Statistics Saturday: Ranking of I-395’s

Location Ranking
Connecticut-Massachusetts Diamond
Florida Platinum
Maine Silver
Maryland Bronze
Pennsylvania Copper-clad zinc
Washington DC-Virginia Gold

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

The Guy Who Used to Draw _Beetle Bailey_ Saw a Bear

I have a fresh, 57-year-old development in the question of what animals the artist behind Beetle Bailey has seen! Or more exactly figured out how to draw in a style harmonious with both the animal’s shape and the stylized Cartoon Moderne look of the strip. Yes, Mort Walker has been dead for years now, so he can’t be offering ongoing advice about how to draw what here, but his example is there for those of us who want to draw some funny interaction between Zero and a bear.

Cookie climbs into a tree as a bear ransacks and seats the bivouac kitchen. Climbing down later his assistant says, 'It's time to call the men for chow, Cookie ... what do we do?' Cookie, sheepishly, takes a banana and softly taps the dinner bell.
Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey for the 10th of October, 1966, reprinted the 27th of April, 2023. If I could ask the spirit of Mort Walker one question and it had to be about this strip specifically, I would ask about the banana in the third panel. Did he draw the banana as partially peeled because as soft a noise as a banana would make, a peeled banana makes an even softer one, adding to the exaggeration? Or did he do that just because a peeled banana is quicker to read as ‘a banana’ in comic strip form? Either way it’s a good choice, I’m just curious how much was basic craft and how much was heightening the joke.

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 23

Thanks for again reading another chapter of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Grumpy Weasel. My whole Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction is at this link. I hope you’re enjoying; doing this has got me scouting out other tales of Bailey’s animals for a future project. Let me know if there’s a particular animal you’d love to know more about!

Previously on Grumpy Weasel: Grumpy’s winter pelage is the talk of the Pleasant Valley! And Tommy Fox has talked up how some new resident of the valley has Grumpy’s same white-with-black styling. Grumpy is not happy about this, and he’s got plans …


CROW: The Pope John story.


TOM: Starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall!

> Tommy Fox had carefully kept from Grumpy Weasel the
> name of the stranger who was dressed like Grumpy,

JOEL: Grumpy’s long-lost father, Poopdeck Weasel.

> in white
> and black. It happened that he wore feathers—this newcomer.

CROW: I hope he numbers them for just this sort of occasion.

> And that was one reason why Tommy Fox had had to grin when
> Grumpy threatened to "make the fur fly" when he met the
> unknown.

JOEL: [ As Tommy ] ‘It’s good wordplay because there’s two ways you can read it as literally absurd!’

> Another reason why Tommy had laughed at Grumpy’s
> blustering was that the stranger was quite able to take care
> of himself in a fight.

TOM: *Also* his loved ones, don’t you worry.

> He belonged to the Snowy Owl family,

JOEL: I thought it was the Superb Owl everyone talks about online in February?

> being bigger, even, than Solomon Owl.

CROW: *Bigger* than Solomon Owl? That’s getting, like, Beatles levels of big.

> And what with his
> hooked beak and his strong talons he was a dangerous fellow
> to meet.

TOM: Worse, he’s got *opinions* and he’s going to *share* them.

> Although Grumpy Weasel could easily handle a rabbit
> or a wild duck a dozen times his own size,

JOEL: What about a hundred wild ducks the size of a rabbit?

> because they were
> unarmed, he would have had no chance at all with Mr. Snowy
> Owl.

CROW: Well *he’s* unarmed too! Those are *wings*.

> All this made Tommy Fox chuckle and grin,

TOM: [ As Tommy ] ‘I’m getting someone killed today! Win!’

> as he left
> Grumpy and loped off towards Cedar Swamp,

CROW: Just think, someday they’re gonna build a Point here.

> where Mr. Snowy Owl
> was spending the winter. Unlike Solomon Owl, and his cousin
> Simon Screecher,

JOEL: Simon’s Creature?

TOM: No, no, Simon Screecher.

JOEL: That’s what I said, Simon’s Creature.

TOM: Oh, you ….

> Mr. Snowy Owl did not turn night into day.

CROW: So what good is he, then?

> So Tommy Fox found him wide awake and ready for a fight or a
> frolic, whichever might come his way.

CROW: Ooh, take the frolic! Take the frolic!

TOM: The fight! Take the fight!

JOEL: Door number two!

> He was a handsome bird—this newcomer—

JOEL: [ As Snowy ] ‘I know. The camera loves me.’

> in his showy
> white suit, spotted with black.

TOM: Oh, what with the paparazzi think?

> And he gave Tommy Fox a bold,
> hard look, acting for all the world as if he had spent his
> whole life in Pleasant Valley, instead of merely two short
> weeks.

CROW: What makes a short week?

JOEL: It’s when they have a holiday in the middle.

> Now, Mr. Snowy Owl knew a good deal about such
> rascals as Tommy Fox.

JOEL: For example, Peter Mink or Jimmy Rabbit’s ‘brother’.

> So he said at once, "What’s on your
> mind, young man? You’ve come here on mischief

JOEL: I think he means ‘you’ve come here on *a* mischief’.

> and you needn’t
> deny it."

CROW: [ Leaning over ] Yeah, _Tom_!

TOM: Hey!

> Well, Tommy Fox saw that he couldn’t deceive Mr. Owl
> very much.

CROW: Or Mister Crow, thank you.

> So he grinned at him and told him about the talk
> he had just had with Grumpy Weasel.

JOEL: Shouldn’t someone instead have a talk with the Beaver?

> "He’s so eager to meet you it would be too bad to
> disappoint him," Tommy observed.

CROW: [ As Snowy ] ‘Ah, but if we are destined to meet, we will, and we can’t hurry it; if we’re destined not to meet, we will not, and there’s no sense trying.’

> "He wants the fur to fly,
> you know."
> Although he had no ears

TOM: o/` To hold him down … o/`

> (at least, so far as could be
> seen)

CROW: OOOOh, I bet his secret ears are going to be a huge plot point, watch for it!

JOEL: Spoilers, Crow.

CROW: The story is not a spoiler for itself!

> Mr. Snowy Owl had listened closely to Tommy Fox’s
> story.

TOM: [ As Snowy ] ‘Kind of spoiling the story by telling it, aren’t you?’


> And he must have heard plainly enough, for he said
> quickly that he would call on Grumpy Weasel that very day.

JOEL: You can’t call on a weasel! You need a *phone*!

> "I’ll start right now," he said,

CROW: [ Schoolmarm-ish ] It’s not how you *start*, it’s how you *finish*.

> "and I’ll reach Grumpy
> Weasel’s hunting ground before you’re out of the swamp."

TOM: Oh, and Grumpy’s going to be in swamp right when Snowy’s in the hunting grounds, this is going to be so *good*!

> "I wish you’d wait a bit, till I can get there
> myself," Tommy Fox told him.

CROW: [ As Tommy ] ‘I’d get there faster but my arms don’t work!’

TOM: [ Whining to a parent ] Joel!

> Mr. Snowy Owl agreed to that.

JOEL: [ As Snowy ] ‘But someday I will call on you for a favor.’

> And after lingering
> until he thought Tommy must have had time to run

TOM: Time to hide. Break on through. To the other side.

> and find
> Grumpy Weasel he rose above the tops of the cedars

CROW: [ As Snowy ] ‘Wh- whoa! Wait! Didn’t mean to do that!’

> and sailed
> off to join them himself.

JOEL: [ As Snowy ] ‘Wait! How does this thing woooorrrrrk?’

> "I’m glad I came here to spend the winter," he
> muttered.

TOM: [ As Snowy ] ‘It’s so affordable! I bet I get one or two weeks of March back in change!’

> "Everybody’s been very pleasant so far.

JOEL: Well, you know why they call it Pleasant Valley, right?

CROW: [ As Snowy ] ‘Why’s that?’

JOEL: ‘Cause it’s a valley!

> And after
> people hear how I’ve settled with this Weasel person

CROW: It’s 1915, so will it be fisticuffsmanship?

> the
> folks in Pleasant Valley will be pretty polite to me, or I’ll
> know the reason why."

TOM: Oh, Snowy is a metaphysical philosopher, interesting specialization.

[ To continue … ]

My cryptic riffs of the week. Bold Venture was an old-time-radio series starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall going on about who really cares, it’s Bogart and Bacall talking to each other. What more do you need? The Cedar Swamp/Point thing references world-class amusement park Cedar Point. Joel’s riff about such rascals as Tommy Fox, for example Peter Mink, lifts from a great line Dave Barry had. It went something like “a city the size of Cleveland, such as Baltimore”, an exquisite joke structure. Oh, and I started identifying Tommy Fox with Tom Servo only this chapter, and so late in it, because I did not notice they shared a name until I was writing a riff as ‘TOM: [ As Tommy ]’. I apologize for my error.

But What I Need Is That Cool Board Where You Pick Two-Digit Numbers From the Price of a Car

So there’s this game on The Price Is Right called “Double Cross”, correctly. Contestant has to pick the right price for two prizes by sliding lighted rectangles along a pair of long, skinny touch screens arranged as an X. And, like, someone built that, this set of long skinny touch screen panels for sliding rectangles around. How many did they make? Can you just e-mail them and buy one for yourself? Where would you keep it? Would the price for one of those double-cross screens fit on the double-cross screen? If not, well, there must be all sorts of prices of things you could fit inside glowy rectangles anyway. We might not know them right away, but I bet if you had one all sorts of applications would turn up. You just don’t realize how you’re struggling on without one.

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? Why is King Arthur a monk? January – April 2023

For all I talk about the story strips, I didn’t pay serious, regular attention to them until a couple years ago. There’s a lot of backstory I didn’t know because I never saw it and Wikipedia doesn’t get decent updates. Part of why I do “What’s Going On In” articles is to fill that gap for other people.

When Prince Valiant returned from his journey out to Asia, the strip mentioned how Arn and Maeve were co-regents of Camelot. King Arthur’s absense now has an explanation that I know. He retired to a monastery, where he could shelter from the trauma of leadership in a place of rhythm and structure. But as we also see, he’s ready to step in when he must deal with mundane problems.

This should catch you up to late April 2023 in Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant. If you’re reading this , after about July 2023 there should be a more up-to-date plot recap for you here. Thanks for reading.

Prince Valiant.

29 January – 23 April 2023.

With Dialyodd the Witch Hunter dead, slain by a fortuitous hail of stones from the sky, Prince Valiant looks to the aftermath. The math he wants after: what secret pact did Camelot have with the fanatic Dialyodd that he could go around burning accused witches? He’s in a good position to demand this of the regents of Camelot, as they’re his son Arn and daughter-in-law Maeve.

Arn’s reasoning is dreadful in its practicality. Saxons are attacking the west coast with greater intensity. Dialyodd defended Camelot in exchange for religious liberty that Arn didn’t know included burning women and children. Or claims not to have known, anyway. Arn throws his father out. And then throws himself out. He vacates his co-regency, recommending Queen Aleta take his place while he’s not there. Valiant knows where he’s gone.

After a day in the presence of their beloved former king, Val and Arn are gently urged to depart. They linger over goodbyes, fond sadness in their eyes. Arthur will have none of such sentimentality. 'Don't look so mournful - I'm not dead yet. We'll no doubt meet again ... now get out. You need each other's company more than you need mine.' Father and son, following Arthur's advice, ride away together. Both assume the wear of itinerant warriors. They travel for a time in uncomfortable silence, as is their wont, before Arn offers: 'The strange thing is, he mentioned Dialyodd, although I never spoke specifically of that.' Val chuckles. 'I think our Arthur pays more attention to the outside world than one would expect of a monastic!'
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 12th of March, 2023. I am enjoying this story a good bit. It’s doing well at filling in backstory to the witch-hunter story that explains why Dialyodd would have been in the position he was. And to explore how someone can rationalize their way into a bad situation because there aren’t available ways to do better.

It’s to the monastery where King Arthur retired. Arthur understands Arn’s doubts about his own judgement. He offers that a ruler needs to know something of the conditions on the ground, and Arn might do well to get back to adventuring. Before Arn can consider the advice, Valiant arrives. Arthur won’t put up with their bickering and tells them what they need. It’s a father-son bonding trip, out to the west coast to see how Dialyodd got to where he could protect Camelot and kill women.

They journey west. Their first night camping in what we call Wales they encounter a pack of 1d4 wolves, scared off by fire. Further along they find what seems to be a shepherd’s home in good order, except for having no sheep, or anything but 1d6 drunk Saxon warriors inside. Arn and Valiant have no trouble capturing the Saxons. The prisoners spin a story that they’ve done no harm to anyone. They’d come that far inland searching for food, as the coast is starving, torn by war between mad lords.

And that’s what we know of the situation out west. Next week: to the sea.

Next Week!

For Prince Valiant that’s to the sea, anyway. For us, it’s to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania? Enjoy a classic Bob Newhart routine with Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley next week, if all goes well.

To Say Nothing of How This Hurts Our Chili-Eating

I am so sad. I broke one of our good soup bowls. It wasn’t on purpose, I was just taking it out of the dishwasher and then it wasn’t in my hands but it was in four pieces. The worst part of this, besides that it wasn’t the good soup bowl with the unexplained ineradicable stain on it, is that now we’re stuck not being able to have anything but adequate soup until I replace it.

Well. It could be worse. Adequate soup is better, after all, than being stuck having disappointing soup. And soup does still remain the best way to have food but wet. And I know, you were thinking this was better than having poor soup. But I can’t say anything bad about poor soup, because the alternative is having to ladle soup, and none of our ladles are anything to say anything about.

I Am Ambiguously Reassured

So I had the realization that in the last seasons of Mork and Mindy, when Mork laid a giant egg and it hatched and it was his son? And he named him Mearth? That it was of course a parallel between Mork-from-Ork, so Mearth-from-Earth? Yeah so I realized this week that “Mearth” also sounds like “mirth” and was feeling bad that this is not just pretty obvious but also probably something they said on the show, which was an important one to me as a kid, because the only thing a TV show needed to be important to me was that it be pretty dumb.

Well, a friend tells me that no, the show did not make explicit that “Mearth” sounds like a word for making someone happy. That was left for us to figure out at home, I suppose, and it’s no shame if I took what must be longer than the median for that. Half of everybody does.

Statistics Saturday: Ranking of I-295’s

Location Ranking
Delaware/New Jersey/Pennsylvania Star Trek: The Original Series
Florida Star Trek: The Animated Series
Maine Star Trek: The Original Series Movies
Maryland/Washington, D.C. Star Trek: Enterprise
New York Star Trek: Voyager
North Carolina Star Trek: The Next Generation Movies
Rhode Island/Massachusetts Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Virginia Star Trek: The Next Generation

Reference: Sea of Glory: The Epic South Seas Expedition, Nathaniel Philbrick.

And Yet I Can’t Remember a Single Practical Joke

But you see I can’t have got out of the shower any sooner. I was busy thinking about how much of my life has been spent remembering the theme song to TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes, with Dick Clark and Ed McMahon. Certainly more time than I’ve spent thinking of the theme to TV’s Foul-Ups, Bleeps, and Blunders. Anyway I used the 1980s well, how about you?

What do you suppose they ever did with the host segments’ outtakes?

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 22

We’re drawing closer to the end of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Grumpy Weasel. All of my Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of it should be up at this link. Please let me know if there’s a chapter missing and then I’ll sulk about that all weekend.

Grumpy Weasel’s been having encounters with many of the residents of Pleasant Valley, most of whom don’t like him. Now that he’s escaped Farmer Green’s dog Spot, though, what other canids could possibly vex him? Read on …


TOM: Eggs and eyes?!


CROW: He warns he’s going to break into song.

JOEL: o/` I’m mean … you know what I mean … o/`

> Meeting Grumpy Weasel in the woods one day, Tommy Fox

TOM: Tommy Fox? The Dodgers pitcher?

> stopped to have a chat with him.

JOEL: Oh, it’s so nice to bring a chat, split it with friends, dip it in tea …

> He always liked to chat with
> Grumpy, it was so easy to get him angry, and such fun to see
> him fly into a passion.

TOM: Hey, that’s mean!

CROW: That’s like two-thirds of you and me hanging out, Tom.

> "You’re looking very elegant in your winter suit,"
> Tommy Fox remarked. "White is becoming to you

JOEL: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Yes, white be coming to me every winter and be leaving every summer.’

> —there’s no
> doubt of that. And that black tip on the end of your tail is
> just what’s needed to complete your costume.

TOM: Without it your tail would be infinitely long.

> It matches your
> eyes nicely…. You must have a good tailor."

CROW: Are you trying to seduce me, Mrs Robinson?

> People were apt to be wary of Tommy Fox when fine
> words dripped from his mouth like that.

JOEL: [ As Tommy ] ‘Dripped? I enunciate clearly, my good narrator!’

> It usually meant that
> he was bent on some mischief.

TOM: Never ignore the predator’s drive to just mess with folks.

> And now Grumpy Weasel looked at
> him suspiciously.

CROW: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Well, we’ve known each other our entire lives but I’m only going to act on what you say and do right this minute.’

> "If you admire my clothes so much why don’t you get
> some like them?" he demanded.

JOEL: Jeez, learn to take a compliment, Grumpy.

> Tommy Fox shook his head mournfully.

CROW: [ As Tommy ] ‘No, no, we foxes must be Naked Boot People if we’re to remain true to the model of Sonic’s sidekick Tails.’

> "I’d like to," he said, "but I’m too humble a person
> to dress like a king, in ermine.

TOM: By the Dead Milkmen.

> My family have always worn
> red.

CROW: Foxes stand for the liberation of the world from class warfare.

> The neighbors wouldn’t know me in anything else.

JOEL: What about your Robin Hood costume?

> Or if
> they did they’d say I was putting on airs."

TOM: And if I want to put on airs I’m going to dress all in balloons.

> "If you want to know what I think, I’ll tell you that
> red’s entirely too good for you," Grumpy Weasel sneered.

CROW: [ As Tommy ] ‘What do you think of orange for me?’

TOM: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Too loud.’

CROW: [ As Tommy ] ‘How about green?’

TOM: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Too immature.’

CROW: [ As Tommy ] ‘Fuchsia?’

TOM: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Nothing but vaporwave purple!’

CROW: [ As Tommy ] ‘Chartreuse?’

TOM: [ As Grumpy ] ‘That ought to be what we call heliotrope!’

> Tommy Fox smiled somewhat sourly. Grumpy Weasel’s
> remark did not please him.

TOM: Hey, *you* started it.

> But he managed to say nothing
> disagreeable.

JOEL: [ As Grumpy ] ‘I disagree!’

> "I suppose," he went on, "you’ve met the newcomer in
> our valley who dresses as you do, in white and black?"

CROW: Johnny Cash and his evil twin?

JOEL: Boss Hogg and his good twin?

TOM: Pepe le Pew?

> "What’s that you say?" Grumpy Weasel barked.

CROW: [ As Tommy ] ‘That’?

TOM: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Yes, that that! That’s the that you said!’

> "Who’s
> gone and copied my cold-weather clothes?

CROW: Grumpy believes in fashion copyrights!

> If I meet him I’ll
> make it hot for him."

JOEL: Grumpy’s going to be so embarrassed when it’s Mildred Weasel.

TOM: Funny thing is on a date he’s a perfect charmer.

> "Perhaps I shouldn’t have mentioned the matter,"
> Tommy Fox said softly. "I don’t like to displease you.

CROW: [ As Tommy ] ‘Well! Say, did you ever think of re-racing Jimmy Rabbit?’

> And I
> don’t want to get a stranger into trouble either,

JOEL: But that’s the best kind of Western, where a stranger’s in trouble.

> just as he
> has come to spend the winter amongst us.

TOM: Black-and-white visitor for the winter … are they getting polar bears? Or penguins?

> "And besides," Tommy added, "it would be a shame for
> you to quarrel with the stranger because he happens to choose
> your favorite colors.

