What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Why does everybody want Wilbur dead? October 2021 – January 2022


Wilbur Weston has been, the past couple months of Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth, a Nice Guy. That is, he’s been one of those guys so sure that he’s lovable he’s failing to give the target of his affection reasons to put up with him. Not since the faltering days of For Better Or For Worse, when Granthony whined to Liz “I have no hoooooome”, has a character been quite this punchable. I mean besides Funky Winkerbean’s Les Moore, who’s in a class by himself because everybody you might put him with punches him and leaves.

But supporting him this way has been Mary Worth herself, who keeps telling Estelle, and the reader, that Wilbur has his flaws but has a good heart. Which, fine, but you can say that about almost everyone. Most of us know not to crash someone else’s date with passive-aggressive karaoke fighting.

That I write of “passive-aggressive karaoke fighting” lets you know this has been a glorious couple months for Mary Worth. Soap operas do well when they have emotions out of all proportion and leading to bad decisions with huge consequences. So this has been, culminating with a drunken Wilbur falling off the side of a cruise ship and washing up on an unknown shore.

So this should get you up to speed for mid-January 2022 in Mary Worth. If you’re reading this after about April 2022, a more recent plot recap should be at this link. Now let’s see why everybody wants Wilbur Weston to die already.

Mary Worth.

24 October 2021 – 16 January 2022.

After a humiliating date in which he called Carol “Estelle”, Wilbur agreed he’s nowhere near over his ex. He brings Estelle some take-out, confirming that she’s had enough of this. She appreciates the gesture of food, though, and the chance to meet his dog Pierre. Wilbur adopted the dog figuring it’d be a good way to meet women, without ever considering whether he knew a thing about dogs. Pierre likes her, and her cat Libby, more than he likes Wilbur.

Mary Worth tries consoling Wilbur by going with him to a karaoke bar. There, he sees Estelle and her date (her cat’s veterinarian). He can’t see a good reason not to sing a heartbreak song about how could she leave him alone. Wilbur’s day job, by the way, is syndicated newspaper advice columnist. It’s an irony not touched at all in the text. Estelle takes up the battle, singing Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”. He responds in kind. It makes a night so exquisite in its awkwardness the audience discovers four new dimensions of spacetime just to have places to look away to. Her date chews his own head off to escape.

[ When Wilbur sees Estelle with her date at karaoke, he engages in an angry sing-off with her ... ] Wilbur, singing: 'You told me you loved me ... why'd you leave me all alone?' Estelle, singing: 'We are never, ever, ever getting back together!' Wilbur: 'Now you're just somebody that I used to know!' Estelle: 'I'm going to wash that man right outta my hair!' Wilbur: 'We could have had it a-allll!' Mary Worth, thinking; 'Sigh! They seem to have unfinished business!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 14th of November, 2021. I mean jeez, Mary Worth, ya think? (I know, I know, it’s the reaction that Moy and Brigman want. I’m not embarrasse that they got it from me.)

The next day Wilbur apologizes to Estelle. And admits how he has no hoooooome and his dog doesn’t like him, so, would he want to take Pierre? She does. He goes off, feeling miserable, and buys some fish that he names Willa and Stellah. And — look, everybody has a right to mope and to self-pity and to putter around telling themselves how the world’s picking on them. That’s fine. But it’s hard for the reader not to notice that Wilbur fought pretty hard to get himself into this fix.

Mary Worth, meanwhile, visits Estelle to sing Wilbur’s praises. Estelle concedes that Wilbur has considerable good sides. We the readers haven’t seen much of this. But there is evidence of it. He likes doing interesting things. He’s able to keep a writing job in this economy. He’s got a writing job where they pay for him to travel around the world. When we see him on a successful date, it’s always, like, him and his partner singing. That is, doing something together without fear of embarrassment and without either person having to be center stage. This might not convince you. But every text asks you to accept there’s more stuff going on than it can show. And this does give a prima facie case for Wilbur as someone you might enjoy hanging out with.

Thing is, Wilbur provoked their breakup because he couldn’t stand the cat meowing along while he sang. And ignored Estelle’s pleas by locking the cat out of the room. He wouldn’t accept that they won’t sing a recording-studio-quality rendition of “Thank You For Being A Friend”. He adopted a dog figuring hey, dogs are chick magnets. And when he did attract a woman, he talked to her about Estelle until she fled. And then picked a passive-aggressive karaoke fight. At least he wasn’t embarrassingly drunk this time, but, he’s done that to Estelle in the past.

Mary Worth, baking muffins and thinking: 'Wilbur's a good guy. He's not Mr Suave ... he's more of a 'diamond in the rough'! And although some may say 'too much rough' and 'not enough diamond', there's *someone* for *everyone*! Perhaps Estelle is that someone ... '
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 24th of November, 2021. Putting aside the [ citation needed ] tags here … one thing prominently missing in the story is Mary Worth learning how Estelle feels about Wilbur’s “roughness”. Estelle admits to missing him, and that she can “be myself around him”. But Mary Worth never seems to ask whether that’s enough reason for them to be together when, I mean, look at the mess Wilbur made because the cat was meowing too much.

So this inspired the question: does Mary Worth know how bad Wilbur can be? Mary Worth giving advice that turns bad seems to have great story potential. But she was at the karaoke fight. She has to know if he’s a work in progress, the progress is going like the Second Avenue Subway did.

Estelle meets up with Wilbur while walking her pets. They agree they miss each other, and Wilbur promises to try harder to get along with Libby. And to make it up to her. They get together and Wilbur brings a chew toy for Pierre, and is actually nice to Libby. So it may have been a lot of needless pain getting here, but he is at least being a better person.

Wilbur suggests they take a three-day cruise together, and Estelle is up for it. They leave their cat and dog with Mary Worth. (Mary Worth will do anything except marry Dr Jeff to help people take CRUISE SHIPS into their lives.) And we see today-the-18th that she’s also feeding Wilbur’s fish. I know just enough about fish to know a tank as small as he has is going to need regular water checking and changing, though I grant that’s hard to make visual.

Mary Worth takes the week before Christmas to congratulate herself for shoving these two together. She has a good time walking Pierre and Libby. In what we readers now realize was irony, she almost wishes Estelle and Wilbur would extend their cruise.

[ As Estelle and Wilbur enjoy their cruise ... ] Estelle: 'Dinner was *so good* tonight!' Wilbur: 'It was fantastic! And so are you! Stell, honey, I love you! Will you marry me?' Estelle: '!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 3rd of January, 2022. It is so hard to believe Wilbur isn’t a person who’ll put fifty cents in the “Smash Your Head With This Clown Hammer That You Can See Hanging Above You” vending machine a second time.

On the cruise, Wilbur asks Estelle to marry him. He can’t see any reason for them to wait. She can’t see any reason for them not to wait. Wilbur storms off to get drunk. In that state, he falls off the ship, and King Features Syndicate opens an RIP Wilbur Weston store. (You can buy posters, even framed posters, of most any comic strip they run, not just plot-bearing strips. The “Where There’s A Wilbur” T-shirts and mugs are novel, though.)

Wilbur, at the side of the cruise ship, mourning, to himself: 'I asked her to marry me ... and she said no ... after some drinks, I feel better alread-ee! I feel like ... I'm KING OF THE WORLD! I bet I could do LEO'S POSE too ... just like in Titanish! I don't even need Kate Winglet! ... Hic! ... Or Stell! ... ' (He climbs onto the railing.) 'LOOKIT ME! I'M KING OF THE ... ' And as he falls into the sea: 'WORRLLD - D - ! !'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 9th of January, 2022. So, another irony that hasn’t appeared in print, although it might get some mention yet. Wilbur Weston got his second newspaper column, and the one that supports him travelling around the world, when the CRUISE SHIP he was on capsized and he escaped that disaster. (He interviews people who survived some disaster or crisis that could have killed them. This feels like more of a 1950s column to me, but the subject matter sounds like something for a podcast you’d think about listening to.)

Estelle notices he’s missing, and coaxes the ship’s crew to search for him. They find the security camera footage of his fall overseas, and go to search. But it’s a large ocean, and Wilbur has … already washed ashore on some island, somewhere. Strange development that keeps him from being dead.

Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!

  • “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” — Groucho Marx, 24 October 2021.
  • “The past is never the past. It is always present.” — Bruce Springsteen, 31 October 2021.
  • “Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.” — Hippocrates, 7 November 2021.
  • “Where there is anger there is always pain underneath.” — Eckhart Tolle, 14 November 2021.
  • “More people should apologize, and more people should accept apologies when sincerely made.” — Greg Lemond, 21 November 2021.
  • “Before you quit, try again. Before you leave, get back in.” — Michael Bassey Johnson, 28 November 2021.
  • “We’re all a little weird and life is a little weird.” — Robert Fulgham, 5 December 2021.
  • “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” — Samuel Beckett, 12 December 2021.
  • “Live a life of gratitude, giving thanks in all circumstances.” — Dr Mary C Neal, 19 December 2021.
  • “Music is very spiritual. It has the power to bring people together.” — Edgar Winter, 26 December 2021.
  • “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘it will be happier’.” — Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1 January 2022. Special non-Sunday bonus quote!
  • “Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.” — John Barrymore, 2 January 2022.
  • “Everything is a reaction.” — Robyn Hitchcock, 9 January 2022.
  • “The breaking of a wave cannot explain the whole sea.” — Vladimir Nabokov, 16 January 2022.

Next Week!

In his weekday continuity The Phantom faces the harrowing forecast that if he frees Savarna Devi — to whom he owes his wife’s life — from death row he will cause the destruction of everything his family stands for. In Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom Sunday continuity, things are a bit less dire. The Phantom’s making sure two Mori teenagers have a pleasant time in town. I hope to recap that side of The Phantom here, in a week.

Wait, did Funky Winkerbean just give his wife the helmet Bull Bushka died in?


I … don’t think he did? But to me and everybody else who reads and remembers stuff from Funky Winkerbean, this Sunday’s strip was weird.

The thing making it weird is that when Coach “Bull” Bushka died, a couple years back, in the comic, he was wearing his old Westview Scapegoats football helmet. This was actually made a point of the plot, for reasons I won’t get into. It’s not something you can just ignore like Phil Holt’s death. But this is why a Sunday strip intended to be a quick smile was instead all flabbergasty.

Funky, to his wife Holly: 'The Doctor said it was okay for you to start putting weight on your foot as long as you use the crutches.' Holly, looking up from the crutches :'I'm not worried about hurting my foot. I'm worried about falling on my face with these crutches and knocking my front teeth out!' Funky, on the phone: 'Linda, do you still happen to have any of Bull's old ... ' And it stops there. In the last panel we see Holly wearing Bull's old Westview Scapegoats football helmet and looking much more confident in her walk.
Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean for the 16th of January, 2022. I’m not going to knock Holly for worrying about skipping on the crutches; if the sidewalks in her town are anything like ours, there’s a couple of well-cleared ones (eg, mine) and then a bunch that are slicks of ice with a layer of fine powdery snow on top. (The crutches look too short for her, to me, but I am also, sincerely, willing to attribute that to artistic license, as a way of showing that she’s unsteady in a way that communicates clearly in still pictures.)

Anyway, as the Son of Stuck Funky folks noted, it appears Linda gave the helmet that her husband died in to his friend Buck, who I’m almost sure had a last name. It’s plausible that Bushka, who coached Westview football for decades, had a couple extra helmets kicking around. And I’ll suppose this is what Batiuk meant us to see in this strip. Just … wow, did this joke not land anywhere with regular Funky Winkerbean readers.

Where did _Baby Blues_ go? How can I express my anger at _Funky Winkerbean_?


And, heck, here’s a couple small comic strip bits of news. The first is that Jerry Scott and Rick Kirkman’s very popular longrunning comic strip Baby Blues changed syndicates this week. As the Daily Cartoonist reports, they moved from King Features Syndicate over to Andrews McMeel Syndication. The actual change happens the 1st of February.

The part that affect readers is that since the strip is leaving King Features, it has already left Comics Kingdom. And, as is Comics Kingdom’s way, they’ve removed the strip from their web site. GoComics has put Baby Blues up here, with strips starting from this Wednesday the 12th already in place. Jerry Scott said, on Daily Cartoonist, that they are working to get their archive of strips on GoComics. I don’t have information whether that means going back to the comic’s start in 1990, or “only” strips going back to when Comics Kingdom (and before that DailyInk) got organized.


And if you’re like me, you’ve been angry at Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean this past year, but can’t remember what specifically for. Oh, yeah, it was Les Moore. The Son of Stuck Funky snark blog is having its first Funky Awards, with voting through to the 16th of January. You can cast you Google Forms vote here. Among the many categories are Best Strip, Worst Strip, Story Arc of the Year, Standout Unnamed Character, and Most Punchable Les Moore. That last is a prank, of course, since every Les Moore is more punchable than every Les Moore before.

What’s Going On In Mark Trail? Why is Mark Trail worked up about NFTs? October 2021 – January 2022


In the last scene of The Stingiest Man In Town, the 1978 Rankin/Bass adaptation of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge tells Cratchit to burn some more coal. Cratchit asks if that’s good for business and Scrooge laughs it off as good for humanity. The irony is it has turned out burning coal is extremely good business, as it’s catastrophic for humanity.

So this should catch you up to early January 2022 in Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail. If news about the strip breaks, or if you’re reading this after about April 2022, a more up-to-date essay is likely here. And now let’s get on to explaining the past three months of story.

Mark Trail.

17 October 2021 – 8 January 2022.

We had two and a half stories going on when I last checked in on the Lost Forest. One was Mark Trail’s assignment with former rival/high-speed-pursuer Diana Daggers. It’s to investigate a shipping company spreading zebra mussels. One was Diana Daggers’s breakup with her pop-science star friend Professor Bee Sharp. And one was Cherry Trail’s efforts to move a bee colony before its extermination. Each has advanced some. I’ll take each strand as a separate thing.

Cherry Trail’s first. She’s been landscaping for the Sunny Soleil Society. Their statue of the Forest Pioneer got colonized by bees. Society chair Violet Cheshire hires “Honest Ernest”, the new pest control guy in town. Also husband of one of the Society members. So she calls on her friends with the Black Rose Garden Club, who plan a daring nighttime bee-relocation heist.

[ Mark Trail takes on Honest Ernest and the Exterminator Gators in a bid to save the bees on the explorer statue. Just another night for Mark. ] Honest Ernest: 'How can you stand in our way? We're hardworking Americans doing an honest job. You must not be a true American, Mark.' Mark Trail: 'That's where you're wrong! True Americans care about preserving America's environment! Not profiting from it! We need all these bees to pollinate our crops so we can eat! Bees are dying en masse due to climate change. Saving them is saving ourselves.'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 15th of December, 2021. Just wanted to brag that I saw Honest Ernest and the Exterminator Gators play at Common Ground music festival and they were a better-than-you-expect Devo cover band.

Honest Ernest and his staff intrude, though. Mark Trail arrives, fighting them back with nature facts and a shovel. It’s a powerful combo and lets the Black Rose sneak off with the bees. But there are consequences: Caroline (Ernest’s wife) complains to Cheshire about the bee-napping. Cheshire cuts through the charges and counter-charges of trespassing and whatever bee-napping would be. If the bees left on their own, why, there’s no need for a bee-extermination contract. Cherry agrees, falsely, that sometimes bees just go off somewhere else. And that, you know, the Sunny Soleil Society building likely has termites that could actually use extermination. Cheshire’s up for that and we have a settlement that’s happy except for the termites.


DuckDuckGoose Owner: 'How can my company 'spread invasive species' when I don't even know what that means?' Assistant: 'Sir, I'm sorry to say nature writers will attack hard-working American business owners just because they hate capitalism.' Owner: 'Mark Trail is a menace! How do we stop him?' Assistant: 'Sir, I have a solution. We'll make sure Mark Trail does not turn in that article. ... Right, Boffo?' Boffo, in the distance, taps his hat.
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 23rd of October, 2021. The villainy here might seem unsubtle but, no, it turns out society’s villains are pretty much just this.

Mark Trail’s story next. This was about taking underwater photos of Duck Duck Goose freighters, carrying zebra mussels into new waters. Daggers thinks the photos are lousy, but Mark Trail’s old army buddy, and De-Bait Team member Cliff, likes them. Trail and Daggers work on reporting how the giant shipping company is polluting new territories. So, Duck Duck Goose sends some toughs around to bust things up.

Mark Trail, Daggers, and Cliff are able to escape, thanks in part to Daggers swiping Cherry Trail’s shovel earlier. They hole up in the De-Bait Team lodge, a more defensible retreat, or at least one that’s harder for Duck Duck Goose to find. Much of the attention shifted away from Mark to Cherry at this point. It left me confused whether the zebra-mussels storyline had dried up, when I was reading day-to-day. Like, had Mark Trail published and I missed it? No, the story was moving to the back of the stage for a bit.

[ Mark decides to reason with the large, scary corporate goons threatening him and his friends. ] Boffo, banging the door: 'If y'all don't come out and talk, we're coming inside!' After Mark Trail opens the door, Boffo asks, 'Are you Mark Trail?' Mark Trail: 'Yes. Can we discuss this like resonable --- ' Boffo punches him in the face as the other goon calls out, 'Boffo!' [ But you can't reason with corporate goons! ]
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 1st of December, 2021. Wow! Where does this come from besides the entire and complete history of labor-capital interactions?

And Mark Trail continued thinking, not only how to report on Duck Duck Goose, but also how to stop them bringing zebra mussels into the Lost Forest’s waterways. In a moment that ran, for us, on Christmas Day he noted how poinsettias are not actually poisonous, but have this reputation. That “if we can look intimidating to Duck Duck Goose, it might be enough to get them out of our waters”. I don’t know what that would entail either.

Poinsettias, according to the National Capital Poison Center, can cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea if eaten. But they are not actually dangerous to children or pets. Quite inconvenient, though, it appears.


And the last thread, generally, Diana Daggers’s things. She came to the zebra mussels story miserable after an unexplained breakup with Professor Bee Sharp. As Cliff and Mark Trail came over to make amends, she explained. She was getting paid with Non-Fungible Token money. Much as she misses Sharp, she couldn’t take money literally raised by destroying the planet.

[ Professor Bee Sharp is about to learn why you shouldn't go into business with NFTs ... the hard way! ] At a photo shoot for NFT mintings, a goat starts to eat his lab coat, and keeps pulling ripping it, as Sharp protests, 'Hey, wait! Stop!' Rob Bettancourt, and the other onlookers, start to chant: 'Goat that coat! Goat that coat!' As Sharp mourns 'My lab coat!' the narrator warns: [ NFTs: They will tear up the environment, and they won't stop there! ]
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 13th of November, 2021. I mean, on the one hand, this is something that could happen at any photo session and is the result of animals being animals, and not your props. On the other hand, NFTs are ecocidal scams so if we slap them down for the wrong reasons, well, they still needed the slapping.

So “Cricket Bro” Rob Bettancourt had the brainwave to sell NFTs of all sorts of Bee Sharp-focused nonsense. Bee Sharp stuck through Daggers leaving. But he was shaken when a photo shoot results in a goat tearing his lab coat, and leaves. It pains me to admit NFTs can’t be blamed for that, although if it gets someone to stop making a mistake, fine.

We learn that when Bettancourt calls Mark Trail, offering to make him the face of his NFT projects. How this is going to fit into the zebra mussels story is not yet known. Catch you in April. We should have some idea then.

Sunday Animals Watch

So here’s what nature events we’ve been seeing on Sundays. Nearly all of them have been reflected in the weekday continuity, too. It’s a nice tight integration of things.

  • Bees, 17 October 2021. Who has a bad word for bees, at this point?
  • Trees, 24 October 2021. Similarly, they’re still doing a lot of great work.
  • Bats, 31 October 2021. They’re doing good too although I’d like them out of the attic when convenient, please.
  • Skunks, 7 November 2021. So last summer I was walking late at night and saw a skunk shuffling along. And then saw a cottontail rabbit charging at the skunk and dashing back away, charging up and dashing away. It’s the aggressive get-out-of-here move rabbits sometimes do. I got out of the area and lost them in the night after that and I just hope that scene worked out the way the rabbit imagined it would.
  • Goats, 14 November 2021. Lot of people have good things to say about them.
  • Bees, 21 November 2021. Look, if you’re not sold on bees by this point I don’t know what the trouble is.
  • Turkeys, 28 November 2021. Everybody likes to talk about the dubious legend about how the turkey was almost the United States’s national bird, but do we ever talk about how turkeys have pretty near the same body plan as peacocks? If they’d done a little work on their coloration every New World nation would want them as national birds.
  • Garden Clubs, 5 December 2021. Get yourself a garden club that’ll sneak out in the middle of the night to steal a beehive, is what we’re saying.
  • Salamanders, 12 December 2021. Which have not appeared in the comic strip recently. Might be a setup to something later on.
  • Climate Change, 19 December 2021. It’s hard work to do anything to remediate now, but the alternative is even more, harder work, later on.
  • Poinsettias, 26 December 2021. Also, you can keep the one you get at Christmas and nurse it through the year. You have to do something I don’t understand to get them to bloom at Christmas, but it’s doable.
  • Cryptocurrency, 2 January 2022. Guh. Could we please not, for once, everybody?
  • Zebra mussels, 9 January 2022. Which had a Sunday panel appearance back in August, too, but the problem (and plot) have been sticking around.

Next Week!

Is Wilbur Weston dead, and why does everyone want him to be? Come with me on a CRUISE SHIP in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth, next week, if all goes well.

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? Are they making a Gasoline Alley movie? October – December 2021


In the strip, as I write this, someone’s making a movie in Gasoline Alley. I trust it’ll involve the characters of the venerable comic strip. Still, it raises the question: wait, did they never make a Gasoline Alley movie? Like, back in the 40s or 50s when every comic strip turned into a movie? Indeed, they did, with two movies in 1951: Gasoline Alley and Corky of Gasoline Alley.

There were also a couple of radio versions of Gasoline Alley. The 1941 NBC version, according to John Dunning’s On The Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, was a daily serial that adapted that day’s newspaper comic. I know they only had to fill ten minutes of airtime, and that comics were more densely written those days. I still can’t imagine how you pad one day’s comic out to that much time. I can’t find any recordings of the 1941 run, though, and wonder whether it’s unavailable or whether it’s held by collectors who haven’t put it on the free-download sources.

So this should catch you up to the end of 2021 in Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley. If you’re reading this after April 2022, or if any news about the comic breaks, I should have an update here. And on my other blog, I’ve been sharing some older writing, while I get the energy to finish last year’s little glossary project. You might enjoy it also.

Gasoline Alley.

10 October – 31 December 2021.

The Gasoline Alley forest rangers wanted to hold a Halloween party, last I checked in. The young, bear-befriending Aubee and Boog suggested the Emmons house, vacant since the widow Sarah Emmons died. It’s a fine, haunted-looking place, their mother Hoogy Skinner agrees. But she’s barely seen the spot when real estate agent Kim Luna arrives with the news it’s been sold, sight unseen. But the new owner doesn’t mind if the locals have a party as long as they don’t damage the place.

Kim Luna: 'Good news! The owner said you could use his house for the party ... but don't damage or leave it a wreck!' Hoogy Skinner: 'He hasn't seen it, has he?' Luna: 'No! He's from out of state and bought it *site* and *sight* unseen!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 26th of October, 2021. He bought a house in Gasoline Alley Town without even having real estate agent Kim Luna walk through it holding up a Facetime camera? This out-of-state owner is braver than Navy Seals. Also the comments on GoComics have charming messages of concern from people worried about the lawsuit potential everyone’s opening everyone else up to, here.

It’s a successful enough party to attract Snuffy Smith. Also Bearlee and Uncle Bearnaise, the wild bears that Aubee and Boog were hanging out with last plot recap. They give Aubee, who’s herself dressed as a bear, tips on how to act more authentic. The bears win the costume contest, because Jim Scancarelli likes writing that sort of gentle fantastic American Cornball plot.

Then, from the 9th of November, a second American Cornball plot intrudes. This one involves counterfeiters, who’d been using the place to store their product. I know what you’re thinking: oh, they’re the buyers of the house, right? But then why would they have allowed a party there? They’re not the buyers. They were just using the abandoned house. They never expected the place to get sold, nor that there would be a party there. If they had they’d have pretended to haunt the place or something. Still, they’ve locked up everything incriminating, so I’m not sure what they’re there to do. I guess they wanted the free food.

Bank robber, in front of a wall of cartoon characters including Pogo, Birdman, Ben Grimm, and Felix the Cat: 'Something's going on! There's a commotion over in the corner where our press and phony money is hidden, Boss!' Sophie, a little kid dressed as Amelia Earhart, opens the door and dollar bills pour out; she says, 'Blooky!' The Boss says, 'Not anymore, it isn't!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 12th of November, 2021. There is a strip where Sophie’s mother explains how she was able to pick the lock open: ‘Easy!’ And that’s all we get. Whether you see that as yeah, all the explanation the story needs (and a cute joke to finish it) or as an irritating dodge of the author’s responsibility to explain major developments probably says whether you should be reading Gasoline Alley.

And then one of the kids opens the locked door with everything behind. The counterfeiters fake having guns, by draping handkerchiefs over food. The partygoers think it’s a performance, and slowly realize it’s not. The cops show up fast enough, thanks to Boog calling them. The counterfeiters try to flee, but slip and fall on the broken beads of Ava Luna’s necklace. (She’s the daughter of the real estate agent.) And so all ends happily. Not for the counterfeiters, sent to jail. But Sophie and Ava Luna get rewards. And the party is the hit of the forest rangers’ families’ Halloweens.


On the 6th of December started the annual magic encounter with Santa. It sure reads like it’s the same night of the Halloween party. But Aubee, Sophie, and Ava agree it’d be great to visit Santa Claus. Ava even knows how to get there: she’s got a magic hat and doll.

Ava Luna, setting her magic doll Ida Noe on the table: 'I'll prove it works! OK, Ida Noe. Aubee, Sophie, and I are ready!' Ida Noe: 'Where do you want to go?' Ava: 'How about Santa's Workshop, North Pole?' Ida: 'OK! Pull down your hat!' Aubee: 'Uh! Wait a sec, Ava!' Ava: 'You scared, Aubee?' Ida: 'What's the hold-up?'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 11th of December, 2021. If you want you can say this was all in the kids’ heads, but then are you really getting into the Christmas story spirit? Anyway I’m a little surprised there wasn’t some allusion to the classic old-time-radio children’s Christmas serial The Cinnamon Bear. But it’s plausible there was and I missed it.

So you’re either in for this sort of light silliness, or you hate-read Gasoline Alley. I hope you walk a path chosen wisely. The kids blip up to Santa’s Workshop and meet Bunky the Elf, keeper of the list of good and bad kids. They meet the reindeer and see the sleigh’s loading dock. And even get to meet Santa Claus, who asks them to tell their parents that Santa still loves them. Again, you’re either in for this sort of thing, or you hate-read Gasoline Alley. (I don’t hate-read the strip.) Mrs Claus gives them cookies right before Ava wishes them all back home, where they wake up in bed with a tale their parents won’t believe. But also cookies, and where did they come from? Huh?


The 27th of December starts the new and current story, about a movie getting made in Gasoline Alley. It’s too soon to say where this is going.

Next Week!

Zebra mussels, bees, skulduggery, and NFTs! What else could it be but Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail, recapped, if all goes well? See you then. And until then, if you see something in nature? Please try not to mess it up. Thank you.

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? Were those drones from the future watching Dick Tracy? October – December 2021


The big storyline in Dick Tracy was set off by “Time Drones”. That is, the kind of hovering aerial camera/microphones used to record viral videos of drivers attempting the new traffic circle. The Time Factory blew up, though we saw many drones hovering over the ruins. And Smith asks if Tracy remembers “what my first time travel drone, the ‘mystery ship’, saw”. Tracy does, and Smith says, “I think that future is now”. Tracy’s memory is better than mine, or those of most readers. jonahhex1, a GoComics commenter, identified what all this was about. The fleet of drones was not from our, 2021’s, future. By “The Future” what was referenced was this moment from 2014, the story introducing the time travel shenanigans into our strip:

Diet Smith, explaining: 'As you remember, Tracy, my son, Brilliant, was killed by the criminal, Big Frost. I began project 'Blue Image' to go back in time and save him. I tried countless modifications. But it was impossible to dictate the era the 'Mystery Ship' would travel to. Each try became more perilous. So I stopped. Of all the images we received, the last was most telling. It was of this building, all gone but for some rubble atop its cornerstone, while aircraft filled the sky overhead.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 6th of November, 2014. I think we’re all impressed that Staton and Curtis dropped in something that they wouldn’t pay off for seven years. But I would like them to pop over and borrow some narrative bubbles from The Phantom because one little tag reading “Nov 6, 2014” would have saved me a lot of confusion reading the strip. Now on to resolving the haunting of B.O.Plenty’s home!

These drones, then, are not a fleet of onlookers from the future gawking at a major disaster. They’re just contemporary drones gawking at a major disaster. Diet Smith has said he doesn’t plan to build new Time Drones, and nobody’s been shown trying to change his mind.

This should catch you up to December 2021 in Mike Curtis, Joe Staton, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy. (Joe Staton stepped down from the strip in late October.) If you’re reading this after about March 2022, or any news about the comic strip breaks, I should have a more useful essay for you here.

And a last bit of self-promotion. While I’ve put my mathematics glossary project on a (brief, I hope) hiatus, I do still have what I think are quite nice discussions up there. And I’m bringing some older discussions out of the misty past, using the old-fashioned time-droning of going on at length. Thanks for considering my pop mathematics writing.

Dick Tracy.

3 October – 25 December 2021.

Diet Smith’s newest super-invention is the Time Drone, able to bring aerial surveillance to anyone, anytime, through all history. I know, you’re busy thinking how “the past” includes split-seconds in the past. But I ask you to consider how much this could mess up Silver and Sprocket Nitrate’s forged-historical-movies business. By day it offers glorious opportunities to historical and archeological researchers. By night it offers Sterling Eliot, Smith Industries mole on behalf of The Apparatus, the chance to find lost loot for the crime syndicate. And, for himself, a chance to look at this coming week’s lottery numbers. At least until the Time Drone apparatus explodes, killing Eliot and two others, and wounding Diet Smith.

Sterling Elliot, working the Time Drone apparatus; in view is a newspaper mentioning the $1.75 billion lottery jackpot. Elliot thinks: 'I've done all the footwork and erased the tracks for The Apparatus. After this trip, I can write my own ticket out of here.' Something goes awry with the Time Drone, that shivers and wobbles around uncontrollably: 'What? ... The diagnostics report was clear ... I CAN'T STABILIZE IT!' The Time Drone explodes, with the explosion going on to shatter the whole building.
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 17th of October, 2021. I’d thought the problem might have been the attempt to send a Time Drone into the future, rather than the past. But the ‘Mystery Ship’ went into the future all right, in that 2014 strip. I suppose we have to conclude it was just a mishap of technology that’s still young, even if it could be operated by a lone person, that caused Sterling Elliot’s untimely death.

Diet Smith convalesces under the care of Daddy Warbucks, a man who knows how to not get in trouble when people around him turn up dead. (Fun fact: both Oliver Warbucks’s first and second wives died while with him at sea.) Tracy, meanwhile, pursues Briar Rose. She was the Law Enforcement Magazine reporter who’d interviewed him the previous month, and was going on to interview Diet Smith. She was a fraud, not affiliated with Law Enforcement Magazine or any other magazine. It’s a slender lead, but the only one they have.

It’s also a good one, as she is under The Apparatus’s protection, whether she likes it or not. She has some criminal “business” going on, that I can’t quite get clear. But The Apparatus is the bigger fish, so if they say she has to work from their hotel room, she has to work from their hotel room. Ace of Spades, the head of The Apparatus, decides she’s a good one to take the blame for whatever the heck happened at Smith Industries. He has her put somewhere Dick Tracy can find her after her shocking death.

Briar Rose, being arrested: 'Yeah, I'm okay, but he was going to kill me!' Sam Catchem: 'He's not a problem anymore, Ms Rose. I'm Detective Sam Catchem. We've been looking for you.' Rose: 'I know. Take me to Dick Tracy. I'll explain everything to him.'
Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 15th of November, 2021. One can snark that this is another Dick Tracy mystery resolved by dumb luck. If Catchem hadn’t decided to try a new deli he’d have missed the whole thing. But Briar Rose’s offer to tell everything is motivated, at least if we trust she worked out that the promise of a ‘safe house’ was a lie. It’s a reasonable thing for her to work out, even if it was worked out off-screen.

Sam Catchem finds her, though, as she’s being moved in. It’s a lucky break; he happened to stop at the deli underneath the death-site apartment. He follows, catching and shooting the zentai-clad assassin holding Briar Rose. Rose is happy to flip, and I can’t blame her.

Dick Tracy moves fast, taking on the disguise of the Jack of Spades, Rose’s failed assassin. So he’s doing some actual super-detective work here. Mumbles takes him back to the Ace of Spades, who wants to know, where is Rose’s body? If Rose is dead, why was “Jack” unconscious when Mumbles recovered him? What about this makes any sense? And as it’s weeks away from my plot recap, they tear his hood off and reveal Dick Tracy. Meanwhile the cops, who’ve been listening over the two-way wrist radio, move in and grab everyone with a weird face or speech gimmick. Ace of Spades as well as Doubleup are able to escape through the plot tunnels, but otherwise it’s a pretty good catch of villains.


The next phase started the 11th of December. This with a museum exhibit on America’s Top Cop. That would be Dick Tracy, who’s been fighting The Apparatus (under various names) for 90 years now without clearing them out of the city. But then The Apparatus (under various names) has been trying for 90 years to kill Dick Tracy and that hasn’t taken. So Ace of Spades, from his new hiding place, hires Richard “Mr Bones” Bonhomme to take a shot at him. No rush, just, you know, succeed this time.

Blackjack: 'Mr Bones? From the DT Collector Forum?' Bones: 'Correct! I should have known you'd be here, Blackjack.' Looking over the Wall of Hats, Bones says, 'Ah! Even Dick Tracy has a collector's streak in him. Each hat represents a moment when he cheated death!' Blackjack, thinking: 'Except mine, of course.' Bones: 'Let's take in the rest of the exhibit.' Blackjack: 'Agreed!'
Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 18th of December, 2021. Blackjack’s Hat doesn’t represent a time Tracy cheated death. Way back in March 2012 when we met Blackjack, he surrendered to the cops once he was allowed to set Tracy’s hat on a fire hydrant and shoot it. This so he could get a credit on Tracy’s Wall of Hats without risking harm to “my pal”.

Mr Bones’s thoughts turn to Blackjack. You may know him as that guy who played Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumpin” (“I got knocked down/ but I get up again”) while robbing banks and being a Dick Tracy superfan. Blackjack’s storage lock of Dick Tracy memorabilia got stolen recently, and Blackjack broke out of jail to find it. Mr Bones — “From the DT Collector Forum” — hangs out at the exhibit until Blackjack appears, and admits: he’s the one who stole Blackjack’s collection. But he’s happy to return it … we don’t yet know what for.

Yes, it does seem like Mr Bones stole Blackjack’s collection before being hired to kill Dick Tracy. I don’t know whether this is because Mr Bones was hired long before we first saw mention of it. He did say he suspected Dick Tracy might be the target, but I don’t know when he got the idea The Apparatus wanted him to kill someone. It’s also possible (as I write this) that Mr Bones is bluffing about the stolen collection, to manipulate Blackjack.

Also I appreciate that the in-universe Dick Tracy Collectors have a Forum. I hope this means their main social group is on a charmingly semi-maintained phpBB forum rather than being a Facebonk or Reddit or Discord something bad like that.

Meanwhile, Patty Cure, a woman who’d been letting The Apparatus use her doorstep as a package drop, turned herself in. The Apparatus came to her looking for someone with “management experience to run an escort service”. And they didn’t stop pressuring her after the big raids. Lizz Worthington goes under cover as Cure, to learn what The Apparatus does want her to do. And that’s where we stand on the brink of the future.

Next Week!

Is that Halloween party still going on? Why aren’t we seeing more Santa Claus? I look in on Old Time Radio’s own Jim Scancarelli, and Gasoline Alley, to ring in 2022, I hope. See you then.

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? What’s the story with Morgan Le Fay? September – December 2021


I don’t know of a Prince Valiant wiki that explains their full backstory. But the current story does give some hints why Le Fay would have something personal against Valiant. She says Valiant once “stole my falcon, my favorite familiar, for Merlin to use against me”. I can understand how she’d hold that against him.

This should catch you up to mid-December 2021 in Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant. If any news about the strip breaks, or if you’re reading this after about March 2022, a more useful essay might be here.

And if you’re interested in mathematics, you might like my writing about the Atlas. It’s a concept in geometry, but it’s not too far off what you’d think from being into maps. It’s neat when that happens.

Prince Valiant.

26 September – 19 December 2021.

Aleta and Morgan Le Fey were in a pitched battle last I checked in. Their weapon of choice? Prince Valiant. In a strange, hallucinatory landscape Le Fay transforms Valiant into a gigantic, ravenous monster. Aleta matches Le Fay’s magic, transforming her husband into a lion who slashes Le Fay. The sorceress loses the battle, and Valiant regains consciousness in the waterfront inn where he’d been drugged.

A feeble, fallen Morgan Le Fay is revealed as Val's demonic tormentor. 'But, why?' cries Val. 'Why would you forfeit your soul in bargains with demons?' 'Because that was the only turn left to me,' Morgan retorts bitterly. 'You fool - you came to our shores as a boy, figments of glory clouding your eyes, blinding to our true history. You never saw how my half-brother Arthur built this kingdom ... the treachery ... the deceit ... if I hadn't served and protected my Arthur, he would have never succeeded. Then he decided he had no use for me! Even Merlin turned his back! So eventually I left our fair isle to travel - among the Bonsams of Africa, and the Chornyl Veedmak on far Eastern steppes. I learned much of their dark arts, as my last chance to get my due. But the price for such practices is always high. And with my failure o drive you to madness, I know that my debt will be called. No wget out! I am no longer any danger to you - leave me to my fate!' Val needs no further prompting, and returns to his bed, exhausted and with a great dread heavy over his heart. What, he wonders is happening here? He knows Morgan to be a great deceiver, but he feels there is also truth to her agony.
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 24th of October, 2021. When this first ran, I thought it represented the end of this encounter between Valiant and Le Fay. It seemed like a satisfactory enough moment of realizing that the villain has their story too. I’m happy to see more of that aspect. And it’s setting up some interesting directions.

Valiant finds Morgan Le Fay in the next room, looking beaten. In beating her in this dream landscape, possibly with his wife’s help, Valiant’s left Le Fay in supernatural peril. With King Arthur’s rise — supported by Prince Valiant — she turned to the dark arts “as my last chance to get my due”. But now she’s been thoroughly beaten, and now owes the dark forces more than she can repay.

He tries to continue riding back to Camelot, but comes across a ship being wrecked against the shoreline. The last person he can rescue is Morgan Le Fay, who credits the shipwreck to those dark forces. She can get home safely only travelling overland, and Valiant takes it on himself to protect her.

Val escorts Morgan on the road home. At sight of a circling gyrfalcon, the sorceress extends her arm ... but the bird ignores her. 'Now not eve my familiars will recognize me. Those that granted me power have taken it away,' she whispers, with a defeated look. 'You really have no defenses now?' asks Val. 'No more than the average woman,' Morgan responds. 'I could be the next witch burned alive, a pretty custom that Arthur has allowed. In the early days of my brother's conquests, I was his protection against sorcery, so he could focus on material warfare. Such was the role of a woman in those days. But then Arthur made alliances with the Church in the East and the Druids in the West, neither of whom can abide women of power. I, and all my sisters who practice the Craft, have been branded as evil ever since. Your Aleta has married well, and so far as seen exemption, but even that nicety may soon be at an end.' Morgan's words send a chill through Val, but a moment later a more pressing concern rises over a flanking hill - Mounted warriors!'
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 19th of December, 2021. I was not expecting Prince Valiant to bring up how power will malign the tools that marginalized peoples use for security. Or, for that matter, to work so scrupulously to present the villain’s side. It does hint at setting up a story for Aleta, one of our heroes, but it is presented as Morgan Le Fey’s story.

On approaching a village where a witch was recently hanged, Le Fay notes how it could have been her. Or could have been Aleta, who’s been exempted from society’s persecution of witchcraft … so far.

Next Week!

So the Apparatus, the big ineradicable crime syndicate in Dick Tracy’s city, got its hands on the Time Drones. How’s that working out for them? I recap Joe Staton, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy next week, if things go as I plan.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (weekdays)? Why should we read this imaginary story? September – December 2021


To paraphrase Alan Moore, you know they’re all imaginary, right?

Still, the past three months in Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom has been what would happen if The Phantom made a disastrous choice. (This is the weekday continuity. The Sunday stories have been less ominous material.) As discussed on X-Band: The Phantom Podcast, author Tony DePaul wanted to get his vision of the 21st Phantom’s death published. (That link is a 17-minute piece. It’s excised from this two-and-a-quarter-hour discussion with Tony DePaul, Mike Manley, and Jeff Weigel about the comic strip.)

The story also means to explore how this death would roil the world of The Phantom. Imaginary stories are great for exploring character. They’re also great for understanding how a setting works by showing it broken. I understand people who lose patience with a story that “doesn’t matter”. I was that way with every third episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

But this story has got “real” consequences. The Phantom changing his plans about rescuing Captain Savarna Devi from Gravelines prison, for one. However it is he does arrange the rescue. Or, it could be, fail; I’d hate for her to die, but it is a plausible happening.

So this should catch you up on weekday storyline for mid-December 2021. If you’re intersted in the separate Sunday continuity, or if you’re reading this after about March 2022, or news breaks about the strip, a more useful essay is likely here. And, if you would like to read me seriously explaining subtraction, you might try my mathematics blog. Thanks for being here.

The Phantom (weekdays).

20 September – 11 December 2021.

The Phantom had broken Captain Savarna Devi out of death row in Gravelines Prison. Not without cost, though. He was shot several times, messy wounds in his torso. Savarna pulls the dying Phantom to the first medical care available: a veterinarian she holds at gunpoint. After a long, long night Dr Fajah Kimathi gives her the good news. He’ll pull through, somehow. Might be his strength of ten tigers. The doctor’s husband gives her breakfast, and a shower, and words assuring that killing fascists is setting “right what’s gone wrong”.

Dr Fajah Kimathi (veterinarian), to her husband, with Savarna Devi overhearing: 'I don't know how he stayed alive through the surgery ... what a man!' We see The Phantom, his eyes covered by bandages (with his mask resting on his sleeping belly); the narrator reminds us 'Phantom has the strength of ten tigers -- Old Jungle Saying'.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 9th of December, 2021. I realize his life invites this sort of thing, but The Phantom’s got to have a real disaster of a medical history. Like, how does he even explain if he might have traces of Guran’s incredible bullet-wound-healing powder in his blood stream? How might that interact with whatever the veterinarian is giving for the pain?

Or so it goes in the prophet Mozz’s tale. It doesn’t seem to have got to The Phantom’s death, though, or how that death ruins the Walkers. We get that tale in two parts. One is Mozz telling his story to The Phantom, out in the field, as seen in my last plot recap. The other is a chronicle that The Phantom talked Mozz into writing, after aborting the wrack-and-ruin at Gravelines.

In-between were several weeks of not-imaginary action. I’m not sure the purpose of all this. Warning readers that this is a forecast of a possible future, for one. The transition was made, yes, but even alert readers — me, for one, and one of the X-Band podcast hosts — missed it at the time. Reinforcing information like that’s important. The intermediate action included several points that might clarify Savarna’s fate too.

Phantom, at the campfire: 'Mozz, you're killing me ... so to speak ... now you're *changing* your prophecy? I *don't* die in Rhodia?' Mozz, holding up his illustration: 'I never said the grave that awaits you is in Rhodia, Phantom ... I said freeing Savarna *brings* you to this place [ the illustration of the unmarked grave ]. And destroys your son. And ends the journey of the Walker family in this land. And so it does!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 7th of October, 2021. The illustration is one Mozz did of a landscape The Phantom saw in a hallucinogen-induced nightmare. To speak of other weird things in his medical history. Phantom is never going to be eligible to donate blood in case he ever hasn’t recently lost a lot of blood.

The transition starts with Mozz metaphorically rapping The Phantom’s hands for making easy assumptions rather than listening to what he actually says. It does feel a little like a reminder to pay attention to what’s on-screen. Mozz complains that even after hearing the tale, The Phantom will ride heedless into Rhodia on this mission anyway. The Phantom talks him into writing his story out, instead, in his own chronicle. So from the 25th of October we start the 259th weekday-continuity story, The Chronicle of Old Man Mozz. But that is another part of the story To Wrack and Ruin at Gravelines.

Guran, stunned to see: 'MOZZ!? Writing in the CHRONICLES!? What madness is this!?' Mozz, with quill and book, writing: 'A MADNESS I've pledged to reveal to one man, Guran ... that man is not the chief of the Bandar!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 15th of November, 2021. Do you suppose Mozz is writing with an actual feather quill pen, or is it something that looks like it for the style? For that matter does The Phantom use an actual quill? I ask because that’s an easier way to write than dripping ink off the head of a pin, but that’s about all the good you can say about it. I get that his style (and traditions) are part of what makes the legend but he has got a lot to record and it’s not like anybody would see him using a ballpoint pen.

Mozz promises, if he could save The Phantom legacy by keeping him busy until Savarna were executed he would. I suppose The Phantom appreciates the honesty. Mozz appearing to write in The Phantom Chronicles proves quite attention-getting. This gets me wondering where The Phantom gets his blank Chronicles from. I can’t get the same kind of notepad from Staples two times in a row. So far 21 Walkers over the course of five centuries have managed consistent book designs. How many blank books has he got in store for this sort of need?

The Phantom needs to distract Diana and Guran from Mozz’s detailed description of his death and their family’s legacy’s ruin. His answer: pictures of their son! Kit Junior, the presumptive 22nd Phantom, as seen in pictures sent out of the Himalayas. Chief Constable Jampa is sending regular reports for pay. Kit’s been maturing in the monastery, where he’s presented himself as reincarnation of past Phantoms. And the 21st Phantom agrees, he’s sure Kit Junior will come home soon.

Phantom, thinking, while watching Diana and Mozz: 'Chief Constable Jampa's photos of Kit did Diana a world of good. I won't ruin it by telling her what's become of Savarna. And that one day soon ... I mean to ride for Gravelines Prison.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 27th of November, 2021. Be a heck of a thing if Mozz tipped off Diana and Helena Walker to Savarna being on death row and they’re breaking into Gravelines tonight, wouldn’t it?

It’s a most successful distraction from Mozz’s writing. Also from The Phantom’s intentions of riding into Gravelines. Also, it could be, setting up ways out of this fix. Savarna could be rescued by, or with, Kit Junior. Or with Kyabje Dorje, Kit Junior’s tutor, whom he’s pegged as one of them. And there are other Phantom-grade superheroes in the world and that we’ve seen in recent years. Captain Ernesto Salinas, most recently. The Locust, less recently. Jungle Patrol is there, although Savarna is in prison for killing high-ranking members of Rhodia’s navy. (Military organizations tend to punish killing flag officers even on the other side, because flag officers got to make that rule.) Even Mandrake the Magician, if need be. I have no reason to think The Phantom’s getting a team together. But it wouldn’t be absurd either.

Next Week!

Prince Valiant comes to the aid and support of … Morgan Le Fey? How did we get here? I’ll check in with Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant next week, all going well.

What’s Going On In Alley Oop? Why is the Earth ruined? September – December 2021


Earth is ruined because Western Civilization failed to develop economic or political systems that handle externalities. Those are the harms that get diffused too broadly, or too indirectly, to hold people responsible. That combined with counting the movement of money as summum bonum to do unsustainable harm. Also, in the current Alley Oop story something’s collapsed the environment 25 years sooner than it has in our timeline. But that story only started last week so it’s too soon to say who to blame. But it’s the wealthy.

So this should catch you up on Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for early December 2021. If you’re reading after March 2022 I should have a more up-to-date essay here. I’ll also share any news about the strip there, in case I get any.

Over on my mathematics blog I wrote about “convex” recently. It’s a mathematics term that turns up all over the place. And that’s a part of my Little 2021 Mathematics A-to-Z, a glossary of terms with essays I keep trying to make short. Sometimes they even stay short.

Alley Oop.

5 September – 4 December 2021.

My last plot recap coincided with the end of the alien-on-the-Moon sequence. So the gang headed to Moo for some relaxation. This despite the warnings of “dangerous levels” of bizarre chaos from Doc Wonmug’s instruments.

Ooola: 'All right, Doc. What's the terrible news you have?' Wonmug: 'The time cubes. They're completely destroyed. Look!' He shows some smashed parts. Alley Oop: 'Yikes. How did that happen?' Wonmug: 'I dropped them and they were rushed by a passing dinosaur.' Alley Oop: 'Sounds like Stompy got them. He's such a rascal.' Ooola: 'Typical Stompy.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 20th of September, 2021. I mis-remembered Ooola as saying this was ‘Classic Stompy’. That seems like a funnier line to me, but I grant other people will disagree without being wrong.

It’s a good time to visit Moo. They’re holding the World’s Fair, with representations from half of the two countries in the world. It’s a bad time for Wonmug, who drops their time cubes in the mud, where a dinosaur stomps them. Alley Oop and Ooola are not that distressed to be stuck in their home time and homeland forever. Wonmug is barely able to handle the thought, though.

Alley’s able to help, though. Old Man Krank’s cave got hit by a weird glowing meteor recently. Old Man Krank is missing, but there’s a baby in his cave now. Examination reveals the meteor to be Time-onium, useful for reversing the effects of time. They could use this to fix the time cubes, if they don’t regress to even more childish infancy while doing so.

To complete the repairs they need some reversite, which reverses the effects of whatever you’re doing. Luckily, Moo gets a lot of weird meteorites and one fell right by where the waterfall goes uphill. But reversite is difficult to work with, for the same reasons it’s hard to talk like Bizarro if you try to think every sentence through.

Ooola: 'I can't believe we had to walk backwards all the way back here.' Wonmug: 'It was the only way. Reversite does the opposite of what you want.' Alley Oop: 'Oooh, then *don't* give me a million dollars, Reversite!' Wonmug: 'Alley, it doesn't work like that.' Alley Oop's at the cave window. Wonmug: 'Hey! Are you NOT trying to NOT throw the Reversite out the window?' Alley Oop: 'No. yes. I don't know!'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 11th of October, 2021. So if you were on the wavelength for this nonsense, this part of the story was a bunch of silly fun. If it didn’t tickle your funny bone at all, I’m guessing it was excruciating, and just kept getting more so. Also a little thing mentioned here was Wonmug giving small chips of Reversite to everyone in Moo so they wouldn’t age. Which is nice except that nobody in the strip really ages anyway. It sounds like a setup for a later plot, except that Wonmug says he didn’t give Ooola and Alley chips so they would suffer the indignities of age with him. The somewhat nasty joke is a satisfying enough explanation for bringing the subject up at all, though, so maybe the immortality of Moovians won’t ever come up again.

So it’s a lot of amiable nonsense. But Wonmug’s able to build something to get him back to our present day. While he builds some new time cubes, Ooola talks Alley to going to the Raptor 500 race at the Moo World’s Fair. And that’s a new small story, starting from the 25th of October.


Alley’s wary of the dinosaur-riding event, as he’s heard bad things about how the dinosaurs get treated. But one dinosaur licks him, and he’s won over. Just in time, as one rider gets injured and they need a replacement. Why not someone who’s never raced before?

Alley takes an early lead, with everyone else turning while his dinosaur — Rawr — runs straight into the jungle. Rawr has a mission out in the middle of nowhere. Her eggs were stolen, and they’re in a nest atop this one tree. Alley’s glad to climb up there, despite an angry pterodactyl who doesn’t understand the justice of his cause. He grabs the eggs, falls out of the tree, and the dinosaur chicks hatch.

Rawr, dinosaur, licks Alley Oop appreciatively. Alley Oop: 'You're welcome. It was my pleasure to save your babies.' Rawr nuzzles him. Alley: 'Should we go back to the race? Everyone is probably worried about us?' Rawr looks up from her children and asks, 'Rararr?' Alley: 'Oookay. But only until I get tired.' They run back, Rawr and the baby dinosaurs riding on Alley Oop's back. Everyone seems happy with this.
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 19th of November, 2021. Now, if you didn’t find this scene, and story, happy, I’m sorry but you’re wrong.

Rawr, Alley, and the newborns run back to the Raptor 500 where, what do you know, but they win. (Alley tries to confess to cheating, although turns out the Raptor 500 rules encourage cheating. Also I don’t see what it is he did that’s actually cheating.) So that’s a happy ending on a lightweight, silly story. With the 25th of November starts the current story.


Wonmug brings Alley Oop and Ooola back to the present. And while they watch a time thing happens. There’s been a major disruption in the timeline that their time travels protected them from. But the atmosphere’s lost its oxygen. There’s a thousand humans still alive. The only clue is that something happened in the Rocky Mountains in the year 2000. That’s where they, and we, are this week.

Next Week!

Captain Savarna’s on death row, and Old Man Mozz forecasts doom if The Phantom rescues her. Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom (Weekdays) gets its recap next week, which will look a lot like that, but with more words. Some of the words will be different.

What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? Why is King Melvin fighting a Roman Emperor? September – November 2021.


Nothing! Comic strip’s over. I’ve seen it before and written about it already. Sorry.

Next Week!

Not so much time travel, but plenty of ancient shenanigans including mysterious rocks and dinosaur races. It’s Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop, if all goes well.

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Why did Abbey burn down her hotel? August – November 2021


I mean, for the insurance payout to salvage something from a failed business? At least that’s the obvious motive for the obvious suspect. What we don’t know is whether how much to trust what we’ve seen. Later on I go over some possible explanations and what does or doesn’t make sense in them.

There are many ways that Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker could go. This should catch you up to where it is as of mid-November 2021. If you’re reading this after February 2022, or news about the comic strip breaks, you may find a more useful plot recap here.

In my other project, describing mathematics terms, I got up to “Triangle” last week. There are so many things people can say about triangles. I tried to not say them all.

Judge Parker.

29 August – 20 November 2021.

An early-morning fire destroyed Abbey Spencer’s failing bed-and-breakfast in time for my last Judge Parker recap. So that’s been the big important event and focus of how things changed in the summer-to-autumn time gap. I’ll get there.

[ An early fall day in New York City ... ] Toni Bowen: 'So how are things, Sophie?' Sophie: 'Well, Abbey's worried she's going to be charged with Arson soon ... Sam is in hot water because of a massive lawsuit he filed against the town .. .and Neddy just texted me that the trailer for her drama series is online.' Bowen: 'Wow ... I actually meant how are things at school.' Sophie: 'Oh. I did laundry yesterday. So you know I rocked my Saturday.
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 26th of September, 2021. Yeah, so … that covers this essay, really. Thanks for joining me. See you next week if all goes well!

But first the sideline. The trailer for Converge, the series inspired by Neddy Spencer and Ronnie Huerta’s writing, dropped. Thrill for them and for Huerta’s fiancee, Kat, whose last name I can not find. Less thrilled: April Parker, who kind of held Neddy and Huerta at gunpoint to make them Tell Her Story Right. They complied, yes, but there’s no controlling how TV shows mutate on the way to production. Also we learned that Charlotte is with April Parker. We presume the missing Randy is too, but haven’t yet seen that.

Neddy returns to Cavelton to support Abbey in her troubles (see below). Huerta wants to use the chance of “housesitting” Neddy’s place to get some breathing space from Kat before their wedding. She explains to a Kat who did not have any idea Huerta wanted to be away from the person she was marrying. They have a discussion that escalates quickly. Neddy reassures Huerta that Huerta and Kat will get back together. That’s been a painful side plot. Not that the reactions of everybody hasn’t been plausible. We’ve seen Kat being insecure and high-maintenance. Also perceptive and quick to cut through the ways people kid themselves. We haven’t seen enough of what makes Kat desirable, although that perceptiveness and sincerity is a solid start.


On to the Spencers. Abbey’s devastated by the fire. Also by the verdict that it was arson. Mayor Sanderson vows, at every public event including ordering lunch, to investigate every reason Abbey Spencer did it.

Abbey, at a confrontation in the coffee shop: 'Now, wait a minute! I didn't burn down my B-and-B!' Woman: 'Then who did? Elves? We heard the mayor! We know you don't pay taxes!' Abbey: 'But I do pay taxes!' Woman: 'Yeah, a check every year to the mayor's campaign fund!' Next woman in line: 'Wait, I thought she and the mayor were enemies.' Man: 'They're all crooked, but at least the mayor's telling the truth!'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 20th of October, 2021. So I know order-through-our-apps and self-checkouts are scams to offload the work of customer service on people who are already paying to be customers. But also, mm, I see the value in setting up life so as not to interact with humans.

And it takes hold. In a weird scene at the coffee shop the cashier, and other customers, harass Abbey for being at fault for everything wrong in town. This seems at first like a weird reaction. Like, the previous mayor of Lansing got in a lot of fights with people, but I can’t remember anyone who cared enough to join in. He fought mostly city council members, or other political figures. The owners of a just-built bed-and-breakfast destroyed in a fire that luckily didn’t kill or hurt anyone, or any animals? Why get in on this fight?

But I can make the town caring sound more plausible. The Spencers also owned the aerospace-factory-turned-clothing-factory that collapsed in a sinkhole. That was the first story of Francesco Marciuliano’s tenure as author. Yes, that was Neddy Spencer’s project, and was in no possible way her fault. Fault would go to the site surveyor, the architect, and whoever supervised construction. But I understand the general public not caring about fine distinctions like that. It’s fair all they know is every time there’s a disaster that puts Cavelton into the regional news the Spencers are there.

So the family gathers around Abbey for support. Neddy comes in from Los Angeles. Sophie takes the semester off. Sam Driver keeps pointing out an indictment isn’t everything and besides they made bail. And then Deputy Mayor Stewart, taking a break from his job of making faces of pouty concern about Mayor Sanderson, steps into Driver’s office.

Driver protests, correctly but not for long, that he and Stewart can’t talk about anything while Driver has his suit against the mayor going. That lawsuit alleges Sanderson evicted people illegally for a gentrification project. Stewart talks oddly, too, for example saying he wants to get through this conversation before “I get so bored I ruin everything for the both of us”. Bored is not the feeling Stewart should be having in this moment.

Stewart holds out the prospect of getting the charges against Abbey dropped. And getting Driver to win the gentrification lawsuit. Driver listens, which seems like a believable failing of professional ethics.

Sam Driver, quoting Stewart: ''Enhance'?' Stewart: 'I mean zoom in on the drone footage of your B-and-B. They always said 'enhance' in 90s movies even though in real life in the 90s all they could get was pixels ... but thankfully, today we can get a much clearer picture.' We see the laptop screen showing a woman carrying cans of something to the B-and-B.
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 18th of November, 2021. So I guess Deputy Mayor Stewart is just one of those people who talks like he’s the self-aware fourth-wall-breaking character in a lightly comedic movie. I can’t say that’s the easiest sort of person to deal with. But I also admit more than once I’ve refocused a conversation with my love by asking, “So what do we do on this here podcast?” so we’re all difficult in our own ways.

What Stewart has is drone footage of Abbey Spencer carrying accelerants out to the bed-and-breakfast ahead of the fire. Not established yet is how any of this could help Abbey Spencer, Or how it could get the lawsuit about wrongful evictions settled.

Who Burned Down Abbey’s B-and-B?

So the obvious question is did Abbey Spencer burn down her own bed-and-breakfast? If not, who did? So here’s my quick thoughts about suspects.

  • Abbey Spencer (in her right mind). The obvious suspect, with a clear motive, as the B-and-B was a money pit. But, without expert handling, this could damage Abbey’s character beyond repair.
  • Abbey Spencer (not in her right mind). She burned the place down, but was sleepwalking or in some kind of altered mental state. This answers the objection that the B-and-B had survived the worst year it could have and would be less of a money pit for the future. But could mental illness, to the point of endangering lives, be handled in the story comics in a tasteful, appropriate manner?
  • Senna Lewiston. Abbey’s secret half-sister, seeking revenge on Abbey for “stealing” the comfortable life. She’s presumed dead, but we never saw the body.
  • April Parker. Presumably able to disguise herself as anyone useful for the plot. Motive is inscrutable. But she’s off in the world of super-hyper-ultra-secret agents where motive can be inscrutable anyway. Revenge on the main cast for somehow not doing something more? “Liberating” the Parkers or Spencers from Cavelton and get them to join her and Sophie and (we assume) Randy Parker? Revenge for how the show based on her story’s come out is untenable. The fire happened well before the trailer came out.
  • Plus+. Or someone connected with the show made about April Parker and Godiva Danube. They have actors who look uncannily like the Spencers for some reason. The motive would be publicity. But we’ve been signalled the people making the show are low-rent. That’s nothing like “willing to risk killing someone in the hopes it somehow gets a thousand new subscribers”.
  • CIA Agents. The motive here would be flushing out April Parker. Or getting the Spencers and Parkers to suddenly remember something they’ve been concealing. Or some other inscrutable reason.
  • As-Yet-Unknown Agents. It could have been someone we’ve never seen or suspected before! Some might complain about throwing in new villains, but, it would expand the setting and open up new sources for chaos.

My bet? I’d put about half my stake on Senna Lewiston, a third on CIA Agents, and a sixth on Abbey Spencer not-in-her-right-mind. But I don’t write any narratives more complex than MiSTing host sketches, and don’t get any tips either. If someone’s heard something on a Judge Parker podcast, please let me know.

Next Week!

Mole men! A suitor for Aunt May! The last Roman Emperor of the West, still alive in the 21st Century! It all comes together in
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man!

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? What is Chance Macy’s Problem? August – November 2021


You might remember “Blowtop Mad” Chance Macy from the 2019 football story in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. Macy’s a senior now. He’s not much for hanging out, not much anyway. He’s also not one for talking with the local sports reporters. Colleges are trying to recruit him. He’s not answering the phone, e-mail, or physical mail, which, mood. A recruiter from Milford State University comes to ask what his deal is. What he’s thinking is he doesn’t know he wants all this.

College recruiter: 'It's a long way to the NFL, and it takes a ferocious amount of work and focus. But we've put a lot of halfbacks into the NFL - another reason to come to State U!' Chance Macy thinks. Later, he says to Coach Thorp, 'So if I over-devote myself to football, I have an outside shot at a career I don't want.' Thorp: 'Sounds tempting.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 3rd of November, 2021. It’s a nice bit of composition to have Macy’s third-panel word balloon underneath his face in the second panel. It depicts how he’s forming thoughts he can only articulate later.

I didn’t know the athletes at my high school, so I can’t say how authentic this is. But there is a recurring Gil Thorp motif of pretty good athletes figuring they don’t want to keep doing this. It feels mature, but that might be because I suspect I wouldn’t want to have to go on playing any sports. It intrigues me the strip has its characters feel such ambiguity about the sports they work that hard at.

This should get you caught up to mid-November 2021 in Gil Thorp. If you’re reading this after about February 2022, or any news about the strip breaks, there’s likely a more useful essay at this link.

And my A-to-Z project, on my mathematics blog, continues. Last week I tried to explain Analysis, which is one of the big things of mathematics. I left some stuff out. You might enjoy it.

Gil Thorp.

24 August – 13 November 2021.

Last time, young Heather Burns’s detective work, teasing out golf cheat Carson Hendry, had impressed Milford Star reporter Marjie Ducey. But there were no job openings at the Star … and then Ducey decided there would be if she took the buyout package and retired. So Burns has a new job. Also, per Coach Thorp’s tip, a volunteer position coaching the city youth program for Wick Harmon. So that’s nice for her.


From the 30th of August the autumn, and current, storyline started. One key figure is Kianna Bello, a bit overcommitted to girls volleyball and the gymnastics team. Another is Boyd Spiller, on the boys football team, who’s discovered this thing called consciousness and wants to see it raised. He has a glorious scene trying to turn the annual Bonfire into a visualization of the cosmic All that happens to include beating Oakwood. They beat Oakwood anyway.

[ The Traditional Pre-Season Bonfire ] Tevin Claxton: 'They handed me the microphone because I'm the quarterback - but meet the heart of our team, the offensive line!' Mimi Thorp, to Gil: 'Boyd Spiller and a microphone. Watch out.' Spiller: 'Okay, everyone. Let's close our eyes and *visualize* beating Oakwood.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 16th of September, 2021. I love Spiller’s wholehearted embrace of this stuff. I am only sad that he’s on a trajectory to be an Internet Atheist within ten years.

They also beat Kettering, although it’s a closer thing than Oakwood. Tevin Claxton fumbles and Spiller asks if he wants to do something about his choking problem. After Claxton misses a pass in the Goshen game he hears what Spiller has to offer. It’s hypnosis. Which Spiller totally knows how to do because he learned it on YouTube. I adore this, and I wish also to thank whatever junior high teacher assigned him a book report on Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

[ The hypnosis session continues - Boyd Spiller, presiding. ] Spiller, waving a flashlight in front of Claxton's eyes; 'Keep looking at the light. You live for tough situations, Tevin. Your breathing is steady. Your mind is clear. When the light goes off, up you go ... ' He clicks the light off.
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 22nd of October, 2021. And yes, this is all a bit silly. But a lot of sports psychology is silly. For example: if you have a little superstitious ritual going in to some competition? You actually do play better, even if you’re not superstitious and you’re just doing it because you heard it helps you play better. People, you know?

Thing is, it seems to work, with Claxton putting in clutch performances the next couple games. More people start coming to Spiller for hypnotherapy. Including, finally, Kianna Bello. The strip’s cut back to her and her overloaded schedule several times. Her frustration at taking only third in a tournament; she’d been second the year before. Her barely getting enough rest, and keeping going on caffeine and competitiveness. She thinks Spiller’s hypnosis might be a way to push through her fatigue.

[ A high difficulty Tsukhara vault, an off-balance landing --- ] Bello: 'Ugh!' The trainer examines: 'This isn't good.' Bello: 'You went to trainer school to know *that*?' on the phone: 'Oh no. I'm sorry, Kianna .. how long?'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 12th of November, 2021. The Tsukhara vault, I am told by Wikipedia, is any of a family of vaults, featuring a quarter or half turn on the vault table into a backwards somersault. It’s named for Mitsuo Tsukahara.

But she doesn’t feel better-rested. And she takes a bad landing at the district meet, spraining her foot and putting her out of competition for two weeks. She can not believe what an idiot she’s been. And (we learn this week) Claxton has had enough, and has secrets to reveal.


Milford Sports Watch!

Who’s Milford been playing? These schools, back around these dates:

Next Week!

We see court-related action in Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker! No actual courthouses, so far, but at there is some promise of professional misconduct so that’s something to look forward to.

In Which My Understanding of _Krazy Kat_ Is Broken


I’m sorry, I’m having trouble working out how today’s vintage-1922 Krazy Kat, from ComicsKingdom, has a pop culture reference. I read Krazy Kat for cryptic, hard-to-parse wordplay. I don’t read it for jokes that, like, a normal person of the year 2021 has a chance of getting.

This paragraph isn’t anything important, I’m just adding a little more padding so that the comic appears below the tags and categories stuff in the left column so can run a little bigger. So to that end here are some more words: applesauce value center liquid accessory design Garaimal zinc. There. I’ve done all I can.

Titled ``Ready --- Aim --- Fire!''. Officer Pupp: 'It's getting to be a hard job, keeping that 'Mouse' from hitting 'Krazy ' with a brick every day. I must find some way to protect him ... ' He gives Krazy glasses: 'Now, 'Krazy', you wear these 'glasses', and nobody will dare hit you --- it's against the law. Now I won't have to watch over him - that 'mouse' won't have the nerve to hit him with those glasses on.' Krazy: 'My, but I feel like 'Harold Lloyd' --- ' [ Krazy spots Ignatz off in the next panel ] 'Hoy - 'Ignatz' - ' And Krazy innocently tosses the glasses aside as Ignatz readies to throw the brick.
George Herriman’s Krazy Kat for the 25th of October, 1922, and reprinted the 12th of November, 2021. I too am distracted by all the scare quotes around, like, “Mouse” and “Glasses” and “Harold Lloyd”. But I also like how in the fifth panel Krazy’s eye line is to Ignatz’s position in the sixth panel, the only place we see him. That might be coincidence. It’s only sensible Krazy be looking to the right, and most sensible compositions would place Ignatz somewhere in fifth-panel Krazy’s line of sight. But even if it’s accidental, it’s a great accident.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? What was Jordan’s deal in the Army? August – November 2021


Jordan Harris was in the Army, before his curent life as a chef and restauranteur. He’d lost a leg in the service. He’d created, or allowed to be created, a story of how he lost it in combat. He told childhood friend and incompetent mugger Delmer Robertson what we took to be the truth. He was in food services. He lost his leg going to an improvised explosive device as he was off to buy food.

Now? That may be in question. Because “Griff” Griffin tried recruiting Jordan for “a job”. Jordan refused. It seems odd that a top-secret mission would need a chef, particularly. But Griffin talks of Jordon’s classified work in the past. And Jordan talks of how the “cover story” he’s given his fiancee is “mostly true”.

We have not learned what this is a cover for. Or what “classified” work Jordan could have been doing. Nor whether this has anything to do with how he lost his leg. I’m inclined to doubt it does, but I don’t see an obvious problem in supposing Jordan told Robertson lies or a cover story.

So this all should catch you up to early November 2021 in Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D.. If you’re reading this after about February 2022, or any news about the strip develops, I may have a more useful post here.

And on the other blog, I wrote about ‘Monte Carlo’ as last week’s mathematics term. What’s this week’s term? You can find out tomorrow by looking at the most recent A-to-Z essays. I hope you’ll consider them.

Rex Morgan, M.D..

15 August – 7 November 2021.

Rex Morgan, M.D. was at the start of a new story last I checked in. Most of that has been about the wedding of Jordan and Michelle. Let me dispense with the part that’s not.

Sarah Morgan and her hundred-page fan-letter/fan-fiction broke children’s author Kyle Vidpa out of his writer’s block. Vidpa sends his young coauthor the Advance Reader Copies of the book based on her work. Here my suspension of disbelief breaks. I can’t believe there was enough time for the book to be that far along in publication. Let that pass. Sarah’s uninterested in it anyway, since she wrote the story, she knows it.

Griff: 'I can't convince you to go on *one* more mission --- for old time's sake? There's *good* money in it.' Jordan; 'What we did, we did for our *country*. I don't know *who* you're working for now --- and don't want to. There's *no* amount of money that could tempt me back into the field. I have the life I want now. I *won't* risk that.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 8th of September, 2021. I admit I haven’t liked this plot thread. I don’t like super-secret hypercompetent agencies who work Outside The Rules by Making The Tough Decisions so they can Get Things Done. The premise is everything fascist about superheroes without the tempering grace of superheroes’ overwhelming need to protect the public. And how that need exists even — especially! — when the public doesn’t appreciate them. But you’ve seen me write about Norton and April Parker, over in Judge Parker, so that’s no surprise.

The big story has been Jordan Harris and Michelle Carter, nurse at the Morgan clinic. They’d already planned an online wedding. But now think they could have a few people for an in-person ceremony. He’ll cook, of course, because he can’t not. Rex and June Morgan make the list. Rex quips about how he wouldn’t turn down a free meal enough times it feels weird. Several of Michelle’s family plan to attend too. Jordan offers only excuses for his family. He doesn’t want anything with his old Army buddies.

They want something with him, though. “Griff” Griffon stops by, saying his old team is getting together for a mission and they could use his talents. Griffin accepts Jordan’s hard “no”. Griffin’s boss does not, on the grounds that now Jordan knows someone connected to Griff is planning some job. So the only thing to do is kill Jordan. Griff acknowledges this, connects some dynamite to a control module, and scopes out Jordan and Michelle’s wedding.

Shadowy Boss Figure: 'I wish I *shared* your conviction that Mr Harris will not make trouble for us. We can't have anyone *jeopardize* our plans.' Griff: 'I think he just wants to lead his civilian life, sir. He knows what would happen if he crossed us.' Boss: 'You're most likely correct, Griffin. But perhaps we had better be *safe* than *sorry*. You know what to do.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 9th of October, 2021. So another reason I dislike super-secret hypercompetent agencies. If you think of how much time Batman or the Phantom have to spend just on their daily chores you face the unreality of their superheroing. Packs of Gruff Men With Guns Looking For Reasons to Kill People, though? You can get that together without noticing why it keeps failing. And you get a situation like this, which does show it. Why did Shadowy Boss Figure send Griff to ask Jordan to join them? If the only acceptable answers were “yes” and “die”? Shadowy Boss Figure has decided to kill Jordan Harris, who he knows knows nothing, for fear he might tell someone something? And yes, Beatty shows this organization’s fundamental sickness killing it and its participants. Doesn’t make me like what it’s built on, though.

Beatty did have me fooled. Most of his run has made the strip about pleasant characters to whom nothing very bad happens. It’s been comfortable reading. That’s been welcome as we endure the berserker rage against civilization of capitalism’s most recent crisis. But I thought it plausible that Griff would kill Jordan, putting real shock and surprise into the strip. No, though. Griff watches the ceremony, and once the two wed, he calls his boss. Assured that his boss is near the car, Griff presses the button, blowing up the device, the car, and his shadowy mysterious employer. He figures to go hide out maybe in the Caribbean.

Shadowy Boss Figure, on the phone, about toget into his car: 'Griff! What have you DONE? You CAN'T ... ' An explosive device strapped underneath Boss's car beeps, and then explodes.
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 6th of November, 2021. Also, I am not convinced Terry Beatty had a particular mission in mind, or a clear idea what Griff’s group was about. This drains energy from the choices Jordan and Griff make. Jordan isn’t tempted away from his happy life by being part of some heist or whatever. And Griff’s decision to kill his boss — why doesn’t this new unit he’s part of matter as much as his old-unit pal of Jordan? Maybe Beatty has an answer for that, but I don’t see it in text. So all I have is Griff wanted to be nice to the main-cast character.

Next Week!

Who expected any of the story comics to get into Hypnovember? And if any one did, would you have guessed it’d be the high school sports strip? I look at Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp next week, if things go to plan.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? What exactly is The Visitor? August – October 2021


We don’t know! The past three months in the Sunday continuity saw The Phantom share what’s known about The Visitor. It seems to be material; it leaves footprints and can punch out and skull-mark minions. It doesn’t seem to be material; it disappears from exitless rooms and caves. It seems to know language; it told the 16th Ghost Who Walks of the Origin Story. It doesn’t answer inquiries. The current Phantom, and his listeners, speculate that it’s some force that’s been present since the beginning. Always watching. Sometimes intervening. And that’s all they can know.

There is a Doylist explanation, one that appeals but is unconfirmable from text. And I forget which commenter I saw put this forth, but: could The Visitor be a representation of the audience? The audience sees everything The Phantom does. The audience — the fans, at least — know everything The Phantom could know. And the audience does affect The Phantom’s life, although in indirect ways, incomprehensible to the character.

But that’s not something the characters in-story can understand. And The Visitor has left, chased off by Devil, the Phantom’s wolf. So what it is may be impossible to ever determine from within the text.

This all should catch you up on Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity. If you’d like to know about the weekday continuity? If you’re reading this after about February 2022 and want to know the Sundays? You may find a more useful essay here.

If you’re interested in reading other things, may I offer Little 2021 Mathematics A-to-Z, in which I explore mathematics terms. Embedding was my most recent essay. And I am looking for suggestions for topics starting with the letters I, C, and S.

The Phantom (Sundays).

8 August – 31 October 2021.

The Phantom was telling Bandar youth of past encounters with The Visitor. The Visitor is a strange, not-quite-ghostly doppelganger to The Ghost Who Walks, encountered in the times of four past Phantoms. The 16th Phantom told how The Visitor recounted the Origin Story of the Walker line.

The story excites the Bandar people who hear it. A being from before The Phantom’s own time? That witnesses it all? That supports, even spreads, the legend? (You see how this goes with the “it’s the audience” hypothesis.) But there’s no conclusions one can draw. As the Bandar youths leave The Phantom asks them to unchain Devil. And why was Devil chained, Diana Walker asks? So as not to disturb their guest. In a wonderful, creepy moment, The Phantom reveals that The Visitor has been there, listening, all night.

The Phantom waves the Bandar people goodnight, saying to one kid, 'I chained Devil in the village. Will you release him for me?' Kid: 'I will, Phantom!' Diana: 'I've seen you chain Devil when you're leaving the Deep Woods and don't want him following you .... why chain him tonight?' Phantom: 'I didn't want him clawing at the door while I was reading from the Chronicles for our guests.' Diana: 'Darling, I don't get what you mean. We'd open the door and let Devil in!' Phantom: 'Some other night, yes, we would. ... The Visitor's here, Diana ... It's been with us in the Hall of Costumes all evening.' Diana gasps, as we see The Visitor's shadow towering over the two.
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 12th of September, 2021. I gasped!

Diana tries to get it to speak, to respond. It doesn’t. She speculates that it doesn’t understand. It can mimic what it sees and hears in the Skull Cave, but that’s all. Also unprovable, as Devil races in, and leaps for The Visitor … who vanishes, reduced to mist. And we’re left not knowing most anything about The Visitor, including whether it’s gone. My supposition is The Visitor has donned a bunch of pizza boxes to go and mildly annoy Funky Winkerbean.


What is gone is the story “The Visitor”, ended the 10th of October. With the 17th begins the new story, “The Ingenues”. It’s the 192nd Sunday-continuity story. It’s about another of The Phantom’s many responsibilities, this one taking a crew of Mori youth to sea to test their boating abilities. It references a story from 2007 where this expedition ran into trouble. And all we know so far is that some young women among the Mori want to be among the crew. By February we should have a better idea what the story is.

Next Week!

Somebody’s getting married in Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D.! Also possibly shot, which would be a change of tone for Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D.! I hope to have a plot summary for you here next week. Thanks for reading.

What’s Going On In Mary Worth? How is Wilbur Weston so incompetent? August – October 2021


The current story in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth has focused on Wilbur Weston, a giant mayonnaise sandwich of a man. As usual for his stories, it’s about how he’s screwing up his own relationships by acting dumb. Wilbur Weston’s day job is advice columnist. Doesn’t this strain credibility?

I rule that it does not. First, it is hard for any of us to change the ways we screw up our relationships. We wouldn’t screw them up if it were easy for us to spot what we were doing wrong, or to do something else. Second, an advice columnist gets a problem in a clean, discrete lump that sets out (one hopes) all the relevant information. Spotting the relevant information while in the midst of the mess is hard. Yes, I would expect him to be better than average at diagnosing his problems and prescribing a cure, once he was aware he was the problem. And I don’t expect him to be any better than any of us in following the cure.

So this essay should catch you up to late October 2021 in Mary Worth plots. If you’re reading this in 2022, or if any news comes out about the comic, you should find my most up-to-date pieces at this link.

And if you’re interested in reading other things, let me offer Little 2021 Mathematics A-to-Z, a glossary of various mathematics terms. The most recent essay was about the hyperbola.

Mary Worth.

1 August – 23 October 2021.

After my previous plot recap we saw a couple weeks of Drew Cory wondering why Ashlee’s left town and told him she doesn’t need his money after all. With Mary Worth agreeing they don’t understand Ashlee, the story came to an end, the 15th of August.


The current storyline, which has been pleasantly wrinkled, started the 16th of August. Wilbur and Estelle, whose last name I don’t seem to have recorded, are having more dates where they get together and sing. Estelle’s one-eyed cat Libby likes to sing along, somehow raising Wilbur’s ire. Wilbur locks the cat in the bedroom, where neither she nor Estelle want her to be.

[ When Wilbur tries to sing again without Estelle's cat joining in ... ] Estelle plays the piano. Wilbur sings, 'And I ... will always love you! I will always love you!' Libby, the cat: 'Howl!' Wilbur, picking up the aggrieved cat; 'Thats it, Libby! I told you NOT TO INTERRUPT MY SONG!' Estelle: 'She just wants to be part of the singalong!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 18th of August, 2021. For a week or two the story looked like it was all going to be watching Libby plan and outwit Wilbur and that was fun. Unanswered question: how exactly did Wilbur, Libby, and Estelle move between the first and second panels? (No, this really doesn’t matter, because the panels convey moments clearly and well. But if you start to think how these people could be in this order, either Wilbur ran between Estelle and the piano or Estelle twirled around in her seat.)
Wilbur’s position is simple: he doesn’t want the cat interrupting his singing. Estelle’s position is simple: Libby’s a cat, she likes being with her. Libby’s position is simple: she can make Wilbur’s life miserable. So she does, including peeing on his end of the sofa. Estelle forgives this; Wilbur does not, and demands the cat apologize. Estelle declares that she and Wilbur need to take a break.

[ When Wilbur encounters Saul on a Charterstone path, he's surprised by his neighbor's happy demeanor ... Saul Wynter: 'The weather's been GREAT lately! I took my girl to the beach yesterday, and she didn't want to come back! Right, Greta?' Greta, his dog: 'Woof!' Wilbur: 'Yes, it's, uh ... been nice out.' Wynter: 'I'd better get home! I signed up for an online class that starts soon! I need *time* to figure it out! Ha! Good to see you, Wilbur! Let's catch up properly one of these days!' Wilbur: 'Bye ... ' Wilbur, thinking 'Hmmm ... Old Man Wynter's not his usual bad-tempered self!
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 12th of September, 2021. So on the one hand, Saul Wynter is certainly a happier person than he was when we first met him. And that’s got to be making all aspects of his life better. On the other hand, he’s become someone who thinks there’s a laugh to be had somewhere in the statement “I signed up for an online class that starts soon! I need time to figure it out!”
While pondering how anyone could choose a pet over him, Wilbur runs into Saul Wynter. He knows Wynter as that grumpy old recluse. But Wynter’s changed, becoming a warm, outgoing, sunny person, which he credits to his new dog Greta. This seems a bit weird since Wynter had a dog, Bella, when he was all misanthropic and unliked. But I rule this acceptable too: Greta, a rescue dog, was shy and needful in ways that we can suppose Bella was not. And the experience of helping Greta seems to have given Wynter an emotional security that Bella didn’t.

Wilbur: 'I'm new to owning a dog! I didn't know Pierre needed chew toys!' Carol: 'It'll help him chew on something other than your shoes! Dogs chew things ... it's their nature!' Wilbur: 'Thanks for the tip, Carol! I'll have to visit the pet supply store!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 5th of October, 2021. Oh man, I hope someone’s told Wilbur about the food thing dogs need.

Wilbur has the brilliant idea to draw the wrong lesson from this. He goes to the Animal Shelter and adopts the first dog he sees, a French bulldog he dubs Pierre. At the dog park Pierre meets Sophie, a French bulldog kept by Carol. And Carol meets Wilbur, an experience both find pleasant enough. Carol explains some of the little things an expert dog-owner knows, like that dogs should have toys.

Wilbur: 'Are you *sure* you're not into singing? My ex and I enjoyed doing karaoke ... ' Carol: 'I'm sure, Wilbur. I'll pass on that. Are *you* sure you don't want to go salsa dancing?' Wilbur: 'I'm *more* than sure! I know my limits, Carol!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 20th of Octber, 2021. The thing Wilbur’s keeping private is that a couple years ago he fell for a salsa dancer who was pulling a romance scam on him. It would have been an interesting direction if he’d shared that, and with a trustworthy (I assume) Carol learned to dance again. But it’s also quite reasonable for him not to want to touch that activity again.

Estelle catches a glimpse of them going to the pet store, and leaps to the conclusion Wilbur has a new girlfriend already. So does Wilbur, who mentions how he and his ex loved having singalongs. She doesn’t like singing. She likes salsa dancing. He doesn’t like dancing. He likes travel. She doesn’t. He likes talking about everything his ex liked and did. When he accidentally calls her Stella, she calls the date off. This may seem abrupt but we’ve seen two or three panels of him every day. She’s seeing the full thing.

Wilbur calls to apologize, the way he was always apologizing to his ex for embarrassing spectacles. She points out he’s nowhere near over his ex, and that’s where things stand as of late October.

Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!

  • “A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets.” — Gloria Stuart, 1 August 2021.
  • “I will trust you — I will extend my hand to you — despite the risk of betrayal. Because it is possible, through trust, to bring out the best in you, and perhaps in me.” — Jordan B Peterson, 8 August 2021.
  • “He did not care if she was heartless, vicious and vulgar, stupid and grasping. He loved her.” — W Somerset Maugham, 15 August 2021.
  • “Those who’ll play with cats must expect to be scratched.” — Miguel de Cervantes, 22 August 2021.
  • “I never met an animal I didn’t like, and I can’t say the same about people.” — Doris Day, 29 August 2021.
  • “Love is unconditional, relationships are not.” — Grant Gudmundson, 5 September 2021.
  • “Attitude determines the altitude of life.” — Edwin Louis Cole, 12 September 2021.
  • “The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.” — Helmut Schmidt, 19 September 2021.
  • “Morning will come. It has no choice.” — Marty Rubin, 26 September 2021.
  • “Back in my day, people met in the real world, not on their telephones.” — Julianne MacLean, 3 October 2021.
  • “Jealousy is all the fun you think they had.” — Erica Jong, 10 October 2021.
  • “I am not what you see. I am what time and effort and interaction slowly unveil.” — Maugham, 17 October 2021.
  • “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” — Groucho Marx, 24 October 2021.

Next Week!

It’s the ghost of the Ghost Who Walks, who doesn’t walk! The conclusion of The Visitor to Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity, if things go as I plan.

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? Are new people taking over the comic? October 2021


Yes and no. Sunday’s Dick Tracy caught me by surprise, as one unrelated to the current Time Drone storyline. It was instead about a bunch of people talking about how they made a great team, but one’s at the end of the line and he says goodbye.

What this is, as ever per D D Degg at The Daily Cartoonist, is pencil artist Joe Staton leaving the strip after a decade. (Also, wow, it’s been a decade since Staton and Mike Curtis took over Dick Tracy!) Shelley Pleger, who’s been the inker and letterer for all that time, is to take over doing layouts and pencils too. Mike Curtis is staying on as writer, so far as I’ve heard.

On the 'Tracy Express' bus, Joe Staton observes, 'Well, we're coming up on 10 years. We've made a great team.' Mike Curtis, driving the bus, adds, 'And don't forget our support staff. Carol, who does my first edit; Hilarie doing payroll and scheduling. There's also Terry and Kyra with Sheley and Shane. And finally, Walt who does the crimestoppers.' Staton says, 'It's been great, but this is where I get off.' From the street, and holding his spouse, he waves, 'Goodbye, everyone!' The last panel sees the bus from behind with the message 'More to come!' on it.
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 24th of October, 2021. It’s a bit startling to hear how many people are involved in supporting the making of the strip. I imagine some of these people are spouses, whose support may be more about emotional stability and reminding one to eat and such. And that some of it is people who handle the paperwork of keeping many comic strips organized. Still, when you read books about how to draw a web comic you don’t hear about what kind of support staff you need to successfully draw three or four panels a day and eight panels on Sundays. It’s no wonder every web cartoonist I’ve known is exhausted.

I’m a touch surprised the change in lead artist came mid-story, but I suppose one has to step down sometime. And with the reappearance Monday of Oliver Warbucks we have reason to think the story’s got a fair while left in it.

If any more news about the comic strip comes to my attention, or you’d like to read my plot recaps, you should find an essay here. And tomorrow I intend to have a recap of the last three months’ worth of Mary Worth. Thanks for reading.

What’s Going On In Mark Trail? What happened between Diana Daggers and Bee Sharp? July – October 2021


It’s not revealed yet! Last story, Diana Daggers was protective to the point of fanaticism of pop-scientist “Professor” Bee Sharp. This story she turned up without him, and won’t say anything about her former partner. We see one panel of Bee Sharp checking, it seems, Daggers’s social media and getting riled up that she’s working with Mark Trail. And Mark Trail spits out a nasty comment about how she drives everyone away from her. She goes off to console herself with pancakes and old photos of Sharp. What this all means, and what their exact relationship was, has yet to be told us.

So this should catch you up on Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for mid-October 2021. If you’re reading this in 2022 or later, a more current plot recap should be at this link.

And for my side gig, I’m doing a little mathematics glossary, one essay a week explaining some mathematical term. There should be a new post in the middle of the day Wednesday, and I hope you enjoy that too.

Mark Trail.

25 July – 1 October 2021.

I caught Mark Trail at the end of a caper last time. Not catching him were Professor Bee Sharp and his producer/bodyguard Diana Daggers. “Cricket Bro” Rob Bettancourt calls Mark Trail’s editor to complain about his breaking in to a facility he was invited into and the editor asks about this weird boxing thing. So Mark Trail had a clean escape.


Mark Trail’s current story started the 2nd of August. Bill Ellis has a new job, for Rafael Suave at fishing magazine Hot Catch. It’s to investigate whether the Duck Duck Goose shipping line is bringing zebra mussels into the waterways near the Lost Forest. Suave has a partner for Mark Trail, too: Diana Daggers. Mark tries to get out of this without admitting to any crimes. Suave doesn’t care and points out that given the danger of crossing big companies they’ll need people who can punch a lot.

Diana Daggers: 'Heh-heh. You scare easy, Mark.' Mark Trail: 'Can you blame me for being a little jumpy, Diana? The last time we met, you were about to mow me down!' Daggers: 'And? You lived. What's the problem?' Mark Trail: 'The problem is that I'm having a hard time working with someone who attacked me!' Daggers: 'Don't be such a baby. People work with bad guys all the time. Welcome to Hollywood.'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 31st of August, 2021. I accept that Rivera’s keeping to herself for now just why Daggers is free of Bee Sharp, and why she went to take a job alongside Mark Trail. And I understand her wanting to load more fun characters into the story. And that she accepted we’d have doubts Mark Trail would be willing to work with her right after that whole car chase thing. I still hope that by the time the story’s done we have a clear idea why she’s here, and why Rafael Suave thought she was a good partner for this project.

Daggers is sharp but not exactly hostile. She also has nothing to say about Bee Sharp. They set out in Mark Trail’s boat. Once close enough to a Duck Duck Goose freighter, Mark Trail’s able to get shoved into the water by Daggers. From underwater he takes pictures of zebra mussels clung to the ship. Also another fishing boat charges in, demanding to know why this woman they never saw before is piloting Mark Trail’s boat. This all attracts the Duck Duck Goose ship’s attention, and anti-pirate deterrents. This includes water hoses that, shot long enough, could sink the interloper.

[ Mark finds himself caught between a boat and a hard place ] Mark Trail, between his boat the Debait boat: 'Stop!' Daggers: 'Mark! It's about time you got back! These guys are giving me static about your boat!' Debait Boater: 'Hey, we know this boat doesn't belong to you!' Daggers: 'Back off!' Mark Trail: 'Everyone keep it down or the shipper will --- !' [ And then things get harder. ] The Duck Duck Goose ship blasts a siren.
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 23rd of September, 2021. I’m assuming the guy on the De-Bait boat is Cliff, since I’m not sure anyone else in the club knows Mark Trail. But I don’t understand why he didn’t mention having been the guy in the interloper boat here. It’s something that would take a load off Mark Trail’s mind, for one thing. (This is not a plot hole. A character isn’t wrong to not think of doing something that would clarify a mystery right away.)

Daggers takes the boat out of there, against Mark Trail’s insistence they have to help. He’s horrified by this and goes ashore, intending to walk back to his car. But he’s picked up by Cliff, an old friend, and — like Mark Trail — a war veteran. Cliff joined a veteran’s fishing lodge, the De-Bait Team. Mark Trail meets the gang, and they get to talking. As I write this, Mark Trail hasn’t noticed the interloping boat was marked De-Bait, but I expect that to be discovered soon.


Meanwhile, Cherry Trail’s been having unrelated adventures. This we’ve seen a week at a time, separate from Mark’s plot. She’s been working with the Soleil Society’s garden and not needing to strangle society chair Violet Cheshire too much. But uncovering a Forest Pioneer statue reveals an incredible swarm of bees. Cherry Trail knows a bee-removal person. Cheshire knows a bee-exterminator person. You see why the two women get along so well.

[ Violet discovers the Sunny Soleil Society's prized statue is covered in ... ] Violet Cheshire, running from a huge swarm of bees; 'BEES!' Cherry Trail; 'The bees built a hive right on top of the statue?' Cheshire: 'Run, Cherry, run! The bees will destroy us all!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 25th of August, 2021. I love how stilted Violet Cheshire is when she speaks. Possibly it’s an ongoing riff about the stylized forms Mark Trail dialogue has taken in the past. It’s quite effective in conveying how Cheshire is someone you have to breathe deeply before dealing with, without requiring Cheshire to do anything that outrageous. And, that said … I understand we’re not seeing the statue as the sculptor intended, but I’m also not clear what it’s supposed to look like. I assume that when the bee problem is resolved we’ll understand the image better.

As Cherry Trail has dinner at Planet Pancake, Diana Daggers storms in. Daggers demands a stack of pancakes “big enough to make me forget the last eight hours of my life”. Cherry Trail judges this a reasonable response to boating with Mark Trail. Daggers needs her space, looking and sighing at old pictures of her with Bee Sharp. Cherry Trail respects her privacy, and goes to a friend named Georgia, member of the Underground Black Rose Garden Club. I have no special foreknowledge, but it does look like we may be in for a bee heist.

Sunday Animals Watch

  • Butterflies, 25 July 2021. The understated stars of Cherry Trail’s last story get their Sunday page in.
  • Southern Alligator Lizard, 1 August 2021. Which doesn’t seem relevant to the recent stories any, but they don’t all tie in to anything.
  • Zebra Mussels and Marimo Moss Balls, 8 August 2021. Zebra mussels became a big driving point this story, but I haven’t seen anything about the moss balls. Or heard of them before this Sunday strip.
  • Drugs in waterways, 15 August 2021. Also a problem and you shouldn’ flush unneeded drugs away.
  • Hybridized “Killer” Bees, 22 August 2021. Once this dropped we were all waiting to see when killer bees might break in to the plot.
  • Canada Geese, 29 August 2021. One time I stayed at a hotel with a nesting pair of geese out by the parking lot. Made for some exciting times getting luggage in the car.
  • Spiders, centipedes, and bees, 5 September 2021. Warning: do not look at this page if you have a house centipede phobia.
  • Frogs and Toads, 12 September 2021. Cherry Trail’s story does feature an abundance of frogs too, in one panel, but they’re less of an urgent issue than the bees were.
  • Coyotes, 19 September 2021. They’ve got projects not involving road runners.
  • Birds, 26 September 2021. So we could either lose two-thirds of North American bird species to climate change or we could pay coal miners to take other jobs. This should not be a hard choice.
  • Catfish, 3 October 2021. Not part of the story yet, but Mark Trail does get exasperated with Florida, which is always fun.
  • Mushrooms, 10 October 2021.
  • Bees, 17 October 2021. This may seem like a lot of bee talk, but bees have a lot of problems, and most of them are our doing.

Next Week!

Wilbur Weston returns, so it’s cautionary tale season in
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth.
We’ll catch up with the Santa Royale community next week, if all goes well.

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? Did the widow Rufus was dating die? July – October 2021


No. The current Gasoline Alley story mentions the old Emmons house, and that the widow Sarah, resident there, had died. That is not that woman dating Rufus in an incomplete storyline from 2017. Rufus’s date was the Widow Leela, or as I knew her, the Widow Emma Sue and Scruffy’s Mother. We haven’t seen her since the comic strip came back from its never-explained long hiatus in early 2018.

So this should catch you up to mid-October 2021 in Gasoline Alley. If you’re reading this after about December 2021 there’s likely a more up-to-date recap here. And if news about the strip breaks out I’ll share it at that link too.

And if you’d like some heavier reading, my Little 2021 Mathematics A-to-Z is a glossary of mathematics terms. The second essay of this year’s set tried to explain Addition, and how we can tell it from multiplication.

Gasoline Alley.

19 July – 10 October 2021.

I last checked in near the end of the story where Rufus and Joel get strange signals from outer space. They spent a week or so talking about that, and then went off to their job garbage-collecting. They passed Boog and Aubee Skinner, the young kids who’re the latest generation of the Wallet clan. And that, the 4th of August, was the transition to the current story.

Ferd Frog: 'You thought I was going to say I was a prince, weren't you? I'm a prince of a fellow; handsome; and I sang country music until I was turned into a frog!' Aubee: 'I don't believe it!' Ferd: 'Kiss me and you'll believe it!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 14th of October, 2021. I don’t know, I’d think hearing Ferd try would prove he hasn’t sung country music since he was turned into a frog. I don’t know why Ferd said “weren’t you” instead of “didn’t you” in the first panel there. I suspect a last-minute rewrite went wrong.

Aubee has a school assignment to collect leaves. She skips a rock across a pond and hits a narcissist unicorn talking frog. Ferdy’s an old friend of Boog, who of course talks with the animals. The rather large Ferd asks for a kiss on the lips to restore his ‘real’ life as a country music singer. She has enough of his schtick and he leaves, saying the only way for her to grow is “older”. Which is true but seems like the punch line for a conversation they didn’t have.

The next animal met is Boog’s best friend, Bear. Who is what you think from the name, and so frightens Aubee. Boog is still too young to understand how to keep people informed. Bear has seen her before. Her mother, Hoogy, was a very pregnant forest ranger and went into labor deep in the woods. But Bear and his forest friends knew where to find Chipper Wallet, Physician Assistant. (Gasoline Alley has more good things to say about physician assistants than even the American Academy of Physician Assistants does.) It’s a swiftly-told tale of the animals grabbing Chipper by his shirt and pulling him over to the very pregnant lady. From there, they let nature take its course.

Bear: 'Temptation is something that leads you into a situation that sounds good, but you might not like it later! So if you kissed Froggy, he would have gotten a kiss ... and you would have gotten a bad taste on your lips! See?' Aubee, making a sour face; 'Yuk! Yes!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 17th of September, 2021. Boog knows the frog as Ferd, by the way, while Bear speaks of him as Froggy. I’ve gone with ‘Ferd’ because Boog, as a friend of the frog, seems more likely to be addressing him by his preferred name. This is the sort of thing I have running around my brain.

After that tale Bear mentions how Ferd is a hoax, trying that “country singer line” on people for years. And she shouldn’t give in to temptation, such as the temptation to kiss a frog. It’s a good lesson, I guess, although she was never tempted and nobody suggested she was.

Bear then moves into telling about the dangers of forest fires. It’s another good lesson, I guess. And it’s presented with some good creative work, the kind where Jim Scancarelli shows off his drafting skills. It’s also something that hadn’t been an issue. Bear mentioned how he and Boog had saved each other from “school bullies” and “forest fires”. And later mentioned the pair had been in three forest fires since Boog’s birth in 2004. This seems like many forest fires, especially as they have to have come before I started doing these recaps like five years ago. But then Bear goes on to share some of his anti-forest-fire poetry, hammering down a lesson nobody needed to learn. Aubee and Boog hadn’t been doing anything that could start a fire, or even talking about doing anything.

Bear: 'Aubee! A tiny spark can cause a tremendous catastrophe!' Aubee: 'How?' Bear, speaking over a large panel in which the trees of the forest are arranged to spell out the word 'FIRE', itself burning, or are reacting in horror and leaning away from this fire: 'Easy! That tiny spark can start smoldering in a pile of dry leaves! It'll grow big, then bigger, and in minutes it will catch our forest on ... ' and the word balloon leads up to the blazing tree sculpture reading 'FIRE'.
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 21st of September, 2021. I admit I’ve had trouble following the connective tissues between the conversations Aubee’s having with Ferd and Bear. This even though each individual conversation makes sense, and offers chances for good stuff like this second panel. It could be Bear is just someone who figures he’s got to be dispensing life advice, even if there’s no help needed. Kind of a Polonius/Dean Pelton figure. Yeah, maybe that works.

Rain starts, so Aubee and Boog head to their mother’s ranger tower. They forget the leaf collection in the surprise downpour, but not to worry, Bear brings it to them. And talks with their mother some, somehow not warning her about the danger of transporting firewood great distances. (It spreads invasive insects.) This, the 2nd of October, seems to finish that story.


Back home, Hoogy shares that the forest rangers are putting on a Halloween party. They don’t have a spooky enough place for it, though. The kids suggest the Emmons house, fallen into disrepair since the widow Sarah died. And that’s where we are on the new story, started the 4th of October. I look forward to sometime just before Christmas talking about how this Halloween story turned out.

Next Week!

Rather more bees than we had expected visit us in Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail, if all goes to plan. See you there!

How Angry Should You Be About the _Crankshaft_ and _Funky Winkerbean_ Stories Not Being Done YET?


I’m not sure if I’m more angry or exhausted by both of Tom Batiuk’s comic strips. In Funky Winkerbean we’re entering the 412th week of a story where Holly Budd Winkerbean tried to do her old flaming-baton-trick at homecoming, only to get injured. Unlike in the classic wacky days of the comic strip, where she’d get set on fire, this time she slipped on the rain-slicked grass. So she’s being treated for all the fun injuries you get when you fall and are 300 years old. That thing where it turns out if you did slapstick in reality it would hurt. Great revelation there.

Meanwhile in Crankshaft a reporter we’ve seen, like, once before is asking the vulture capitalist firm that took over his paper sold off all the assets while laying off all the employees, leaving behind something unable to function. This story of a reporter unaware of what vulture capitalist firms are for is being treated like it’s this era-defining story in which the thing we’ve all known is wrong finally gets a name and a face.

I try and read the comic strips I like, and stop reading the ones I don’t. And I just don’t know how these stories are still going on. I’m having a hard enough time. If they want to do stories I don’t like they can at least get done faster, so we have more of them.

Anyway so, without knowing anything specific about you, I recommend being angry at some level between 4.75 and 5.45. I’d like to think either story will be finished soon. But the ending of any Funky Winkerbean opens a chance for a Les Moore story to start.

In short, harrumph.

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? Why is there time travel now? July – October 2021


The current story in Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy has super-inventor Diet Smith sending machines back in time. It’s presented as the continuation of something he had tried before with humans.

Back in 2017 there was a throwaway mention of Diet Smith experimenting with time travel. Denny Lien was kind enough to explain a bit. Some years before 2017, Diet Smith mentioned working on a time machine to rescue his long-dead genius son Brilliant Smith. Brilliant, inventor of the two-way wrist radio, was killed in 1948 by the racketeer Big Frost. But there was no controlling when the time machine would send you, which limits its use for this sort of rescue operation.

I don’t, and Lien didn’t, know quite when this earlier time travel experimentation was done. I assume it’s something from that period in the 60s when Chester Gould tossed all sorts of wacky sci-fi fangles into the strip. You know, the Space Coupe, the psychic Lunarians and Tracy Junior’s bride from the Moon. The nation that controls magnetism controlling the universe. All of that stuff Gould put in with the assertion it was as much hard science as anything done in a forensics lab, scoring an own goal. But I can’t find when time travel was in the strip before. It could have been one of the antics in the Dick Locher run, for example, when the stories became very weird and impressionist and hard to follow. But it’s hard to think of Locher-era characters as driven by the emotions normal people have.

So this should catch you up on Dick Tracy for early October, 2021. If there’s any news about the comic strip, or you’re reading this after 2022 starts, there may be a more useful essay at this link. I’ll try to have one anyway.

And in mathematics blog news: I have interesting material on my mathematics blog. I’ve started my Little 2021 Mathematics A-to-Z, a glossary of various mathematics terms. The first essay of this year’s set discusses Multiplication.

Dick Tracy.

11 July – 2 October 2021.

Vera Alldid and Mysta Chimera have disappeared, eloping, according to their social media. Everyone agrees it’s unlike them. It threw Alldid’s popular comic strip J Straightedge Trustworthy into unexpected reruns, mid-story. And Mysta Chimera, who’d been doing publicity as the comic strip’s Mars Maid character, had thought Alldid a creep. Still, what are the cops supposed to do about two people vanishing on a story nobody who knows them believes? Look for them?

Tracy: 'I'm familiar with Vera Alldid and his comic strip. We've met on many occasions.' Homer 'Peanutbutter' Barley: Then I'm sure you've seen the news. *Do you believe* he eloped with miss Chimera?' Tracy: 'Not a chance. I know Mysta Chimera very well. She'd never marry him.' Tracy, thinking: 'But it's odd nobody close to her has raised the alarm yet.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 28th of July, 2021. Believe me, I feel weird too wondering why Dick Tracy is showing such restraint in investigating the disappearance. I guess it is better that he’s willing to suppose it isn’t inherently a crime if Mysta Chimera marries someone he doesn’t like.

Homer “Peanutbutter” Barley, a freelance cartoonist and old acquaintance of Dick Tracy, takes action. He points out to Dick Tracy that Mysta Chimera is not actually a Lunarian. She’s the brainwashed, genetically-altered daughter of the quite human crime boss Posie Ermine. Thus she is a missing attractive white woman. With this to go on, the cops swing into action. Tracy checks in with Brock Archival, the last person the missing people were known to meet.

It’s the obvious lead, but it’s a good one, since the wealthy Brock Archival has kidnapped them. He intends to keep them both on his private island, and he’s got the private island — and the ring that neutralizes Chimera’s Lunarian powers — to do it. Alldid shoves them into a secret room when Tracy knocks on the door. Mysta uses her last ounce of strength to blast a telepathic cry for help that Honeymoon Tracy (herself half-Lunarian) picks up. And she relays that to her grandfather.

You might ask: wait, Mysta’s telepathy had been starved by lack of direct sunlight. How can she now have the energy to send out a last blast? Yeah, because if there’s one thing we can’t buy in narratives, it’s the last gasp of an exhausted hero finally making the difference.

Narrator: [ Tracy's search of Archival's home yields silver. ] Tracy, thinking: 'It's some kind of metal object, but it seems to be stuck beside, not under the molding ... A used pen nib! The type Alldid uses to draw with ... now I see ... no caulking and *there's an opening in the wall here*.' Out loud: 'Sam, come here, and bring Archival with you!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 12th of August, 2021. I don’t know how Alldid’s pen nib got stuck there. I don’t see where Alldid planted it on-camera or had an unsupervised moment when he could have off-camera. Still, the pen nib is there, isn’t it?

With something that kind of resembles probable cause if you squint, Tracy asks to inspect Archival’s mansion. And he consents, because how could you find people shoved into a closet? This does give us some actual super-detection. Tracy follows strange scuff marks in the carpet to find one of Alldid’s drawing pen nibs. From there he finds the secret room holding Alldid and Chimera. Archival fumes that Tracy can’t possibly prove a kidnapping charge and Chimera kicks him in the Great Hall.

So, the 20th of August, this story resolves. Alldid gets back to his studio to draw comics. Chimera gets home again. The powers-controlling ring gets handed to Diet Smith because when would he ever do something ill-advised or dangerous with super-technology?


The next and current story got seriously under way the 21st of August, although it had a teaser a few weeks earlier. This debuts Diet Smith’s newest creation, the Time Drone. It’s a drone, like you might fly over the park and record video with, except it travels through time and space too.

Hooded woman, wearing a Queen of Spades card: 'Stealing the time drone won't be easy. Dick Tracy's a close friend of Diet Smith. He always shows up when Smith's tech is threatened.' Ace of Spades: 'I have plans for Dick Tracy. There will be plenty to keep him busy.' Queen: 'And what about your friends in the Apparatus?' Ace: '*What* friends?'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 8th of September, 2021. I suppose as long as they keep looking around and not seeing a Time Drone pop into the room gathering evidence they can feel confident their plan is working.

Smith’s got a few videos. Dick Tracy’s iconic villain Flattop. The building of the Great Pyramid of Giza. He sends one to Ford’s Theater to catch a show. Another to see Washington’s Inauguration. The “treasure pit” at Oak Island, Nova Scotia. He announces this to the public, and the Ace of Spades, new head of The Apparatus crime syndicate, sees opportunity.

We don’t know his plans. From the 9th of September we got a short diversion, Dick Tracy talking with Briar Rose of Law Enforcement Magazine. Tracy tells the story of how the murder of Tess Trueheart’s father spurred him to move from patrolman to detective. How the city attracted newer and weirder criminals. How Tracy stepped up to become the super-scientific detective of world renown. It all smacks of an anniversary celebration, and it’s curiously timed: the comic strip debuted on the 4th of October, 1931. I’m not sure why this sequence ran a few weeks early except perhaps to get us fans talking about it early?

Tracy: 'I'm glad to tell you what I know of our precinct's history, Miss Rose. It won't be dull, I promise.' Rose: 'Thank you, Detective Tracy.' Tracy: 'This precinct was established during the era when gang bosses, made rich and powerful by Prohibition, reigned over the city with little fear of consequence.' Rose: 'My! How wild and woolly were those days?' Tracy: 'The lives of ordinary citizens were often in peril. It wasn't unusual for gun battles to be fought on city streets. Some of the older buildings still have bullet holes. In fact, it was during a robbery that my fiancee's father was shot and killed.'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 12th of September, 2021. This particular strip comes up to but doesn’t quite force us to accept that Tess’s father’s murder was in the Prohibition era (for us readers it was in 1931). Look at precisely what’s said. So that’s a fair squaring of the circle that these characters don’t (much) age without retconning events to have happened later than they appeared in the newspapers.

And then one more story promising to start. Blackjack broke out of prison. Someone stole his collection of autographed Dick Tracy memorabilia and he intends to do something about it.

Not particularly threatening to be a story: Rikki Mortis is pregnant with Abner Kadaver’s child. So there’s the hope for a new generation of horror movie hosts to be Dick Tracy villains.

How does the Time Drone fit into Blackjack’s plans? I don’t know. They might not at all. Staton and Curtis are comfortable introducing something they don’t follow up for months. Sometimes years. Several years ago B O Plenty complained that his house was haunted. Could that be the Time Drone which we saw used to take photographs of the whole entire family? I’m not confident saying it is. We’ll have to check back in a couple months.

Next Week!

Bears discover fire, and they don’t approve. All that and leaf-gathering as as I recap Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley, if things go well.

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? What does Morgan Le Fey have against Prince Valiant? July – September 2021


I don’t know. She’s Morgan Le Fey, she’s got a lot of projects going on. Unfortunately I’m not a devoted enough Prince Valiant reader to know what all their past history is. She had some roles in very early, 1930s, stories. Here are some panels from some of them. I can say Valiant was part of foiling her plan to marry Sir Gawain. I don’t know if there’s more.

So this should catch you up to late September in Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant. If any news about the comic strip breaks, or if you’re reading this after about December 2021, there might be a more useful plot recap here.

Prince Valiant.

4 July – 26 September 2021.

I foresaw last time that a new story was starting. It starts uneventful, with Valiant finding an inn to rest. But his arrival’s reported to a mysterious hooded, feminine figure. He drinks from a pitcher the figure had enchanted. And Valiant falls over, hallucinating, finding himself in a fairyland of legend. Past and future: the first panel includes the White Rabbit of Wonderland fame.

Madness! Immediately after having drunk from a pitcher of water proffered by the innkeeper, Val finds his world transformed into a fairyland. 'I have been bewitched!' he cries ... and the elvis creatures surrounding him hoot and chortle in reply. Then, through the forest gloom, three hulking riders materialize ... who, upon sight of the bewildered prince, begin a wordless charge! Their weird mounts seem to glide effortlessly forward, but with obviously malignant intent. Then the entire forest seems to turn on Val! The only thing he understands is that this world is no place to make a brave stand. He wheels his steed about and flees!
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 1st of August, 2021. I was tempted to link instead to the previous Sunday’s installment. It did a wonderful bit of the panel borders turning into great arches, a wonderful visual depiction of the world going mad. But this is more representative of what Valiant was going through. I notice that the White Rabbit appeared in the previous Sunday’s panel. And this strip includes the word ‘Chortle’, introduced to the English language by Louis Carroll. I don’t know if that’s coincidence or a little joke aimed at … me and only me.

We get several gorgeous weeks of fairyland artwork. I’m sorry I can’t justify including all of them. I never say enough about the art but it’s wonderful looking at.

Less wonderful being in; Valiant’s outmatched in a battle against everything in the world. Also the world, which swallows him up. He sees ravens, and cries to them to tell his wife Aleta. She, a witch with affinity for ravens, suddenly wakes. But she doesn’t get back into the story before the Kraken drags Valiant into the underwater throne room of the Queen of the Fairies.

As a confused Val had suspected, the 'Fairy Queen' is revealed to be Morgan Le Fay. 'I may be no fairy queen,' she cries, but so long as I hold his spear, Prince Valiant is mine to destroy!' What surprises Val more is that the ravens did carry his summons to Aleta. 'No matter how badly my husband behaves,' his wife retorts, 'you have no right to him!' Behaved badly...? Val feels a bit offended, but Aleta continues: 'No matter what ancient grievances you may hold against Arthur and the knights of his court, my husband's fate is not yours to decide!' The furious sorceress rises and gathers arcane and hypnotic energies. 'You have no idea of my grievances, foreign concubine! Will you still hold close to your husband ... when his wicked nature is revealed? How do you like your handsome body now?!' Val feels Morgan's magic envelop him, and suddenly he is no longer himself! He sees Aleta stare at him in horror!
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 19th of September, 2021. So first, this week’s revealed I had just assumed Morgan Le Fay was a fairy queen or some kind. I mean, it’s kind of in the name, right? I don’t know the Arthurian legends. Closest I get is I last saw The Sword In The Stone like 20 years ago and was annoyed that all Merlin’s dialogue, about the need for intelligence and planning and cleverness, was undermined by every bit of plot activity, in which Wart/Arthur gets saved by dumb luck and powerful friends and never does a witful thing. Second, yeah, I don’t know what Aleta is going on about Valiant behaving badly. All he had done to get into this fix was go to an inn for the night and drink water the innkeeper offered. Maybe they’re talking bigger-picture stuff.

“Wait,” you ask. “The Queen of the Fairies lives underwater?” Yeah, I don’t know either. But Valiant recognizes her. She’s Morgan Le Fey, from the time of King Arthur, just like he is. And from the waters rise Valiant’s Singing Sword, held by Aleta, who demands Le Fey release her husband. Instead, Le Fey transforms Valiant into some great sea monster, sending him to devour his wife. So that’s exciting, and we’ll see how that works over the next couple months.

Next Week!

What connects time-travelling camara drones, a stolen memorabilia collection, the kidnapping of the Moon Maid, and the murder of Tess Tracy’s father? They’re all things I need to understand when I recap Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy next week, if all goes to plan. We’ll see what happens.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (weekdays)? Are we about to see the death of the 21st Phantom? June – September 2021


I know I answered this last time, but: no, The Phantom is the Man Who Cannot Die. It’s right there in the premise. Ghost Who Walks and all that.

That said, we are seeing what sure looks like a death of the current, 21st, Phantom, at the hands of Gravelines Prison guards. And Old Man Mozz, wilderness prophet, warned that going to Gravelines Prison would kill him, and also keep Kit Junior from being the 22nd Phantom. And even end the journey of the Walkers in Bangalla. So: is that what we’re seeing here?

Odd as this is for a plot recap essay, I’m going to give a spoiler warning. Stuff regarding the next year of The Phantom will come up. I come by this knowledge through a special edition of X-Band: The Phantom Podcast. Its about 17 minutes long, and in it Tony DePaul, Mike Manley, and Jeff Weigel discuss the current story and how the 21st Phantom dies.

So this should catch you up on Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, through late September 2021. If you’re interested in the Sunday continuity, or you’re reading this after about December 2021, you may find a more useful recap at this link.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

28 June – 18 September 2021.

The Phantom was ready to go to Gravelines Prison, in fascist Rhodia, to free Captain Savarna Devi. Savarna’s an oceangoing vigilante who could host her own action-adventure comic strip if action-adventure comic strips were sustainable yet. She’s helped The Phantom often. Most notably, she helped him free Diana from Gravelines in 2009-11’s 18-month-long Death Of Diana Palmer Walker. Old Man Mozz warns of a dire vision, that if he frees Savarna, The Phantom will ruin everything he holds dear. The Phantom pauses to hear what will happen.

Old Man Mozz, sitting, as The Phantom sprawls out and listens: 'The tale begins here, O Ghost ... on the path you take when you refuse to hear me. When you *don't* turn around ... no matter what I say.' In a panel with jagged corners we witness The Phantom riding Hero away, ignoring Mozz's warning: 'If you free Savarna, Kit will never return to the Deep Woods ... Never be the 22nd Phantom!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 30th of June, 2021. The second panel is a redrawing, from a different perspective, of what we saw on the 26th of June. Which is part of how I missed the significance: story strips often repeat important beats, to help readers who missed a day or did not catch it first time around.

And this strip — the 30th of June — is critical. Notice the broken panel borders. The story from this point continues to The Phantom busting into Gravelines Prison and breaking Captain Savarna out. But it is the story Mozz is telling, explaining to The Phantom what happens if he goes in as he plans. Yes, I missed the significance of this when it happened. In my defense the 30th of June was a busy day for me. Also, at least one of the X-Band Podcast hosts missed it too, and they’re hardcore Phantom fans. They’re people, with, like, collections of souvenirs and ranked lists of opinions and everything.

In Mozz’s vision, The Phantom disregards his warning that if he frees Savarna Kit Junior will never return to the Deep Woods. The Phantom regrets that he has to do this right after breaking out Captain Ernesto Salinas. Security will be more, if not more competent, right after that jailbreak. But many of the usual tricks still work. He stops a truck by putting signal flares in the road, and sneaking in the back doors. He sneaks through the prison by catching one guard at a time, knocking them out and tying them up.

Phantom, lurking around the corner, watching a lone guard come back from his smoke break, thinking: ( Timing's on my side. The other two are likely to be looking the other way when I ... ) He grabs the guard, who cries 'Gurkk!', but is unheard as the other guards light their cigarettes.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 14th of July, 2021. So in response to this incident, Gravelines Prison has required guards to switch to vaping.

I did see one commenter say this reads like a first-person shooter video game. I grant the resemblance. Whether you find this plausible, I suppose, depends on whether you think Gravelines Maximum Security Prison guards should be bad at their jobs. The comic does try to anticipate snarkers. The Phantom reflects how yes, they’ve increased the number of guards, but by dragging people who didn’t want to be prison guards into this job. (Seen the 17th of August, and reinforced the 28th of August.) That they’ll be people who will find good reasons in the rulebook about why they didn’t rush toward the gunfire.

And that I accept. First, the Phantom isn’t going to sit and listen to a story where he can’t even break open Gravelines. Second, what authoritarians rely on us forgetting is that authoritarians are incompetent. Making a competent organization requires getting subordinates to say what things are wrong, and what’s needed to fix them, and how it’s taking longer to fix than they expected. Authoritarianism demands reports that everything is swell. It can only create illusions of capability, which shatter in crisis. Third, the guards are people who grew up in a world where The Phantom is real and sometimes strikes Gravelines Prison. They have good reason to want to avoid him. So I buy most of the guards working to rule when The Phantom beelines for Captain Savarna’s cell.

Phantom, at Savarna's jail cell: 'I didn't come all this way to leave you here, Savarna, but I will.' He thinks: (I won't. But she doesn't know that.) Savarna: 'Revenge!? Is *that* what you're asking? I'm *done* with it, Phantom! Yes! You have my word! *Enough* revenge!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 11th of August, 2021. Revenge here coming into play as she murdered Rhodian flag officers after they sank her ship, which she was using to harass pirate ships in and around Rhodia’s waters.

The Phantom pauses for an oddly indirect question before freeing Savarna. When she pledges she’s had enough revenge he lets her out, and they begin the escape. They swipe a jeep and pretty near drive right out, helped by the number of guards who don’t want to be shot at over this. But there are the hardcore guards, the true believers in their mission, and they’re the ones who block the road. They shoot a lot at The Phantom and at Captain Savarna, who manage to drive through. The Phantom pulls off the road where he left his horse, Hero, tied up. He tells Savarna how to let Hero carry her back to Bangalla. As for The Phantom himself …

Well, this takes us out of the proper date range for this recap. But Savarna got a good look at The Phantom and gasped “Oh my god!!” And he’s bleeding. This is explained in the characters’ dialogue and action, but unfortunately is muddled in the coloring. Rather than use Guran’s wound-healing super-powder, he asks Savarna to let him rest a while.

The Phantom's pulled their jeep up to Hero, his horse. Savarna: 'Why on earth would I be riding your horse out of here, Phantom?' Phantom, getting up: 'Because Mozz was right ... ' He reveals ... it's not perfectly clear. Bullet marks across his side? Savarna: 'OH MY GOD!!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 20th of September, 2021. Mozz had warned that if The Phantom succeeded, then his body would “for all coming time” lie in the landscape he hallucinated during The Llongo Forest.

Again, we are not seeing the death of the 21st Phantom. We’re seeing a death, something to happen if The Phantom disregarded Mozz’s advice. And, my understanding is, we’re to see more of what happens after this death, and what ruin it brings to the Walkers’ project. Tony DePaul said he thought the story might be the longest yet, at least comparable to the 18-month Death Of Diana Palmer Walker story. I trust it won’t all be warnings of how The Phantom’s marching towards death. I also expect there’ll be some clever way to rescue Captain Savarna from death row. But that’s the thing about expectations; so much of storytelling is subverting them.

Next Week!

Fairies and sea monsters! Some of my favorite material. It’s Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant, if all goes well. Not to spoil things, though, but I haven’t had a thing go well since the 11th of August. Please send words of comfort and also large checks made out to Cash.

What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? Will Spider-Man ever come back to the comics? June – September 2021.


It’s not impossible that Marvel and King Features will decide on a new creative team to draw Amazing Spider-Man comic strips. But I don’t see any reason to think they will. They’ve had several years and there haven’t even been rumors.

But the world is vast and defies predictions. If any news breaks out about the Spider-Man comic strip I’ll post it here. It’ll fit along with all my other essays about Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man. For now, though, let me give what I expect is my final plot recap for this superhero comic.

The Amazing Spider-Man.

13 June – 12 September 2021.

Peter Parker and Mary Jane, driving Route 66, had teamed up with Rocket Raccoon last time I checked in. Rocket was there on the trail of Ronan The Accuser, a Kree alien with a space hammer. Ronan The Accuser was there on the trail of an ancient Kree Sentry buried at Petroglyph National Monument. The Sentry was there in case someone needed a killbot to destroy Albuquerque someday. Well, Ronan figures he needs a killbot to destroy the Guardians of the Galaxy, but he can test it out on Albuquerque.

Spider-Man: 'The Kree Sentry was imprisoned in that dormant volcano! It must be 20 feet tall!' Rocket: 'The Kree built 'em in all sizes.' Ronan, to the Sentry: 'You are programmed to OBEY me. And I order you - to DESTROY!' The Sentry robot is large, and blue, and has a face that somehow looks like Moe from the Three Stooges.
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 24th of June, 2021. The Sentry has many modes of attack, but the worst must be when he tells you to pick two of his fingers and you do, and he pokes them into your eyes.

While the Sentry goes off to Albuquerque, Ronan fights Rocket and Spider-Man some. It’s a tough battle, since Spidey and Rocket can’t get through one day’s strip without saying how much they’re doomed. But, with a bit of help from Mary Jane, Rocket remembers that Ronan needs his space helmet to breathe Earth air. So the two go for a new approach, Rocket being jumpy and annoying while Spider-Man sneaks up from behind. It’s a great plan except for how Ronan falls over backward and maybe kills Spider-Man.

It’s a trick, of course. Newspaper Spider-Man is used to much worse head trauma than that. What he wanted was a solid perch on Ronan’s shoulders, so he could peel at the helmet until Ronan was really annoyed. As Ronan tries to use his magic space hammer to knock Spider-Man, Spidey’s able to tug his arm and make Ronan hit himself, knocking his helmet off. The Accuser falls unconscious.

Ronan, wrestling Spider-Man: 'My weapon will REPEL you from my helmet!' Spider-Man: 'It probably WOULD! If I hadn't stopped tugging at your headgear - and pulled your arm at the last second - so that your MALLET blasted the helmet loose!' Ronan: 'NO! Without it --- I can't breathe --- !'
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 16th of July, 2021. With bits of slapstick like this you see why it’s hard to get past the “Sentry looks like Moe the Three Stooge” thing this story, right? Anyway yes, this dialogue is a challenge to read so it sounds natural. But how else could one communicate what was going on within the constraints of a daily comic strip? I’m not being snarky; this is probably the least awkward way to carry out this fight.

And we get a moment that defines Spider-Man, at least his newspaper incarnation, very well. With the Accuser defeated, Spider-Man grimaces and acknowledges he has to put the helmet back on. He can’t let a beaten enemy die like that. Mary Jane points out this is crazy: once revived, Ronan will try to destroy the planet. Rocket points out this is unnecessary: Ronan doesn’t need his helmet to live, only to breathe. He’ll be fine in Earth’s atmosphere without his helmet, unconscious. It’s a line that Spider-Man buys, and even turns out to be true.

Spider-Man: 'You said Ronan needs this helmet to breathe. Then without it, he's a deader, right?!' Rocket: 'Maybe that's how it works for *your* species ... all lack of 'air' does to a Kree is send him into suspended animation.' Spider-Man: 'Then - that means - ' Mary Jane: 'That *you* two can go try to save Albuquerque from the Sentry!'
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 23rd of July, 2021. So, you know, as long as we all agree we pretend we believe this, all right. Hurry on to Albuquerque, where the Sentry is blowing up one car or street light or billboard at a time. I mean, I wouldn’t want this to come to my town, but it’s a low-key rampage. Mostly it seems like it’s Rocket and Spider-Man agreeing they’re slowing the Sentry down.

Meanwhile, oh yeah, Albuquerque. Rocket and Spider-Man head out to save the city from the Sentry. Mary Jane stays behind, to watch Ronan and call the superheroes if he shows signs of life. The Sentry turns out to be hard to fight. And Ronan shows signs of life, which Mary Jane doesn’t call about. But Ronan stirs enough to say how the Sentry is programmed to never hurt a Kree like him, and passes out. She sees in this a world-saving tool, if she can get Ronan to Albuquerque.

Truck Driver: 'You crazy, girl? You coulda been killed!' Mary Jane, fishing for her purse: 'I need your day laborers to load an alien spaceman onto your truck and rush it to the city!' Driver: 'Huh? What kinda nut do you think I --- ' Mary Jane, holding some cash out: 'What if I buy your truck - and your time?' Final panel, Ronan's on the truck bed, surrounded by day laborers, riding down the highway.
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 3rd of August, 2021. Putting aside the whole buying-a-truck thing: did the driver not hear on the radio about how a giant alien robot was blowing up Albuquerque? Where was he planning to go?

So she stops a truck, offering to buy it so it and the day laborers on it can rush Ronan to the city. Also Mary Jane carries around enough cash to buy a truck? Or can plausibly present herself as writing a valid check for this? In a story about a space raccoon and a radioactive spider-bite victim saving Albuquerque from a 20-foot-tall, 80,000-year-old killbot, we’ve hit a point I don’t buy. They even repeat it, Mary Jane explaining to Spider-Man how she got the truck there. I think I’d buy it more if the laborers were all fans of Movie Star Mary Jane Parker and did her a favor.

But if we don’t buy this, we can’t get to the end of the story, so there we go. Mary Jane brings the unconscious Ronan to Albuquerque and explains the rules. So Spider-Man grabs Ronan’s body, using him as what is technically not a human shield because Krees aren’t humans. This befuddles the Sentry while Rocket climbs inside to rip out wiring. It’s a close-run thing, Rocket trying to decide what things to yank out before the Sentry decides what limbs of Spider-Man’s to yank out. But he pushes a button, and it turns out to be the “turn off forever” button and it’s a happy resolution.

Mary Jane: 'Who *are* these Guardians of the Galaxy you keep talking about?' Rocket, surrounded by thought balloons of the other Guardians: 'Well, there's Gamora, she's green. And Drax, big dude, they call him the Destroyer. And Groot ... he's sort of a tree ... oh, and then there's Starlord. Actually, he's fro your world!' Mary Jane and Spider-Man: '?'
Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 2nd of September, 2021. “Starlord”? You can’t fool me, that’s a guest appearance by Bruce “Incredible Hulk” Banner that last panel there. I assume these are all approximations of the way the characters looked in the comic books. At least before the comic books got all airbrushed and loaded up with special effects. You know, when they looked like the newspaper comic strip. Anyway, appreciate these great heroes who aren’t in this story and who we don’t learn anything about, here, to make us appreciate them! The guy who writes Funky Winkerbean approves!

So they haul the Sentry off somewhere, stuff Ronan into Rocket’s spaceship, and say their goodbyes. Rocket finally gets around to saying who the other Guardians of the Galaxy are, but not why none of them came along on this mission. And says hey, you never know, we all might team up again. With that, the 4th of September, he flies off into the skies.


And there we conclude Spider-Man’s encounter with Rocket Raccoon and Ronan The Avenger. From the 5th of September we started an adventure with the Mole Man hoping to rekindle his relationship with Aunt May. He figures he has a chance now that he’s been deposed as the subterranean king by Tyrannus the Conquerer. Also, Tyrannus the Conquerer is hoping to conquer the surface world, starting from Los Angeles. That’s a story that first ran in spring and summer of 2017, and I have it adequately recapped in essays starting here.

And from there … well, if the newspaper Spider-Man strip keeps repeating comics in this order? There’s not much sense my writing these plot summaries. I suppose it’d be an easy week of work, which is something. But for the foreseeable future, I intend this to be my sign-off to the Marvel Comic Strip Universe. Thanks for reading, everyone who enjoys action, adventure, and energy beams surrounded by black bubbles. It’s been fun and I’m sorry it isn’t continuing.

Next Week!

Old Man Mozz warned The Phantom that if he freed Captain Savarna from Gravelines Prison, he’d be ruined and Kit Walker would never be the 22nd Phantom. And now The Phantom’s gone and broken Captain Savarna from Gravelines Prison! Has this ended five centuries of the Walkers’ project to rid the world of piracy? I’ll check in on Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, next week, if all goes as foretold. And if I don’t, well, send someone into Gravelines Prison to free me, they’re used to it.

What’s Going On In Alley Oop? Did the Apollo astronauts meet an alien on the Moon? June – September 2021


No. Alley Oop and crew observed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin going through a mysterious door in the Sea of Tranquility. It turned out to be the bathroom. The Apollo 11 crew did not find the Moon Alien, Frodd. Alley Oop, Ooola, and Doc Wonmug met him later.

So this should catch you up on Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the start of September 2021. If any news about the strip breaks out, or if you’re reading this after about December 2021, there may be a more useful essay at this link. If there isn’t, well, we live in complicated times.

Alley Oop.

20 June – 4 September 2021.

This story almost exactly fit my publishing cycle. It started a week before my last Alley Oop update, with the gang going back to 1969 to watch the Apollo 11 moon landing. They start with understandable celebrity-creeping behavior. Pretending to be NASA workers. Messing around in training facilities. Then it escalates to following Apollo 11 all the way through the landing.

In front of a Saturn V rocket signed 'Apollo 11B', Doc Wonmug says, 'Guys, I think I found our ticket to the Moon!' Ooola: 'Doc, this sign says 'for display use only. Not for space travel'.' Wonmug: 'I'm sure we can make it work. I am a scientist, after all. I have a brand-new roll of duct tape.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 6th of July, 2021. Sure, you may sneer at using a display prop as a rocket. But almost exactly this idea appears in renowned science fiction author Stephen Baxter’s 1997 novel Titan. In it, the Saturn V Structural Test Article — used in the 60s to develop processes for handling the actual rockets — is refitted and launched into space as part of sending a space shuttle to Saturn’s moon Titan. And do we call Baxter’s Titan bad? Yes. It was appalling in its badness. It was a novel I finished because if I threw it across the bus someone else might have picked it up and read it, and I could not inflict that on an innocent stranger. The comic strip, though? That’s cool.

So Our Heroes watch Apollo 11’s moonwalk. This in a strip that ran the 21st of July, a timing miss I’m sure keeps Lemon and Sayers from getting a decent night’s sleep. After solving the mystery of the door, Our Heroes walk over to the far side of the Moon, where it happens also to be dark. There they discover a bored-looking alien playing at a computer.

Doc Wonmug, to Frodd, who's at a video game console on the Moon; 'So, you've been here on the back of the Moon, controlling all life on earth for billions of years? Why?' Frodd: 'Every kid from my world has to do a planetary simulation to graduate. It's like part of our school.' Ooola: 'And you lucked out and got Earth?' Frodd: 'Ha! No. I pushed my teacher's hafktq into a aabaao and got in big trouble. Earth is my punishment.' Alley Oop: 'Yep. Same thing happened to me one time.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 5th of August, 2021. So, folks who played SimEarth on the Mac back in the 90s. Remember there was an easter egg, a little thing where you typed in ‘JOKE’ and got this weird little Dadaist message? Right. So, anyone remember what it was exactly? I can’t find the joke for the Mac port listed in web sites listing video game easter eggs. There’s emulators to play SimEarth, but it’s the PC version, where the joke is it shows an image of the Earth in a giant frying pan, next to some space bacon and eggs, and labels it ‘Pan-Gaia’. I could swear that on the Mac SimEarth, the easter egg joke was something like “How many Glenn Campbells does it take to screw in a light bulb?” (Hit OK, and get the answer) “Two.” But I can’t find any evidence anyone else has this memory at all. Do I have a weirdly detailed false memory?

Frodd’s playing Earth as a “kind of a video game”, for a school project. Frodd starts to defend his Earth-playing skills, but has to come home for dinner, and takes Our Heroes with them. Frodd’s mother sees the humans and grounds Frodd, for “a Froddulon Millennium”, which is something like a billion earth-years.

So Our Heroes escape, Alley Oop along the way swiping some kind of necklace from somewhere. Turns out the thing makes Our Heroes invisible, which is good for getting them away from alarmed Froddians. They get to Frodd’s spacefaring bubble, which turns out to be able to get them anywhere instantly. They return to the Moon, planning to resume the Earth that Frodd left paused. Turns out Frodd’s there. He passed his school project, with a C-.

Ooola: 'I think we're invisible!' Doc Wonmug: 'I don't know about that. I can see you.' Alley Oop: 'Let me try something.' The invisible Alley Oop approaches a Froddian: 'Excuse me, may I ask you a question?' Froddian; 'Who said that?! Oh, no! The inquisitive ghosts are back! Everyone run for cover!' Alley Oop: 'Hmph. I was just going to ask how this necklace worked.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 19th of August, 2021. While it is jumping for a silly punch line, the Froddian’s declaration that “the inquisitive ghosts are back” works for me. I don’t know why it works and others don’t. Maybe because it suggests other stories, relying on the idea the world has more stuff in it than we could get to see.

They talk Frodd out of shutting down this Earth simulation, and even snag a nice moustache toggle for Alley Oop. With a pretty successful week, then, they head home. It’s too early to say what the next story will be, although Doc Wonmug has gone back to prehistoric Moo with them.

I admit some dissatisfaction with the story. A little bit from not caring for the reality-is-a-video-game premise. It’s something a certain streak of nerd loves without learning enough philosophy to know what issues it’s not addressing. But most of us enjoy pop culture items that raise issues it doesn’t address. Besides, if it address an issue well then it stops being a pop culture thing and becomes culture. I’m also a bit dissatisfied that Alley Oop, Ooola, and Doc Wonmug don’t have much to do. For most of the story, they’re just present. Note how little I had to break down what Alley Oop did, versus what Oola did, versus what Wonmug did.

Doc Wonmug: 'Frodd, please don't shut down Earth. There are so many great things about it.' Alley Oop: 'And many terrible things.' Frodd: 'I don't know, guys. Another Froddian left her Earth running, and she got in big trouble.' Wonmug: 'Wait, there's *another* Earth?' Frodd: 'In *this* galaxy? There are thousands. ... Aw, did you think you were special? That's so cute.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 30th of August, 2021. The notion of thousands of Earths is the sort of thing I mean, raising issues the comic strip isn’t dealing with. But those are essentially the issues raised by the multiverse idea — and the changeable-timeline idea — that’s been part of the Lemon and Sayers run on Alley Oop anyway, so it’s not a new issue.

My bigger dissatisfaction is that, in the strip’s focus on having a punch line and a plot development every day, we get some conflicts. I don’t want to call them continuity errors. For one, there’s very little that can’t be harmonized. But we get things like Frodd starting the 40,000-light-year journey to Froddulon A (the 9th of August) by altering Our Heroes’ source code so they won’t age. Later on, when we get back to the Moon (the 2nd of September) Our Heroes just miss some aliens hoping to find someone to bestow immortality on. There’s no contradiction here. But it feels sloppy to do this joke twice in one story. Frodd first explains he’s simulating Earth to get on the high score table (4th of August). The next day he explains it’s an unwanted school project (5th of August). Frodd gets grounded for a millennium (the 12th of August); he’s on the Moon later that day (the 27th of August).

More like a continuity error is Frodd needing to alter Our Heroes’ source code to not age. But we see (the 21st and 23rd of August) that Frodd’s space bubble can travel instantly. We can rationalize that, yes. (And it would wreck the story’s pace if Our Heroes’ escape took 40,000 years.) Puttering around at NASA Alley Oop discovers an Alien Alley Oop (28th of June). But their little launch causes NASA to think they’ve discovered aliens (14th of July). Again, anyone trying could reconcile this. And if an artist has a better idea for an ongoing project they should use the better one. But this feels to me more like they use every idea, which can’t always work.

Alley Oop, kneeling down at some rocks: 'Ooola, Doc, you have to come see this!' Ooola; 'Alley, if it's another rock that looks like someone famous, I think I'll pass.' Doc Wonmug: 'Yes, we do have rocks on Earth, you know.' Alley Oop, to a trio of mouse astronauts in a tiny lunar module: 'It was really nice meeting you. Congrats on being the first Earth creatures to reach the moon.' The tiny lunar module lifts off, and Wonmug asks, 'What was *that*?' Alley Oop: 'Oh, just a rock that looks like Dolly Parton.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 24th of July, 2021. As with the Inquisitive Ghosts, this throwaway joke works for me. Part of it may be that it’s about expanding the world, albeit in a way that makes human-mouse interactions in the strip somehow worse than they are in reality. But also that it’s a basically nice joke, Alley Oop having a nice time with new friends, which is easier to take than the cynical or mean jokes.

And the drive for a punch line every day has good sides too. For example, on the 24th of July, Alley chats with the mouse astronauts who beat Armstrong and Aldrin to the moon. It’s a scene I liked.

Next Week!

It’s been one week longer in arriving than usual, but I look at Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the final time. Did Spider-Man save Albuquerque from destruction at the hands of an alien war machine using nothing more than Rocket Raccoon and the secret alien war machine’s commander? The only person I knew in Albuquerque moved away years ago, so I have no way of knowing. Sorry!

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? What happened to Randy Parker? June – August 2021


Randy Parker had taken his daughter Charlotte and disappeared, at the urging of ex(?)-wife April, last time. This to foil a vaguely-reasoned CIA plot to murder Randy and Charlotte to flush April out of hiding. We have seen nothing of Randy and Charlotte and April since then. We don’t even know that they got away and that the evil CIA plan failed. That doesn’t mean their disappearance hasn’t devastated the rest of the cast. And that’s been much of the focus the past three months.

So this should catch you up on Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker to the end of August 2021. If you’re reading this after about November 2021, or any news about the comic breaks out, you may find a more useful essay here. And now, to recap what has gone on.

Judge Parker.

6 June – 28 August 2021.

Some, more inclined to snark than I am, will say nothing happened. Hardly so, but I’ll grant that much of the last twelve weeks read like setting up for new things to happen. These things divide into four major focuses and I’ll take them as separate pieces.

First: Neddy Spencer. Her plans to hang around Los Angeles and someday find a place get kicked up when Ronnie Huerta and Kat get engaged. Which makes it even harder for her to keep crashing at Huerta’s place. She picks out a “beautiful little 1930s Hollywood-style bungalow apartment” that’s not guaranteed to not be haunted. As her first visitor, Huerta points out Spencer has been doing Los Angeles stuff for three years and not had a romance plot yet. So I’m looking forward to Neddy Spencer finding whoever is the exact opposite of Funky Winkerbean main character Les Moore.

Ronnie Huerta, toasting: 'Get this --- our series is premiering this November! Right after Thanksgiving!' Neddy Spencer: 'Our show about a murdered actress, assassins, and a drug lord is being pitched as a holiday show?' Huerta: 'No, no, I mean, I hope they don't mean that. Huh ... Maybe we should ask if we can get a peek at the marketing ... ' Spencer: 'Either way, that does deserve a toast.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 28th of August, 2021. Oh, also, the show that Neddy and Ronnie Huerta pitched is actually made and airing. Remember they wrote it under April Parker’s direction to tell The Truth About Her Life. And they (as would make sense) lost control of the series and had little but a created-by credit for it. Still, that’s great work for them. And it sets up a new conflict with April Parker, if she gets out of Secret CIA Jail.

Second: Alan Parker, original Judge of the strip, and Sam Driver, who took over the comic in the 60s. Alan’s been hit hard by the loss of his son and granddaughter, finding comfort in drink and misanthropy. He also blames Sam Driver for not doing something to keep Randy out of CIA Jail or a Norton plot or whatever. Driver pushes his way back into Parker’s life, arguing that they need a mission and he has a useful one. This in forming a new law partnership, one that can sue Cavelton Mayor Sanderson for gentrifying the people out of the city. Parker, in time, accepts. And it gives him a new energy and purpose.

Mayor Sanderson, ranting: 'What was that? I'm blindsided at my own press conference by a baseless lawsuit?! FROM DRIVER AND PARKER OF ALL PEOPLE?!' Stewart: 'We can --- ' Sanderson: 'Did you know anything about this, Stewart?!' Stewart: 'Um, I found out in the middle of your press conference ... ' Sanderson: 'From who?!' Stewart: 'Someone on my staff texted me.' Sanderson: 'So why didn't they tell ME directly?' Stewart: 'Because you told everyone to go through me so you wouldn't have to deal with them.' Sanderson: 'So you're saying it's my fault I'm out of the loop. Real classy, Stewart.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 25th of July, 2021. So you feel a bit for Stewart as we’ve all had to deal with a person who interacts like this with everyone. But he did decide he wants to be Deputy to this Mayor. I am interested how we’ve several times seen him noticing the boss is nuts but without (so far as we know) taking any effective action.

Their first lawsuit starts great. They file on behalf of tenants arguing they were wrongly evicted so Sanderson could sell property to a corporate donor. This catches Sanderson off-guard at a press conference. And it lets Deputy Mayor Stewart add to his collection of faces of pouty concern.

Third: Sophie Spencer. She’s facing a second year at college having made no friends in New York City. And her only serious friend in Cavelton is Honey Ballenger, who she hasn’t been talking with much. Ballenger calls, though, and they reconnect. Partly over lunch, more over early-morning jogging. They never meant to stop talking, they just lost the power to call the other first. It’s a feeling I know and I wasn’t even ever kidnapped by Abbey Spencer’s previously-unknown half-sister. One early-morning jog they’re almost run off the road by fire trucks, heading …

The top, throwaway, row is Sophie Spencer crying 'Nooooo!!!' The main Sunday panel is a single picture of fire crews working on a massive fire destroying Abbey Spencer's bed-and-breakfast.
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 8th of August, 2021. The local news mentioned (16 August) the fire as “captured on multiple cell phones”. But it was also a fire that started during Sophie and Honey Ballenger’s 5 am run, and in a place that’s out of town. Who were all the people with cell phones? It’s possible that’s a plot point for development. Or it could be that a massive fire lasting for hours with smoke visible from miles away drew onlookers. In theory, I suppose.

Fourth: Abbey Spencer. Her bed-and-breakfast, made out of converting (part of?) the horse barn, has been a money pit, from doing the renovations and from opening at the start of the pandemic. Indeed, its first event — a rally for Alan Parker’s mayoral campaign — brought Covid-19 to Cavelton (17 August). So is it a good thing that the whole structure burned to the ground in a catastrophe that hurt no person (or horse)? Is it a suspicious thing? Mayor Sanderson was happy to assert, on TV, that the city would investigate every reason Abbey might burn the place down for the insurance money (18 August). We have yet to see what caused the fire, or that it was the CIA trying to make Randy Parker’s family suffer enough that he turns in April Parker. Or that something else happened. (Now I like the notion that Randy and all have been in Secret CIA Jail as we assumed April’s super-spy super-skills got them super-out of super-trouble.)

And this is where we stand at the end of August.

Next Week!

Time and space travel! A secret discovery at the Apollo 11 landing site! All this and video games as I look at Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop next week, all going well. And yes, ordinarily I’d be looking at The Amazing Spider-Man. I’m bumping that a little bit so I can cover the end of the Rocket Raccoon story and, so, have a neat wrap-up to the What’s Going On In Spider-Man series. Not to spoil things too completely, but Spider-Man and Rocket Raccoon save the Earth.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? What’s with Carter Hendricks’s jacket? May – August 2021


The Summer story in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp turned, in part, on what school a “BSU” jacket belonged to. The school colors therefore mattered. Gil Thorp has started running, in GoComics, in color. But, as is common for weekday comics, the colorizing gets done without checking the writers for guidance. I do not know why the colorizers of daily strips don’t get guidance from the original cartoonists. I understand if the cartoonists do not wish to do the extra work of picking out colors if they’re not paid for it. It makes every day as much work as a Sunday strip.

But the practice keeps screwing things up. Here, at least, it’s an innocent screw-up. The BSU jacket colors were not mentioned in text until several weeks after the jacket’s appearance. Whoever put color in had no direction. And that’s the sad usual for colorized dailies.

So this should catch you up to late August 2021. If you’re reading this after about November 2021, or if any news breaks about Gil Thorp, a more useful essay may be at this link. Thanks for reading, high school sports fans.

Gil Thorp.

31 May – 21 August 2021.

The Spring story — a long one — was mostly about who would be on the library board. There was a small piece going on about Corina Karenna, not related to the main action. So I’ll close that out.

Karenna saw no point going to college. She’s got an appalling record. All the athletic scholarships she could apply for are long gone. And her mother is too depressed to function without her. Still, Mimi Thorp hates to see a talented, bright, determined kid just peter out. She pokes around her contacts and alumni and finds a setup. Karenna moves to Syracuse, takes community college classes to get her credentials in order. Transfer to Le Moyne College, where there’s volleyball scholarship money and roommates to be had.

Mimi Thorp: 'It's all set. You'll start at a community college in Syracuse, New York. Play there, and then transfer to Le Moyne College. Great school. You won't admit it, but you'll love it. A couple of the Le Moyne players need a roommate, so you're all set.' Corina Karenna: 'Stop. You don't get to run my life!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 23rd of June, 2021. There’s story detail lost in my compression. An important one is Mimi Thorp talking with Corina Karenna’s mother. And her mother talking about how she feels her daughter’s protecting her more than she actually needs. So the later assertion that Karenna’s mother did “a lot of the work” in setting this up has some textual basis. And it at least addresses the question of whether Karenna’s mother can function without her daughter. Anyway, I still don’t see how you could tell someone needs a roommate in two years.

And … Karenna’s mother? She, Thorp says, did a lot of the work putting this together. And believes she can keep herself together while her daughter’s at school. One likes her optimism, but I admit seeing many failure modes.

Meanwhile, the vacancy on the Library Board. The Board loves it. It’s drawn them, like, attention. It helps they have two candidates. One is young Zane Clark whose family depends on the library’s public good. The other is cranky middle-aged Abel Brito who doesn’t see why the public should be paying for good. And the juicy part is that Zane’s dating Katy Brito. So Zane’s and Abel’s every interaction is a good rousing fight.

The Library Board plays it for what it’s worth, with a public debate and everything. Zane pushing ideas of ways the library could do more. Abel pushing ways that the library could run like a business, unaware that almost every business is appallingly run. Only one person can get the seat, though, and either way will hurt Katy. Coach Thorp pushes his way into the action for some reason.

Mimi Thorp: 'I wonder what's holding up the show.' Gil Thorp: 'I mean to say hi to Rollie Conlan ... I'll go check.' At the library board table, Conlan says, 'Gil! You lobbying for one of our applicants?' Gil Thorp: 'Just saying hello. I don't see you now that your grandson graduated.' Conlan: 'It's a wonder you saw me at all, as little as he played.' Thorp: 'Life in a meritocracy.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 14th of June, 2021. And having re-read the story a couple times to summarize it, no, I still don’t understand why Gil Thorp considers this worth his attention. I guess it’s nice to relieve some stress from Zane Clark and Katy Brito’s lives? Which, I guess, if he’s a nice guy should be enough motivation, but I really would have thought “didn’t get to be on the Milford Library Board” the sort of thing someone bounces back from. Also nervous about talking up “life in a meritocracy”, since what that means is “we made up charts so our racism looks like test scores”.

What he does is nudge Rollie Conlan, 29-year veteran of the Library Board, into retiring. The argument being they need both Zane Clark’s ideas about providing public services and Abel Brito’s ideas about making money. So, two vacancies, two candidates, and all is happy. Apart from family dinners that now argue about whether the library should be providing a service or something.


With that, the 10th of July, the Spring story ended. The Summer story began the 12th of July and it looks to wrap up this week or next. This was a hard one to parse, as Rubin and Whigham played coy about what the conflict even was. And there were two threads that didn’t seem to have anything to do with one another, not until the end. I can’t fault them for verisimilitude. Often in life we have no idea we’re in a story until it’s ending. But as art? It meant we had weeks that seemed to be watching people deploy golf terminology.

So here’s the golf thread. Carter Hendricks is in his second summer as part of the Milford Country Club. And he’s a popular guy. Does well, as a “humble industrial solvents salesman”, playing games for money. Oh, he blows the occasional shot, sure, but somehow he’s always got what he needs when it counts. Almost suspiciously so. Like, when he happens to play a cheap golf ball instead of his usual.

Thorp, golfing: 'Another big drive, Carter!' Hendricks: 'Blind pigs and acorns!' [ Two holes later, Hendricks watches a shot of his. ] Hendricks: 'Whoa --- where did that come from? And where the heck is it going?' [ Then, on hole #12 ] Heather Burns: 'Those clouds look ominous. Are they headed our way?'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 4th of August, 2021. A pivotal moment: if they’d gone golfing two hours earlier Hendry’s scam might have gone unproven. Also a good example of the frustrations in reading Gil Thorp. The first two panels are dropping plot points, and the third is setting up the important reveal of Hendry’s Bemidji Statue University jacket. Read the whole month, or even the whole week, and it makes sense. Read just the day’s strip and there’s no guessing what’s happening. I don’t have a good solution to this.

Enter someone who can be suspicious, besides Gil Thorp. Heather Burns, who’d been star of the summer storyline in 2017, is back from college. University of Iowa. Thorp’s able to get her a spot as assistant coach for Milford Football, which pays in glory. She wants to be a reporter, because she doesn’t know where money comes from. It comes from selling coffee in the library’s former periodicals alcove.

She puts together Thorp’s doubts with Hendricks’s green-and-white “BSU” rain jacket that he got from somewhere. He’s in fact Carson Hendry, who won two conference golf championships for Bemidji State University, in Minnesota. Had a minor career as a pro. Also had a six-month jail term for stealing clients’ money. He is, in short, hustling the club members.

Hendry, on the defensive: 'I was undercover, working with the police.' Burns: 'Translation: he rolled over on his fellow crooks and only served six months.' Hendry: 'But, I --- ' Club President: 'Save it, Carson Hendry. You're done here. And if I don't have a check in three days for every dollar you've hustled, we're pressing charges.' Club Member: 'Gil, let's help Mr *Hendry* find his car.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 19th of August, 2021. I admit I’m not clear what charges the golf club could press. I guess faking your handicap while betting on games is some kind of fraud but does it rise to a prosecutable offense? The characters admit that’s all a bluff, but I’d expect a good hustler to be sure of what he can get away with claiming without provably breaking a law. But it could be Hendry isn’t all that good a hustler, too.

They kick him out, demanding he repay his winnings, which they know he’ll never do. Meanwhile, at the Milford Star, sportswriter Marjie Ducey sees good reporting talent, albeit in the service of a non-story. Hendry isn’t a public figure, at least not public enough, unless the country club presses charges, which they don’t see any good reason to do. Editor Dale Parry agrees this shows Burns to have good instincts and abilities. But he’s already offered their job to someone with two years’ reporting experience.

And that is about where we land. It’s again a point for Rubin and Whigham’s verisimilitude that Burns’s good work doesn’t get rewarded with the job she wants and needs. Sometimes things suck and you have to muddle along with what’s all right in the circumstances. But the story isn’t quite over yet, and as you can see, sometimes Coach Thorp figures a back door into solutions.

Milford Sports Watch!

Who’s Milford been playing, at least until the summer break caught up ? These teams have turned up in past months.

And colleges get mention!

  • Le Moyne College (23 – 26 June)
  • Onondaga Community College (25 June)
  • Bemidji State University (5, 6, 16 August.) Also a reference in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Red Zone Cuba that’s now about something I specifically kind-of understand. (“They’re over the Cuba-Bemidji border.”)
  • Boise State University (16 August.) A guess about the BSU jacket.

Next Week!

It’s been months since Randy Parker disappeared from Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker! And weeks since the bed-and-breakfast burned down! And we haven’t been seeing Norton any! Is there anything left in the comic strip? We’ll check in soon, if all goes well.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? What was the deal with Sarah and the museum? May – August 2021


Couple years back, in the last major story before Terry Beatty took over writing Rex Morgan, M.D., Sarah got mixed up with an art museum. It started with the museum soliciting art made by kids, to sell as a fundraiser. But it turned out Sarah was such a good artist that it impressed a patron with mob ties. That patron pressed on the museum to replace the charity book with one done entirely by Sarah Morgan. And she’d go to the museum to draw it, and be seen as part of the tour.

This was all a bit much. Among the things Terry Beatty did as writer was dial that back. Like, by making clear the patron pushing for all this was looking at Sarah as surrogate daughter. Like making her mentor for the museum-drawing — Rene Belluso — into a regular character with an amusing string of scams. Like turning one of the kids on a tour seeing Sarah — Edward — into a regular, with an impossibly ugly dog. And finally having Sarah get hit by a car carrying Soap Opera Amnesia Disease. She lost her too-precocious artistic abilities. And she realigned to something more in range of actual six-or-seven-year-olds.

The most recent story seems to be going back on that revision, and I don’t know Beatty’s long-term plan for it. The museum book incident’s weighed on Rex and June Morgan’s minds, at least. And this essay should catch you up to mid-August 2021 in Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D.. If you’re reading this after about November 2021, or if any news about the strip breaks, there’s likely a more useful essay at this link.

Rex Morgan, M.D.

23 May – 14 August 2021.

Kyle Vidpa, author of the Kitty Cop series of children’s graphic novels, was stuck with writers block. Fortunately Sarah Morgan, who’d warmed up on drawing stories about herself and her father doing several genres of adventure story, is a fan.

So she’s composed a hundred-page fan letter/fan fiction. And Rex Morgan had promised that Buck Wise, his friend and Vidpa’s licensing agent, would get it right to him. He’s taking his first break outside the home in a year-plus, visiting his parents, who don’t understand why he can’t use his real name on his books. His real name is Jake Rowling. Weary after a night of explaining the should-be-obvious-thesis that TERFs are bad even if standing near one might help your career, he gives in and opens the letter.

Kyle Vidpa, reading and thinking: 'Well, little Sarah Morgan, what have you sent me? ... Hmmm. ' [ After reading Sarah's 'Fan Letter' ] Kyle bursts into the bedroom: 'Lauren! Lauren! Wake up!' Lauren: 'What!? What is it? What time is it?' Kyle: 'I've GOT it! I've got the new KITTY COP book!' Lauren: 'You finally came up with an idea?' Kyle: 'Not just an idea! The whole book! It's right here!' Lauren: 'You wrote the whole next book in one night!?!' Kyle: 'No, not me, my little fan, Sarah! She sent me the next book. The whole thing's right here!' Lauren: 'What in the world are you talking about? You weren't even supposed to open that package, Jake.' Kyle: 'I know, but I'm glad I did. It's great, Lauren. Wait until you read it!'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 20th of June, 2021. I realize it’s just the inclusion of the “throwaway” top row of panels that made the adjective get repeated. But the repeated use of “little Sarah Morgan” made me think of that Sunday Phantom story about The Little Detective Who Disappeared. Anyway, I remember when I was around nine or so I had a whole sketchbook somehow and I was determined to draw a comic strip through it. And I concede that many people are better at the demands of fiction-writing than I am. My recollection is that the strip dissolved into completely dadaist nonsense by the fourth page and I hope the sketchbook was (a) never finished and (b) mercifully set on fire and the ashes scattered around the world so it could never be inflicted on mortals.

It’s love at first sight. Or story love anyway. Sarah’s story is perfect, a new Kitty Cop novel ready to go. It needs some work, yes, but “not much”. And it’s even inspired him for more books. All he has to do now is get permission to use this.

Do I buy that? … I have to answer that question in segments. Might reading someone’s fanfic break an author out of his writer’s block? Yes. Might it have ideas he wants to put into the canonical text? Sure. L Frank Baum wrote in the forewords to some of the later Wizard of Oz books how he was indebted to fans writing in. Do I believe that nine-year-old Sarah Morgan could have written a novel that needs just a little tweaking? Even given the evidence we have of her ability to compose stories? I don’t buy it. I choose to interpret this as Vidpa, happy to have his problem fixed, understating how hard turning Sarah’s story into a professional book will be. Creative energy, after a long dry spell, is often a bit manic.

June Morgan, to Sarah, who's standing upside-down: 'Australia may be on the other side of the world, Sarah, but people there don't actually live upside-down.' Sarah: 'Are you sure about that?' June: 'Yeah, I am.' Sarah: 'Phooey. Upside-down sounded like fun.' Rex: 'What do you want to do with the rest of your day, Sarah? Do you have another Kitty Cop story in mind?' Sarahh: 'Nah, why would I want to write another one? I already did that. Besides, it sounds like Jake has the whole next story figured out.' Rex: 'It did seem so when we spoke with him.' Sarah: 'I want to watch anime. Can we get crunchyroll, Dad?' Rex: 'Crunchy rolls? Like the hard rolls we have at dinner sometimes?' Sarah: 'No, Dad. It's a *TV Channel*. I want to watch 'Kirakira Pretty Cure A La Mode'.' Rex: 'You know, I have no idea what you're talking about. Does that have something to do with ice cream?' Sarah: 'Dad, we need to sit down and have a serious talk.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 8th of August, 2021. This strip came up in one of my love’s Facebonk groups, with people asking how it was possible for a single Sunday strip to read like it has a page of script missing. And I … just don’t see it, except that it’s fair for someone who dropped in without seeing Saturday’s strip to have no idea why Sarah’s upside-down in the first row. She was practicing being upside-down in case she ever moved to Australia. But I may be too accustomed to the style of the strip to realize how it reads to people who don’t expect, for example, that Sarah flitters between obsessions without keeping her parents in the loop.

So now all that’s left is making the deal. It’ll have to go through Vidpa’s literary agent and the Morgan’s lawyers. But she’ll get co-author credit plus royalties on the book and any new-character merchandise. So, that’s a nice step up on her college expenses, and she gets to pick out a pseudonym. Plus, Kyle Vidpa’s wife is pregnant, so he could get inspiration from within his own family in nine years.

And that’s the important stuff gone on in the strip the last several months. We seem to be transitioning to a new story this week, so I can begin November 2021’s plot recap without much prologue.

Next Week!

I try to explain what’s going on in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp, which is going to be hard. The library plot I understand. But the summer plot, about golf? If I’m working this out right it’s about someone pretending to be a worse golfer than they actually are, for the reasons. I know, that doesn’t sound like I”m on the right track to me either”.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? What is this Visitor the Phantoms keep getting? May – August 2021


The Sunday continuity has been The Current, 21st, Phantom, telling of encounters four previous Phantoms had. These all involved The Visitor, who looks like The Phantom, and seems to have knowledge and abilities only The Phantom should have. We’ve now seen stories from all the four previous Phantoms to encounter The Visitor. This implies we’re near the end of the backstory. But we haven’t got any hint what The Visitor “really” is, yet.

What we know seems hard to square with a rationalist, scientific explanation. But The Phantom universe is one that has non-rational, magical elements. Me, I would be satisfied if The Visitor remains a mystery, but I am fond of fictional universes with weird craggly unexplained bits. And I understand readers who dislike having a mystery presented and then unresolved.

This should catch you up on Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s Sunday-continuity The Phantom for mid-August 2021. If you’re interested in the weekday storyline, with The Phantom maybe breaking Captain Savarna out of Gravelines Prison? Or if you’re interested in the Sunday stories and reading this after about November 2021? Then you’re likely to find a more useful post at this link.

The Phantom (Sundays).

16 May – 8 August 2021.

Since I took to reading this comic to do plot summaries I’ve gotten to see The Ghost Who Walks in many moods. The current Sunday story has had him in a giddy mood. It’s a fun change. He’s bubbling over with excitement at sharing a mystery with Bandar kids. Also at showing off his newly-renovated Hall of Costumes. But mostly it’s about the story.

In the time of the 3rd Phantom a strange figure — The Visitor — appeared to Bandar villagers. The Visitor looked indistinguishable from the Phantom. But he ignored them. He left footprints. The footprints vanished. That’s all anyone knows of it.

The 6th Phantom, looking at the Chronicles: 'Extraordinary! T-these immortal words have been written in my own hand!' Current Phantom, explaining the past's encounter with The Visitor: 'An ancient Roman poem the 6th Phantom knew well. He'd been made to learn it as a headstrong boy too brave for his own good! One more thing before we move on ... the 6th Phantom's doppelganger appeared in the Deep Woods just before my ancestor set out on a particularly dangerous mission. He'd smash an infamous gang of cutthroats ... reform those most capable of it ... and recruit them as the founding corps of the famed Jungle Patrol.' Julie Walker: 'That's how he met his future wife! Natala of Navarre! Oh, I *know* this story! Darling, that's why The Visitor appeared! To remind the Phantom of the poem! So he'd *live* long enough to marry Natala and have the son they had!'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 4th of July, 2021. Oh yes, so part of the mystery, besides disappearing out of rooms with no unwatched exits, is being able to forge The Phantom’s handwriting. Especially as the Actual Phantom was nowhere near the Deep Woods, which would seem to rule out sleepwalking or hypnosis or other obvious explanations. (The Phantom was not in the area for the first few appearances of The Visitor either.)

The Visitor next appeared in the time of the 6th Phantom. A girl of the Bandar tribe saw The Visitor enter Skull Cave and write in the Phantom Chronicles. And disappeared once cornered in the Chronicle Chamber, which I need hardly tell you has only the one exit. The Visitor’s message? A transcription from the Odes of Horace. The 6th Phantom had memorized the piece about the difference between courage and recklessness. It was an issue he always struggled with. It would prove a timely reminder to him before another big adventure.

The 12th Phantom was the first to see The Visitor. Briefly, in Skull Cave. Later, in some city, working his way through 2d6+6 henchmen, the 12th Phantom found … the place cleared. All the minor villains knocked out, and with the skull mark of the Phantom’s ring on their foreheads.

On to the 16th Phantom, who saw and talked with the Visitor. Who was as fast on the draw as the Phantom was. Who told the origin story of the Phantom legend, turned, and disappeared.

And those are the facts as we have them handed down to us.

Next Week!

Fanfiction! Fanfiction and Crunchyroll! No, I’m not trying out for Zippy the Pinhead: The Next Generation. I’m thinking of what’s happening in Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. so I can recap it next week, if all goes to plan. I know one of the Facebonk groups my love is on would like to have Rex Morgan, M.D. explained, except that they’ll have forgotten they cared about the strip by next Tuesday. Too bad.

What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Why are Shauna and Ashlee fighting so much? May – July 2021


Ashlee and Shauna are two women with a violent hatred of each other in the current Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth story. It hasn’t been revealed how they know one another. They both have disreputable histories, and we can infer this somehow let each learn the other’s deal. Shauna thinks Ashlee is a grifter ready to take Drew Cory for all he’s worth. Ashlee thinks Shauna wants to get back together with Drew Cory. Both are correct so both have reasonable resentment of the other.

This should catch you up to early August 2021 in Mary Worth. If you read this after late October 2021, or if any news breaks about the strip, I should have a useful post here. Also, on my mathematics blog, I’ll soon be starting a little A-to-Z, a glossary project describing a selection of mathematics terms. You can read past A-to-Z essays, and suggest topics for this one, at this link. Thank you.

Mary Worth.

9 May – 31 July 2021.

When Dr Drew Cory ditched his scheduled photo-shoot date with Ashlee Jones she showed up at his workplace to yell at him. She accepts his apology that it was an emergency at work, since his workplace is the hospital. Over a make-up dinner she reveals she got fired from her waitress job.

Mary Worth shares her worry that she’s not in this plot with Jeff Cory, her perpetual not-fiancée and Drew’s father. Jeff says his son just always falls for wild, uncontrollable women. Like Shauna, who even served time in jail for petty theft. But she’s out of his life forever and ever now, so no need to worry there!

Drew, getting ready for bed, thinks 'I have feelings for Ashlee. It was fun to photograph her.' [ As Drew reflects on his photo soot with Ashlee ... ] 'What ... a ... day!' (He thinks back to moments from the day, photographing Ashlee in the fields, against trees, in a waterfall, and more.) Drew: 'Oh no ... Did I lose my Rolex?' [ Meanwhile ... ] Ashlee looks over his watch; 'Hmm ... I wonder how much I can get for this watch?'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 30th of May, 2021. You hadn’t quite asked but, yeah, I don’t know how Ashlee got his watch off either. Like, I (roughly) understand how in the city you might bump into someone and lift their watch while they’re distracted, but that doesn’t seem likely to work here. I guess he had to take his watch off, but for what reason? I don’t know but have to suppose Ashlee knows her business. Also: did she bring a change of clothes for that waterfall picture? Or was this spontaneous an they thought she’d dry off before it got too uncomfortable?

During their delayed photoshoot Drew loses his Rolex to Ashlee’s pocket-picking. Drew’s tale of regret at losing a gift from his late mother moves her, though. She returns the watch, claiming to have gone back out to nature and checked the ground. It’s a heartwarming moment, interrupted when who shows up at The People’s Clinic but Shauna?

Shauna has an instant resentment of Ashlee. Also a story that Ashlee’s a grifter who’ll use Drew and throw him away. Also a story that she herself has cleaned up her life since they broke up. Also dermatitis, the reason for her visit. Drew believes her about cleaning up her life and about the dermatitis. But the rest? How could Ashlee possibly be wicked when she’s always been nice to him?

[ After seeing his ex-girlfriend earlier, Drew endures a troubled sleep ... ] While moaning 'Shauna ... Ashlee ... ', Drew has a surreal dream where the two women tug on him, stretching him out in weird tangled loops. He wakes, crying out.
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 27th of June, 2021. Mary Worth sure seems like it’s been hitting the dream sequences a lot. They’re fun to see. I wonder if they’ve been writing to give June Brigman the chance to draw more wild art.

Ashlee and Shauna show up at The People’s Clinic again, and fight again. Ashlee decides to step up her grift. She gets Drew to agree to loan five thousand dollars to jump-start her modeling career. He’s slow to send it, though. Doctor stuff, although she suspects Shauna stuff. So she comes to The People’s Clinic to get her money already.

She catches Drew giving a lollipop to a little girl, and has a change of heart. She breaks up with her mark, by text. She claims to have a great job offer out of town, she won’t need the money, and she has to leave forever now. Bye. And she does leave town. This doesn’t stop Drew thinking about her, though.

[ As Drew remembers to send Ashlee five thousand dollars he notices her text ... ] Ashlee's Text: 'I just got a great job offer and won't need the money after all! I have to leave town ... sorry I couldn't say goodbye in person ... it's been real.' Cut to Ashlee, looking at waitress-wanted jobs and riding a bus out of town.
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 1st of August, 2021. This may seem like an overreaction to “decides not to rip off her boyfriend”. She gets off lightly, though. When you break up with someone in Luann you have to flee the contiguous United States. No joke; I can name four characters this happened to.

And that’s where things stand as of the start of August. It’s hard to believe the story is over, since nobody’s pair-bonded yet and there’s no sign of thanking Mary Worth for her contributions. So my guess is we’ve got another month or so before the next story. See you in late October and we’ll find out what’s right!

Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!

The auto care place up the street has changed its message a little bit, thanking Lansing for its support. It’s not only the economic development council. I hope this doesn’t signify a tiff with whoever gives out loans and grants around here. Meanwhile, here are inspirational quotes from the Sunday panels that could have been said by someone. Maybe even the named person!

  • “Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.” — Plato, 9 May 2021.
  • “I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.” — Mae West, 16 May 2021.
  • “Mysteries of attraction could not always be explained through logic.” — Lisa Kleypas, 23 May 2021.
  • “Love can sometimes be magic, but magic can sometimes … just be an illusion.” — Javan, 30 May 2021.
  • “The past is never the past. It is always present.” — Bruce Springsteen, 6 June 2021.
  • “Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving.” — James E Faust, 13 June 2021.
  • “It’s what you don’t expect … that most needs looking for.” — Neal Stephenson, 20 June 2021.
  • “Saying ‘yes’ to one thing means saying ‘no’ to another. That’s why decisions can be hard sometimes.” — Sean Covey, 27 June 2021.
  • “I’m a lover, not a fighter, but I’ll fight if I have to.” — Yungblud, 4 July 2021.
  • “There are no good girls gone wrong — just bad girls found out.” — Mae West, 11 July 2021.
  • “When someone else’s happiness is your happiness, that is love.” — Lana Del Ray, 18 July 2021.
  • “Life is always at some turning point.” — Irwin Edman, 25 July 2021.
  • “A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets.” — Gloria Stuart, 1 August 2021.

Next Week!

The Phantom tells an incredible story of an immortal ghost who’s not him! It’s Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity, if all goes as planned.

%d bloggers like this: