Of Course if He Were a Deer We Could Still Call the Show _Bob Newhart_

Sorry, I’m just extremely thrilled that the Institute for Pop Culture Research has awarded me a grant to study how it is Filmation never made a funny-animal version of The Bob Newhart Show. Over a decade of theory tells us they should have made one, most likely around 1979-81, probably with the central character as a flustered domestic cat named Bob Mewhart.

The Institute were very impressed with my hypothesis that Filmation might have had a hard time thinking of a funny animal name for Bob Newhart’s secretary, because in the days before search engines and the Internet Movie Database it was hard to think of what exactly her name was. “Marsha” keeps getting in the way of remembering, and that’s not the name of the character, that’s the name of actor Marcia Wallace remembered wrong. If anyone had at the right moment whispered “Carol Kestrel” to Norm Prescott all pop culture history could have been about the same, really.

Okay, I Guess Maybe There Are Reasons To Stick Around

I was unsubscribing from e-mails, mostly places that want me to donate to political figures because we’re facing a catastrophic defeat and on the brink of a triumphant victory sixteen times a day even now. And one tried to tease me back in by offering this heap of subjects they’d still like to contact me about:

Screenshot asking: 'Not ready to unsubscribe completely? Stay updated on the following topics: 190428 Grand Rapids, 2017 Petition Signer, 9.24 Northville, April 24th General L, Email Action Takers, General, General 2016, Recent Ad Names Surp, Southeast Michigan'.
I’m sorry, I’m only interested in following a Specific L.

My assumption is that most of these are procedurally generated subject lines, hoping that I’ll stick around and ask what the heck a “Recent Ad Names Surp” is. I thought it was something about syrup at first glance. Some things, you know?

Statistics Saturday: Some Things US States Actually Do Look Like

State Looks Like
Delaware A pawn
Michigan (lower peninsula) A mitten
Colorado Detroit-style pizza
Vermont and New Hampshire Someone heard about Penrose Tiling and tried drawing it without ever seeing a picture of what the tiles really look like
Michigan (upper peninsula) That solar flare the starship Voyager flies through in the opening credits
Wyoming Second Detroit-style pizza
Rhode Island My cursive lowercase ‘r’
Connecticut Elementary-school-style rectangle pizza with a tail
West Virginia A potato you forgot about long enough it’s growing roots
Florida That little emergency release handle to break open the bus window when it falls in the river or something
Oklahoma A pot of macaroni and cheese someone left in the campfire
Tennessee Deck of cards you set down wrong so they’re sliding apart
Maine New England giving the Black Power salute
Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia That cool animated PBS logo from the 1970s where the letter P turns around
Idaho Cheese, Mega-Delaware

Reference: Lunar Lander: How We Developed The Apollo Lunar Module, Thomas J Kelly.

Anyway I’ve Never Had Reason to Seriously Think I Might Not Be Neurotypical

Just sitting up, quietly fuming about that assignment in third-grade history class where we had to take a map of the outline of New Jersey, where we lived, and draw something that it looked like. And, like, I like New Jersey sure. There’s a lot of nice things to say about it. But it does not look like anything. Classmates were doing stuff like drawing it as a face looking west or something and just, no, it is not, stop pretending that it does, classmates from a very long time ago who probably aren’t sitting up thinking how they put one over on little Joseph Nebus like that. Maybe a sock that fell on the mattress, that’s the only thing the state kind of looks like.

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 10

I have another chapter of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction for you, another piece of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Grumpy Weasel. As ever, the whole of the MiSTing should be at this link. and please let me know if something goes missing.

Previously in Grumpy Weasel: Grumpy Weasel challenged Jimmy Rabbit to a race and Old Mister Crow was all over it. Old Mister Crow’s arranged for Jimmy to get a twenty-leap lead and he’s very excited for Jimmy’s inevitable win. But what happens come the day of the race?

The Betty Boop cartoon referenced is “Ha! Ha! Ha”, where yes, the dentist’s laughing gas gets out of control. Lee de Forest was a prolific inventor of the early 20th century, mostly of electrical and radio gear and also scams that maybe didn’t quite break the law but not for want of larcenous intent. The Dick Tracy reference is to something that happened in the strip recently and I plan to talk about it Tuesday. Now, let’s read.

> X

JOEL: Oh no, this chapter’s all about the Quadratic Equation.


TOM: Hey, it’s the Betty Boop cartoon with the laughing gas.

> A great outcry rang through the woods

JOEL: Somebody catch it!

> the moment
> Jimmy Rabbit set out to race Grumpy Weasel and beat him.

TOM: Gotta think about your life when everyone you know wants to see you be worse at running.

> Shouts of "Good luck!" and "Run hard!" and "Hurrah for James
> Rabbit!" followed Jimmy.

JOEL: ‘Hurrah’, because Lee de Forest hadn’t invented ‘Hooray’ yet.

> But old Mr. Crow squawked, "You
> don’t need to hurry!"

CROW: You just need to be faster than the other guy! … Wait.

> He thought that the race was already as
> good as won,

JOEL: Or as good as as good as won would be.

> for Grumpy Weasel had insisted on giving Jimmy
> Rabbit a start of twenty jumps.

TOM: And now Grumpy Weasel reveals he meant elephant jumps.

> Meanwhile Grumpy Weasel glowered.

CROW: A now-obscure word meaning to glow red.

JOEL: Gladiola flowered (glowered).

> But he could not
> glower at Jimmy’s friends,

TOM: He has a strict schedule for when to glower at rabbit friends.

> because he had to watch Jimmy
> himself in order to count the first twenty jumps he took.

CROW: One jump into hyperspace and Grumpy won’t be able to follow, kid.

> When Grumpy had counted nineteen and a half away he started.

TOM: Hey, that’s cheating by half a jump.

> And old Mr. Crow, as he sat staring at the race, declared
> that Grumpy Weasel hadn’t a chance to win.

JOEL: Really wondering what Mister Crow’s angle on this is.

> The company seemed ready to take Mr. Crow’s word for
> it—

TOM: You know the old folklore about crows knowing their rabbit/weasel racing lore.

> that is, all except Grumpy Weasel’s cousin, Peter Mink.

CROW: The polecat.

> He spoke up and said that as for him, he would wait and see
> what happened.

JOEL: The huge vote of confidence that is saying ‘I guess he hasn’t lost yet.’

> He didn’t believe old Mr. Crow knew what he
> was talking about.

CROW: It’s a crow thing, you wouldn’t understand.

> Mr. Crow grew almost a purplish black with rage.

TOM: Is this something to do with eggs? I feel like this is really about eggs.

> "We’ll all wait," he said stiffly. "We’ll all wait.

CROW: Well, Jimmy and Grumpy can’t wait or the race won’t work.

> And when the race is over you will apologize to me."

TOM: [ As Peter Mink ] ‘Jeez, fine, if it’s that important to you then Jimmy Rabbit is gonna win, take a chill pill.’

> Peter Mink merely grinned. He had no respect for his
> elders.

JOEL: [ Gasping at this gossip ] Peter Mink is a cad! And bounder!

CROW: Jimmy Rabbit’s the bounder.

> And now he didn’t appear to mind in the least when
> the entire company let him severely alone.

TOM: It shows real strength of character to disagree with the crowd about who you think will win a footrace.

> Mr. Crow shot a triumphant look

JOEL: Aaah! My antique ceramic Look!

> at him about an hour
> later,

CROW: Mister Crow is on Central Time.

> when Jimmy Rabbit came bounding into sight, with no
> one following him.

TOM: Having got badly lost on the way to the race course.

> "You may as well stop now," Mr. Crow told
> Jimmy. "You’ve as good as won the race already."

JOEL: I know they’re animals but they don’t seem very good at this.

> Jimmy Rabbit said that he thought so, too,

CROW: [ As Jimmy, as The Wizard of Oz ] ‘But I can’t stop my legs, I don’t know how they work!’

> but he
> supposed he’d better keep running a while longer, till Grumpy
> Weasel gave up.

TOM: This was a pretty good scheme for Grumpy to get Jimmy to run an hour away from him.

> So off he hopped again.

JOEL: Next, Jimmy runs up to meet Dick Tracy.

> Everybody except Peter Mink laughed heartily

CROW: Daniel Hart the deer asks what’s so funny.

> when
> Grumpy Weasel came springing up the slope a little while
> later.

TOM: [ As Grumpy ] ‘I want my two dollars!’

> "You may as well stop now. You’ve as good as lost
> already," Mr. Crow greeted him.

JOEL: [ As Grumpy ] ‘I am not lost, I just don’t know where I am!’

> "Whose race is this—yours or mine?" Grumpy Weasel
> hissed.

TOM: It’s the rat race.

JOEL: No, Billy Rat’s not racing until sunset.

> And off he hurried, without pausing to hear Mr.
> Crow’s answer.

CROW: How long does it take to hear ‘Yours’?

> "We’ll wait a while longer," Mr. Crow told the
> company,

JOEL: How else would waiting work?

> "for the end is so near we may as well see it."

TOM: Is … Is Mr Crow forecasting the apocalypse?

> "Whose end?" Peter Mink asked him.

CROW: *Anyone’s* end, as long as it’s Henry Kissinger’s.

> "I mean the end of the race, of course!" Mr. Crow
> squalled.

JOEL: Oh no, they accidentally looped back, the race is a Moebius strip!

> "Oh! I thought you meant the end of Jimmy Rabbit,"
> Peter Mink replied.

CROW: [ As Elmer Fudd ] o/` End of Jimmy Wabbit o/`

> "Impossible! Impossible!"

TOM: Burgers! Burgers!

> was all Mr. Crow said to
> that. But he began to fidget—which was a sign that he was
> worried.

JOEL: Or he’s stimming, did you think of that, Mr Narrator ?

> And when Jimmy Rabbit appeared again Mr. Crow was
> not quite so cocksure when he asked if the race wasn’t over.

CROW: [ As Mr Crow ] Cocksure? No, no, I’m crow-sure, if I know anything it’s that.

> "It would be," Jimmy Rabbit answered, "but the
> trouble is, Grumpy Weasel won’t stop running!"

TOM: [ As Grumpy, distant ] ‘I’m stuck in second gear! HEEEELP!’

> "Ha!" said Mr. Crow hoarsely.

JOEL: Let me hear what Mr Horse crows now.

> But Peter Mink said,
> "Ha, ha!"

CROW: Almost ended the chapter on the title, neat.

