Fred Basset Acknowledges Queen’s Death; Andy Capp Still Silent

This event happened just before the Great GoComics Failure Outage Of 2022 so I couldn’t talk about it then. But Alex Graham’s Fred Basset has won the race of the English Comics In American Newspapers to acknowledge the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Or, well, at least the accession of King Charles III, which I suppose entails the former. It’s about as gentle as you would expect. I admit I’m surprised it wasn’t something closer to like what the strip did for the Jubilee earlier this year, but maybe Fred was afraid of going too far overboard.

Fred Basset, to the reader: 'A-ha! King Charles!' The panel widens to reveal a King Charles Spaniel being walked. Fred: '*A* King Charles --- not *the* King Charles!' The spaniel's walker says, 'Hello, Fred!'
Alex Graham’s Fred Basset for the 16th of November, 2022. Fred’s eye in that second panel absolutely conveys how he figured he had put one past us. I’m not being snarky here; that is exactly the expression the artist should want to present and he gets it exactly.

Andy Capp, meanwhile, hasn’t made any acknowledgement, at least in strips run on GoComics. I can’t say whether this reflects the lead time of the strip or what. The comic strip did join in the celebration of Charles Schulz’s centennial this past Saturday, but that’s something anyone could have known was scheduled for almost a hundred years. They’re probably not working a hundred years ahead of deadline, though.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? Why are you publishing on Monday? September – November 2022

After a lot of running late I wanted to prove I could meet my own deadline, okay? Also I’m probably going to want to explain why everyone’s angry at Funky Winkerbean soon and I’ll need to clear some publication slots for that, too.

So this should catch you up to the end of November in Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity. If you want to know about the weekday continuity, or are reading this after about February 2023, a more up-to-date plot recap should be here. Now back to the strange subterranean labyrinth of an Ancient Egyptian cult and their animal-human hybrid super-creatures.

The Phantom (Sundays).

11 September – 28 November 2022.

The Phantom, his wife, and of course Devil were exploring the Temple of the Gods. This ancient lair held an Egyptian cult, long ago. And also inhuman mummies. And the relics of ancient battles, including a particularly bloody one that the Third Phantom barely survived back in 1624. He tried to keep his descendants from visiting again, down to using hieroglyphic riddles in his Chronicles to conceal the place.

The current Phantom has visited at least twice, exploring some of the place in the comic strip in 2005. (There were sequel stories by Team Fantomen in 2006 and 2007; I don’t know whether they returned to the Temple.) He’s there now pursuing a German team that got its host mauled on-camera and, apparently, knows something, somehow, about all this.

The 21st Phantom, showing a skull drawn on the wall; 'This is the place, Diana. The 3rd Phantom left our mark here in blood. His own, I suppose. We'll never fully know what the 3rd Phantom went through in this place ... ' We see flashbacks to 1624, and The 3rd Phantom fighting with sword and knife a pack of animal-headed people. 3rd Phantom thinks: 'My son is prepared to be the 4th Phantom, but I must survive this day! Defy all doom in the name of The Legend itself! For however long I can REMAIN ALIVE in this place --- I AM the legend! ' He shouts, as he stabs a bird-headed figure, 'A Ghost who walks!' As he chokes a snake-headed man, '... MAN WHO CANNOT DIE!'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 9th of October, 2022. I picked this one to share not so much for its plot-bearing status as for having the most interesting action. Most of the story has been given to mood and speculation, all nicely evocative especially when you read several months’ worth of the Sunday strips together. But this one gives you some cool animal-people fighting which we’ve had a shortage of since Flash Gordon went into all-reruns.

The past months have been The Phantom and Diana Walker exploring the caverns. They had a first remote encounter, aware that something was watching them. They were easy to scared off, though. Further exploring found the skeletons of ancient battles, and the mark the Third Phantom left at his ne plus ultra. They press on, farther than the 21st Phantom had gotten. They find remains of a much more recent fight, one with animal-headed people whose bodies haven’t even decomposed. And hear … something.

The Phantom sends Diana ahead, with the torch, while he hangs back in the shadows. He sees their follower, a woman, and says they’re friendly, they don’t need to be stalked. Diana hears a load roaring. She and Devil race back to The Phantom but that’s all we have seen yet.

Next Week!

What terrible medical condition in roots-country singer Mud Murphy did we see Rex Morgan, M.D., very nearly treat? Food poisoning? Irritable bowel syndrome? Crippling social anxiety? Or is he a big lying liar who tells big lies? I explore Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. next week, and just guess which day I do it!

My Baffled Thought for the Year About _A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving_

Finally got to the annual viewing of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and I hope you’ve been wondering what trivial thing I’m fixated on this time. It’s a moment from early on in the special, when Linus asks what all the commotion is and Charlie Brown explains they have another holiday they have to deal with. No, it’s not Sally complaining she hasn’t even finished eating all her Halloween candy despite how we saw how she didn’t get any Halloween candy because she was waiting for the Great Pumpkin. It’s that Linus asks what Charlie Brown’s plans are for Thanksgiving, and he says, they’re going over to their grandmother’s for dinner. And then Charlie Brown just walks off, rather than risk Linus asking any follow-up questions or saying what his family’s doing or saying goodbye or anything. Just, he’s delivered his line, he’s done, until he needs Linus’s help managing Peppermint Patty. It’s a delightful, odd little moment. I hope you notice it next time you see the thing.

Statistics Saturday: Most Recent Mentions of Things in Peanuts

(An incomplete list.)

Thing Most Recent Appearance
Arthroscopic Surgery November 30, 1987
Astronaut Scott Carpenter June 28, 1962
Beethoven April 15, 1999
Billie Jean King January 30, 2000
Boyne Falls, Michigan July 7, 1975
Christo November 20, 1978
Connecticut October 29, 1961
Daffy Duck January 30, 2000
Davy Crockett March 8, 1956
Disco Fever October 19 1978
E-mail April 27, 1996
Flying Ace November 28, 1999
Fussbudgets September 30, 1987
Joe Biden May 24, 1993
Joe Garagiola May 21, 1991 (with a mention in the repeat of December 10, 1997)
Joe Schlabotnik January 3, 1997
Mascot Costumes March 29, 1983
Mickey Mouse September 5, 1999
Raccoons March 3, 1979
Rod McKuen October 3, 1969
Singapore October 15, 1961
Spuds Mackenzie October 12, 1987
Stage Fright April 2, 1989
Tear Gas July 7, 1970
Tilt-a-Whirl June 3, 1971

Reference: Skyscraper: The Search for an American Style, 1891-1941, Roger Shepherd.

Charles Schulz’s Centennial

This Saturday, the 26th, is the centennial of the birth of Charles Schulz. It’s possible to imagine what comic strips would look like today if he had gone into some more likely profession, with great effort. Rather than repeat things that everyone is saying about him, though, let me point you to a pleasant newspaper feature about it. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, hometown newspaper for Schulz’s adult life, published a special section about him on Thursday. All the articles also have a slideshow, some of them with rare pictures, such as showing the Snoopy illustrations that Schulz drew in a rehabilitation exercise room from a 1981 hospitalization.

The Daily Cartoonist says the whole section was free for the viewing on Thursday. That’s unfortunately expired now. But if you somehow know a way around or through a paywall you can use your favorite method of clearing cookies and reloading to view it. I learned things, such as the time his high school’s Hall of Fame plaque had his name spelled wrong for many years. Perfection.

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 1

Happy Turkey Day! I was thinking of things to share here and bring you an all-new, just-written Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction! For this I turn back a century or so and into the public domain for another book by Arthur Scott Bailey. Please settle down with me and enjoy a bit of The Tale of Grumpy Weasel.

I don’t promise, at this point, that I’m going to do the whole of the book. Arthur Scott Bailey doesn’t hate Grumpy Weasel in the way he loathed Fatty Raccoon, so the story hasn’t got that same immediate draw. On the other hand, I felt really good working on this first chapter. Tom’s riff about who wants to be of use in life bodes well to be one of my all-time favorites.

In any event everything that I do with The Tale of Grumpy Weasel should be at this link and if it’s not, don’t make a weasel even more grumpy. You won’t like how that turns out.

The riff with Lum Edwards and Abner Peabody refers to long-running old-time-radio show Lum and Abner. A recurring gag was Abner not understanding one of Lum’s idioms and explaining why the metaphor would not actually work. I promise, the way they performed it the bit was funny. The bit about an animal checking its manual was lifted from one of Richard Thompson’s Cul-de-Sac comic strip. Mr Danders, the class guinea pig, had to look up whether he was nocturnal or diurnal. The “weird Picard laugh” is that throaty huh-huh-huh-huh-huh thing he did in the episode where everyone gets Space Drunk by accident. Picard wasn’t even space-drunk when he laughed like that.


JOEL: Good-night.

> (Trademark Registered)

TOM: Copyright trademark do not steal I already mailed it to myself.


CROW: Terrors!


CROW: Or mild crankiness!


TOM: We’s al what?

> BY

JOEL: Weasels are by Arthur Scott Bailey?

TOM: That’s not as good as the time Beatrix Potter created kangaroos.

> Author of

CROW: The official tales of Forrest Tucker!

> (Trademark Registered)

TOM: Copyright trademark do not steal.


JOEL: Pictures! Your leading image source!




JOEL: Illustrated by Harry L Smith *and* New York?


TOM: Wallace and Grosset?

> Made in the United States of America

CROW: o/` Made! In the USA! o/`

> Copyright, 1920, BY

JOEL: The tire people?


TOM: Malcontents!

> I A Slim Rascal 1
> II At the Old Stone Wall 5
> III Master Robin’s Lesson 9

CROW: A haiku!

> IV Hunting a Hole 13

JOEL: Where the rain gets in …

> V Solomon Owl Interrupts 18
> VI Mr. Meadow Mouse Escapes 23

CROW: A crossover with the _Tale of Mister Meadow Mouse_? Dare we hope?

> VII Paddy Muskrat’s Blunder 28
> VIII The Dare 33

TOM: The Double Dare!

CROW: We do dare!

> IX Saving His Feet 38

JOEL: For marriage!

> X Ha! and Ha, Ha! 42

CROW: They say it’s hard to understand old-time humor but I don’t know, this makes sense to me.

> XI A Long Race 46
> XII Winning by a Trick 51
> XIII Silly Mrs. Hen 56

TOM: Silly Mrs Hen sleeps in the park, shaves in the dark, trying to save paper.

> XIV Grumpy Vanishes 60
> XV The Great Mystery 64
> XVI Guarding the Corncrib 69

CROW: Corncrib?

> XVII Grumpy’s Mistake 73
> XVIII Pop! Goes the Weasel 78

TOM: I bet Arthur Scott Bailey wrote this whole book just for that chapter title.

> XIX Hiding from Henry Hawk 83

JOEL: ‘Enery the ‘Awk, ‘e is.

> XX A Free Ride 88
> XXI A New Suit 93
> XXII Grumpy’s Threat 98

CROW: Wait, we only spend five pages on the new suit?

> XXIII A Bold Stranger 103
> XXIV Fur and Feathers 107

TOM: Sounds like a New Wave band’s big song.

> XXV Peter Mink’s Promise 112

JOEL: I knew a Peter Mink back in high school.

> XXVI How Grumpy Helped 116

TOM: Did he slug someone? I bet he slugged someone.


JOEL: Oh, that’ll make them easier to see.

> Grumpy Weasel and Jimmy Rabbit Run a Race. Frontispiece

CROW: ‘Tis piece, ’tis.

> Master Robin Escapes From Grumpy Weasel. 10
> Grumpy Nearly Catches Paddy Muskrat. 34
> Grumpy Calls on Mrs. Hen. 50

TOM: [ Yelling ] Yo! Mrs Hen!

> Grumpy Weasel Visits the Corncrib. 74

JOEL: Corncrib.

> Sandy Chipmunk Runs from Grumpy Weasel. 98

TOM: Sounds like this book is all people avoiding Grumpy Weasel.


CROW: What kind of animal do you suppose Grumpy is?

JOEL: Oh, he’s a pronghorn antelope.

TOM: Named ‘Weasel’?

JOEL: That’s why he’s grumpy.

> I

TOM: I, Weasel.

JOEL: I M Weasel.



CROW: But a cute little dickens!

> Old Mr. Crow

JOEL: [ Nudges CROW ]


> often remarked that if Grumpy Weasel
> really wanted to be of some use in the world he would spend
> his time at the sawmill filling knot holes in boards.

JOEL: It’s a weird hill to die on, but Old Mr Crow’s chosen it.

TOM: Who wants to be of use in the world? I want to play Animal Crossing and eat cheese.

> "He’s so slender," Mr. Crow would say,

ALL: How slender is he?

> "that he can
> push himself into a knot hole no bigger round than Farmer
> Green’s thumb."

JOEL: Huh.

CROW: Welp, guess that *is* slender.

TOM: Not going to match *any* celebrities on that one. Even Richard Dawson is like, really? You’re leaving me with *that*?

> Naturally it did not please old Mr. Crow

CROW: I don’t know, I feel pretty indifferent about hearing this myself.

> when Solomon
> Owl went out of his way one day to tell him that he was sadly
> mistaken.

TOM: Classic Solomon Owl, though.

> For after hearing some gossip repeat Mr. Crow’s
> opinion Solomon Owl—the wise old bird—

CROW: [ As Solomon ] Bird? Oh, no, no, I’m a dikdik, my family married into the Owls is all.

> had given several
> long hoots and hurried off,

JOEL: Well, you want me to hoot I’ll hoot but that’s your business.

> though it was broad daylight, to
> set Mr. Crow right.

CROW: I tell you, I have no emotional investment in whether Grumpy Weasel should be filling knotholes down at the sawmill.

> "The trouble—" Solomon explained when he had found
> Mr. Crow on the edge of the woods—

TOM: Trouble? In River City?

> "the trouble with your
> plan to have Grumpy Weasel work in the sawmill is that he
> wouldn’t keep a knot hole filled longer than a jiffy.

JOEL: [ As Lum Edwards ] OK, Abner, I was sayin’ Grumpy Weasel *could*, not …

TOM: [ As Abner Peabody ] And another thing, Lum …

> It’s
> true that he can fit a very small hole.

CROW: Or one medium-size divot.

JOEL: A decent-sized pock mark.

TOM: Heck near any rilles.

> But if you’d ever
> watched him closely you’d know that he’s in a hole and out
> the other side so fast you can scarcely see what happens.

CROW: So the whole watching thing is pointless, right?

TOM: The *hole* watching thing.

> He’s entirely too active to fill the bill."

JOEL: No bill-filling. Try a Kyle or a Tom first.

> Old Mr. Crow made a queer noise in his throat, which
> showed that Solomon Owl had made him angry.

CROW: All I can imagine is doing that weird Picard laugh?

> "I never said anything about Grumpy Weasel’s filling
> any bills," Mr. Crow spluttered.

TOM: Good, cause if you fill a bird’s bill how can they talk?

> "Knot holes were what I had
> in mind.

JOEL: If they’re not holes how can you fill them?

> I’ve no doubt, though, that you’d like Grumpy Weasel
> to fill your own bill."

TOM: [ As Solomon ] Wait, are you telling me to eat Grumpy Weasel? Dikdiks don’t eat weasels! I’m pretty sure? Let me check my manual.

> Now, if Solomon Owl had not tried more than once to
> catch Grumpy Weasel perhaps Mr. Crow’s retort wouldn’t have
> made him feel so uncomfortable.

JOEL: Oh, they got *history*.

CROW: Yeah, this is like Will Smith’s slap only about weasels filling holes.

> And muttering that he wished
> when people spoke of his beak they wouldn’t call it a bill,

JOEL: Maybe call it a william, show some respect?

> and that Mr. Crow was too stupid to talk to,

TOM: OooooOOOh! Hey, Crow?

CROW: Shut up.

> Solomon
> blundered away into the woods.

JOEL: Bonk!

CROW: Ow ow owie ow ow who put a tree —

JOEL: Crash!

CROW: My bills!

> It was true, of course, that Grumpy Weasel was about
> the quickest of all the furred folk in Pleasant Valley.

CROW: Also we’re in Pleasant Valley.

TOM: Also the birds count as ‘furred folk’.

> Why,
> you might be looking at him as he stopped for a moment on a
> stone wall;

JOEL: It’s your business, not mine.

> and while you looked he would vanish before your
> eyes.

TOM: *Your* eyes, maybe.

> It was just as if he had melted away in an instant, so
> quickly could he dart into a crevice between the stones.

JOEL: Weasels melt in your mouth, not in your stones.

TOM: What?

> It was surprising, too, that he could whisk himself
> out of sight so fast,

CROW: Is this some introvert-pride brag?

> for his body was absurdly long. But if
> he was long in one way he was short in another.

JOEL: Y’know if you have too much of one spatial dimension the others will shrink to balance out.

> Yes! Grumpy
> Weasel had the shortest temper of all the field- and
> forest-folk throughout Pleasant Valley.

TOM: Short but deep. Dimensions again.

> Even peppery Peter
> Mink was not so short-tempered as he.

TOM: Boy, everybody’s talking about Peter Mink these days.

> So terrible tempered was Grumpy Weasel that whenever
> the news flashed through the woods that he was out hunting,
> all the small people kept quite still,

CROW: Well wait, if they were so small, then they’d compensate by being the widest beasts in town!

> because they were
> afraid. And even some of the bigger ones—a good deal bigger
> than Grumpy Weasel himself—felt uneasy.

TOM: Not from his temper but from his tiresome political lectures.

> So you can see whether or not Grumpy Weasel was
> welcome.

JOEL: Uh … yes?

TOM: I’m going to say ‘no’?

CROW: I’m writing in ‘The Beatles’.

[ To continue … ? ]

What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Why are GoComics and Comics Kingdom broken? September – November 2022

While we were all distracted with GoComics being broken, Comics Kingdom went and broke themselves. Well, changed, although the specifics of the change damaged something. Comics Kingdom replaced the commenting software used, moving away from Disqus and to OpenWeb instead. Along the way, this lost all the comments people had made, for years, on all of their strips. It’s yet another reminder that corporations are not only bad stewards of public platforms, they are hostile and destructive to it. I grant there’s limited value in reading how angry people can be when a comic strip makes a reference aimed at the young folks. But it’s good to see what people’s impressions of these strips were at publication. And many commenters are good enough to explain referenced older storylines or now-obscure characters. All of that connective tissue is gone now.

Comics Kingdom says there are benefits to the new system, and I accept that. I’m unclear how “personalized notifications” and “easier comment sorting” will avoid comment-section “toxic cesspools”, but we’ll see.

Meanwhile, GoComics is back up! From the comments on Daily Cartoonist, it looks like it was coming up as my post yesterday about their still being down published. So it goes. All they’ve said to the public was a tweet that they were having “temporary challenges resulting from a network disruption”. No confirmation of the rumors about this being a “cybersecurity incident”. It still seems like a good chance to change out passwords for new passwords plus, still starring Alan Ludden. The site may be a bit shaky for a while as people catch up on a half week’s worth of strips, so, be gentle to them and laugh no more than mildly uproariously, please.

And now on to my plot recap. This should get you caught up to mid-November 2022 on Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth. If you’re reading after about February 2023 I likely have a more up-to-date plot recap here. And if any news about the comic strip breaks I’ll share it at that link too. Thank you. Now on to tales of love and thanking Mary Worth for making us thank Mary Worth … again.

Mary Worth.

4 September – 20 November 2022.

When I last visited Charterstone, Dawn Weston had accepted that Jared Mylo broke up with her for good reasons. And Mylo had a new girlfriend who sure presented no questions about the appropriateness of the relationship. (She had been a patient in his care.) All seemed wrapped up, apart from Dawn visiting Mary Worth to thank her for her help. Mary Worth’s help was badgering her into being friends with Mylo still, for obscure reasons.

[ As Dawn reflects on recent events ... ] Dawn thinks: 'I'll find love again. And if I don't ... I'll be okay. I have people in my life who love me!' She thinks of her father, of Mary Worth, and of ... I want to say her friend Cathy. Meanwhile her father talks to his fish: 'Stellan, Willa ... Stell and I may be on a break again, but I'm okay with that! I have everything going for me!' Stella is at the piano, singing with her cat and dog, 'Learning to love yourself ... is the greatest love of alll!' And Jared Mylo and Jess are watching Jeopardy.
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 18th of September, 2022. Wilbur says he and Stella ‘may’ be on a break because Stella says ‘hoo boy yes, are we ever broken up’ but he’s not sure what she means by that.

Anyway Dawn thanks Mary Worth for helping her see that letting Mylo go after he broke up with her was good for their friendship. But we have to have some thanking of Mary Worth or it’s not a plot. And on the 18th of September we go around the horn and see everyone content. Mylo and Jess are enjoying each other’s company. Dawn is happy she’s alone again. Wilbur Weston is content to spend more time with his sandwiches. Stella is singing with her cat and dog. And then Dr Jeff comes over so he and Mary Worth can agree how they’re a great couple with a way better relationship than anyone else has. Also they are definitely not getting married. And that takes two weeks.

[ When Zak spontaneously proposes to Iris ... ] Zak: 'My love, tell me you'll be my wife ... marry me! We'll be the happiest married couple there is!' Iris: 'Zak, dear, I love you and I always will, nothin will change that ... but I've been married before and I don't need to do that again. Please understand ... I'm happier with you *now* than I ever was while married to my ex. The two of us don't *need* a license to be happy. I like things the way they are. You understand, don't you?'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 9th of October, 2022. Oh, hey, Zak looking up, clinging desperately to Iris’s arms, his life depending on her. It’s foreshadowing! (I know, it probably wasn’t intended that literally as foreshadowing, but this scene works nicely as such and I want to point out when the comics do things nicely.)

The 3rd of October starts the current story. It’s about Iris and her much-younger computer-game-guy boyfriend Zak. I bet one or both of them have last names, but if they don’t, pick any that you like. I’m going to say one of them is “Beedie”. They’ve had a great relationship despite the unconventionality of her being older than him and knowing of obscure, hard-to-find movies like Casablanca. So well, in fact, that Zak proposes, catching Iris completely off guard.

Iris, having been married before, doesn’t want to do that again. Zak is crushed but accepts that she would rather keep the relationship as it is. She does agree to a long-delayed hike at Piccadee Falls and, sweet Zak, that’s as good as marriage to him. How can you dislike a guy who’s that able to bounce back from depressing news?

[ When Iris and Zak reach the top of Piccadee Falls, he urges her to join him for a selfie ... ] Iris: 'Zak honey, I don't want to stand *there*. Take the photo from here. You're too close to the edge ...' Zak, 'Nah, I'm good! Look at me ... it's safe!' He swings a leg up and leans back toward the edge. 'See! .. Oops ... uff!' He falls. Iris cries, 'ZAK!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 23rd of October, 2022. Meanwhile I’ve reached the point in my life where I once wore my reading glasses by mistake walking upstairs and froze in panic, unsure how to get safely down from the landing. In hindsight I should have taken them off my face quicker than I did. Please remember, I earned a PhD in Mathematics.

Oh, right, because he’s got the judgement of a jack-chi puppy in a chocolate store. He demands a selfie from the edge of the waterfall, declaring, “Not even the Gods themselves could make me fall off!” Well, what do you know but Parakutes, the Ancient Greek God of Plummeting, is in a grove nearby and, well, there we go. Zak clings to a branch, something he can do for the rest of his life. But Iris is able to overcome her fears — and her fear of her own frailty — and pull him back up.

Back on safe ground they hold each other tight. And Iris realizes her fears of marriage are nothing compared to how she feels about Zak. Is it just anyone who would rather he did not die? No. She accepts his proposal, the 6th of November, which might be the first time in my tenure covering these strips that we’ve achieved the summum bonum of Mary Worth.

[ As Iris risks her life and reaches for Zak ... he reaches up so she can grab his arm ... ] We see her, in front of the fals, lying down on the edge and reaching an arm out. In the second panel Zak lets one hand free of the tree root to grab her arm.
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 29th of Ocober, 2022. Wait, how did she pull up Sergeant Snorkel from Beetle Bailey?

Or almost achieved, anyway. Even a small, modest ceremony takes time to arrange. Iris hurries to Mary Worth to tell her the good news that she isn’t dead, and neither is Zak, and so they’re getting married. Mary Worth seems so surprised by this that she’s left saying stuff like “Are you referring to your previous married state versus his inexperience with matrimony?” that even Tom Batiuk says is not how people talk. Commander Data pops in to offer to punch that line up a little. Anyway, Mary Worth is so happy they’ll be able to celebrate the unconventional love of a woman who’s older than the man. And that is our happy (US) Thanksgiving-week resting point for Mary Worth.

Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!

  • “I’ve learned that love, not time, heals all wounds.” — Andy Rooney, 4 September 2022.
  • “Some of us think holding on makes us strong but sometimes it is letting go.” — Hermann Hesse, 11 September 2022.
  • “And if by chance that special place that you’ve been dreaming of … leads you to a lonely place, find your strength in love.” — Linda Creed and Michael Masser, 18 September 2022.
  • “Familiar acts are beautiful through love.” — Percy Bysshe Shelley, 25 September 2022.
  • “Growth is the only evidence of life.” — John Henry Newman, 2 October 2022.
  • “Marriage is a gamble. Let’s be honest.” — Yoko Ono, 9 October 2022.
  • “If you don’t lose, you cannot enjoy the victories. So I have to accept both things.” — Rafael Nadal, 16 October 2022.
  • “It’s a good thing to learn caution from the misfortune of others.” — Publilius Syrus, 23 October 2022.
  • “Love is what you’ve been through with somebody.” — James Thurber, 30 October 2022.
  • “Ultimately, love is everything.” — M Scott Peck, 6 November 2022.
  • “Life is a collage of events, really.” — Mohanlal, 13 November 2022.
  • “The real meaning of enlightenment is to gaze with undimmed eyes on all darkness.” — Nikon Kazantzakis, 20 November 2022.

Next Week!

The Phantom and his wife continue exploring an ancient labyrinth that once held animal-human hybrids the Egyptians may have worshipped as gods! What have they found and is it going to eat them, too? I try to recap Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom (Sunday continuity) next week. Good luck with your own animal-human hybrids once worshipped as gods.

GoComics Is Still So Down That Funky Winkerbean Looks “Up” to It

GoComics is still suffering from being incredibly knocked out. This doesn’t require me to postpone my Mary Worth plot recap. Mary Worth runs on Comics Kingdom, which had an ordinary-for-it glitch Monday where the non-vintage strips didn’t update. That cleared up, though, and it didn’t affect the archives anyway. No, I’m delaying Mary Worth partly to share what I know about GoComics and partly because I figured back on Thursday to write a rough draft and make things easier for myself, and then I sat down and watched a cartoon for a while, and then it was Tuesday afternoon.

Anyway. GoComics has been weirdly reluctant to share information about what’s going on. Once again D D Degg, at The Daily Cartoonist, has some information. According to the Arizona Daily Star, GoComics company Andrews McMeel is having “apparent cybersecurity issues” and they’re working on fixing it, but don’t have word on when that will be. When I just looked at GoComics it offered this not-quite-reassuring notice.

Screenshot of a web page error message reading: 'We are updating the site for you and will be back shortly. In the meantime, how about playing a game on our sister site.' Underneath is a broken-image blank icon.
So something I should explain, since you and I aren’t paid professional user-interface designers. You might think that the question “how about playing a game on our sister site” should be punctuated with a question mark. No. Proper user interface design has learned that if you put a question mark on something, then you’re asking the user a yes-or-no question. And that means the options you need to provide are, for something that involves only the user’s computer, “OK” or “Cancel”. If it’s for something that transmits information about the user back to a server on the Internet, the professional options to provide are “Let’s start already!” and “I’ll answer later”.

Anyway if it is a cybersecurity issue, that could mean anything. But it likely is a good time to change the passwords on any accounts that share the one you use for this silly low-priority web site you use to say nice stuff to the person who draws Amanda The Great on. (Also Amanda The Great is a sweet strip and you should say nice stuff to her.)

And I’m not saying that Tom Batiuk is the problem, but have we ruled out that Tom Batiuk is the problem? Because Degg also reports that Tom Batiuk and Dan Davis’s Crankshaft is to move to GoComics with the start of 2023, as the strip changes syndicates again. I assume this means Comics Kingdom will take down its Crankshaft archive. I don’t have any information what it means for the Funky Winkerbean archive on Comics Kingdom. If you’ve got a favorite strip you’ve been meaning to download or have printed on a mug, maybe do that sooner rather than later.

In Which I Consider My Music for Once

I have noticed I’m listening more to the Broadway Musicals channel on the satellite radio, and I’m curious why. Is it simply that the audience-tested crowd-pleasing music is catching my ear? Do I have a preference for the more strongly narrative, often sung-dialogue patter of many of these songs? Or is it just that so many of these songs have 16 verses and 22 choruses and, being a nerd, if I like something then I want to have a lot of it? Like, great heaping piles, enough to overflow canyons. Enough to smother giants under an avalanche of “thing”. Possibly as a side note, I also really like prog rock, a genre where a tune that runs on for 38 minutes with seven major and four minor movements in eight different kinds of acoustic character plus three poetry readings is regarded as “a quick little trifle”. There’s no way to say.

“Side note” was not intended as a pun but you’ll notice I’m letting it stand.

Yeah, GoComics Is Still Broken, But Here’s Some Replacement Links

GoComics continues to not be working, not just for you but for everyone. D D Degg, at The Daily Cartoonist, has a guide to where you can find the GoComics strips that have other online presences and aren’t in repeats. This won’t help us who’ve gotten quite into Bozo or who keep rereading Spot The Frog, but it’ll cover your basic Wallace the Brave or Breaking Cat News reader. Also from its inclusion in the list I learn that Fort Knox is still in production, which, who knew? Sorry to the guy who draws Fort Knox for thinking the strip had ended. Maybe I was mixing you up with Dude and Dude somehow. Also I think Dude and Dude ended. Again, sorry if I’m wrong.

Statistics Saturday: Which Comic Strip’s Fault Is It GoComics Has Been Down All Day?

Pie chart of which comic strip's fault it is; comics listed are Broom Hilda, Mount Pleasant, My Dad Is Dracula, Texts From Mittens, Bear With Me, Brewster Rockit, Over the Hedge, and The Comic Strip That Has a Finale Every Day. Most have about the same-size wedge. Over The Hedge has a noticeably larger wedge, and the biggest piece goes to The Comic Strip That Has a Finale Every Day.
Not pictured: Sam and Silo, which is over on Comics Kingdom, and Mr Skygack, from Mars, because that hasn’t run since 1911, and GoComics hasn’t been down THAT long yet.

Reference: King of Argent, John T Phillifent.

Long, Depressing Nightmare to End? (Not Twitter, I Mean Funky Winkerbean)

So there’s some news I was not expecting, even though there was foreshadowing in the text. According to D D Degg at The Daily Cartoonist, Tom Batiuk is bringing Funky Winkerbean to an end with the end of December 2022. It’s about fifty years and nine months after the comic debuted. This comes shortly after a somewhat confusing storyline where the characters got together for the 50th anniversary of their graduation, which happened in 1992 to readers or in 1988 (in-universe), but, you know. It sort of makes thematic sense for an anniversary of the comic strip’s existence, and it makes even more sense as a harbinger of the artist retiring.

Folks in the Funky Winkerbean Snark Community started speculating that the strip might be at an end soon. I didn’t think it likely since Tom Batiuk seems to be of the older generation of artists who keep on the strip until ten years after his death, but I suppose we all change our minds about these things sometimes. The suggestion got more prominent with an odd storyline a couple weeks ago where Montoni’s Pizza — the centerpiece of the comic since it moved out of high school — announced its closing and we saw bits of an auction of its effects. The announcement was so sudden, and given so little weight — it started mid-week, and the strip moved away from the theme midweek — that it hardly seemed real.

Funky Winkerbean: 'Well, you're getting your Montoni's Pizza inspiration in just under the wire.' Summer Moore: 'Why? What's going on?' Funky: 'We're getting ready to auction off some Montoni's memorabilia before we close our doors.' Summer: 'Close your doors?' Les Moore: 'As if we somehow needed more proof that nothing good ever lasts!'
Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean for the 28th of October, 2022. The next day Funky would explain that the pandemic and its aftermath “wiped out thin-crust profit margin”, which makes sense, as if there’s one thing people didn’t do back when we tried to contain the pandemic it’s order easily-delivered food. (And Funky mentioned how the place had been so busy he had to take up delivering himself.) Anyway, yes, it’s sad to lose Funky Winkerbean from the comics pages but on the other hand this means we’re soon going to run out of Les Moore storylines.

That retirement moved from subtext to text this week, when Ruby Lith — one of a number of old-time comics artists moved to the in-universe Atomik Comix — announced her retirement. And then we got the announcement, as posted on Tom Batiuk’s web site. Batiuk says he figures to occasionally post new Funky Winkerbean stories at his web site, and that he’ll keep doing Crankshaft, possibly with the Funky characters making more appearances there. We’ll see.

MiSTed: Skippy’s Mom (part 12 of 12)

And now to the end of “Skippy’s Mom”, a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction from around 1999 or so. The whole of the series should be at this link.

This is just the closing sketch, because I insisted on doing host sketches back in the day and I’m a little looser on that nowadays. I have the nagging feeling that “Project Skippy” refers to some actual conspiracy theory but I don’t remember what. The reference to Robotman and the Milde family is about Jim Meddick’s brilliant comic strip Monty. The strip started titled Robotman, about a cute alien robot living with the Milde family in the suburbs. Eventually Robotman left the Milde family to live with Monty, and eventually after that Robotman left the strip altogether. It’s a fascinating, weird thing. TV’s Frank holding off his dying because he’s got one left is a Bugs Bunny lick. The closing line about if you or someone you love is a squirrel, run up a tree really fast, is ripped from an article titled something like “Ways To Tell If You’re A Squirrel” that ran in the humor section of The Rutgers Review back when I was an undergraduate, fourteen years before they invented dirt. It wasn’t my joke and I’ve been sad about that ever since.

[ ALL exit ]

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

[ SOL. TOM, JOEL and CROW are standing behind the desk. ]

TOM: Well, that story raised issues.

CROW: Oh, yeah. Uh… like…

JOEL: Like, who Skippy’s mother is.

CROW: Right, right. Fortunately it gave us that neat answer.

TOM: Ah, you poor, trusting soul. Do you think we met the *real* mother of Skippy in that piece?

CROW: Are you suggesting a coverup?

TOM: I most certainly am! For you see, recently I have come into posession of certain documents — the source of which must remain anonymous — that tell me a top-secret research program lead to the creation of Project Skippy.

JOEL: I think we all know where this is going, Tom.

TOM: JOEL! You’re going to ruin the dramatic tension!

JOEL: Unless you tie it into where the Milde family in "Robotman" went, it’s just not going to snag us.

TOM: But you’ve gotta! If you don’t… aw…

[ TOM ducks off camera, stage right. ]

JOEL: [ Walking in from stage right. ] I hate to ruin his fun, but…

CROW: I know. You have to be firm.

JOEL: [ Patting CROW ] Let’s go have an ice cream soda.

CROW: Yay!

[ They walk off to stage left. ]

TOM: [ Coming in from stage right, wearing Rocky the Flying Squirrel aviator goggles and a squirrel tail stuck around his back. ] And lo! I am Skippy’s real mom, and I have come to… guys? Hello?

[ TOM looks under the desk, and back up again. ]

TOM: Now I just feel self-conscious.

[ MADS SIGN flashes ]

TOM: Ooh… uh, Major *Tom* to ground control. [ TOM snickers ] For the record, the shirt I wear is — [ abrupt cutoff ]

[ DEEP 13. FRANK is on the ground, writhing. DR. FORRESTER is waiting impatiently for him. ]

[ FRANK wriggles, kicking his feet up and down again, rolling side to side, making hissing sounds, twitching, et cetera. It continues for several beats, maybe too long. ]

DR.F: Would you just get *on* with it already? We *do* have other things to do today.

FRANK: Hold your horses, I got one left!

DR.F: All right, but make it snappy.

[ FRANK pushes himself up as far as he can while lying on his back, takes a loud, deep breath, groans at the top of this arc for several beats. Finally DR. FORRESTER puts his foot on FRANK’s chest. ]


DR.F: Just push the button on the way down.

[ DR. FORRESTER slams FRANK to the ground, as FRANK exhales. ]

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

Mystery Science Theater 3000 and its related characters and situations are trademarks of and Copyright Best Brains, inc. Skippy, Slappy, Rita, Runt, Hello Nurse, and the Animaniacs characters are trademarks of and
Copyright Time-Warner. Use of copyrighted and trademarked material is for entertainment and satiric purposes only; no infringement on the original copyrights and trademarks is intended or should be inferred. "Skippy’s Mom" is copyright Charles Brown and is used with permission. This work is copyright Joseph Nebus. The B-O-T sketch was developed from an idea by Matthew Miller, who pointed the fanfic out to me and also contributed several jokes. If you determine that you or a loved one is a squirrel, run up a tree really fast.

> "A hospital could do a INK test on you Skippy." Hello Nurse offered,

[ The end .. or is it? ]

What’s Going On In Mark Trail? What’s with Comics Kingdom’s ads? August – November 2022

So those ads I was complaining about yesterday? Comics Kingdom wrote back. They explained they had changed to a new company providing “programming” and they’re working on the problem which should be solved soon. I am filled with no confidence because it’s been nine months since the Sunday comics problem started and they’ve done nothing about it. Also, they’re calling advertisements “programming”. They are “programming” only in the propaganda sense of the word.

Also for what it’s worth I started clicking on the little ‘Stop seeing this ad’ box. Google Ads told me OK, they won’t show this particular ad again. And three links after that, guess what was back? It’s wild that there’s such a sexual harassment problem at Google, isn’t it?

Anyway that’s all to the side. What we’re here for is Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail and to see a tiger fight an elephant. No luck on that count yet. But maybe by January 2023, when a subsequent plot recap should be at this link, we’ll have seen it. For now, let’s catch you up to mid-November 2022.

Mark Trail.

28 August – 13 November 2022.

One of the stories going on regarded Andy and Sassy, and many other pets, getting chemical burns. It’s the Sunny Soleil Society, of course, and Honest Ernest’s Lawn Libation. Some weedkiller potion that Ernest brewed up. Cherry and Rusty Trail walk Sassy around to figure where he got exposed. They find a perfect green weedless lawn with a koi pond; Sassy loves barking at fish, as who would not, so that explains that. And the lawn is Violet Cheshire’s, turns out.

[ Cherry's talk about Honest Ernest's lawn chemicals with Violet takes a startling turn. ] Violet: 'Ernest and i are not having an affair!' Cherry Trail: ' ? What?? I only came to talk about Honest Ernest's Lawn Libation!' Honest Ernest, carrying a bouquet of flowers, running up: 'Violet! I can't take it anymore! The longing stares, the late-night texts, our bonding over a bee sting! I love you and I don't care who knows it!' [ Ernest probably should care that Cherry is standing right there. ]
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 14th of October, 2022. The bee stings were part of an earlier adventure that introduced Honest Ernest and his wife Caroline.

Cherry Trail returns, fruit basket in hand. She means to apologize to Violet Cheshire for accidentally trespassing and ask if they could tone down the toxins. Cheshire’s instantly suspicious, and nearly panics when Cherry says she wants to talk about Ernest. Cherry can barely talk about the Lawn Libation chemicals before Cheshire denies having an affair with Honest Ernest. Also, Ernest comes up with a bouquet of flowers declaring he doesn’t care who knows about his love. Although he’s a little embarrassed to say it right in front of Cherry Trail. Cherry talks with Mark about this; on the one hand, it’s rotten to Cheshire and Ernest’s partners. On the other, it’s not specifically their business. It’s something that ran into them like a rampaging elephant or something.

Speaking of rampaging elephants. The story Mark Trail passed up? You know, to cover Tess Tigress’s Tiger Touch Center? And work alongside stunt-driver-turned-naturalist Rex Scorpius? That other story was an escaped elephant reported in four states. Keep that in mind.

Mark Trail snoops on the reclusive Rex Scorpius, and finds he’s Facetiming his dog back home. Mark Trail shares his own Facetiming with his dog, and they bond over having dogs who helped them through traumas. So they’re new friends as the arrive for the first day of shooting with Tess Tigress. Diana Daggers starts things off polite but vicious, complimenting her “roadside zoo”. Tigress declares they won’t have her bad vibes and kicks her out. This leaves an unprepared Mark Trail with directing duties since, hey, photography is pretty much like directing, right? Well, it worked for Stanley Kubrick and I bet some other director too.

[ Tess Tigress leads Mark and Rex through the Tiger Touch Center to film. ] Tigress, holding a cub: 'These tiger cubs help us tune into Nature and out of our everyday traumas.' Mark Trail, filming and thinking: 'How old are these tiger cubs? They shouldn't be separated from their mother before two years.' [ Mark decides to use this chance to keep an eye on the tigers as well as the talent. ]
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 21st of September, 2022. Mark Trail may be an unqualified director but he’s quick to pick up on a couple good tricks. At one point he feigns the camera being low on battery, to avoid filming Rex Scorpius cuddling the tiger cubs. Much like the difficulty in making an anti-war movie, it’s hard to overcome the compelling fascinating prospect of interacting with an animal in the wrong ways.

Tigress leads them on a tour that threatens to be so exciting and adorable as to overwhelm one’s senses. It’s exciting and thrilling and magical to hold a tiger cub. Should a cub be separated from their mother so young? There must be a lot of people paying cash for seeing so many tiger cubs; does the volunteer staff get paid? Or deeper questions, asked when Tess Tigress isn’t around to glare at volunteers. Where are they getting enough meat for the animals? Do they have a vet on-site? Have they harmed other animals? That rogue elephant, is she moving in this direction because she remembers a traumatic experience with the Tiger Touch Center?

Jiffy, one of the Tiger Teammates, says they don’t have a vet, and half their animals are sick. And there’s a “weird trailer” they’re not allowed in because that’s where Gemma the Rogue Elephant’s cub is kept. The staff sleeps in tents, and there’s not resources to care for the animals. Mark Trail’s ready to investigate the weird trailer, when he’s interrupted by Tess Tigress and Rex Scorpius.

[ Mark discovers a mysterious trailer at the Tiger Touch Center. ] Mark Trail: 'You're taking a big risk showing me this, Jiffy.' Jiffy: 'Hey, I love these animals, but I never signed up for this. We're not healing anyone here. We sleep in tents and don't have the resources to care for these animals. Meanwhile Tess rakes in cash from fancy clients and book sales. Tess sold us on a lie!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 28th of October, 2022. I get the dramatic purpose of Mark Trail mentioning the risk Jiffy is taking; it’s for readers. But in-universe, it seems best if Mark Trail pumps Jiffy for information making it sound like he’s not asking about anything special, just doing some small talk. People don’t want to snitch but they love to gossip.

Tigress and Scorpius have been committing acts of canoodlery almost since first meeting. I’m not sure is this is strategic on Tigress’s part. It’s wise if it is; Scorpius’s infatuation makes him dismiss Mark Trail’s concerns. It may be sincere, though. Scorpius was a celebrity stunt driver and became a Bikbok star animal-wrangler. He seems attractive enough in his own right. Scorpius’s angles are clearer. He’s been going through a rough time. He abandoned stunt driving after a severe crash and found that being a video star is hard, unfulfilling work. And Tigress fits neatly with a fantasy he’s had since his childhood favorite superhero movie had “the ultimate catgirl”. (I don’t know if that’s an elliptical way of saying Catwoman, of if the character is literally named Ultimate Catgirl.) But between that transferred crush and her warm, inviting, accepting pose he’s fallen hard for her.

[ Mark can only look in horror as the tiger walks into the pen with Rex for the Tiger Truth Test. ] Mark Trail: 'Rex, please! If something happens to you, who will take care of Buzz? YOUR DOG?' Rex Scorpius: 'Buzz! My dog! Oh no. What am I doing?' Tess Tigress ;'Rex, don't! Nothing can stand between you and your love for me!' Gemma the rogue elephant trumpets into the scene, barging into the arena. [ Nothing except that elephant. ]
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 11th of November, 2022. So, like, did Mark Trail almost get Rex Scorpius killed here? Because if he weren’t there, I assume Diana Daggers would have still got herself kicked out of the Tiger Touch Center, but with nobody else to hold the camera wouldn’t Rex Scorpius have gone home instead? Gemma might still have run back to the Tiger Touch Center for whatever old horrors were inflicted on her, but Scorpius at least wouldn’t have been there? Maybe not; I can imagine Tigress putting the moves on Scorpius anyway, since the center does depend on celebrity clients, and without the responsibility of a shooting schedule he might have fallen even faster for her.

And foolishly, too. This past week we saw him shirtless and chained down in an arena for the “Tiger Truth Ceremony”. He can be part of Tigress’s family if he proves himself true, by the tiger not mauling him. Her other five boyfriends didn’t pass but he’s feeling good about this. Until Mark Trail reminds him: if something goes wrong who feeds his dog? Scorpius has a moment of life-clarifying doubt, but the tiger is already loose.

So is Gemma, the rogue elephant who it turns out was heading right for here, and smashes into the arena.

That closed out last week; this week has been back on Cherry Trail’s storyline.

Sunday Animals Watch!

  • Scorpions, 28 August 2022. Note: not former stunt-driver turned Bikbok star Rex Scorpius! Know the difference!
  • Armadillos, 4 September 2022. Apparently armadillo litters are identical pups, which seems like something that should’ve been used in more kids shows.
  • Lawn Chemicals, 11 September 2022. Just use native grasses and if you absolutely must have a uniformly green lawn, try food dye.
  • Monarch Butterflies, 18 September 2022. If you’ve got some milkweed you could do the butterflies a solid.
  • Horned Lizards, 25 September 2022. Also known as the ‘horny toad’ because of its after-dark account.
  • Raccoons, 2 October 2022. In one panel Mark Trail recommends setting a radio near the den of a raccoon you need to relocate and there’s this adorable picture of a raccoon looking cross at your choice in music.
  • Floods, 9 October 2022. Remember that thing where Pakistan got destroyed earlier this year? We should be trying to stop that from happening.
  • Grasshopper mice, 16 October 2022. They’re mice that think they’re little wolves! Seriously.
  • Sandhill Cranes, 23 October 2022. They migrate through Texas so, as you can imagine, they need a lot of help.
  • Texas Red Wolves, 30 October 2022. Which are interbreeding with coyotes on Galveston Island, a reminder of how messy and ambiguous the concept of ‘species’ is in the real world.
  • Yellowbelly Racers, 6 November 2022. The snake is fast and harmless to humans, even beneficial for most of our purposes since they prey on insects and rodents, but, you know, people.
  • Roadside Zoos, 13 November 2022. I mean, sure, any individual roadside zoo may look bad.

Next Week!

It’s been a cliffhanger of a time in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth! Find out all there is to know about the cliff when I recap the plot, I hope in six days. See you then.

Why Aren’t You Talking About What’s Going on in Mark Trail?

It’s nothing too personal and it’s not anything I have against Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail. It’s more that I’ve had a very annoying couple of days and not been in the head space to talk about fun stuff like idiots trying to get mauled by tigers and elephants.

Some of that’s personal and I feel like maybe keeping that private for once. But some of it is also Comics Kingdom has decided the bit where they claim that “once you are subscribed, you will no longer see ads on the site” was a good funny joke and instead, they’re just going to keep showing advertisements.

Screenshot of the top of a Comics Kingdom Favorites page showing an advertisement banner at its top.
I first noticed this last week. It might have been going longer, but it’s so hard to notice an advertising banner existing that I can’t swear to it.

I’ve filed bug reports with them, of course. And they’ve e-mailed back to say they’re working on the problem. Now, we’re in the ninth month of Sunday strips such as The Lockhorns, Prince Valiant, and The Phantom being unreadable on their Favorites page, and they haven’t been able to figure out how to solve the problem, even when I have told them exactly how to fix the problem on eight separate occasions. So they’re working without any credibility here.

A Piece of the @ction

So since the PowerBall lottery didn’t work out — I mean the way I wanted, it seems to have gone fine for someone else — now I’m hoping to get in on the betting pool for Twitter’s final complete demise. Trouble is I’m having trouble getting people to place bets with me without giving them some means of contact besides my Twitter handle, @nebusj, I guess because even they notice I haven’t actually interacted there in years, it just reposts announcements of these posts going up. Well, there’s one born every minute, they tell me, but they’re circumspect about one of what.

In Which I Am Detained by a Childhood Memory

Sorry to run late but you know how it is. You step into the shower and remember that time Underdog had to fight some aliens who were part magician, part flying saucer, and who were kidnapping Sweet Polly Purebred because they couldn’t find anyone else in the galaxy who knew how to make cake, and they cast a spell on him and he spent two installments struggling and shaking off the spell only to recite, “I’m back to myself, but I’m not right at all; I feel myself changing back to a ball!” before turning into a sphere with his face on it and accidentally getting put into a women’s volleyball game or something like that. Throws your whole day off and you can’t even explain it to anyone outside your age cohort because there’s not a single element of those sentences that doesn’t sound like I’m the daft one, but there they are.

Statistics Saturday: Top Names for Cartoon Weasels

  • Wally Weasel
  • Willy Weasel
  • Walter Weasel
  • Wiley Weasel
  • Waldo Weasel
  • Wesley Weasel
  • Winston Weasel
  • Wendell Weasel
  • Girl Weasel
  • Winslow Weasel
  • Wyatt Weasel
  • Warrick Weasel

Reference: 1898: The Birth Of The American Century, David Traxel.

I Wonder if After the Revolution We Will Have Hush Puppies

So that Fish and Chips place a couple blocks away, that used to be an Arthur Treacher’s? And went on its own as a Fish and Chips place for decades after that, until it closed because the landlord figured he could get more money by it being a different restaurant? And that sat empty for a year and reopened as a diner that was never open when we might want to eat? And then sat empty for a year and reopened as a Mexican restaurant across the street from the city’s best taco truck? And then sat empty for a year? It’s supposed to be reopening soon, this time as a fish and chips place. It’s kinda crazy but this time I think it might just work.

MiSTed: Skippy’s Mom (part 11 of 12)

I bring you now the conclusion of “Skippy’s Mom”, a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction fresh to you from something like 1999. There’s still a host segment to go, so don’t worry, there’s something to look for next week. The whole of the series should be at this link.

Please do not cut yourself on the razor-sharp commentary about the scripting of the movie Armageddon! There’s a riff about “Who will I kill?” which, yes, references Doctor Forrester’s song after TV’s Frank departed. I thought harder about the anachronism than the riff deserves. The Nieman-Marcus Cookie Recipe is an ancient urban legend. According to it, someone asked for the department store’s cookie recipe and assumed the “two-fifty” cost for it was two dollars fifty cents. On discovering the two hundred fifty dollar charge they made it their mission to reproduce and disseminate this important recipe, especially to computer bulletin boards. I’ve never made it myself.

The story proper is concluded, and author Charles “Runt-Abu” Brown is in the midst of a point-by-point discussion of how the story changed from first draft to published edition. I always find this sort of thing interesting and am sincerely happy he included it.

Some of the odd symbols here are from ASCII art that’s too hard for me to reproduce faithfully here. My recollection is that the ‘quaint little puzzle’ appeared inside a text-image outline of California, but if I’m mistaken, I’ll never know.

> 10.Unfortunatly Susan is slightly mad, no she’s very mad

TOM: Slappy woke her up out of a really cool flashback!

> (Imagine One
> flew over the cuckoo clock with Susan in it…)

JOEL: Okay, now imagine "House of Wax" with Hippety Hopper in it.

TOM: Right. Now imagine "Metropolis" with Betty Boop in it.

CROW: When you’re done with that, imagine "Tron" with Popeye and Olive Oyl in it.

> However Slappy drags
> her back to her treehouse where….
> 11.Skippy the cat is now quite happily living with Rita

CROW: And her cousin Oedipus.

> (and Runt who is
> now also back…)
> Skippy’s mom recognises Skippy (How he know looks like a cat for
> crying out loud!) and even more bizzarly Skippy recognises her. When
> he does hesuddenly flashes with light and becomes

CROW: Rodimus Prime!

> Skippy Squirrel…
> 12.Slappy blows up the hosiptal with Susan Rita’s

JOEL: Meter maid’s!

> and Skippy’s help
> _AFTER_ finding they got the wrong DNA results.
> Now if only they had
> tripled checked….

TOM: They would have discovered the hospital was actually a trout farm.

> (For very observent viewers they may just notice that the bottle says
> <Sample 001 | Feline | Male | Runt > on it….)

CROW: But this ending was omitted for clarity.

> ========================================================================
> ======
> Dedication

JOEL: Perseverance, faith, hope, and love.

> ==========
> As well as the dedication at the start I would also like to dedicate this

CROW: To landing a cartoon–

JOEL: [ Holding CROW’s shoulder ] You’re too late.

> to the following people for trying to keep me sane over the past week:
> MasemJMouse | Keeper | Colin | Plucky | LeloniBunny | DEViaNT |
> Wakkymouse | Wakko | Skippy | ALL (else) at #watertower and ALL at a.t.a.

JOEL: And all the ships at sea! Flash!

> ————————————————————————
> ——

> Unexplainable Plot Descrepencies:
> Okay Chicken Boo morphed into Hello Nurse,

TOM: Now, *there’s* a disguise.

> it does work better with her
> rather then chicken boo.
> Abu (Yes the monkey from Aladdin and map designer from D.N.R.) snuck
> in too this script.

CROW: And if he’s ever caught, he’ll be in a world of trouble.

> Animals can become alert in an instant,

JOEL: But only if you use the can opener.

> so why are Runt and Skippy
> tired at some points in the story?

TOM: Because they have to walk 700 miles without a break?

> Journey to Nevada desert – ‘kay I don’t know where Burbank is and it’s
> geographical closeness to Nevada is a total mystery to me!

CROW: And consulting an atlas would demand minutes of research.

> Susan -> Romana
> DNA is now called INK to reflect the fact they are toons.

JOEL: Ooooh.

CROW: Ah. You get it now?

TOM: Yes! Now I see the INK joke.

> The computer, don’t say anything,

CROW: You’ll just embarass your mother.

> it’s not that far away from what
> computers can do.

JOEL: ‘Cause making up wacky stuff would hurt the realism.

> The plot ends <CLOSED> e.g you know why the INK was such a close
> match for Rita and this story has no chance to be continued

TOM: Unless, say, Skippy’s mom ever has something to *do* with her son sometime in the future.

> (Unlike the
> big horrible daily perodi-stories.) Also I think it’s a lot better
> to finish it with a proper explanation.
> And that’s it more or less this story took a mere 15 hours to write

JOEL: That’s still more than thirty times as long as "Armageddon" took to write.

> and
> a massive 2 days of planning (but that was mostly ’cause I got lost on
> the way

TOM: Turns out *he* was wandering through the Nevada desert, looking for Skippy’s mom.

> and did not know what to write.)
> ==============================================================================

> | Skippy’s Mom 1.1 | 507 Lines | P-S 6 | Ranking 8.6/10 | 9/6/97 21:52
> GMT-1 |
> ==============================================================================

JOEL: It’s good that we were told the exact minute when this story was finished. Otherwise we might miss our orbital window.

> /——————\
> | |Next Week| |
> | \———/ |
> | What will it be? |

TOM: Who will I kill?

> Whilst you are waiting for next weeks fanfic you
> |——————| can try and slove this quaint little puzzle

CROW: What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and… wait.

> |saediynafoledatic | that actually tells you what next weeks fanfic
> |ehtdnarenrawokkay | maybe… Good luck as it’s probably full of
> |ebdluoctirodraugeht\ speeling mistaks!

JOEL: Spelling mistakes? Go on, tell us another one.

> |hplarhtiwydorap \
> |lanmonehpalacimonortas\
> |ebyamtiwollofotessohci \

CROW: I never got into ‘Scattergories.’

> |yrotshcihwnognidnepedtnur \
> |dnaatireruteafottontsrifeht \
> |ebyamcifnafskeewtxenroF<— |

TOM: Why is he sending us the Nieman-Marcus cookie recipe?

> \—————————–/
> ————–29934A6D602B–

JOEL: And that’s a story.

[ ALL exit ]

[ To continue … ]

A Thought While Watching a Fiasco From Afar

I’m sorry to post late. I was busy thinking about just how much work they’ve got to be getting done at Tesla and SpaceX and all this month, with Elon Fudd being so busy managing Twitter instead. At this pace they might actually build a hyperloop subway or feed the world or something, as long as he stays distracted.

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? What’s with this Terrence Smiles guy? August – November 2022

A good deal of September and October in Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley starred mall-based piano player Sir Terrence Smiles. He was illustrated with that odd specificity that inspires the question, was this based on some real person? And yes, it was. I admit I know this only because of a comment the 15th of September by charliefarmrhere over at GoComics, but I can pass that on. Sir Terrence Smiles is a riff on Terry Miles, a YouTube guy who plays boogie woogie at shopping malls. Here’s a five-minute video with one example of this. Seems like fun. Miles has a whole YouTube channel of this stuff and that’s all I know about him and his groove. I trust he’s flattered to inspire a comic strip character.

This should catch you up to early November 2022 in Gasoline Alley. If you’re reading this after about — wow — January 2023, or any news about the strip comes out, you might find a more up-to-date recap here.

Gasoline Alley.

22 August – 5 November 2022.

Boog’s fantasy of building a spaceship for Jimmy had faded, last I checked in, replaced with building a model. He impresses his would-be girlfriend Charlotte with the toy, and everyone gets excited to launch it. Polly the parrot even calls Gasoline Alley Television to get some media coverage for the model rocket launch. This doesn’t pan out to anything. They show up after the accidental launch. But it does foreshadow the Gasoline Alley media coming around for the current story.

Jimmy: 'I'm texting all the neighbor kids to meet us at the field up the road at three! We can't have a great rocket ship ascension without an audience!' Polly: 'Should we alert the news media too? Awk!' Jimmy: 'That's a good idea, Polly!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 27th of August, 2022. To say more direct nice things about Scancarelli’s artwork: Polly being drawn so large in the last panel is a great choice. Polly’s tail sticking over the boundary to the panel before makes for a neat transition between camera angles, and showing the bird so large supports how Polly’s dominating the story beat. It flows great. Also Scancarelli draws a nice parrot.

Polly sits on the remote control by accident, launching the rocket inside the house. It flies around, smashing up everything, just before Jimmy and Charlotte’s parents get home. They’re okay with this. Charlotte’s Mom says they were going to get new lamps and vases anyway, and jabs her husband in the gut until he agrees they totally were. You know how the women-folk be with the shopping.

So, the 14th of September, the story transitions from all the model-rocket stuff to the mall. Jimmy discovers Sir Terrence Smiles at the piano, playing boogie-woogie. Smiles is a relentlessly cheerful, enthusiastic person, and he encourages Jimmy to sit up and play with him.

This takes us onto a conflict-free patch of story. It’s all about Smiles and Jimmy playing together. Jimmy’s a novice; Smiles is a most enthusiastic … teacher isn’t the right word. But the person introducing him to piano-playing. This includes some fanciful scenes, the sorts of nonrepresentational mood imagery that Scancarelli does well but not enough. It’s a nice depiction of struggling to learn a little of playing music. And then we get into some silliness, Smiles’s getting his sock stuck in the piano keys somehow and going on from that for a while.

Jimmy and Terence Smiles playing on the piano; we see chains of the notes theyre playing, finishing with a picture of them on a music staff, Miles atop of chord helping Jimmy climb up the notes. Smiles says, 'You're climbing up the music ladder, lad!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 24th of September, 2022. And again, saying nice things about art: this is a great depiction of having fun while you struggle and learn a skill. Two great body language panels giving way to a non-literal representation. Good going.

Jimmy’s parents come over; he never answered their texts about it being time to go for ice cream. Smiles talks about how Jimmy’s got an impressive ability, and he goes with Jimmy and Charlotte and parents to the ice cream place.

And so, with the 10th of October, we start the current story. It’s a Walt Wallet story. He’s working on his bucket list, in the touching belief that he might someday die. He has a couple of the wide-eyed ambitions any of us might, like walking on the moon or skydiving. He’s also got one that seems so mundane it ought to be possible: riding on the back of a garbage truck. It’s one of those fanciful ideas that caught him in childhood, to the disapproval of his teachers. They didn’t like the idea of his being a cowboy, either.

Rufus and Joel, junk dealers, are glad to give Walt a ride on their mule-pulled wagon. But that’s not the fantasy, which is to ride a garbage truck like Denzel Washington rides in the movie Fences, which I never saw. Rufus and Joel ask their friend DC, who’s in the city Refuse Department. DC would be glad to, if that were possible. The city’s garbage trucks don’t have running boards or grab bars anymore. The yard waste trucks do, but they’re not used, and anyone letting someone ride on them would get fired fast. Even if that person weren’t eight years older than the number zero.

Joel: 'Well, how 'bout it? Can yo' fix it up t'give Mr Walt a ride on th'back of yo' truck?' Yard Waste Guy: 'We'd admire to do so, but if our supervisor found out we'd be terminated so fast between the words 'you're' and 'fired'!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 2nd of November, 2022. I did not catch the yard waste guy’s name, although since his friend with the refuse department was DC I’m going to guess this guy is AC? Anyway, the comments in this whole segment of the story have been people discovering their local garbage trucks don’t have running boards anymore. Ours have those robot arms that I’m amazed can grab garbage bins and, even, the paper bags used for bagged leaves. I’ve watched this happen over and over and still can’t believe it works.

All may not be lost, though. Hulla Ballew — failing for once to identify herself as Bob and Ray reporter Wally Ballew’s sister — hears something’s up and wants to know what it is. She also forgets one time that she works for the Gasette, introducing herself as working for the Gazette instead. How will this lead to a happy conclusion? Is there a happy conclusion possible? We’ll see over the next couple months.

Next Week!

Is a shirtless Rex Scorpius going to get himself eaten by a tiger or trampled by a rogue elephant? Lots of endearingly odd developments to recap in Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail, next week, I hope!

In which I ask for help to get 50 points at Best Buy

Best Buy wants me to review my recent purchase of a four-way HDMI signal switcher. While I can imagine a terrible four-way HDMI signal switcher purchase experience, it involves things like “while buying it, I inadvertently turn all the world’s oxygen into plutonium and we don’t last long after that”. While I — and you — are glad that didn’t happen, we’d be equally glad that didn’t happen whatever I bought from Best Buy, whether it were a four-way HDMI signal switcher or that disc thingy people put on the backs of their cell phones to hold them or Toys on Blu-Ray from the bargain bin. If I’m going to get 50 points for this it has to be something where the four-way HDMI signal switcher matters. Thank you for your help. I won’t be sharing the points, although I’m probably going to leave them to rattle around the junk drawer anyway.

60s Popeye: The Last Resort, and the last Gerald Ray. Coincidence?

Yes. It’s coincidence. But with this I visit the last of the Gerald Ray-produced Popeye cartoons. I’ve reviewed this before, separate from the 60s Popeye project. But I’ll try to say different things here. I might also remember to update the dead embedded link in that older video, although with all the videos that King Features pulled for some reason from their 60s Popeye feed who knows when I’ll have the time or energy? I do. I will never have the time or the energy.

This cartoon, from 1960, lacks a story credit, a shame. Direction is credited to Tom McDonald. And the producer, as noted, was Gerald Ray. Here is The Last Resort.

As Fred M Grandinetti’s Popeye: An Illustrated Cultural History notes, Gerald Ray worked with Jay Ward. Ray picked up one of Jay Ward’s great insights into limited animation: it’s okay if there aren’t a lot of pictures if the pictures are funny. (As I noted back in 2014, it’s funny not just to have Sea Hag counterfeit three-dollar bills, but for the face on the three-dollar bill to be Benedict Arnold, and on top of that for his head to be in a noose.) So this cartoon manages to be funny even though, for most of it, Popeye doesn’t even know the Sea Hag is in it.

Sea Hag and Toar are counterfeiting money at the Crepe Cod Inn — the first of many small bits of silliness tucked in the corners — when Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Wimpy wander upon them for no good reason. Sea Hag and Toar try to kill Our Heroes, failing so completely tha Our Heroes don’t even know it’s happening. The Sea Hag finally loses patience, ties up Popeye and Olive Oyl and sets a bomb on their head, only for Wimpy to have a spinach burger ready for Popeye’s power-up. Popeye throws the bomb out to sea, blowing up Sea Hag and Toar.

The plot isn’t quite ramshackle. Popeye et al avoid the Sea Hag’s attempts to kill them without knowing that’s even happening, but that’s a respectable way to foil comic villains. How often does the Road Runner know the Coyote was trying a stunt? There’s no good reason for Popeye to stop at Sea Hag’s abandoned resort, but the cartoon has to have something happen, after all. It doesn’t look like Popeye knows he’s throwing the bomb out where Sea Hag and Toar are paddling away. But that adds a nice bit of the absurdity of life to her story.

Our Heroes just avoid a safe dropped on their heads, a joke also used in Where There’s A Will. (That time, with a safe dropped on Popeye’s head.) Nothing wrong with reusing a solid lucky-escape like that.

Popeye and Olive Oyl tied up by chains, as the Sea Hag places a bomb on Popeye's head. In the background Toar dumps piles of counterfeit money into a suitcase.
This is kind of a busman’s holiday for Popeye, really.

And this short features Toar! One of my favorite minor characters. He appeared a fair bit in the comic strip, where he started as a rival. Toar was a caveman who’d drunk from the magic pool of never-aging, but soon turned into one of Popeye’s faithful companions. This might be his only significant animated role, probably because there’s more room for his niche — stalwart muscle-bound not-quite-understanding-it guy — in the sprawling daily comic stories than in the six-minute shorts.

(We end with the gang heading to Yucca Flats. I, too, thought of the infamous failed movie The Beast of Yucca Flats. That’s a coincidence, all driven by the Yucca Flats atomic testing site’s existence; the movie wouldn’t come out until 1961.)

I really like this short. It’s got everything I could hope for. Story that holds together, a lot of jokes in the story, in the dialogue, and in the drawings. (I love Popeye’s melodramatic declaration “the weakest link in these chains … is me”.) Sea Hag, always a favorite. Toar, a special treat. Wimpy going off on his own and yet not being completely irrelevant to things. If all the King Features cartoons were like this, the series would have a respectable reputation.

Statistics Saturday: Things to Look Forward to in the (US) Time Change This Weekend

  • Saturday, 8:40 pm: Friend in Europe getting all huffy about our saying “the” time change as if we didn’t know other countries change time other weekends or don’t change at all.
  • Saturday, 11:30 pm: Going around the house verifying that the only mission-critical clocks that don’t change time on their own are the mantle clock and the clock my aunt and uncle gave me for graduation back in the 90s.
  • Sunday, 1:42 am: 28 people simultaneously making joke tweets about Vladimir Putin having a stroke while on a clandestine visit to Iran instigates the final, complete collapse of Twitter.
  • Sunday, 1:59 am: We gather around the radio-controlled clock to see it self-adjust its time.
  • Sunday, 2:04 am: We wonder when the radio-controlled clock is ever going to start self-adjusting.
  • Sunday, 2:07 am: We have better things to do than worry about this.
  • Sunday, 12:14 pm: OK but the radio-controlled clock has to adjust itself sometime, right?
  • Monday, 12:10 pm: Adjust the answering machine that somehow asks for the time of day, and day of the week, the year, but not the month or day because ?? ????? ?? ?????? ?????????.
  • Monday, 2:57 pm: I take the radio-controlled clock outside to the garage in the hopes it gets better radio reception out there and finally adjusts to the right time.
  • Tuesday, 11:20 am: I manually adjust the radio-controlled clock to the correct time and feel bad about the whole situation.
  • Tuesday, 2:10 pm: We notice the radio-controlled clock has adjusted itself back to the wrong time when we weren’t looking somehow?
  • Thursday, 5 – 8 pm: We find the instruction manual for the radio-controlled clock and find we seem to be doing it right but it’s still on the wrong time.
  • Friday, 4:08 pm: I get around to changing the time on that clock from my aunt and uncle.
  • Monday the 14th, 9:15 pm: The radio-controlled clock is on the right time now.

Reference: The Grand Emporiums: The Illustrated History Of America’s Great Department Stores, Robert Hendrickson.

Statistics October: What a Mystery Things Were in October 2022

There’s some kind of WordPress problem going on where I can’t look at my statistics page right now. I mean as I write this. I don’t know what’s going on when this posts. So I snagged a couple screenshots and things when the month actually started, Universal Time, and can share what I know from that. But there’s data I failed to download at the time, including the roster of how many views came from which country, that I don’t have. I also don’t have the roster of what the most popular October posts were. But I’ll make do with what I have.

There were 5,379 page views around here last month. That’s down a little from the last couple months. But it’s above the twelve-month running median of 4,858.5 views per month, and not too far below the running mean of 5,511.9. I’ve had a couple freak months around here recently. These views came from 2,811 unique visitors, down from the running mean of 2,942.6 but just about right on the running median of 2,815.

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 2022 and September 2022, with a decine after that.
Yes, they changed the typeface for that little pop-up window with the number of views and visitors and views per visitor. No, I don’t know what it means. No, it can’t be anything good.

There were 146 likes given around here in October, slightly below the running mean of 159.9 and median of 159.5. Doesn’t seem significant to me. Comments are hidden in the screenshot I took at the start of the month, and I can’t get them right now. So that’s formally a mystery. I think it was more than in September, though, something above 80, which way beats the running mean of 50.4 and median of 51.5.

I don’t have the roster of what were the most popular posts here in October but I’m going ahead and guessing it was plot recaps for Gil Thorp and for The Phantom weekdays. Here’s my schedule for what comics I’ll try to recap the next couple weeks.

That’s, of course, subject to change as I get way behind on everything.

WordPress figures I posted 21,772 words in October, which is my most talkative month of the year. It brings me to a total of 177,577 words for the year, and an average of 702.3 words per posting. It seems a bit much to me, too. I’ll try and do more of those one-liner posts, but they’re harder to think up.

Between the end of filming for the movie The Gun In Betty Lou’s Handbag and the start of November I’ve posted 3,560 things here. They’ve drawn a total 5,426 comments, and 326,624 views from a recorded 184,350 unique visitors.

If you’d like to be a regular reader around here thank you, that’s very kind. Checking in daily works. You can also use my RSS feed,, with whatever RSS reader you have. If you don’t have an RSS reader you can sign up for a free account with Dreamwidth, and add this (or any RSS feed) to your friends page there. To read around here, you can use the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button on the right of this page. Or you can get essays e-mailed to you, using the box just below that, and see the least copy-edited version of these posts.

And so if I may leave you with anything to remember, it’s the words to a square dance you had to do every day for like three weeks in second grade that you haven’t thought about in decades but that are all that’s in your brain starting now. All join hands and circle left around the ring; when you get home, get ready to swing. Swing with your partner, and go two times around. Now do-si-do with your corner gal, and come back to your home. Now promenade your partner round the (something).

MiSTed: Skippy’s Mom (part 10 of 12)

And now to the last weeks of “Skippy’s Mom”, a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction fresh to you from something like 1999. The whole of the series should be at this link. Don’t think I’m not worried about what to replace it with.

Not sure there’s any riffs I need to apologize for this week. That’s a nice change. The Brains used up all Captain’s Log jokes on Star Trek MiSTings, particularly Marrissa Picard stories. Whit Bissell was a character actor who had a small part in, like, every TV show ever. He was the beleaguered space station administrator in the tribbles episode of the original Star Trek, and in the 90s Nick at Nite had a running bit about identifying more Whit Bissell cameos. Slim Pig was a character in this show Cartoon Network would run at like 6 am Sunday mornings. He was a pig flat as a sheet of paper and could roll up or fold up or stuff like that. Jayne Barbera is the daughter of just who you think, and was a production executive on like seven billion cartoon shows, go ahead and guess for which studio. Credits include a couple of Scooby-Doo shows, Pirates of Dark Water, the 80s Jetsons series, and the immortal Heyyy, It’s The King!. Gabby the Town Crier was the only character anyone can remember from Fleischer Studio’s Gulliver’s Travels and got a series of short cartoons of his own that you can find on public domain tapes.

The story so far: a faulty INK test at the local hospital led Skippy Squirrel to think his mother was Rita the Cat. Nope; it was Romana, a squirrel unable to care for her son or much of anyone. So after some mild inconvenience everyone’s gone back to where they were to start. And even though there was an epilogue we have now a …

> Postlogue

TOM: I want to make a Captain’s Log joke, but we’ve used them all up, haven’t we?

JOEL: Yeah, they’re all gone.

CROW: Sorry, Tom.

> ———
> The battered reamins of the hospital where still smoldering gently well
> into the evening.
> A strange looking doctor

JOEL: Identity withheld to protect Charles "Runt-Abu" Brown’s sources.

> came along and picked up a test tube that had
> been remarkably unsmashed in the exsplosion.

CROW: However, it was covered with pasghetti.

> The doctor picked it up and

> read the label: "Sample 01| Skippy| Feline| Male." He looked at the tube
> and noticed that something was wrong with the label,

TOM: Heeeey! This is *diet* test tube!

> there was another
> label stuck on top of it. The doctor carfully peeled it back

CROW: Aw, there’s a wacky Dilbert comic strip on the back!

> but it
> ripped halfway so that only the last bit of it was readable…

JOEL: [ Reading ] "Far, far better rest I go to, than I have ever known"?

> " …line, Male."

TOM: Well? Line? Anyone?

CROW: They need improv classes.

> He held the INK sample

JOEL: I hope he doesn’t turn into the guy from "Cool World."

> up to the light and could just make out the rest of
> it.
> "Sample 03| Rita | Feline| Female."

TOM: Hey, I bet she’s got INK like a cat’s.

> The End…

ALL: Or *IS* it?

> ========================================================================
> ==========================
> |Plot|

TOM: OK, I’m going to secretly build a pneumatic tube system under Manhattan to demonstrate the viability of a subway system there.

> \====/
> This is what I started out with,

CROW: Fifteen Lego blocks, two packages of bubble wrap, seven basketballs, an olive, and three feet of packing tape.

> as you can see it sort of deviated
> from the plot..

JOEL: Yeah, the story never did wrap up the packing tape thread!

> (F.Y.I Sqips -> Skippy ala #watertower.)

TOM: The wet duck never flies after midnight.

> 1. Skippy and Slappy, Sqips asks about his Mom as he can’t remeber (if
> only all stories where this simple…) Slappy can’t remeber either…
> 2. Hall of records, Skippy must have been born

CROW: Unless he’s from the future and came back in time.

> so Sqips and Slappy make
> there way to the HOR to find out about Sqips past,

TOM: They discover it was pumpkin-flavored.

> only imediate
> family are allowed to view records so Sqips is the only one to see
> the record.

CROW: Because letting his legal guardian see it first would be goofy.

> 3. Pointless Cameo,

JOEL: Hey, Whit Bissell works hard. He deserves to be seen.

> yes there has to be at least one gratitus and
> pointless cameo in this case it’s Chicken Boo in the Hall of records.
> 4. Little orphen Skippy. Dark chapter this, Sqips has no record, on any
> database.

TOM: He *is* from the future!

> 5. Echos, Sqips now rather scared goes for a DNA test

JOEL: DNA, ’cause that’s like DN… hey!

> at the local
> hospital being the ever efficent service it will take at least 2
> weeks to come back.

CROW: They should tie it to a cat, so it comes back the next day.

> 6. DNA, so who is Sqips? Well he is called Skippy however his DNA does
> not appear to be that of a squirrel,

TOM: Well, yeah, you can see how you have to be a cat, with a name like Skippy.

> strangly it is more like a cat…
> (See A! opening sequence in the U.K. for details of this bizzare plot
> turn.)
> 7. Kindred spirits. Rita (Sans runt, he’s off recovering from saving the
> world)

JOEL: From… elves… or something.

> is brought in to teach Sqips about being a cat. This is where
> things get strange.

CROW: It turns out Rita is actually ‘Slim Pig.’

> 8. I am not a cat!

JOEL: I am a free number!

> Sqips screams at one point, however his DNA and now
> his apperance is not agreeing with this.
> 9. Skippy’s mom, Ahh, wondering when we would get to this,

TOM: Turns out to be Jayne Barbera in a *highly* embarassing incident.

> Whilst Sqips
> has been learing with Rita. Slappy has been off scouring the desert

> of Navada looking for Skippy’s REAL mom, she finds; wait fot it:

JOEL: Gabby, the Town Crier.

> A
> squirrel by the name of Susan who could be Skippy’s mom…..

CROW: Or could just be his dietician. Who knows?

[ To continue … ]

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? What kind of idiot steals a cop car? August – October 2022

The current story in Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy has Robert Parrish, who’s been paying for his acting career by stealing cars, stole a cop car. One may ask why any criminal with a lick of sense would do that. And the answer is that it wasn’t, you know, a cop car. The thing with the seal of the city and some motto about serving and protecting on it. It was the blue sedan owned by a a person who happens to be a cop, in this case, Sam Catchem. It happened to have some of Catchem’s work gear inside too. But the robbers have no idea they’re getting a cop’s car; it’s just, a car.

So this should catch you up to the end of October 2022 in Dick Tracy. If you’re reading this after about December 2022 a more useful plot recap should be here. I’ll also post any news I get about the comic strip. Now on to the last couple months and how the Earth got saved from conquest plus right before a musical went into production.

Dick Tracy.

14 August – 29 October 2022.

Dick Tracy accepted Moon Governor Thorin’s invitation for him, Honeymoon Tracy, and Mysta Chimera to visit the Lunarian hideout. This so Honeymoon and Chimera could learn something of their heritage. The heritage is of pulpy 1930s sci-fi adventure, with big angular architecture and psychic powers and snail-based economies and all. Also so Tracy could learn there’s a rogue faction respecting their pulpy 1930s sci-fi heritage by conquering the Earth. And what do you know but Ro-Zan is preparing to launch his conquest of the Earth, like, tomorrow! To show he’s serious he orders the electro-killing of Marina, who pointed out this was madness, madness I tell you, at the pre-conquest rally.

Marina’s friend Shay-Gin flees the rally to tell Tracy and Thorin what’s happening. They choose to go to the space coupe hangar, to see Ro-Zan’s weaponized space coupes and get ambushed. That plan succeeds, and Ro-Zan orders his men to electro-kill Tracy and Thorin. Tracy faces the electro-firing squad with a strange calm and also Mr Bribery’s ring to neutralize Lunarian powers.

Thorin: 'Thank you, Tracy, for sharing my death.' Tracy: 'We're not dead yet.' Ro-Zan: 'Armsmen ... fire!' The Lunarian armsmen shoot beams from out their fingers. Mysta Chimera holds on to Honeymoon Tracy, who faints.
Mike Curtis and Shelley Pleger’s Dick Tracy for the 27th of August, 2022. Dick Tracy is showing a lot of faith that Mr Bribery’s ring, made to control Mysta Chimera’s powers — which were created by human body engineering — will work on a bunch of Lunarians. (Could be Chimera and Honeymoon are doing something to help out, too.)

The ring does more than neutralize the powers; it shoots the electro-kill ray back at the firing squad. It’s dispersed or something enough to only stun them all. Tracy and Ro-Zan get into a Star Trek fistfight, the only way to overcome this genre of villain for good.

With the conquest of Earth halted, Tracy asks what the Moon Government will do with the coup plotters. Thorin promises the New Moon Valley has a zero-tolerance policy about crime. It’s a reminder that this sort of pulpy 1930s sci-fi has a technocratic fascism built into it. It’s things to think about, especially as Tracy refuses to turn over Mr Bribery’s ring. Thorin considers how they have to rethink their zero-tolerance policy, especially as he can’t execute Ro-Zan, his own brother.

Ro-Zan, swinging his fist at Tracy: 'Ha! Humans are pitiful!' He swings again; Tracy ducks and says, 'Look, you ... ' Tracy swings up and knocks Ro-Zan in the stomach, 'NOBODY ... ' And he jabs his fist down on Ro-Zan's back, knocking him out: 'Threatens my family!'
Mike Curtis and Shelley Pleger’s Dick Tracy for the 30th of August, 2022. Dick Tracy is lucky that Lunarians also have that ‘human off switch’ where you can punch them in the back and if you’re in a 1950s or 60s action TV show they pass out.

Which, first, yeah, zero-tolerance policies are generally bad as they squeeze out judgement. Especially when it’s about something like execution, which you can’t repair if you get a judgement wrong. But Ro-Zan was trying to overthrow the government and conquer the world, which needs a serious response. On the other hand, Thorin thinks of how they need to find a ‘permanent solution’ to handling crime and again with the technocratic fascism.

Back to the text. Liska — who’d been sweet on Dick Tracy — gives him a gift of some Lunarian ground-escargot coffee, a reminder of nice times in the valley. And the Lunarians conclude this isn’t the right time for them to engage with the whole world. Not until they can get their taking-over-the-world problem dealt with. Tracy et al return home, and we return to mundane plots.

I’ll handle some small ones that seem to be threads for another day. The first, explored for a few days in mid-September, was about the Cinnamon Knight. He’s retiring from his costumed-vigilante superhero thingy, and going to the Police Academy. The second, getting a couple in late October, had a man with no clear pupils sorting through papers. He finds an old note from ‘Harold and Winifred’. The name, and art style, suggests Harold Gray, creator of Little Orphan Annie (his wife was Winifred). We saw this paper-sorting fellow a couple months ago, with a narrative box promising that he’d be important to Tracy someday. How has yet to transpire.

Also the strip took a two-week pause for a ‘Minit Mystery’, written by Walt Reimer and drawn by Joe Staton, who only retired from the strip a year ago. That one broke from the Minit-Mystery format, offering an ‘adventure’ instead. It had significant-looking funny names were there, people like Wren Christopher and Dr Anita Bath. But it was about a museum theft of precious artifacts like the Froyne of Layven. It didn’t have any element of ‘why were the boots wet but the umbrella dry’ sort of reasoning.

The big story, though, started the 16th of September and it’s still going on now. It’s instigated by Vitamin Flintheart, whose newest play is the musical Funny Papers. It’s a history of the comics, told through the history of the comic strip Derby Dugan. In our reality this is a series of novels by Tom De Haven, with illustrations by Art Spiegelman. In the Dick Tracy universe it was an actual comic strip that Tracy’s sidekick Sam Catchem is a huge fan of. And that’s got a musical, now. Derby Dugan, the strip, evokes a lot of Little Orphan Annie; I don’t know if this will tie in to that fellow with the letter from Harold and Winifred.

Robert Parrish, dressed as Derby Dugan: 'Whatta ya mean, ME DOG CAN'T ALK? She can talk if she wants to! This is America, ain't it? AIN'T THIS AMERICA?' Director, giving thumbs up: 'Perfect! If you can sing, you've got the role!'
Mike Curtis and Shelley Pleger’s Dick Tracy for the 8th of October, 2022. I’m assuming the director is willing to hire Parrish for an important role in a musical before hearing him sing because Steelface got to him. But we do see a good bit of rehearsals and don’t see anyone wondering how this guy got the part. I admit I’d enjoy the dramatic irony if it turns out Parrish would have got the part without owing Steelface a favor.

Fellow name of Robert Parrish really wants to perform as Pinfold, the street urchin who inspires the Derby Dugan character. He goes to his uncle Steelface, who runs a car-theft ring. Steelface feels like a long-established character to me. His gimmick is he was an arc welder who got enough metal embedded in his body that he wears magnetized plates on his head. But I can’t find him in the Dick Tracy Wikia. Could be Curtis and Pleger created someone new who feels like an established villain. (Steelface’s real name is given as Arceneaux, last name unclear. I guess Parrish but can’t say for sure.)

Parrish easily snags the Pinfold part. And Sam Catchem is so eager to see the rehearsals he asks Tracy about 400 billion times if Vitamin Flintheart would do the favor of letting him. Since Tracy’s saved Flintheart’s life about 400 billion times this is easy to arrange.

Catchem and Parrish get to nerd-pair-bond over their Derby Dugan fandom. When Parrish gets a phone call from Steelface, though, Catchem’s alert. He fills Tracy in on how back in the day he and the Boston police tried to bust up Steelface’s car-theft ring. Meanwhile Steelface’s call is for Parrish’s help: they don’t have enough cars and Parrish is really good at lifting them, and owes a big favor. The time-pressed Parrish swipes something right next to the playhouse. It turns out to be Sam Catchem’s car.

Tracy: 'Steelface?' Catchem: 'It's a nickname. We had several real names on file. He usually looked like this. As a youth, he was a welder, and had metal fragments embedded into his face. The metal plates he wears are magnetized.' Tracy: 'So why is he back on your radar after all this time, Sam?' Catchem: 'I heard his name today at the Patterson playhouse.'
Mike Curtis and Shelley Pleger’s Dick Tracy for the 17th of October, 2022. I appreciate the progress of “welder” to “metal fragments in face” to “wears steel plates on his face while he oversees a car theft ring” here.

Parrish is horrified to have accidentally grabbed a cop’s car. Steelface isn’t. For one, it’s freaking hilarious. For another, there was cop gear in it, including one of the wrist radios that Tracy’s unit uses. Steelface’s group can use it to monitor the cops and, like, clear out their chop shop ahead of the raid.

And this is where we’re standing as of early November.

Next Week!

So if Polly hasn’t gone to Mars, then why is Walt Wallet trying to hitch a ride on a garbage truck? I follow the twisting paths of Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley next week, if things go like they should.

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