What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? Is there a story in Rex Morgan right now? July – September 2022


Since my last update on Rex Morgan, M.D. there was one complete story, about the health problems of Aunt Tildy and her husband. And then there’s the month or so since then. This hasn’t focused on any particular character, and hasn’t shown any particular event developing. It seems to be more a refreshing of audience memory of various characters and their situations than anything else. So I can’t say what the story is, as it’s not yet clear who’s taking the lead.

I’m sure it will be clear by December 2022, when I expect to come around to Glenwood again. If you’re reading after about December 2022, or any news breaks about Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D., I should have a more useful essay here. Thanks for being with me now, though.

Rex Morgan, M.D..

3 July – 17 September 2022.

Last time I checked in, Andrzej “Count Crushinski” Bobrowski felt sick. He snuck out on his wife, June Morgan’s vaguely-Aunt Tildy, to the hospital. His presumed heart attack turned out to be heartburn. No big deal, but Rex Morgan does deliver a stern warning against driving yourself to the hospital when you’re feeling like that. You might pass out or something and have an accident. Released, Andrzej buys flowers and chocolate and tries to pretend he wasn’t anywhere in particular for hours on end.

Rex Morgan: 'With your symptoms, coming to the hospital was the best choice. What was *not* a good choice was driving yourself.' Andrzej: 'I'm a good driver, though. Tildy even says so.' Morgan: 'Yes --- but if you're having a medical emergency, you could lose control, cause an accident and injure yourself or someone else. Always have someone else drive you.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 6th of July, 2022. Well, fortunately, we know nobody’s going to be making the mistake of driving themselves to the emergency room anytime soon!

It doesn’t work and Tildy scolds her husband for sneaking off to the hospital like that. Only then she’s feeling woozy and doesn’t feel she can spoil Andrzej’s day by having him drive her to the hospital. So she takes his car and drives herself, hoping to outrace her symptoms to the emergency room. She loses.

[ Tildy blacks out while driving to the hospital ] ... [ and her car runs off the road! ] (We see Tildy unconscious at the wheel, and the Cadillac roaring - crunch -thud!)
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 21st of July, 2022. Oh.

She’s fortunate not to be seriously hurt in the accident. In the hospital June scolds her to let the doctor on call treat her instead of holding out for Rex Morgan. Tildy turns out to have a more serious problem, a cardiac arrhythmia that they hope to treat with medicine. Andrzej rushes to join his wife and acknowledge the irony that she did the thing she had just scolded him for doing. But everything except the bills looks okay. Andrzej and Tildy settle down to watch what they think are the free streaming movies in her hospital room. And that wraps up the story.


From the 16th of August the new story started. I’m not sure how to word that. At least it’s when we began checking in on major characters. Hank Harwood Junior, for example, is off to see Yvonne, whom he met on his and his father’s road trip a couple years ago. (She’s the daughter of Millie Grey, a woman that Hank Senior might have married, and re-found with in her last days.) Buck Wise, who seems to do some kind of agent merchandising work or something, promises to check in on the elderly Hank Senior.

[ What's going on with the good folks here in Glenwood? Hank Jr is taking a trip out of town, hoping to find romance. ] Hank, on the phone: 'Boarding my plane in ten minutes. Can't wait to see you.' [ Buck is checking on Hank Sr. ] Hank Sr: 'Kind of you to stop by, Buck, but I don't really need babysitting. I'm old, but not helpless.' [ Truck Tyler looks forward to his gig at Lou's despite reservations about the opening act. ] (He's practicing guitar.) [ Kelly buckles down and studies hard to make the best of her senior year. ] (She's taking notes.) [ While Niki can't wait for the weekend. ] (He's reading a chemistry book and thinking 'This is SO dull.') [ And Rex? Treating patients, as always. ] (He's hold a stethoscope to a child's chest.)
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 11th of September, 2022. As it only feels like keeps happening, Terry Beatty summarized the strip quite well in one Sunday strip so you don’t need me. I mean, it’s absolutely coincidence even though this is the third time in eighteen months that he’s drawn a solid recap the weekend before I was going to publish mine.

After discovering that his son Corey is somehow taller than him, Wise checks in on another of his projects. This is managing the revived career of roots country singer Truck Tyler. Wise arranged a new opening act: ‘Mud Mountain’ Murphy, whom Truck had thought was dead. Nope, he was just living off the grid a while, hiding out in Funky Winkerbean after donating all his comic book stuff to Boy Lisa and joining the team at Atomik Comix. But he’s back now. Tyler is skeptical: Murphy was famously unreliable. Wise says Murphy insists he’s gotten his act together.

And then on to some of the teenagers, a futile attempt to warm me up for recapping Gil Thorp next week. Niki Roth once again uses his delivery job to get into the comic, and to visit his girlfriend Kelly. (She’s the Morgans’ babysitter.) Kelly is ready for senior year, and thinking of college. Niki has a faint awareness that they’ve been in high school since the comic strip started in 1732. He is not ready for college, or even next week, which, mood.

I want to say that’s how far the story has gotten, but as you see, it’s not much of a story yet. It seems more to be refreshing our memory of the various characters and their settings. We’ll see what thread takes the lead and where it goes by the time I get back to this strip in eleven weeks or so.

Next Week!

It is, with no snark and no exaggeration, my greatest challenge in plot summarization in years. Maybe ever. For the first time I try to explain what’s going on in Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. Be with me here in a week to learn how much I don’t know about the history of Gil Thorp and how much Henry Barajas does.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? Did *anything* happen in The Phantom? June – September 2022


The last couple months of the Sunday continuity of The Phantom have not been dense in plot. You’ll see that in how short this recap is. But a story is not its plot; plot is only the easiest part of a story to summarize. There is mood and character and art and how they come together.

This essay should catch you up to mid-September 2022 in Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity. If you’re interested in the separate, weekday continuity — where Kit Walker Junior is looking at where his father died — or if you’re reading this after about December 2022, there’s likely a more useful essay here.

The Phantom (Sundays).

26 June – 11 September 2022.

The Phantom had taken Diana to Eden, the curious paradisical island where even large carnivores like tigers and lions live in harmony. Diana was not distracted, though, and followed his journey to the nearby Temple of the Gods. The temple was built by an exiled Ancient Egyptian cult that had developed a race of super-men. Within its catacombs are carvings of Egyptian deities, yes. But also inhuman mummies. The Third Phantom had visited the cave, in 1624, and left a warning against going there. The current, 21st, Phantom, visited in a story published in 2005. He found creatures with the heads of animals and bodies of men. The Phantom did he could, then, to hide their existence.

The Phantom: 'Mina Braun ... quite a brilliant mind. You'd like her. Scientist, historian, Egyptologist. She led a team of divers to the waters off Eden. Her grandfather and the Kriegsmarine crew he commanded died there on a mission to find the Temple of the Gods. Mina organized a search of the wreck. A search for the ancient scroll that had led the Nazis here.' Diana: 'On the verge of losing a world war, why would the Nazis ... Oh no!' Phantom: 'That's right. If the cult that had worshipped here knew how to breed a race of supermen, Berlin wanted that biotechnology. Mina Braun learned of the scroll's existence in a diary kept by her great-uncle, her grandfather's brother.' Diana: 'Darling, the professor on the video ... so horribly slaughtered by that awful creature! He ... !' Phantom: 'German ... yes. Until now, I thought the scroll and the diary were the only historical accounts of this place. Now I wonder if Mina's grandfather had confided the purpose of his secret mission to someone else besides his brother.'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 7th of August, 2022. You know there’s like a 40% chance the Nazis really did send an expedition to somewhere in eastern Africa trying to find a secret Ancient Egyptian cult in the belief they could breed super-human beast-man soldiers, though.

He explains much of this to Diana, in-between encouraging her to turn back and get somewhere safe. Because these creatures might maybe recognize The Phantom and might respect that. They can’t know anything about Diana. And this story started with a German man exploring the cave being torn apart, on camera, apparently by one of them.

And the German bit. The 2005 story was driven by Mina Braun, an explorer following her great-uncle’s diary. The diary tells of a desperate Nazi plot to turn the tide of war by securing this secret of creating super-soldiers. The Phantom believed he had gotten all documents that might lead someone here. Now he needs to learn what he’s missed.

Next Week!

Andrzej Beobrowski and Aunt Tildy: which one wrecked their car driving to the hospital to have their heart attack looked at in secret? And how does this tie in to Buck Wise? Or Truck Tyler? I’ll try to summarize Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. next week, all going well.

What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Why does Mary Worth want to be friends with Jared? June – September 2022


The past eleven weeks of Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth have been about the breakup of Dawn Weston and Jared Mylo. This included Mary Worth pushing Dawn to tell Jared how there’s no bad blood and she hopes they can be friends. It’s odd advice and let me wanting to slug the strip. Like, yeah, it’s nice to be on good terms with people if you can help it. But it’s not like they’re coworkers or people who can’t avoid one another. Who cares if your ex knows you don’t take it personally?

Rereading the whole sequence to recap this I realized something. Both Jared and Dawn, separately, told Mary Worth of how they still care for the other. From the information she has, she’s making a reasonable supposition that they need to talk with one another. Her angle seems more that if Dawn acknowledged and apologized for hurting Jared’s feelings they could work things out. I can’t argue with that, and so regret a bit of my anger at recent Mary Worth.

And now perhaps you can understand your anger at Mary Worth, through to early September 2022. If you’re reading this after about November 2022 there’s likely a more up-to-date plot recap here. I’ll do the same if any news about the comic breaks out, I’ll have word on it there. Now to the plot.

Mary Worth.

19 June – 3 September 2022.

Jared Mylo, taken for granted by Dawn Weston and emboldened by a dubiously wise flirtation from his patient Jess Bender, broke up with Dawn. He says he hopes they can be friends, but Dawn’s hearing none of it. And he’s torn up about it himself. He goes to Jess — released from hospital and living with her sister — and they have a pleasant day considering she talks about her hospitalization. The text had led me (and many!) to suppose she was beaten by a partner. No: she took an ill-advised shortcut and got mugged, and beaten. The date ends up with frustration. Jess feels maimed and that Jared refrains from kissing reinforces that fear. Jared goes home mourning that Dawn won’t even talk with him.

[ As Jared and Jess enjoy their date ... ] Jess: 'Being with you is like someone who speaks my language in a foreign land. I *never* thought I'd meet someone like you!' Jared: 'I feel the same way, Jess!' They hug. Jess thinks: 'SIGH. I went in for a kiss ... and got a hug! I must still be HIDEOUS!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 19th of July, 2022. Or Jared is at least a bit bothered that he got to know Jess when he was the physician assistant tending her while she was recovering in the hospital. They might not be breaking any rules about employee/patient relationships but it’s a dubiously good idea at least.

Jared talks with Mary Worth about this. While he’s upset by the breakup he also feels it important to note it’s Dawn’s fault. And yeah, he has found someone who’s treating him better. Mary Worth advises being respectful towards Dawn, insisting that Dawn wouldn’t want to hurt him intentionally. He does say how he wishes Dawn would talk with her. And Mary Worth hopes that Dawn will eventually talk to her, too. So there’s where Mary Worth gets the sense this is a meddle-ready relationship.

Meanwhile Dawn is angry about being dumped. Her friend Cathy notes that this is all Dawn’s fault. It is, and her I-told-you-so is more justified than Sally Forth hauling off on Alice a couple weeks ago. But it doesn’t push Dawn to real self-reflection until she talks with her father, mayonnaise export Wilbur Weston. He shares some of his romantic troubles, including his separation from Dawn’s mother. That romance scam he fell for in Colombia. And then how Stella called for a break in their relationship after he thought it’d be fun to let everyone think he was dead an extra week after falling off that CRUISE SHIP.

[ After lying in bed with troubled thoughts, Dawn sleeps and dreams ... ] She dreams of herself, tearing her hair off, growing fatter, growing glasses, turning into a duplicate of her father. Dawn wakes up, screaming.
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 14th of August, 2022. Interesting dream. I wonder what it means.

Dawn sees in her father the things that wreck her own relationships. Also she gets worried about “inconstancy”, the way people in the year 2022 do. This leads to a Mary Worth Dream Sequence, a very literal one where she turns into her father. Afraid of turning into her father, she turns to Mary Worth, the least inconstant character in the story comics now that Mark Trail has internalized thoughts, for help.

Mary Worth says she saw the signs of this, but that Dawn had to discover them for herself. All right. So Dawn needs to click her silver shoes together and tell Jared there’s no bad blood between them. She does, using those words. They agree they don’t hate each other. Jared asks if she’d like to hang out sometime, and Dawn says no, not yet. Maybe sometime.

Feeling freed, though, Jared goes on another pleasant date with Jess. Both agree that it was Dawn’s fault, but this is the first time Jared ever broke up with someone so he feels bad about it. Jess wishes he weren’t so “hideous”, so that Jared might kiss her, and, what do you know but he does.

And this is where we’ve gotten in early September.

Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!

  • “I always entertain great hopes.” — Robert Frost, 19 June 2022.
  • “Loving you was like going to war: I never came back the same.” — Warsan Shire, 26 June 2022.
  • “I think heartbreak is something you learn to live with, as opposed to learn to forget.” — Kate Winslet, 3 July 2022.
  • “A kind gesture can reach a wound only compassion can heal.” — Steve Maraboli, 10 July 2022.
  • “Ihe dew of compassion is a tear.” — Lord Byron, 17 July 2022.
  • “A man is already halfway in love with any woman who will listen to him.” — Brendan Behan, 24 July 2022.
  • “Respect is one of the greatest expressions of love.” — Miguel Angel Ruiz, 31 July 2022.
  • “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” — Proverb, 7 August 2022.
  • “My father didn’t tell me how to live: he lived, and let me watch him do it.” — Clarence Budington Kelland, 14 August 2022.
  • “Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed.” — Cavett Robert, 21 August 2022.
  • “What we have one enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” — Helen Keller, 28 August 2022.
  • “I’ve learned that love, not time, heals all wounds.” — Andy Rooney, 4 September 2022.

