Yeah I thought I was exaggerating about the _Dilbert_ guy

When I wrote yesterday about Scott Adams choosing to give up his comic strip career so he could be racist full-time I was exaggerating a bit. I knew he was getting a tremendous number of cancellations, many of them from newspaper chains that close off dozens of markets at once. It went even faster and deeper than that, though: Sunday Night Andrews McMeel Universal dropped Dilbert, cancelling the syndication contract, future book publishing, and such. According to The Daily Cartoonist, Adams said he had been cancelled “from all newspapers, websites, calendars, and books”.

This is probably hyperbole but I’m very curious what’s going to be left once newspapers get done with previously-published materials. (Comics, particularly Sunday comics, are often printed ahead of time, so that the presses are available for more time-sensitive material.) I can’t think of a comic strip implosion like this since hundreds of newspapers cancelled Li’l Abner over Al Capp’s sexual harassment and assault becoming public. And even there, Li’l Abner continued, diminished, until Capp’s health forced him to retire.

Anyway I can’t wait for the next installment of the Dogbert’s New Ruling Class e-mail newsletter.

(Dogbert’s New Ruling Class was, as you’d think, a newsletter that Adams published back in the 1990s, when the strip pioneered new ways of reaching an audience like “being the other daily comic strip on the Internet besides Doctor Fun”. I forget if it was monthly or quarterly. It was a good way for Dilbert fans to connect with other people who sent in stories that totally happened of how they outsmarted store clerks who had to check that their signatures matched what’s on the back of their credit cards. The title comes from how once Dogbert ruled the world those who helped his ascent — by signing up for the newsletter — would be, well, it’s right there on the tin. This is the sort of thing that was jolly good whimsical fun in the 90s.)

_Dilbert_ guy chooses racism over comic strip career

Failed burrito maker Scott Adams recently used a good-size chunk of his podcast to explain how Black people were a hate group. This after a Rasmussen poll found that a considerable number of Black people could identify a racist dogwhistle as a bad thing, actually. You can find Adams’s original podcast on YouTube or such, or rely on a number of better sources than me for transcripts. Anyway, having decided that Black people are a hate group, he’s decided to end his identification as Black, which he started “so I could be on the winning team for a while”, and go back to being white and urging white people to get as far as away from Black people as he could “because there’s no fixing this”.

So, this may be why your local newspaper is running a blank space in place of the comic strip. Per The Daily Cartoonist, the comic strip has been dropped from newspapers of the Advance Local chain, the MLive Media Group, USA Today/Gannett, Hearst Newspapers, the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post, and a host of other newspapers. GoComics seems to have already dropped their run of Dilbert Classics and Dilbert In Spanish; they’ve posted a “watch this space” announcement for the daily comic.

What comics will win the newly vacated spaces in all these newspapers? Not sure. There seems to be a shortage of office-themed comics. Bill Holbrook’s On The Fastrack (which is older than Dilbert) is the only one leaping to my mind (and would be an excellent choice). I imagine most editors are going to pick “I have to fill this content hole today”, and won’t be worried too much about matching the replaced strip’s audience. I’d root for comics like Will Henry’s Wallace the Brave, Tony Cochrane’s Agnes, “Georgia Dunn’s Breaking Cat News, or Liniers’s Macanudo. Nobody’s asking me. I guess I don’t need the stress of being looked to for advice anyway. Anyway, I’ll put my money down on “they somehow created a syndicated column version of Wordle” as the winner.

Statistics Saturday: Obscure Aesop Tales, As Far As You Know

  • The Ape and the Fox
  • The Wolf and the Frog
  • Washing the Mountain
  • The Two Foxes and the Imaginary Hare
  • Three Robins and an Olive
  • The Winsome Badger
  • The Swan, The Dolphin, and the Lion
  • Hiding the Sea from the Weasels
  • The Farmer Who Lived In The Well
  • The Rose and the Satyr
  • The Gourd and the Water and the Jealous Tree
  • The Boastful Oyster and the Broken-Down Cart

Reference: The Louisville Grays Scandal of 1877, William Cook.

Also turns out they made a musical of My Favorite Year for some reason

I had the On Broadway channel playing and they got around to “You Gotta Have Heart” and boy did it sound like like Panthro was among the singers. That seems odd, right? Why would a ThunderCat be even in the touring cast of Damn Yankees? On the other hand, or paw if need be, why wouldn’t a ThunderCat sing sometimes and maybe even sing quite well? And, of course, was avoiding the score to Cats for the obvious reason (doesn’t like “The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles”).

Also I learn that the guy who played Panthro was on Sesame Street, in a film about “big and little”, as the tuba player. I don’t think there are any tubas in Damn Yankees but I didn’t see it the year it was my high school play so who knows?

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 14

Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale Of Grumpy Weasel continues to amuse me. If it, in Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction form, amuses you, you might check out the whole of the project at this link, not counting whatever chapters I haven’t gotten to.

The story so far: After twelve chapters of antagonizing everyone Grumpy Weasel has started saying kind things to Old Mrs Hen. What’s his deal, and does it make Arthur Scott Bailey look like he can’t write a protagonist he likes? We’ll see.

While writing this I felt like I was short on the goofy whimsical riffs, and yet there they were when I was done. The reference to Ratigan’s hall is both a Beatles and a Great Mouse Detective thing. “Walk Right In, Walk Right Out” was one of the songs the Max Weinberg 7 used for commercial intros all the time on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. There’s a nice version of it by Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers on YouTube although the lyrics may make a Honeymooners fan angry that “the hucklebuck” wasn’t a nonsense word invented for that one episode where Ralph was feeling old. Worse, that goofy “Do The Hucklebuck” song was an actual song, younger — at the time that episode was made — than Walk The Moon’s “Shut Up And Dance” is today. You’ve been warned.


JOEL: So that’s eleven less than five, this is chapter minus four?

CROW: Sounds right.


TOM: Is … is the book over?

> Grumpy Weasel

TOM: Guess not.

> was quick to see

CROW: Yeah, we know he’s quick, that was the whole Jimmy Rabbit race.

> that fat Mrs. Hen
> swallowed every word he said as greedily as if it had been an
> angleworm.

JOEL: [ As Mrs Hen ] ‘Hey, I only eat diet angleworm.’

> "Yes! You have a fine house here," he said.

TOM: [ As Groucho ] ‘I’ve had a fine house here but this isn’t it.’

> "But
> of course you’re crowded," he added gloomily,

JOEL: Ever since that four-star review in Better Nests and Gardens.

> to show Mrs.
> Hen that he knew she had no place for him.

CROW: Is … is he looking for … _snugglebunnies_?

JOEL: Not since Jimmy Rabbit escaped.

> "Oh! Not at all!" Mrs. Hen assured him.

TOM: It’s called a sub-efficiency apartment and there’s really lots of space once you move everything out into the hall.

> "And the door’s always shut tight at night," he
> added, "on account of that prowling Tommy Fox."

CROW: Have you ever considered that Tommy Fox only prowls around because he’s wondering why you’re shutting the door so tight?

> "Yes! We have to be careful," said Mrs. Hen.

TOM: Hence our choice to wear helmets all the time.

CROW: *Hens* our choice.

> "And there’s Peter Mink, too," Grumpy went on.

JOEL: Hey, he was your biggest fan in the Jimmy Rabbit race!

> "Don’t
> leave an opening big enough for him!

TOM: Give him the slightest conversational opening and he’ll talk to you for hours!

CROW: He has *opinions* about the 1960s Popeye cartoons.

> He can get through a
> small hole, too—any that’s big enough for his head."

JOEL: Smaller than that, if he leaves his head at home.

> At that Mrs. Hen looked startled, as if she had just
> remembered something that made her feel uneasy.

TOM: [ As Mrs Hen ] ‘My rat closet!’

> "He couldn’t get through a rat hole, could he?" she
> inquired nervously.

CROW: I started on a rat hole but I couldn’t get past the first thirty pages.

> "Why—there isn’t one here, is there?" Grumpy asked.

JOEL: I want to know how many holes it takes to fill Ratigan’s hall?

> "There is an old one," she admitted. "It hasn’t been
> used in my time."

TOM: But an ancient prophecy speaks of a great uniter of the rats who will someday emerge from it.

> "If I could see it I’d know at once whether Pete
> could crawl through it," Grumpy Weasel said,

CROW: Or you could just ask Pete?

TOM: Maybe it would be more convenient to take the hole to Pete and see if it fits around him?

> talking to
> himself—or so it seemed to Mrs. Hen.

JOEL: [ As though just now realizing ] OH!

> "I’ll show it to you gladly!" she cried.

CROW: I’m sorry, Grumpy Weasel can’t do anything gladly.

> "Do come
> right in and look at our rat hole, Mr. Weasel!"

TOM: Please don’t mind the clutter, it’s a bit of a rat’s nest around the hole — oh say!

> As she spoke, Mrs. Hen started for the henhouse.

CROW: Oh, you keep the hole *inside* the henhouse, how elegant.

> And
> after her crept Grumpy Weasel,

TOM: Being creepy.

> hoping that nobody else would
> see him.

JOEL: You don’t want to cause a scene with Mr Hen.

> So far as he could tell, the hens were all out of
> doors, scratching in the dirt.

CROW: Boy, the ground is *itchy* today!

> But suddenly Mrs. Hen’s
> jealous neighbor began to set up a great squawking,

TOM: It’s the Great Squawking, Charlie Brown.

> calling
> upon Mrs. Hen to be careful, for she was in great danger.

CROW: [ As Mrs Hen ] ‘How does my being careful help you with your great danger?’

JOEL: [ As Neighbor ] ‘No, no, I mean … you know what, go ahead.’

> Fat Mrs. Hen turned about with a vexed look upon her
> handsome but somewhat stupid face.

TOM: Stupid face! Read a book sometime, face, it’ll do you good!

> "Walk right in!" she said to Grumpy.

CROW: [ Singing ‘Walk Right In, Walk Right Out’ ] o/` Walk right out, walk right in, walk right out o/`

> "I must stop and
> settle with her. She has gone too far."