> And there is a great difference between those two
> remarks, as we shall see.

TOM: Hey! The Narrator peeked ahead! That’s cheating!

[ To continue … ? ]

Winter Has Finally Arrived

I’ve had to stick both hands into jars of skin lotion and keep them in there all day, to keep my hands from drying out. It isn’t working, as the lotion’s turned into a fine powder too. All it is doing is making it hard for me to zip up my jacket. Driving hasn’t been any good either, just as you would think, because there are too many potholes to be fun. Send an enormous cloud of warm, moist air.

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? Why are you angry at Prince Valiant of all things? October 2022 – January 2023

The last couple months of Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant have been about freeing people from a witch-hunter. The catch is that in the Prince Valiant world there are witches. And people have good reason to be afraid of them. A couple months ago we saw Morgan Le Fay bring a flood to London, killing dozens, for her (and Valiant and others with them) to escape. This story we saw witches call down asteroids from the skies to kill their would-be tormentor.

So this is what has me angry. It’s the same thing I can’t swallow about the movie Hocus Pocus or certain episodes of Sabrina the Teenaged Witch. I grant the dramatic irony of witch hunters in a world where witches really exist, especially if (as far as we can tell) they go after the completely innocent. But the moral outrage of witch-hunting is people letting their own fears and imagination and prejudices into actual persecution. Make witches real and present and actively working against the witch-hunter, and you have a hard time not trivializing this injustice. I know, it’s just a story. But we have enough trouble with would-be witch-hunters without so many stories building on the idea that sometimes they’re in the right.

All this should catch you up to late January 2023 in Prince Valiant, though. If you’re reading this after about April 2023 I likely have a more up-to-date plot recap here. And there’s still a nice solid story rolling through here, interesting despite my objections.

Prince Valiant.

23 October 2022 – 22 January 2023.

Dialyodd the witch-hunter was about to set fire to Afton, one of a couple women very good at their farm work, just because Aleta, Queen of the Witches, declared her to be under her protection. Yeubar, alongside Prince Valiant’s son Nathan, swarmed the scene with bees. It’s a great opportunity to free Afton in the chaos of the moment that doesn’t work. Dialyodd spots a great chance to burn three devils now. He assures a cautious mob member that Camelot will have nothing to say about burning Nathan.

Audrey, Afton’s partner, does escape the chaos and get back to Camelot. She’s able to summon one cavalry: Valiant and Galahad gallop off to the scene. She also gets another, though. Aleta, Queen of the Witches, tells Maeve and Audrey they have work to do too. While Dialyodd gathers a nice big party together at a megalithic temple (I suppose Stonehenge, though for all I know it could be another ancient stone circle), Aleta gathers ingredients and allies. With Sebel, who I totally know who that is, and Morgan Le Fay they cast a spell calling for the sky to come to Earth, and let like find like.

Val and Dialyodd cross swords, as Galahad holds the witch hunter's minions at bay: 'Back, you dogs who worship a corrupted travesty of God!' he bellows. A shower of meteors streaks overhead, and the gawkers who had gathered for one firey spectacle flee before the chaos of another! Nathan cuts Yewubar free, as the already unbound Afton at last joins battle against her tormentors ... while, miles away, Morgan leads Aleta, Maeve, Sebel, and Audrey in an ancient ritual. ' ... Bring Sky to Earth ... ' Dialyodd may be a physically powerful bully, but as a swordsman he is no match for Prince Valiant of the Round Table. It is not long before the witch hunter is unseated ... but what he angrily spews upon rising shocks Val. 'You! You are a knight of Camelot, and this is treachery! I had a pact with Camelot, and you have broken it!'
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 25th of December, 2022. I quite liked this twist, by the way, as something which seems to come from nowhere but which also makes sense. And something which should make Valiant’s life more complicated from here; there’s something exciting about a plan that should settle one problem going completely awry. What I don’t know is if Galahad knew about this before getting on-scene, or how much he did know.

Valiant and Galahand charge into the demon-burning. Valiant’s taken aback when Dialyodd complains of Camelot breaking its pact with him. Dialyodd claims Camelot agreed to not interfere with his crusade in exchange for protecting the western shores from Saxon invasion. Galahad says if that’s true they should keep the children but leave. Valiant is too angry to care, and attacks Dialyodd. He doesn’t kill the witch-hunter, though. The Orionid meteor shower does it first, sending a meteor through Dialyodd’s heart. It’s a heck of an accomplishment, given that the Orionid meteor shower wasn’t discovered until 1839. (It’s one of a couple meteor showers created by Halley’s Comet, by the way.) If the text is right that these are the Orionids, the story is happening in October, by the way.

It’s convenient to our heroes to have the witch-hunter out of the way. But having the stars fall from the sky to shoot him through the heart seems unlikely to convince people that Dialyodd was wrong. And Morgan Le Fay sneaks out to Stonehenge, finds the stone that killed Dialyodd, and brings it back to her castle. So that might be leading somewhere.

But where that does lead is to this week’s comics. You know now what’s been doing on the last several months, in slightly less time than it would take to read yourself. When I get back to the strip around April we’ll be able to say whether this thread continues, or whether we’re on a new adventure.

Next Week!

Speaking of new adventures, how did that story of the small-time mobster trying to be an actor in a comic-strip-based-musical turn out? And how did it turn into a counterfeit Leonardo da Vinci painting? And did we really get there by way of a furry convention? We’ll get to Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy next week, all going well. See you then.

In the Sequel They Join the Writer Doing a New Version of _Turnabout_

I don’t really have the time to go to Hollywood and pitch a script or write it up or anything so if someone could help me out how does this sound to them: movie where the person making a new version of 18 Again wakes up in the body of a person who’s making a new version of Vice-Versa? And so they both go and try to meet up and figure out how to undo this, but they find out that actually one of them is in the body of someone they didn’t know was working on making a new version of Freaky Friday? It’ll be something kind of but not exactly like something we’ve enjoyed enough before!

What’s Going On In Broom Hilda?

Well, she built a tornado shelter and stocked it well with everything that she would need, except for a handle on the inside door, so she got stuck inside. She reflected how well, she’d surely be looked for by her many friends and … oh, yeah, that’s a bit of a problem. So … oh, who am I kidding, this is never going to work as a What’s Going On In series. Maybe I can do that Mara Llave: Keeper of Time series instead if I figure out what’s going on in it.

Broom Hilda, showing a door in the hill to Gaylord: 'I built me a tornado shelter and stocked it with all the necessities!' She walks down the stairs into it. 'Food, water, bedding, paper products, books. I didn't forget a thing!' Looking up the sealed, smooth door: 'Except an inside door release!'
Russell Myers’s Broom Hilda for the 17th of January, 2023. It is unusual there was a story running for most of a week, though, isn’t it? This seems unusual. Glad seeing it, though. It’s fun when a strip stretches a little.

So anyway you’re now caught up on Russell Myers’s Broom Hilda, enjoy!

Statistics Saturday: Beloved-Enough TV Shows Already Made Into Movies You Never Knew About, So Far As You Know

  • Car 54, Where Are You
  • Sargent Bilko
  • The Honeymooners
  • The Archies
  • Just The Ten Of Us
  • Mr Belvedere
  • Gilligan’s Planet
  • Space Precinct
  • Early Edition
  • The $1.98 Beauty Pageant
  • I Love Lucy
  • Password Plus

Reference: The Triumph Of Numbers: How Counting Shaped Modern Life, I B Cohen.

Fortunately Since Realizing This My Mood Has Been Stable

But in the shower this morning I realized that in all probability, they went ahead and turned fondly-remembered-but-not-rewatched TV show Mister Ed into a movie that even the people who worked on it don’t remember ever seeing. There’s an excellent chance they made a sequel where Mister Ed goes to New York or the Olympics or something too. What else are they getting up to while we’re paying attention to other stuff?

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 9

Please enjoy another chapter of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, only with Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffs in it. The whole of this MST3K fan fiction should appear at this link. If it doesn’t, and it’s not just because I haven’t written it yet, let me know and we’ll figure something out.

Last time you’ll recall Grumpy Weasel uncharacteristically reached out to any other animal by challenging Jimmy Rabbit to a race. Mr Crow eggs Grumpy on, stirring up what should be an exciting race between the animals. And now is it race time? … Not yet. But see what it is.

Queen Zixi of Ix is a fairy-tale book L Frank Baum wrote while he thought he could sell something besides Wizard of Oz books. It’s pretty fun, starting with a pack of fairies deciding to make a new magical wish-granting item and see what kind of trouble it stirs up. Queen Ozma is also from L Frank Baum’s books, a big player in most of the Wizard of Oz books besides the one made into the movie. It’s Motocross, Charlie Brown is properly known as You’re A Good Sport, Charlie Brown. It’s not in fact much like the described plot.

> IX

TOM: That’s one of those obscure moons of Saturn, right?

JOEL: Looking forward to meeting Queen Zixi.


CROW: For marriage.

> Old Mr. Crow and Jimmy Rabbit had a good laugh over
> Grumpy Weasel’s plan for a race with Jimmy. They thought it a
> great joke.

JOEL: Maybe you had to be there. Wait, we were!

> "He needn’t give me a start," Jimmy said.

TOM: ‘Needn’t’.

> "I can beat
> Grumpy easily."
> "Never mind that!" Mr. Crow advised.

CROW: [ As Jimmy ] ‘Well, I can *not* beat him even more easily!’

> "You might as
> well let him have his way.

TOM: You needn’t make him all grumpy.

> He’ll look all the more foolish,
> trying to catch up with you."

JOEL: Now into your clown suit and remember to let your pants fall down!

> So Jimmy Rabbit agreed to run the race as Grumpy
> Weasel wished,

TOM: Only two more wishes and Jimmy goes back into the magic lamp!

> saying that he was ready to start at once.

CROW: Zoom!

JOEL: [ As Maxwell Smart ] ‘Would you believe starting at *twice*?’

> But Mr. Crow told him he had better wait till the
> next day.

TOM: Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after …

> "That will give me time to tell everybody," he
> explained,

CROW: Including Santa Claus and Princess Ozma of the Land of Oz!

> "and then there’ll be a big turnout to see you
> win—and to jeer at Grumpy Weasel for losing."

TOM: Wasn’t this the plot of ‘It’s Motocross, Charlie Brown’?

> And one could
> tell from Mr. Crow’s remark

JOEL: That he’s one sassy bot.