Next Week!

It’s the Ghost Who Walks … though a lot of catacombs! Not into his death in a remote Indian valley as part of the destruction of the Walker legacy! I look at Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity, the one with semi-human beast monsters, next week, if things go to plan.

Statistics Saturday: Comic Strip I Most Wanted to Slug This Week, by Day


Day Slugging-Ready Comic Strip
Sunday Mary Worth
Monday Funky Winkerbean
Tuesday Funky Winkerbean
Wednesday Funky Winkerbean
Thursday Funky Winkerbean
Friday Funky Winkerbean
Saturday OH FOR CRYING OUT LOUD CRANKSHAFT

Reference: When You Were A Tadpole And I Was A Fish: And Other Speculations About This And That, Martin Gardner.

What’s Going On In Mark Trail? Is the Mark Trail writing changing again? June – August 2022


I’m aware Jules Rivera’s tenure on Mark Trail hasn’t been to everyone’s tastes. The more cartoony art style, and the soft reboot of the characters, hasn’t worked for many. That characters and, especially, the narrator lean in to delivering jokes more has also bothered some. They liked the strip more when it was square.

So I’m taking my preface to point out something that’s grown more prominent the last few months. And that is that the writing — as in, the words on the page — is becoming more square again. The stories haven’t changed, particularly in running separate Mark and Cherry stories. But we’re seeing Mark Trail say things like “Holy guacamole! Rex handled those Canada geese well! He’s sure got a way with animals.” Or “Oh, for Pete’s sake! Cricket Bro is locked in the EUV! We have to get him out!” We’re also seeing more exaggerated reaction poses for individual characters. And minor character names that are more on the nose, like “Jimmy Songbird” the keytar player.

It’s a return to a more stodgy, slightly off mode of your classic Jack Elrod narrative. It’s not a complete reversion. For one, I feel Rivera is doing this as deliberate effect; Elrod, my sense is, just wrote like that. Mark Trail continues his new habit of internalized thoughts. Sometimes he even says things without exclamation points.

I imagine someone who can’t stand Rivera’s style will not be moved by this observation. But, for those who aren’t sure? You might enjoy the comic strip more if you’re cued to look for it.

This should catch you up to late August 2022 in the Mark Trail story. If you’re reading this after about November 2022, or news about the comic strip comes out, there should be a more useful essay here. Also, on my other blog, I looked at a couple comic strips for their mathematical themes. Hope you enjoy.

Mark Trail.

12 June – 28 August 2022.

Professor Bee Sharp had rushed the DJ’s booth, at the Bettancourt’s NFT scam launch party. He talked the DJ into playing his tracks. These turned his investigations into “Cricket Bro” Rob and “Crypto Bro” Sterling Bettancourt into EDM. The revelation? The NFTs are a scam and the crypto is worthless garbage. Really, uh, caught me off-guard with that fast-breaking Zontar story there, Floyd.

[ The Cricket Bro Cryptocurrency event is lit. Literally! ] DJ: 'Holy smokes! For real! The forest is on fire. Everyone, evacuate!' [ Meanwhile, Mark struggles with another emergency. ] A smashed-up electric utility vehicle has hit against a tree; Mark Trail and Bee Sharp watch, horrified. Mark Trail: 'Oh, for Pete's sake! Cricket Bro is locked in the EUC! We have to get him out!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 20th of June, 2022. In before the weird T-6000 fanboys explain it’s perfectly normal for cars to lock up and catch on fire after a low-speed crash into a tree.
Rob is angered by the EDM lyrics, and also the revelation that EDM has lyrics. He charges at Mark Trail and Bee Sharp using the only weapon at hand, his Electric Utility Vehicle. He crashes immediately into a tree, and the car locks up and catches fire. The two smash open the car’s windshield and drag an angry Rob out. The crash starts a wildfire, though. The partygoers evacuate, and leave the area. But not before a piece of the half-pipe built for the event falls on Rusty Trail. Rusty calls for help, and sees what he believes to be the Seaside Specter. We don’t see what happens, or what he “really” saw. We see him reunited with his parents, safe and sound, though.

The wildfire doesn’t grow much, and the local fire authorities credit our friend the beaver. Beaver dams around the location kept the local area moist, limiting the fire’s spread. Oregon Fish and Wildlife wants to talk with the Bettancourts, but they’ve fled to California. And, with Happy Trail considering whether he can sell flame-roasted cricket protein bars, the story comes to a natural end, the 2nd of July.


The current stories began the 4th of July. There are two pieces, as has become traditional, one following Cherry Trail and one following Mark Trail. I’ll recap Cherry Trail’s first.

Her father, Doc Davis, asks for help at the veterinary clinic. There’s all kinds of animals suffering allergic reactions or chemical burns. It looks like pesticide poisoning, but that’s not usually this serious. And it becomes personal for the Trails, as Sassy, their other dog that I forgot about too gets the same rash. Mark Trail figures it’s some kind of weed killer, but who’s using such strong weed killer out here in the Lost Forest?

[ Cherry receives shocking news ... ] Cherry: 'You're hiring Honest Ernest to do your gardening instead of me?' Violet Cheshire: 'Cherry, there's plenty left for you to do. Ernest is only doing the lawn treatment.' Cherry: 'Treatment ? Like with pesticides and weedkillers?' Honest Ernest: 'The very best! I'm using a new compound of my own creation!' [ He holds out a bottle, foreshortened ] 'Honest Ernest's lawn libation!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 5th of August, 2022. I’m not sure about this home-brewed toxin stuff, but I do respect anyone in the year 2022 who’s out making “libations”.
I mean, it’s the Sunny Soleil Society. We all knew that going in, but how they’re responsible takes time to reveal itself. Early August, reader time, we get that. Violet Cheshire wants that big mass of native plants ripped out to make a proper lawn, for the teatime garden. And she’s hired Honest Ernest, bug exterminator, to do it. He’s got a great new compound “of my own creation” to control weeds and insects. That “thud” you heard was the jaws of everybody at the EPA and FDA hitting the floor. Ernest is happy to give Cherry a sample, though, and she takes it back to Doc to test how corrosive it is. It quickly dissolves away the dirt on a penny, then the penny, then the pan the penny’s in, the table, the floor, the basement, and five feet of Piedmont anorthosite underneath. And that’s how far that story’s gotten.


The 14th of July saw Mark Trail’s story split off from Cherry’s. Bill Ellis offers a choice of stories. One is tracking a rampaging elephant reported in four states. The other is for Teen Girl Sparkle, and it’s about a New Age healing center with an animal-therapy focus. Mark Trail picks the boring safe one, and we get Amy Lee back in the strip. She explains how it’s not so much a healing center as a roadside zoo. But he’ll be working with celebrity stunt driver-turned-Bikbok animal wrangler Rex Scorpius. Also, the New Age resort may be some kind of tiger cult, you know how these things go.

Amy Lee, explaining scenes we see illustrated: 'Mark, this job pairs you with Rex Scorpius, famous for going from stunt driver to naturalist. You'll sign up for a spa package at the tiger touch center in Texas. This place claims to provide animal therapy. The center was created by Tess Tigress, an animal expert who wrote the pestseller 'Just Pet The Cat'.' Mark Trail: 'Petting an animal has been shown to reduce stress, but not when that animal is a 500-pound tiger!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 28th of July, 2022. I don’t know, the tiger seems quite comfortable with it.

On scene in Houston Mark Trail meets up with … Diana Daggers again! She’s working with Rex Scorpius as he’s not doing NFT/crypto scam money. Also, hey, she was in Raccoon Rangers with Amy Lee. She’s where Lee got the idea of pitching this job to Mark Trail. She wanted Mark Trail because she believes Rex Scorpius is in real danger. Not so much physical danger, as emotional. He’s been going through some major stuff and guys like him get sucked into cults like this.

It’s happened before. She mentions how a couple years ago one of her stars had a mental break. He’d left town to film a movie in a lost forest and vanished. This sure seems to refer to James Allen’s final, abandoned, story for Mark Trail. In that story bad-boy action hero Jeremy Cartwright comes to Lost Forest to be kind of a jerk. If this is Jeremy Cartwright, he’s gone off to a Naturalist cult in Mendocino County so I guess we don’t need to worry about him anymore.

[ Mark Trail watches the live filming of an animal-themed tv show ] Mark Trail ;'How exciting!' Rex, addressing his camera: 'I'm Rex Scorpius and this is 'Animal Rexpertise'. Today we'll confront these fierce Canada geese ... who made their home in the yard of famous musician Jimmy Songbird.' As the geese honk, Jimmy Songbird says, 'help! I cannot play my keytar in such hostility!' [ Looks like the geese have their own musical notes. ]
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 17th of August, 2022. Oh, yeah, for soem reason Mark Trail decided to go to this Texas cult dressed in what he thinks of as cowboy garb.
Mark Trail’s first meeting with Rex Scorpius goes well enough. He’s filming an episode about removing Canada geese from the yard of famed keytar musician Jimmy Songbird. Removing Canada geese is the stuff for professionals and … I guess Rex Scorpius is one, or brought in experts for his show, as that goes well enough. Mark Trail tries to catch up with Rex and ask about his secret, but Rex has to get to bed and to the gym. Anything to spend time not with other people. I get that.

And that’s about as far as that story’s gotten. We’re not yet to the tiger cult. I trust this will all play out in the next eleven weeks, by the time I get back to recapping Mark Trail plots.

Sunday Animals Watch!

  • Spiders, 12 June 2022. With advice about how to get more spiders!
  • Native-Plant Lawns, 19 June 2022. This is where that smug friend showing a picture of a yard that’s covered in what turn out to be invasive Siberian wheats got their idea.
  • Goats, 26 June 2022. They can mow lawns and chew on lab coats!
  • Bald Eagles, 3 July 2022. Remember when we almost killed them all? Glad we’re not trying to that anymore … right?
  • Turtles, 10 July 2022. Don’t mess up their work. They’re busy defeating Shredder and the whole Foot Clan for us.
  • Wildfires, 17 July 2022. Let’s stop setting them, OK? Think we can do that a little?
  • Sea Turtles, 24 July 2022. Could we stop making their lives harder than they need to be too?
  • De-Pavement, 31 July 2022. Turns out having soil and plants and trees and stuff is good even for cities.
  • Rabbits and Hares, 7 August 2022. Which ones are the clever ones, and which are the ones that are full of tricks?
  • Sharks, 14 August 2022. Are we making their lives harder than they need to be too? Why do we keep doing this?
  • Canada Geese, 21 August 2022. Just … like … don’t start with them. Oof.
  • Scorpions, 28 August 2022. Don’t start anything with them, they won’t start anything with you. Check your boots.

Next Week!

Is another member of the Weston clan making a complete mess of their lives? Why yes they are! Are we getting dubious-to-bad relationship advice passed off as somehow acceptable? Hoo yeah. It’s all sorts of cautionary tales in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth, next week, if all goes well.

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? Shouldn’t Boog be like 18 by now? June – August 2022


The story in Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley starred Boog Skinner, one of the fifth generation of the comic’s central family. He was born in September 2004, implying that he should be eighteen. But anyone can see he’s not. I’m not sure how old to peg his age, since I’m at the age where every kid looks either three, ten, or sixteen. I’d put him at ten. He’s old enough to be interested in the idea of girls, at least. And to be able to build a plastic scale model without comic mishaps. I couldn’t claim he wasn’t fourteen or so, but he’s not leaving-high-school old.

What’s going on is that while the identifying gimmick of Gasoline Alley is the characters aging, they don’t age in real time. It’s not as static as it was in the 1970s and 80s, when the aging froze. But it is slower than real time. Given that a story can take a month or more of reader time to do a couple days of character time that seems a fair way to show enough of characters’ lives. Reasonable people may disagree.

So this should catch you up to late August 2022 in the comic strip’s story. There’s likely a more useful plot recap if you’re reading this after about November 2022. And if any news about the comic breaks I’ll share it at that link too.

And over on my mathematics blog I look at comic strips, now and then, and here’s one of those essays. I figure to have another Reading the Comics post tomorrow, all going well. You might be interested.

Gasoline Alley.

5 June – 20 August 2022.

Rufus and Joel got to Hollywood to take up their movie jobs. Only it was the wrong Hollywood. They were in Florida, by a mistake we might have seen coming. They give their last 50 cents to a beggar and immediately find a loose $20 in the street. They notice it’s 11:11 and wonder if the vanished beggar might have been an angel, reflecting a superstition I never heard before. I’d checked the GoComics comments to see if anyone knew more about it. One of them this was the same kind of thinking that brought that Comet Hale-Bopp cult to kill themselves. This is what happens when you take seriously the Skeptical Inquirer articles about Society. Stick to the articles about how, like, these chupacabra sightings were more likely a raccoon with mange.

Joel: 'Rufus! Good thing you don't work fo' NASA!' Rufus: 'How's that?' Joel: 'If you navimagatd a rocket ship t'Mars --- it'd end up so'where like yo'head!' Rufus: 'How's that?' Joel: 'It'd be in a empty black hole in space! See?' (He points to the back background of the scene.) Rufus: 'I don't see nothin'!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 7th of June, 2022. Hey, wait a minute … navigating a rocket ship to Mars? That’s foreshadowing! We never get foreshadowing!

Anyway they phone home to learn they were fired and there’s nothing to do but return to Gasoline Alley. They do, along the way spotting a meteor that serves as transition to the current story, which started the 1st of July.


Boog Skinner and his girlfriend Charlotte are stargazing and making a wish on the falling star. Charlotte’s little brother Jimmy comes in to remind us he’s not dead yet. Jimmy we met a couple years ago. He suffers from Tiny Tim Syndrome, suffering an unspecified fatal illness that some new treatment helps. He’s still getting better. Boog has the idea to build a rocket ship for Jimmy, who’s not only a train enthusiast but also a spaceships guy.

