Statistics 2022: Your Top Achievements of 2022

  1. Nearing the ideal of throwing away the food that seems iffy instead of just eating around the suspect portion
  2. Typing a sentence that included the words ‘Cincinnati’, ‘accommodate’, and ‘occurance’ without getting any of them wrong
  3. Rickrolling without concern about whether it’s being done ironically, retro-style, or otherwise
  4. Spotting an actual Ghost Clown, letting them know it’s not 2016 anymore
  5. Mastering that magic trick where you make Donald Duck leap through a hula hoop and he turns into a kangaroo
  6. That time the bill was $17.48 and you pulled out $22.73 without even thinking about it and the cashier had $5.25 in change before the register even told them
  7. Joining in that thing back in August where all eight billion of us jumped up at the same time … uh … you did hear about that, right? … Oh … uh, whoops
  8. That time you plugged in the USB cables the correct way first time for five days straight
  9. Getting through that phone upgrade problem that required four visits to the store and three customer-support phone calls without ever raising your voice or giving in to despair
  10. Memorizing the PLU number for flat parsley so the cashier doesn’t have to search for it or look it up on the computer (4901, like I hardly need to tell you)
  11. Not squandering $44 billion in any ill-conceived purchases
  12. Learning more about sharks

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

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 6

And I continue again! My Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction based on Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Grumpy Weasel gets another chapter. The whole MiSTing, whether or not I finish the book, should be gathered at this link.

The story so far: Grumpy Weasel has caught Mr Meadow Mouse poking around the stone wall along his hunting grounds. In trying to escape Meadow Mouse suggests seeing which of them can fit through the smaller hole in the wall. Before Grumpy can sneer the idea down Solomon Owl lands and declares he’ll judge the hole-crawling contest. And now, for Chapter …

> VI

CROW: Chapter Seven, the prequel.


JOEL: Wonder what’s going to happen this chapter.

> Grumpy Weasel did not like Solomon Owl’s offer

TOM: Two wheat and one ore in exchange for Literacy and Mapmaking? What kind of offer is that?!

> to be
> umpire of the hole-crawling contest between Mr. Meadow Mouse
> and himself.

JOEL: … Busier than a one-beaked umpire at a hole-crawling contest.

> He hissed a few times and glared at Solomon Owl,

CROW: Like they say, the people with the free weasels always hiss first.

> up in the hemlock tree.

TOM: Grumpy should run into the hemlock tree’s opposite, the inseam-key tree.

> Solomon Owl did not appear to mind that, but calmly
> outstared Grumpy Weasel without once blinking.

JOEL: [ As Solomon ] ‘I been hissed at by bigger weasels than you, buck-o.’

> "Are you both
> ready?" he asked presently.

CROW: You know this is like the biggest mouse anxiety dream after having to give a presentation in class.

> "Yes, thank you!" Mr. Meadow Mouse answered.

TOM: [ As Meadow ] ‘I’ll just get ready over … there … ‘ [ Makes a ‘whoosh’ noise ]

> And
> Grumpy Weasel gave a sort of shrug, as if to say that he
> supposed he was.

JOEL: Grumpy’s too cool for school.

> "First you may try that hole between those mossy
> stones," Mr. Owl announced, with a tilt of his head toward
> the wall.

TOM: Mossy stones … hm … what’s your game, old Owl?

> "Certainly!" cried Mr. Meadow Mouse.

CROW: Remember to wear your microchip shirt so we can time you down to the millisecond.

> "You go first and I’ll follow," Grumpy Weasel told
> him.

JOEL: Not going to flip to see who goes first?

> And Mr. Meadow Mouse didn’t dare disobey. He whisked
> through the hole spryly and was back again in no time.

TOM: Why, the hole only goes halfway!

> Then Grumpy took his turn.

JOEL: And *only* his turn. He’s not greedy.

TOM: Greedy Muskrat is a whole different book.

> He was certainly quicker
> than Mr. Meadow Mouse.

CROW: [ As Meadow ] ‘It’s very important I do my *entire* get-ready-to-do-something routine!’

TOM: [ As Meadow, doing Ed Norton ] ‘Hello, hole!’

> Even the umpire, Solomon Owl, had to
> admit that.

JOEL: Solomon Owl is not one to gainsay the obvious.

> "But of course that’s not the point," Solomon
> observed.

TOM: It might be the tiebreaker, though.

> "It’s the one that gets stuck in a hole that loses
> the contest."

CROW: Much as in life, yes.

> Well, after Grumpy and Mr. Meadow Mouse had slipped
> through several holes, each one smaller than the one before,

TOM: They must both be shrinking!

> Mr. Meadow Mouse said that he thought it was only polite to
> let Grumpy go first.

JOEL: That’s the sort of thing that’ll shake him out of his funk.

> Secretly Mr. Meadow Mouse was afraid of
> what might happen if he should have the misfortune to get
> wedged in a hole, with Grumpy Weasel ready to follow him.

TOM: He could just tell Grumpy it’s all right to go around him. Easy.

> He
> had had some trouble getting through the last one and he knew
> that he could never squeeze through one that was much
> smaller.

CROW: Fatty Raccoon wondering what’s all this ‘squeeze through’ talk.

> Grumpy Weasel lost his temper at once.

TOM: Remember, the loser is the one who throws the first punch. Except if you’re boxing.

> "I’ll do as I please on my stone wall!" he snapped.

JOEL: If you wanna find out what’s behind these cold eyes you’ll just have to claw your way through this disguise.

> And he was angrier than ever when Solomon Own said to him,
> "It’s your turn!"

CROW: [ As Meadow ] ‘Wait, it was that easy all along? I shoulda tried this *holes* ago!’

> Probably no other of the woods
> people—unless it was one of the Hawk family

TOM: Eagle, Goshawk, Tony, and Parabuteo.

> —could have
> made Grumpy Weasel obey.

JOEL: Oh and Jimmy Rabbit now he read that book about hypnosis.

> And now he insisted that if he "went
> first" he ought to be allowed to choose whatever hole he
> pleased.

TOM: [ As Solomon ] ‘Hmm … I’ll allow it. But you’re on a short leash, counsellor.’

> Both Solomon Owl and Mr. Meadow Mouse agreed.

JOEL: What sort of name do you think ‘Meadow’ is?

TOM: What sort of name is ‘Grumpy’?

> So
> Grumpy Weasel popped through a hole of his own choosing, and
> he did not reappear,

CROW: Wait, I was about to *make* that joke!

> though he called to Mr. Meadow Mouse to
> "come on."

JOEL: [ As Grumpy ] ‘You’ll love it here in the Shadow Zone!’

> Mr. Meadow Mouse hung back.

TOM: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Come on, join me in the Never-Was!’

> "You’ll have to excuse me," he stammered.

CROW: [ As Meadow ] ‘I, uh, have a all-hands standup on Zoom in five. Be right back.’

> "What’s the matter?" boomed Solomon Owl. "Do you want
> to lose the contest?"

JOEL: [ As Solomon ] ‘Can you settle for being merely Pleasant Valley’s *second-best* squeezer-into-things?’

> "No!" said Mr. Meadow Mouse. "But Grumpy Weasel is
> still inside that hole. There’s no other way out."

TOM: [ As Torgo ] ‘It’ll be dark soon, there is no other way out.’

> "How do you know?" Solomon Owl asked him.

CROW: You know, one cork could solve the whole Grumpy Weasel problem right now.

> "Oh, I’ve been here before, often," Mr. Meadow Mouse
> replied.

TOM: Often enough to memorize all the one-way holes?

> "Are you sure?" Mr. Owl inquired.

CROW: Look, there’s one hole in the wall that leads to somewhere in the Delta Quadrant where the Caretaker’s sampling species, and that’s the hole. What can I tell you?

> "I’ll go on the other side of the wall and look," Mr.
> Meadow Mouse offered. And thereupon he skipped over the wall.

JOEL: You know, this really seems more like Meadow Mouse’s story here.

> Solomon Owl waited patiently.

TOM: Wonder what Solomon’s whole gambit here is, really.

> And so did Grumpy
> Weasel.

CROW: So did Peter Mink, but you don’t see him making a big fuss over it.

> But Mr. Meadow Mouse never came back. Once out of
> sight he scampered away.

JOEL: [ As Meadow, increasingly faintly ] ‘I’m not scampering away, I’m, I’m, I’m just looking for where the hole should be!’

TOM: [ As Meadow ] ‘Still shakin’ the bushes, boss!’

> And he never trespassed on Grumpy
> Weasel’s hunting ground again.

CROW: Because Grumpy was so impressed with the cleverness they became good friends and Meadow was welcome anytime he wanted to drop in, right?

JOEL: Um …

[ To continue … ? ]

Statistics 2022: Top Fads Of 2022

  1. Hollering about “Quiet Quitting”
  2. Re-requesting the multi-factor-authentication code be texted to us
  3. Taffy pushing
  4. Agreeing that animated Christmas specials these days move too fast and edit too much, all right-y
  5. Re-launching your Patreon
  6. Sea Shanties on TikTok? That was this year, right?
  7. Struggling to remember why everyone was that angry about “Bean Dad” without looking it up
  8. Nodding about how the weather isn’t supposed to be like this, all right-y
  9. Goldfish swallowing telephone booths
  10. Slumbering for ten times ten thousand eons until time has made mockery of all contemporary woes, finding they’ve still got as many woes left over, all right-y
  11. Liminality
  12. Minor-chord acoustic covers of New Wave hits

Reference: The Most Unsordid Act: Lend-Lease, 1939 – 1941, Warren F. Kimball.

PS: the code was 560142. Please use within the next — sorry, it’s expired.

What’s Going On In Olive and Popeye? Also, what is Olive and Popeye? September – December 2022

Happy end of the year! So, late this past summer, Comics Kingdom started to run a twice-a-week strip, Olive and Popeye. The strip, which has a daily-strip form, is done alternately by Shadia Amin and Randy Milholland. Milholland is the person who draws the Sunday-only Popeye strip. I don’t know how they’re coordinating the writing. I remember seeing Milholland tweet that both their strips were “canon”. I don’t know whether anyone said whether this is supposed to be in continuity with the Sunday Popeye. I doubt there’s going to be anything irreconcilable.

A couple weeks back I realized that while the Olive and Popeye strips stood alone, there was a continuity going. And things look like they’re putting a story together. I don’t know that this is going to be a new story strip in the way that the standard syndicated newspaper strips are. But, you know, I want to encourage Popeye re-entering the popular culture. And it’s easy to imagine without knowing and without hearing anyone suggest this is the case that doing a two-day-a-week strip is testing whether a full-time daily strip would be viable. So let me take one of my Tuesday slots and say stuff about a comic strip you might have had no idea existed.

Olive and Popeye.

30 August – 22 December 2022.

Olive Oyl leaves a canoodling session with Popeye to meet her brother Castor. He’s meeting up with his wife Cylinda, a character who hasn’t been in Thimble Theatre since before Popeye was introduced. She was written out in 1928, either running off to Hollywood or divorcing her unfaithful husband. It depends whether you read the daily or the Sunday strips. In any case it has to be a record for characters re-emerging from off stage. But she’s back and “a bat now”, according to Castor’s daughter Deezil. Deezil’s a character from the 1960s cartoons.

At a restaurant. Castor Oyl: 'Thank you for joining us, Olive! Cylinda should be here soon.' Olive Oyl: 'Oh, so you guys are definitely not s-e-p-a-r--' Castor: 'Separating? Nah, we talked things out. And after some therapy, she needed to rediscover herself. Away from her dad she is a new person, and we have fallen for each other all over again!' Cylinda: 'Sorry I'm late! It's good seeing you, Olive!' Cylinda's dressed in a long black skirt with purple belt, and has pointed metal earrings. Castor: 'There is my creature of the night!' Deezi: 'Mommy is a bat now!'
Shadia Amin and Randy Milholland’s Olive and Popeye for the 6th of September, 2022. This might be Deezil’s first appearance since the King Features cartoons. It does establish just who her parents are, and how she’s a niece of Olive Oyl, which seems almost to violate the rules about how cartoon nieces and nephews work. From what I read of Cylinda Oil’s backstory I don’t see where she could have had a child, plausibly, unless somehow something happened to her while off-screen. But what are the odds of that?