CROW: He’s different.

> that he liked Jimmy Rabbit and
> that he despised Grumpy Weasel.

CROW: Or that he’s playing both sides against the middle.

> The next day proved to be a fine one for the race.

TOM: [ Grumbling ] Man, 25 bucks fine for racing …

> It
> wasn’t too hot nor too cold;

JOEL: It was threatening to be a little too medium.

> and early in the morning the
> field- and forest-people began gathering at Grumpy Weasel’s
> hunting ground,

CROW: Mmm, buffet.

> where the stone wall touched the clearing.

TOM: Watch out for holes!

> About the only persons that objected to the time set
> for the race were Benjamin Bat and Solomon Owl.

TOM: Minor characters get alliterative names, real characters get normal names.

> Benjamin said
> that he could never keep awake to watch it;

CROW: We *get* it, Benjamin, you’re not a racing fan. Stop dissing us who *are*.

> and Solomon
> complained that he couldn’t see well in the daytime.

JOEL: But they’re not *racing* a well.

> But all
> the rest of the company were in the best of spirits, giggling
> slyly whenever they looked at Grumpy Weasel,

TOM: He-he-he-he-hah

JOEL: Mwuh-uh-ha-hah-haa!

CROW: [ High-pitched cackling ]

> who seemed to
> pay scant heed to his neighbors,

TOM: I love whenever Scant Heed To His Neighbors comes up on the indie station.

> though you may be sure his
> roving black eyes took in everything that was going on.

JOEL: Tale of *Greedy* Weasel.

> He
> seemed more restless than ever as he waited for Jimmy Rabbit
> to arrive,

CROW: Well, how restless *is* Ever?

JOEL: Ever Egret.

> walking to and fro on his front legs in a most
> peculiar fashion,

TOM: It’s called warming up, Narrator!

> while he kept his hind feet firmly planted
> on the ground in one spot.

JOEL: Restless *Some* Legs Syndrome.

> Of course he could never have
> moved about in this manner had his body not been so long and
> slender.

CROW: Fatty Raccoon in the background, not moving at all.

> Noticing Grumpy’s strange actions, old Mr. Crow
> looked worried

CROW: No, I figure Grumpy knows what he’s doing!

> and asked him what was the matter.

TOM: Bubble wrap rehearsals.

> "I hope
> your hind feet aren’t troubling you, just as the race is
> about to begin," he said.

JOEL: Maybe his ankles are too tight, ever think about that?

> Grumpy Weasel hissed at the old gentleman before he
> replied:

TOM: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Sorry, my tire cap was loose.’

> "Don’t worry! You’ll soon see that my hind feet can
> travel as fast as my front ones—

JOEL: That feels like a threat, somehow.

CROW: [ As Grumpy ] ‘And then I’ll show those fools at the Academy!’

> when I want to use them."

TOM: [ As Grumpy ] ‘But when I remove them from their box they lose a lot of value so I want to be sure this is worth it.’

> "Ah!" Mr. Crow exclaimed knowingly.

JOEL: [ As Mr Crow ] ‘I have no idea what you just told me!’

> "He’s saving his
> hind feet for the race."

TOM: Yeah, close enough.

> When Jimmy Rabbit reached the gathering place, coming
> up in a long lope,

CROW: I love those old-fashioned vehicles like jitneys and phaetons and lopes and everything.

> Mr. Crow hurried to meet him.

JOEL: Mr Crow, do you just want to race Jimmy? Is that your game?

> "I advise you to save your hind feet," he whispered.

TOM: Don’t spend them all in one place.

> "Grumpy Weasel is saving his."

CROW: Just in case the boss battle really needs feet.

> Jimmy Rabbit told Mr. Crow, with a smile, that he had
> saved his hind feet all his life—and his front ones, too.

JOEL: El-Ahrairah looking at Jimmy after this going, ‘Eh, I guess. Fine.’

> "I’ve brought them along to-day,"

JOEL: Even though I needn’t.

> he said, "to help
> me win this race."

CROW: My feet, and the weasel-proof tape at the finish line.


[ To continue … ? ]

What Is the Most Punchable Les Moore Has Ever Been?

It’s a trick question, of course. Any Les Moore is more punchable than any other Les Moore, somehow. He manages a curious and unwelcome infinity that way.

But I give you the unanswerable question to provoke thought. The snark community for Funky Winkerbean — as many healthy snark communities do — gives awards for the most exquisite examples of the comic strip being like that. And this year looks to be the last of such awards for Funky Winkerbean. The Son of Stuck Funky hosts aren’t interested in carrying on reading Crankshaft, even though the strip just decided to be about a Comic Book and went visiting Comic Book Guy in Westview. Fair enough. But I didn’t want people who somehow read me and not them, and yet have opinions about Funky Winkerbean, to miss the last Funky Winkerbean Awards.

The nominees are almost all outlined in this post, including the most important award, about punching Les Moore. Left out, somehow, was the Best Altered Funky Strip of the year nominees, so there’s a link to correct that. And the ballot is done over on a Google Docs form, so do enjoy. Remember, Les Moore can always be an enormous lot more punchable, and he will.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (weekdays)? Where did the Bandar cavalry come from? October 2022 – January 2023

From Bandar. Do try to keep up.

For those who came in late: The Phantom, in his escape from Gravelines Prison, saw “the Bandar nation” ride out of the mists to save him and Savarna Devi. The question is how they knew where to be. This hasn’t been explicitly answered but we can surmise. Mozz the Prophet finished telling The Phantom of the wrack-and-ruin he foresaw. When finished, The Phantom took Mozz’s Chronicle and set it in the catacomb reserved for his body. Mozz had deceived The Phantom: what he seemed to read from was not his text of his prophecy, but one of The Phantom’s own Chronicles. Somehow the prophet was able to anticipate that The Phantom wouldn’t check which volume he was setting on the shelves and which he was hiding. We last saw Diana Walker reading Mozz’s Chronicle. I have a suspicion what dots we’re meant to connect.

And for the Word of God, or at least the author, about the strip, you couldn’t do better than Tony DePaul’s recent essay discussing the writing and his plans. Also explaining a controversial choice in the writing. And that there was a controversy.

So this essay should catch you up to mid-January 2023 in Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom (Weekdays). If you’re reading this after about April 2023, or you’re interested in the separate Sunday continuity, there is likely a more useful plot recap for you here.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

17 October 2022 – 14 January 2023.

Having heard Mozz’s prophecy of how rescuing Savarna Devi from Gravelines Prison will destroy his family, The Ghost Who Walks sets out anyway. He’s making some changes from the prophecy, though. He’s setting out a couple days later, for one thing. He’s accompanied by Devil, his wolf. He’s setting out with the knowledge of the prophecy. He’s setting out with all the self-ruining confidence of a guy who’s crammed every strategy guide before playing the game for the first time. It’s a fun energy to read, as he keeps trying to remember what comes next and doubting that he could know. Also in the delight he takes in, he thinks, outwitting Fate. One great side of The Phantom is he’s basically happy. His glee at being clever is infectious.

One thing he does know: in the prophecy he reveals to Devi the critical information — the location of Jampa, who killed her family and enslaved her as a child — in a post-surgical daze. So he figures all he has to do is not get shot. That was already part of the plan. Further planning: if he does get shot, he has to not have a post-surgical daze. So he drops in on Dr Fajah Kimathi, a veterinarian who in Mozz’s vision performs the operation that saves his life. And here we get controversy.

A large man wakes up from his bed as The Phantom orders him: 'Don't move ... ' The Phantom is holding two guns on him and his wife, and Devil the wolf is staring at them.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 27th of October, 2022. I know this may look unfair but the veterinarian’s husband here has been known to collect stamps.

The Phantom’s intention is to warn the doctor that she must not save his life, if she’s pressed by Savarna Devi to do emergency surgery on him. He does this by waking the doctor and her husband in the middle of the night. And holding his guns on them. That is, on people who not only haven’t done anything objectionable yet, but who would in the prophecy do heroic service to him. Tony DePaul explains his understanding of The Phantom’s thoughts in the essay above. I agree with DePaul. The Phantom figures conspicuously holstering his guns he shows he chooses not to be the threat a masked man breaking into their house is. I also think The Phantom’s wrong. Waking someone while holding guns on them does not put them in a more agreeable mood however much you put the guns away. But that is part of the fun of The Phantom. He has blind spots. Here, that people he knows through hearing of Mozz’s vision don’t know who he is or what he’s on about. (Although they’ve got to suspect this is The Phantom of regional lore.)

With that done successfully-ish, The Phantom figures how to get into Gravelines. Hijacking a truck in worked well enough in the vision, so he does that again. And he fights his way up to Savarna’s cell. Before breaking her out he stops to ask her something. In Mozz’s vision this was whether she was done with vengeance. She said she was, a claim The Phantom (now, in the present) decides was a lie.

The Phantom, holding off unlocking Savarna Devi's prison cell: 'We're not going anywhere until you say it.' Devi: If you fall, I'll leave you!' The Phantom opens the cage and hands an assault rifle to her. She thinks: 'I won't ... but he doesn't know that.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 15th of December, 2022. From here Devi goes on trying to push The Phantom towards the “original” course of events, the one that gets him shot on the road to that veterinarian’s. But that’s also what looks all the time like the sensible path for them. The Phantom does some wrangling with whether this is Fate trying to force things back into line, and it’s a fair thing for him to wonder.

I’m not sure that’s fair. I think it plausible she sincerely believed she was done with vengeance. Learning where Constable Jampa was presented an irresistible temptation. Now The Phantom asks a question to make super-sure he doesn’t let slip Jampa’s location: if he’s shot does she promise to leave him behind? She says she will, which we know from her thought balloon is a lie. I love this irony.

We get a haunting moment in this of other prisoners, possibly also on death row, begging for The Phantom to release them instead. It’s hard to give a fair reason The Phantom should not rescue them. He knows Devi can help fight their way back out, but that doesn’t mean the others don’t deserve rescue.

To the breakout. Devi sees no reason not to grab an armored vehicle and shoot their way out. The Phantom knows. It’s gunning their way out through the well-defended roads that gets him shot. But then how to get out instead?

We see dozens of Bandar people running through the mists, climbing down vines, readying weapons in The Phantom's support. One of the scouts says, 'The Bandar nation is with us, Phantom.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 11th of January, 2023. Won’t fib; this is one of those Crowning Moments of Awesome they talk about on TV Tropes. I had wondered why the Jungle Patrol couldn’t be used to break Devi, and others, out of Gravelines, although I suppose they have an institutional structure ironically more vulnerable than the Bandar people do. While the Jungle Patrol may operate across national borders, Bangalla can be pressured to cut off headquarters’s water and electricity.

Devil, who wasn’t there in Mozz’s vision, has an answer. He guides The Phantom off to the mists where, as said in the introduction here, the Bandar nation has come. The Gravelines guards may be ready to handle one or two people with machine guns. Dozens of people with poison-tipped arrows, though? That’s something they can’t even imagine is coming. And the best part is there’s no way an evil state like Rhodia will retaliate against the Bandar people for crossing the border and attacking a maximum-security prison. (I snark. I’m sure DePaul has put some thought into how Rhodia might answer this.) And this is where we stand as of the second week of January, 2023.

Next Week!

I get a break! It’s one of the Sunday-only strips. And oh, I get to be angry about this for a change! Next week find out why I’m mad at Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant. If all goes well.

Mostly I Enjoy Being Part of My Age and Demographic Cohort

However, it does mean that now and then I spend all morning haunted by the memory of some 1980s commercial promising that in case of (something) you could have “Chicken Diane in less than thirty minutes!” I don’t know if that’s a good time for chicken Diane, or if it was a good time for it in the 80s but we have more sophisticated techniques of chicken today. Or of Diane-ing chicken. I don’t even know what chicken Diane is like. I don’t think we ever had it, or at least it wasn’t announced as such. And I don’t know why it’s lasting so in my mind but, there it is, just in case I need chicken Diane in under thirty minutes and can go back to the 1980s sometime and find out.

Statistics Saturday: Some Things I Would Like To Stop With Their Not-Existing And Be Again

  • My hair tie
  • My tire pressure gauge
  • This pair of eyeglasses my spouse had on the vanity that just disappeared one month when we weren’t paying attention to them
  • The job I used to have that paid only okay-ish but where they left me alone to do whatever I felt like 380 days of the year and only had specific duties the rest of the time
  • Those Star Trek tie-in novels from the 80s where everything was by some fanfic writer slipping in, like, the Fourth Doctor as a background character and no editor noticed or else some professional writer using a trunk manuscript so you get, like, Dr McCoy shaming the cosmic entity who makes quasars for being a jerk
  • Two Guys discount department store since, why not
  • That home videotape of my trip to see my aunt and uncle in Indiana from back in 1988 that I lost when I moved out to Michigan
  • Story comics
  • This one pen cap my spouse had that disappeared after dropping the book the pen was in on the floor
  • Coke Zero Orange in cans
  • Turn-based grand strategy games for the Mac
  • The time slot where Buzzr would show Whew!

Reference: The Edifice Complex: How The Rich And Powerful — And Their Architects — Shape The World, Deynan Sudjic.

Statistics 2022: Everybody Likes Me Complaining About Comic Strips, Comic Strip Sites

With the old year pretty well finished off it’s also a good time to look back at the readership figures for it. And yes, I put up with having to go to a whole other web browser because WordPress broke a something.

WordPress tells me, finally, that there were 70,038 page views in 2022. That’s the largest number I’ve had in any single year, and is nearly 10,000 more than I had in 2021. The change alone is more page views than I had in all 2014, when I thought things were going pretty well. You probably thought that about 2014 too.

There were 36,714 unique visitors around here in 2022. That’s a slight growth from 2021’s count of 26,061. Not sure why so few. That’s the smallest increase in unique visitors since 2016, when my visitor count dropped compared to 2015. There were 1,790 likes given to things in 2022, barely up from 2021’s 1,768. Still, that’s my most-liked year since 2018, which I’ll take.

Bar chart of annual readership from 2013 through 2022, showing steady growth except for 2015-to-2016, both in total views and in unique visitors.
And I am amazed that the number of unique visitors is greater than the total number of page views I had in a year through to 2017, and pretty close to 2018. 2022 saw a rise to 1.91 views-per-visitor, my highest number since 2015.

And there were 718 comments given in 2022, again technically an increase from 2021, when there were 700. And similarly this was the greatest number of comments since 2018. So this thing where Garrison and I keep talking to each other instead of anything else is good for my feeling of accomplishment, at least.

As I’d said, people really like to see my complaining about comic strips. Or at least doing plot recaps. Take a look at the ten most popular things published in 2022 and see if you notice anything in common about them:

Going farther down the list of articles I find that while I may have written something that wasn’t related to Funky Winkerbean, I couldn’t prove it. When I got away from that, I was complaining about Comics Kingdom making the Sunday strips illegible, or that time GoComics blew up their own servers for a week and pretended nothing happened. (I still haven’t heard any reports on what went wrong back in early November there.) My most popular piece that wasn’t about comic strips was 60s Popeye: Ballet de Spinach, a cartoon without spinach in it. Why? It’s an okay enough cartoon and an okay enough review but what is the appeal there? Maybe people really want to see Popeye in a tutu and this is what they’ve got?

Anyway my most popular creative piece — and this is going down a long way, I swear — was MiSTed: Safety First (part 1 of 16). The other parts aren’t that much less popular, it’s just this is way down the list.

Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink.
By far the closest I’ve ever gotten to capturing the whole Pan American Highway in one of these.

There were 153 countries or country-like things sending me page views in 2022. Here’s the roster. Yes, it includes Greenland, one of my big ambitions.

Country Readers
United States 47,234
Finland 3,530
Australia 2,974
India 2,294
Canada 2,154
United Kingdom 1,907
Italy 908
Brazil 907
Germany 723
Philippines 621
Sweden 419
Spain 406
France 359
Japan 264
Norway 264
Nigeria 245
South Africa 226
Ireland 214
Singapore 188
Peru 165
Mexico 164
Denmark 159
Austria 143
Romania 142
Netherlands 141
Thailand 141
Bulgaria 132
El Salvador 125
Malaysia 125
Portugal 118
Serbia 113
New Zealand 102
Indonesia 95
Saudi Arabia 94
Czech Republic 84
Turkey 84
Belgium 83
Switzerland 83
Pakistan 81
Argentina 80
Colombia 78
Poland 76
Hungary 75
Russia 74
Kenya 72
Greece 66
Egypt 65
European Union 64
Taiwan 63
Chile 57
United Arab Emirates 56
South Korea 54
Vietnam 54
Hong Kong SAR China 47
Jamaica 47
Bahrain 44
Croatia 43
Ecuador 40
Israel 38
Costa Rica 30
Venezuela 30
Bangladesh 28
Sri Lanka 26
Iraq 24
Macedonia 24
Ukraine 22
Barbados 21
Kuwait 19
Puerto Rico 18
Trinidad & Tobago 17
Bosnia & Herzegovina 16
Slovenia 16
Guatemala 15
Cyprus 14
Estonia 14
Dominican Republic 13
Lebanon 12
Nepal 12
China 11
Lithuania 11
Slovakia 11
Albania 10
Mauritius 10
Jordan 9
Latvia 9
Uruguay 9
Azerbaijan 8
Montenegro 8
Tunisia 7
Bahamas 6
Honduras 6
Cambodia 5
Cameroon 5
Ethiopia 5
Luxembourg 5
Malta 5
Oman 5
Qatar 5
Uganda 5
Belarus 4
Bolivia 4
Kosovo 4
Mauritania 4
Mongolia 4
Morocco 4
Namibia 4
Papua New Guinea 4
Suriname 4
U.S. Virgin Islands 4
American Samoa 3
Armenia 3
Kazakhstan 3
Malawi 3
Panama 3
Algeria 2
Anguilla 2
Fiji 2
Georgia 2
Ghana 2
Guadeloupe 2
Guam 2
Isle of Man 2
Libya 2
Palestinian Territories 2
Uzbekistan 2
Antigua & Barbuda 1
Belize 1
Brunei 1
Congo – Brazzaville 1
Congo – Kinshasa 1
Cook Islands 1
Côte d’Ivoire 1
Cuba 1
Curaçao 1
Gambia 1
Gibraltar 1
Greenland 1
Guinea 1
Guyana 1
Iceland 1
Lesotho 1
Liechtenstein 1
Macau SAR China 1
Madagascar 1
Maldives 1
Mozambique 1
Myanmar (Burma) 1
Paraguay 1
Somalia 1
St. Lucia 1
Unknown Region 1
Yemen 1
Zimbabwe 1

Not to get all giddy about my own numbers, but the 47,234 visitors from the United States is grater than the total number of page views through to 2019. This really shows what talking so much about comic strips will do for me. And my but I’d like to know more about that ‘Unknown Region’.

WordPress tells me I published 209,826 words in 2022, for a words-per-posting average of 575. This is a pretty big drop from 2021, probably because I’m posting shorter segments of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction. There were an average of 4.6 likes per posting, and an average of 2.4 comments per posting, although a lot of posts didn’t get any comment at all because there’s only so much I can say about being mad at Funky Winkerbean.

So thanks for looking around as I look over myself and agree, I write a lot about Funky Winkerbean.

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 8

Now that I’ve reached Chapter 8 of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, the protagonist is really growing on me. I’m still not committing to turning the whole of the book into Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction. But whatever I do make from it will be up a this link. Might even finish the book.

The story so far: Master Robin, Mister Meadow Mouse, and Paddy Muskrat have all gotten away from Grumpy Weasel so far. Now to see if anyone else escapes having to interact with Pleasant Valley’s most grumpy of weasels. Or — has Grumpy Weasel done something to surprise us all?

The cryptic riff “`Makes sense,” said Glinn Gusat’ is swiped from the greatest MiSTing project of all, the Marissa Picard stories. They’re a joyfully preposterous set of Adventures where Captain Picard’s adopted daughter becomes Lord High Admiral of the Universe by age fifteen or so. Glinn Gusat’s declaration about how the lead character’s leap of logic “makes sense” became a beloved callback and I’m bringing it back here.


JOEL: It’s King Henry Days at the Satellite of Love!


TOM: [ To the Pink Panther theme ] The dare, the DARE, the dare the dare the DARE the dare the DAAAAAAARE!

> If Grumpy Weasel had been a faster runner

JOEL: [ As the ‘If Woody had gone right to the police’ guy ] … this would never have happened.

> the forest
> people wouldn’t have been so surprised when he dared Jimmy
> Rabbit to race him.

CROW: Also if he had ever chosen to interact with a person.