His grandfather Slim Skinner offers his help, and his metal junk pile. The building of a Flash Gordon-esque rocket goes swiftly. In days they have something ready to launch. Ah, but Rufus and Joel, getting home just in time, ask with what fuel? Slim offers his El Diablo Fuego-hot jalapeño chili pepper chews. That’s not enough to fuel a rocket. But add a bit of Joel’s cousin Zeb’s high-potency medicinal home-brew “koff medicine”? Well now you’ve got something ready to take off before you can even say “lunch not launch”.

Looking over the homemade, Flash Gordon-style rocket; Polly is flying near the cockpit and awks at it. Jimmy: 'Will it fly, Boog?' Boog: 'We don't know! It's not been tested!' Then everyone turns as smoke pours in from off screen. Boog: 'What's that noise?' Charlotte: 'Uh-oh!' Jimmy: 'It's shakin' an'quakin!' Rufus: 'It's blastin' off!' Slim: 'But we didn't do the countdown yet!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 30th of July, 2022. Joel later says that ashes from his pipe started the ignition so don’t worry, the rocket liftoff is explained and Jim Scancarelli is way ahead of us snarkers.

So it does! The homemade contraption lifts off and soon passes the Moon. And, according to the news, soars to Mars, NASA calculating it’ll arrive in minutes. Boog’s rocket lands on Mars in sight of Percy, the Perseverance rover that landed on Mars back in 2021. (Here I learned something; I thought ‘Percy’ was the comic strip’s jokey nickname for the rover. Not so.) And, more amazing, Perseverance detects life inside the rocket. Through its porthole we see Polly, Charlotte’s parrot, begging to be let out.

It’s a dream, of course, as Polly tells Boog over the TV feed. Boog wakes up, regretting only that he has to do it all over again. But if it was all a dream, why does he have Slim’s bag of jalapeño chews?

Joel: 'How did that parrot get inside the rocket?' Boog: 'How did she survive the trip to Mars?' Jimmy: 'It's like a dream!' Polly, from Mars, heard over the TV footage on Jimmy's tablet: 'AWK! Awk! It IS A DREAM! Wake up, Boog! Get me outta here!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 11th of August, 2022. I like this as a way of declaring the dream over and it even matches real experiences where noticing you’re in a dream can end the dream. Also, uh, I guess Polly’s female? I didn’t know that.

Anyway he rebuilds his rocket, as a kitbashed model this time, and brings it to Jimmy. And that’s where things stand now.

Next Week!

Who’s responsible for soaking the Lost Forest in so much toxic lawn chemicals that it’s making the local pets sick, and why is it the Sunny Soleil Society? Are we not going to chase a rogue elephant? And why is a nature-show streamer in danger of being slurped up into a roadside zoo cult? All this and Canada geese in Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail, next week’s story strip, if things go to plan. See you then.

Statistics Saturday: the Most Frequently Snarked-Upon Comic Strips in Another Timeline


  • Russell Myers’s Broom Hilda
  • Gary Larson’s Broom Hilda
  • Charles Schulz’s Broom Hilda
  • Chester Gould’s Broom Hilda
  • Tom Batiuk’s Broom Hilda
  • Jim Davis’s Broom Hilda
  • Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Broom Hilda
  • Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Broom Hilda
  • Norm Feuti’s Broom Hilda
  • That Guy Who Did The Outbursts of Everett True‘s Broom Hilda
  • Bill Watterson’s Broom Hilda
  • Walt Kelly’s Broom Hilda

Reference: Magnificent Failure: Free Fall From The Edge Of Space, Craig Ryan.

And Then I Noticed Something About Funky Winkerbean


I’m not any less angry at Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean than I was at the start of this week, mind you. This even though instead of a story about Crazy Harry’s wife making him drop his VHS tape hobby it’s flashbacks totally rewriting what we thought was the history of how Lisa Moore recorded the Dead Lisa Tapes for some reason.

No, the thing that I noticed this week — and remember, I’ve been reading Funky Winkerbean for so long that I remember when it was surprising that something bad happened to a character — is that the strip has two major characters named Harry. There’s Crazy Harry, formerly the guy who lived in his locker and listened to pizzas on his turntable and now a guy who returns videotapes to people; and then there’s Harry Harry L Dinkle The World’s Greatest Guy Taped Onto High School Band Director Office Doors. They’ve both been major characters in the strip since Richard Nixon was president and I just noticed this now.

I mean, I can’t fault the realism of having two characters with the same name around. At my former workplace, which had like two dozen people in it, there were somehow four people named “Joseph”, and when one of them retired somehow there was another Joseph I hadn’t ever seen or heard of before except now he was the person who actually responded to my weekly status reports. It just seems the Harry situation is a little cramped for a comic strip that has … well, dozens of old white guys who are way into comic books and superhero movies and moping. Mr Tom Batiuk please change the name of at least one Harry to something not already in use by another prominent character, thank you.

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? Why can’t Dick Tracy neutralize the Moon People’s superpowers? May – August 2022


The current story in Joe Staton Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy is about a block of Lunarians planning to conquer Earth. And they have a good bid for it too, given that the former Moon Valley people have antennas and energy powers and stuff. The Lunarian’s leader wants to head off this invasion and warns Dick Tracy of Earth’s potential conquest here. But … didn’t we see that the Lunarians’ powers can be suppressed? How big a threat could this be?

So we did. When Mr Bribery had Posie Ermine captured and genetically engineered into the clone Moon Maid, he had a remote control ring made to control her powers. Brock Archival got hold of the ring, and used it in a 2021 story to keep the Moon Maid helpless. So Earth has the technology to disable the Lunarians’ superpowers.

Thorin: 'You recall, Tracy, how concerned world governments were when my daughter, Moon Maid, demonstrated her Lunarian powers?' [ Illustrations of the Moon Maid setting clothing on fire and melting an anvil with her mind. ] Tracy: 'Yes, we're still aware of them.' Thorn: 'Then you know your people would be *defenseless* against us. Tracy, detectives are unknown here. Help me save your world!'
Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 15th of July, 2022. Tracy reassures the Moon Governor that the Lunarians could melt all our anvis and we’d be all right. Historical villages would have to find something else to take the place of their horseshoe-making demonstrations is all. They could shift to, I don’t know, barrel-making? That sounds like something they could do.

What is not established, though, is first that the Lunarians know anything about this. Dick Tracy knows (or should), but he has good reason to keep that confidential. It’s also not established that anyone but Mr Bribery’s dead henchmen know how the ring works or how to duplicate it. And, it turns out, even if they could duplicate it, the Lunarian Invasion of Earth is set for quite soon now. There may not be time to make and deploy rings to strategic defense points. And, of course, even a failed coup would be quite bad for us all. Thus the urgency to warn, to act, and to stop this menace.

This essay should catch you up to about mid-August 2022. If you’re reading this after about October 2022, or news about Dick Tracy breaks, there’s likely a more useful essay at this link. Thanks for being here.

Dick Tracy.

29 May – 13 August 2022.

Mr Memory, last seen in the unsuccessful pilot for a 1960s Dick Tracy series, had robbed a guy at the ATM, last I checked. Then used some kind of implant to clean out the whole cash machine. And not just the cash machine. He loots half the bank’s assets, and similarly hits four other local banks. They try to keep quiet about this, to avoid a panic. But retiring vigilante superhero Cinnamon Knight — by day a mild-mannered bank worker — tips off Dick Tracy. Tracy’s only leads are that the five banks have a common security service provider. And the security camera shows a large man whose presence causes the camera to go blurry. Tracy checks the Dick Tracy Wikia and figures Mister Memory is the first suspect.

Mister Memory, meanwhile, is getting to know his neighbors, the Plenty family. They think kindly of him ever since he gave B.O. a lift into town. Gertie brings over gifts of sorghum and hot biscuits and for a while it looks like we’re going to see a villain redeemed by kindness. I’m up for that, especially when the villain is only using his experimental computer chip implants to digitally rob banks.

Mr Memory, to Gertie and B O Plenty: 'Gertie, this meal is excellent. Thank you both for sharing it with me.' Outside the door, Sam Catchem: 'I can't believe I missed the turn to Paradise Lane.' Tracy: 'I can. There's something messing with the GPS signal out here.' B O Plenty: 'Somebody's at th'door. I'll git it, Mr Mem'ry!' Plenty opens the door: 'Dick Spacy! What are you doin' here?' Tracy: 'B.O. Plenty? I'm looking for --- ' Memory's pet owl screeches in, to attack.
Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 19th of June, 2022. It’s all right, the owl was just attacking Dick Tracy’s hat. The owl’s a Dick Tracy super-fan and wants to be featured in the Wall of Hats.

So when Tracy and Sam Catchem finally get to Memory’s place — the GPS goes awry as they get closer — they find the Plentys, rallying to Memory’s defense. Mister Memory agrees to go downtown and answer questions, though, if he can use the restroom first. Tracy agrees to fall for this and lets Memory sneak out to his motorcycle. It’s raining a little, and Memory regrets not practicing more on the motorcycle: he skids out in a car’s backspray and crashes. And, fortunately for Dick Tracy, B.O.Plenty talked about how Memory asked him to enter some codes in the computer while he was off establishing an alibi. This means there’s something to hold Mister Memory on. That, and a mention that the Crimson Knight is applying to the police academy, brings us to the end of the story.

It’s all structured okay, but once again Dick Tracy gets the bad guy by luck. Like, he’s following the correct trail and has good evidence to lead him there. And Memory has a fair reason to flee, and be bad at fleeing. But I liked the guy and felt like we were just getting to know him, so I’d have been up for another month of twists and turns in his story.

Oh, and there was a teaser for another story: the 13th and 14th of June we saw a whiskery old guy discover a bunch of old legal documents in the garage. We’re promised that “one day this man will be important to Dick Tracy”. But we’ve seen the comic is comfortable letting that sort of thing sit for years. We still haven’t resolved those haunts at the Plenty house, for example.


The current and science fiction-based story began the 28th of June. It’s about the former Lunarians, who years ago abandoned their valley on the Moon to set up an Antarctic colony. The Moon Governor — now the Ambassador — arrives at Dick Tracy’s door, inviting Dick Tracy, Honeymoon, and Mysta Chimera to visit New Moon Valley for a week. Tracy is suspicious of the Lunarians’ motives. But Dick Tracy Junior feels his daughter should know something about her heritage and this is what he can offer. It’s a half-hour flight by Space Coupe to New Moon Valley.

Ro-Zan: 'As you see, Mysta, we keep abreast of world news and trends via television. This is in preparation for the day we emerge and join the outside world.' Mysta: 'You make it sound so distant.' Ro-Zan: 'I know, but ... perhaps we could emerge together.'
Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 27th of July, 2022. A thread I didn’t know how to fit in the main essay: Ro-Zan is smitten with Mysta Chimera and we see that he’s stunned how much she looks like the original Moon Maid. There are a few scenes like this, suggesting him crushing hard on her, but it hasn’t developed to the point of his kidnapping her or anything big and stupid displays of misplaced love like that.

The Moon Ambassador — Thorin, we learn is his name — has a warning for Dick Tracy. There’s sentiment among the Lunarians that they should open up and join Earth society. Fine enough. There’s also a movement that figures they should join as Earth’s conquerers. They can use the Lunarian superpowers of having antennas that shoot energy bolts and telepathy and stuff. I know you agree that humans aren’t doing so great on their own. But the Lunarian society draws a little too much from pulpy science fiction of the 30s and 40s. So it’s got this technocratic fascism built in, even when it’s just getting together in groups to watch Japanese cartoons. Also the Lunarians keep the place way too cold and I’m not sure they blink.

Thorin doesn’t know who might be leading the faction and detectives are unknown in their land. Like, what if it were his second-in-command, Ro-Zan, leading the would-be Lunarian conquest of Earth? On the other hand what are the odds of that? Dick Tracy pokes around as unobtrusively as he can, sometimes chaperoned by Marina, a Lunarian widow smitten with the outsider. But all Tracy’s shown to work out is that a lot of the Lunarian population is missing. Thorin explains that when they abandoned the Moon many Lunarians went into deeper space and haven’t been heard from since.

A rally. Ro-Zan: 'My friends, tomorrow the fight to freedom begins and we shall claim our rights to this world! The ambassador's spy, Dick Tracy will be the first human to die.' Marina: 'No! You can't do that to Tracy! Our people will learn the truth!' Ro-Zan: 'Not from you. ARMSMEN!' The guards surround Marina, with glowy effects around their hands and heads. We see a smouldering from off-screen as an angry-looking Lunarian woman beside Ro-Zan declares, 'Ew. I hate that smell.'
Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 14th of August, 2022. You can see how Marina here hasn’t learned enough from the Earth’s supply of television or she’d know not to interrupt the fascist rally with a declaration of how they’ll fail. She should silently resolve to go warn Dick Tracy and then be murdered in a remote alley before she can tell anyone what she knows instead.

Marina, humiliated after she kisses an uninterested Dick Tracy, accompanies her friend Shay-Gin to her meeting. The meeting is Ro-Zan’s rallying his troops the night before they make history. The history they plan to make is seizing power and launching a war against the humans. Marina is horrified, and says so. Ro-Zan orders her death, and his armsmen use their antenna energy beam thingies to cook her. So, uh, this is looking serious now.

And that’s where we are as of mid-August. In case we’ve been conquered by the Lunarians by October 2022, uh, well. There’s those lost Lunarian colonies that I bet might come to our aid? Maybe? We’ll see.

Next Week!