Meanwhile, Popeye’s mother Irene(!) and his aunt Jones fly in to spend time with the family. His mother, it turns out and is footnoted, got introduced in an early-50s story. This makes sense of her appearance in that one Famous Studios cartoon. His aunt Jones is, by the way, married to Davy Jones, of Locker fame. She’d been introduced in the early 40s and neglected since then.

Then we get some slice-of-life stuff. Popeye’s mother and aunt bonding with him and Swee’Pea. Olive Oyl working out with a friend named Mae. Mae seems to be her rival from the 1936 short Never Kick A Woman. The woman was unnamed there, but “Mae” suggests both Mae West (a clear influence on the short) and Olive Oyl’s longtime voice actor Mae Questel. Poopdeck Pappy stopping in, wondering if Irene is still upset about all those times he ran off and such.

Popeye: 'Getsk settled in, Ma. I knows it was a long trip.' Popeye's mother, unpacking: 'Don't ye worry 'boutsk me, Popeye. I brung ye a gift ... I was stuck on Yapple Island a long time 'fore ye found me.' [ Editor's box: Thimble Theatre, March 10, 1951. ] 'But I wrote ye a letter almost e'ry day. This is all of it I still gotsks. I know it ain'tsk much, but ... ' She hands him a bundle of aged letters. Popeye: 'It's very lovely. Thank ye, ma.' Later: Wimpy at the door, with several bags full of spinach. Wimpy: 'As you asked, I got every can of spinach the all-night grocery had. What feat of strength do you need this for?' Popeye, crying: 'Holdink back me tears!'
Shadia Amin and Randy Milholland’s Olive and Popeye for the 22nd of September, 2022. So it turns out Popeye’s Mother was introduced in 1951 which I have never known or seen talked about. This may explain why she suddenly got an appearance in Popeye’s Pappy, that color yet racist Famous Studios cartoon remaking Goonland worse.

There’s some antics in the background too. A character that makes me think of Susie the Sea Nymph, a menace from the late 30s, emerges from the water a couple times but Olive Oyl easily foists her off. (Susie the Sea Nymph was in the story run a couple months ago in Comics Kingdom’s Vintage Thimble Theatre.) Popeye going off to foil the Sea Hag and dump some of his stress at his family situation on her. Also, Bluto and Brutus keep popping in to slight effect. Ham Gravy pokes around to see if Olive Oyl might be up for getting back together. Her sisters protect her from him. But Olive and her big-city cousin Sweet still get along mostly by fighting.

Popeye hires Wimpy to keep an eye on Pappy, and keep Pappy away from his mother. Wimpy offers that someone down by the docks is asking for him. It turns out to be Whaler Joe, Popeye’s guardian when Pappy and his mother were both missing. I had assumed Whaler Joe to be one of Randy Milholland’s creations for Popeye’s Cartoon Club. Turns out, no; he was Elzie Segar’s creation, for a 1931 newspaper promotional piece titled The Private Life of Popeye, his biography as imagined before there were any animated cartoons or much comic strip lore.

Whaler Joe, hugging Popeye: 'There's my boy!' Popeye: 'Joe! It's so good t'see ya! What're ya doink in Sweethaven?' Joe: 'Visiting Petunia. She started school here!' Popeye: 'Petunia's in college?! She was an infink last time I seen her!' Joe: 'Yeah, when you were eighteen.' Popeye: 'I don'tsk thinks I likes this whole 'infinks growin' up when I ain'tsk lookink' stuff.' Joe: 'I've got some really bad news about parenthood, then.'
Shadia Amin and Randy Milholland’s Olive and Popeye for the 8th of December, 2022. In Popeye’s defense, he’s been parenting Swee’Pea for nearly 75 years now and he hasn’t aged a day. The key element has to be ‘not looking at them’.

Well, Whaler Joe is in Sweehaven to see his daughter Petunia, who I belive is a new character here. At leas, the Popeye Wikia I use doesn’t mention her before. She was an infant when Popeye last saw her, when he was eighteen. We first see Petunia when she happens to ask Olive Oyl for help scaring off some men following her. Petunia’s hoping to be a marine biologist, much like all of us who were kids in the 80s did. But she’s got the help that her father and her big brother are sailors and I guess her great-uncle is Davy Jones. She’s thrilled to meet Popeye, and wants to know everything he’s experienced with sea monsters. Like, now.

And that’s where “Now” is in the comic strip! As I warned above, I’m not sure this is a story strip in the way that, like, Mary Worth is a story strip. But I’m willing to take at least one try at summarizing a strip that’s been a lot of reintroducing obscure characters. We’ll see if that ever needs doing again.

Next Week!

Well, we know there can’t be another Popeye web comic with a strong storyline that people might want to know about and that I could provide a brief recap for. So let’s get back on schedule with Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop in a week. Would I lie to you about that?

Statistics 2022: Top Months Of 2022, As Persons’s Names

  1. June 2022 Hodiak
  2. March 2022 Dahl
  3. May 2022 Donahue
  4. October 2022 Howard
  5. April 2022 Bakaleinikoff
  6. January 2022 Lyon
  7. September 2022 Kagawa
  8. November 2022 Cobb
  9. August 2022 Astor
  10. December 2022 O’Neal
  11. February 2022 Ferrer
  12. July 2022 Harris

Reference: Level Playing Fields: How The Groundskeeping Murphy Brothers Shaped Baseball, Peter Morris.

Why is everyone mad at _Funky Winkerbean_ this week? (December 25, 2022)

I’m not sure everyone is mad at Funky Winkerbean in its penultimate week. Annoyed, perhaps. Irritated. But mad takes a special level of broken trust between audience and creator. Annoyance or impatience is more appropriate when we-the-audience see where this is going and the story won’t get there.

Last week everyone was mad because we’d learned a time-travelling janitor manipulated minds for decades so Summer Moore could start to write a world-healing book. But it was all a dream. Then she wandered around an empty town looking at places she didn’t have any emotional connection to. Then, last Sunday, we switched to Harry Dinkle worried that the incoming blizzard might spoil the church choir concert at St Spires, his side gig. They’re doing “Claude Barlow’s Jazz Messiah”.

This week showed, in both Funky Winkerbean and its spinoff strip Crankshaft, all the big characters braving a massive storm to get to the concert. Like, everybody. Summer Moore hitchhikes her way onto the bus from the Bedside Manor Senior Living Home. (The implication is she’s spent the whole day moping and looking at, like, the instant-photo-print-shop her dad’s high school chem lab partner worked at while home from college and thinking how in the end we are all unfocused Polaroids, and now she wants to go see Harry Dinkle’s church choir sing.) The whole staff of Montoni’s. Les Moore and his wife, Not-Lisa, and Not-Lisa’s daughter from her first marriage Not-Summer. Everyone.

TV Weatherman: 'If you're headed to that concert at St Spires ... you might want to give yourself some extra time!' Guy at Montoni's, pointing out the door and hurrying Funky Winkerbean, his wife and grandkid, Tony Montoni, and a couple other people I don't know out the door: 'You heard the man ... let's get going!' Outside, he leads them to two Montoni's Pizza cars: 'We'll take our delivery cars! They've got brand-new snow tires!'
Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers’s Funky Winkerbean for the 21st of December, 2022. So, uh, apparently they raised enough cash at Montoni’s going-out-of-business sale to get new snow tires? Or was Montoni’s Closing all part of Summer’s dream? But she thought her “dream” might have been overwork from doing interview for her book, that she only announced she was going to try doing when she heard Montoni’s was closing?

So everyone, I trust, gets the reason Tom Batiuk wants this. He’s getting the whole cast of both his strips together so they can bask in one another’s presence one last time. What has gone unexplained, to everyone’s mild annoyance, is the lack of any idea why it’s so important everyone get there. Especially since the church is set in Centerview, the town Crankshaft takes palce in. The Funky Winkerbean folks live in Westview, nearby but still, a bit of a drive.

Especially in the face of a storm that we were told could drop a record amount of snow. It’s the church choir doing a concert that you’d think would have been postponed or cancelled for the weather anyway. It’s not, like, John and George coming back from the dead to play with Paul and Ringo one last time.

It makes sense for Harry Dinkle to carry on despite the weather; that’s almost his defining joke. And to rope his choir into that, yeah, that’s necessary for his joke. Roping the Bedside Manor senior band, that’s his other side gig, in to providing music? Yeah, sure. But once you’re past Sgt Pepper’s Sad and Lonely Hearts Club Band? Nobody else has a reason to be there. The Time Janitor stuff somehow easier to buy, an application of that Father Brown line about Gladstone and the ghost of Parnell. The only person who wants them there is Tom Batiuk, looking to have the whole cast under one roof for the last time, and he gets his way

Single, wide view of the entire cast of Funky Winkerbean and of Crankshaft sitting in the St Spires pews, with the church's choir and the Bedside Manor senior band on the balcony, performing.
Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers’s Funky Winkerbean for the 25th of December, 2022. Once again the Son of Stuck Funky folks do a heroic job: they’ve figured the most likely identities of all 69 characters in this panel. And tagged which ones are Crankshaft characters so it’s okay if you don’t recognize them from hate-reading Funky Winkerbean.

It would be touching if it didn’t look like the populations of two towns decided to get stuck in a single church’s parking lot.

Incidentally on the 24th, Ed Crankshaft saw the Funky cast and said “seems like there’s a lot of new folks here tonight! Hope they’re not all planning to move into the neighborhood!”. It’s a cute way to acknowledge the Funky gang will likely still make appearances in Crankshaft. It would also be a good tip to Funky readers who haven’t heard that they might want to pick up Crankshaft.

It reminds me of when Darrin Bell put the comic strip Rudy Park into reruns. Bell had a natural disaster strike that strip and evacuate all the residents to nearby Candorville, his other — and still going — comic strip. Catch here is I don’t believe Crankshaft’s name has been spoken in Funky for, like, thirty years. It started as a cute and even realistic affectation. Characters remembered there had been a cranky old bus driver who said a bunch of funny malapropisms, but not his name. It’s a bit of a disadvantage trying to point readers to your other project, though. Even Ronald-Ann spent a week shoving the name Outland into Opus’s ears before Bloom County ended the first time. Maybe that’s this coming, final, week in Funky Winkerbean. We’ll see, and we’ll see how mad that gets us all.

Statistics Saturday: Some Unconventional Christmas Presents

  • The complete collection of Georges Méliès’s lost films recording the Paris Exposition of 1900.
  • Storm windows.
  • Coupon good for the resolution of one absolute fiasco.
  • A temperate zone belt of the clouds on Jupiter. Not the one with the Great Red Spot, don’t be silly.
  • This one thing that I kept thinking of every time I fell asleep all week that was really funny and apt and yet every time I got down to the computer the thought was gone, sorry, but I promise it was a good one.
  • A nice warm hill you can just roll down all afternoon.
  • Coupon good for the resolution of one relative fiasco.
  • Sources.
  • The name of that one song, you know, with the daaah-di-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-diiiiii-dah bit.
  • Persuading the SCTV gang to do a sketch for “Ken Russell’s 2001: A Space Odyssey”.

Reference: Paving the Way for Apollo 11, David M Harland.

Bit of a Chill Out There

So, yes, I’ve been busy finally getting around to putting these shrinkable plastic sheets over the bedroom windows. We’d rather have storm windows put up there, but we don’t know where they are. The storm part, I mean. We know where the windows are. They’re the things that let in the 50,000-watt power of the streetlight outside. But for some reason we only have the screens, and when we think about how to get the pane of solid glass we’d need to put in there for the winters we feel helpless and sad. Anyway, those plastic sheets are surprisingly effective ways to turn a drafty window into a drafty window with a transparent balloon that buffs in and out all winter, like the weather is breathing all over you. Oh, I know there’s people who tell you to tape up bubble wrap over the windows, so that they can spend the winter poking the windows. These people are glaziers who hope you’re going to pop the window too.

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 5

I’m still not done making Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fictionout of the whole of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Grumpy Weasel. The whole MiSTing should be gathered at this link.

Mister Meadow Mouse assumed that Grumpy Weasel wasn’t going to be near the old stone wall today. He was wrong. A confident Grumpy offers to let the mouse squeeze into some of the smaller holes in the wall — and claims “I want to see if you can squeeze through as small a hole as I can”. Is Meadow Mouse doomed? Is Grumpy Weasel about to eat? Read on and find out!

