What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Didn’t Mimi Thorp’s mother die back on New Year’s? December 2022 – March 2023

Christmas Eve. And no, we didn’t. We did see Mimi Thorp holding her mom’s hands while a parting song played on the radio. That would have sufficed as her death, particularly given Henry Barajas’s trust in readers inferring things. But not only is she not dead but is okay enough by Valentine’s Day to watch the kids. Granting I’m assuming the Thorp kids aren’t too burdensome these days.

And, yes, I’m late — even for postponing a day — in this plot recap for Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. This is not because the story has been that complicated. I’ve just had a bit of a week and hope not to have another like it soon. But if you’re reading this after about June 2023, and I haven’t had another week like it, a more up-to-date plot recap should be at this link. And in other questions I can’t answer: on the 26th of December we learned this was “Part Two: The Only Game In Town”. Henry Barajas wanted the first year of the strip to have an overarching story with distinct parts, like he was writing The Phantom or something. No, Part One was not named anywhere on-panel. I don’t know if Barajas provided it in the comments or on his own site.

That all said, let’s get to the story.

Gil Thorp.

12 December 2022 – 11 March 2023.

When I last checked in Milford and Valley Tech were finally playing football. Valley Tech coach Luke Martinez has made beating Gil Thorp the summum bonum of his life. So the match has a weird intense energy. Valley Tech wins in the last play of the game. Martinez is busy giving his speech for the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize in Academy-Award-Winning Medal of Freedom High School Coaching (GCMG) when he notices all he gets from Gil Thorp is a good handshake and promise to see you next year. So Gil Thorp one-hit-killed Martinez in all the ways that count.

While the kids from both teams congratulate one another Gil Thorp lectures Luke Martinez: 'We'll learn from this experience. But you've got to give these kids credit. The difference between you and me is *you* fear failure --- and I *welcome* it.'
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 22nd of December, 2022. So, welcoming failure sounds like a bad thing for a coach. But it is a respectable, somewhat Stoic, approach to any competition: ultimately, all but one participant in an event loses. You can drive yourself crazy thinking about that, or you can decide that doing your best is the real triumph. And, if you’ve taken the second, there’s nothing terrible about failure; it’s either random luck or teaching you what you can do better.

Part Two, the current phase of the story, began the 26th of December, with Milford looking over budget cuts. They have to look into fundraising ideas. Sports Team Candy Bars move okay-ish. Toby Gordon and Ron who probably has a last name an idea as brilliant as it is dumb: what if they sell vape sticks instead? I’m not clear how they finance this. Those details would have been the center of the Neal Rubin version of this story. As it is, they’ve raised enough money to stand out, but no grown-ups have figured out what’s going on here. Which is striking because that would absolutely have happened if this premise were done last year.

While that plays out, girls’ coach Cami Ohchoa has an idea for a Lift-A-Thon. People pay a buck for every four pounds their chosen athlete can lift. Fun enough idea. When Luke Martinez sees that Gil Thorp is going to be lifting, he gets a new goal in life. Even more important than telling boring stories of his glory days to his students? Out-lifting Gil Thorp. He focuses on this with the manic energy of a 24-year-old with ADHD who’s just fixated on Nixie tubes. He’s soon spending every waking moment training, to the point he even misses a practice. Valley Tech business-suit-wearer Paul Lastname calls him out on this. Martinez can’t hear Paul over the sound of out-lifting Gil Thorp. Martinez’s wife also calls out how this is being creepy and weird and he needs to think about something that isn’t out-lifting Gil Thorp. No luck getting through to him. He’s got out-lifting Gil Thorp to do.

Couple older teens? Young adults? sitting on the sidewalk: 'Ian, let me bum a smoke.' 'I'm out, Sue.' Ron and Tobias, wearing sunglasses, walk up and ask: 'Vape much?' Ron: 'We've got many flavors. How about Apple Atrocity or Peach Disorder?' They leave some with Ian and Sue: 'Thanks. How much?' Ron: 'The first vape's free.'
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 20th of January, 2023. I hope Ian and Sue are fellow high school students because if they’re even two days older than Ron and Toby, they’ve burst into laughing at these two bright young idiots the moment they were out of hearing range and are still, two months later, going. Also, I like ‘Peach Disorder’ as a string of words; I have no idea if that’s a plausible vape flavor.