TOM: [ As Mrs Hen ] ‘Imagine a neighbor preferring I were not dead!’

CROW: [ As Grumpy ] ‘I can’t, it’s like imagining a square circle or something.’

> And leaving Grumpy to
> find the rat hole without her help,

JOEL: [ As Mrs Hen ] ‘Just go up the ladder and take a right at the grizzly-bear hole, you can’t miss it!’

TOM: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Wait, there’s a grizzly bear hole?’

JOEL: [ As Mrs Hen ] ‘Yes, but you’ll never see a rat use it!’

> Mrs. Hen fluttered across
> the henyard with her head thrust forward,

JOEL: o/` She clucks right in … o/`

> to give her
> meddlesome neighbor a number of hard pecks and so teach her
> to mind her own affairs.

TOM: [ As Mrs Hen ]*Now* am I a woman of scandalous virtue or what?’

> With a low chuckle

JOEL: A low dishonest chuckle.

> Grumpy Weasel slipped inside the
> henhouse,

TOM: Whoops!


> where he found himself quite alone.

JOEL: Apart from that Henry Bemis guy.

> It took him but
> a few moments to discover in one corner of the building the
> old rat hole of which Mrs. Hen had spoken.

TOM: He’s going to dare the Ninja Turtles to a race and grab Splinter.

> And then he went to the door and looked out,

CROW: Look out!
[ ALL duck ]

> for Mrs.
> Hen and her neighbor were making a terrific racket.

TOM: Oh, they must really like playing tennis together!

> He saw
> the end of the squabble. And soon Mrs. Hen came running back,
> with her feathers sadly rumpled, and her comb awry.

JOEL: [ As Mrs Hen ] ‘Yeah so we’ve got yetis and they’re not nice.’

> "I settled with her," she gasped. "And now tell me
> about the rat hole.

CROW: What, with your comb awry like that?

> Could Peter Mink get through it?"
> "No, he couldn’t!" Grumpy Weasel said.

TOM: He didn’t bring his fake ID and the bouncer is strict.

> Then he dodged
> strangely back into the henhouse.

JOEL: Uh … incoming?

> And though Mrs. Hen hopped
> in after him she couldn’t find him anywhere.

TOM: Invisiweasel!

> She couldn’t understand it.

CROW: She was all but sure objects had permanence and yet here we are.

[ To continue … ? ]

Without Divulging Too Much About My Methods

In case anyone should need what I estimate to be 426,000 empty three-ring binders, enough three-ring binders to build a three-ring binder circus complete with a central tent, a midway, and an endway (I assume there’s an endway at the end of a midway) I know a surplus-office-supplies free-to-good-home table. If I need a wheelbarrow for your order you’ll have to supply it. The wheel on ours keeps going flat and I have never seen a free-surplus-wheelbarrow-wheels table. If you do know where one is, though, let me know, maybe we can arrange a barter.

What’s Going On In Mary Worth? When did Iris get pets? November 2022 – February 2023

She didn’t. The current story in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth started the 18th of January. A narration box introduced it with “When Iris takes her pets to the veterinarian”. Narration Box was confused. This was Stella bringing her pets to the vet. Probably the previous story being so much about Iris. That both Iris and Stella had bad experiences with Wilbur Weston, and having just made a joke about that recently, muddled things.

This should catch you up to mid-February 2023 in the comic strip. If you’re reading this after about May 2023 I should have a more useful plot recap here. And now on to the big wedding news.

Mary Worth.

20 November 2022 – 19 February 2023.

Zak and Iris, bonded over how they both prefer Zak to not fall off a cliff to his death, are marrying! I believe it’s the first actual factual marriage happening in Mary Worth since I started recapping the plots. What could disrupt this happy event?

How about a face from Zak’s past? We see Zak on the phone talking to someone he’s missed. Someone he says “I can’t wait to see you, dear” to. It’s Nan, his former babysitter. She’s in town, taking a vacation from her home in Hawai’i to visit Santa Rosa for some reason. Nan looks uncannily like Iris, a thing Zak never notices because they wear different earrings. Iris notices, though. Also how Zak and Nan have all sorts of bits they have to run through. Things like Nan surrounding her face with fingers or the two saying things like “yummy yummy yummy in my tummy tummy tummy” and all.

Iris, sulking at her drink, thinks: 'It's like looking at my *twin*! Seeing Zak interact with my lookalike feels strange ... and what's with all the *inside jokes* and *gestures*? .. .Hello? Remember me? Zak, your fiancee is sitting right here, or am I *ignored* because of her?' Zak and Nan are paying attention to each other, both making some weird smile while holding their hands up, fingers wide, at each other; it looks like some variation on peek-a-boo that means something to them and looks odd to us.
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 7th of December, 2022. Must say that all of Zak and Nan’s inside jokes and gestures, like whatever the heck they’re doing here, seem like stuff you might do with your babysitter when you’re six and she’s in high school. I guess it speaks well that they’re not embarrassed to do this stuff as grown-ups out in public, but I also see where it’s even more exclusionary than usual inside jokes are.

Iris was already insecure about how she and Zak had a nontraditional relationship: he’s never seen or heard of Casablanca while she takes thyroid medication. What if Zak’s interest is only in the spiting image of his first crush? Wouldn’t that be weird? Like, too weird for people to deal with? Zak insists no, insisting that he loves different things about them. And besides she’s happily married and he wants to happily marry. And they only look generally alike. And besides, “people fall in love all the time based on their past experiences”, a declaration true yet also not on point. Anyway Zak insists it’s not weird until he has to leave the room.

Mary Worth doesn’t comfort Iris more, but she offers a chilling comparison. You know who else was jealous of another person? Wilbur Weston. Iris is willing to do anything not the way Wilbur does things, but she’d still like to know someone else thinks it’s weird Nan looks so much like her. Mary Worth won’t even give her that and insists it’s jealousy that’s the real problem. So Iris surrenders, agreeing to marry a man she loves even though she looks a lot like his old babysitter.

Mary Worth: 'Iris, jealousy is unbecoming and unnecessary! Start off your married life with hopes for the best, not fears over the worst!' Iris: 'Mary, you're *right*. I let jealousy get the *better* of me. Nan is a warm, nurturing woman who helped Zak in the past. I ower her a debt of *gratitude*!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 23rd of December, 2022. So on the one hand, Iris seems to be wrong in being jealous, if we take all of Zak’s protests at face value and don’t think about his calling his former nanny ‘Dear’. On the other hand, nobody is giving Iris the dignity of taking seriously her feelings; if she feels this is dangerously weird it would be nice if any person said anything other than “what’s your malfunction here?”

The happy day comes the 2nd oF January, with a church ceremony before the eyes of God and Wilbur Weston, who’s invited because ?? ???? ??????? ???? ???? ? ???? ??. I guess to make sure he doesn’t stumble into doing something really embarrassing. All he does is comment to Mary Worth how, hey, most marriages end in divorce so he’ll be ready in case Iris breaks up with Zak after all. It’s the sort of comment you make when you know you’re charming and can be facetious and don’t notice everyone slapping their foreheads around you, like, all the time. Still, we did see Wilbur’s thought balloon sincerely wishing her happiness, so, I still don’t know why he was invited.

Everyone agrees it was lovely, though, and they’re very happy to see people married. Dr Jeff has learned well enough not to even suggest that Mary Worth marry him. So that’s all happy to see.

The current story, as mentioned, began the 18th of January. Stella and not Iris took her dog and cat to the vet, Ed. She’d gone out with him once before. That date got turned into a colossal karaoke battle between Stella and Wilbur Weston. Stella and Mary Worth remember it as the most awkward and embarrassing event they had ever been present for or could imagine witnessing. Wilbur Weston remembers it as “Tuesday”. The vet is up for another date, though. Stella and Ed bond over how they both would prefer companion animals not die, and how life is stressful. It seems a promising start to a relationship. And then Wilbur appears.

[ Later, as Estelle's yoga class ends ... ] The class does salutations toward the window, saying 'Namaste.' Stella sees Wilbur leaning in through the corner of the window and screams in shock.
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 16th of February, 2023. Early lead for the title of Funniest Single Mary Worth Panel of 2023 here. I’m sure Moy and Brigman are doing that for the fan delight and possible meme-ification but, you know? I’m still delighted.

He says running into Stella at the pet store is coincidence. His goldfish needed food. Innocent? Maybe, but as anyone who keeps goldfish will tell you, if you run out of goldfish food you’re feeding them too much. But then she starts seeing him leering into the window, looking like she threw away a jar with easily two dozen mayonnaise molecules still left. But is he actually there or is she hallucinating? This Sunday we see Wilbur’s face intruding on her dreams, which is a heck of a thing to have to dream about.

Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!

  • “The real meaning of enlightenment is to gaze with undimmed eyes on all darkness.” — Nikon Kazantzakis, 20 November 2022.
  • “Friendship is another word for love” — Unknown, 27 November 2022.
  • “Everything in adulthood can be traced back to childhood.” — Penny Junor, 4 December 2022.
  • “I look back to a happy childhood.” — Helen Spence, 11 December 2022.
  • “You can be the moon and still be jealous of the stars.” — Gary Allan, 18 December 2022.
  • “The love we give away is the only love we keep.” — Elbert Hubbard, 25 December 2022.
  • “Cheers to a new year and another chance to get it right.” — Oprah Winfrey, 1 January 2023.
  • “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” — Mignon McLaughlin, 8 January 2023.
  • “If I get married, I want to be very married.” — Audrey Hepburn, 15 January 2023.
  • “I believe, in life, you always get a second chance.” — Fabio Lanzoni, 22 January 2023.
  • “It is not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” — Hans Selye, 29 January 2023.
  • “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” — Bob Marley, 5 February 2023.
  • “Love is the ultimate expression of the will to live.” — Tom Wolfe, 12 February 2023.
  • “Nightmares are releases.” — Sylvia Browne, 19 February 2023.

Next Week!

I didn’t have a good spot to mention it in the main text but I’m delighted to see that the Santa Royale pet shop is now carrying eevees. They’re demanding pets but very rewarding if you put in the effort. But what about other strange animals with uncannily human-like features? The Ghost Who Walks was looking at some of them. I’ll recap the last couple months of Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s Sunday-continuity The Phantom next week, all going well.