> V

CROW: The Final, Belated Battle


TOM: He’s wise, not polite.

> Plump little Mr. Meadow Mouse

JOEL: … Came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed …

> wished he had stayed
> away from Grumpy Weasel’s hunting ground.

CROW: Totally bogus to have the ground hunting you. The sky never does that cop stuff.

> He would have
> scampered off, had he not known that Grumpy could overtake
> him before he had made three leaps.

TOM: Hear me out now, what if you take two leaps?

CROW: One leap and a jaunty pirouette?

> So he saw no way out of
> his trouble,

TOM: Maybe declare bankruptcy?

> though he could think of nothing less agreeable
> than trying to slip through a small hole with Grumpy Weasel
> close at hand, watching him narrowly.

JOEL: I don’t know, Grumpy seems to be pretty positive about this.

> Then all at once Mr. Meadow Mouse had an idea.

TOM: Wait, it won’t help if you try and stop Christmas from coming.

> "You
> go first!" he said politely. "Go through any hole you choose
> and then I’ll try my luck."

JOEL: Let’s go inside and take this outdoors!

> But Grumpy Weasel was too crafty to do that.

CROW: He had a huge pile of origami blocking the hole.

> "You’d try your luck at running away," he snarled.

TOM: [ As Meadow Mouse ] ‘I’d try my skill, too!’

> "You are the one to go first; and we’ll have no words about
> it."

JOEL: [ As Meadow Mouse ] ‘Can I at least gulp a little?’

> Well, Mr. Meadow Mouse began to shake more than ever.

CROW: He’s getting his groove on!

> "Don’t you think," he quavered, "that we’d better
> wait a few days until I’m a bit smaller?

TOM: [ As Meadow Mouse ] ‘I’m growing down, you know. It’s like growing up but the other way around?’

> I’m afraid I’ve been
> overeating lately and I might get stuck in a hole.

CROW: Well, what if the hole eats something and grows a bit?

> And of
> course that would be awkward."

JOEL: Oh, we’d pretend not to look, don’t worry.

> "Ha, ha!" Grumpy Weasel actually laughed. But it was
> not what any one could call a hearty, wholesome, cheerful
> sort of laugh. On the contrary, it sounded very cruel and
> gloating.

CROW: Oh, great, he’s an Internet snarker.

JOEL: [ Coughing, embarrassed ]

> "Hoo, hoo!" Another laugh—this one weird and
> hollow—boomed out from the hemlock tree just above Mr.
> Meadow Mouse’s head.

CROW: Huh, huh?

TOM: o/` They’re coming to take me away! o/“

> He jumped, in spite of himself—did Mr. Meadow
> Mouse.

JOEL: A wink of his eye and a twist of his head …

> And so, too, did Grumpy Weasel. Both of them leaped
> for the old stone wall.

TOM: [ As JOEL swings his arms like a baseball umpire ] ‘SAFE!’

> And each flashed into a crevice
> between the stones,

JOEL: [ As Meadow Mouse ] ‘Oh uh … hi. Funny meeting you here?’

> though Grumpy Weasel was ever so much the
> quicker of the two. They knew Solomon Owl’s voice too well to
> mistake his odd laughter.

CROW: Whose?

JOEL: Naturally.

> "What’s your hurry, gentlemen?" Solomon called to
> them.

TOM: Solomon Grund-Owl, born on a Mond-Owl.

> Mild Mr. Meadow Mouse made no reply.

JOEL: Couldn’t quite nail the alliteration.

> But from Grumpy
> Weasel’s hiding place an angry hiss told Solomon Owl that one
> of them, at least, had heard his question.

CROW: Oh no! Daniel Snake is leaking!

> "Come out!" said Solomon Owl. "Don’t be shy! I’ve
> dined already."

TOM: I just want to snuggle!

> Well, that made the two in the wall feel somewhat
> bolder.

CROW: Going to ruin things if animals ever discover lying.

> And soon they ventured to peep out and gaze at
> Solomon, to see whether he looked like a person who had just
> enjoyed a good meal.

JOEL: [ As Solomon ] ‘I didn’t say I *enjoyed* it, just that I *ate* it.’

> "You’re not as hollow as you sound, I hope," Grumpy
> Weasel remarked with some suspicion in his tone.

TOM: … the heck?

CROW: No, no, the logic checks out.

> As for Mr. Meadow Mouse, he wouldn’t dream of making
> so rude a remark.

JOEL: But he’s already composing his review on Bird Yelp.

CROW: [ As Meadow Mouse ] ‘Is that a bird? Y-elp!’

> "It’s a fine evening and I hope you’re feeling
> happy," he piped.

TOM: Is he signalling for a spy? The smoked cabbage never swings the light anchor.

> "Oh, very! Very!" said Solomon Owl solemnly.

JOEL: How does a beak make those ‘V’ sounds?

> Mr. Meadow Mouse was a trusting sort of chap.

CROW: Hardly a week went by a friend didn’t trick him into looking up ‘gullible’ in the dictionary.

TOM: [ Way too defensive ] Not believing it until you saw the word missing is the *opposite* of gullible!

CROW: [ Snickering ]

> He was
> all ready to leave his cranny. But Grumpy Weasel was not yet
> satisfied.

JOEL: Not letting you go until you regret talking to him: the Grumpy Weasel Guarantee!

> "Which one of us are you answering?" he demanded of
> Solomon.

CROW: Was … was there a question?

TOM: No, but you can take an idle curiosity out of petty thoughts.

> "Him!" said Solomon.

TOM: That devil guy from the Powerpuff Girls? The heck?

> "Did you say, ‘Ahem?’" Grumpy Weasel wanted to know.
> "No, no!" Solomon assured him.

CROW: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Well, could you? I’ve go a great joke I need you to set up.’

> "I said, ‘him.’ I was
> answering your friend."

TOM: But Grumpy Weasel is a friend to everybody!

> Grumpy Weasel made a wry face, as if he did not care
> to have anybody speak of Mr. Meadow Mouse as a friend of his.

TOM: Well, almost everybody!

> And he did not quit the stone wall

JOEL: Oh, you can’t just quit a stone wall, you have to give them time to train your replacement wall.

TOM: Replacement well …

> until he had seen Mr.
> Meadow Mouse venture forth in safety.
> "Just by accident I overheard your remarks a few
> minutes ago," Mr. Owl explained.

CROW: Well, Solomon Owl sure wasn’t using any hunting ground.

> "I’d like to watch this
> hole-crawling contest.

JOEL: Pleasant Valley does not have smart phones yet.

CROW: It’s 1915, ‘phones’ are just hollering.

> And I’ll stay here and be the
> umpire—and see that there’s fair play."

TOM: [ As Solomon Owl ] It’s a little weird, but I like weird!

[ To continue … ? ]

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Are you mad at Judge Parker too? October – December 2022

No, I’m not mad at Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker. Not yet, anyway. The story has been a big conspiracy-tinged murder mystery. I have no doubts about Marciuliano’s ability to create a big, confusing, messy scenario. He’s done it many times, often in interesting ways. But I agree he has a habit of jumping the action ahead a couple months, so we don’t see the exact resolution of the chaos. It’s an effective way to change what the default condition of things is, but it can leave mysteries under-written or under-motivated.

I can be okay with a mystery that isn’t perfectly explained. Heck, I love your classic old-time-radio mystery. Those are all attitude and action and fun dialogue. The story logic is a charming hypothesis. I understand readers who have a different view and understand if they have no faith in where this is going. We readers still don’t know Deputy Mayor Stewart’s reason for framing Abbey Spencer for her bed-and-breakfast’s fire. Whether you can accept that Marciuliano had one for Stewart, I imagine, tells whether you think this mystery has an answer.

So this should catch you up to mid-December 2022 in Judge Parker. If you’re reading this after about March 2023, there should be a more up-to-date plot recap here. That might help you more.

Before getting to the recap, a content warning. The story started with murder, and several murders or attempted murders are centers to the action. If you do not need that in your goofy fun recreational reading, go and enjoy yourself instead. We can meet back soon for the Alley Oop plot recap or whatever I get up to next week. I’ll put the recap behind a cut so people can more easily bail on it.

Judge Parker.

2 October – 17 December 2022.

Continue reading “What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Are you mad at Judge Parker too? October – December 2022”

Yeah, I Need an Extra Day, Sorry

I apologize for running late once again with the story strip recaps but please understand: I did other stuff than write it instead. No, I can’t remember exactly what besides looking at some lights in the zoo. (The zoo knew we were there. Also the lights.) Anyway to tide you over here’s a Far Side panel that sat up and demanded I make sure you saw it.

Two fairly realistically-shaped and shaded people stand at the open door. Inside the door are Far Side-esque distorted humans, a cow, a duck, and a couple large snakes. The Far Side-esque huan says, 'Oh, man! You must be looking for Apartment 3-G, Mary Worth, or one of those serious-type cartoons.'
One of Gary Larson’s The Far Side reprints for the 13th of December, 2022. Aw, remember Apartment 3-G? It was so sad watching the strip collapse but fascinating to watch that happening. Comics Kingdom has vintage 1970s strips to read and that’s going fine except the current storyline about a children’s book author is somehow still going on weeks after logic would say it ended.

I Should Have Stuck With the Rubber Band We Got for Free With the Bunch of Radishes

I spent today wearing a hair tie, in my hair as is usual and custom for such objects. It was on an experimental basis. Anyway, while getting back from the store, somewhere between taking off my hat, removing my earbuds, and taking off my face mask the band went missing entirely. It’s not in my hair, it’s not in my car, it’s not in my jacket, it’s not in my shirt, it’s not anywhere. Now, yes, object permanence is one of my five favorite things about objects, and I’d be sad if we were losing that principle. But it’s not the principle that’s bothering me. It’s that those things are like 34 cents each and I feel something owes me a bit of money. I can make change for a 35 cents, if someone wants to help me out here.

Special thanks to Milt Josefsberg and John Tackaberry for help with this minor daily inconvenience.

Why is everyone mad at _Funky Winkerbean_ this week? (December 18, 2022)

Because it was all a dream.

Or was it?

So yeah, that whole bonkers storyline where the janitor was a Time Agent making sure Summer Moore writes a history of Funkytown? It transpired on Monday this was all a dream, or was it. Which, yes, does address everything I was mad about in the storyline last time. Right down to how we were informed Summer had worked out the specialness of Harley The Janitor. And that her first and only book would be the most important book, like, ever.

Awakened, Summer decides to go for a walk to clear her head. This takes her on a silent walk through Westview, ending at a closed city pool’s old diving board. From atop the ladder she thinks of how “it doesn’t always have to be rise and decline … we have the agency to flip the script and write a different ending”. It’s a sequence that TFHackett, at Son of Stuck Funky, noticed echoed a story a couple years ago. Funky Winkerbean himself wandered around the place and moped about how your hopes and plans and dreams all get washed away. I understand where Funky, or Summer, might want to do something like this. Everybody needs to spend some time walking around feeling sad. Thing that annoyed me is the Funky Winkerbean characters don’t have emotions besides sadness, so the potency of a good mope is lost.

Summer, waking up in bed: 'WHOA!! ... Yipes ... that one one cray dream ... or was it?' She stands and stretches. 'I think all of the interviews I've been doing are clogging my brain!'
Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers’s Funky Winkerbean for the 12th of December, 2022. Well, I didn’t see it coming. Not sure if it’s better making the Time Janitor the dream or the reality.

The idea of closing out the comic strip with farewell visits to all the key places? Good, solid one. Here’s why I’m mad anyway. Summer Moore has not been a character, in the strip, in a decade. She’s appeared a couple times, but she hasn’t got a perspective. I think this past month is the first time we even learned for sure that she was still in college. So her looking at a place doesn’t carry any weight; it’s on us the reader to have a reaction.

This can be fine, if the locations have meaning to the audience. Two of the locations she visited might: the house of band director Harry Dinkle and past Westview High School. Summer wasn’t in band; she played sports so while she knew the band was there she also didn’t care. And while she went to Westview I can’t think of any time she ever reflected on her high school experience. That’s all right; the readers know those spots well enough.