> Everybody knew that Jimmy was
> swift-footed

JOEL: He had feet like a bird.

> —especially since he once beat old Mr. Turtle
> (but that is another story).

TOM: Oh did he, now? Because I saw a cartoon where it came out different.

> When Mr. Crow, who was a great bearer of news,

CROW: And Mr Bear, who was a great crower of news.

JOEL: Wait, that makes sense.

> told
> Jimmy Rabbit one day that Grumpy Weasel wanted a race with
> him,

TOM: [ As Jimmy ] ‘What do I care if Grumpy wants a race with you?’

> Jimmy Rabbit seemed more than willing to oblige. "Where,
> when, and how far does Grumpy want to run against me?" he
> asked.

JOEL: Seems like you could talk Jimmy into it.

> Mr. Crow said that he didn’t know,

CROW: He just got back from Buffalo.

> but that he would
> make it his business to find out.

TOM: Some bots don’t know how to mind their own business!

CROW: Hey!

> So off he hurried to find
> Grumpy Weasel,

JOEL: Just look for the big cloud of disagreeing.

> for if there was anything Mr. Crow liked it
> was busying himself with other people’s affairs.

CROW: *Also* shiny trinkets!

> He did not have what you could call a pleasant talk
> with Grumpy Weasel.

JOEL: I always thought any talk that doesn’t end with a weasel biting your face off is a pleasant one.

> Once when Mr. Crow alighted too near the
> ground Grumpy jumped at him.

TOM: That *is* a good story!

> And several times he called Mr.
> Crow a nest-robber and an egg-thief, though goodness knows

CROW: He styled himself more a nest-thief and an egg-robber.

> Grumpy Weasel himself was as bad as the worst when it came to
> robbing birds’ nests.

JOEL: But the worst is going to be Fatty Raccoon?

> Although he felt as if he were about to burst with
> rage old Mr. Crow pretended to laugh.

CROW: [ Clearing his throat, and speaking the words, awkwardly, as though giving a bad presentation ] ‘H- hah ha hhaah?’

> He had been having a
> rather dull time, waiting for Farmer Green to plant his corn,

TOM: o/` And I don’t care! o/“

> and he thought that a lively race might put him in better
> spirits.

JOEL: If Grumpy Weasel is in good spirits does that mean he’s *more* grumpy or does that mean he’s …

CROW: Yeah, this is confusing.

> "Where do you want to race against Jimmy Rabbit?" Mr.
> Crow asked.

TOM: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Around the world twice! Zip! Zip! Hah, I’m done!’

> "We’ll start from this wall," said Grumpy sulkily,

CROW: You … sound like you’re not into this anymore, Grumps.

> "because it’s always better to start from where you are than
> where you aren’t."

JOEL: [ As Mr Meadow Mouse] ‘No running through holes, right?’

> Mr. Crow said that that seemed reasonable.

TOM: ‘Makes sense’, said Glinn Gusat.

> "When do you want to race?" he added.

JOEL: [ As a Knight who says Ni ] ‘When you bring me a shrubbery!’

> "The sooner we start the quicker we’ll finish,"
> Grumpy Weasel snapped.

CROW: And vice-versa.

> "Quite true, quite true!" Mr. Crow agreed.

TOM: [ As Mr Crow, doing Columbo ] ‘I figured it was something like that, sure … now just one more question.’

> "And now
> may I inquire how long a race you want to run?"

JOEL: [ As Grumpy ] No, you must ask how wide a race I want.

> "No longer than I have to!" Grumpy growled.

TOM: Is Grumpy posing a riddle?

CROW: Uh, is the answer ‘a hole’? I feel like it’s got to be ‘a hole’?

> "Not more
> than a day or two, I hope!"

JOEL: You know how hard it would be to get a hotel this close to the event!

> Mr. Crow snickered slightly.

CROW: [ Snickering, slightly. ]

> "I see you don’t
> understand my question," he observed.

TOM: [ As Mr Crow ] ‘Let me put it in other words. Gazortnol flebnostrilate chunk bloppily snork nobble?’

> "Are you going to run a
> mile, or only a few rods?"

CROW: A few rods? Look, I know this is 1915 but you’re being old-fashioned for *that*!

> "How do I know?" Grumpy cried,

TOM: Fine, twelve hogsheads, three virgates, and a ha’penny!

> as if he had no
> patience with his questioner.

JOEL: You know if you don’t want to do this you don’t have to do this. *you* started everyone on doing this!

> "How could anybody tell? I’ll
> let Jimmy Rabbit start twenty jumps ahead of me and we’ll run
> till I catch him."

CROW: Wait a minute, is this a race or is he just going to eat Jimmy Rabbit?

> Well, Mr. Crow laughed right out loud when he heard
> that.

JOEL: [ As Mr Crow ] ‘I enjoy watching Jimmy Rabbit die!’

> And he was about to tell Grumpy that he would have to
> run till the end of his days if he raced Jimmy Rabbit in any
> such fashion as that.

CROW: But why start trouble like that?

> But he saw all at once that such a race
> would be a great joke.

TOM: Well, it’s one of those conceptual jokes, where the comedian’s amused but we’re confused.

> And he said to himself with a chuckle
> that the laugh would be on Grumpy Weasel.

CROW: Sounds like you’re the one doing all the laughing here.

> For Jimmy Rabbit
> was so swift a runner that nobody who knew anything at all
> would ever consent to give him a start—

JOEL: What if we gave him a sudden surprise instead?

> much less propose
> such a thing.
> "Very well!" said Mr. Crow with a smirk, "I’ll report
> to Jimmy Rabbit.

TOM: We’ll agenda it on the next Pleasant Valley scrum!

> I’ll tell him where, when and how you want
> to race, and there’s no doubt that your plan will please
> him."

JOEL: His plan is to stand still while Jimmy runs away from him and is never seen again.

> "I hope it won’t!" Grumpy Weasel snarled. "I’ve never
> pleased anybody yet; and I don’t mean to."

CROW: Grumpy Weasel suddenly becomes the voice of our generation.

> And that goes to show what an ill-natured scamp he
> was.

TOM: He reaches out *one* time to do *one* fun thing with *one* person and suddenly it’s a whole megillah. I feel for the guy.

[ To continue … ? ]

Maybe Existence Isn’t Automatically the Right Answer

Sorry to run late but this whole thing where my hair ties exist or don’t exist depending on whether I’ve been refunded for them? It’s gone and stretched out to cover my tire pressure gauge, the one I keep in my care for when I’m feeling insecure about the car tires, which I am a lot because my old car was very bad about the air left in the tires staying in the tires. But now the pressure gauge has gone and stopped existing and that’s not doing anything good for my sense that things that started out existing keep on doing that. The pressure is okay, but how am I supposed to feel better when I know the thing I worry about is no problem at all?

What’s Going On In Alley Oop? Why do Alley Oop and Ooola have a daughter? October 2022 – January 2023

Myc, their daughter, is some weird organism ageing dozens of years in a day. It’s attached to Alley Oop and Ooola because they’re the lead characters. Past that we’re still learning her deal so I don’t have more to say about them.

On another note, Jack Bender, longtime artist on Alley Oop, has died, reports D D Degg at The Daily Cartoonist. I came in to reading Alley Oop and appreciating his work only at its tail end but did always enjoy it. The Daily Cartoonist shares more of his life’s work, including the sports comics he made his name on.

This essay should catch you up on Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for early January, 2023. All of my Alley Oop essays should be at this link, so if you’re reading this after about April 2023 there’s probably a more current plot recap there. Now to the past fourteen weeks of shenanigans and whatnot.

Alley Oop.

10 October 2022 – 7 January 2023.

Someone was tampering with Doc Wonmug’s past, going back to divert his young self from an interest in science. It’s Doctor Atoby, of course, Doc Wonmug’s counterpart in Universe-4, the all-villains universe. His goal: to rid the multiverse of 156 of his counterparts, establishing himself as not just the greatest but the hardest-working evil genius in the multiverse.

Alley Oop, Ooola, and Wonmug appearing in the past: 'Since Dr Atoby came a day early, we'll just go back in time one *more* day.' ZANG. Younger Wonmug: 'Nope. He was here *yesterday*.' Doc Wonmug: 'Dr Atoby is anticipating our every move! To keep him from affecting my future, we have to go back even further. We'll go to the day I was born!' The day he was born: they appear in front of the office of Dr J G Atoby, Ob/Gyn. Doc Wonmug: 'Oh, no! There's nothing I can do!' Alley Oop: 'Oh, no! Dr Atoby's a GOBLIN!'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 22d of October, 2022. This all reminds me of a plot thread in David Gerrold’s early-70s time travel novel The Man Who Folded Himself. Also, I do like Alley Oop’s nonsense in the last panel; it’s a good dumb joke to pair with a serious (yet ridiculous) menace from the narrative.

The plan seems unshakeable. Alley Oop and Ooola keep trying to go back to the day before Atoby first visites the young Wonmug, only to find he’s gone back to a day before that. It’s the logical yet funny end and points out one problem of a “Time War” story. It’s hard to see how it could ever be won. Alley Oop and Ooola ask, if Doc Wonmug’s history has been rewritten so he never got into science how does he still have a lab and all? Wonmug explains something about changes in time taking time to change the present. It doesn’t make sense but if we don’t have some buffer like this we can’t have a story, okay?

The Clawed Oracle, cat-shaped being unbound by time and space, has advice for Alley Oop and Ooola. (Doc Wonmug is getting too much into free jazz and other “silly” arts stuff, as the time changes seep into ‘now’.) That advice is: take the battle to Doc Atoby. So they venture into Universe-4, the villain world. It’s a difficult place to be. Everything kind of operates on the inverse-logic of Bizarro World so it’s confusing working out normal conversations. Like, when the person who works the Misinformation Booth offers to help, should Alley Oop clobber them or what?

On the barren far-future Earth. Oola: 'If there's one thing I know about villains, it's that you love a dramatic monologue about a convoluted plan.' Doc Atoby: 'Guilty as charged.' As Alley Oop moves around in the background Ooola says, 'Once you abandon us here in the future, we'll start mining for minerals. Then we'll process those minerals into useful materials. Using those materials, we'll build a time machine, then find you and bring you to justice.' Doc Atoby: 'Preposterous! Do you truly think you're capable of such ingenuity?' Ooola, shoving Atoby backwards, where he falls over the kneeling Alley Oop: 'Nope!'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 2nd of December, 2022. Another strip I really like, as a good blend of comedy and dramatic movement. Also that it’s really clever of Ooola to monologue in this plausible-enough say while Alley Oop silently sets up for the actual plan. I understand the people upset the strip has shifted to comedy first, adventure second, but even they couldn’t be upset if they were all like this.

Our Heroes barely start figuring out a plan when Doc Atoby captures them. His Time Heptahedron is far more powerful than their Time Cubes. he brings them seven billion years in the future, when Earth is a lifeless void, a half-billion years from being consumed by the sun. He plans to leave them there. But Ooola outwits him, and Alley Oop catches him, and they’re left with what to do with the villain. Abandoning him in the dead future Earth is so villainous he approves. Lecturing doesn’t work. What about going back into his childhood to make him less villainous? That’s only arguably murder.

So, they go to Doc Atoby’s childhood and give him a puppy, to make him less villainous, or at least a villain with a cybernetic evil dog. Hard to be sure. But when they get back to the present, Doc Atoby’s a much less evil, less ambitious mad scientist; he’s into free jazz and all that stuff. So this somehow undoes all the time-tampering done with our (Universe-2) Doc Wonmug. I assume also the other versions of Doc Wonmug since there’s a couple that are surely jokes they’ll want to come back to. And with that, the 16th of December, we come to a happy conclusion.

Myc: 'Mom, are you guys really okay that I'm a fungus?' Ooola: 'Myc, your father and I are time travelers. We've had some pretty wild experiences. It takes a lot to shock us. One time, in another universe, we saw George Washington officiate a wedding between a duck and a banana peel.' Myc: 'I don't know what any of that means, but it sounds beautiful.' Ooola: 'OH, it was, honey, it was. Hold on a sec and I'll fetch the souvenir wedding album.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 4th of January, 2023. This story’s done a nice job of having Myc be quite intelligent without having her automatically know things she couldn’t, like who George Washington is or what a banana peel might be.

The 17th of December started the current story, with Alley Oop and Ooola getting back to Moo. Inside Alley Oop’s cave is a crying infant. Nobody in Moo knows who she is. Or why she’s growing so fast, going through years of (human) growth in hours. She tells Our Heroes that her name is Myc. And … she’s pretty sure she’s a fungus. Is that weird? No, of course not. They’ve lived. They know people from Mastodon who are feral dreams hoping to invade shampoo by way of Louisa May Alcott novels. Being a rapid-ageing fungus from space is mundane in all but the literal sense. But what her deal is, past that? We don’t yet know.

Next Week!

Mozz’s Prophecy comes to pass! Or it doesn’t, because we saw it, so it can’t unfold like we were told! If we were told it correctly! If you’re confused, hold on about a week as I get to Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity. Or read Tony DePaul’s blog because he explained everything using better-chosen words about two weeks ago. Your call.

Yeah, So That Hair Tie With the Existence Problems That Disappeared in My Car?

It’s still vanished. I was so ready for it to be sitting there on the floor of my car, taunting me for not having seen it since last week, but there you go and I don’t have any good reason to go back to the store about it.

Why is everyone mad at _Broom Hilda_ this week?

They’re not. Gads, no, they’re not. I’m sorry. Everyone is not mad at Broom Hilda. I think nobody is mad at Broom Hilda. It’s not impossible that nobody has ever been mad at Broom Hilda. What’s to even get mad at it for? I just miss that great Being Mad At Funky Winkerbean energy. I don’t know what’s ever going to match it. Something will. Probably Luann. We’ll see.

Statistics Saturday: Things I’ll Try Without Success To Re-Create That Mad-At-Funky-Winkerbean Readership Bump

  • Why Is Everyone Mad at _Ask Shagg_?
  • Why Is Everyone Mad at _Drabble_?
  • Why Is Everyone Mad at _Raising Duncan_?
  • Why Is Everyone Mad at _The Grizzwells_?
  • Why Is Everyone Mad at _Red and Rover_?
  • Why Is Everyone Mad at _WuMo_?
  • Why Is Everyone Mad at _Bound and Gagged_?
  • Why Is Everyone Mad at _Sam and Silo_?
  • Why Is Everyone Mad at _Legend of Bill_?
  • Why Is Everyone Mad at _Overboard_?

Reference: Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, Richard Wrangham.

Statistics December: I Give In And See How People Like Being Mad At Funky Winkerbean

WordPress’s statistics page is still broken for Safari. But curiosity finally got the better of me and I used Firefox to look at what December’s, and for that matter 2022’s, statistics looked like. So let’s take a quick peek at that, shall we?

So what I saw in December was a suspiciously even 6,000 page views. That’s my third-highest total in the past twelve months, beating the running mean of 5,710.8 and running median of 5,395 views. These came from 2,957 unique visitors, below the running mean of 3,026.8 but above the median of 2,931. Altogether I got 142 comments which is down a little from the running mean of 151.3 and median of 148.5. And there were 89 comments, way above the running mean of 56.7 and median of 51.5.

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months hovering around 4500 views per month, without strong direction one way or another, until a new peak emerged in April 2022. A smaller peak reappeared in August 2022 and September 2022, with a drop and then a rise the three months concluding 2023.
You know, if a long-running comic strip could end every month it’d do wonders for my circulation, but it would also make me sadder. Maybe I should start giving updates on The Comic Strip That Has A Finale Every Day.

Driving all this, of course, is that people are mad. And what are they mad at? Comic strips. And one comic strip more than any other. Here’s the roster of the five most popular things that I published in December:

My most popular piece that wasn’t about comic strips was Statistics Saturday: Adaptations Of _A Christmas Carol_ Ranked and I’m glad that’s got some love. Some of these versions are quite good.

Talking about the comic strips is sure to stay my biggest feature. So here’s my plan for what story strips to discuss in the coming weeks. There’s no extra Popeye comics that I’m aware of, here.

Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink.
You may think this map is worse, since it squeezes the countries of the world into a smaller space while filling up with white space that conveys no information at all. So it is. But understand the trade-off: someone got paid to make this report worse.

There were 86 countries sending me any readers at all in December. Here they are:

Country Readers
United States 4,391
Australia 247
Canada 185
India 133
United Kingdom 132
Italy 114
Brazil 86
Philippines 54
Peru 47
Spain 44
Germany 39
France 31
Finland 29
Sweden 27
South Africa 25
Japan 24
Norway 22
Ireland 19
European Union 18
Malaysia 18
Mexico 17
Switzerland 17
Romania 15
Pakistan 13
Sri Lanka 13
Austria 11
Denmark 11
Netherlands 11
Thailand 11
Turkey 11
Chile 10
United Arab Emirates 10
Taiwan 9
Czech Republic 8
Indonesia 8
South Korea 8
Croatia 7
Nigeria 7
New Zealand 6
Venezuela 6
Barbados 5
Dominican Republic 5
Hungary 5
Puerto Rico 5
Saudi Arabia 5
Singapore 5
Greece 4
Poland 4
Russia 4
Belgium 3
China 3
El Salvador 3
Estonia 3
Kuwait 3
Portugal 3
Slovenia 3
Argentina 2
Armenia 2
Bangladesh 2
Bolivia 2
Bosnia & Herzegovina 2
Bulgaria 2
Jamaica 2
Kenya 2
Latvia 2
Lithuania 2
Malta 2
Serbia 2
Vietnam 2
Albania 1
Algeria 1
Cameroon 1
Colombia 1
Costa Rica 1
Ecuador 1
Fiji 1
Guatemala 1
Hong Kong SAR China 1
Isle of Man 1
Israel 1
Luxembourg 1
Macedonia 1
Maldives 1
Montenegro 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1
Ukraine 1

I don’t know who’s on a one-reader streak. Not worth digging out. Nice to see the Isle of Man make an appearance, though.

WordPrees tells me that as of the start of 2023, I’ve had 338,223 views from 190,278 unique visitors, made 3,621 posts, and gotten 5,633 comments altogether. And that in December I posted 19,010 words, one of my more verbose months in the year. Must be all that Grumpy Weasel talk. My words-per-post jumped up to 613.2 for the month, and for the year climbed to 575. We’ll just see whether I stay this talkative in the month to come.

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 7

I continue not to promise that I will make Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction out of all of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale Of Grumpy Weasel. Grumpy isn’t as automatically delightful as Fatty Raccoon was. But I’m feeling more inclined to try, now. And all of the MiSTing, however much I finish, should be posted to this link.

The story so far: First, young Master Robin escaped Grumpy Weasel. Then Mister Meadow Mouse did too. Who’ll get away from Grumpy Weasel next? Or will we finish a chapter with someone not avoiding our protagonist? Read on!

This week also hasn’t really called for obscure riffs. Maybe the only thing to footnote is that Barbara Lewis hat a hit song by the name Hello Stranger back in 1963, although you might recognize it from its hook, “Shoo-bop shoo-bop, my baby, ooooh”.


TOM: Chapter Five, Part II.


CROW: [ As Emily Litella ] ‘What’s all this about Paddy Muskrat’s bladder?’

> Sometimes Grumpy Weasel found the hunting poor along
> the stretch of stone wall that he called his own

JOEL: Maybe Grumpy should take up gathering?

> —though of
> course it really belonged to Farmer Green.

TOM: [ As Grumpy ] ‘I own it by virtue of working the hunting grounds! Read your Locke!’

CROW: [ Pointlessly hostile ] *You* read *your* Locke.

> And though he
> disliked to wander much in strange neighborhoods,

JOEL: … he likes the way his existing drives the Nextdoor biddies crazy.

> once in a
> while he visited other parts of Pleasant Valley.

CROW: Sometimes he wanders all the way to Simply Passable Hill or Mediocre Brook. Once even to Disappointing Meadow.

JOEL: Mister Meadow Mouse likes it.

> It was on such an excursion to the bank of the mill
> pond

TOM: o/` Down by the old mill pond … o/`

> that he caught sight, one day, of Paddy Muskrat

CROW: I want to call him Paddy O’Muskrat for some reason.

> —or to
> be more exact, that Paddy Muskrat caught sight of him.

JOEL: You know a caught sight is the most dangerous of all.

> Now it was seldom that anybody spoke to Grumpy
> Weasel.

CROW: And when they did it was about who has the deed to the garden wall.

> On the contrary, most of the forest-folk dodged out
> of sight whenever they saw him, and said nothing.

TOM: Wait, nobody likes Grumpy Weasel, nobody likes Fatty Raccoon, does Arthur Scott Bailey have any protagonists he *wants* to spend time with?

> So he
> wheeled like a flash and started to run when somebody called,
> "Hullo, stranger!"

CROW: He’s being visited by the Barbara Lewis?

> One quick backward glance at a small wet head in the
> water told Grumpy that he had nothing to fear.

JOEL: In hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be here …

> "Hullo, yourself!" he retorted "And you’d better not
> call me ‘stranger,’ because I’m no stranger than you are."

TOM: Well, how strange are you?

CROW: Anyone who boasts about how strange they are is about as strange as white broccoli pizza.

> Well, Paddy Muskrat—for it was he who had spied
> Grumpy Weasel on the bank of the pond—

JOEL: No, not *that* Paddy Muskrat, the other one.

> saw at once that
> whoever the slender and elegant person might be,

TOM: Nick Charles?!

> he had the
> worst of manners. Though Paddy had lived in the mill pond a
> long time, he had never met any one that looked exactly like
> the newcomer.

CROW: Isn’t that how newcomers work?

JOEL: Not if you’re clones.


> To be sure, there was Peter Mink, who was
> long-bodied and short-tempered,

TOM: [ As Peter Mink, from far off ] ‘Hey! Why pick on me?’

> as the stranger appeared to
> be. But when Paddy inquired whether the visitor wasn’t a
> distant connection of the Mink family (as indeed he was!),

CROW: [ As Emily Litella ] ‘The *Pink* Family?’

> Grumpy Weasel said, "What! Do you mean to insult me by asking
> whether I’m related to such a ragged, ruffianly crowd?"

TOM: ‘Ruffianly’?

> Somehow Paddy Muskrat rather liked that answer,

JOEL: ‘Ruffianly’, yeah, we got us a stranger who says things like ‘ruffianly’.

> for
> Peter Mink and all his family were fine swimmers and most
> unwelcome in the mill pond.

TOM: Just … just because he doesn’t like Peter Mink doesn’t mean he can’t swim.

> And perhaps—who knew?—

JOEL: It is a crazy, mixed-up world.

> perhaps the spic-and-span
> chap on the bank,

CROW: Felix Otter!

> with the sleek coat and black-tipped tail,

TOM: Puttin’ on the ritz!

> was one of the kind that didn’t like to get his feet wet.

JOEL: That he was wearing his swimming trunks suggests otherwise, though.

> Then Paddy Muskrat asked the stranger a silly
> question.

TOM: ‘If you could trade tongues with someone, who would it be?’

> He was not the wisest person, anyhow, in Pleasant
> Valley, as his wife often reminded him.

CROW: Oh you know women, always reminding you of the existence of wiser muskrats in the valley.

> "You’re not a distant
> relation of Tommy Fox, are you?" he inquired.

TOM: Tommy Fox, the lowland tenrec?

> Grumpy Weasel actually almost smiled.

JOEL: [ As Grumpy, hollering in pain ] ‘AAAAUGH!’

> "Now, how did you happen to guess that?" he asked.

CROW: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Because, man, if that idea ust popped into your head you’re a sack of doorknobs!’

> "Because you’ve got such a sharp nose," Paddy Muskrat
> replied.

JOEL: You know what they say, sharp nose, warm heart.

> And he was quite pleased with himself, for he
> thought that he wasn’t so stupid as some people thought.

TOM: Oh … oh, honey, please, sit down before you hurt yourself.

> "Any other reason?" Grumpy Weasel inquired, stepping
> to the edge of the overhanging bank.

CROW: Look out, Paddy, it’s a trap!

> "You don’t like to get your feet wet," Paddy Muskrat
> said.

TOM: Objection, assumes personality traits not in evidence.

> And feeling safe as anything, he swam nearer the spot
> where the stranger was crouching.

JOEL: Just think of being the phone company guy walking Paddy through moving his SIM card.

> Paddy saw, almost too late, that he had made a bad
> blunder.

CROW: Can’t you even tell a cabbage from a lettuce?!

> For without the slightest warning Grumpy Weasel
> leaped at him.

JOEL: Aaah! Snuggle party!

> And had not Paddy been a wonderful swimmer and
> able to dive like a flash,

TOM: What, *nekkid*?!

> he would never have dashed,
> panting, into his house a few moments later.
> "What on earth is the matter?" his wife asked him.

CROW: [ As Paddy ] ‘NOTHING! Nothing, uh, nothing … listen, we don’t have any holes on us, do we?’

> "I’ve been having a swimming race with a stranger,"

JOEL: Seems more like a diving race to me?

> Paddy explained. "I don’t know his name. But I do know that
> he’d just as soon get his feet wet as I would."

TOM: [ As Mrs Muskrat ] ‘Why would you want to get his feet wet?’

> "Well, why not?" Mrs. Muskrat inquired. "That only
> shows he’s sensible."

CROW: He can see, hear, smell, touch, *and* taste!

TOM: Can’t trust a stranger you don’t ever lick.

> "Does it show I’m sensible, too?" Paddy asked her.

JOEL: I don’t know, can you be licked?

> "Certainly not!" said Mrs. Muskrat.

TOM: D’oh!

[ To continue … ? ]

The Hair Tie Disappeared and I Don’t Have It Anymore Again

Seriously. I want the 34 cents refund I refunded to Meijer’s refunded back to me again.

Special thanks to Mel Blanc for appearing as the Meijer’s person doing refunds and exchanges.

What’s Going On In Eye Lie Popeye? Also, what is Eye Lie Popeye? October – December 2022

Eye Lie Popeye is another web comic about everyone’s favorite crusty sailor who isn’t Shipwreck from the 80s G.I.Joe cartoons. At least I’ve been treating it as a web comic, as Marcus Williams’s manga-style comic book’s been presented to us. It’s properly a comic book of at least twenty pages, available for preorder. One page has been shared roughly each week for the last couple months. We’ve had ten pages published online and I don’t know whether there’s going to be a continuation. They do want to sell the comics, after all.

One may ask: is this adventure canonical? One may answer: does that matter? If the story’s good does it matter whether it gets referenced anywhere else? But it probably is. Randy Milholland, who draws the new Popeye strips, and half of the Olive and Popeye side project, seems to have an inclusive view of what’s Popeye Canon. He’s tossed references to the radio series of the 1930s, to the Popeye’s Island Adventure short cartoons, to Bobby London’s run on the strip, and to characters created for the King Features cartoons of the 1960s into his tenure. If I had to put a bet I’d suppose some of this gets into the “official” strips. Heck, I’d be only a little surprised if Milholland worked in a reference to the bonkers pinball game backstory Python Anghelo wrote up.

So I can’t say whether there will ever be another of these What’s Going On In installments. But if there is, well, this should catch you up to the start of 2023. I’ll have all my Eye Lie Popeye essays arranged at this link. Thank you.

Eye Lie Popeye.

October – December 2022.

A shadowy, intimidating figure stands over a field of ruins, including an unconscious Bluto. Popeye struggles to find spinach which the figure warns is not to be found. Popeye’s stubbornness will kill him — and then we hear the Jeep, drawing the figure’s attention away from Popeye. I bet you’re wondering how Popeye got into this fix.

A battered Popeye holds a can of spinach up to his mouth, with only flakes coming out. A shadowy figure standing over him gloats: 'Even if you had *spinach* left over, you'd be no match for me. Hmph. How typical. Stubborn and self-centered. ... Have it your way, little *sailor-man*. This is your END!' And from off-screen, Eugene the Jeep calls.
Panel from Marcus Williams’s Eye Lie Popeye, page one. The full page has many panels, in a fairly complicated pattern (that’s still easy to read), but this will give you a feel for the kind of technique to expect.

So we flash back to the start. Judy P’Tooty, reporter from the Puddleburg Splash, wants to write the story of how Popeye lost his eye. (The name Puddleburg Splash references a 1934 Popeye story. That story’s the source of a panel you might have seen where Popeye explains cartoonists are just like normal people except they’re crazy.) Olive Oyl intercepts her and promises to tell the story. We get a nice view of what looks like a classic (cartoon) adventure. A titanic mer-man sucker-punches Popeye and harasses Olive Oyl. Popeye eats his spinach, rockets in, and smashes the mer-man into cans of tuna. Only, this time, in the sucker-punching the monster knocked out his eye. I think the mer-man may be a representation of King Neptune, who appeared, among other places, in the 1939 story “Homeward Bound”. It’s the one going on in the Vintage Thimble Theatre run on Comics Kingdom right now.

Bluto has a different take. In Bluto’s telling, sure, Popeye was fighting a giant horned octopus. This series has not been short on fun monster designs. I’m not sure if this is meant to be any particular giant cephalopod from the rest of the Popeye universe; there’s a couple it might be. But it’s Bluto who stepped up to save the day, using Popeye as the impenetrable rock to beat the monster back. And in smashing Popeye against the monster the eye popped out. Popeye and Olive Oyl declare this story baloney, but P’Tooty is barely listening. She’s telling someone that she’s located and eliminated each stash — which she tells the gang is just her taking notes.

Wimpy narrates a fight between Popeye and Bill the De-Ming, Popeye punching the De-Ming over and over, until the De-Ming fires a finger laser at the sailor: 'In an instant, Popeye came bursting through the window while pummeling the face of a villain! Shattered glass rained throughout the tiny cafe, sparkling as light danced over their fragmented surfaces. I of course covered my burgers to save them from the ensuing calamity. BiLL was the Ruffian's name. While I couldn't hear all of the intimate details of what was being said between the furry-winged scoundrel and Popeye, I could clearly see the murderous grin plastered across its face. It did mention that the fight was all but lost due to the fact Popeye had already injested a can of spinach. That did not, however, stop this twisted criminal from targeting the innocent bystanders onlooking the fray! Flashing forth, a bright laser beam shot from the tip of the creature's middle finger! I was so entranced with the glorious flavors of my burger, I didn't realize that I was the unfortunate target of the impending doom ray! By the time I took notice, I couldn't move! In the milliseconds it takes to blink, Popeye had jumped in front of the beam just in time to absorb the damage intended for me. Unfortunately, his eye was sacrificed so that I imght live to eat another hamburger! I was so grateful that I even offered my savior one of my burgers as a reward. He declined. Thankfully.'
Marcus Williams’s Eye Lie Popeye page 8. This is my favorite of the pages we’ve had so far. The action’s great, Bill the De-Ming is nicely rendered in a way that’s cute and menacing at once, Wimpy looks great, and the narration feels like it’s got Wimpy’s voice; it’s rococo but for a purpose.

Wimpy has yet another take, in which he’s interrupted during a six-hamburger lunch. Popeye smashes through the window, battling another, this time winged, monster. This one’s called Bill and I believe it to be one of the underground demons, or De-Mings, from the final story Elzie Segar worked on before his death. This makes me suppose the other monsters are from other Thimble Theatre adventures. Bill targets Wimpy with a finger laser, as one will, and Popeye intercepts it, saving Wimpy’s life but losing his eye. Bluto calls this nonsense but Popeye acknowledges that this at least happened.

Meanwhile, P’Tooty has lost her patience. She declares this a waste of time and demands Popeye tell her where is the eye. And that she’s done with her cover story. She is, in truth, P’Tooty the Jade Witch. She’s sent by the Sea Hag. She’s eliminated all the spinach in the area, including the can Popeye keeps in his shirt collar. She wants to know where is the Bejeweled Eye of Haggery, and where is the Jeep. She dissolves into this huge inky goop, bubbling up from the sea, and it’s not hard to connect this to page one.

Olive: 'Uh ... Miss P'Tooty, did you mean to say 'how' he lost his eye?' P'Tooty: 'You heard me right, folks. I've listened to enough of your silly stories to know that I won't get to the truth by way of flashbacks. And you can drop the 'miss' Olive. You may call me P'TOOTY THE JADE WITCH!' (As she transforms first into a jade-colored creature.) 'As you've hopefully realized by now, I've been sent by the elder witch, the SEA HAG! Surpriiiise! And YES, Popeye, I've taken the liberty of locating and destroying each and every can of spinach you've hid around thei dump using my magic. Even that emergency can you keep in your lil' shirt collar. I got that one when we shook hands.' Popeye, alarmed: 'Blow me down! Not'sk all me spinach!!' P'Tooty: 'That's right. And seeing as you won't tell me where you've hidden the bejeweled eye, it would seem you've chosen a much harsher path to ruin. Time's up, Sailor-Man. Farewell.' (And now, as a blobby monster) 'I won't ask you this but once, Popeye. Where have you hidden the BEJEWELED EYE OF HAGGERY, and where is the JEEP?' Popeye: is that blob talk'n to me?' Bluto: 'THIS. This is why I beat people up.'
Marcus Williams’s Eye Lie Popeye page 10. Bluto might have the best line in the book so far, with this panel, but I’ve enjoyed the characterizations of everyone so far.

And that’s where we stand.

Oh, for the record. None of the flashback encounters we’ve seen can be perfectly true. Popeye was introduced, with his missing eye, before he ever met Olive Oyl, King Neptune, Bluto, Wimpy, or Bill the De-Ming. At least in the Thimble Theatre continuity. But you knew that. And there’s no limit to the number of continuities of Popeye except the willingness of people to hear the stories.

Next Week!

OK, now I’ve run out of Popeye web comics. I intend to get back to Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop next week. Promise.

That Hair Tie That Disappeared Went and Reappeared and I Have It Now

I guess it had enough of being an impermanent object and is back to being, at most, kind-of permanent-ish. So that’s nice.

I suppose I should give Meijer’s their 34 cents refund back.

Once more special thanks to Milt Josefsberg and John Tackaberry for their assistance with this extremely slight problem.

Why is everyone mad at _Funky Winkerbean_ this week? (December 31, 2022)

What can you say about a 50-year-old comic strip that died? That it loved the Barry Allen Flash and the mythical Marvel Bullpen? That it was full of names that were not exactly jokes but were odd without hitting that Paul Rhymer-esque mellifluous absurdity? That it spent the last ten years with no idea how to pace its plot developments? Yes, it was all that, but more, it got a lot of people mad at it.

This is not to say that Funky Winkerbean was a bad strip. Outright bad strips aren’t any fun to snark on. You have to get something that’s good enough to read on its own, but that’s also trying very hard to be something it’s faceplanting at. So let me start by saying there’s a lot that was good about Tom Batiuk’s work. The strip started as a goofball slice-of-life schooltime wackiness strip. It would’ve fit in with the web comics of the late 90s or early 2000s. It transitioned into a story-driven, loose continuity strip with remarkable ease. And it tried to be significant. That it fell short of ambitions made it fun to gather with other people and snark about, and to get mad about. Still, credit to Tom Batiuk for having ambition and acting on it. It allowed us to have a lot of fun for decades.

Enough apologia; now, what’s going on and why is everyone angry about it? Last week’s get-together of the whole Funky Winkerbean and Crankshaft gang at St Spires was the last we’ve seen of our cast. Monday started in some vaguely Jetsonian future drawn by comic book celebrity John Byrne. (Byrne has drawn for Funky Winkerbean in the past, most notably for several months while Tom Batiuk recovered from foot surgery. I think Byrne also helped redesign the characters to their modern level of photorealism. I may have that credit wrong.)

Spaceship car flying up to the Village Booksmith shop. Future Lisa: 'I've never been this far into the Outskirts before! Is this what I think it is?' Future Mom: 'Yes ... it's an antiquarian bookstore ... one of the last to survive the burnings! I located an old tree copy of your grandmother's book 'Westview' for your birthday!' They climb up the stairs.
Tom Batiuk and John Byrne’s Funky Winkerbean for the 27th of December, 2022. I’m not sure whether Future Lisa and Future Mom are supposed to be hovering, in the second panel there, or whether it’s just the shadows distracting me. Also, while it is terrible to have a time you might describe as ‘Burnings’, if all it does is reduce the number of the antiquarian bookstores … I mean, I hate to admit it but that’s getting off pretty well.

This epilogue week stars Future Lisa, granddaughter of Summer Moore and great-granddaughter of Les and Lisa Moore. For a birthday treat Future Lisa’s mother takes her by Future Car to “the outskirts”, that is to say, Crankshaft. Future Car has the design of that spaceship toy made from the gun that murdered My Father John Darling. They’re there to go to an antiquarian bookstore, “one of the last to survive the burnings”. The term suggests a dystopia before a utopia, which is a common enough pattern in science fiction stories.

The bookstore is the little hobby business of Lillian Probably-Has-A-Last-Name, from Crankshaft. The old-in-our-time Lillian isn’t there, but a pretty nice-looking robot with a lot of wheels is. Since the bookstore is only (apparently) accessible by stairs I’m not sure how the robot gets in there. I guess if it only has to be delivered here once it can be badly designed for stairs. I had assumed the bookstore was desolate, since the sign for it was hanging on only a single hook. I forgot one of the basic rules for Tom Batiuk universes, though, which is that signs are never hung straight. This sounds like snark but I’m serious. Signs are always hung or, better, taped up a little off-level.

Future Mom’s brought her daughter there to get a “tree copy” of Summer Moore’s Westview, the book that made the future swell. We saw her starting to do interviews for it when time Agent Harley, whom the Son of Stuck Funky folks aptly named TimeMop, shared a dream-or-was-it.

Future Lisa, pointing to book shelves: 'There's another book here that has *my* name on it!' The bookshelf has Strike Four, Fallen Star, Lisa's Story,a nd Elementals Force on it. Future Mom: 'Well, I'll be ... it's a copy of your great-grandfather's book about your great-grandmother ... Lisa!' Future Lisa: 'Ask the robbie if it's for sale!!'
Tom Batiuk and John Byrne’s Funky Winkerbean for the 29th of December, 2022. I would have thought Future Lisa’s meant to be old enough for it to be odd she’d be surprised to see something with her name on it, at least when the name is a common enough one like ‘Lisa’. A friend pointed out if Future Lisa had chosen her name, for example as a result of a transition, then this would be an authentic reaction. Tom Batiuk already did a transgender character a couple months ago, but, what the heck, why not take that interpretation? If Tom Batiuk had an opinion he could have said otherwise.

Future Lisa sees beside Summer’s sociological text other books on the same shelf. Fallen Star, Les Moore’s first book, a true-crime book of how he solved the murder of My Father John Darling. Strike Four, which I mistook for Jim Bouton’s baseball memoir. Strike Four is in fact a collection of Crankshaft strips about the title character’s baseball career. Elemental Force, the anti-climate-change superhero book published by Westview-area publisher Atomik Comix. And Lisa’s Story, Les Moore’s memoir about how his wife chose to die rather than take the medical care that might extend her life with Les. Future Lisa can’t help but ask: what are a sociological study, a true-crime book, a baseball comic, a superhero comic, and a dead-wife memoir doing sharing a shelf? Does this bookstore have any organizational scheme whatsoever? (And yes, of course: these are all books by local authors. Except for Strike Four, which shouldn’t exist as we know it in-universe.)

So they get both Westview and Lisa’s Story. The last Funky Winkerbean is Future Mom telling Future Lisa it’s bedtime. Stop reading Lisa’s Story because it’s bedtime, and “the books will still be there tomorrow”. As many have snarked, this does read as Tom Batiuk making the last week of his strip yet another advertisement for the story about how Lisa Moore died. This differs from most of the post-2007 era of the comic strip by happening later than it. For those with kinder intentions, you can read this more as a statement of how, even though the strip is done, everything about it remains. It can be reread and we hope enjoyed as long as you want. And that it’s appropriate for Lisa’s Story to stand in for this as it is the central event defining so much of the comic’s run.

Future Mom: 'Bedtime, Sweetie!' Future Lisa: 'Aw, mom!' Future Mom: 'Time to retire, young lady. The books will still be there tomorrow ... ' They go off to bed, leaving _Lisa's Story_ floating front and center on the pillows of a Future Couch.
Tom Batiuk and John Byrne’s Funky Winkerbean for the 31st of December, 2022. I am sincerely happy to see a future with that ‘knobbly, curvey architecture and furniture’ style. It’s a very 1970s Future style that I enjoy. It also evokes the era of comic books from when Funky Winkerbean debuted, so it has this nice extra bit of period-appropriateness.

And with this, you are as caught-up on Funky Winkerbean as it is possible or at least wise to be. I can’t say what comic strip you will go on to be mad about. It feels like nothing will ever be that wonderfully maddening again. No, it will not be 9 Chickweed Lane; that’s too infuriating to be any fun getting mad reading. But there’ll be something. We thought comic strip snarking would never recover from the collapse of For Better Or For Worse, and maybe it hasn’t been that grand again, but Funky Winkerbean was a lot of fun for a good long while.

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