Hey, what’s the other story strip in production that might get us an invasion from, or of, outer space? That isn’t Brewster Rockit, I mean, since that’s a comedy? And that isn’t Safe Havens since that one already transformed Mars into a new green world and revealed to the world that mermaids are real, they’re shapeshifters, and they’re from Venus? Oh, possibly Rip Haywire although I think that’s a little outside its style? Well, I was thinking of Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley, to recap next week, if all goes to plan. See you then.

Why I Am Angry at Funky Winkerbean, Yes, Again


I wrote a version of this as a comment on the Son of Stuck Funky blog, the web’s premiere source for remembering things about Funky Winkerbean, but you know? I’m still bothered so I’m going to write more.

Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean opened this week with Crazy Harry bringing over a bunch of tapes of Lisa Moore. Lisa Moore died, reader time, in 2008. It was a big story, where she responded to the news her breast cancer had returned by recording videotape messages for her daughter and then dying. The dying may seem like an extreme reaction. It seemed the best way to escape her husband, Les Moore, the most insufferable person on the comics page. It hasn’t worked, as Les Moore wrote a book about her dying and turned it into a graphic novel and an annual fun-run and a failed made-for-TV movie and a completed made-for-theaters movie and the whole of his personality except for being snide to acquaintances.

A couple years back Les Moore loaned the suspiciously many videotapes to Crazy Harry for digitization. And today, years after finishing the project and I thought returning the tapes, he came over with a bunch of the Lisa Moore tapes. What’s got me angry is a line that I might have ignored if I had more patience with the comic strip.

Summer: 'Hey, Harry!' Harry, carrying a box of VHS tapes: 'Hi there, Summer!' Summer: 'What brings?' Harry: 'Donna said I had to get rid of my boxes of VHS tapes or open a museum ... and I found some of your mom's old tapes that I forgot to get back to you.' Flashback: Harry, coming up to the same porch: 'Hi, Lisa ... I just thought I'd stop by and say 'hi'.' Lisa: 'And you just did ... twice!'
Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean for the 15th of August, 2022. Summer there is Summer Moore, the little-seen daughter of Les and Lisa Moore. She’s important in that she sits on the patio swing that Lisa Moore sat on.

Why does Crazy Harry explain that “Donna said I had to get rid of my VHS tapes”? Yes, yes, I know, because she was tired of them cluttering up the basement or whatever. But Tom Batiuk decided that Harry’s wife was tired of the clutter. Why? What does that explanation do that, oh, “I was organizing my VHS tapes and noticed I still had some” would not? Or “your father asked about a couple of these tapes, which are more precious to him than are his daughter, his current wife Not-Lisa, or the Academy Award won by the woman who played Lisa in the movie about Lisa’s Death”?

Because it fits a pattern and it’s a subtly annoying one. It’s the same role that most all the male characters have been through, where their mother made them get rid of their comic books. Or their wife made them get rid of their superhero stuff. The current era of Funky Winkerbean sees a lot of characters passively accepting the indignities of life, yes, as see Lisa Moore’s whole acceptance of death. Why is it the only time a women in this strip take an active role, it’s the off-screen decision that the man in her life has to give up a hobby?

The one time I can think of when the woman didn’t make the off-screen decision to make one of the player-characters give up a hobby was a story a couple weeks ago. Funky Winkerbean’s wife decided they were going to go to a estate-planning seminar. That’s a reasonable and grown-up thing to do, yes. It’s also something she forced him to do, and he was a total Les Moore about the experience. (The Son of Stuck Funky folks, who have an uncanny ability to find old plots, also found where Funky and Mrs Funk went to an estate planner five years ago. I’m tolerant of comic strips repeating themselves — it’s baked into the genre — but I do want the new iteration to at least be pleasant.)

Why can’t Crazy Harry decide he’s got too many hobbies and VHS tape collecting isn’t bringing him joy anymore? Why can’t Crazy Harry notice he’s got stuff he doesn’t need and doesn’t want? Why does Donna have to be the heavy? Also, why did Lisa Moore have more hours of screen time than Regis Philbin did? These are all questions I feel I cannot answer.

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? Where is King Arthur that Arn and Maeve are regents? May – August 2022


I haven’t caught it, sorry. Arn — Valiant’s son — and Maeve are the regents of Camelot, I learned in June. Valiant reports to them when he gets back from the sojourn that saw him escort Morgan Le Fay to safety. But how they got set up there goes back to before I was reading the strip with an eye toward remembering plots. If someone knows, please leave a comment. I appreciate the help.

So this should get you up to speed in Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the start of August 2022. If you’re reading this after about October 2022, there’s likely a more current essay at this link. Now back to the days of King Arthur, wherever he is.

Prince Valiant.

22 May – 7 August 2022.

Morgan Le Fay, at the head of soldiers she had saved from Londinium, left our story last I checked in. She figured to learn whether she was back in good with the occult forces who had turned on her. And that seemed to end her role in the strip for a while.

Valiant returned, the 5th of June, to Camelot. Valiant and Arn fight over the recent debacle. Arn’s furious that Valiant let Morgan Le Fay go. Valiant’s furious that Camelot forgot a garrison of troops in Londinium. It doesn’t promise to be resolvable. But Aleta tells Valiant of a strange dream. One in which he summoned her, and she battled Morgan Le Fay. We saw this battle in a hallucinatory landscape back on 2021.

Some more old characters appear. Ambelu, sent by Queen Makeda of the Ab’saban people to be ambassador to Camelot, has a retinue now. They’ve brought some comforts of home, like a hot, bitter, stimulating beverage named quawah. And Ambelu’s youngest daughter, Yewubar, bonds with Valiant’s youngest, Nathan. They’re fascinated by old scrolls and nature and all. Yewubar shows a trick of getting a flock of bees to jacket her. It’s harmless but unsettling, and so naturally their parents get all upset.

Nathan and Yewubar have stolen out at night and, under the cold light of a full moon, witness an unexpected spectacle ... Nathan's mother, Aleta, and Maeve, the future Queen of Camelot, are out as well! They walk silently into a circle of ancient, pitted stones. Nathan could swear that, although he has visited these glades countless times, he has never noticed the stones looking so imposing - or so complete. The two youngsters watch silently from their hidden vantage as a third figure suddenly emerges from under the shadow of a massive lintel and speaks: 'Welcome, Queen Aleta, and Maeve, daughter of my half-brother.' Aleta's reply is cold: 'As you wished, Morgan Le Fay.'
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 7th of August, 2022. I’m sure everything is exactly what this looks like and we’re not going to find there’s some really good reason that good characters are coming at Morgan Le Fay’s direction.

That won’t stop the two from sneaking out together and one night under the full moon they’re out in the woods. They see Aleta and Maeve walking into a circle of ancient stones. Welcoming them there is Morgan Le Fay.

And that’s the neat cliffhanger we’re on, as my plot recap window closes. We’ll have to see where this is going.

Next Week!

We finally get to learn something about the secret Lunarian colony somewhere in Antarctica! Or pretending to be in Antarctica to fool super-detective Dick Tracy! It’s Joe Staton, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy taking a trip into science fiction, in a week, if all goes well.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? Did Captain Savarna have kids with The Phantom? May – July 2022


That is the surface implication of the 24th of June’s strip. We see The Phantom, about to go to North India to search for his estranged son again, kissing goodbye to a quite pregnant Savarna Devi. This is normal dramatic shorthand for someone bidding farewell to their spouse. Mozz tells us that this is the last time The Phantom will see the Deep Woods. However, Mozz has warned The Phantom that he would lie about his prophecy to keep The Phantom from bringing wrack and ruin to his line. And he’s thought, to himself where only we can see it, that he has to, now. Of course he may have thought that to deceive us but I don’t expect the comic strip to operate on quite that level of narrative experimentation.

Yet a theme of the Imaginary Story going on in Tony DePaul and Mike Manley and Bret Blevins and Scott Cohn’s The Phantom weekday continuity has been paying attention to what is said versus what is implied. So let’s all slowly come to understand Mozz, and DePaul, in not going beyond what the evidence is.

This should get you up to speed on The Phantom weekday continuity for early August, 2022. If you’re interested in the separate Sunday continuity, or you’re reading this after about October 2022, a more useful essay may be at this link. I hope this is a useful essay anyway.

Also, let me sort out the art credits. Mike Manley was, and is again, the regular artist for the strip. During Manley’s recent health problems Bret Blevins and Scott Cohn took over art duties. Scott Cohn has been good enough to share his art on his DeviantArt gallery, for those who’d like to see the striking uncolorized originals. (Daily comic strips are, for obscure reasons, colorized by people generally not working with the original artists.)

The Phantom (Weekdays).

16 May – 30 July 2022.

The current story, the midpoint of DePaul’s massive project, has Mozz telling the story of Phantom’s End. This is his grim prophecy of what happens should Kit Walker, as he plans, go to Gravelines prison to save Captain Savarna Devi from death row. Complicating any recap of this is that we cannot trust Mozz.

Previously in the prophecy, The Phantom rescues Savarna from Gravelines, he’s wounded. While delirious he reveals that Kit Junior is in the Mountain City, somewhere in Arunachal Pradesh, India. And that the local constable is the man who’d enslaved the young Savarna and killed her family. She journeys to the Mountain City and kills him. Understandable but a terrible mistake. The unnamed Northern Invaders see the murder of the constable, their man in town, as provocation. When they can’t assassinate monastery leader Kaybje Dorje or his understudy Kit Junior they bomb the city into ruin. In the disaster Kit Junior takes the phone from a person he couldn’t save and calls his parents.

The Phantom, over the phone: 'Son, your only obligation now is here --- to your family! The legend! We'll talk when I get there.' Kit Junior, talking from the destroyed Mountain City: 'Dad, I didn't know this until tonight, but ... when Captain Savarna pulled the trigger on Jampa, my whole mision in life changed. You're the Phantom, Dad ... Bangalla needs you. I'm needed here! I'm not asking your permission ... I'm telling you how it is.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 27th of May, 2022. Kit Junior makes a fair case, that between this and the experiences of the 11th and the 16th Phantoms — who had also trained at the same monastery, and whose reincarnation Kit Jr presented himself as being — he was aimed at this. It also seems it would be remarkable if he were the first in over twenty generations of Walkers to want to go away from the direct main line of the family business. But there’s a lot of room for side stories we haven’t seen yet.

He explains he can’t be the 22nd Phantom. His life, he knows now, has lead him to be here and to protect these people. And hangs up, going to his new life alongside Manju, daughter of the tea shop keeper. The Phantom goes to India to seek him out, but that whole legend of how you don’t find The Phantom, he finds you works against him. All he can find is the tea shop keeper, who won’t help someone she fairly suspects of being sent by Jampa’s friends. She begs out of this drama, but asks that if he finds Kit Junior that he send Manju home. It’s like that all over, and The Phantom’s first search for his son fails.

With this failure, Kit Senior’s home life falls apart. Diana leaves the Deep Woods; Heloise leaves for the United States, too, eventually never to tell her children of The Phantom. Sometime later, Savarna finds a broken, brooding Phantom. That there is this clear legend that no one finds The Phantom, he finds you, suggests this is where Mozz starts falsifying his prophecy. If “falsifying a prophecy” is a meaningful concept. But Savarna is an exceptional person, and acknowledges in text that she might be the only one who’s ever looked long enough.

Mozz, foretelling: 'Your *oath*, Phantom! Your *legend* of a ghost who walks ... man who cannot die ... it passes to the *heroes* of an age to come! *Champions* yet to be! The *Devi* line of Phantoms ... has begun!' And we see Savarna reading, apparently recounting the legend of The Phantom, to two kids outside the Skull Cave. It's a scene very reminiscent of many images of Kit and Diana Walker raising Kit Junior and Heloise.
Tony DePaul, Bret Blevins, and Scott Cohn’s The Phantom for the 28th of June, 2022. I mean, she is literally the lone survivor of a pirate attack that killed her family and shipmates who devoted her life to saving others from similar fates. The only piece her life is missing from the story of Christopher Walker, the First Phantom, is swearing the Oath of the Skull. In Mozz’s prophecy, Savarna swears off vengeance and — perhaps — she lives up to it after killing Jampa. The 1st Phantom’s oath swore vengeance against the pirates who’d killed his shipmates, and that vengeance was dropped after he did kill those pirates.

Years later, The Phantom leaves for another trip to India, hoping to reunite Kit Junior with his mother and sister. He bids farewell to Savarna, never see the Deep Woods again, says Mozz. But we learn he’s not the last Phantom; merely the last of the Walkers to be The Phantom. Savarna’s descendants take up that role. It’s a twist I hadn’t thought of, but that’s obvious in hindsight, to split the Walker line from the Phantom line. It’s another of many steps the strip has taken to diffuse the colonialist white-savior stuff baked into the premise, too. It’s also got an interesting metatext. In the comic, Bangalla had started out as a vaguely located South/Southeast Asian land before becoming a vaguely located East African land. This adds to how Savarna’s life echoes without imitating The Phantom Origin Story. I imagine that’s the sort of happy coincidence you can arrange when you have ninety years of backstory that fans have got pretty well indexed for you. It’s still a neat bit of business to line up.

The Phantom’s second trip to India gets much closer to Kit Junior, and (as promised by Mozz), “in a manner of speaking … he finds you”. If we can trust Mozz on this point. But now Kit Junior is a respected, loved, skilled guerilla leader. His fighters suspect, with reason, that The Phantom is another would-be assassin. The Phantom enters the landscape where he encountered the flaming skeleton of his dead father in 2020’s story The Llongo Forest. Before he can nope out of there he comes under fire, from gunmen in at least three positions. This isn’t too much for The Phantom, but it’s a close-run thing. He hopes to stall until nightfall when he can escape.

A soldier returns from meeting with Kit Jr, with a message. The soldiers trying to shoot The Phantom ask: 'What took you so long?' 'What did our commander say?' Messanger: 'He said he'd like us to stop getting shot. He sent Manju back with me!'
Tony DePaul and Scott Cohn’s The Phantom for the 21st of July, 2022. THe second panel was the funniest comic the day of publication. Possibly that whole week. Also a reminder of what a wonderful vein of gallows humor American pop culture lost when the Service Comedy stopped really being a thing.

Kit Junior’s soldiers ask him for help with this extraordinary man, who can’t be shot but who can hit everything he tries to. He doesn’t recognize his father’s signature. He hasn’t got the time to divert from planning an operation for the next day. But he can spare Manju, now a very effective sniper. Her fire can pin him down. With a half-hour until sunset, someone hits Kit Walker Senior, fracturing his leg. Things look rather dire for The Ghost Who Walks, must say.

Next Week!

I’m sad to say we have no more Morgan Le Fay, and Comics Kingdom still has not fixed their web site so Sunday pages are visible without going to extra effort. But I’ll recap almost three months of Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant, if things go as I hope. See you then.

What’s Going On In Alley Oop? What happened with Leonardo da Vinci? May – July 2022


Leonardo da Vinci was the starting point for the past couple month’s story in Alley Oop. But he didn’t have much to do with the events. He identified the cloud city as the source of Alley Oop’s abductors, and offered the flying machine to get Ooola and Doc Wonmug up there. But besides that and some fun painting jokes he didn’t do that much. I wonder if the rough outline of the story gave him more to do and it somehow evaporated in the final draft. No way that I could know, though.

So this should catch you up on Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop as of the end of July, 2022. If any news breaks about the strip, or if you’re reading this after about October 2022, there’s likely amore useful essay here. Thanks for being here and let’s get going on what ends up being a pretty compact essay.

Alley Oop.

9 May – 23 July 2022.

Our heroes went back to 1501 to meet Leonardo da Vinci when we last looked in. They barely got settled in when a winged human swooped down from the sky and abducted Alley Oop. They took him to the cloud city of Airshire, to deal with a problem. Murderov the giant crow keeps attacking them for some reason.

Leonardo da Vinci concludes Alley Oop was taken to the cloud city. Ooola and Doc Wonmug use his aerial screw — the only transportation available — to join him. (Leonardo refuses to get in the thing.) Once reunited Our Heroes try to work out what’s driving Murderov to attack the city. Cirrus, Oop’s abductor, knows why. The city keeps swiping the giant crow’s giant eggs, for food.

Wonmug: 'Cirrus, you mean to tell us that all along, you knew why a giant crow was trying to destroy Airshire?' Cirrus: 'Yes, of course.' Wonmug: 'Why didn't you tell us?' Cirrus: 'You didn't ask.' Wonmug: 'Well, spit it out already.' Cirrus: 'It would be my pleasure. But first, wouldn't you love a delicious crow omelet? It's made from crow eggs. From a giant crow.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 11th of June, 2022. While this story was full of the usual sort of nonsense and silliness, it had a tighter focus than usual. This may reflect how the Airshire folks are being dumb in this recognizable way. I suppose that’s why this whole essay turned out to be about forty words long.

As existential threats go, this one’s fairly tractable. The gang dresses Cirrus in a worm costume, luring the giant crow into a birdcage. Once there, Oop talks Murderov into becoming the city’s pet, in exchange for birdseed for the rest of her life. Murderov gets into this, and soon is swooping down to the ground to bring the city gifts, like the sculpture of David. And Oop explains the groundling custom of eating animals that aren’t particularly trying to kill you. With chicken farms established Airshire looks to have a great future ahead. There’s a few parting words with Leonardo and Our Heroes return to the present day.


With the 28th of June the current story starts. Alley Oop and Ooola return to Moo to discover that, once again, King Guz isn’t doing anything. He’s retired as king, to spend time with his family. in his place Moo’s elected a brash yet cowardly president.

Ooola: 'Let *me* try to talk to one of these people.' She approaches a Future Person. Ooola: 'Pardon me, do you have a moment to talk about this mysterious portal?' Future Woman: 'I guess.' Ooola: 'Where are you coming from?' Future Woman: 'New Cleveland, in the year 2155.' Ooola: 'Thank you for answering. See, we're not all just violent brutes.' Alley Oop: 'Well, *some* of us are.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 14th of July, 2022. Yeah, I notice they said New Cleveland, too, like there was some reason they wouldn’t leave the Old Cleveland of 2155. Haven’t heard yet what that’s all about. It’s easy to suppose there’s going to be a Space Ohio here but we don’t know that yet.

And what he has to be cowardly from? People from the future. There’s a mysterious portal and people from 22nd Century New Cleveland are coming through. A whole little future town is growing in Moo. And it’s growing very fast, with, like, skyscrapers popping up in minutes. Which is as far as this story’s gotten, so, catch you in about three months with even more story.


Meanwhile, the Sunday Little Oop strip continues the setting of Penelope trapped in Moo. She’s been learning her way around the even-more-ridiculous Moo of Little Alley Oop’s time. And been able to do a couple fun broken-time-machine jokes along the way. Still not proper stories, though.

Next Week!

The Ghost Who Cannot Die reaches perhaps the midpoint of a marathon imaginary story, and perhaps gets the clearest vision yet of his death! It’s Tony DePaul and Mike Manley and Bret Blevins and Scott Cohn’s The Phantom (Weekdays) next week, all going well.

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Who’s drawing Judge Parker now? May – July 2022


Mike Manley again, if you’re reading this after about the end of July 2022. D D Degg at The Daily Cartoonist reports that Manley’s work for the weekday strip should resume the 25th of July. Sunday strips, produced farther in advance, will likely take a little longer.

Meanwhile, Scott Cohn, comic book artist with a lot of Marvel and DC work, has been filling in. Cohn has also been doing fill-in work on The Phantom. Cohn has been putting glorious black-and-white prints of his Phantom work on his DeviantArt gallery.

So this should catch you up to mid-July 2022 in Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley and Scott Cohn’s Judge Parker. If you’re reading this after about October 2022 or more news about the strip breaks I should have a more useful essay here. Now to catch up.

Judge Parker.

1 May – 17 July 2022.

So as sometimes happens the comic strip did its own pretty good plot recap, the 26th of June. The Sunday strip has the vibe of something put together to give the artist time to catch up, but it does also advance the story. And it makes a good jumping-off point. There are two major threads going on right now. Let me take them separately.

A series of panels illustrating the narration: 'Story recap - Sam and Abbey had a huge fight after she found out he had kept footage of her supposedly committing arson a secret ... No one knows where Abbey is now. Her phone is off ... Marie has returned to Spencer Farms to help the fracturing family ... April, having been captured by the CIA for being a rogue agent and assassin is in solitary confinement ... And her husband Randy, with nowhere else to turn, makes a desperate call ... ' Randy says to someone (Neddy Spencer) on the phone, 'You've been wanting to talk? So let's talk.'
Francesco Marciuliani and Scott Cohn’s Judge Parker for the 26th of June, 2022. I see the occasional snarky comment about how the story’s become incomprehensible. But a perfectly adequate recap like this needing only five panels shows that comics snarkers are maybe not always reading with a reasonable charity.

Randy Parker has readjusted to his normal life fitfully at best. Mostly he wants to not talk about the year he spent on the lam with April Parker and her mother. When Alan Parker insists on talking about how April emotionally abused Randy he throws his father out of the house. This sets Alan to fighting with his wife when she tries to get him to acknowledge Randy’s side of things.

One of Marciuliano’s strengths writing has been how his characters can with justice say how others are being the jerks here. It’s a good handle on motivation even if the result is a lot of unhappy scenes prone to yelling. He’s also good at the dynamic where people ask you to see the other person’s side, as though you wouldn’t be on your own side if you were aware of the other.

So he invites Neddy Spencer for a talk. Her streaming TV show about April Parker and Godiva Danube became a hit as the CIA grabbed their rogue agent. She needs material for a second season. She was thinking of April’s story hiding from the law. Randy offers something far better. April Parker’s troubles began when a rogue CIA faction suborned her into doing evil spy stuff for them instead of the CIA’s main evil spy stuff. All the agents of that rogue faction are dead, by her hands or by her father Norton’s. But April Parker has data on the whole operation, as best she could put it together. And, great news for TV production, libel laws don’t apply to the dead. So they can make a show about this and clear April Parker’s name in the Court of Public Opinion, if not in the Star Chamber courts.

Neddy, on the phone: 'Ronnie! You won't believe what just happened! I went to talk with Randy about April --- you know, for the second season of our show --- and he gave me *all* the secret CIA intel!' Ronnie: 'WHAT?' Neddy: 'I know! Top-level files, agent dossiers, proof of multiple illegal CIA operations ... phone records, satellite photos, just data and more data about every corrupt thing the agency has done --- ALL FOR OUR SHOW!' Ronnie: 'And you fel this is something you should be saying over a cellphone?' Neddy: 'What? No! This is a joke! To anyone listening, this is a joke! Oh, and my name is 'Steve'.'
Francesco Marciuliani and Scott Cohn’s Judge Parker for the 10th of July, 2022. Gads, we had better operational security at my undergraduate student newspaper and the nearest we ever did to something that could get us in trouble was saying the Board of Governors sucked.

I admit to tripping on this plot point. Not Randy’s giving this data to Neddy rather than a journalist. That I can understand. I don’t see how the CIA has allowed Randy Parker to have a hard drive of data from April Parker. I’m not even sure how she would have gotten it to him; his leaving their safe house was a surprise thing done (to him) on the spur of the moment. I have to imagine that the super-ultra-duper secret agents already know of and have copies of this hard drive. So they must have let Randy have this for reasons of their own. I don’t see what those are, but I’m willing to let the story unfold.


The other thread regards Abbey Spencer. She was cleared from suspicion of burning down her failed bed-and-breakfast when Deputy Mayor Stewart turned against his boss. Except her husband, Sam Driver, has suspicions, because Stewart shared a drone video showing Abbey setting fire to the building. Stewart’s bought Driver’s support for usurping his boss by burying the video.

Sam doesn’t really believe the footage is real. But what if it is? That’s been twisting him for months. Sophie Spencer, home from college, lets Neddy in on this secret. She also lets in her college roommate Reena, who’d invited herself to the Spencers’ place. I cannot imagine being a person like Reena, but I understand there are people like that. (I feel it’s too forward of me to call Marciuliano “Ces” the way all the successful comics bloggers seem to.) And it does some good in providing exposition that reinforces what readers might have forgotten about the situation.

Neddy cuts the Gordian knot of whether the footage is real by asking her video editor friend Brad … I’m going to say ‘Gordian’ … what he thinks. He thinks it’s all but certainly fake. They share the good news with Sam, who goes off to yell at Now Mayor Stewart. Stewart laughs him off: so what that it was fake? Sam acted on the presumption it was true and what is he going to do, blow up his marriage by telling Abbey what he thinks she would do? So Sam goes to blow up his marriage by telling Abbey about the footage and what he thought.

Stewart: 'Haha! 'No timetable'? Mr Driver, now you want to discuss the truth? After I helped your suit against the city? After I got your enemy out of office? After you looked at that video and saw what you believed in your heart? Now you want your wife to learn what you've really thought of her all this time? Are you willing to pay that price? All so you can just tell me 'gotcha!'?'
Francesco Marciuliani and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 11th of June, 2022. It’s interesting that Mayor Stewart didn’t try to insist the video was real, or that he believed it was. Driver might not have bought it, but the attempt might have confused the issue. Or might have made Driver say who revealed the fake and how. (Driver didn’t know, but Stewart couldn’t know that.) It is not a plot hole that Stewart didn’t do that, understand, since not every character has to be the craftiest version of themselves at every moment. But Stewart must have had some idea what to say if Driver decided the video was fake, and he had settled on something like this. (Or he didn’t have a better idea.)

Here, I admit, I’m not sure I follow the motivation. I get Sam’s. But the implication is Stewart used what he knew to be fake video to get Sam Driver’s support in throwing Mayor Sanderson out of office. I don’t see why Stewart needed to buy Sam’s support here. It’s like giving me ten thousand dollars so I’ll go play pinball Tuesday night. I get Stewart wanting a strong ally in Sam Driver and Abbey Spencer. But he’d have that anyway for getting Mayor Sanderson out of office. And he has to have anticipated that Sam would learn, or decide, the video was fake. And, as Sophie observes, whoever faked the video can blackmail Stewart at any time. (I had thought we saw Stewart discovering the footage, but I seem to be wrong.) Also, please give me ten thousand dollars to play pinball Tuesday night.

Sam goes to talk with Abbey about the video in a scene we don’t see. We stick instead on Sophie and Neddy and Reena waiting for news. It’s suspenseful, and ominous, although I understand people for whom it doesn’t work. One of Marciuliano’s regular tricks on this strip has been to jump ahead three months and fill in the aftermath of some big event, rather than show it. This comes close to being that. I understand Marciuliano’s desire, to keep us off-screen and go to characters reacting, but it keeps us from seeing a juicy fight.

Sam texts Neddy that Abbey stormed out. The people we were watching rush home and Sam mourns that Abbey has given up on the town and the family. He mourns that everyone was right, he should have told Abbey about the video the moment he saw it. Abbey, after demanding to know how long everyone else knew about this video, disappears. Neddy calls in an expert on fixing their family: Marie, their trusty … uh … maid? Or former maid, anyway. Last we saw her she was working part-time at the bed-and-breakfast but I imagine it’d be impolite if she were still drawing a salary for that.

Marie: 'Abbey, you can't --- ' Abbey: 'No, Marie. I can. I can certainly leave Sam. Everyone's saying 'Oh, Sam only tried to help'. But they never focus on how he was too afraid to talk with me because he was too scared to have an honest conversation.'
Francesco Marciuliani and Scott Cohn’s Judge Parker for the 14th of July, 2022. In fairness to Sam, an honest conversation would have required him answering the questions, “Why did you believe the footage was real just because Stewart said it was? Is it just because I’m still the most logical suspect? Since the alternative is someone trying to bust up my marriage for no good reason — oh, good grief, it’s my half-sister Senna Lewiston back from the dead, isn’t it?”