I Don’t Know Why, Since I Only Ever Play Virtual Pinball and Roller Coaster Tycoon

Thinking of finding the best PvP game by a series of head-to-head competitions between titles, that is, by a PvPvPvP. Of course, there’s a lot of ways to set up a PvPvPvP. So I’ll have to set up a contest the best PvPvPvP format, a PvPvPvPvPvPvPvP match. I’m sure some people will disagree with whatever PvPvPvPvPvPvPvP I set up, but I don’t see them running a PvPvPvPvPvPvPvPvPvPvPvPvPvPvPvP to find the best PvPvPvPvPvPvPvP, do you? I thought so, or not, whichever is correct.

I Hope I Didn’t Hurt the Guy Who Draws _Beetle Bailey_ With My Comments About Raccoons

Oh gosh, now, after sharing my thoughts about how the guy who draws Beetle Bailey draws raccoons, we got this Thursday’s strip!

At the chow line set up at a training bivouac. Beetle: 'Is this stuff edible?' Cookie, angry: 'What a stupid question! Of course it is! ... The raccoons loved it.'
Greg Walker’s Beetle Bailey for the 16th of February, 2023. I understand the compositional need for the layout to be like this but I’m confused by the line people are supposed to follow coming up to Cookie and going away with their plate of mashed potatoes or scrambled eggs or Mary Worth salmon pudding. Possible fix: in the second panel bring Cookie down to the bottom of the panel, so we see him from waist up, and put Beetle smaller and in the background so it looks like he walked off to his left. We lose some of Beetle’s expression that way, but it we don’t need much to see a grimacing face there.

And, well. I know how even the gentlest teasing can hit really hard if it gets to you at just the right moment. I mean the right moment for hurting you. My only intent here was to say I don’t think they’ve figured out how to style these animals in a way that fits with the models of the main characters of the strip, particularly Otto. I don’t want you to keep raccoons or other animals off-screen, just to admit the designs aren’t up to the rest of the strip’s vibe yet! I’m sorry and I’ll try to be more focused in my snarking Tuesday when I’ll say all kinds of mean things about Wilbur Weston.

Statistics Saturday: Obscure Comically Named European Regents, So Far As You Know

  • William the Decent, Brittany
  • Edward the Hairy, Frisia
  • Charles the Italic, Burgundy
  • Johann the Comically Named, Schmalkaldic League
  • Duke Carlo the Treated, Venice
  • Æthelred the Unconsulted of England
  • Margaret the Ambivalent, Schleswig
  • Gustave the Doorframe, Thuringia
  • Frederick the Bitten, Margrave of Meissen
  • Isnardo the Not a Nardo, Genoa
  • Christopher the Ineffable, Duchy of Neopatras
  • Radolfe the Fed, Thuringia

Reference: Michigan: A History Of The Great Lakes State, Bruce A Rubenstein, Lawrence E Ziewacz.

Another Ominous Glimpse at My Near Future

Amazon e-mailed me with a list of things they think I might like. It’s kind of them, but what they think I might like is a whole bunch of internal hard disk drive mounting harnesses. I admit I got such a harness, but it was from the CompUSA in Latham, New York, near the Hannaford supermarket, back in 1998, so I don’t know why they figure it’s due for a lot of replacement right now. I don’t know what Amazon’s highly-trained algorithms have detected is coming for me really soon now that I need at least five harnesses from 2.5 to 3.5 inches but I guess I should do the rational thing and order at least four of them. I imagine I can take the unused ones and, I don’t know, fry them up with some sauerkraut and Kosciusko mustard? It must make sense.

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 13

I for one am still enjoying Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, and I hope you are too. The whole of my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction of it should be here, in case you just ran across this and want to catch up on all the antics and/or shenanigans.

The story so far: Young Master Wren, Mr Meadow Mouse, Paddy Muskrat, and Jimmy Rabbit have each avoided being eaten by Grumpy Weasel. But those are all behind us; is Grumpy about to turn a new leaf? Let’s watch.

I imagine many MST3K watchers won’t find ‘Centron’ an obscure reference. For normal people, though, they were a maker of educational films, with titles like School Bus Safety and Courtesy, Your Table Manners, You Asked About Topeka, or the MST3K all-star shorts Speech: Using Your Voice and What About Juvenile Delinquency. Look them up, you’ll be glad you did.


CROW: You feeling the X-I-tement yet?


TOM: It’s not ‘nine, ten, silly Mrs Hen’?

> Strange to say,

JOEL: I don’t know, is it *that* strange?

> Grumpy Weasel was trying to be
> pleasant.

JOEL: OK, you got me.

> Of course he didn’t really know how,

CROW: Sounds like Grumpy needs to watch a Centron short.

> for he always
> practiced being surly and rude.

TOM: And he’s almost got it right!

> It must be confessed, too,
> that he had succeeded in making himself heartily disliked by
> everybody that knew him.

CROW: Really? How so?

> There were a few, however, who had yet to learn of
> Grumpy Weasel’s bad traits.

TOM: Because they never happened to be near a wall or a pond or a bush or anything.

> Among these was a foolish, fat
> hen who lived in Farmer Green’s henhouse.

CROW: [ As Foghorn Leghorn ]*HEN*house, I say!’

> And now Grumpy
> Weasel was doing his best to make a good impression on her.

TOM: By throwing rocks at her.

> It is no wonder, perhaps, that this lady was unaware
> of her caller’s real nature.

JOEL: The call is coming from inside the weasel!

> For Grumpy was careful,

CROW: He always kept three points of contact with the ladder.

> as a
> rule, to visit the farmyard only after dark.

TOM: [ Sultry sax music ] Bwaa-bwaaa-bwa-bwa-BWAAAAAA-BWAAAAAAAH

> And being a
> person of quiet habits Mrs. Hen was always abed and asleep at
> that time.

JOEL: [ As Mrs Hen ] ‘I have my half-cup of lukewarm herbal tea (half a sugar cube) and think about an unsalted Saltine and set my hand on a book of good nutritional advice and that’s enough fun for me.’

> Grumpy found it a bit difficult to chat with Mrs. Hen

CROW: But they have so much in common!

> because old dog Spot was sprawled on the farmhouse steps;

JOEL: We don’t truck with that New Dog Spot.

> and
> naturally Grumpy felt like keeping one eye on him.

TOM: One eye on the dog, one eye on his wall, you’re spreading yourself kind of thin, Grumpy.

> But the
> other he turned, as well as he could, on Mrs. Hen, who was in
> the henyard looking for worms.

CROW: And not centipedes, or as she call them, ‘spicy worms’.

> Just outside the wire fence

TOM: Some look at the yard and ask, ‘wire fence?’ I look at the yard and ask, ‘why aren’t fence?’

> Grumpy Weasel crouched and told Mrs. Hen how well she was
> looking.

JOEL: Oh, she is, she’s an expert at looking by now.

> His pretty speeches pleased Mrs. Hen so much that she
> actually let a fat angleworm get away from her

TOM: [ Gasping ] Grumpy’s on the payroll of Big Angleworm!

> because she
> hadn’t her mind on what she was doing.

CROW: Oh no, they’re going to bring this up at the next henhouse scrum.

> She noticed meanwhile
> that one of her neighbors was making frantic motions,

TOM: [ As Mrs Hen ] ‘Gracious, might you be one of those hot-cha-cha dancers I hear so much about?’

> as if
> she had something important to say.

JOEL: o/` But Mrs Hen will never speak, unless she has something to say … o/`

> So Mrs. Hen sauntered
> across the henyard to find out what it was.
> "Don’t you know whom you’re talking to?" the neighbor
> demanded in a loud whisper. "That’s Grumpy Weasel

CROW: [ As Mrs Hen ] ‘Oh … well, what’s his middle name?’

JOEL: [ As Neighbor ] ‘Cruel Bastard’

CROW: [ As Mrs Hen ] ‘I can change him.’

> —the worst
> rascal in all these parts."

TOM: Sure but isn’t the *worst* rascal actually the *most* upstanding person?

> Somehow that sent a pleasant flutter of excitement
> through Mrs. Hen.

JOEL: [ As Mrs Hen ] ‘Am I what they call a woman of scandal now? Oh jeepers!’

> At the same time she couldn’t quite believe
> the news, because her caller had said such very pleasant
> things.

TOM: He’s just copying the stuff from Tom and Jerry cartoons where they’re trying to romance that little pink cat.

> "Don’t worry!" she told her neighbor. "I’m old enough
> to look out for myself."

CROW: I thought you were looking out for angleworms?

JOEL: Mrs Hen knows the angles.

> "I should say so!" her neighbor cried.

TOM: Please do, then.

JOEL: [ As Mrs Hen ] ‘So.’

TOM: Thank you.

> "You’re three
> years old if you’re a day!"
> "I’m not!" Mrs. Hen retorted.

CROW: [ As Mrs Hen ] ‘I’m not a day! I’m a hen! Didn’t you know?’

> "I’m only two and a
> half."

TOM: Red Skelton’s Mean Widdle Kid suddenly feels old.

> Her feathers were all ruffled up

CROW: Oh, she’s going for a biker chick look.

> and she went straight
> back and told Grumpy Weasel what her neighbor had said about
> him.

JOEL: Does her neighbor have a name, a species, an anything?

CROW: Jimmy’s Brother!

> "You don’t believe that, I hope," Grumpy ventured.

TOM: Grumpy asks, ‘Me, a rascal’, while fwipping a lock of hair over his eyes.

> Mrs. Hen clucked and tried to look wise.

CROW: You shouldn’t say ‘lookwise’, you should say ‘regarding looks’.

> And at last
> she confided to Grumpy that her neighbor was a jealous
> creature

JOEL: Driven to bitterness by an encounter with Grumpy’s father, Cranky Weasel.

> and sure to speak ill of a stranger who came to call
> on anybody but herself.

TOM: What kind of freak wants people to call them?

JOEL: It was the 1910s, calls were different.

> Well, Grumpy Weasel told Mrs. Hen that he knew, when
> he first set eyes on her, that she was a sensible little
> body.

CROW: Compact, fuel-efficient, reasonable monthly payments, I’ll take it.

> "You’ve a snug home here," he went on.

TOM: [ As Mrs Hen ] Why yes! No nails at all, all the boards are cut to fit together!

JOEL: [ As Grumpy ] Let me start over.

> "I can tell
> you that I’d like such a place to crawl into on a chilly, wet
> night."

CROW: Uh …

JOEL: Arthur Scott Bailey *after dark*!

TOM: He told us!

> And though it was a warm, fine summer’s day he
> shivered and shook, so Mrs. Hen could see.

CROW: [ As Mrs Hen ] ‘Is that that Fox Trot dance I hear Vernon and Irene Castle do?’

JOEL: [ As Grumpy ] ‘I’m a weasel, it’s a Weasel Trot dance.’

> And silly Mrs. Hen couldn’t help feeling sorry for
> him.


[ To continue … ? ]

I hope he doesn’t think I’m a poser because I said _Lineup_ instead of the correct _THE Lineup_

Couple years ago I read about this club that performs old-time-radio scripts, live. Unfortunately I was out of town or something that weekend and couldn’t make it, and couldn’t remember the name of the club, and gradually came to accept that hearing people try to repeat the dialogue of Murder At Midnight without cracking up was not going to happen. And then today? Today I met a guy who’s in that club. I was stunned with delight and told him how I had been listening to an old-time-radio show — Lineup, a police drama from the early 50s in the Dragnet mold — on the way there this morning.

So I’m delighted to know now the club still exists, and that its name is … something I forgot again. I’m pretty sure “Air” is in the name somewhere before the end. But I can hook up with it again as soon I see … uh … his name is something that starts with a ‘J’ I’m pretty sure? And he’s not me, I know that much. If I had been in an old-time-radio reenactment club the last five years I’d have heard something about it, because I’m not all that good at reading dialogue or remembering lines.

What’s Going On In Mark Trail? Why was that kid so snide toward Rusty? November 2022 – February 2023

The recent story in Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail featured Robbie, a rival classmate of Rusty Trail’s. Their fight got started in class, as such things will, particularly in a quarrel about who had the better presentation about cryptids. Rusty Trail knew stuff about krakens that his classmate didn’t mention in the report. So you can understand Robbie’s being fed up with the know-it-all.

This should catch you up to mid-February 2023 in Mark Trail. If you’re reading this after about May 2023, there’s probably a more up-to-date plot recap here. Thanks for joining me.

Mark Trail.

13 November 2022 – 12 February 2023.

Stories were wrapping up last time we visited the Lost Forest. Caroline accused Cherry Trail of having an affair with her husband, Honest Ernest. Cherry accidentally lets slip it’s Violet Cheshire he’s seeing. Caroline wants to teach him a lesson. She accepts Cherry Trail’s suggestion of taking all of Ernest’s home-brewed lawn toxin to a waste collection facility. So that’s all fine, right?

Meanwhile at the Tiger Touch Center, escaped elephant Gemma has stormed into the scene, revenge apparently on her mind. Tess Tigress admits to Rex Scorpius why an elephant might want revenge against her. Years ago — at another, overloaded, zoo, she claims — the attempt to sell off Gemma and her sisters enraged her mother. They had to put the mother down. And Gemma remembered, which is plausible enough. I’m not clear how Gemma knew where to find Tess, especially across several states, with one of them Texas. It can be explained, we just don’t see it done.

[ The Tiger Touch Center plunges into chaos after a rampaging elephant tears through. ] Rex Scorpius; 'What a bust. The catgirl of my dreams turns out to be a cruel zookeeper. Now I have no girl and no family.' Mark Trail: 'That's not true. We're here for you!' Diana Daggers, driving up: 'Yeah, Rex. You've got people. Need a lift?' Mark Trail: 'Diana! We have two tigers to haul with us. Is that going to be a problem?' Diana: 'Hm ... I'll clear off the back seat.'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 26th of November, 2022. Wait, wasn’t this the first story in Skin Horse?

Gemma chases Tess out of town, and out of the country, and out of the story. The mysterious tent turns out to have juvenile tigers, ones too large for ‘therapeutic’ touching, and way too large for their cages. Luckily Diana Daggers drives back around, ready to pick up Rex, and Mark Trail, and the tiger cubs. The Tiger Touch Center gets closed up, people who weren’t sure they were in a cult go home. Tess Tigress is absent, and so is Gemma, threads for another story, one imagines.

The current story got started the 5th of December. It plays on one of the traditional Mark Trail snarks. A common story transition, particularly in the Jack Elrod era, was Mark Trail promising Rusty a fishing trip that the new story would preempt. James Allen actually got Rusty on a fishing trip. And now Jules Rivera has Mark Trail take up Rusty on his request from like three years ago to go fishing.

Thing is, Rusty’s a bit older, getting into the teenage years, and not excited to get up at 4 am on a Saturday to spend time with Dad without even someone else that Dad could talk to instead. Mark Trail fears the worst, that Rusty doesn’t like fishing. Cherry talks sense into him: ask Rusty what he would like to do today instead.

[ Mark notices Rusty get into a quarrel with one of his friends before the cryptid river boat hunt. ] Robbie: 'The Bassigator isn't real, Rusty. I can't wait for you to be proven wrong.' Rusty: 'You're the expert, 'Cuz you're wrong all the time.' Mark Trail: 'Whoa, boys! This is supposed to be a friendly trip. Let's not fight before the boat ride.' Rusty: 'But Dad! You fight around boats all the time! It's like your whole thing!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 29th of December, 2022. Hey, Mark Trail has other hobbies, like probably avoiding the Florida police and Coast Guard.

What Rusty wants to do is cryptozoology. To wit: finding the bassigator, Mark Trail doesn’t believe there is such a part-bass, part-alligator, but what the heck. He can borrow a boat from the De-Bait Team. And a bunch of Rusty’s school friends, plus a promising new enemy he’s picked up. They’re rivals over the quality of their in-class reports about cryptid animals. This is ridiculous in exactly the right way to tickle me. It’s got that nerd-sniping chic to it.

So next week Mark Trail and Rusty and some of his classmates set out in a boat to find adventure. Or at least some coves, you can always find a good cove if you’re trying. The search bumps up hard against adventure and coves: alligators in the Lost Forest waters, farther north than they should be. And, worse, the boat runs aground in a cove full of alligators.

Cherry Trail doesn’t know exactly what happened. But Duke, who provided the De-Bait Team’s boat to the expedition, mentions knowing about the horseshoe-shaped cove with all the alligators. And Cherry, who’s slipped a tracking device into Rusty’s backpack, knows they’re at that cove. So they’re off to the rescue.

[ Mark gets out of the boat to push it back into the water. ] Mark Trail, pushing the boat barely ahead of the alligators: 'Rusty, when you feel the boat hit the water, throw the throttle in reverse.' Ian: 'Whoa! Mr Trail is so brave!' Mark Trail, confident: 'Bah! Thes gators can't scare me! I work on deadlines!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 25th of January, 2022. That’s funny because I have definitely finished this article before its schedule deadline time of 7:15 pm Eastern the 14th of February, you know. Long before, long enough before I could re-read it and fix weird sentence conglomerations that crept in.

Mark Trail, meanwhile, has gone and rescued himself. With Rusty at the helm he hops off the boat to push it into the water. Rusty backs the boat away from the shore, and the kids help yank Mark Trail aboard before anyone can be eaten. They follow the tracker Mark Trail left on Cherry’s car, to a happy safe reunion. And all the kids, including Rusty’s imminent enemy, agree this was awesome. Fair enough.

And some more happy news. Bill Ellis is up for a story about alligators moving into the Lost Forest. So Mark Trail gets a writing gig he doesn’t have to leave home for. All’s looking great and there’s no way there’s any problems ahead.

Sunday Animals Watch!

Here’s animals or natural phenomena mentioned in the Sunday panels the last few weeks. Please forgive me not having some wisecrack about them. It’s been a pretty rough couple days and, I mean, the train wreck in East Palestine, Ohio, doing for the Ohio River Valley what the US Navy’s doing for Hawai’i, makes it hard to do my usual whistling past the graveyard here.

  • Roadside Zoos, 13 November 2022.
  • Rip Currents, 20 November 2022.
  • Pumpkins, 27 November 2022.
  • Elephants, 4 December 2022.
  • Muskrats and Beavers, 11 December 2022.
  • Moose, Reindeer, and Caribou, 18 December 2022.
  • Christmas Trees, 25 December 2022.
  • The Klamath Dams, 1 January 2023.
  • Alligators, 8 January 2023.
  • Squirrels, 15 January 2023.
  • Formerly Legendary Animals, 22 January 2023.
  • Snowflakes, 29 January 2023.
  • Mountain Lion P-22, 5 February 2023.
  • Iguanas, 12 February 2023.

Next Week!

Sure we’ve got platitudes, but we always have platitudes. What the past several months of Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth have given us is a wedding. And, even better, humiliation for Wilbur Weston.

Something to Talk About Over Tea

It’s paczki season again, and none too soon, since I’ve still got three pairs of pants that fit. I’m told there’s a spot of controversy on the neighborhood Facebook, or possibly Reddit, or something or other like that. Some place where people who don’t own dogs argue about barking dogs with other people who don’t own dogs. This controversy is about the paczki made by the Lansing-area omnipresent convenience store chain. The strong contingent of how everybody loves them is facing stiff competition from a faction arguing that they’re not made anything like actual paczki and are basically just jelly doughnuts with Top Of The Town wins.

Though I am ethnically Polish I must admit, I don’t know the culture well enough to say. Most of what I observe in Polish culture is my secret kielbasa-and-sauerkraut recipe (I get some vegetarian kielbasa and sauerkraut and warm it all up) and being judgemental of how other people pronounce “Kosciusko”, and if you think that doesn’t come up a lot, you clearly don’t travel in mustard circles or across a couple bridges over the Hudson River. Well, one of them is across the Mohawk River and that’s kind of two of them and, okay, this is getting a little too fussy.

My point is just if someone wants to tell me this peanut-butter/pumpkin-spice-latte/mint-icing/boba-tea paczki doesn’t accurately reflect the culture of 16th-century Krakow? I’m not listening. I’m buried under a mountain of powdered nutmeg and stevia.

Chris Browne has died

Chris Browne, cartoonist for everyone’s dad’s favorite comic Hagar the Horrible, died last Sunday. I get the news from D D Degg at The Daily Cartoonist, of course. He’s not the strip’s original cartoonist — that was his father, Dik Browne — but he has been the main cartoonist for the strip for most of its 50-year history.

I never had much substantial interaction with him (or with any other syndicated cartoonist). The one I remember is chatting on Usenet with him when I noticed a week of remakes of vintage Hagar comics. I think he explained that he was remaking a couple older strips as part of breaking in a subtle redesign of the characters for the modern comic strip formats. (I was quite young when the strip was new and in that exciting first rush of figuring itself out, so I was going to catch Browne reusing situations like Lucky Eddie not remembering the words to their drinking song. It’s nothing but the word “Drink!”, and was adapted into a commercial for Mug root beer when Mug had the Hagar license.)

The Daily Cartoonist offers a retrospective of the very many comic strips Browne drew over his career. My favorite of these non-Hagar strips is Raising Duncan, which ran for five years in the early 2000s and which GoComics is still reprinting. That one’s about a married couple of writers and their pets. The couple is cheerfully and demonstrably in love, and the dog and cat love one another too. It’s a quite happy strip, and we can use more of those. I keep thinking to remove it from my daily read, which is rather long, but moments like when the wife says, “Marry me!” and the husband says I did, and the wife (hugging him) says “Marry me more!” make it hard to cut.

Statistics Saturday: Words That Can Be Made From The Letters In ‘Taxidermist’

  • Taxi
  • Mist
  • Remitted [ if you force it ]
  • Matter [ which covers almost everything ]
  • Smitten [ by mistake ]
  • Praxis [ using the ‘d’ upside-down ]
  • Drexmi [ hypothetical ]
  • Rime
  • Drems [ hypothetical ]
  • Xide [ scheduled to enter service in 2025 ]
  • Strime [ predicted as way to complete the brime-chrime-vrime assonant quartet ]
  • Draximetist [ result of panic ]

There Might Be Something Weird and Dick Tracy-Based on TCM Tonight

I owe my love thanks for noticing this. Turner Classic Movies is running a series of Dick Tracy movies from the 40s today, from 8 pm Eastern. None of them are long and the last of them has Boris Karloff so you won’t be sorry spending time there, at least. And it may help you catch up on obscure references for the daily comic strip.

But the interesting thing to me is what’s listed for 10:30 pm Eastern. It’s titled Dick Tracy Special: Tracy Zooms In. TCM’s web site offers no information about what it is and the page for it pretends there is no such thing. What it appears to be is a thing Warren Beatty does every several years, doing a performance as Dick Tracy, in order to retain the movie rights. So I don’t know what to expect other than “a thing that keeps a contract option alive”, which we’ve always known as our best entertainment value.

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 12

It’s another week and another chapter in Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Grumpy Weasel. All of my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction of it should be at tis link. So if you want to see how this race against Jimmy Rabbit came to be, or just how long it’s been going on, there’s your chance.

The story so far: Old Mr Crow talked Grumpy Weasel into racing Jimmy Rabbit. What Jimmy and Old Mr Crow realized only too late is that Grumpy figures the finish line is Jimmy’s neck. Jimmy is fast, but Grumpy is relentless. How will the hero of a completely different book than this make it out alive? And why is Old Mr Crow so sure Jimmy’s going to escape today?

Epi is one of the titular Fifteen Rabbits, by Felix Salten, author of Bambi. Epi is one of the wild rabbits who’s taken as a pet by some well-meaning children. Hot! (Sssss) Weasels! is maybe inspired by the opening of the short-lived Bill Cullen game show Hot Potato but what makes that a joke I don’t know. The mocking lines about Jimmy’s ‘Brother’ are because there were several references to Jimmy Rabbit’s brother in The Tale of Fatty Raccoon and he never says anything, does anything, gets spoken to, or gets a name, so I made up the joke that he’s imaginary.


TOM: Chapter Two, Part Ten. The Prequel.


CROW: And the weasel in my hand is the four of diamonds, is it not?

> Grumpy Weasel wouldn’t stop long with his cousin,
> Peter Mink,

JOEL: No? I thought they were both pretty long?

> and old Mr. Crow and all the rest.

TOM: o/` Here on Gilligan’s Rabbit! o/`

> He was in a hurry to overtake Jimmy Rabbit.

CROW: In hour 182 of the race.

> And after
> quarreling fiercely with the whole company—

TOM: The acting company, over who’s getting the lead in _You’re A Good Mink, Charlie Brown_.

> except his
> cousin—he sprang up with a wicked glitter in his black eyes

JOEL: Oh, he’s never going to get that glitter out of his eyes now.

> and left without another word.

CROW: What are we going to do with this pile of words he left us?

TOM: Say them?

> "That fixed him," said Mr. Crow knowingly.


CROW: Ah, he’s broke again!

> "What did?" Peter Mink demanded.
> "That rest!" Mr. Crow replied.

TOM: Six quarter notes of silence going into the bridge? Brilliant suspension! It’ll be the hit of Tin Pan Alley once they invent Tin Pan Alley!

> "It gave Jimmy Rabbit
> just time enough to go where he’s going."

CROW: Well, when he gets there tell him to come back and explain it to us.

> And that was all he
> would say.

JOEL: What, *now* Mr Crow figures silence is a virtue?

> Not until Grumpy Weasel returned some time later did
> any one know what Mr. Crow meant.

TOM: Oh, Jimmy found the Save Spot.

> Grumpy Weasel was in a terrible temper when he came
> slowly back.

CROW: So … did he win? Lose? Tie?

> Everybody could tell, without asking, that the
> race was ended.

JOEL: Well, Jimmy didn’t eat Grumpy, we can rule *that* out.

> "Where did you catch him?" Peter Mink asked his
> cousin.

TOM: Ah, he grabbed a bus, the coward.

> Grumpy Weasel said in a few ill-chosen words

JOEL: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Florid apostasy walks through clutch Melpomene! That’s a *terrible* collection of words!’

> that he
> hadn’t caught Jimmy Rabbit at all,

CROW: Maybe you could return the unused portion for a full refund?

> and that somebody had
> played a trick on him.

TOM: A trick? From a rabbit? There’s nothing in folklore to justify *that*!

> He looked directly at Mr. Crow as he
> spoke.

CROW: [ Leaning forward, as though kissing Grumpy. ] Mmmmmwah!

> "It wasn’t Johnny Green, was it?"

JOEL: It was his cousin from Rome, Giuseppi Verdi.

> Mr. Crow inquired
> solemnly as he moved carefully to a higher limb.

TOM: It’s Johnny Green’s shoulder! Get out of there!

> Grumpy Weasel could tell, then, without a doubt,

JOEL: Oh, take a doubt, we have so *many* this time of year.

> that
> it was Mr. Crow that had made him lose the race.

TOM: But he won the moral victory!

> Grumpy had
> followed hot on Jimmy Rabbit’s tracks.

CROW: Hot! (Sssssssss) Weasel!

> And to his surprise
> they led straight toward the farm buildings.

JOEL: They keep on building the farm but it’s never *built*.

> But Grumpy kept
> on and never stopped until he reached the farmyard fence

TOM: [ As a Fence ] ‘Wanna buy a hot weasel?’

> where he crouched and watched Jimmy disappear—of all
> places!

JOEL: Right into a top hat!

TOM: [ As a scolding sort of cry ] Liddsville!

> —right in the woodshed, where Johnny Green was
> picking up an armful of wood.

CROW: Fatty Raccoon, now Jimmy Rabbit, you figure Johnny Green’s tired of being roped into all these animal dramas any?

> Of course Grumpy Weasel wouldn’t think of entering
> such a dangerous place.

TOM: Oh, c’mon, wood is just as afraid of you as you are of it!

> And when he heard a shout and saw
> Johnny Green come out with Jimmy Rabbit in his arms

TOM: Smooching.

> he knew
> that Jimmy Rabbit had won the race, even if he had lost his
> freedom.


JOEL: [ Pats CROW’s shoulder. ]

> "It was that old black rascal, Mr. Crow,

CROW: That’s just how I look in silhouette.

> that put
> that notion into Jimmy Rabbit’s head," Grumpy said savagely

JOEL: Now wait, how do you know it’s not Jimmy’s ‘Brother’?

TOM: Yes, his … ‘Brother’.

> to himself as he turned and made for the woods. "They were
> talking together a little while ago."

CROW: Well, did I give *you* any good ideas?

> And all the way back to the stone wall he kept
> thinking what he would do to Mr. Crow if he could ever get
> hold of him.

TOM: Challenging him to a race is out … what if you made Mr Crow race Jimmy Rabbit?

> So you can see that he must have looked very
> dangerous when he reached his hunting ground;

JOEL: You go and look, I’m a-scared to.

> and you can
> understand why Mr. Crow took pains to change his seat.

CROW: [ Getting up, bumping into JOEL but not going farther ] ‘Scuse me, pardon me, coming through, one way, scuse me, pardon me … ‘

> "I may have lost the race—through a trick," Grumpy
> hissed as he glared at Mr. Crow.

TOM: [ As Dan Backslide ] A runabout? I’ll steal it! No one will ever know!

> "But one thing is certain:

JOEL: You don’t tug on Superman’s cape.

> That young Jimmy Rabbit will trouble us no more. He’s Johnny
> Green’s prisoner."

CROW: And Johnny Green wants … information!

> "Nonsense!" cried Mr. Crow. "He’ll escape some fine
> day."

TOM: [ As Grumpy ] ‘It’s supposed to rain all next week!’

> "Nonsense! He won’t!" Grumpy Weasel disputed.

CROW: ‘Disputed’.

> And he
> never begged Mr. Crow’s pardon.

TOM: That makes two of us.

CROW: Hey!

> And neither did Peter Mink
> apologize to the old gentleman, as Mr. Crow had said he
> would.

JOEL: Mr Crow’s a gentleman?

CROW: We are all fine creatures!

> So in one way Mr. Crow was wrong. But in another way
> he was right.

TOM: And in being right, isn’t that the real wrong?

> For it wasn’t a week before Jimmy Rabbit
> appeared in the woods again, as spry as ever.

CROW: It may have been three days, it may have been ten times ten thousand years, all we know is it was not a week.

[ To continue … ? ]

Statistical Nibble: What Was Popular Here In January

I do keep meaning to do my usual review of the past month’s readership figures here. I also keep running into this problem where it’s suddenly ike midnight and I have to go to bed. So let me get a bit of it out and maybe we’ll finish up the rest of the pieces later.

Comic strip plot recaps are always the most popular thing I publish in any month. Here’s the five things published in January 2023 that got the most page views. See if you can see what they have in common:

That’s right: a couple of these got retweeted by the Son of Stuck Funky twitter panel on the side of the page. (My Twitter account is defunct, but it still posts announcements of my articles here, so far as I know.) With Funky Winkerbean ended, though, I am going to be in so much trouble if the story comics start including weekly recaps so my job is unnecessary. Still, the next-most-popular thing was chapter eight of The Tale of Grumpy Weasel. I’m glad to see that getting some traction. As I get deeper into the book I’m coming to more like the protagonist, even if Arthur Scott Bailey does not. He’s done such a good job at making Grumpy despicable that he’s falling over the other side to become adorable again.

My plans for story comics the next couple weeks — I haven’t decided whether to add Olive and Popeye to the rotation — is as follows:

And if that changes, I’ll know first, but you’ll know soon after. See you then.

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? Why does Gasoline Alley have a talking bear? November 2022 – February 2023

Gasoline Alley, at least under Jim Scancarelli’s tenure, is a lightly fantastic universe. That’s all. There’s elements that can’t exist, like the Old Comics Home, or the recent visit with Santa Claus, or the current story with Bear. There was an attempt at saying the recent visit with Santa Claus was imaginary. I think it’s not possible to make the talking bear only something in kids’ imagination. Scancarelli enjoys a strip that lets him step outside the already-gentle realism of the normal story and that’s that.

This should catch you up to early February 2023 in the comics. If you’re reading this after about May 2023, I should have a more up-to-date plot recap of Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley at this link. If you’re not, then, enjoy catching up here.

Gasoline Alley.

7 November 2022 – 4 February 2023.

Walt Wallet was finally writing up a bucket list. The least recklessly dangerous thing on it? Riding on the back of a garbage truck, something that caught his imagination as a child and that he never got to do. The trouble: nobody’s going to let a man who can remember when there were 45 states in the union ride the back of a garbage truck. Even if they would, they can’t; there’s no perch for that anymore. Hulla Ballew, reporter for the Gasette newspaper, thinks it’d be a fun story if he could. And Rufus, of the comedy-relief team of Rufus and Joel, has an in with Mayor Melba.

Walt Wallet standing before the garbage truck he's to ride, as the crowd gathers calling for a speech: '(Gulp!) I'm at a loss for words! Thank you for this opportunity to ride on one of our city's clean an' sanitary garbage trucks! It's been my childhood dream to do so!' Crowd member, to the woman beside him: 'Trucks weren't invented when he was a kid!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 7th of December, 2022. Snarky guy is not exactly wrong; EtymologyOnline gives 1913 for the introduction of ‘truck’ like we think of trucks in American English. But ‘motor truck’, certainly getting the same spirit of the thing, dates to 1901 which … I guess we usually suppose on 1900 as Walt Wallet’s notional birthdate. (The word itself goes back much farther, with the usual sorts of goofy mutations in meaning.)

Over dinner at Corky’s Diner Rufus asks if Walt Wallet could get a ride. Melba thinks it’s a great idea; fun for Walt Wallet and some good publicity for the sanitation department. Despite Skeezix’s reasonable concern, the bit of civic whimsy gets set up in good order. By early December the city has a garbage truck, with a platform on the back, and a harness so a theoretically 122-year-old man can’t fall off, ready to go. And so, in front of cameras, the press, and half the population of town, he gets his ride.

Though we see him take off, we don’t get to actually see his ride. We see him arriving back home and thanking the mayor, who thinks she’ll ride the garbage truck back City Hall herself. And, the 13th of December, he falls into a happy sleep.

The 14th starts the next story, with Aubee Skinner (great-granddaughter of Walt Wallet), Ava Luna, and Sophie visiting. Also Ida Noe, Ava Luna’s magic doll, who’s used as an excuse for Scancarelli to spend a week drawing The Twelve Days Of Christmas. Which was not the only Twelve Days of Christmas montage this season, either; Barney Google and Snuffy Smith had a take on the song too.

Rudolph, rushing in: 'Scuse me, Santa! Bzz! Bzz!' Santa, looking up from his iced drink under the palm tree: 'Uh-oh!' (To Aubee, Ava Luna, Sophie, and the magic doll Ida Noe) 'Sorry, ladies, but an emergency has arisen at home! We must get back to the North Pole in a hurry! C'mon, deers, saddle up and' let's get flyin'!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 3rd of January, 2023. You have to agree Jim Scancarelli draws a cute reindeer. Any animal, really; we’re a bit disadvantaged he didn’t get into drawing a full-time funny-animals comic strip.

After that — and after Christmas — Ava Luna says she’s going to take Santa up on his invitation last year to visit again. And in a poof they’re off to … not the North Pole. It’s after Christmas. Santa’s vacationing in the tropics. Not for long, though, as there’s a crisis back at the North Pole. Bunky, the Big Book Brownie — keeper of the list of naughty and nice kids (we met him in 2021) is resigning. He wants to strike out on his own, form some company of his own to do elf business. Santa is skeptical of this plan, which you can’t even call half-baked. It’s more resting in the mixing bowl waiting for someone to find the cake dish and start preheating the oven.

Bunky: 'Santa! My mind's made up! I have enjoyed my stay here immensely! I just want to be an entrepreneur and be my own person ... er ... elf!' Santa: 'I completely understand your feelings, Bunky! When I was a kid I wanted to ride on the back of a garbage truck!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 17th of January, 2023. I was starting to pitch a story about Santa deciding to use his worldwide overnight transportation network to gather all the trash from all over the world and then — using his amazing skills at creating things — salvaging what can be made into new goods and bringing the true waste to places it can be safely stored, dispersed, or left for future technologies that make it usable again, and then realized I was probably writing a Dinosaur Comics that already exists.

But Santa understands Bunky’s aspirations and mentions his own childhood wish to ride the back of a garbage truck. This, I’m sure, reflects Jim Scancarelli’s awareness of how The Jack Benny Show could turn anything into a runner. Anyway, Santa wishes him luck. He may be aware that the moment Bunky saw Santa’s new secretary, Allure, he’d insist on staying another 99 years. So everything is resolved in a happy if old-fashioned manner.

And then — you know, I’m going ahead and putting the start at Sunday, the 29th of January — we start what seems like the current story. Boog Skinner, Aubee’s older brother, is talking with the local wildlife again. Particularly, Bear, his best friend. Bear’s having some trouble sleeping, what with the racket of the city (Gasoline Alley) encroaching on the wilderness. Also all the fuss about Groundhog Day. Boog offers some earplugs and wishes him a good late hibernation and that’s where that story’s gotten.

Next Week!

It was an innocent attempt at cryptozoology; how we not end up exploding a boat over alligators? Other than because they were crocodiles? I try to answer next week as I recap Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail, all things going to plan.

Please Excuse Even More General Dazedness Than Usual

But I’ve been going through a couple nights of extremely complicated dreams in which I’m not sure which of the two dorm rooms with the exact same number I’m supposed to be in, because the one I started with is like a whole suite with several rooms and a decent kitchen and everything, and the other is a hotel room without a comforter on the bed, and I keep trying to work out if I shouldn’t be in the less good one because I guess I can’t believe I would get the good one just by luck alone. All I’m really sure is when I walk out of the building onto the lawn trying to find the bathroom it’s because I need to wake up and pee. Please send someone to affix a new number or maybe an -A to one of the room numbers so I know where I’m supposed to be. Or whoever has the other room with the same number. We can fight it out or something. I need somewhere to keep my dream stuff, and can’t keep using the spare bedroom here.

Appetite for Destruction, Satisfied by Spready Swiss-Almond Cheese

New in the neighborhood: the grocery store, the one that’s been around for a hundred-plus years and that’s just where to go when you realized you somehow both ran out of bread crumbs and need bread crumbs? It’s now got a record section. Yes, just like it’s the 70s or something. The records have got a chunk of the aisle next to the Elmer’s glue and the off-brand index cards. Not, like, obscurities, just the stuff you’d expect to get from Record Store Day For Middle-Aged Guys. Metallica’s first album. Thriller. Rush’s Album Where It’s Black and White and the Title Is Really Tiny in Little Script Letters Like It’s an Electrocardiogram or Something. Guns N Roses. I have questions about why the store has put in a record section, but the important thing is we’re all set if we need a can of cream of mushroom soup and Queen’s A Night At The Opera because our casserole is going wrong.

Statistics Saturday: What’s Lingering In My E-mail Box

Pie chart with wedges for GoComics and Comics Kingdom e-mails I'd already read, LinkedIn wanting me to congratulate people for 'work anniversaries', Best Buy offering 10% off kitchen appliances, Patreons I forget to read, Comics Kingdom customer support claiming to work on stuff that's been going on for a year now, CodeProject e-mails I forget to read, Updated Privacy Statements, University of Chicago free e-books I forget to read, WordPress comment notifications I'm afraid of, and e-mails from my in-laws about what they'll need to board our pet rabbit for a trip from eight months ago.
Not depicted: The e-mails from my family that are really text chats they’re all having on their phones that for some reason come to me as e-mails from their phone numbers, and the texts are attached files, and I don’t know how to answer any of this.

Reference: Gemini: Steps To The Moon, David J Shayler.

The Trouble Is All the Clothes I Buy Look Like My Taste in Clothes

Caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror (glimpses often hide in mirrors) and realized from the faint collar of my shirt that I had it on inside-out. Embarrassing, but I hadn’t gone outside yet so who was going to see? I took it off and tured it inside-out and discovered from the label no, I had it on the outside-out, like it should. So what I get from this is it’s time I bought some new shirts. Something with a stronger sense of direction.

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 11

I hope you’re having more fun with Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Grumpy Weasel than poor little Jimmy Rabbit is! You can catch up on my whole Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction of it here.

For those joining us now:: Jimmy Weasel accepted Old Mr Crow’s nagging to take up Grumpy Weasel’s race challenge. What Jimmy and Old Mr Crow failed do is negotiate for the race to have a finish line. Jimmy’s starting to realize Grumpy figures the only finish line is “finish Jimmy”.

I don’t think anything needs explaining here. Well, ‘Coronet Blue’, but that was explained as far as it could be on the original show.

> XI

CROW: Xi Xperling, president of the hair club for zmen.


TOM: The 19th-Century struggle between Britain and Russia for mastery in Afghanistan and how it changed the world!

> The famous race between Grumpy Weasel and Jimmy
> Rabbit went on and on.

JOEL: They stumbled into an existentialist drama without realizing it.

> Jimmy turned and twisted this way and
> that,

CROW: No, not *that* way!

> up and down and back and forth

TOM: *And* Fortran.

> through Pleasant Valley.

JOEL: [ As Ted Stryker ] I don’t know if we’ll ever be through Pleasant Vally.

> He could still run faster than Grumpy Weasel, it is true.

CROW: Well, that would seem to settle the race then, wouldn’t it?

> But
> he was growing tired. Now and then Jimmy stopped to rest.

JOEL: Have you considered calling ‘Olly Olly Oxen Free’?

> And
> he kept hoping that Grumpy Weasel had become so weary that he
> had given up the chase.

TOM: That’s it, wait for the creature driven by anger to get over it.

> But Grumpy Weasel never stopped once.

CROW: He started right in on stopping twice.

> And whenever
> Jimmy Rabbit spied him coming along his trail Jimmy would
> spring up with a sigh and rush off again.

JOEL: [ As Coily ] o/` No sighs! o/`s`

> He began to understand that such a race was no joke.

TOM: Jimmy took a frivolous view of the sport of ‘Dare Ya to a Foot Race’?

> He certainly didn’t want to lose the race.

CROW: The only way to race is not to race.

> And he certainly
> didn’t want Grumpy Weasel to come up with him.

JOEL: Maybe Grumpy Weasel will just give you a big hug?

> He had always
> kept at a good safe distance from that ill-natured fellow.

TOM: Except on Accept-A-Dare Thursdays.

> And Jimmy felt most uneasy now at the thought of Grumpy’s
> catching him.

CROW: [ As Jimmy ] ‘What if he tickles me?’

> "He must be very hungry, after running so far," Jimmy
> Rabbit said to himself anxiously.

TOM: [ As Jimmy ] ‘Maybe I can get him talking about what kind of protein shakes he likes.’

> "If he’s as hungry as I am
> he wouldn’t be a pleasant person to meet."

JOEL: What if you meet him at the Chinese buffet?

> And that thought
> made Jimmy run all the faster, for a time.

CROW: But he’s not running for a time.

> But he soon found
> that he had to stop more often to rest.

TOM: Jimmy hauls off and smacks a tortoise who wasn’t even involved.

> And to his great
> alarm Grumpy Weasel kept drawing nearer all the time.

JOEL: When in the race do you figure Jimmy realized he forgot to pick a finish line?

> At last Jimmy Rabbit became so worried that he swept

TOM: Compulsive cleaning is at least a useful way of handling nerves.

> around by the stone wall again and stopped to whisper to old
> Mr. Crow.

JOEL: [ As Mr Crow ] ‘What? You act like this is my fault somehow!’

> "He’s still chasing me. And I can’t run forever.

TOM: isn’t that the lyrics from ‘The Raccoons’?

JOEL: o/` Come run forever … o/“

> What
> shall I do?" Jimmy asked the old gentleman.

CROW: [ As Mr Crow ] ‘Have you considered flying?’

> "I’ll think the matter over and let you know
> to-morrow,"

TOM: [ As Mr Crow ] ‘For a hamburger today.’

> Mr. Crow muttered hoarsely. To tell the truth,

JOEL: Will the real Grumpy Weasel *please* stand up?

> he
> was alarmed himself.

TOM: [ As Jimmy ] ‘Oh, *he’s* alarmed now?!’

> And he had no idea what Jimmy Rabbit
> could do to save himself from Grumpy Weasel.

CROW: Maybe have Paddy Muskrat swim at him?

> While they talked, Grumpy’s cousin, Peter Mink,
> watched them slyly.

JOEL: Well not *that* slyly, just sort of slyly-ish-ly.

> "Who do you think is going to win the race?" he
> jeered.

TOM: [ As Mr Crow ] ‘Look, why do you want to make everything a horserace?’

JOEL: [ As Peter ] ‘It’s literally a race and neither of them are horses!’

CROW: [ As Jimmy ] ‘My voice is pretty hoarse!

> Mr. Crow did not even turn his head. He felt very
> uncomfortable.

TOM: Really? Whatever for?

> But he tried to look unconcerned.

CROW: Don’t frown! .. Oh, perfect!

> "Run along!" he said to Jimmy. "To-morrow I’ll tell
> you what to do."

JOEL: Wait! I just had an idea, Jimmy, put on this Girl Weasel costume and I’ll play the sultry music!

> "To-morrow—" Jimmy Rabbit panted—"to-morrow will
> be too late."

TOM: o/` To-morrow will be tooooo laaaaate! o/`

> Then all at once Mr. Crow had an idea.

CROW: If I could stop Valentine’s Day from coming — but how?

> And he
> whispered something in one of Jimmy Rabbit’s long ears

JOEL: ‘Coronet Blue’?!

> that
> made the poor fellow take heart.

TOM: Also ears.

> "All right!" Jimmy cried. "I’ll see you
> again—sometime!"

CROW: [ As Mr Crow ] ‘See you soon!’ [ To himself ] ‘He’s dead.’

> And away he ran, just as Grumpy Weasel
> came racing along the stone wall,

JOEL: He’s stonewalling.

> looking as fresh as a
> daisy.

TOM: Please don’t eat the weasels.

> "You’d better stop and rest a while!" Mr. Crow
> croaked. "If you get too tired you’ll never win."

CROW: [ As Mr Crow ] ‘If this works Jimmy is set!’

> "Rest!" Grumpy exploded. "I don’t need to rest! I
> never felt better in my life, except that I’m pretty hungry.

TOM: Aw, you’re awfully cute even when you’re stuffed, dear.

> But I’m bound to win this race."

JOEL: He shows off his giant horseshoe magnet and empty bag of iron baby carrots.

> As he spoke of feeling
> hungry he cast a longing glance at Jimmy Rabbit,

TOM: [ Makes a zzzzzz noise, like a fishing reel being cast. ]

> who was just
> dodging out of sight behind a distant tree.

TOM: Grumpy just went into a bar, made the biker strip naked, didn’t even take the clothes.

CROW: Did Arthur Scott Bailey ever consider liking his protagonist?

> "Wait here a bit, anyhow!" Mr. Crow urged him.

JOEL: Underneath this anvil!

> "Since
> you’re sure to win—as you say—there can be no hurry."

TOM: [ As Grumpy ] ‘If … is this some Sophist nonsense? You gonna give me that thing about how since I never lost my unicorn horn I *have* a unicorn horn?’

> And
> Peter Mink too begged his cousin Grumpy to stop just a
> minute.

CROW: Think how Peter Mink feels begging Grumpy to spend more time with him.

> And he laughed, "Ha, ha!" whenever he looked at Mr.
> Crow.

TOM: They’re coming to take me away?

> And strange to say, Mr. Crow said, "Ha, ha!" too.

JOEL: He’s going to dare Grumpy Weasel to race *him*.

[ To continue … ? ]

We Have Information About Whether the Guy Who Draws Beetle Bailey Has Ever Seen a Raccoon

It was not quite four short years ago that we didn’t know whether the guy who draws Beetle Bailey had ever seen a raccoon. I know, time, right? Also I’m guessing the guy is Greg Walker, but the credits still claim Mort Walker, who died over five years ago at this point so I’m pretty sure that’s a polite fib. I mean, to give some perspective, in two years he’ll have been dead as long as Jacob Marley had been dead. Anyway, the fast-breaking-ish news is about this revelation, from yesterday’s comic:

Cookie, handing some bacon to Otto the dog: 'You did a good job chasing those raccoons from the dumpster, Otto! Here's some bacon as a reward.' Next panel Otto brings some of the bacon to a trio of raccoons standing around: 'Thanks for making me look good, guys! Here's your cut.'
Greg Walker’s Beetle Bailey for the 31st of January, 2023. By the way yes, I am being the jerk here. It’s really hard to figure how to draw a new animal stylized like this — a 50s Cartoon Moderne style at its core, rejiggered and mostly streamlined further to read well at the appalling size and print conditions of newspapers. Photorealistic raccoons would look even more hideous against Otto, who only loosely resembles the idea of a dog. At some point the artist has to stop figuring out how to draw the comic and actually draw it, and we can say it’s at a good thing they drew three raccoons who do look different. It would’ve been easy to use the same model repeatedly and instead here’s something where they’re distinguishable without dialogue.

I’m … not at all sure how to rate this. I think we’d have to say he got an okay glimpse at one raccoon, then a decent look at another raccoon, and then one last not-quite-enough look at a third raccoon. Well, glad to have that known. I’ll keep you posted of other animals-in-Beetle-Bailey development.

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? Since when is Mumbles a furry? October 2022 – January 2023

The current storyline in Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy included some scenes at a furry convention. It was a decent way to get the story’s main villain (Art Dekko) on-screen and explain his deal (art forgery). And, along the way, we encountered Mumbles, whom you remember from that one odd yet strange scene in the Dick Tracy movie. I mean the one with the polar-bear-shaped water cooler that’s a tape recorder. Mumbles says he’s a furry and acts surprised Tracy didn’t know.

Dick Tracy: 'And what brings you here, Mumbles?' As Sam Catchem examines what the identification bubble notes as an 'Animation Cel of Shady Origin', Mumbles says, 'Ima Furee, Trazee. Didn yew no dat?' (I'm a furry, Tracy. Didn't you know that?) Catchem: 'This is certainly a day of surprises, Mumbles.' Art Dekko: 'Hey, I"m trying to make a living here ... '
Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 8th of December, 2022. It would be easy to believe this is a scam, but we saw Mumbles annoying Dekko by looking for art of the Chipettes. The Chipettes are the female counterparts to Alvin, Simon, and Theodore introduced in the 80s cartoon, which you know if you’re a “greymuzzle”, defined as “a furry who has knee and back pain”. So … I guess he’s legit?

It’s a moment that left me startled. It felt weird to write a personality trait like that into a character who’s been with the comic since before anybody ever heard of Chuck Yeager. I understand, Mike Curtis is the writer of the strip, he has the right to play with the character any way he likes. But — as with Francesco Marciuliano’s decision that Abbey Spencer’s father had a secret second family — I do wonder how the writers feel about adding big new traits to long-established characters. I’d love to know if they feel intimidated changing, or at least augmenting, someone that way.

Oddly, this threw me more than the same storyline’s revelation that Officer Lee Ebony, part of the strip since the Carter administration, was lesbian or bisexual. I don’t know why this registered as different except maybe that the Mumbles news came first. But I know at least one friend of mine wondered if Mumbles was there as part of the storyline, using “I’m a furry” as his abili. Doesn’t appear to be so; he just, you know, has a life outside whatever his exact guitar-based crime deal is.

And there might be something Mike Curtis has in mind for all this. He’s a writer not afraid to plant stuff for use years later. For example, and relevant to the first story of this recap, Curtis established Sam Catchem as a fan of the fictional-in-our-universe comic strip Derby Dugan ages ago. (For us, it’s a series of novels by Tom De Haven, with illustrations by Art Spiegelman.) It set him up as having a reason to hang around the Derby Dugan musical being put on at Vitamin Flintheart’s theater.

So this should catch you up on the comic for the end of January 2023. All my plot recaps, and news about Dick Tracy, should be at this link. So if you’re somewhere around May 2023 or later, you’ll probably find a more useful plot recap there. If you’re here at the end of January or the starting end of February 2023, though, read on. This may help.

Dick Tracy.

30 October 2022 – 28 January 2023.

Steelface, who runs an automobile chop shop outfit, called in a favor from his nephew Robert Parrish. Parrish had wanted a key part in the Derby Dugan comic strip musical and Steelface arranged it. In trade, Parrish swiped a couple cars needed to make quota. One happened to be Derby Dugan superfan Sam Catchem’s car. With Catchem’s wrist radio in their possession Steelface’s gang can clear out ahead of the cops’ raids.

Derby Dugan author Tom De Haven (to them, historian of the strip) meeting the performers causes Parrish to twig onto Sam Catchem being a cop. Before he’d only known him as a friend of Vitamin Flintheart hanging around the theater a lot. And guilt-stricken at this, he sneaks Catchem’s wrist radio out of his uncle’s shop and back to Catchem’s pocket.

MRI technician, to another: 'Mr Arceneaux should be done with his MRI in about five minutes.' Arceneaux --- Steelface --- inside the MRI chamber thinks: 'Something weird going on here. My face is tingling.' And then we see inside the frame Steelface's mouth open in horror as he feels some great pain.
Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 17th of November, 2022. I admit I was expecting Steelface (‘Mr Arceneaux’) to die from the metal scrap in his face being ripped out, and was a bit disappointed that the far more sensible and reasonable thing — that he started screaming in pain and they shut everything off fast — happened instead. Such is what happens when you have genre conventions on your mind.

Steelface, fuming about the theft of the wrist radio, has a car accident. He drives to the hospital where they start giving him an MRI. The powerful magnets resonate mightily with the chunks of metal in his face. They cause extraordinary pain before the hospital staff yanks him out of there and asks, oh, like you were named Steelface literally?

Parrish, who’d got a text his uncle Steelface was in an accident but nothing more, comes clean about everything to Catchem. Steelface, maimed by the MRI pulling his skin out, decides to take his chances with car crashes. He races out of the hospital to find his car, ironically, stolen. Or “stolen”, since he was using a bait car, and Dick Tracy and Sam Catchem were right there to pick him up. And that wraps up the story, the 25th of November.

After a pause to observe Charles Schulz’s centennial the current story started. Tom De Haven is back, looking unsettlingly like Les Moore, to show Dick Tracy some animal cells he got from a 1930s Derby Dugan cartoon. Tracy’s impressed, he guesses, until De Haven reveals there were never Derby Dugan cartoons. Someone’s selling forged animation art. This … doesn’t seem like a Major Crimes Unit case. But Dick Tracy knows who’s writing this strip. He goes to meet Sam Catchem’s pal Eric, who deals movie memorabilia at Fanfur Con. That’s how we get the revelation about Mumbles mentioned above.

A rabbit wearing jester-style hat and collar with jingle bells waves around saying, 'Hi!' Dick Tracy faces the jester rabbit: 'Hello, I'm chief of detectives Dick Tracy. Who are you?' The rabbit turns around and runs away. 'Uh .. Me? I'm outta hare!'
Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 5th of December, 2022. See, like, is the Jester Bunny really Mumbles in costume? Or what? The scene is funny and not every installment has to be more than an amusing moment, but is this just an amusing moment or is it setting something for later?

Eric’s not saying he knows anything but that Art Dekko guy’s selling counterfeits. So he is, although not clearly enough that Tracy and Catchem can nab him. But he’s got a plan, that he explains to his moustachioed assistant, Sue Reel. Art Dekko explains a lot this story, mostly by explaining how Art Dekko didn’t get where he did by making obvious mistakes. Such as taking shortcuts in his counterfeiting. We get this shown by his demanding wardrobe tags for a fake George Reeves Superman costume be made right. (Granting, that is the sort of oversight a casual inspection would catch.)

His big plan? Faking a Leonardo da Vinci. In Paul Chandler he has a talent who can do the painting. He sets Chandler up with period materials and special paints and access to da Vinci sketchbooks. And while Dekko is happy to explain this to his assistant, he’s not telling anything where any cops can hear.

Art Dekko, pointing to a news article and explaining his scheme: 'See this? One of the largest auction houses sold this newly discovered da Vinci for millions.' Sue Reel: 'How will you get it?' Sue Reel: 'How will *you* get it?' Dekko: 'I'm not going to, Sue! I discovered a talent named Paul, and obtained permissions for him to examine one of da Vinci's sketchbooks. He found a drawing that was never painted. Paul has since acquired period canvases, and using special paints, he'll produce another undiscovered work by da Vinci! That's my grand scheme!'
Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 14th of December, 2022. Wait a minute … is that Derby Dugan on the right page of the sketchbook in the second panel there? You have to tell me if that’s Derby Dugan, you know.

Enter Blaze Rize, last seen in the strip somewhere around 2015-16. She had been part of a scam to defame Dick Tracy with forged video. She turned state’s evidence against the gang. In the past few months she’s started a relationship with officer Lee Ebony, who’d met Rize when undercover in Mr Bribery’s gang. She’s willing to do the cops a solid and goes into Dekko’s memorabilia shop. She finds a post-it note to ‘Call Paul Chandler’, the first thing that looks anything like evidence for the cops.

Fortunately, everybody is ready to blow up a perfectly good scam. Chandler demands a bigger share of the Da Vinci job. Dekko declares he didn’t get where he is by not being fair, and agrees. And pays for Chandler to take a vacation in Panama City, Florida. Dekko then declares (to himself) that he didn’t get where is by doing his own killing. He calls a hit man named Kriptonite, or Kyptonite, or Kryptonite, depending on which day you read. And before he knows it Chandler enjoys an early-morning swim with nobody but the fishes and the hired killer spearing him, leaving his corpse to wash ashore days later.

Dekko, driving, panicking: 'What the heck am I gona do? Paul never told me about that woman, 99. She may have been the brains behind his other jobs, but to me, she's a dang nuisance! I'll call Kryptonite and tell him '99' is threatening to rat him out. Art Dekko didn't get where he is by not being able to turn people against each other!'
Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 26th of January, 2023. I assume that 99’s name is a Get Smart! reference but I’m not following the logic yet. I also don’t get the logic of why Art Dekko actually went to Paul Chandler’s apartment. Like, I get saying he was going there: he wants to have other people think he checked in on Chandler and was mystified that he hadn’t returned from his holiday. But as he had said to himself a few days before, he could just get a couple coffees and pretend to have visited. I can imagine even going up to the apartment and knocking on the door, so neighbors might attest he’d done the ‘reasonable’ thing, but 99 said she caught him breaking into the apartment.

Dekko tells Reel he’s going to Chandler’s place, pretending to check on him. He’s confronted by a woman calling herself 99 and demanding half the da Vinci job’s take. And warning she’ll call in Kryptonite if Dekko tries to trace her. She muses how if Chandler had needed Dekko’s connections to pull off the scam, and if he’d only kept his cool … and, of course, she’s planning to knock off Dekko whatever happens. Meanwhile, Dekko observes that he didn’t get where he is by not being able to turn people against each other. Where he is is hiding in the storeroom, living on Montoni’s Pizza, so you know he’s in dire straits. He’s thinking of how to break up whatever links 99 and Kryptonite might have.

And that’s how we got where we are now. We have had a couple appearances by Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, who’s got some hand in Diet Smith rebuilding his laboratory. And worrying about Annie growing up. And, this Sunday receiving a mysterious package that Diet Smith needs to know about. We may suppose that’s to be dealt with in a coming story.

Next Week!

Garbage truck rides: are they only for the impossibly old anymore? Or are they also for immortal being such as Santa Claus? Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley is unafraid to tackle the tough issues, and next week, I might be too! See you then.

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