CROW: Quarrel over something meaningful instead, like a Star Wars movie.

> That only goes to show that your tastes
> are alike."

JOEL: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Well, I do like tasting people.’

> "That’s exactly what I object to!" Grumpy Weasel
> complained, getting much excited.

TOM: [ As Chico Marx ] ‘I abject!’

> "If his tastes are the same
> as mine he’ll want to come and hunt along my stone wall.

CROW: Hey, you only use that stone wall to check for holes going halfway through!

> And
> there’ll be trouble if he does that! The fur will fly!"

JOEL: Turns out the visitor is a hot-air-balloon and …

> Tommy Fox turned his head away,

TOM: Sorry, no room on the shoulders, already got Snuffy Smith filling up the spot.

> for he simply had to
> enjoy a grin and he didn’t want Grumpy Weasel to see it.

CROW: Y’know the law says your boss has to give you one break to grin for every four hours you work.

> "I’m sorry I spoke about the stranger," he said
> glibly,

TOM: I just assumed you had read Camus.

> as soon as he could keep his face straight.

JOEL: Oh, he’s corpsing, they’re going to have to do the whole scene over.

> "But I
> thought the news would please you."

CROW: [ As Tommy ] ‘Ah well, off to mess with Albert Alligator’s head.’

> "It would certainly please me to meet him," Grumpy
> Weasel declared fiercely.

JOEL: Careful, this is how Miles Archer got it.

> "And it would please me much more
> than it would him, I can tell you."

TOM: [ As Tommy ] ‘Imagine that!’

> "It wouldn’t be treating a newcomer well to let him
> wander through the woods when you feel as you do about him.

CROW: If the stranger’s a birch tree he’s just being part of the woods.

> I
> ought to warn him to leave Pleasant Valley before it’s too
> late," Tommy said.

TOM: Maybe he can stay if he covers himself in polka dots?

> "It would be treating him better to give him a good
> lesson before he goes," Grumpy Weasel said.

CROW: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Do you still have that talk you gave about the historical Sparta?’

> "You needn’t say
> a word to him about my wanting to meet him.

JOEL: [ As Grumpy ] ‘I’ll tell him I want to meet him when I meet him! So there!’

> Let the fur fly
> first! And then he’ll flee.

TOM: Easier said than done.

CROW: No, no it is not.

> "That’s my way of getting rid of strangers!"

JOEL: Grumpy is a firm opponent of gentrifying Pleasant Valley.

[ To continue … ]

Explaining myself now … Joel singing ‘I’m Mean’ references Robert Altman’s Popeye and one of its more charming but less written songs. The Dead Milkmen riff comes from thinking ‘A king, in ermine’ to ‘The King in Yellow’ and from there it’s a toss-up whether the original story or the album is the better joke. The riff about chartreuse reflects my own feelings about the color. Miles Archer is the redshirt other detective from the first 20, 25 seconds of The Maltese Falcon.

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? Why didn’t the last two stories finish? January – April 2023

THe last two stories in Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy did finish, with reasonable enough conclusions. They share the quirk that both had a big, unresolved piece, and the same one: a mysterious person putting out a hit on Dick Tracy, and Tracy doesn’t know who or why. OK, that’s not a unique element in Dick Tracy stories. One of these may be setting up a future story. The other is a sort of prequel. So the coincidence in resolution is probably coincidence.

This all should catch you up to mid-April 2023 in the comic strip. If you’re reading after about July 2023, I probably have a more current plot recap here. I’ll also post any news I need to share about the comic at that link. Now on to the action.

Dick Tracy.

29 January – 15 April 2023.

Team Tracy was taking all-around forger Art Dekko into custody. While they walk him to the car, a sniper on the roof of a nearby building shoots at him. Or at Dick Tracy; they don’t know. Tracy has Dekko and Officer Lee Ebony indoors while he chases the sniper. The sniper is Kryptonite, or was, as he and Tracy shoot each other, Tracy more successfully.

Art Dekko: 'Tracy, who was shooting at me?' Tracy: 'Dekko, how do you know they were shooting at you? I might have been the target. In any case, he won't bother anyone again. The shooter was the contractee known as Kryptonite. We've been after him for a while.'
Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 8th of February, 2023. Though the characters don’t know who the target was we the audience do. Kryptonite said to himself he recognized the yellow trenchcoat as Dick Tracy and that “I’ll bag him someday”. He, uh, doesn’t.

Art Dekko spins a tale of how the mysterious 99 coerced him into forging a Leonardo da Vinci painting. The attempted murder is evidence for his story. Tracy’s able to find evidence linking 99 to various extortion and money laundering schemes. She’s escaped to Miami, though, and we overhear her on the phone talking with someone who promises, “listen to me, 99, and you’ll always be one step ahead”. Who is doing the speaking? And what for? We don’t know, as of the story’s close the 25th of February.

The 12th of February was a week of reruns, a repeat of the Minit Mystery solving the death of Ultraman TV star George Reeds. It’s a one-week story and the mystery is solvable from the clues we get, so, do enjoy. It was an oddly-timed interlude in the conclusion of the Art Dekko story.

The 26th of February started the just-concluded story. It’s told in flashback, Dick Tracy telling Sam Catchem of the time he met Nero Wolfe. Yes, that Nero Wolfe, of many charming cozy mysteries. Also a couple of old-time radio series that are free for the listening. The best-cast is the one with Sydney Greenstreet as Nero Wolfe, although none of his actual stories were adapted to that series. Nero Wolfe is a massive detective who would rather not leave home, good day. His factotum and right-hand snarker Archie Goodwin goes into the world to gather evidence and flirt with any women who happen to be in the story. Wolfe solves the crime, he prefers, without standing up.

Tracy’s story starts with Archie Goodwin appealing for Dick Tracy’s help. Nero Wolfe’s been kidnapped, he says, and is somewhere in Tracy’s distractingly unnamed city. What Archie knows: Wolfe got a telegram of such import that Wolfe left home without eating dinner. It’s a turn of events so unlikely that Nero Wolfe fans hearing about this right now are writing Internet Angry comments about how no he did not. He did so, and Archie has the telegram to explain it. The telegram sender offered Nero Wolfe some of Basil St John’s unique black orchids if Wolfe visits him alone. All those Internet Angry people are now saying, okay, yeah, that checks out then. Wolfe is even more motivated by orchids than Eugene the Jeep is. Tracy agrees to investigate Wolfe’s disappearance, even if it isn’t shown to be a kidnapping yet.

[ An undisclosed location ] A man brings in a cart of black orchids, saying, 'Mr Wolfe, I have a surprise for you.' Wolfe puts down his book and stands, overjoyed: 'Ah! The cypriped pubescens! They're beautiful!' Duncan, monitoring behind a one-way window: 'He's very excited, Mr Zeck.' Zeck: 'We'll give him a few more minutes and then take them away. After all, I did promise him black orchids.'
Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 12th of March, 2023. I’m not sure how Zeck got the black orchids. He claims to have snagged them from Basil St John (Brenda Starr’s beau), but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything besides that Mike Curtis knows he can tie in more references to things. (By the way that appearance of Oliver Warbucks back in late January hasn’t developed into anything yet.)

Wolfe, meanwhile, may be kidnapped but he’s having a fine time of it, mostly sitting in a chair reading while supervised by ‘Duncan’ and ‘Mr Zeck’. And this is a big tipoff to the Nero Wolfe fan. Arnold Zeck is a crime boss who appeared in several of Wolfe’s novels, in case you wondered whether Nero Wolfe had his own Moriarty. Of course he does.

After a week of this they give Wolfe the tease of seeing some black orchids. Meanwhile Tracy and Goodwin are on the trail by going around asking if anyone has seen a really fat guy. No, fatter than that. If you don’t understand how he’s moving without the aid of Oompa-Loompas you’re not thinking fat enough. This isn’t a fat joke because Nero Wolfe wears his enormity with pride and he’s got the coolness to back it up. I’ll get there.

Mr Zeck, meanwhile, meets with someone he’d like to hire for a second job. It’s Dick Tracy’s own Moriarty, Flattop, who’s happy to take on a kill-the-cop job. He figures he can roll it in with another bank job, even if his short-tempered big brother Blowtop doesn’t agree. The top brothers end up in a duel: Blowtop’s to do the bank job, Flattop to do the Tracy hit, and whoever brings in the most money for their work wins … uh … control of the family, I guess. And from the tone of this the hardcore Dick Tracy fan realizes this is not only a prequel to Nero Wolfe’s Moriarty. It’s also the prequel to Flattop’s adventure with Dick Tracy, a story that ended, reader time, before my father was one year old.

Nero Wolfe, on the street, agitated by a womN: 'Madam, you're mistaken. THESE ORCHIDS ARE NOT FOR SALE!' He sees Archie Goodwin: 'Archie? ARCHIE! Tell this woman I'm not selling my black orchids!' Archie: 'Coming, boss! ... Ma'am, if our brownstone were on fire and he could save only his orchids or me, I know who'd win.' Wolfe, to Dick Tracy: 'You seem familiar ... I'm Nero Wolfe.' Tracy: 'Detective Dick Tracy. Archie and I have been looking for you.' They shake hands. Wolfe: 'Dick Tracy! I've heard of you.' Tracy: 'Pleased to met you, Mr Wolfe!'
Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 2nd of April, 2023. I can absolutely buy Wolfe and Goodwin’s dialogue here, but I’ve listened to the old-time-radio series enough that I hear the actors performing it and adding their charisma to things. Anyway, yes, the resolution did end up being that once Nero Wolfe decided he’d had enough of this and was leaving, it was impossible to stop him. Fair enough.

Tracy, in a stroke of luck, spots the bank robbery as it’s starting. Flattop sees a chance to finish his side gig; it’s foiled when Archie Goodwin fires a warning shot. Mr Zeck is annoyed with Flattop, thinking now how he’ll have to deal with Wolfe himself. And no, he won’t. Nero Wolfe, having had enough of captivity, has taken his black orchids and left. He meets Archie and Dick Tracy as they were at the end of his trail. It’s like that episode of the Adam Weest Batman where he had to stop fighting the Green Hornet because plot got in their way.

Wolfe explains his escape, pausing to sneer at the ineptness of his kidnappers. All the time he spent “reading” was his studying the routines and operations of his captives and observers. When he knew Mr Zeck was gone he pulled out the knife he’d secreted on his person, a trick he learned in his youth as a spy. And tossed it right at some ambiguous but important part of Duncan’s body. With that, he got out to the street and phoned the cops. Along the way this freed some other captives we didn’t hear much about. Duncan and, we presume, Mr Zeck fled before the cops arrived and neither of our super-detectives know who was kidnapping them or why. But that is where Dick Tracy leaves off his reminiscence.

[ The Federal Bank robbery as retold by Brad. ] Brad: 'The leader wore a mask with a pair of dice on it. You know, Snake Eyes.' Sam Catchem; 'We'll get the security video soon. Is there anything else you remember?' Brad: 'Well ... the leader asked his guy to do something to a sign. That's all. ' Catchem: 'Thanks.' Officer: 'Excuse me, Detective Catchem . I saw what he's talking about.' Catchem: 'Yeah? Show me.' He sees a street sign with Boardwalk and Park Place on it: 'Oh, that's not right!'
Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 9th of April, 2023. From this I guess we learn Sam Catchem’s not a fan of Monopoly, probably more a Mice and Mystics player. Anyway, I know people just happen sometimes to be named Brad and it’s something they do all right, sometimes even thrive on. But ‘The Federal Bank robbery as retold by Brad” feels like a weird sentence. I can’t give a good reason why.

The 7th of April began the current story. A man with dice on his mask robs the Federal Bank (incidentally the bank that the Tops had tried robbing). He leaves behind a calling card: the street sign outside changed to show the intersection of Boardwalk and Park Place. And you get to thinking, wait, the new Dick Tracy villain is a guy who’s way too into Monopoly?

No, of course not, that would be silly. Gameboy, his name is, leaves a note behind referencing the Shenanighoul. This was a monster who appeared in the 1960s kids game show Shenanigans that I know from like two references on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Gameboy robs a rare prototype board game from the Toy Museum, and promises more. Sam Catchem has an idea for the next target: an 1860s Milton Bradley board game on display at the Gould Library. Sounds plausible to Tracy, at least, and me too. I don’t know in detail where this is going. But I too would bet on Gameboy trying to play his Get Out Of Jail Free card. We’ll see.

Next Week!

King Arthur is back in the days of Prince Valiant! And … he’s right back out again! What is all that about and why did we see him at all? I’ll finally recap the plot in Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant next week, all going well.

Why aren’t you explaining Dick Tracy today?

I’m sorry, just, stuff kept coming up. I should have kept Prince Valiant in this week since, while Dick Tracy didn’t have intensely complicated stories the last couple months, Prince Valiant had less story. Anyway, please enjoy something I never knew about Tastee-Freez: that it’s spelled “Tastee-Freez”. Also that it’s shipped from mountains by snow-bunny power under the supervision of Casper the Friendly Ghost gone through a chocolate fountain.

Tee and Eff, humanoid figures with chocolate- and strawberry-magic-shell hairs, ride in a sled filled with Tastee-Freez cones; the sled is pulled by a large rabbit. Tee declares 'The Tastee-Freez must go through!' and Eff, 'Hurray for the Bunny Express!' Tee's eyebrows are posed in a way consistent with his being angry.
Title panel from page three of Tastee-Freez Comics #2, published by Harvey Comics in 1957. Artist uncredited but I’m going to guess Warren Kremer may have had a hand in this. Anyway I don’t know why Tee, on the left there, is so angry. It’s just bunny-pulled ice cream-based product.

My Favorite Bad-Books Podcast Is Ending

This fits on my blog because it’s about something I reliably find funny. I Don’t Even Own A Television, a bad books podcast by J W Friedman and Chris Collision, posted its final episode, confusingly on the 1st of April. This wasn’t a strong surprise; they’ve dropped from posting two episodes a month to about two episodes a year, with apologies about how their lives had gotten to where they couldn’t read a whole bad book and talk about it for an hour-plus.

While not strictly a humor podcast, it’s hard not to be funny doing pop-culture reviews of, especially, things held in low regard. And the hosts try hard to be pleasant and positive about the books, increasingly as the series developed. They also got more sensitive to the ways snark will go wrong; an early episode attacks Jim Theis’s much-maligned The Eye Of Argon, the sort of easy target they repented of. As usual, the production got better as the series developed; as a rough guide, any episode from when Chris Collision became regular co-host is reliable. I particularly recommend any episode where someone thinks they have a deep philosophy, or a rock star remembers their life story as more enlightening than it was.

Besides that, and making something that deserve a heads-up from me before the end of the month: their Patreon is closing too, with the end of the month. They did a great number of bonus episodes over the years, sometimes movie or TV shows, sometimes magazines or comics books, sometimes miscellaneous oddities. In the final episode they said they intended to bring as much of this as they could to the podcast feed, a contribution now would let you download everything, now, and be sure not to miss anything. Worth considering.

And the Topic for This Weekend’s Slow Descent Into Madness Is

I’m not proud of this, but a part of my brain has decided that “rodeo” should be an anagram of “order” and it’s only getting more and more upset as the reality continues not to be so. I agree, on first glance they look like they should be anagrams, but they’re not, and just try telling me that. I’m not sure I can ask for society to change one of the words. I guess I’d ask for a change in “rodeo”, as that’s probably going to be the smaller hassle. But I doubt we could get that changed before I get distracted and move on to something else. I know the process. This isn’t my first roder.

Statistics Saturday: Grading the I-195’s

Location Ranking
Florida Acceptable
Maryland SafeAssign rates 85% confident copied off Florida
New Jersey Really good; just a little short
Rhode Island/Massachusetts Outstanding, top of the line
Virginia Inadequate
Washington, DC Overdue; see after class

Reference: The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography, Graham Robb.

Not Sure if That’s a Misprint or a Plan to Conquer Ogallala, Nebraska

So I was for some reason reading Speed Comics #1, with the thrilling yet dumb story of Shock Gibson, superhero and Pontiac Eight hood ornament. Anyway what looks like an ordinary story of grafters having taken over The City government by building a skyscraper on his own takes a twist. The evil Baron Von Kampf is trying to take over the world, starting by taking over this story that was by all rights finished. And, with Shock Gibson tied up and helpless he starts explaining his plan, complete with maps:

The evil Baron Von Kampf shows Shock Gibson a map with many major cities of the United States marked with dots, and explains his plan to destroy civilization: he and his zombies will conquer the United States first. The zombies he made from parts of animals and gave them radio control, to obey his every word. When Shock taunts the Baron he orders the zombies --- large, shaggy, one-eyed green things that look kind of cuddly, actually --- to throw Shock to the lions.
Page 18 of Speed Comics #1, cover date October 1939. Script credited to Maurie Rosenfield and Bill Scott, art credited to Norman Fallon but apparently there’s room for doubt in the opinion of I don’t know if it’s that Bill Scott. He would’ve been 19 at the time and living in Denver but that doesn’t seem impossible? Probably not, though. The Baron’s appearance feels like it’s maybe a racial stereotype but I can’t pin it down exactly past maybe “saw Nosferatu and had some flesh-colored eyeglasses”.

So, like, I understand that it’s 1939 and all, but his plan is to conquer the United States by going through Grand Rapids, Michigan; Duluth, Minnesota; and both Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania? And why is he sending his remote-control zombie animals to destroy Reno? Is he afraid his wife is getting a divorce that, have to say, I think she should be granted? How does Butte, Montana make the “take over by radio zombie animals” list while neither Annapolis nor Baltimore do? And not to make this all about New Jersey pride, shouldn’t the Picatinny Arsenal and the Springfield Arsenal be on the list, at least ahead of Parkersburg, West Virginia?

Also, I’m going to say it: those are some adorable robot zombie animals. No, I wouldn’t want a pack of them grabbing me and throwing me to the lions either, but if you saw one of them on Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends? They’d be some of the most snuggly good guys in the series. You know it’s true.

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 21

We’re drawing nearer the end of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Grumpy Weasel! The whole of my Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of the story is gathered here. No, I don’t know what I’m going to do when I finish this.

Previously on Grumpy Weasel, Grumpy escaped the predations of Henry Hawk and the watchful nose of Spot the Dog. But now it’s a new day, so who’s going to regret interacting with Grumpy Weasel now? Read on!




JOEL: And two pairs of pants!

TOM: For the weasel-taur.

> Throughout Pleasant Valley the very name of Grumpy
> Weasel was a bugaboo.

JOEL: o/` A bugaboo, a bugaboo, they’re in the air and everywhere! o/`

> Those of his size, and many a good deal
> bigger than he, learned early to avoid him.

CROW: Those much smaller than him, we don’t talk about.

> One of the first things Sandy Chipmunk’s mother did
> was to teach him to beware of Grumpy.

TOM: Remember to look both ways before crossing the weasel.

> And twice during his
> first summer Sandy caught a glimpse of Grumpy as he flashed
> past like a brown streak,

CROW: [ Gasping ] Rikki-Tikki-Tavi!

> with a gleam of white showing
> underneath.

TOM: Weasel now with a white stripe for fresher breath.

> It was lucky for Sandy that on both occasions Grumpy
> was intent on chasing somebody or other.

CROW: [ As Sandy ] ‘Wait a minute! I know somebody! … Or other!’

> And each time that
> Sandy told his mother what he had seen, Mrs. Chipmunk said
> that she hoped it would never happen again.

TOM: Just hurry on home to his singing career instead.

> "I’m glad that you know what he looks like, anyhow,"
> she added.

JOEL: Remember this fur.

CROW: It’s brown. Every fur in this *forest* is brown.

> "Oh, I’ll know him if I see him!" Sandy cried.

CROW: Meanwhile Sandy remains a background character in Grumpy’s life story.

TOM: No, Sandy’s front and center here. It’s *Grumpy* who’s background.

> "Don’t stop for a second look!" his mother warned
> him.

TOM: What about three glimpses and a sidelong glare?

> "I won’t!" he promised. "I won’t even stop to say,
> ‘How do you do!’"

CROW: Hey now, at this point you sound like *you’re* being the rude one.

> "I should hope not!" Mrs. Chipmunk said severely.

JOEL: Sandy trying to find any way out of this conversation.

> So Sandy Chipmunk went through his first summer on
> the watch for a long, slender, brownish shape.

TOM: ‘I see him!’

CROW: That’s a rabbit.

TOM: ‘Oh. Well, I see him there!’

CROW: That’s a muskrat.

TOM: ‘Oh. Wait, there he is now!’

CROW: That’s a squirrel … look, you know what isn’t a long, slender, brownish shape in the forest? Skunks, raccoons, bears, and opossums. Everything else?

TOM: ‘How about — ‘

CROW: *Deer*.

TOM: ‘Love!’

> But he never
> saw Grumpy Weasel again.

JOEL: So, uh, end of the chapter then, g’night everyone!

> And winter found the Chipmunk family
> all unharmed,

TOM: ‘Course there was the time the tree exploded but that’s not technically the *family* per se.

> and very comfortable in their cozy house below
> frost line.

CROW: Hey! No hitting below the frost line.

> On mild days Sandy liked to visit the world above and

TOM: … the mouse below.

> find a rock bare of snow, where he could enjoy the sunshine.

JOEL: And ask who’s been stealing all the snow.

> It was on one of those outings that he caught sight
> of a stranger headed for the stone wall near-by.

TOM: Suddenly a Western breaks out.

CROW: [ Gasping ] Gary Cooper!

> At first
> Sandy missed seeing him, against the snow.

TOM: [ Being nerdy ] Uh, did we not just hear the rock was *bare* of snow? Continuity goofs, people.

> But when he
> reached the wind-swept wall Sandy couldn’t help noticing him.

JOEL: Well hel-*lo* there.

> He was a slim gentleman and—except for his black-tipped
> tail—was dressed all in white.

CROW: Mark Trail?!


TOM: … Wait, what?

CROW: In the white suit.

TOM: You mean Mark *Twain*.

CROW: Yeah, that’s what I said — wait —

[ CROW groans, embarrassed, and falls over sideways ]

> After spending the winter underground

JOEL: Taking direct action against the imperialist war machine.

> Sandy Chipmunk
> was glad to talk with the first person he saw.

TOM: The whole forest trying to hide outside Sandy’s line of sight.

> So he called
> to the stranger that it was a fine day, wasn’t it?

CROW: [ As the stranger ] ‘The countersign! Oh what’s the countersign, uh, ‘It’s a good day for fishing if they’re not afraid of the sun’?’

> The other wheeled about so quickly that Sandy
> couldn’t help laughing.

TOM: [ Deadpan, without melody ] Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel.

> "Don’t be nervous!" Sandy cried. "I won’t hurt you!"

JOEL: Despite my chipmunk powers of recording a song about you!

> But the stranger didn’t answer.

TOM: Never give a songwriter something to sing about you.

> Once he opened his
> mouth. And Sandy Chipmunk had a queer feeling then that he
> had met the fellow before.

CROW: Sandy can’t remember names but he *never* forgets a face-sucker.

> That mouth had plenty of white,
> needle-like teeth. It had a cruel look, too.

JOEL: He’s meeting the month of April!

> Then the stranger jumped straight toward Sandy
> Chipmunk.

TOM: Oh no! He’s a hugger!

> And in that instant Sandy knew who he was.

CROW: Great, but can you have your epiphanies when your life’s not in danger?

JOEL: [ As Sandy ] ‘No! I realize I have to move to Hoboken and start a ska band!’

> No one
> could leap like that except Grumpy Weasel!

CROW: [ As Joe Friday ] M.O. checks out. This is a Grumpy Weasel operation.

> Sandy turned and ran madly for shelter.

JOEL: [ As Sandy ] ‘I should have gadded about the house all day!’

> Luckily he
> had the advantage of Grumpy in one way.

TOM: Is it the power of friendship? I bet it’s the power of friendship.

> He had a bare ledge
> to run on,

CROW: A bear’s ledge? How is *that* any better?

> while Grumpy Weasel had to flounder for some
> distance through a snow-choked hollow.

JOEL: [ Humming ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ ]

> So Sandy escaped.

TOM: What a clean old weasel.

> And it was lucky that Grumpy didn’t
> find the door to the Chipmunk family’s burrow.

CROW: Oh, you know Grumpy, he doesn’t catch anyone, he just gives them a little surprise workout is all.

> If he had he
> would have gone right in himself.

JOEL: And interrupt their recording session!

> Mrs. Chipmunk blamed herself for Sandy’s adventure.

TOM: Oh c’mon, you can’t blame yourself for stuff you weren’t even involved in, that’s kind of narcissistic.

JOEL: [ As Mrs Chipmunk ] ‘Oh yes, I feel so bad about that too.’

TOM: Cut that out!

> She had never remembered to tell her son that every fall

CROW: Follows a pride.

> Grumpy Weasel changed his summer dress for the one in which
> Sandy had just seen him.

JOEL: Changing his wardrobe out must hurt.

TOM: No wonder he’s so grumpy.

[ To continue … ]

To explain myself or my riffs. Hm. The Buggaloos, in the air and everywhere, were one of the Sid and Marty Krofft world of bonkers shows. One of the better ones, worth a watch. The Rikki-Tikki-Tavi reference alludes to Chuck Jones’s 70s cartoon adaptation, where the mongoose’s run is shown as a brown streak that catches up to where he stops. (If you’ve seen it you know what I mean.) ‘The world above and the mouse below’ references one of the Chuck Jones Tom and Jerry cartoons because I couldn’t think of what its title, The Cat Above And The Mouse Below, was references. (If anything.) The line about direct action references the Weather Underground, the anti-fascist ones rather than the weather web site. Sandy saying he should have gadded about the house all day is, of course, the necessary reference to The Sandy Frank Song.

Maybe Melt Some Butter and Sprinkle Garlic Salt Into It

So today I learn that the state has a Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board. (I bet Wisconsin is so envious.) Don’t worry, no, they do not meet in the Cherry Room or even the Carrot Room in the fictional town of “DeWitt”. No, it turns out their next meeting is the 26th of July, but it’s going to be a Zoom meeting.

But that’s their meeting to be open to the public. I’m sure that the Asparagus Advisory Board conducts regular business and will, when appropriate, issue an asparagus watch, sounding the alert that there might be conditions suitable for asparagus in the near future, or an asparagus warning, meaning that it’s time to take such action as appropriate for asparagus. I guess if we can hold out until July we can ask.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (weekdays)? Are tribesmen really going to conquer a prison? January – April 2023

Well, not only tribesmen. Women are there too. But yes, the current story in Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, has the Bandar tribe’s warriors attacking Gravelines. It’s the maximum security prison for fascist Rhodia. Tony DePaul has tried to make this a fairer fight. The prison’s a lousy posting. The already-lousy posting got a heap of new, under-trained soldiers. This is the consequence of cracking down after The Phantom broke The Trusted One out of the prison. And the Bandar have numerical superiority.

And most important, the battle is bonkers. Militias don’t attack maximum security prisons. It’s not something the prison guards could train for. The Bandar don’t even battle “correctly”, refusing to pick up the loot boxes the Gravelines guards drop when they’re killed. So there’s reasons to think Gravelines would be too confused to make a sensible response. Still, have to admit, I’d have to put my money on Gravelines. Except that the Bandars’ battle plan is being improvised and lead by The Phantom, which counts for a lot.

Lieutenant, storming into the command center: 'Lights, landlines, cellular, our radio repeater ... everything's down, warden! This is no breakout ... we're under assault!'
Tony Depaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 18th of February, 2023. This has got me wondering what actual prisons have in mind against mass assaults. I have to figure their training is built more around a riot inside the grounds and maybe a couple vehicles trying to crash the gates. Conceivably a helicopter grabbing someone out of the exercise area.

So this should catch you up to mid-April 2023 in The Phantom’s weekday continuity. If you’re interested in the Sunday continuity, or if you’re reading this after about July 2023, there’s likely a more useful essay at this link. Thanks for reading.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

16 January – 8 April 2023.

The Phantom, having relied on Mozz’s prophecy of wrack-and-ruin like a strategy guide, is still breaking Savarna Devi out of Gravelines. And then the whole Bandar nation rolls in as backup. Their poison-tipped arrows are great ways to kill the tower guards. Savarna, not one to escape quietly, grabs some heavy weapons to blow up the tower and alarm everyone. The Phantom wonders if this is Mozz’s prophecy, for all he’s worked to subvert it, will happen in substance anyway.

But also: how different could things go? And realizing he has considerable surprise, and numbers, and the chance encounter’s started anyway … why not do something really crazy? Why not try and get everybody out of Gravelines? Is that maybe the reason Mozz had his vision of wrack-and-ruin, and was set in motion to change that?

The Phantom, pondering, as the lights tower crumbles in the background: 'How much of his is Mozz and how much is beyond the ken of even that extraordinary mind? Might freedom for the innocent be the unseen good working behind the wrack and ruin of the Mozz prophecy? The unforeseen purpose of Mozz stopping me on the trail to Gravelines that day?'
Tony Depaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 10th of February, 2023. A thing that’s gone unexplored is: granted there are many prisoners kept there for acknowledging transgendered people have rights and that abortion is a necessity and other truths fascists can’t tolerate. But aren’t there surely people who are there for legitimate reasons, like the serial murder of sex workers? There’s hardly time to examine everyone and I realized it doesn’t matter. One hallmark of fascism is the disregard of truth in favor of power. In that condition no court judgement — which is, ideally, a determination of truth — can be legitimate. Even the guilty have to be treated as having been framed.

And so, with the 13th of February, we begin ‘Dungeons Undone’, the sixth part of this story since it began in May of 2021(!). It is about the assault on Gravelines. With a few interludes checking in on Diana Walker, who’s staying, along with Bandar non-combatants, on the Bangalla side of the border. Babudan, leading the warriors into Rhodia, secured her promise to stay in safe territory. He warned he could only keep one Walker safe and if he had to choose, he’d protect her. So she waits and thinks of what she read in the Chronicle of Mozz.

What she read was enough to tell Guran of the need to send as many people as possible to support her husband. Which is how he has a militia on hand to make this assault. He’s optimistic enough. He’s sure the prison guard morale is so low that they’ll declare they didn’t sign up to be poisoned by hundreds(?) of bow-wielding jungle-dwellers. And The Phantom can’t keep Savarna from blowing up stuff. Some of this is of clear tactical use, like the power plant. Some is targets of opportunity. Some is just, she set an egg in the microwave for ten minutes. All in the service of confusing Gravelines’s forces.

And they are confused. As mentioned in my preamble, the attack doesn’t make sense, at least by the standards they expect. The warden, lacking power and communications in the command center, decides to find the leader of the attack himself. He leaves behind a sergenat with orders to guard the command post with his life.

Sergeant, on the phone, looking over his shoulder at The Phantom: 'Warden, the commander of the assault, he's, uh ... well, he'd like a word with you, sir.' Warden: '!! He's *in my office*!? Which you, Sergeant, have *failed* to defend *with your life*!?'
Tony Depaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 6th of April, 2023. You have to admire The Phantom’s strength of will that he is not just breaking up laughing right now because, goodness but this is funny-ridiculous. And, you know, he is the costumed superhero who’s delighted at being a superhero. I guess he’s saving it for the Chronicle-writing.

The warden doesn’t find The Phantom because, you know that saying, he finds you. Or The Phantom finds the sergeant and the sergeant figures yeah, he doesn’t have to do this. The lieutenant calls his boss, and The Phantom urges the warden to set down his weapons, order as many of his men as he can get to do the same, and leave.

It’s transpired this week, so a little outside my scope here, that The Phantom is calling in the Jungle Patrol too. This makes some good sense, as the Jungle Patrol has modern equipment and could arrange, say, the air evacuation of hundreds(?) of Gravelines prisoners. On the other hand, as angry as Rhodia would (reasonably!) be at the Bandar attack, to have the Jungle Patrol join in will not make things better.

Next Week!

I’m shuffling up the order of these strips a little. So that brings me, sooner than otherwise expected, with … a guy who’s way too into Monopoly? I, too, am eager to know what’s going on in Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy and with luck will tell you in a week.

In Which I Am Not Angry at a Cardinal (Bird, That Is)

Honest, I’m not at all upset a cardinal wanted to spend so much time perched on my car. I like my car myself, it’s this nice shade of red and it’s behaved well in drives that have encompassed … uh … well, only three US States and a bit of Ontario right now. I’m just curious why he wanted to spend that much time on it. I’d think he had other bird stuff to do. Maybe he was just comparing red? Or maybe he was trying to convince other birds the he was friends with that shiny metal bird ten thousand times all the other birds’ size? I don’t know.

And Now With the Carrots

Continuing on the meeting locations of various state boards, it turns out the Michigan Carrot Commission holds its meetings in the Cherry/Asparagus Room of a facility in DeWitt. I get their having a Cherry Room, because this is Michigan. Cherries are crazy important here. Like, if you just stand next to a native Michigander for about ten minutes they’ll mention the cherries thing. We once had a tree we couldn’t figure out how it got into our backyard and when we finally cut it down it turned out it was a cherry tree that never got around to any cherry-making. It trusted we wouldn’t cut down an inconvenient tree if we knew it was a cherry tree and, come to it, we might not have at that. So, fine, the Cherry Room.

It’s the asparagus. When you think of Michigan agriculture, do you think ‘asparagus’? No, you do not. You’d think carrots way before you thought of asparagus, even if you’re part of the Asparagus Growers Association. How does asparagus rate sharing a room with cherries? How do carrots not? Carrots might not be anywhere near as big as cherries. I mean in importance to Michigan’s self-esteem. Carrots qua carrots are larger than cherries. (See figure one, omitted for clarity.) Also where does the state asparagus board meet, in the Carrot Room?

DeWitt is an imaginary town, claimed to be a suburb of Lansing, but I’ve asked and nobody knows what direction “DeWitt” is or how far away it might be.

Statistics Saturday: Most and Least Common Dates for Easter

  • Most Common: Sunday, April 15
  • Second Most Common: Sunday, April 10 or 19
  • Second Least Common: Sunday, March 22
  • Least Common: Thursday, August 15, 1816

Reference: The King’s Best Highway: The Lost History Of The Boston Post Road, The Route That Made America, Eric Jaffe.

This Feels Like an Incomplete Explanation

I realize that everyone’s situation is complicated and there’s stories behind what we see but I also feel like Sammy has to be leaving out parts of the explanation. Like, I know I grew up in the 70s and things were more open-minded then. And also our schoolteachers liked showing us movies where, like, the green people learned there was no reason to hate the purple people once they tried talking to them and stuff. This taught me well in that I harbor no conscious prejudices against green or purple people.

Title panel for 'Sammy Centaur', a (human) centaur boy. In the first panel his mother, at the door, asks, 'Sammy - why don't you play with other kids?' Sammy answers, 'Cause I'm a half-horse!!'
This is the title panel and adjacent panel for a two-page story on page 12 of Li’l Pan Comics #7 and while that story is fine I can not advise reading the whole story. Li’l Pan — a genial satyr kid who just wants to play music everyone can dance to — is pleasant enough and reveals a surprising gap in the Harvey Comics universe. But this story is about a search around the world and it is nothing but ethnic stereotypes the way 1947 can deliver.

Allowing for nostalgia, though, I think at least in my group we weren’t going to refuse to be friends with a kid because he was half-horse. You just needed some interesting trait to make up for it, like your family had the basement with a million wood blocks of irregular shapes and the continuous electric power strip reaching around the whole baseboard that you could plug anything into anywhere, or you had a Coleco Adam, or something like that. I’m sure Sammy could rise to that level.

Have to admire the artist’s decision to answer the question “how would a centaur wear pants?” with “wrong”.

MiSTed: The Tale of Grumpy Weasel, Chapter 20

I hope you’re still enjoying my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction here. The whole of my treatment of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Grumpy Weasel should be at this link. I apologize for running late this week but I had a good reason: none at all.

Last time you’ll recall Grumpy Weasel escaped the dread Henry Hawk by jumping into a brown jug. Ah, but how is he going to get out of the jug? And if you don’t see how that can be a story you need to read chapter twenty of the Grumpy Weasel story!

> XX

JOEL: Someone punched out the story, it’s got X’s in its eyes.


TOM: When you’ve already paid.

> Inside the jug,

CROW: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Get my mouthpiece on the horn!’

> where he had hidden to escape Henry
> Hawk, Grumpy Weasel yawned widely and licked his chops.

TOM: Oh, at least he has something to snack on while he waits, that’s nice.

> He
> was having a dull time,

JOEL: He should just skip to the next scene then.

> waiting until he was sure that Henry
> Hawk had given up the chase and gone away.

CROW: [ As Grumpy ] Are you still out there?

JOEL: [ As Henry ] No! I mean! … Oh, you *are* a wily one.

> In a little while Grumpy believed he could venture
> out in safety.

TOM: A little Squirrel Scout came out to ask if she could walk him across the road.

> But suddenly, to his great disgust, a wagon
> came clattering in from the road

CROW: Aw, great. Tourists.

> and pulled up right beside
> the pile of empty barrels near him.

JOEL: Oh, he would get stuck the day the cooper-monger came to review the wares.

> It was Farmer Brown, driving his old horse Ebenezer.

TOM: Who’d just been visited by the Ghosts of Preaknesses Past, Present, and Yet To Come.

> And of course Grumpy Weasel didn’t care to show himself just
> then,

JOEL: Weasels are known to be weak to horse types.

> especially with old dog Spot nosing around.

CROW: Hey, we can ask Spot about that capture Fatty Raccoon was talking about!

> He had
> already heard Spot give several sharp yelps.

TOM: Spot is reviewing things left and right! He can’t be stopped!

> "That old dog knows I’m here somewhere

CROW: I mean, you’re always *somewhere*.

TOM: Not if you don’t have object permanence!

> but he can’t
> tell exactly where," Grumpy said to himself.

JOEL: Aw, go ahead and tell him, he won’t gossip.

> "He can yelp his
> head off, for all I care."

TOM: Not in the Snuffy Smith way! That way’s odd.

> And then Spot began to whine, and run in and out
> among the barrels,

JOEL: Hey, those aren’t barrels of wine.

> until he all but tripped Farmer Green, who
> was loading the barrels into the wagon.

TOM: Sneaking more Marx Brothers into the story!

> "Let him whine!" said Grumpy Weasel softly.

JOEL: Oh please don’t, it makes the neighbors tense.

> "His
> yelping and whining don’t scare me. He can’t get inside this
> jug of mine.

TOM: This little jug of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

> And I certainly shan’t leave it so long as he
> stays here."

CROW: Once he leaves, though, maybe I shan.

> Meanwhile he could hear Farmer Green talking to old
> Spot, telling him not to be silly.

JOEL: [ As Spot ] ‘But … I got my clown makeup out and *everything*’!

> "From the way you’re acting anybody might think there
> was a bear around here," he told Spot.

TOM: [ As a Bear ] ‘I am! … … uh … rawr?’

> Old dog Spot explained to Farmer Green in no
> uncertain fashion that it was no bear—but a weasel

CROW: Or as the Germans call them, ‘a sneaky pounce bear’.

> —that
> he was looking for. His nose told him that.

JOEL: Tattletale!

TOM: Tattle*nose*.

> And there was no
> mistake about it. But somehow Farmer Green couldn’t
> understand a word he said.

CROW: Try telling him in Law French!

JOEL: Why?

CROW: I just like there’s such a thing as ‘Law French’.

> So after putting the last barrel
> on the load Farmer Green climbed up himself and started to
> drive off.

TOM: Donkey Kong: The Prequel Menace.

> But old dog Spot wouldn’t budge an inch.

CROW: Inches are the most stubborn creatures on the farmyard.

> He hovered
> about the jug where Grumpy Weasel was hiding and made such a
> fuss that Farmer Green looked back at him.

TOM: Little nip for the dog that bit you?

> "Well! well!" he exclaimed.

JOEL: [ As Farmer Green ] ‘A dog that can hover! You’re sure to win the County Floating Contest!’

> And he stopped the horse
> Ebenezer and jumped down and walked back again.

CROW: [ As Ebeneezer ] A visitation from the Ghost of Small Errands Yet To Run!

> "I declare I’d have forgotten to take this jug if you
> hadn’t reminded me of it," he told Spot.

JOEL: Farmer Green believes his pets worry about unfinished chores.

> And thereupon he
> picked up the jug and set it in the back of the wagon.

TOM: Old Weasel, 100 proof.

> This time Spot followed.

CROW: Follow the Spots.

JOEL: Leaves a little dotted line like Billy in The Family Circus.

> This time he was in the
> wagon before Farmer Green was.

TOM: He wants the front seat.

> And all the way down the road,
> until they reached the farmyard, he acted (or so Farmer Green
> told him!) like a simpleton.

JOEL: [ As Farmer Green ] ‘Yep, ol’ Spot, it’s really easy. They’re going to look at my jug full of weasel and they’re going to say, ‘Now, Daniel Green, we know you can’t build a full-grown weasel in a bottle like that, and we know you can’t fit a baby weasel in there and grow him up inside, so how did you get a full-grown weasel in side there?’ And I’ll slap my knee and tell them, ‘It’s all easy once you remember that my first name is Richard’.’

> The whole affair made Grumpy Weasel terribly angry.

TOM: Luckily, ‘Angry’ is his middle name.

CROW: You suppose his parents named him?

> He thought it was an outrage for Farmer Green to kidnap him
> like that.

CROW: Well sorry, I don’t see *you* suggesting better ways to kidnap yourself.

> And he was so enraged that he would have taken a
> bite out of anything handy.

JOEL: Even crime.

> But there wasn’t a thing in the
> jug except himself.

TOM: And he can’t do that, that’s Meany Weasel’s thing.

> At last the strange party drew up in front of the
> barn and stopped.

CROW: ‘Strange’ party?

JOEL: Yeah, like you have to come dressed as your third-favorite commedia dell’arte character and the music is entirely that twenty-minute cover of ‘Sex Dwarf’ that sounds like it was done tranquilized.

> Farmer Green led Ebenezer into his stall.

TOM: But could not make him drink.

> And then he took the jug, with Grumpy Weasel still inside in,
> and in spite of Spot’s protests set it high up on a shelf in
> the barn.

CROW: [ As Farmer Green ] ‘A little treat for later.’

> It was easy for Grumpy, after that, to crawl out of
> the jug.

JOEL: [ As Grumpy ] ‘Says you!’ (Thump!)

> He scurried along the shelf, climbed up the wall,
> and glided through a crack in the ceiling,

CROW: Um, excuse me, where was it established there were cracks in the ceilings before? Deus ex machina anyone?

> to hide himself in
> the haymow above.

TOM: o/` Haymow, haymow, my boyfriend’s back. o/`

> "Old Spot didn’t get me this time!" he said
> gleefully.

JOEL: [ As Spot ] ‘Let’s try it again, I bet I get farther!’

> "Not by a jugful, he didn’t!"

CROW: Not by a jugful?

TOM: It’s an old-timey expression because it’s literally true!

[ To continue … ]

Ebeneeer Horse gets a Ghost of Thing Yet To Come twice here because I don’t know when I’m going to get more chances to use the joke setup. Also I wrote this in two bursts of work and forgot what I used in the first segment. Yeah, the Snuffy Smith line references the recent wild discovery about his body integrity. Besides that, though, there’s not a lot needing explanation here. Thanks for being with me through it.

What’s Going On In Little Oop? Are they not in the Stone Age anymore?

There is, once more, not enough story in the Sunday Little Oop installments of Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s strip for me to do a narrative recap. I’d like to, yes, but all I could do is repeat the strips without saving you any work besides looking at pictures.

The last couple weeks, though, have done something with Penelope trying to fix her time machine and return to the present. In particular, it’s now reached the point where it can send them through time but she doesn’t have control over where or when they end up. I know, I’m excited by the prospect of a comic strip adaptation of Voyagers! too.

Penelope and Little Oop zang!ing into a room. Oop: 'Whoa, your time machine is working again, Penelope!' Penelope: 'Sort of. I can't seem to control where or when we end up.' Oop, pointing to a wooden printing press: 'What is this? Some sort of panini maker?' Penelope: 'It's a printing press! We arrived in the 15th Century, right after Johannes Gutenberg printed his very first leaflet.' Oop, handing over a sheet of paper: 'What's it say?' Penelope: 'Make money from home selling essential oils and spaetzle to your friends and family. Not a pyramid scheme!' ... 'That's not how I expected to use my one semester of German for the first time.' Oop: 'Who cares? Just tell me where to sign up!'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 19th of March, 2023. OK, the advertisements are nothing but the stories those pamphlets will spread to keep you reading? Those can be something else.

I don’t know if this reflects a permanent change in the strip’s premise. It seems fair after having spent a year or so with Alley Oop trapped in the present, and then Penelope stuck back in the Bone Age, that they should shake it up again. A while spent lost in time could be fun, if also close to the comic’s day job.

Also, this is a fun day to talk about Alley Oop a little more as we’re on the anniversary of when Doc Wonmug was first introduced, back in 1939, and turned a caveman comic strip into a thing still going 84 years later. GoComics has that ancient story, so you can read how Alley Oop first came to the modern day and punched out a train. And now you’ll go and check whether that actually happened. Enjoy!

What’s Going On In Alley Oop? What was that fungus woman’s dark secret? January – April 2023

The dark secret of Myc, the alien fungus creature who adopted Alley Oop and Oola as parents, is that she didn’t have one. That story, which was under way when I did my last recap, surprised by having no heel-turn or particular shenanigans. It was a story of Alley Oop and Ooola experiencing something strange and wondrous. I liked it. The gentleness is a nice change of tone. But I speak as a fan of Hal Clement’s and Clifford Simak’s science fiction novels, in which everybody’s pleasant enough and nothing all that bad happens [1].

So this should catch you pu to early April 2023 in Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop. If you’re reading this after about July 2023, I hope to have a more up-to-date plot recap for you here. I’ll also post there in case there’s news people should hear from me for some reason.

Alley Oop.

9 January – 1 April 2023.

Myc, a fungus from beyond space, had settled in Alley Oop’s cave. She reveals that she has botanical powers, having the ability to make watermelons blossom, if that’s what watermelons do, at will. She has a desire to help humanity. Under her vaguely defined spell Alley Oop recognizes fire as hot without sticking his hand in, for example.

Ooola, at Myc's deathbed: 'So this is it, Myc? Are you leaving us?' Myc: 'I am. I'm glad you were my parents, even if I only lived for four days. It was the best four days of my life. But as a fungus, I'll always be here. I'll be an unseen part of the soil, sharing my wisdom. Maybe someday we'll meet again.' (She evaporates.) Alley Oop: 'Come back! I just thought of a really great Dad Joke!' Ooola: 'I think we chanterelle see her any morel.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 20th of January, 2023. Alley Oop and Ooola as parents is pretty much the goofball-dad/sensible-mom but it still worked nicely, to me.

But Myc grows old, a decade or more each day. Soon she’s quite old, promising that she’ll always be a part of their lives. And, as she’s got a root network dug deep through Moo, she’ll be able to re-emerge in human form some also. She does die in the human way, though, and Our Heroes reflect on the strange wonder they’ve experienced.

Returning to Doc Wonmug’s lab in the present day they learn Myc has re-manifested as human several times. And Wonmug met her, back in 1982, in her seventh time growing above ground.

We then get a little interlude, less than a week focused on lab assistant Ava Peckedge. She’s been particularly starved for attention in the Lemon/Sayers run. A couple days of her trying to invent and finding she’s no good at it isn’t much, but it might be a seed for a story.

An actual story got started the 30th of January. And it’s wrapped up this past week, making this another suspiciously well-timed installment for me. It begins with Octavius Scrod, who wants their help finding the pearl of Queen Conger, recently-deceased queen of Aquatown. This is an Atlantis-like place, only real. He claims the pearl has sentimental value and he tosses around bags of money to get it.

There’s more than sentiment: he claims to be the son of Queen Conger and rightful owner of the pearl. Our Heroes aren’t going to turn away many sacks of money. They sail to the Arctic Circle, finding the location of Aquatown by the hole in the ocean where its hot spring surfaces.

Haddock: 'Allow me to formally introduce myself. My name is Detective Haddock.' Alley Oop, sulking: 'Haven't we been in enough jails in the multiverse?' Haddock: 'I'm looking for help with something very important, and you three seem perfect.' Wonmug: 'As it happens, we're actually rather busy.' Haddock: 'I need you to guard the pearl of Queen Conger.' Wonmug (nervous): 'I don't know ... ' Haddock: 'Why not? Are you planning on stealing it?' Alley Oop: 'How does he ... oof' (as Wonmug elbows him in the stomach) Wonmug: 'We'll take it! The job, that is. Not the pearl.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 25th of February, 2023. Mostly I like the dynamic that the stuff Our Heroes expect to be hard is easy instead. It does mean we miss out on things like the heist that would have involved stealing the pearl, though.

Doc Wonmug, Alley Oop, and Ooola dive down. (They have gills for this story because genetic engineering blah blah go ahead.) On entering the reclusive Aquatown they’re approached by Detective Haddock,. He hires them to guard the pearl of Queen Conger while he does some business. This sounds like a nice easy mission, then.

It goes wrong within minutes. Or days, reader time. The pearl’s stolen. They go to the police where they discover nobody’s ever heard of a Detective Haddock. There’s a Prince Haddock, but he was a jerk and everyone’s glad they kicked him out of the royal family. So we have a nice twist here: Haddock had hired these strangers as guards while he stole the pearl, the better to make his claim for the throne of Aquatown.

Scrod shows up, having somehow heard they’ve botched the pearl-theft mission. And Ooola asks a quite good question; why do they care who takes the throne of Aquatown? Why not just leave? Wonmug and Alley Oop have the only good answer, which is, who wants to miss Drama like that?

Wonmug: 'Deciding who gets the pearl is a nearly intractable problem. To solve it, I took inspiration from a very famous judge.' Alley Oop: 'TV's favorite sassy judge, Sassy Judge Nancy?' Wonmug: 'Since you both want the pearl so bad ... I shall cut it in half!' Haddock: 'Oh, okay.' Scrod: 'Works for me.' Wonmug: 'Hey! That's not how it's supposed to go.' Scrod: 'I suppose we could cut *you* in half.' Wonmug: 'OVERRULED!'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 25th of March 2023. Left unaddressed in all this is who Aquatown figured their ruler would be. Haddock had been kicked out of the royal family. Scrod wasn’t it, since he didn’t have the pearl. We’re told that Queen Conger died only days ago, so fair enough if they haven’t done formal coronations and all that. But someone should’ve been heir apparent and we don’t get any of their side.

Wonmug tries to come up with some reasonable way of deciding who should get the pearl. Nobody’s got any good ideas, so he suggests cutting the pearl in half. (This gimmick, by the way, is also being used in the 1956-era Vintage Phantom comics running on Comics Kingdom. In a marginally more serious story the Wambesi and Llongo tribes are fighting over rights to use a river dividing their lands. So The Phantom, with the Bandar people, is damming up the river to split it into two.) Wonmug, who hasn’t caught on to how nonsense flows around here somehow, is surprised they’re both good with this. But good, as Alley Oop’s already split the pearl. Haddock will take one half and rule Aquatown; Scrod will take the other and rule the land from his base in Schenectady.

All told, a happy enough ending. Apart from being paid; Scrod isn’t willing to pay for Our Heroes achieving nothing of what he hired them for. (Well, they got him half the pearl.) Also, Scrod didn’t realize there’s already rulers for pretty much all the spots on Earth. Ooola offers that he could rule some patch of the Arctic Circle, if he wanted. And we close on him ruling the polar bears hanging out above Aquatown’s hot spring.

That brings us to this weekend, so that brings me to looking at …

Next Week!

On this side, a maximum security prison with guard towers and machine guns. On the other side, a tribe of jungle-dwellers equipped with arrows and the element of surprise! Who will win? Oh, also the jungle-dwellers have Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom on their side. Place your bets before next week when I hope to look at the longest-running story in the funny pages right now. See you then, I hope.

[1] Yes, I have read Simak’s 1939 Cosmic Engineers, in which boring people of the far-future year of 1939 But Set In 6939 blow up seven-eighths of the universe because another universe full of baddies is crashing into ours. Don’t you make the same mistake.

In Which I Must Live With My Shame

I realized this weekend I completely failed to do any of the March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing that was such a great gimmick for me last year. I was looking forward to a month of nice, easy writing for months and then forgot I had an excuse to do it again. And now I’ve remembered when there isn’t even a molecule of March left in the year. And I can’t just start out with, like, an April Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing. That’s the wrong level of awkwardness in the name. But what can I do, send an appeal to the Commissioner of March for an exception?

Statistics March: I have pictures again

I went to the bother to get pictures from WordPress’s new and yet worse statistics page. So I can give you bar charts and that smaller, less-clear map of the world they’ve put on us. And, what the heck, I can quantify how people have been interacting with my blog by reading, liking, or commenting on it recently.

In March 2023, there were 5,336 pages viewed here. That sounds pretty good until you hear that the twelve-month running mean, for the period from March 2022 through February 2023, was 5,730.5 page views. The median for that period was 5,491.5 page views. This turns out to be the third month of slight decline in page views and I don’t see why. It’s not like I’ve been trying to be less interesting.

And maybe I’m not precisely? There were 3,072 unique visitors here in March. That’s above the running mean of 2,959.8 and running median of 2,870.5. That number’s been bouncing around the last couple months, but it’s the highest figure I’ve had since September 2022. So maybe I’m better-liked now.

Or maybe not. There were 116 likes given here in March, way below the running mean of 143.3 and median of 141.

Or maybe so after all. There were 80 comments in March, above both the running mean of 68.8 and the running median of 70.5. It’s down from February and January, but those were abnormally busy months compared to, like, spring of 2022.

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months hovering around 4500 views per month, without strong direction one way or another, until a new peak emerged in April 2022. A smaller peak reappeared in August 2022 and September 2022.
I feel like I’ve reached a new plateau with my readership, which is the signal for me to start getting really nervous that I’m not at a higher plateau, but also to have no idea what to do about it. I guess I could start reviewing Popeye and Son, that would be something.

As ever I like to check what my most popular posts of the month were and it’s usually comic strip stuff. March was pretty normal in that regard:

Chapter seventeen of The Tale of Grumpy Weasel was the most popular of those, which must reflect that Fatty Raccoon bump.

Speaking of readership bumps, I expect to have one this month as people find my post about which color Paas tablet matches which color egg. But also that my What’s Going On In … series is drawing up on some of the most popular strips. My schedule for this month is to give plot recaps for:

There’s a small change in the ordering there. I pushed Prince Valiant back a week. This is so that, at least while I’m covering Olive and Popeye, there’s four weeks between the story strips that aren’t dailies.

Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink.
Another month, another failure to arrange a clean sweet of South America.

There were 93 countries, or country-like things, sending me page views in March. Here’s who they were, so far as they can be known:

Country Readers
United States 3,694
Canada 162
United Kingdom 139
Italy 124
India 109
Australia 107
Philippines 91
Germany 81
Brazil 73
Colombia 72
Finland 44
Sweden 43
El Salvador 39
Norway 35
France 33
Argentina 29
Spain 29
Japan 24
Poland 24
Denmark 22
Netherlands 18
Austria 17
Mexico 15
Ukraine 15
Hong Kong SAR China 14
New Zealand 14
Indonesia 12
Saudi Arabia 11
Singapore 11
Thailand 11
Romania 10
Serbia 10
Belgium 9
European Union 9
Ireland 9
Russia 9
Peru 8
United Arab Emirates 8
Kenya 7
Malaysia 7
Chile 6
Greece 6
Pakistan 6
Puerto Rico 6
Vietnam 6
Croatia 4
Egypt 4
Guatemala 4
Israel 4
Latvia 4
Sudan 4
Taiwan 4
Turkey 4
Bangladesh 3
Bolivia 3
Bosnia & Herzegovina 3
Cyprus 3
Ecuador 3
Hungary 3
Jamaica 3
Kazakhstan 3
Mali 3
Nigeria 3
South Africa 3
Uruguay 3
Venezuela 3
Algeria 2
Brunei 2
Cape Verde 2
Guadeloupe 2
Luxembourg 2
Portugal 2
Sri Lanka 2
Switzerland 2
Trinidad & Tobago 2
Zimbabwe 2
Azerbaijan 1
Bermuda 1
Curaçao 1
Czechia 1
Gibraltar 1
Honduras 1
Iraq 1
Jersey 1
Kyrgyzstan 1
Morocco 1
Panama 1
Papua New Guinea 1
Paraguay 1
Slovakia 1
South Korea 1
Tanzania 1
Unknown Region 1

That’s 17 single-view countries, or 16 depending on what Unknown Region is. I don’t remember ever seeing that before.

WordPress calculates that as of the start of April I’ve had a total 354,590 views from 199,023 unique visitors. I’m curious who visitor 200,000 will be; if you figure you are, please say something. I don’t know how you’ll know. I’ve had 3,711 posts total, that have gathered a total 5,932 comments. And I’ve posted 44,414 words so far this year, averaging 494 words per posting this year.

Thanks to all of you for being readers, and I hope you’ll stick around for a bit more of that.

Statistics Saturday: Things I Correctly Remember About _Charles in Charge_

  • There’s no explaining how the theme song didn’t end up on the Top 40 pop charts.
  • New boy in the neighborhood
  • Lives downstairs and it’s understood
  • He’s there just to take good care of me
  • It started on some network. I know it wasn’t NBC. I feel like it was CBS except they already had Who’s The Boss?, right? So I guess it must’ve been on ABC instead?
  • Like he’s one of the family
  • Charles in charge of our days and our nights
  • Charles in charge of our wrongs and our rights
  • The opening started with that van driving around the woods … no, wait, that was Who’s The Boss?.
  • And I (something)
  • On reflection most of what I remember about this show was actually about Who’s The Boss? instead.
  • I want Charles in charge of me

Reference: Just One More Thing: Stories From My Life, Peter Falk.

Wait, you can just pop Snuffy Smith’s head off like it was nothing?

This changes everything!

Loweezy: 'Lawsy me!! Whar am I? What happent?' Circus Ringmaster: 'You fainted, madam --- you looked inthe tiger cage and - PLOP!! - out you went.' Loweezy: 'SHORE --- now I reckymember! I had me a dretful vision --- I thought I seen my man Snuffy standin' thar wifout no punkin' haid' Ringmaster: 'Oh, SURE!! He lost his head, lady, but he's okay ... BOTH OF HIM!' Loweezy, looking in the tiger cage 'I SWOW! Ye shore had me scairt thar fer a secont, paw.' Snuffy's inside the cage, his detached head on the ground, drinking from the jug of corn squeezings that his body holds in its hands.
Fred Lasswell’s Barney Google and Snuffy Smith for the 19th of October, 1948, reprinted the 30th of March, 2023. This is at least as exciting as the time in the vintage Wizard of Id comics where the King of Id spent a week being a rooster.

Seriously, I have been reading this comic my entire life and I had no idea you could take his head off and, I assume, put it back on and everything would be fine. Why are we piddling around these days with stories where Snuffy helps Barney Google get over a woman dumping him when we could be seeing which characters can take off which of their appendages and still carry on their business? I’m not telling John Rose how to do his business, but I am saying we’re missing many possibilities in not making human jigsaw puzzles out of the cast.

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