Other stuff going on. Keri Thorp and Pedro Martinez are happy together, sharing a New Year’s Eve kiss. Toby, reassuring Gil Thorp, tells him how he’s the only man who’s ever apologized to his mother, one of those sincere compliments that makes the receiver feel the world is rotted beyond repair. Oh, but Mimi Thorp’s mother is doing better. And Mimi is taking golfing lessons in Scottsdale, Arizona, from someone named Ericka Carter whom Gil Thorp’s glad to meet. The Thorps have a happy Valentine’s day dinner, too, suggesting their relationship is getting back on track. Mimi still has doubts. She had told Carter “I don’t know if my husband even finds me attractive anymore”. But trust is hard to rebuild, I hear, so it reasons it wouldn’t be linear.

Meanwhile, Coach Kaz has, as promised last What’s Going On In, left Milford High. He’s now Milford Juvenile Sports Program Manager Robert Kazinski, and also his name was Robert Kazinski all this time. Keri is still being harassed by Dorothy, who keeps using her connections with Princess Ozma, rightful ruler of Oz, and Gilda the Good to stay out of trouble. And Pedro Martinez is still angry at his father. After Valley Tech’s football team had a perfect season, his father made it all about him. The actual players got a mention somewhere after the jump in the newspaper. Which is much like the injustice that kept Luke Martinez going for years.

Emmett Tays comes in as temporary assistant coach to fill Kaz’s place. Tays, whose glory days tale started Barajas’s run and also figured in Luke Martinez’s Origin Story, impresses the kids just by being there. I feel like he has more backstory than even this and I don’t know what. Sorry. Tays has some rough edges. Player Leo Atazhoon wears sneakers that are dozens of sneaker molecules held together by masking tape and good intentions. Tays starts to rag him about that. Thorp warns Tays off who suddenly sees, oh, right, poverty. Next time we see the two, they’ve got Atazhoon new sneakers, for the sake of team looking like a team.

Milford High players, talking Gil Thorp out of the weird kind of fight or whatever with Luke Martinez at the lift-a-thon: 'Coach, don't stoop to his level.' 'Dude is literally stealing candy from children.' Gil Thorp: 'The bench is all yours.' Luke Martinez: 'Jaja! Thorp, admit it, I beat you!' Gil Thorp: 'Luke, you raised $500 for us - and since you're representing yourself, we appreciate your donation.'
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 6th of March, 2023. A recurring motif here has been Gil Thorp doing his best to center the story on other people, and Luke Martinez wanting it to be about himself. It does well at making Gil Thorp be likable without forcing us to like him any. And it helps make scenes like this even more evocative of that episode of the 90s Superman cartoon with Mr Mxyzptlk.

But back to the lift-a-thon. That gets going in good, respectable order. And then Luke Martinez shows up for his out-lifting Gil Thorp. And he’s quite good at out-lifting Gil Thorp. He earns thanks from Thorp and like five hundred bucks for Milford sports. I assume not all in one lift because, like, two thousand pounds at once would be a stretch. (The 500 bucks may also not be literal. Barajas is willing to let people say things that are exaggerated or sarcastic in the ways regular people talk.) I mean if they were dead-lifting. They’re bench-pressing, though. And it’s two-handed. The important things are that Gil Thorp is gracious and congratulatory, and Luke Martinez is left demanding that Elmer Fudd does too have to shoot him now.

Are we nearing a Part Three? Is the vape-selling scheme about to come unravelled? Is Mimi Thorp’s mother going to die when she’s just got back into babysitting? We’ll see answers to some of these over the next couple months.

Milford Sports Watch!

Next Week!

Why are people trying to kill Sam Driver and why are they not better at it? It’s a tale of secrets, substance addictions, and off-screen gunshots in Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker that I recap next week, if things go right.


Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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