And then we get to the bonkers places to showcase. She visits the house where Summer’s half-brother’s adoptive parents lived when they first got married. Or to speak more efficiently, it’s a house she could not care about. The spot was, as Son of Stuck Funky discovered, shown to readers ten years ago. But who could remember that? And then at her half-brother’s adoptive parents’ second apartment. Comic Book Harriet found these places are versions of Tom Batiuk and his wife’s old apartments. So they make sense as places to fit into the backgrounds somewhere, but good grief. Another spot was a troubled-youth home where Crazy Harry lived for a couple years as a teen. Or, to connect it to Summer, a place where her father’s high school friend who works in a comic book shop now lived as a teen. Again, this can work, if the readers have some reason to connect with it. Summer can’t provide that, and I will wrestle any reader who has feelings about where Crazy Harry lived as a teen.

Thing is the comic strip has got places that would connect to the readers. The high school. Montoni’s Pizzeria, closed last month in a sequence so abrupt it hardly seemed real. The comic book shop. The town park and the gazebo where everything in the world has to visit. Les and his current wife Not-Lisa’s porch swing. Why waste one of the three remaining weeks on things that can’t communicate?

The diving board where Summer makes her observation is getting to where it should be. A diving board has obvious meaning, as a place to ponder frightening transition. And it has a purpose in the comic strip. One running gag in the first decades of the strip was teenage Les Moore failing to find the courage to jump off it. That this is picked well makes the badness of the earlier locations stand out.

Atop the diving board over the abandoned city pool: 'Dad said that from up here you could look out and see how everything in the city fit together. It doesn't always have to be rise and decline ... we have the agency to flip the script and write a different ending!'
Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers’s Funky Winkerbean for the 17th of December, 2022. Eh, not to be all hipster but I liked John Cheever’s original story better.

And then this Sunday’s strip seems to promise nonsense. It’s Harry Dinkle organizing a church concert and worrying about the weather. This seems so detached from the narrative that … well, there’s gossip about whether Tom Batiuk chose to end the strip or was forced to. There’s always gossip like that whenever a strip ends or changes hands. I’m inclined to think it was Batiuk’s free choice. Ending the comic at the end of its current contract, after it had reached fifty years? That seems fair. And a lot of storylines the last couple years have had an elegiac tone. I mean even more than usual for a comic strip so concerned with how everything is getting worse.

The announcement the strip was ending feels like it came late, about six weeks before the end of publication. But, like, Gary Larson announced he was ending The Far Side only about ten weeks before it closed. Charles Schulz gave only about two weeks’ notice, and he was forced to stop Peanuts for failing health. The syndicate would have given him a dump truck full of money to continue or hire a replacement, but he already had more dump trucks full of money than they did. Bill Watterson’s year-long notice that Calvin and Hobbes was ending was an outlier. Norm Feuti announced the ending of Retail about a month before the strip shut down, again after a bunch of stories suggesting an end to things. I forget how freely Feuti chose to leave Retail behind in favor of writing children’s books. Anyway, my point is the public notice doesn’t seem out of line with other strips that chose to end.

But jumping from Summer Moore atop the diving board to a Harry Dinkle story? That seems like a strip running as the normal routine Christmastime action. And therefore a piece for the “oooh, the syndicate and Tom Batiuk are fighting and that’s why the strip is ending” hypothesis. On the other hand, let me be charitable, and set up to reveal myself a fool. This could be a setup that would logically gather the whole cast together and give them a chance to say farewell things. The pacing of this seems awful — why waste weeks on a Dream Or Was It — but it’s been a while wince Funky Winkerbean drew praise for its story pacing. I give up trying to guess where the story is going, or what behind-the-scenes drama might have happened. I’m just going to share what people are mad about.

Statistics Saturday: Adaptations Of _A Christmas Carol_ Ranked

  1. Alastair Sim’s version
  2. Reginald Owen’s version
  3. The Odd Couple version
  4. Lionel Barrymore’s version (radio only)
  5. Patrick Stewart’s version
  6. The Real Ghostbusters version
  7. Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds version
  8. The Pac-Man cereal box version
  9. The Back to the Future cartoon version
  10. The Oddball Couple version
  11. Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds version
  12. This really good sink fixtures display they had one year at Rickel’s, though.

Reference: A Voyage Long And Strange: Rediscovering The New World, Tony Horwitz.

In Which I Am, Once Again, Thrown Off My Game

Sorry, but my iPad is giving me the extremely unpleasant feeling that one or more applications went and updated itself without asking permission and now I have to figure out whether it actually did that, or whether something just decided I wanted dark mode instead of normal mode, or if something forgot a preference I set back when I first got an iPad and that was carried on perfectly fine up until now. Anyway so that’s why I’m busy circling my electronic devices while hissing at them. This doesn’t help anything but feels so much like it should that I’ll pretend it does.

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 4

I hope that you like nice fresh Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction. I continue with Arthur Scott Bailey’s Sleepy-Time Tale, The Tale of Grumpy Weasel. The whole of the MiSTing should be at this link, although I don’t promise to do the whole story. We’ll see whether I do.

The story so far: all the animals in Pleasant Valley agree that Grumpy Weasel is grumpy and a weasel. Young Master Robin escaped his plans, but will every animal be so fortunate?

Crow’s riff about ‘flord digorznip’ owes a lot to a Robert Benchley essay warning about speaking improper English. I recommend a fair bit of reading Benchley.

> IV

TOM: Chapter One, Part Two, Part Two, Part Two.


JOEL: Where the rain gets in …

CROW: You said that.

> Usually Grumpy Weasel did not stray far from a
> certain corner of Farmer Green’s wood lot.

TOM: How much wood does Farmer Green have?

JOEL: A lot?

> He preferred to
> hunt where he knew the lay of the land.

CROW: Pretty sure it just hangs out on top of the bedrock underneath?

> And since he liked
> especially to hunt along old stone walls,

JOEL: Those *new* stone walls aren’t good for anything.

> he picked out a
> long stretch of old tumble-down wall that reached through the
> woods towards Blue Mountain.

TOM: Now why would you build a wall to keep the mountains out?

CROW: West Virginia didn’t and look what happened to them.

> He picked it out as his very own hunting ground and
> never asked permission of Farmer Green, either.

JOEL: Grumpy Weasel fighting back against the Man.

> Now, near the lower end of this wall—the end toward
> the pasture—

TOM: Don’t mistake which end is toward the pasture, it *will* be on the final exam!

> a fat person known as Mr. Meadow Mouse
> sometimes wandered.

CROW: Mr Meadow Mouse sleeps in the park, shaves in the dark —

JOEL: We did that too.

CROW: Why is every name doing this to us?

> But he never visited that spot without
> first inquiring whether Grumpy Weasel had been there the day
> before.

TOM: Why wait a day between asking and going to the place?

> Mr. Meadow Mouse had learned somehow that Grumpy
> usually moved on each day to a different part of his hunting
> ground.

CROW: I’m going to guess he walked, maybe ran to other places?

TOM: Maybe he has a Weaselmobile? Or a tiny helicopter?

JOEL: A series of weasel-bearing trampolines scattered across the yard.

> He was surprised, therefore, to meet Grumpy Weasel
> face to face one time, when he felt sure that that surly
> rogue must be a good safe distance away.

CROW: At the tavern, trying to get the bard to stop picking fights with farmers.

> Mr. Meadow Mouse cast a quick glance around. But he
> could see no place to hide.

TOM: The hiding place was hidden?

JOEL: It does one thing and it does it well.

> So there was nothing for him to
> do but to put on a bold front. He bowed pleasantly enough,

CROW: Everything else has failed, so let’s try courtesy!

> though he was trembling a little, and remarked that it was a
> fine day

JOEL: 35 dollars and two points on his license.

> and that he hoped Grumpy was feeling happy—all of
> which was quite true.

CROW: Yes, it is truly quite.

> Grumpy Weasel glowered at Mr. Meadow Mouse, for that
> was his way of replying to a kindly greeting.

TOM: Ugh, don’t talk to me before I’ve had my morning mouse.

CROW: Arthur Morning Mouse, last seen in The Tale Of Solomon Owl.

> "You’ve not come here to hunt, I hope," he growled.

JOEL: ‘Cause you’re not wearing orange, I’ll have to ticket you.

> "I’ll have you know that this is my private hunting ground
> and I allow no poaching."

TOM: How do you feel about scrambling or omelette-making?

> Mr. Meadow Mouse hastened to explain that he was
> merely out for a stroll.

CROW: [ As Meadow Mouse ] Look, there’s one now! [ CROW leans out of frame, going ‘Whoosh!’. ]

> "I never hunt," he declared. "Of course,

JOEL: ‘Course, I am hunting for an easier way of life, but aren’t we all? Hah ? Ha ha? Ha? … Uh … ‘

> if I happen
> to see a tiny seed I may stop to eat it. But that’s all."

TOM: Got him on a technicality, that’s grazing, not hunting.

> "You’d better be careful what you say!" Grumpy Weasel
> snapped.

CROW: You don’t want to accidentally say something like ‘Flord digorznip flompty hoopnay’, since that’s nonsense.

> "Unless I’m mistaken, you were hunting something the
> moment you saw me. You were hunting a hole."

JOEL: Oh, you can’t get a hole this time of year, they’re all hibernating.

> Mr. Meadow Mouse gasped slightly. He hardly knew what
> to say.

CROW: ‘I wasn’t hunting *a* hole, I’d take *any* hole.’

> "Be very careful where you go around here!" Grumpy
> Weasel warned him. "The holes in this stone wall are all
> mine.

TOM: The stone wall itself is the Monolith aliens’, so, attempt no landings there.

> I shouldn’t want you to use a single one of them
> without my permission."

CROW: [ As Meadow Mouse ] ‘Oh, I’m okay in all the others, though?’

> Mr. Meadow Mouse assured him that he wouldn’t dream
> of trespassing.

TOM: No trepanning, now, that just makes more holes for Grumpy Weasel.

> "And these holes among the roots of the trees—they
> are mine too," Grumpy Weasel snarled.

JOEL: Well now Grumpy sounds like he’s aggrandizing.

CROW: Yeah, some of those holes are historically part of the Badger-Mink Commonwealth’s.

> "Oh, certainly! Certainly!" Mr. Meadow Mouse cried.

JOEL: Maybe!

TOM: I guess?

> He was so quick to agree that for once Grumpy Weasel couldn’t
> think of anything more to find fault about.

CROW: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Give me a minute, I just woke up.’

> "I’ll let you crawl into a few of the smaller holes
> in the stone wall, if you’ll be careful not to hurt them," he
> offered grudgingly.

TOM: How do you hurt a hole?

JOEL: Same way you hurt anyone, run roughshod over its fillings.

> Mr. Meadow Mouse made haste to thank him.

CROW: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Oh, oh, I can’t have haste anymore. Too much sugar too close to bed.’

> He said, however, that he thought he would wait till
> some other time.

TOM: That’s the sort of thing it’s easy to say when you’re in 1915.

> "There’s no time like the present," Grumpy Weasel
> grumbled.

CROW: That thought is the only thing that’s kept me going lately.

> "To tell the truth, I want to see if you can
> squeeze through as small a hole as I can."

JOEL: [ As Meadow Mouse ] ‘Mr Weasel are you hitting on me?’

[ To continue … ? ]

The Answer Is ‘Yes, Of Course, You Doorknob’

I am — without bragging — over fifty years old and it is just this past week that I first stopped to wonder whether the word “together” might have some etymological connection, however tenuous, to the verb “to gather”. Anyway, I’ve been telling possible employers that one of my skills is my curious mind and eagerness to learn, and I have gone through fourteen months without income.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Are there even stories anymore in Gil Thorp? September – December 2022

Henry Barajas has brought a different style of writing to his and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. Compared to the Neal Rubin era the stories are much less linear, with many characters having stuff going on at once. And Barajas has an apparent desire to set everyone up with a host of issues. The combination has made the strip — already having a reputation for jumping around, because it often changed scene during a day’s strip — seem more unfocused.

So things are still going on, and the story threads are more obvious when read a week or more at a time. This may be inconvenient for people who can only read Gil Thorp in the newspaper, but, c’mon. People doing that aren’t reading my blog, anyway. Still, Barajas may need more experience with providing background or reminders in the text. It’s a hard thing to do. Science fiction fans call it “incluing” and the daily story strips are a master challenge in doing that well.

So this should catch you up to about mid-December 2022 in Gil Thorp. There is probably a more up-to-date plot recap at this link, if you’re reading this after about March 2023. Or if news about the strip happens, I’ll post it here. Now back to the sports pages.

Gil Thorp.

26 September – 10 December 2022.

It’s Coach Kaz’s last season with Milford, we learned as I did my last recap. They hope for a good one, especially as Valley Tech’s Coach Luke Martinez has some bizarre, passionate rivalry with a guy who barely knows who he is. But whose kids get along great with his kids.

Meanwhile, Milford’s been having a good season for the boys football team. After losing the first game the team would go on to a string of of wins, including two wins in a row against Madison, somehow. I assume this was an editing mistake but never saw it explained. Centerpiece for the season — and what I imagine Neal Rubin would have made the focus of the season — is Tobias Gordon. His soccer talent leads Thorp and Kaz to naming him a kicker, and over the season he transitions to being a linebacker. GoComics commenters say this is an improbable turn of events, but I don’t know any better.

Montage of sports moments with Marty Moon narrating: 'Coach Gil has Elias Bermudez starting. The junior has shown promise with a 57.4% completion percentage.' Milford 28, Jefferson Jeffs 20. 'WR Rodney Barnes, #89, continues to lead the charts with 184 passing yards.' Milford 35, Madison Capitols 14. 'Coach Kaz has told the Milford Star that Tobias Gordon, #7, is now the team's running back, and Burt Hooper is back as the starting kicker.' Milford 12, Madison Capitols 9.
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 7th of November, 2022. I understand all two/three opponents playing in the same colors is most likely an accident. The people colorizing daily strips generally get very little direction and not much time to think through their work. But there is a dramatic unity provided in giving all these dramatically-unimportant visitors the same outfit, as a visual cue of how the audience should read them.

Gordon’s progression draws media attention, as he is the first (open) transgender male athlete in Milford football. Early on some of the athletes complain about how Coach Thorp “went and got woke”, talk a win streak squelches. I appreciate the choice to portray treating transgendered people as people as the winning course. But it does carry an undercurrent of “respecting human rights will be profitable” rather than “is what decent people do”. Still, Milford enjoys a good season and is — this week — facing Valley Tech and Coach Martinez in the finals.

Speaking of Martinez. After one of Valley Tech’s wins Martinez describes what his issue is with Gil Thorp. It goes back to the Valley Tech/Milford game of 1987, when he was playing. It was a hard-fought game, and Valley Tech won. But the local press reported on how “Coach Thorp Ends Season Strong”. And now Martinez is out to right that historical wrong.

Thorp goes to the videotape, literally, finding Matty Moon’s broadcast of the playdown game. We see Emmett Tays, whose story of Thorp’s coaching a different game lead Barajas’s tenure, trying to shake off Martinez. Marty Moon seems to toss to commercial mid-play. Even I know that doesn’t happen. What was going on was a light break of the fourth wall, providing space for Gil Thorp’s celebration of Charles Schulz’s 100th birthday. Still was weird reading it the day before.

Marty Moon, on the 1987 videotape: 'What was going through your mind on that last play?' Martinez, on tape: 'Execute. Milford gave it their all. But I hope Coach Thorp knows one thing. [ winking at the camera ] ... I'm coming for your spot, Thorp.'
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 30th of November, 2022. It occurs to me we’re maybe not to take this as literally happening; that Gil Thorp is reading in whatever Martinez actually said the coach’s present-day intentions. But it’s always hard to pull off unreliable narration, and like ten times harder to do that in a comic strip.

Anyway, the game was a rough one. Tays sure seems to have done something foul-worthy against Martinez. But Tays fumbles the last play, letting Martinez save the game for Valley Tech. In the 1987 postgame interview Martinez says he hopes “Coach Thorp knows one thing … I’m coming for your spot, Thorp”. Which … doesn’t quite satisfy me? It doesn’t seem to me like Thorp did anything particular besides be the coach he beat in the playdowns. Fixations can be weird, though, and small incidents can curdle in one’s mind.

Other stuff going on. Keri Thorp is having a rough time of it. The school has a mass-shooter drill, with the simulated shooter holding Keri’s class. This is less traumatic than an actual aggrieved white supremacist with a gun collection coming into the classroom, but that’s all. On top of that trauma is a fellow student’s death, identified as “the third overdose this semester”. Three seems very high to me, especially given it was only November, but I understand high school has changed since I was in it.

In front of the memorial to Allyson, a couple girls laugh. Keri: 'What's so funny, Dorothy?' Dorothy, rolling her eyes to her friends, 'Look, girls! It's the cry baby! Do you want your daddy?' Keri: 'Get up. I'm going to kick your @$#.' Keri slugs Dorothy, with her many rings serving as brass knuckles.
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 16th of November, 2022. To be fair to Dorothy we don’t see that she’s laughing at Keri (or a friend) so this isn’t quite the neat story of punching out the bully one might like. I’m all right with things being a bit messy, even though it makes the stories harder to snark on.

Dorothy, who’s been bullying Keri (cropping her out of team photos, for example), mocks her for tearing up over this. Kari punches Dorothy, getting her sentenced to counseling through December. I know high school hasn’t changed to much that the worst offense of all is punching a bully. (Many commenters pointed out two years ago we saw a kid expelled for bringing a bread knife in to spread peanut butter on a bagel. Actual violence getting a “talk with someone ineffective” punishment seems like inconsistent standards.)

And in the most important non-student relationship bit of business: Gil Thorp asks Mimi if she wants a divorce. She says she does not, and that she’ll always love him. It doesn’t make their relationship any easier. And I don’t believe Mimi has yet owned up to how her mother is months away from death (and encouraging Mimi to leave Gil). That’s surely a heavy strain that Gil Thorp can’t anticipate or deal with.

Mimi, at an awkward dinner: '... I don't want a divorce, Gil. You know how I get when I'm always around my mother.' She holds Gil's hand. Gil Thorp: 'Sorry, it's just that you've been distant.' She takes her hands away. Mimi: 'You know I'll always love you.' Gil: 'I know.'
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 4th of November, 2022. Lot of action going on with those hands there, which is not me being snarky; it’s the correct thing for the camera to focus on. I do like that the trouble in the Thorp’s marriage isn’t some simple thing that could be worked out with one good conversation but rather something they’re not able to articulate. I feel optimistic given that they both want to work it out (Mimi’s defended Gil to her mother too much for me to think she doesn’t), but it’s not a thing with a sure fix.

Past that there have been a lot of small bits of business. Mimi’s mother noticing how much attention Tobias is paying to Keri, and Mimi encouraging her child if they want to date him. Kaz talking about how happy he is with his partner, maybe wife, Rachel. Keri bruising their ankle in a volleyball practice. Discovering Marty Moon has a two-year-sober Alcoholics Anonymous medallion. (Combined with how amiably he chatted with Gil Thorp back in September, this suggests Moon’s clashes with Thorp reflected alcoholism. I don’t know that Barajas meant that, but it’s a thread for possible exploration.) Thorp saying he’s old enough to have had Cold War civil-defense drills in school. Student Monica Yellowhair preceding her singing the National Anthem with the observation that the school was on stolen land, which narrows Milford’s location down to “the United States”. All told, many miscellaneous things that I’m noting in case they get built on. Or because I took notes and you’re going to see notes. As you like it.

Milford Sports Watch!

Among my notes I tried to keep track of the other schools mentioned in the strip. Here’s my record of them:

Next Week!

Who’s trying to kill Sam Driver, and why aren’t they better at it? I look at Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker unless something shoots up my car and I have to drive it into town.

Why is everyone mad at _Funky Winkerbean_ this week? (December 11, 2022)

I don’t figure to publish nothing but Funky Winkerbean updates until the strip ends later this month. But why not keep people up to date on the strip’s turn to bonkers? Only in an inferior way to the Son of Stuck Funky blog, which has a depth of knowledge and a community that can’t be matched by me? Still, there’s people who’d like a brief recap of what’s going on and that’s what I can serve.

Last time everyone was mad at Funky Winkerbean we’d learned the school janitor was a time traveller there to make sure Summer Moore wrote her book. Since then Time Janitor Harley Davidson has been explaining how he used his super-powers of nudging people’s minds. This all with the mission to make sure Summer Moore gets born. This brought up a sequence of snapshots of the Relationship of Les and Lisa, told in such brevity as to become cryptic.

For example. Last Sunday Harley explained how “when Susan Smith’s actions threatened the possibility of your parents getting back together before they were married … ” he gave “a gentle push to an already guilty conscience”. We see, in the recap, Les Moore consoling Susan Smith, who’s in the hospital. The reader who doesn’t remember the mid-90s well can understand there was a suicide attempt, but not how this fit together. So.

Story from the mid-90s. Susan Smith, one of Les Moore’s students, has a crush on him somehow. And she’s mistaking routine, supportive comments from her teacher as signals that he’s interested too. This was deftly done, at the time. Like, you could see where Smith got the wrong idea, and where Moore had no reason to think he was giving her signals. And was all funny in that I’m-glad-I’m-not-in-this-imminent-disaster way.

This turned to disaster when Smith learned that Moore did not, in fact, have any interest in her. And, particularly, had a girlfriend, Lisa, who was tromping around Europe for the summer. Most particularly when Les asked Smith to mail out the audio tape he was sending Lisa, with his wedding proposal to her. She destroyed the tape, and tried to destroy herself. The thing that Smith confessed was that she had destroyed the tape and that’s why Lisa wasn’t answering the proposal.

Summer Moore: 'When you say 'nudge' ... ' Harley: 'I tough minds ever so slightly to influence an outcome. For example, when Susan Smith's actions threatened the possibility of your parents getting back together before they were married ... ' Flashback to a hospital room, where Young Les Moore tells Smith: 'And by helping you, I did the world a favor too ... because there's a lot of poetry in you that won't be lost now!' Smith answers, 'Mr Moore ... WAIT! There's something I have to tell you ... !!'' In the present day, Harley continues: 'All I had to do was give a gentle push to an already guilty conscience.'
Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers’s Funky Winkerbean for the 4th of December, 2022. Boy, has to be a heck of a thing if Les never told Summer about what role a student’s suicide attempt had in her parents’ courtship, right? Still not answered: why Harley stuck around as janitor at Westview when Summer was off at Kent State for a decade. Oh, and there was a strange energy talking about this story on Usenet, as it first unfolded in the 90s, when a woman named Susan Smith became scandalously famous for drowning her children. (That’s the sort of scandal that got nationwide attention in the 90s.) It had nothing to do with the strip, naturally, but it made rec.arts.comics.strips discussion of the character weirder.

The revelation set Les off to Europe to chase Lisa down, incidentally the first time I ragequit Funky Winkerbean. The thing he kept missing her, getting to tourist sites ever closer to when she left, down to where he was missing her by seconds and the story wasn’t over yet. Anyway, he finally caught up to her in Elea, Greece, at Zeno’s world-famous escape room (it’s a tunnel one stadia long, empty apart from a tortoise and an arrow at the midpoint). As you’d think, Summer Moore got born and all.

I don’t remember, why Les couldn’t send another tape, or a letter, or call like a normal human being might. But I do remember that “intercepted proposal” is a story Tom Batiuk would use again, in Crankshaft. There, Lillian, who I bet has a last name, revealed to her comatose sister Lucy that she was why Lucy’s Eugene stopped writing while deployed overseas. Eugene wrote a proposal letter and promised if Lucy didn’t reply he’d stop trying to communicate with her. Jealous, Lillian hid the letter, and so her sister never married. The story premise might not work for you but it seems there’s something that appeals to Batiuk in it. Also now you understand why Lillian — who’s become a little old lady writing cozy mysteries about bookstore-related murders while running a tiny used bookshop herself — draws hatred from a streak of Crankshaft readers.

Other miscellaneous stuff. There’s a reference to the post office bombing storyline, a 1996 story detailed well on Son Of Stuck Funky for people who want the details. (The story was a loose take on the 1995 bombing of an Oklahoma City federal building by white supremacists.) Harley revealed it was his mental influence that got the band and the football team to donate blood. We should have seen that coming. Why would community leaders come together in a crisis like that of their own free will?

Finally Summer asks whether Harley’s ever ‘nudged’ her mind, a question that can only be believed if answered ‘yes’. Harley says ‘no’ and unloads a double- and then a triple-decker word zeppelin. Its goal: to explain how Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean both happened in the present but were ten years out of synch with one another. Immediately after Lisa Moore’s death Funky Winkerbean jumped ahead ten years. This allowed Tom Batiuk to skip the sadness of Les Moore getting over Lisa’s death and jump right into the sadness of Les Moore’s inability to get over Lisa’s death. But there was no reason for Crankshaft to jump like that. So, for a long while, when Crankshaft characters appeared in Funky Winkerbean they were a decade older and vice-versa.

Summer: 'Did you ever nudge or influence *my* mind?' Harley, in a series of word balloons that fill up *so much* of the comic space: 'No ... I couldn't do that! Your mind had to remain free of any influence from me directly so as not to alter what you may write. That's why there was always my risk of being discovered by you ... and, even though my influence on others was slight ... it still created a bit of an out-of-sync time bubble for this immediate area ... so that Westview actually sped ahead of other localities like Centerville by a bit ... but once I'm assured that your book will happen ... as I now am ... I can see to it that the bubble is absorbed back into the timestream.'
Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers’s Funky Winkerbean for the 7th of December, 2022. There has long been a rumor in the comics snark community that the strips are drawn a year or more ahead of time, but the word balloons and final script not filled in until shortly before publication. (To my knowledge neither Batiuk nor Ayers have confirmed this, but I’m willing to begrudge people who can corect me.) This may sound daft, but it’s not very different from the “Marvel Method” used to produce comics in the 1960s with, generally, better integration of art and story. If true, though, it would explain things like why the word balloons here so badly match the natural pauses in Harley’s speech here. Speech balloon placement is very hard, but look at how awful a set of sentences that is in the second panel, and how badly it fits that grand staircase of word balloons.

Not to brag, but I followed this and even why Tom Batiuk would do that. It’s a riff on DC Comics’s old Earth-1 and Earth-2 and so on worlds. Earth-1 was roughly the Silver Age superheroes, and Earth-2 their 20-year-older Golden Age forebears. Some characters, particularly Superman, appeared in both and so were older or younger when out of their home universe. But it was also confusing to anyone whose brain isn’t eaten up with this nonsense and is why I don’t brag about my brain. And so three percent of the last month of Funky Winkerbean was spent explaining why now Crankshaft won’t be out of synch with it anymore.

A problem endemic to stories about time travellers meddling with history is character autonomy. Add to that Harley’s claimed power to nudge people’s choices — including, we learn, getting Lisa to move back to Westview, and getting Crazy Harry a job with the comic book shop so he wouldn’t move out of town — and Summer has good reason to wonder about her parents. Harley owns up to changing Les and Lisa’s schedules to have the same lunch period. And to set it so nobody else would sit near them. But no, he says, Lisa chose of her own free will to go talk to the only person she could.

Comics Book Harriet, at Son Of Stuck Funky, has an outstanding deep-dive into Les and Lisa’s high school relationship, as it developed in the 1980s. It’s (of course) not this relationship of destiny, but a much more ambiguous and generally funny thing. The element I had completely forgotten is that Lisa started out as a terrible girlfriend. The comic logic is correct: you can preserve Les’s role as a loser if his girlfriend’s a terror. (It does play a bit into a misogynist idea of The Women They Be Crazy Harridans. But when you look at the full cast, with characters like Cindy Summers the Popular But Shallow Girl and Holly Budd the Hot Majorette … uh … well, sometimes you have to go with the cast types that give you scenarios.)

Anyway with that complete lack of reassurance Harley … explains how he got his name? And this was what confirmed I’d need to do another “why is everybody mad at Funky Winkerbean” essay. Because we’re told that when he arrived in Sometime In The Past Westview he needed to establish an identity. He saw a guy on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and figured, yeah that. I’m not faulting him for choosing a goofy name. He needs to blend in with a community where people have names like “Funky Winkerbean”, “Les Moore”, “Holly Budd”, “Jack Stropp”, “Bob Andray” (cute!) (strip of July 18, 1976), “Mason Jarr”, “Chester Hagglemore”, “Cliff Anger”, and so on. He doesn’t know where to find a level. (I made a version of this crack on Son of Stuck Funky and folks asked why I didn’t list “Harry L Dinkle” among the names. And I don’t know; it just doesn’t strike me as the same sort of goofy as, oh, “Rocky Rhodes” or “Ferris Wheeler” do.) My issue is: he didn’t work that out before leaving his home time? He has a time machine and he couldn’t spend an extra day thinking out his cover? The only way I can see that making sense is if Harley had to leap into the past before he was ready. Since we haven’t seen anyone trying to stop him, this implies some Quantum Leap scenario, where Harley is moving uncontrolled from event to event, forever hoping his next expository lump will be the lump drone.

Oh also, today (the 11th) we learn Summer Moore’s not-yet-written transcendentally important book will also be her only book. As if anyone could live up to that standard. Also that Harley hasn’t messed up the book by telling her this. Why? Because she somehow “figured out” all of this on her own, without sharing any of it with the reader. Good grief.

It is technically too soon to say whether everyone will be mad at Funky Winkerbean next week. [ Added after seeing Monday’s strip: Yes, everyone already is and will still be. ] However, Epicus Doomus promises in a Son of Stuck Funky comment that “this thing is about to take the stupidest possible turn you can imagine” while staying “staggeringly boring too”. I, too, am curious.

Statistics Saturday: Questions Raised By _Funky Winkerbean_ This Or Any Week

  • What?
  • Huh?
  • Wait, what?
  • Why?
  • What does that even mean?
  • OK but you know that’s not less creepy, right?
  • Seriously?
  • Oh for crying out loud how?
  • Why are we spending time on this?
  • What?

Reference: Michigan Curiosities, Colleen Burcar.

Based on the Sound From Her Pen in the Living Room

It would seem our pet rabbit has knocked over the pantry shelves or maybe one of the larger bookcases, none of which she’s anywhere near. I don’t know how she managed this feat and I’m afraid to go look what did happen.

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 3

I hope you’ll enjoy another chapter Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Grumpy Weasel. The whole of my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction based on his book should be gathered at this link.

The story so far: everyone in Pleasant Valley is talking about Grumpy Weasel. Young Master Robin has paid no heed to all the other birds getting so worked up about this. And then a strange, grumpy voice is right behind the young bird.


TOM: Chapter One, Part Two, Part Two


CROW: [ As Robin ] ‘Always — I mean never — I mean don’t avoid — I mean make sure not to miss — ‘

> When young Master Robin heard the strange voice that
> sounded so grumpy and so near him he was terribly frightened.

JOEL: Grumpy Bear?

TOM: Oh no, we got Care Bears staring at us.

> He forgot that he thought himself grown up, and very wise,

CROW: Wise people are never cornered by the grumpy!

> and quite able to go about alone. He didn’t even look to see
> who was speaking,

JOEL: Robin sounds ill-mannered.

> but fell backwards off the limb of the
> apple tree.

TOM: Hit every iPod on the way down.

CROW: [ As Robin ] ‘Ow! Ow! Owie! Ow! Ouch!’ Thud!

> It was lucky for him, too, that he fell just when he
> did.

JOEL: [ As Robin, weakly ] ‘It *was*?’

> For a long brownish person, white underneath, took
> Master Robin’s place on the limb so promptly

TOM: Is he wearing an apron? Did a sous-chef just hop in?

> that you could
> hardly have said he jumped into it from somewhere else.

CROW: So put thoughts of claiming he had jumped into it from somewhere else out of your head, you wicked fool, you.

> He
> seemed to have popped out of the tree somewhat as a freshly
> popped kernel of corn bursts forth.

JOEL: Inside a microwave bag?

> A moment ago it was not
> there! You were watching, but did not see it grow big.

TOM: What kind of a knob are you? Why do I have you on staff? Begone!

> Well, all at once there was silence in the orchard.

JOEL: ‘Silence in the Orchard’ was my favorite Jethro Tull song.

> Everybody was holding his breath, waiting to see what
> happened to young Master Robin.

[ Whistles the opening bars from ‘The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly’. ]

> Though he had lost his
> balance and tumbled backward he righted himself quite like an
> old-timer and flew off across the orchard.

CROW: Real Buster Keaton move there, you admire the stone beak.

> "I didn’t know snakes could climb trees," he
> stammered to Mr. Chippy, who had followed him.

JOEL: [ As Mr Chippy ] ‘What do you know about fish that do parkour?’

CROW: ‘Have you ever considered a whale who BASE jumps?’

> "Snakes!" Mr. Chippy piped. "That wasn’t a snake!

TOM: [ As Robin ] ‘Was it two snakes?’

> That was Grumpy Weasel…. And it’s a wonder you ever
> escaped," he added. "I must learn that backward somersault.
> It’s a good thing to know."

CROW: ‘You make it look as easy as falling out of a tree — say!’

> You can see that Mr. Chippy was a very humble person.

JOEL: Well everyone knows to expect humility from a whatever a Chippy is.

> But Mr. Jolly Robin’s eldest son was quite proud. Already he
> began to feel that he had been very skilful in escaping.

TOM: The escape room can’t hold you if you just fly out!

> But
> of course it was only an accident that he got away.

CROW: Yes but given the contingent nature of history aren’t all events ‘accidents’ really?

> For once in his life Grumpy Weasel had been careless.

JOEL: If Grumpy Weasel had gone right to the police this would never have happened.

> It had looked so easy—catching that clumsy young robin! He
> had spoken to Master Robin, not dreaming that he could save
> himself.

TOM: Well if you’re not going to save yourself who do you expect to?

> To make matters worse, Grumpy had found Mr. Chippy’s
> nest empty.

JOEL: Mr Chippy lost everything in the Panic of 1907.

> And Grumpy Weasel was the sort of person that
> liked to find a bird at home when he called.

TOM: When he cawwed.

CROW: [ Turns and looks at TOM. ]

> It always made
> him more ill-natured than usual to make a call for nothing.

JOEL: I mean, who does like making calls these days?

> And now he had let a stupid young Robin escape him.

CROW: Like they say, it’s not the number of breaths you take, it’s the number of stupid young Robins you stop from breathing.

> So it is
> not surprising that his big black eyes snapped nor that he
> said something in a fierce voice that sounded like "Chip,
> chip, chip," but meant something a good deal worse.

JOEL: Soggy chip, soggy chip, soggy chip.

> And to add to Grumpy Weasel’s rage, somebody had
> laughed hoarsely—somebody that sat in a tall elm across the
> road.

TOM: The trees are mocking Grumpy too? That seems excessive.

> If he could have caught Mr. Crow there is no doubt
> that Grumpy would have made that black scamp sorry that he
> laughed.

TOM: Lure him in with comic books and opinions about butter!

CROW: I told you those in confidence!

> But old Mr. Crow was too wary to let anybody
> surprise him.

CROW: I did not expect that!

> "Haw, haw!" he laughed again. And Grumpy Weasel
> actually couldn’t bear to hear him.

JOEL: Wallace Bear, meanwhile, couldn’t weasel to crow him.

> Some of the onlookers
> claimed afterward that they saw Grumpy Weasel start down the
> tree. And that was as much as they could say.

TOM: Somehow he lapped himself and ended up right back up top of the tree.

> No one knew how
> he managed to slip out of sight.

JOEL: Grumpy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

> And the field people say
> that he was never seen again in that exact spot.

CROW: Ah yes, they say weasels never strike twice in the same place.

[ To continue … ? ]

Statistics November: I Don’t Know What People Like Here but Have My Guesses

So that thing I complained about last year, where WordPress was showing nothing but an error page when I looked up my statistics? It’s still doing that. I posted to their support forum about it and just got that they dunno, sounds like a browser bug to them. And while I could try another browser, you know what? I’m not the one who broke something, WordPress did. I could go on nagging them about this but I’m focusing my attention on nagging Comics Kingdom until they take their advertisements off subscribers’ pages or run the Sunday comics at a readable size. Have to have priorities.

Anyway, I suppose that the things people really want to see around here are me explaining comic strips. Why Is Everyone Mad at _Funky Winkerbean_? wasn’t published in November, but I’m going ahead and supposing it’s going to be one of December’s top posts. But the other comic strip plot recaps are always well-received. And my plans for this month’s plot recaps are:

But things might change. We’ll see. And I do figure to write about Funky Winkerbean when that seems urgent. Maybe other things too, if they turn up. I’ve been thinking about slipping in another story strip, one that’s snuck in under everyone’s attention in the last couple months. You’ll know if I do.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? What was Mud Murphy sick with? September – December 2022

‘Mud Mountain’ Murphy was a delight to see enter Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D.. Most of the characters, as Beatty writes them, are pleasant enough if a bit vague. Not Murphy, who entered as a Brian Blessed-esque force of nature, all bold text and boundless energy. Story strips do great with outsized emotions and Murphy carried himself so even saying hello was outsized.

During the current story he had to run offstage rather than perform. It looked like some digestive issue, since he had just eaten four steaks, three dozen pancakes, thirty eggs (scrambled), eight gallons of mashed potatoes, a quadruple order of bacon-fried hash browns, two bystanders, six quarts of ice cream topped with twelve bananas, a Honda Civic hatchback, and five packzi. He claimed later that it was all a stunt to make himself the headliner rather than the opener. But —

Well, I noticed some points Terry Beatty dropped. We’re told that Murphy hasn’t performed in a decade. A club owner and another musician say it’s because he was unreliable about actually showing up. When Murphy does appear at the venue he talks about not having any merchandise to sell. Murphy tells a fan who mentions having a complete set of his albums that he doesn’t even have a full set of his own albums. I’d call that good crowd work if it weren’t for other mentions suggesting Murphy’s in dire straits.

When Murphy arrives at the venue Truck Tyler mentions how “I don’t think he’s showered in a while”. Murphy’s diner order is enormous like you expect from a bombastic person. But also like you expect from a starving person eating on someone else’s account. I was a grad student, I know this pattern.

Right now we’re at a point where Murphy’s story is at a sensible conclusion. He’s been a manipulative jerk and got called out on it and the regular cast are done with him. But. There is plenty of material in-text to suggest that Murphy’s dealing with some issues, plausibly a social anxiety, that sabotage his career and relationships. I don’t know whether we’re going to see him rehabilitated in the coming weeks. The room is there, is all I want to flag.

If you’re reading this after about March 2023, though, you know whether this story continued. If you don’t know how it’s turned out there’s likely a plot recap at this link which explains it. For now, for the early-December 2022 report? Read on, please, and let’s explore it.

Rex Morgan, M.D.

18 September – 3 December 2022.

We were near enough the beginning of a story last time I visited Rex Morgan, M.D. Hank Harwood Junior paid a visit to Yvonne Grey, daughter of one of his father’s old flames. They met when Hank Senior reconnected with Yvonne’s mother shortly before her death. Well, they’ve been cyber’ing, as the local news wants us to believe people call it, and the relationship got serious enough to be worth an in-person visit.

Through the visit Hank and Yvonne talk about their past relationships, and how much comfort they’ve found in each other. How close Yvonne is to retiring and turning the family diner over to her kids. Hank Junior’s challenges caring for his father. And then they turn up in the strip the next day, married.

Hank Senior: 'You two really got *married*?' Hank Junior: 'Yup. Did the justice-of-the-peace thing --- like in the old movies.' Yvonne: 'Well, we didn't wake him up in the middle of the night like they do in all those!' Hank Senior: 'This is *fantastic*! Welcome to the family, Yvonne!'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 10th of October, 2022. The story carried on a while, mostly Hank and Yvonne figuring out whether they’ll take a honeymoon and that sort of thing. It’s all pleasant enough, getting back to Beatty’s main mission of having pleasant people to whom nothing very bad happens.

I found the development interesting. To us readers it’s entirely a retcon; we never saw a word about their relationship before this story. But it didn’t feel arbitrary. I bought that they had a happy long-distance relationship and that it made sense to them to marry on a day’s notice. It seems fast to me, but not arbitrary or foolish. So here’s hoping that all turns out well. And I note that Rex Morgan is up at least three weddings on Mary Worth in the time I’ve been doing recaps, here.

From about the 16th of October the story moved from Hank Jr and Yvonne’s relationship over to roots country singer Truck Tyler, his agent Buck Wise, and returned-from-exile singer ‘Mud Mountain’ Murphy. Murphy’s first gig in a decade is opening for Tyler at Lew’s Nite Spot. Murphy defies his reputation by showing up in enough time that he, Tyler, and Wise can go get a bite to eat. Or, for Murphy, can get all the bites to eat. It’s a pretty fun scene in Nick’s Diner as he charms Wanda, their server, who’s a fan of Murphy. And eats pages three through eight off the menu.

Murphy, woozy on stage: 'Sorry, folks --- I'm gonna need a minute!' Lou, club owner, whispering to Rex Morgan; 'Is *this* the part where somebody asks if there's a *doctor* in the house?' Murphy: 'There wouldn't by chance be a doctor in the house tonight, would there!?!'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 12th of November, 2022. “I have an honorary degree from Anderson College!” Yes, all the ironic readers were excited to see how Rex Morgan, M.D., would get out of doing doctoring stuff this time. Murphy saved Rex Morgan from having to M.D. anything by locking himself in the bathroom for an hour.

After his Brobdingnagian dinner, though, he gets on stage and looks unsteady. He apologizes and runs off stage, promising to be back in a little bit. Rex Morgan gets ready to do a medicine, but Murphy won’t come out of the bathroom. With the audience growing restless Tyler steps out on stage and reassures everyone that Murphy will be fine once his tummy settles. And he puts on a good show, doing his set list an hour earlier than he figured.

And as Tyler finishes, Murphy emerges, insisting all he needed was a little time for his stomach to settle. He steps out and thanks Tyler for warming up the crowd for him, a joke that Tyler doesn’t laugh at. It gets worse as Murphy repeats the joke. And after the show, talking to Wanda from the diner, he boasts how this was all a fake. He couldn’t face being only an opening act; he had to be the headliner.

Wanda: 'You weren't really sick?' Murphy: 'NAH! It's just when I got up there, I couldn't face bein' an opening act. Mud Mountain Murphy is ALWAYS the headliner!' Buck Wise, quite cross, holding his fists on his hips: 'Wait a minute --- you *faked* that whole thing?' Murphy: 'Aw --- forgive me, Bucky --- it made for a good show, didn't it? What else matters?'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 29th of November, 2022. As you maybe gathered, I’m torn whether to take it at face value that Murphy does figure this kind of stunt is how he wants to live or whether it’s the best scheme he has to cope with whatever his real problems are.

Buck Wise is furious, but Murphy says — not wrongly — that it made a good show so what else matters? Well, it’s still jerk behavior. Wise fires Murphy as a client. And Wanda, whose name Murphy insists on pronouncing ‘Rhonda’, says after that stunt she’s not so much a fan. An angry Murphy storms out, even calling an innocent autograph-seeking fan a ‘loser’. This seems like an end to the story, but, who knows? Besides someone reading this like four weeks from now?

Next Week!


I’ll have to start writing my recap early, because it’s the manyfold story threads of Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp next week, and I know I don’t have good enough notes about them yet. Stop by next week and see if I’m completely defeated!

If I Wait Until I Need Help It Might Be Too Late

I don’t know that this is actually trouble. I just want it known if I go inexplicably silent a while. There’s this really fat squirrel, looks kind of like they’re shoplifting a medicine ball or maybe a boulder left over from falling on Wile E Coyote. And they keep sitting in the front yard, eating a nut or whatever, looking at the house. They’re maybe just curious what I have on the TV, but I can’t rule out that they’re sizing up the house to figure if they can eat it and in how many gulps. This may seem an unlikely worry, but what I have on the TV most often is the Broadway music channel and how many times does any squirrel really want to hear the Gary, Indiana song from The Music Man? Right? Anyway so if you see my place on Street View and it’s not there please notify someone appropriate.

Statistics Saturday: _Funky Winkerbean_ Punchlines Of The Year

Reference: Labor and Capital In 19th Century Baseball, Robert P Gelzheiser.

Why Is Everyone Mad at _Funky Winkerbean_?

This may be hard to believe but as recently as the 21st of November, nobody was mad at Funky Winkerbean. At least nobody was mad enough at the soon-to-expire strip to click the ‘angry’ react at the bottom of Comics Kingdom’s page. That changed the 22nd, and since the 25th of November there’s been only one day that the strip got fewer than a hundred angry reactions, as of when I write this. So I want to explore that since people mad at comic strips is good for my readership.

But first, anyone really interested in this should visit the Son of Stuck Funky blog. It has always provided daily snark and commentary and research on Funky Winkerbean. The community there knows the strip with a depth and insight I can’t match and, yeah, they’re feeling extremely ambiguous about what to do next year.

So. The current, and it appears final, Funky Winkerbean story began the 24th of October. Summer Moore, the much-forgotten daughter of Les Moore and Dead Lisa Who Died of Death, returned from college. Her absence as a significant character for like a decade was explained as she kept changing her major. Now she’s thinking to take a gap year in her grad studies. Her goal: writing a book about Westview, the small Ohio town where Funky Winkerbean takes place. She figures to write about how the community’s changing over the last couple decades. Her plan is to use oral histories of her father, her father’s friends, and her dead mother’s diaries. Dead Lisa left a lot of diaries. And also a lot of videotapes. She recorded them after she decided it would be easier to leave a lot of video tapes with advice for her daughter rather than not die of breast cancer. (I sound snide, but what did happen was after a relapse she decided not to restart treatment.)

Les: 'So you're not going to be doing any interviews for your book today?' Summer: 'Actually, I'm reading Mom's diary ... so I'm interviewing Mom.'
Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers’s Funky Winkerbean for the 21st of November, 2022. The last Funky Winkerbean (as of this writing) that nobody was angry at. It’s possible that there was some anger that got unrecorded because of Comics Kingdom changing out their commenting system and destroying years of earlier comments.

She started just in time! She’s barely decided to write a book when Funky Winkerbean, the character, announces he’s closing his restaurant, Montoni’s. The pizza shop was the social center of the comic strip since 1992. This event went so fast — in under a week of strips they were auctioning off the fixtures — and with so little focus that it felt like a dream sequence.

By the way if this storyline turns out to be a dream sequence, it would both make more sense and deserve even more to be punched.

So after some interviews Summer goes to the Westview High School janitor, a guy named Harley. Who turns out to be a longtime background character; ComicBookHarriet found he entered the strip no later than 1979. Summer says she kept finding a pattern, not shared with us readers, where Harley’s name popped up too much. And she read something in her mother’s diary about feeling watched. Harley curses himself for being a novice and starts to unreel the story that’s got everyone mad.

Because it turns out that Harley is not merely a janitor who’s been there since before they invented high-fiving. No. He is, in fact, a Custodian, one of a group of people from some other time, with a mission to tend “important nexus events in the timeline” so they’re not disrupted. You know, like in Voyagers!, which you remember from my childhood as somehow the only TV show even more awesomer than Battlestar Galactica. Or like the early-2000s Cartoon Network series Time Squad, which answered the question “what if Voyagers! had three main characters but they were all jerks?”

So he’s been around for forty years watching over Westview High School as a janitor. Apparently it wasn’t intended, exactly. It’s that his Time Helmet got stolen, years ago, by … Donna, who back in the 80s wore this goofy space-guy-ish helmet to play video games as “The Eliminator”. Part of modern Funky Winkerbean lore was that she had worn the helmet to disguise her identity. This way, fragile boys wouldn’t freak out at a guh-guh-guh-girl being good at video games. (Which, eh, fair enough.) (Also she got her Mom to call her ‘Donald’ to help her cover.)

We’ll get back to this in a second. But a lot of what has people mad about this is that the strip revisited The Eliminator’s helmet a few months ago. This in a story where Donna’s husband, Crazy Harry, found the helmet in the attic, put it on, and found himself somehow back in April of 1980. He met up with his high-school self. He told Young Lisa that Les Moore liked her in a not-at-all extremely creepy way. He almost told her to get regular mammograms. He bought a copy of Spider-Man’s debut (a comic book twenty years old at the time) at a convenience store. And lost it, for John The Comic Book Guy to find. And he blipped back to the present. Everyone agreed that was wild. It must have been a hallucination from the helmet outgassing, the way 40-year-old plastic will. Anyway after that weird yet harmless experience they throw the helmet out. But a stray cat wandered into it and blipped into hyperspace. This in just the way The Eliminator would back in the day.

Harley: 'I couldn't just take back the helmet from Donna without drawing attention and possibly disrupting the timeline ... so I gently nudged her mind to make her think that she created it ... ' We see in flashback young Donna picking up an issue of 'Eerie Comics' with something like the Time Helmet on it. Harley: 'And I touched the mind of the comic artist Ken Kelly to put it on a comic book cover to give her the inspiration for it.' Flashback to Donna playing Defender: 'I'm the Eliminator, the most feared video game player in the galaxy!' The Eliminator vanishes, Harley: 'So I knew where the helmet was should I need it! Although, I did get a fright the first time Donna disappeared from the present for a couple of seconds!'
Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers’s Funky Winkerbean for the 27th of November, 2022. Again, not clear how this was easier than just breaking into Donna’s attic and swiping it in the decades that the helmet sat forgotten in a box there. The bit of Eliminator blipping out there reflects a common old Funky Winkerbean motif where wacky stuff would happen, like a character blipping into hyperspace. And apparently that needs explanation now because we can’t just have whimsy. Yes, that’s another thing to be mad about.

Back as it were to the present. So, Harley took a job as a janitor to be where he could watch over stuff. OK. He lost his Time Helmet when the young Donna swiped the cool-looking helmet form his supply closet. He couldn’t snag it back because that would disrupt the timeline. But he could touch her mind enough to make her think she’d made it herself, like she’d always told people. And touched the mind of comic book artist Ken Kelly to make a design that Donna would use as the basis for her helmet. Because that’s easier than touching Donna’s mind to bring the helmet back. And all this mind-touching isn’t creepy or weird so you will stop thinking it is, starting now [ snaps fingers ]. Anyway he figured he could always snag the Time Helmet if he really needed it … except that then it went missing a couple months ago and he has no idea where it went. It’s that cat wearing it.

There’s the first big thing everyone’s mad about: how the heck does it make sense to leave the Time Helmet lost in someone else’s attic for 40 years? And was his mission supposed to be “hang around Westview High School for forty years in case something happens?” And if that was the plan, then what Time Admiral’s great-grandmother did he punch out as a baby to draw that assignment?

Next big thing: what big nexus is it he’s there to protect? And can we shut down everything if his mission was being sure Les Moore wrote How Dead Lisa Died In The Most Tragically Tragic Thing That Ever Happened To Anyone Ever? In a twist, considering Dead Lisa has been the center of most every Funky Winkerbean story the past fifteen years, it is not. No, the thing that needs protection is the book that Summer Moore is about to start writing.

Yes. As you might think if you watched Bill And Ted Face The Music but missed the movie’s thesis that utopia can only be created as an active collaboration of all people, Summer Moore’s going to create a utopia. Specifically, her book connecting the grand sweeps of history to Westview inspires “a science of behavioral-patterend algorithms that will one day allow us to recognize humanity as our nation!” If I have this right, Harley means she lets them invent psychohistory, like in Isaac Asimov’s science fiction novels. In The End of Eternity and Foundation’s Edge, Asimov’s capstones to exploring the implications of a mathematically predictable future history, he concluded psychohistory would be a bad thing. I have to paraphrase because I don’t have the energy to dig up either book. But viewpoint characters come to see the future psychohistory creates as “condemned to neverending stasis by calculation”. I agree we could make a much better world if we treated all people as worthy of our brotherhood. But if the powerful can choose to shape future history they will not choose one for the good of the powerless.

Summer: 'You're here to make sure I write my book!? But what's so special about it?' Harley: 'Your ability to detect patterns will allow you to write a book that connects matters of ordinary small-town households to matters of immense consequence. What you write about sparks others to build on it to create a science of behavioral-patterned algorithms that will one day allow us to recognize humanity as our nation!'
Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers’s Funky Winkerbean for the 2nd of December, 2022. Recommended reading: Katherine MacLean’s short story “The Snowball Effect”. Anyway, the pattern I would like explored is why this strip has major characters named Crazy Harry, Harry Dinkle, Holly Winkerbean, and now Harley Janitorman. What’s with all the two-syllable H-y names, huh?

So that’s what else has people mad. First, the declaration that yet another character in this strip is going to become an important author. Authors already in the strip have written a blockbuster biggest-movie-of-the-year superhero franchise, a bestselling memoir that got turned into an Oscar-winning movie, and an Eisner-winning graphic novel. Second, not even an important author but someone who makes a better future. Third, an author whose work is so important it’s worth having a league of Timecops send one of their members to while away his life watching over her. But not someone good enough to do things like “not lose his Time Helmet for forty years”. Also not good enough to “maybe get a job somewhere near where Summer spends ten years in college”. Or even a job “where Summer spent anything but four years of her life”. Fourth, that it’s toying with some respectable comic book or science fiction ideas, badly. As said, it’s fiddling with what you see in the Bill and Ted movies, or with The End of Eternity, but missing their points. And, what the heck, because all this is being presented in big blocks of exposition rather than, you know, a mystery. Summer’s presented in-text as though she had cracked an elaborate mystery. But we-the-readers never saw any clues or even more than maybe two people mentioning the janitor had been here forever.

Oh also, that we’ve never seen evidence that Summer writes, or is any good at writing. Sometimes a newcomer has an amazing talent, yes. To get back to Isaac Asimov, he write “Nightfall” — acclaimed for decades as the best science fiction short story ever — when he was about twenty. It was only his seventeenth published story. Writing about the experience, Asimov noted that, had someone told him the night before he began writing, “Isaac, you are about to write the greatest science fiction short story ever”, he would never have been able to start. He’d have been destroyed by the menace of that potential. I think we don’t have enough time for a clash between forces helping and hindering Summer’s writing. I can imagine the story, though; Jack Williamson wrote something like it, in the Legion of Time. I’m told, anyway. I haven’t read it.

Anyway, everybody likes that the strip is trying to go out bonkers. But it’s fumbling the ideas, so the plot points don’t hold up to casual scrutiny. And they’re being delivered in time zeppelins of word balloons. I’ll try to post updates, when they’re deserved. But again, Son of Stuck Funky is the place to really know what’s going on here.

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 2

Though I said I didn’t promise to make Mystery Science Theater 3000 out of the whole of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, I did say I might. And here, I did a little bit more. I hope you enjoy. The whole MiSTing, however much there ends up being, should be gathered at this link.

The story so far: The birds of Pleasant Valley agree that Grumpy Weasel is a skinny old critter. And that’s about it; we have yet to meet him ourselves.

I don’t think any riffs here need me to explain them, but if you disagree, let me know. I can probably guess what was in my mind back on Monday or so.

> II

TOM: Chapter One, Part Two.


CROW: o/` Down by the old stone wall! o/`

> Little Mr. Chippy suddenly set up a great twitter.

JOEL: It’s the Rankin/Bass Screenshots Without Context account.

> Anybody could see that he was frightened. And one of Jolly
> Robin’s sons,

CROW: Joel Robinson?

JOEL: Hey! That’s …

CROW: Can’t take it, huh?

> perched in an apple tree near the stone wall
> where Mr. Chippy lived in a wild grapevine, wondered what
> could be the matter.

TOM: Is that reindeer?

CROW: It’s some fox sulking about grapes again.

> Presently, as he looked beneath him, he saw a long,
> slim shape dart from a chink of the old wall, and as quickly
> disappear.

JOEL: Romulans!

> "Huh!" said young Master Robin.

TOM: [ As Alfred the Butler ] As Mister Wayne said you might, sir.

> "Foolish people who
> build their homes on walls must expect snakes for visitors."

CROW: Checks out, yeah.

> And feeling quite wise and grown up, he turned his back on
> Mr. Chippy,

JOEL: You know in the British edition of this book he was Mr Crispy.

TOM: In the British edition Mr Chippy is a nightmarish blob that’s been a children’s show host since 1978.

> as if it really made no difference to him if Mr.
> Chippy did have a dangerous caller.

CROW: Just let it go to voice-mail and then never check it.

> Meanwhile others of the bird neighbors began to echo
> Mr. Chippy’s warning notes.

TOM: Oh, it’s retweeting.

> And young Master Robin thought
> everybody was silly to make such a fuss over the misfortunes
> of a humble person like Mr. Chippy.

CROW: Not caring if a little person gets hurt will never have a bad consequence for a bigwig like me!

> "If they don’t look out they’ll scare all the
> angleworms back into their holes," he grumbled—a remark
> which shows that he knew little about the ways of the world.

JOEL: Youth has such naive ideas about angleworm homes, yeah.

> And when Rusty Wren swerved near him and called to him to
> look out for Mr. Chippy’s visitor

TOM: Look out! Look out! The old man of the Chippy!

> —that he was "a bad
> one"—young Master Robin actually puffed himself up with
> rage.

CROW: You know to the angleworms all the birds freaking out is a good thing.

> "He seems to think I’m in danger of falling out of
> this tree," he sneered aloud. "He doesn’t know that I can
> handle myself in a tree as well as he can."

JOEL: Is … is he drunk?

TOM: [ As a drunk Robin ] ‘You’re all just jealous! You can’t handle me! You all are lucky my *chick* is here!’

> As he spoke,
> Master Robin all but tumbled off his perch.

CROW: Whoops!

> But he caught
> himself just in time, then looked around hastily to see if
> anybody had noticed his awkwardness.

TOM: Shouldn’t have gone bragging how even the Ancient Greek Gods couldn’t make him fall.

> All this time poor Mr. Chippy’s cries continued.

JOEL: [ As Bob Newhart ] ‘So if you see our copilot running up and down the aisles screaming things like, oh, you know, we’re gonna die, maybe put your life jackets on just in case.’

> There was really no reason for his alarm. For his wife was
> away from home, with all their children.

CROW: Ooooh. Yeah, we get it.

> But Mr. Chippy kept
> flying back and forth in a great flutter. He too called to
> young Master Robin that he’d better go home.

TOM: If there isn’t actual danger then this is just cyberbullying.

CROW: Cy-bird-bullying.

TOM: Joel, make him stop.

> Still that knowing youngster paid no heed to his
> elder’s advice.

JOEL: If the tweets are too loud you’re too old, man.

> "If snakes climb trees I’ve never seen them do it,"
> he scoffed.

CROW: You’ve never seen snakes climb trees? It’s, like, the coolest thing! They double up kinda like a paperclip?

> "Hi, there! Haven’t you seen——" Mr. Chippy
> started to say.

TOM: Howdy!

JOEL: Friendly ol’ sucker, isn’t he?

> But before he could finish his question
> Master Robin interrupted him rudely.

CROW: If Master Robin’s like this what do you suppose the Apprentice Robins are like?

> "Certainly I saw him," he cried. "I saw him come out
> of the wall and go in again."

TOM: You sawed him in two?

> "He’ll get you if you don’t go away!" Mr. Chippy
> shrieked.

JOEL: Unless he’s away waiting for you to get there, I mean.

> "Let him try!" Master Robin scoffed. He was sorry
> that Mr. Chippy did not hear him.

TOM: *That’s* the line you come up with?

JOEL: Birds don’t get staircase wit.


> But that distracted little
> person had already hurried off to warn somebody else.

CROW: Mr Chippy’s going to be up for a Pleasant Valley Medal of Honor.

TOM: Sounds like _Tale Of Mr Chippy_ is the book we should be reading.

> It was no time at all before Rusty Wren’s wife gave a
> piercing scream.

JOEL: Rusty Wren’s wrife.

CROW: Rusty Wren wife, Rusty Wren life.

> "That fat Robin boy—he’ll be caught!" she wailed.

CROW: [ ‘Batman’ announcer ] What’s *this*?

> Now, it made Master Robin very angry to be spoken of
> in such a way as that.

JOEL: Fine, ‘That fat Robin boy — he’ll be *captured*.’ Happy?

> "Fat!" he burst out in a loud tone as he stared in
> Mrs. Wren’s direction. "Who’s fat?"

TOM: Fatty Raccoon plummets from a broken branch behind them.

> "You are!" said a strange, grumpy voice right behind
> him—or so it seemed to young Master Robin.

CROW: Is this it? Has Grumpy Weasel finally entered his book?

JOEL: He’s like Columbo, he shows up the latest he possibly can.

[ To continue … ? ]

%d bloggers like this: