird tone poem of 50s chrome. Also: Brutus has more neck than you’d think he needs.
  • Camel Aires – Olive Oyl is an Ancient Egyptian priestess and Wimpy is her guard and Brutus and Popeye are competing to get a gem away from her and Popeye’s the good guy?
  • Plumbers Pipe Dream – withdrawn video once more. Popeye tries to fix a leaky pipe and accidentally drowns Manhattan. Well, that’ll happen!
  • Popeye and the Herring Snatcher – I don’t seem to have reviewed this and don’t see a reason why not. It looks like they didn’t post it yet?
  • Invisible Popeye – another withdrawn video, a shame, since O G Wotasnozzle uses his time machine to send Popeye into the bonkers future to rescue a lost Olive Oyl from a dense field of animation errors!
  • The Square Egg – The Whiffle Hen is here and is a mother!
  • Old Salt Tale – Popeye tells Swee’Pea why the sea is salt, a tale in which it turns out it’s the Sea Hag’s fault.
  • Jeep Tale – Popeye tells Swee’Pea a story of how Eugene the Jeep learned to be a good jeep like his sisters, in this riff on The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
  • The Super Duper Market – a great mass of spot jokes about supermarkets, those are a thing now.
  • Golden-Type Fleece – Popeye tells Swee’Pea the tale of Jason of the Argo looking for the Golden Fleece and finding … oh, you’ll see.
  • Popeye the White Collar Man – in another withdrawn video Popeye tries tosell insurance to Brutus the movie stuntman.
  • Sweapea Thru the Looking Glass – Popeye’s off golfing, so Swee’Pea and Eugene the Jeep pop through his looking-glass and they get into some weird nonsense.
  • The Black Knight – O G Wotasnozzle uses his time machine to send Popeye back to the time of King Arthur and the Sea Hag is Merlin.
  • Jingle Jangle Jungle – Popeye, Olive Oyl, Wimpy, and Brutus go on a hunting safari and it all goes wrong. Content warning: there’s not-actually-seen Jungle Cannibals which, since we don’t see them, kept me from noping out, but your patience for this nonsense may vary.
  • The Day Silky Went Blozo – King Blozo calls on Popeye to save his kingdom from a dragon who’s promoting fully automated luxury gay space Communism.
  • Rip Van Popeye – Popeye explains thunder to Swee’Pea, and we get the other big Popeye bowling cartoon.
  • Mississippi Sissy – a riverboat melodrama where somehow Wimpy turns a gun on Popeye to get what he’s owed?
  • Double Cross Country Feet Race – Popeye and Brutus compete to see who can run across the country and back faster despite having no ability to animate any of the jokes. Also we learn Brutus weighs 245 pounds.
  • Fashion Fotography – Popeye and brutus eventually compete to see who can take Olive Oyl’s picture. She likes Alice the Goon’s portrait instead.
  • I Yam Wot I Yamnesia – possibly Popeye’s first body-swap story and the first time animation uses Wimpy’s classic catchphrase “I’m one of the Jones boys”.
  • Paper Pasting Pandemonium – another withdrawn video. Popeye and Brutus compete to wallpaper a room before Olive Oyl can have friends over, and also where Olive Oyl has friends besides Popeye and Brutus.
  • Coach Popeye – Popeye and Brutus compete to coach Swee’Pea and Deezil Oyl on how to play without breaking windows.
  • Popeyed Columbus – O G Wotasnozzle uses his time machine to send Popeye back to Columbus’s day. Features hiccoughs and that representation of Columbus we got before white people in the United States started reading what the Spanish were saying about Columbus in the fifteenth centurey.
  • Popeye Revere – a terrible lie as it’s Poopdeck Revere. Also, enough barrel-jumping action that you ask whether this inspired the Donkey Kong video game. (It’s a complicated story but sorta-ish.)
  • Popeye in Haweye – Popeye and Brutus compete as tour guides for Olive Oyl’s trip to a Hawai’i without people.
  • Forever Ambergris – Popeye tells Swee’Pea the story of the time he, Wimpy, and Brutus found some ambergris at sea.
  • Popeye de Leon – Skipped because of a portrayal of Olive Oyl as the Native American ‘Olive-Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha’, although I talk about some of the great work that the Max Fleischer Cartoons Channel on YouTube is doing to get new, watchable prints of 1920s and 30s shorts.
  • Popeyed Fisherman – Popeye tries teaching Swee’Pea and Olive Oyl how to fish but how about that, the novices are way better than the expert, and then a whale swallows them.
  • Popeye in the Grand Steeple Chase – Popeye enters the steeplechase for some reason, and buys a horse from Brutus for some reason.
  • Uncivil War – Popeye teaches Swee’Pea about safe driving habits in what feels like a cartoon aimed at an audience ten years too young to need it.
  • Popeye the Piano Mover – Popeye and Brutus try to move Olive Oyl’s piano to her new place.
  • Popeye’s Testimonial Dinner – a really weird clip cartoon full of timing errors, editing mistakes, cameos (Ham Gravy again!), references to a cartoon never made, and a baffling ending that I first thought might have been some bonkers YouTube encoding glitch. If you’re looking for a cartoon to sit on your head and make you beg for mercy, this is the one for it.
  • Around the World in Eighty Ways – Popeye and Brutus compete to run around the world for a game show.
  • Popeye’s Fixit Shop – Popeye and Brutus compete to repair Olive Oyl’s telephone and then the town hall clock.
  • Bell Hop Popeye – Bellhop Popeye and hotel manager Brutus compete for the attention of “the Maharani”, Mae Questel affecting a generically ethnic accent. I didn’t quite get angry at the portrayal of Olive Oyl as a cartoon Asian Indian woman but I never felt good about it.
  • Barbecue for Two – a pilot for the King Features shorts, a strange-sounding, strange-looking, strangely-structured piece of Popeye entertaining Olive Oyl, Wimpy, Swee’Pea, and the unnamed brute who lives next door.
Swee'Pea, Professor Wotasnozzle, Olive Oyl, and Popeye standa around looking at the Whiffle Hen and the Whiffle Chick. The Whiffle Hen's a roughly ordinary chicken-size bird. The Chick is quite large, about as tall as Popeye, and has a vaguely cubical body and head, and with the beak at a weird angle looks with half-lidded eyes towards the camera.
The Whiffle Chick’s expression is my look in every picture, right down to my head being tilted for no obvious reason.

Statistics Saturday: Some Things Named For Their Inventors

Thing Invented By
Leotards Jules Léotard
Saxophone Adolphe Sax
Telephones Phil Telephone
Hope Bob Hope
Sewing Machines Prudence Machine
Hats Hat S Léotard (no relation)
Blue Annabelle Blue
Spreadsheets Herman Spreadsheet
Justice Flora Justice
Tigers Daniel Striped Tiger
Catherine Wheels Wheel of Alexandria
Soup John Philip Soupsa

Reference: The Forgotten Network: DuMont and the Birth of American Television, David Weinstein.

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