Marie is able to get Abbey on the phone, and they meet for a talk at some restaurant carefully ignoring them. Marie tries to suggest Abbey consider Sam’s point of view, but Abbey knows it. And she’s more interested in how Sam hurt her — rather than have a direct if frightening conversation with her — than in how he feels. I can’t argue with that. Marie can’t either. Given this, she plans to leave Sam. She may leave Cavelton entirely. It’s hard to say she’s wrong to plan this.

Next Week!

What do Leonardo da Vinci and a gigantic crow have in common? That they’re not in the current story in Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop! But they are in the story just concluded, which I plan to recap next week. Thanks for reading.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Who’s writing Gil Thorp now? April – July 2022


Neal Rubin stepped down as author of the Gil Thorp comic strip on Saturday. Per the Daily Cartoonist, Rubin said he felt himself running short on ideas after eighteen years at this. And he wanted to focus on his day job, sports writer for the Detroit Free Press. His comic strip retirement coincides suspiciously well with the window for my plot recaps. It’s convenient for me when the story strips have plots end right around my plot recaps. So I’d like to make explicit to them, you know, don’t contort your plans for my sake. I can cope with a period where I pay attention to how I credit these strips.

The new writer — the fourth in the strip’s history — is Henry Barajas. Barajas has some renown for comic book series that I admit I was unaware of. (This is not a slight on his work; it’s me admitting my ignorance. I haven’t followed comic books directly since Marvel’s New Universe was put out of its misery.) But they include Helm Greycastle, the biographical La Voz De M.A.Y.O. Tata Rambo, and some Avengers and Batman stuff. An interview with the Tucson Daily Star says “He plans to introduce characters of color and with different sexual orientations and gun violence,” as good a case for the Oxford Comma as I know.

Anyway, this recap should get you up to speed on the final story of Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. If you’re reading this after about September 2022, or any more news breaks about Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp, you may want to check the essays here. Thanks for reading.

Gil Thorp.

25 April – 9 July 2022.

Greg Hamm, on the boys’ baseball team at Milford, was losing his eyesight. Rapidly. His catcher, Wilson Henry, and the second baseman, sports trivia maven Eli “Scooter” Borden, had a scheme to work around this. Borden would relay the catcher’s signals by code words in his chatter. This works okay for pitching. Fielding is harder; if a ball isn’t in Hamm’s dwindling field of vision he’s helpless. When a hit zooms right past Hamm’s head without his even flinching Coach Thorp works out what’s up, and pulls the kid.

It turns out Hamm’s done an outstanding job concealing his vision problems. He even worked out how to fake his way through eye tests, so his parents and eye doctor didn’t know how bad it was. Now that they do know? Dr Maisano explains to Coach Thorp that this is the last year he could play baseball. If he wears facial protection, something like a catcher’s mask, he should be reasonably safe. Coach Thorp finally accedes to letting Hamm play.

[ Paying a visit to Gregg Hamm's eye specialist ... ] Dr Maisano: 'Trust me, Coach. I'm more irate than you. He's taken so many eye tests, he figured out how to fake his way through one.' Thorp: 'And now that you've re-tested, Doctor?' Maisano: 'Let's go talk behind his back.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 25th of May, 2022. Everyone dad-jokes about studying for their eye exams and then this kid went and did it!

The trick with a vision-impaired pitcher is the other teams work out where his blind spot is, and can hit to it. Borden’s girlfriend Charis Thompkins has an answer, direct from Borden’s trivia banks. Relief pitcher Ryne Duren played a decade in the late 50s and early 60s, and used his poor vision as a psychological weapon. Duren’s warmup pitches would go wild, an intimidating thing for batters to face. (Oh, and the plot bits about Thompkins and the girls’ tennis teams were not followed up on.)

An old trick is good again. Hamm warns a batter off bunting by “accidentally” throwing a pitch that barely misses the batter. The umpire demands Hamm be thrown out but Coach Thorp refuses, noting, you can’t eject a player for one bad pitch, whatever you think of his eyesight. This seems like a good way to insult the umpire while staying within the rules and make sure you never get a toss-up call your way again. Thorp tosses in an insult of how that umpire called an earlier game, which probably felt good anyway.

The blend of Hamm’s actual control, and ability to look uncontrolled when it’s intimidating, works. It launches the boys baseball team into the postseason. And the local media is quite interested in a blind pitcher.

[ After Gregg Hamm whistles a fastball four feet outside ... ] Umpire: 'Your pitcher is a menace. Take him out.' Thorp; 'You're ejecting him because he threw ball one?' Umpire: 'I'm not tossing him. But he can't see.' Thorp: 'He just fielded a batted ball. He hasn't even hit anyone. And no rule says you can make me pull him!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 10th of June, 2022. I’m a little surprised if there isn’t any rule by which an umpire can declare a pitcher (or other player) is too dangerous — or endangered — to play. But, as Thorp notes, he hasn’t hit a pitcher, or thrown anything wilder than ball one, and he’d fielded a ball well just one or two strips before. I suppose an umpire would have to be able to point to specific cause, that isn’t shown. This even though everyone knows what stunt Hamm was pulling. (Thorp goes on to warn Hamm not to pull the stunt again, although it’s not needed.)

The trouble is the other major part of this story. Hamm’s father is pathologically camera-shy, to the point he hides from people taking cell phone pictures of the parents in the stands. He works so hard to not be noticed that everyone notices, and feeds rumors that he’s in the witness protection program or something. Coach Thorp hears the rumors and decides to just ask the Hamms what’s going on. Greg Hamm’s mother gives the clue.

Before he was a ghost-writer for businesspeople committing books, Greg’s father was Mason Hamstetter. Hamstetter had been a hot journalist, with great cover stories in big magazines, book deals, everything you hope for when you’re a writer. He was also a plagiarist. He faked quotes. He invented sources. He got caught. So he fled New York, and truncated his name, and did his best to completely hide from a shaming public. And now, after a decade of hiding, Hamm’s wife has had enough.

Mason Hamm meets Coach Thorp, who admits he doesn’t see how there’s anything to talk to him about. But if you ask his opinion, it’s this: nobody has any idea who he is or why they should care about him. Meanwhile his son’s got an amazing story that shouldn’t be hidden for the fear that one of the four guys in a Manhattan publishing office who kind of remember his name might hear about it. It’s a hard truth that Mason accepts. He allows his son to do interviews and talk about his experience. A reporter is curious about Mason, and suggests a “where is he now” interview. But his boss kills the story because nobody cares. Having lived through his two worst fears and finding them not so bad after all? He’s able to settle in to having a son whose story might become an inspirational book he might write.

Gil Thorp: 'What now? More ghost-writing?' Mason 'Hamm' Hamstetter: 'Some. But I'm thinking of finally writing a book under my own name ... about watching my son lose his vision, and how that helped open my eyes.' They shake hands. Thorp: 'That, Mr Hamstetter, I'd buy.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 9th of July, 2022. The last week of the story included several parting moments, including a “be seeing you” on the wall at Channel 6, which looked like a reference to something else. But it’s not reading too much into the text to notice having a ghostwriter resolve to publish under his own name being the farewell thought of a comic strip writer — surely the slightest level of fame a writer can enjoy — moving on to other projects. On the other hand, who ever heard of a Detroit sports writer getting into the inspirational-disease-memoir racket?

Greg Hamm pitches for Milford in the state tournament, but the team loses 9-4. It was still a good season.

And with that, the 9th of July, the story ends, as does Neal Rubin’s tenure writing Gil Thorp. I’ll learn the new direction of the comic strip as you all do, but I intend to recap it in just about three months. See you then.

Milford Sports Watch!

Next Week!

Sam and Abbey’s marriage collapses while Randy Parker tries to clear his wife’s name by slipping a hard drive full of super-ultra-duper CIA secrets to a streaming-media TV show consultant. This and more in Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker, next week, if all goes like I plan.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? Why did Street Sweeper splash that guy with something? April – July 2022


The Street Sweeper, Glenwood’s own little superhero, took a brick to his shoulder when a drunk didn’t like having his keys dropped down the sewer. This was his second shoulder injury. A torn rotator cuff first brought him to Rex Morgan’s, and Rex Morgan M.D.’s, attention. So he needed to do something to carry on his patrols of the mean-ish-esque streets of downtown Glenwood while impaired. His solution: some mixture of soap solution that would slick up the sidewalk. Enough that someone chasing him is unsure on his feet, at least. It’s only good for a few seconds, but in a fight, a few seconds counts for a lot. He used this against Snake and Manfred, a would-be car-robber and his partner. Also against the undercover cops come to knock off this superhero vigilante nonsense.

I don’t know what this is made of, or how slippery you could make a sidewalk with a quick splash of something. But, eh, guy is a janitor, probably knows his soaps and waxes and all. And it only needs to be a surprise and distracting for a couple seconds. Or confusing, which it was, yeah.

So this should catch you up to the start of July 2022 in Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D.. If you’re reading this after about September 2022, or news about the comic breaks, I should have an essay here. Otherwise, let’s enjoy a bit of crimefighting from our favorite fandom-themed story strip.

Rex Morgan, M.D..

17 April – 2 July 2022.

There was a new superhero in town, when I last checked in. Firstname Clayton, by day a janitor, patrols downtown Glenwood at night as … The Street Sweeper. He gets a lot of that giggling, yes. But he backs it up, whacking Snake, a would-be car robber, with a push broom. Or dropping a drunk guy’s car keys down the sewer, lest the guy drive home impaired. It’s the sort of stunt that’s kind of cool when you are the hero of the story. If you, like the would-be drunk driver, figure you’re the hero of your own story, you maybe throw a brick at The Street Sweeper’s shoulder. Or if you’re a pair of undercover cops, you get the assignment to bring this guy in before he does something both stupid and dangerous.

Manfred, talking with Snake, while unseen to them The Street Sweeper watches from a darkened alley: 'A superhero fightin' crime with a *broom* seems weird. I'd use a shovel. That's *hurt* more when you hit somebody.' Snake: 'I'm glad it wasn't you, then, 'cause I don't wanna get hit with no shovel.' Manfred: '*Nobody* would. That's my whole point.' Snake: 'Remind me again why we're friends?'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 28th of April, 2022. I understand people annoyed by the, you know, Kevin-Smith-movieness of this. It does feel to me like a realistic sort of dumb conversation people have, especially when one person is way more into the task they’re on than the other is.

So that’s the wind-up. The Street Sweeper is carrying on his business, using a bottle of some pretty slippery liquid to compensate for his shoulder injuries. Snake, with his pal Manfred, are out looking to smack Sweeper silly. And a pair of cops, rolling their eyes and talking 1960s sitcoms, are looking for Sweeper. Snake figures that the Ghost Who Sweeps will find him, just as soon as he smashes this car window. Despite the car alarm, The Street Sweeper comes by to check things out. The cops mosey on over to the scene too. They reason The Street Sweeper is the sort of person who doesn’t understand that a car alarm is only there to annoy your neighbors while your battery dies because a tree branch is brushing your hood.

The cops are happy to take Snake into custody. The Sweeper is not happy to give him up, though, and drags him off to his apartment, turning a merry bit of nonsense into a hostage drama. It’s a bit grim, but I like this twist. It’s got that moment where a character runs past the limits of their competence yet the situation is still going on. It’s too much to expect a Dog Day Afternoon from the comics. Beatty doesn’t write a comic that emotionally messy. But I love that blend of the situation being serious and absurd. (It also makes me think of that moment where Freakazoid yells at the villain for going and being like that when we were having a good time here.)

[ The Street Sweeper attempts to leave with his prisoner. ] Sweeper, holding Snake with a baseball bat and Snake's gun: 'Don't try to follow me!' Cops: 'halt!' [ And the officers fail to notice the slick soap the Sweeper poured on the sidewalk. ] They slip and fall on their rear ends.
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 28th of May, 2022. So I understand that it’s dark, and the cops are looking at the person taking a hostage rather than the puddle at their feet, and that the illustration — and coloring — are making sure the reader can’t miss the puddle and how it relates to the cops’ falling over. Still, it’s hard not to feel like the strip was maybe adding a smirk to the mention of “two of Glenwood’s finest”.
The Street Sweeper agrees to talk to someone, and chooses the honorable doctor who treated his torn rotator cuff. The cops get Rex Morgan on the phone, who’s baffled by why he’s been pulled into the comic strip all of a sudden. But, what the heck, he doesn’t have to go downtown or anything, just talk over the phone. The Sweeper has one question for Rex: can he surgically remove the part of the brain that makes people criminals? Rex Morgan has any idea what Sweeper’s talking about. One of the nearly 400 billion points of super-hyper-ultra inventive competence that pulp superhero Doc Savage managed was anti-crime brain surgery. Or, as Rex confusingly puts it, those books about “The Crime College”. I don’t know why he doesn’t say Doc Savage. Sorry.

Rex Morgan, on the phone: 'Why would you choose to speak with me?' The Street Sweeper: 'I can *tell* who's good or not. You're on the *good* side. And only a *doctor* can answer my question.' Morgan: 'What question would that be?' Sweeper: 'There's an old Pulp Hero who operated on his villains to remove their criminal tendencies. Is that a *real* thing?'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 8th of June, 2022. Of course in the situation you want to let the guy down easy. But I’d like to see the Socratic dialogue where Rex Morgan found out whether Sweeper believes there could be a physically alterable thing in the brain which might cause someone to wish to open an establishment that sells spirits only 490 feet away from the main entrance of a school?

Heartbroken to learn he doesn’t live in the fictional world he thought he did, The Street Sweeper agrees to give up to the cops. Snake, not happy about the thought of surprise brain surgery, conks Sweeper’s shoulder, retrieves his gun, and runs out back into the cops’ hands. So, the status quo gets restored and Doc Morgan is just … glad he could help, he guesses? Anyway I hope we’ll see more of The Street Sweeper, even if it seems unlikely he’d do more vigilante stuff. I like his goofy self-important vibe.


With the 26th of June the new and current story begins. It’s about June’s vaguely-related Aunt Tildy, reconciled with her husband Andrzej “Count Crushinski” Bobrowski. The former wrestling star sneaks off to the hospital so he can have his heart attack looked at. It turns out to be heartburn. He feels foolish about that, but, you know, you don’t want to ignore heart attack symptoms, not when having them looked at will only induce $140,000 in medical debt. And that’s where we are to start off July.

Next Week!

A blind pitcher, a guy who’s totally not in the Witness Protection Program so stop asking nosey questions, and a sports-trivia-obsessed teen! How do they fit together? They’re important to the last three months of Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp, which I’ll recap next week. The trivia teen doesn’t really matter much. I’ll explain next week if all goes well.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? Why does The Phantom have an Eden? April – June 2022


“Eden” is, in The Phantom universe, an island at the end of a river in Bangalla. It’s another of The Phantom’s many side projects. All the animals on it live in harmony, including the predatory creatures like the lions and the tigers. The Phantom Wiki explains that they eat fish, to keep their hunting instincts from awakening. I don’t know when Eden was introduced to the strip. No later than 1961, at least. Inhabitants of the island include lions and tigers and tigon cubs, a fawn, a giraffe, some cave monsters, a unicorn, and a tribe of six-inch-high people. The six-inch-high people turn out to be from outer space and they deliver a rattle to the Phantom every year in accord with an 18th-century treaty. If your continuity has been going ninety years and it doesn’t have some odd stuff in it what are you even doing?

So this should catch you up to late June 2022 in the Sunday continuity of Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom. If you’re reading this after about September 2022, or are looking for the weekday continuity recapped, there’s likely a more useful essay at this link.

The Phantom (Sundays).

10 April – 26 June 2022.

Nayo and Abeo, young women from the Mori tribe, have enjoyed their sojourn the big city of Mawitaan. The locals were friendly and supportive. And they had no idea how close to danger they came, as they don’t read my story comic plot recaps and don’t know The Phantom saved them from sex traffickers.

The Phantom, thiking over his adventure: 'When Abeo and Nayo ran away to Mawitaan, they obliged their king to make a choice. Would he rather have grumbling old people on his hands or rebellious young people? Many tribal elders pressured their new king to insist on the old ways as the only way. No Mori female would ever be permitted to test her courage and endurance at sea. Then Abeo and Nayo came home from Mawitaan with an adventure story of *their own* to tell ... they became *heroes* to every girl in the tribe. How long would it be before others were inspired to run away to Mawitaan as a rite of passage? Now the King hopes his Mori girls are willing to declare victory and call the matter settled ... to be content having won the thing they had asked him for in the first place. As the father of a bold daughter, I'd say they have him on the ropes and they likely know it!' As he thinks, we see that he's at sea, on a sailboat, operated by a crew of young Mori women taking their journey to sea.
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 8th of May, 2022. Weigel, the Sunday artist, has no health issues affecting the comic strip (so far as I know). Also, Comics Kingdom continues to tell me they can’t reproduce the error where their comics are hard or impossible to read. This even though I have told them how to reproduce it (you need to look at the web page they serve up, or read the e-mail they send out), and how to fix it (use the correct format for the original comics instead of these). Anyway if someone’s looking to hire a guy to do web site stuff who’s learned sophisticated next-level development procedures like “actually look at the site and see if it can be read” drop me a note, I could use the income.

But they decide they’ve had enough of an adventure, and return home. The Phantom wraps things up for us. And for me, if we’re honest; that one Sunday covers things well enough. But their stay in Mawitaan inflamed the imagination of other Mori girls. This forced the King to agree to their request from the start of the story: that the women be allowed to join the men’s liminal ceremony, of a journey at sea. It’s a reminder of how social change happens because of the combination of appeals to reason and conscience with the credible threat of open rebellion. All seems well enough now.


That, the 8th of May, ends “The Ingenues”. The current story began the 15th of May. It’s titled “Return to the Temple of the Gods”. The Phantom Wiki has not been updated to describe this story any, so I have to make some suppositions. The first is that it’s connected to the daily-continuity story “The Temple of the Gods”. That story (in two segments) ran from January through September 2005. And also ran in Team Fantomen non-comic-strip stories in 2006 (“The Secret Sect”, written by Tony DePaul and “Servant of Evil”, written by David Bishop and Hans Lindahl) and 2007 (“Thirst”, written by David Bishop and Hans Lindahl and “The Beasts Stir”, again written by Bishop and Lindahl.) The parts run in the comic strip involve a mysterious temple on Eden, one with what seem to be Egyptian hieroglyphs. And a number of inhuman mummies, strange beings with the heads of animals and bodies of humans. The Third Phantom had been there, too, and left his mark.

“Return to the Temple of the Gods” opens with Dr Manfred Markus Meier recording outside a cave in Bangalla. He promises to explore the strange, uncharted mystery within. The mystery emerges enough to maul him. The Phantom sees the footage and notices what seems to be a person hidden in the cave. The Ghost Who Walks wants to figure out whether this is a visible-crew-person in a publicity stunt or something more mysterious. Diana Walker insists on going with him to explore this mystery. Unable to shake her, The Phantom figures a way to shake her: go to the Island of Eden and slip away while she’s delighting over the stegosaurus. So, we get to see Eden some and meet the lion named Fluffy. The Phantom leaves a note for his wife to discover when she wakes. That’s all that’s happened so far.

Next Week!

So how’d that thing where this janitor guy sets himself up as superhero cleaning up the mean-esque-ish streets of Glenwood? I’m sure that he’s been a responsible, level-headed, thoughtful person and that everything’s turned out well. So I’m going to take a long, slow sip of hot tea and read eleven weeks’ worth of Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. to summarize for you next week. Wish me luck!

What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Why did Helen Moss have to leave? April – June 2022


A warning before we start. The current-as-of-June story in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth includes a woman who’s been hit, hard enough to need hospitalization. The story is not (so far) about that. It’s backstory, the reason that physician assistant Jared Mylo would get to know her. I don’t want people caught unprepared by sensitive material, is all.

So this essay should catch you up on Mary Worth for the middle of June 2022. A more useful essay is probably here if you’re reading this after about September 2022. And if any news about the comic strip breaks I’ll put it at that link, too.

Mary Worth.

3 April – 18 June 2022.

Toby Cameron was teaching art at the Santa Royale Community College. The crush her student Cal has on her, and some chance encounters on the campus raise suspicions in the mind of Helen Moss, Community College lifer. There’s nothing going on, but she threatens to tell management what she imagines is.

[ As Toby Dreams ... ] Onlookers chant 'Toby and Cal, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g, first comes love, then comes marriage ... then comes Toby with a baby carriage!' As she dreams she appears in a tree with Cal, and he reaches in to kiss her, and she falls, or leaps, from the tree. In the last panel she's fallen out of bed, waking herself, as Ian sleeps soundly beside her.
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 10th of April, 2022. Did not know Mary Worth even made Welsh rarebit!

Toby has nightmares about may happen if Moss tells on her. So that’s another wonderful Mary Worth Dream Sequence, with visions of her losing her job and her husband and having schoolkids taunt her for k-i-s-s-i-n-g. Her fear may seem exaggerated. But remember in Funky Winkerbean how Susan Smith had to leave her job at the school when she, an unattached adult woman, kissed Les Moore, a widower attached only to Dead Lisa Moore. But surely that was a special case: how could coworkers respect someone to chose to interact with Les Moore? (Don’t cry for Smith. She got to leave Funky Winkerbean entirely after the thing we were told was a scandal somehow.)

She wakes from one nightmare to another: how to avoid telling her husband, who loves and respects and supports her, about the thing making her most miserable. She visits Mary Worth, who advises she tell her husband, who loves and respects and supports her, about the thing making her most miserable. And it turns out Toby only needs one week and one visit to do the obvious and needed thing.

Toby: 'In the past Ian did have a student who got too friendly, but I'm not sure how he'll feel about being in the same situation!' Mary Worth: 'Are you afraid he'll react badly?' Toby: 'I'm afraid he'll think less of me if I don't handle this properly!' Mary Worth: 'He'll want to help. *Talk* to him, dear.'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 15th of April, 2022. Toby’s referring to a story back in winter 2018-2019 where a student pretended to be interested in Ian to get a better grade. It’s a neat subtle bit of continuity that in this 2018-19 story Ian accepted the idea a student was interested in him and never considered the matter any more deeply than that.

Ian’s not worried about a student having a crush on Toby. He is shocked to hear of Helen Moss’s suspicions, though. To be specific, he’s shocked that it’s Helen Moss. In a sequence that seems like it’s setting up more depth than it does, we see Moss looking through her college yearbook. It has photographs of her in her student days and Ian in his young-instructor days. As she looks at this Ian enters her office. They embrace, and he tells her this has to stop.

And so it does. We don’t see or hear anything of what they say, not directly. In a Mary’s Muffins Meeting, Toby summarizes. Back in Ian’s days at Franklin (I don’t know if that’s the name of a college or the town the college was in), he flirted with Moss, a student, and they became close. Then he left, for a new job, and never imagined how much he hurt her. And … that’s it? Toby guesses that Moss realized Ian was too clueless to realize he was leading her on. This seems like a charitable assessment, but I suppose we all need some charitable interpretations.

Also I’m not sure that “person who is vigilant about instructors not taking advantage of students” is necessarily the villain. Yes, she was wrong about Toby. But her base stated concern was reasonable and she did see (coincidental) circumstances suggesting Toby might be giving Cal special treatment. I’m not even sure she knew Toby was connected to Ian Cameron, which would have made clear whether Moss was bugging Toby particularly or whether she’s like this for anybody.

[ When Mary suggests that Ian visit Toby at work to discourage her student Cal ... ] At the end of her class Toby sees Ian visit. He goes up to her, and they hug, and kiss. Maddie, a student, says, 'Ewww! That's disgusting! How can she kiss that old guy?' Cal: 'I know, right? So gross! ... Hey, Maddie, I'm going to grab some food. You want to join me?' [ Meanwhile, Helen Moss is also moving on ... ] We see her leaving an office apparently empty except for an old yearbook on the desk.
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 15th of May, 2022. I know I talked about this last time but the design of that Santa Royale Community College sign, with “College” so small, is so weird it makes me think it must be referencing some real, specific thing. Anyway, I am genuinely disturbed that Helen Moss is abandoning her yearbook, although since the book says “USC” and we’re told she was involved with Ian when he was at “Franklin” I guess … it’s a yearbook from a different school?

But that’s settled. So Toby worries, what if Cal tries hitting on her again? At Mary Worth’s suggestion she has Ian stop in at the end of her class sometime, when they can kiss where everybody sees. Cal is horrified to learn Toby is into olds, so asks the nearest available woman of similar age to have a food with him instead.

The next we see Helen Moss she’s packing her things, and thinking of how she’s thankful for the opportunity to learn, and that she only has “memories … some of which I’ll leave behind”. Having to leave the Santa Rosa Community College seems a bit harsh for being mistaken about the wife of your 30-years-ago-crush flirting with a student. But, you know, that Susan Smith rule. It’s impossible to continue at a workplace once someone learns you’ve had emotions with another person. Or it could be I’m mistaken. There’s a lot we haven’t seen on-screen here. Could be hear leaving is a coincidence and she happened to be moving to a bigger school.


With the 22nd of May, that story closes. The 23rd starts the current story, about Dawn Weston and her boyfriend Jared Mylo. And this is a story which has as a key character a woman who’s been hospitalized because of someone beating her. I’m setting the rest behind a cut tag for people who do not need that in their recreational reading.

Continue reading “What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Why did Helen Moss have to leave? April – June 2022”

What’s Going On In Mark Trail? What is Bee Sharp’s Deal? March – June 2022


Professor Bee Sharp is, in Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail continuity, some manner of pop scientist. Rusty Trail’s a big fan. They’ve had a couple of interactions. Most have been centered around “Cricket Bro” Rob Bettancourt, childhood nemesis of Mark Trail.

We’ve been seeing more of Bee Sharp since his lab coat got chewed up by goats, part of Bettancourt’s NFT-minting scam. This story, Bee Sharp’s appeared a couple times. Once was in giving Rusty Trail some advice about seeking out cryptids. Another has been to reveal that Bettancourt’s current big NFT scam is, in fact, a scam, to a bunch of the people Bettncourt’s been scamming.

The effect (and I don’t know how much of this is Rivera’s intent) is Bee Sharp seems to have a deal rather like Mark Trail’s. That is, that he’s going about having adventures in bringing nature, or maybe science, to the public, and fighting evildoers. But also being much more successful in getting to be Internet Famous and all. Kelly Welly has a similar life, in Rivera’s telling, doing nature reporting stuff to greater acclaim than Mark Trail does. It makes good storytelling sense to have Mark Trail be the underdog even in his own field. And having several rivals opens more possibilities, although so far, Kelly Welly’s barely featured.

This should catch you up to mid-June 2022 in the comic strip. If any news about Mark Trail breaks, or if you’re reading this after about September 2022, you may find a more useful article here. And now to the strip.

Mark Trail.

27 March – 12 June 2022.

Mark Trail and family are in Oregon! For Rusty, it’s the chance to try and catch the Seaside Specter, a kind of aquatic Bigfoot. With the guidance of a graphic novel about another cryptid, the “Surfsquatch”, he goes looking and mostly scares himself. Professor Bee Sharp happens to be at the comic book shop, and offers some advice. (One senses Sharp, like many of a particular nerd genre could not get enough of cryptids before growing up. I bet he wanted Cecil Adams to explain the 17/23 Correlation too.) If the Seaside Specter is covered in seaweed, as reports say, he’s likely to be near salt water. If he feeds at night, as reports say, he needs protein. Surfsquatch, Rusty learns, turned to crickets to stay alive. He thinks of shrimp and his father’s odd, meme-worthy declaration that “crickets are land shrimp”. And has access to an abundance of cricket protein powder, courtesy Rob Bettancourt. Rusty does not (as of this week) find any cryptids. But he’s got an angle that would work if anything could.

At the comic book shop. Rusty: 'Professor Bee Sharp! My favorite Bikbok Star!' Sharp: 'Greetings, Citizens! I'm in town doing an event for Earth Day! I came to talk about all the weird and wonderful things that make up our planet! I couldn't help overhearing ... Did you know that in Oregon, Bigfoot sightings are often black bears standing or walking upright?' Rusty: 'But I'm not looking for Bigfoot. I'm looking for the Seaside Specter. Can you help, Professor?'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 22nd of April, 2022. Sharp’s entrance to the story was set up the day before with the narration box, ‘A wild professor appears!’, and there’s a similar message when Sharp meets up with Mark Trail later on. I’m amused, even though I don’t play the genre of video games this references.

For Mark Trail, it’s become a working holiday. His father, Mark “Happy” Trail, teamed his trail-mix business up with “Cricket Bro” Rob Bettancourt and his brother, “Crypto Bro” Sterling. Why would Happy Trail be working with someone who pushes NFT scams? Beyond that Happy Trail got to know the Bettancourts when he was estranged from his son, and they needed a father, and you trust the people you like.

There’s more alarming news. The NFTs are some of where they get money. Most of it comes from logging, a business that exists in that awkward space of being necessary but also an environmental hazard. Some good news though, too. The Bettancourts take Mark Trail to the Wings Of Love rehabilitation center, a bird wildlife refuge. They donate some of their profits to support the place. It’s another nice touch, shading the Bettancourts so they aren’t as cartoonishly evil as your Jack Elrod-era story might have done. But … a couple computers are cheap, hard as it is for wildlife rescues to afford them. Is this the Bettancourts using some spare change to greenwash their business?

Happy Trail: 'Mark! The bird is named Joyce Kestrel Oates! Isn't that just adorable?' Mark Trail, reaching his phone up to snap a picture of the Crypto Brothers: 'Hold still! Let me get a picture.' Narrator: 'Mark spots the Crypto brothers taking an urgent phone call. What could it be?' Sterling Bettancourt: 'Hey, uh, Mark? You're a nature dude, right? You know what to do with a lumber mill catches fire?' Narrator: 'This situation just heated up!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 16th of April, 2022. Oh, hey, I think this is the first Attack of Nature since James Allen was doing the comic. I should reset the counter.

There’s little time to investigate. The Bettancourts’ lumber mill is on fire. Mark Trail rapidly deduces the problem: beavers. Oh, you may think of beavers as providing adorable videos the zoo tweets as coming from their “branch manager”. But they’ll cut down trees that are too near power lines. Or cut down power poles, mistaking them for trees. And that can cause fires. The Bettancourts don’t know what to do about the immediate problem besides putting out an anti-beaver press release. Mark Trail and Happy Trail take the lead in evacuating the workers. Happy Trail gets to a radio tower to give directions. Mark Trail — given his father’s compass and camping scarf, a symbol of reconciliation so obvious even I understand it — is able to navigate to the electrical control station and power things off. With the humans out of danger, fire-fighting can get going, and the disaster’s soon not.

Narrator: 'Mark and his Dad are trapped behind a live power line!' Lumberjacks, also behind the live power line and the fire: 'For Pete's sake! A downed power line here in the woods? Where even trees can be conductors? This is a pickle!' Mark Trail: 'There should be a way to shut off the main electricity safely so those men can escape.' Happy Trail: 'Mark, I can show you the floor plans, but the road to the electrical control station is on fire! It's too dangerous!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 2nd of May, 2022. So I want to highlight this strip as representative of Rivera’s development as writer. She’s never been shy to have reasonably complicated storylines, with several independent threads and somewhat more complex emotions involved. But she has been embracing some touches of deep, essential Mark Trail squareness. In the first panel, loggers, caught in a fire aggravated by a long series of managerial blunders, are crying out things like “For Pete’s sake!” and “This is a pickle!” Elsewhere you get characters talking about things as “malarkey” (a word I’m warming to, as it connotes to me not just that someone is spreading nonsense but not even trying to spread good nonsense). The dialogue and the narration boxes are less stodgy than they used to be, as note the references to Internet memes that turn up in them. But they are keeping some of the stylized writing that made Mark Trail an ironic favorite of so many people who’d go on to consider it a sincere favorite.

You may wonder how the Bettancourts needed advice to evacuate workers from a forest fire. The company’s poorly run, the loggers explain to Mark Trail. No fire safety plan, the most relevant thing here. They turned to Happy Trail, the only person who’d even listen to complaints about unsafe working condition. But Happy Trail doesn’t own the mill; why is he in their business? Mark investigates his father.

The Bettancourts get a half-pipe built in the woods, part of preparing a party for some kind of NFT scam launch event. Mark Trail barely follows this when Bee Sharp appears. Sharp has evidence that the NFTs are a scam, with any actual money from them embezzled from the lumber mill. Sharp is there to disrupt Crypto Bro’s event and save the participants from being swindled. And getting revenge for that time Rob Bettancourt had a goat eat his lab coat. I’m not clear why Bee Sharp tells Mark Trail of his plans, except maybe to force Trail into high gear in clearing his father’s name. But I don’t see where Sharp would know anything about that. It may be Sharp was just gloating, as one will, about the chance to do good by being a chaos agent, and it happened to give Mark Trail some needed initiative.

Mark Trail: 'Professor Bee Sharp, why would you mess with the crypto event? That's crazy?' Sharp: 'I prefer to say I'm buggin'. It has to be done. The crypto bros are scammers! I have proof on this flash drive.' Mark Trail: 'Proof of what?' Sharp: 'The crypto and NFTs are worthless! Their only income is embezzling the Sterling log mill! Everyone at this crypto event is in danger of being swindled. They have to know!'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 26th of May, 2022. Now you might think that it’s a pretty poor businessperson who’ll run a viable business like a logging mill poorly just to embezzle money to pump an investment scam. And yet every business you know is rolling out the NFT plans they started forming four months ago when it was just everybody not pitching an NFT scam warning that it was a scam.

As best Mark Trail can work out, his father ended up in that trap where when authority is absent, command flows to whoever competent is nearby and doesn’t shake it off fast enough. Happy Trail doesn’t seem to have investments in the lumber mill or the NFT scams. Or any documented management role. People just know he can tell the Bettancourts to straighten this out. Happy Trail also doesn’t seem to know what an NFT is. He explains to his son that they’re nothing but cheap promotional giveaways for cricket protein bars. He’s baffled by the idea someone would think a monkey picture could be worth anything. Or why it’d be dangerous if Bee Sharp shares his fraud accusations at the crypto event, as “nobody fights over computer games”.

The big day arrives, and it’s a good party. Rusty Trail even talks to a couple skater girls, and they have something to talk about. It’s cryptids. Bee Sharp turns up, though, to get to the DJ booth and slip some hard-hitting investigative journalism in to the EDM mix. I can’t tell you how he imagines this will turn out, but (as of Wednesday), it hasn’t yet.

Sunday Animals Watch!

  • The Northwest Rainforest, 27 March 2022. It’s a good idea; we should have one.
  • Evolutionary Carcinization, 3 April 2022. Whether it’s a good idea or not, we have it.
  • Industrial Logging, 10 April 2022. We could do a better job with this, really.
  • Beavers, 17 April 2022. Or we could turn it over to the beavers, that’s an option.
  • Porcupines, 24 April 2022. Not mentioned, but fun to know: porcupines are born with hair (like guinea pigs, and are rare among rodents to do so). It stiffens up into quills in a couple days.
  • Oregon Wildfires, 1 May 2022. We kind of have to have them too, but we could make it less of a disaster if we tried.
  • Cricket Farming, 8 May 2022. Jules Rivera seems to think insect-eating is likely to become a non-novelty in Western diets and here we part ways.
  • Bigfoot, 15 May 2022. I mean, this would be so cool, right?
  • Lady Beetles, 22 May 2022. Look, there was no way to stop an invasive species of aphids except bringing in invasive lady beetles, that’s just now nature works, right?
  • Beavers, 29 May 2022. They just thought they heard some running water around you and that maybe they could put a stop to that.
  • Sunscreen, 5 June 2022. It’s a really good idea and yes, of course we’ve turned it into other species’ problem.
  • Spiders, 12 June 2022. They’re not just for having other people do the superheroics anymore!

Next Week!

Dubious quotes and questionable relationships! Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth gets some love from me, at least. If all goes well, which would be a nice change of pace.

Judge Parker and The Phantom look odd because Mike Manley isn’t drawing them


Just passing on some news for readers of Judge Parker and The Phantom, weekday continuity, who didn’t see the news already at Daily Cartoonist. Mike Manley, who ordinarily draws both, has some health issues not shared with us. This, I hope, is a temporary matter while he recovers and that he’ll be back soon. I don’t have information yet about who the substitute artists are, and will pass them on when I can.

Tony DePaul offered that it has been a “rough couple of weeks” for the strip, but this does not mean Manley will be away only for a few weeks. And he says little about Manley’s condition, noting that it’s Manley’s business to share. So far as I am aware, Manley has not shared anything specific. Francesco Marciuliano, who writes Judge Parker, has not posted anything relevant on his blog.

[ While waiting at the cottage house, Neddy finally hears from ... ] Neddy answers the phone: 'Sam?! How did the talk with the Mayor go?' Sam: 'Where's Abbey? Did she get back yet?' Neddy: 'Uh, yeah. A few minutes ago. She's in the main house.' Sam: 'I need to talk with her. I need to tell her everything.'
Francesco Marciuliano and unnamed artist’s Judge Parker for the 13th of June, 2022. The things Sam needs to say are that he’s got the news that the footage showing Abbey setting fire to her B-and-B was faked, but he had thought it plausible that she had. So this is a conversation you would want to not have over the phone. A bunch has happened since my last plot recap a couple weeks ago.

Those looking at DePaul’s post should be aware it starts with his eulogy to a friend, and be ready if they are not emotionally ready for that. There’s also his discussion of hitting a deer on the highway, and the wreck it made of his car, without injury to him or his family. After that serious news, though, he discusses some of the current weekday story in The Phantom, and a reminder to read with care. We did learn Mozz would deceive The Phantom to keep the legacy going, after all. DePaul also writes of what makes Ghost Who Walks stand out among superheroes. It’s not that his superpower is being better-trained than a human with 24 hours in a day could be. It’s that he likes who he is and what he does.

In the first panel Mozz starts telling The Phantom of his prophecy. The second panel is positioned to be within Mozz's word balloon. In the prophecy what appears to be Captain Savarna rides on horseback to a Bandar guard. She says, 'I've found him, haven't I? Take me to him!'
Tony DePaul and unnamed artist’s The Phantom for the 13th of June, 2022. DePaul, in his blog, mentions that we the readers see something different from what The Phantom hears from Mozz. That is, that we’re seeing more detail and particularly more thoughts of people than Mozz could be sharing with the Ghost Who Walks. This might answer the question of how Mozz could know the thoughts of individuals, particularly those who die without communicating to others, if they aren’t satisfied by “is in a prophetic vision”.

As I get news about The Phantom I’ll post it here, and as I get news about Judge Parker I’ll post it here.

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? Why was Dick Tracy in Gasoline Alley? March – June 2022


Dick Tracy appeared in Gasoline Alley recently to kick off a story. The premise is that Tracy was hoping to bolster the image of police among young folks. In a moment of synchronicity this is also a storyline in the Vintage Ben Bolt dailies on Comics Kingdom. Ben Bolt had the boxing superstar become a beat cop to convince teens to like cops. Dick Tracy has a more direct plan: bribery. They’ll have kids find spending limits in Easter eggs, then the cops drive them to the mall to buy that much in goods. A couple of the regular cast get singled out for the pilot project.

So this should catch you up to early June 2022. If you’re reading this after August 2022, or any news about Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley breaks, there should be an essay here about it. Thanks for reading this essay.

Gasoline Alley.

21 March – 4 June 2022.

Rufus and Joel, the clown princes of City Hall Janitors, had emerged from hiding last I checked in. They were terrified that Hollywood Movie Mogul Cecil B DeMillstone wanted to sue them into oblivion, for waxing the floor he’d slipped on. They had misunderstood, as you could only have guessed if you knew Jim Scancarelli’s comic style. DeMillstone wants, instead of making a Gasoline Alley movie, to make a sci-fi comedy starring Rufus and Joel. DeMillstone wants them in Hollywood and once and even buys plane tickets.

Rufus: 'Th'recoustics out here is messin' with my earpans! It sounded like yo' said th'movie folks want t'put *us* in th' movies!' Mayor Melba: 'I did!' Joel: 'Rufus! Don't yo' know she's gonna yell 'April Fool' any second now?'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 1st of April, 2022. I understand the plucked-from-obscurity story that Scancarelli’s trying to tell here. But so far all the movie folks have seen is that they mopped a floor that other people slipped on … it doesn’t feel like much of a movie, there. I figured they’d be brought to Hollywood so they could mop floors there.

They’re willing to go to Hollywood, but not by plane. They hitch up their mule, Becky, and get there … slowly. Very slowly. Their adventures fade out of focus the 11th of April, and we see them sometimes while the other plot takes center stage. They resume focus the 25th of May, when they’ve gotten only two inches on the map away from Hollywood. And, finally, arrive! Where everyone looks at them like freaks or a promotion for The Beverly Hillbillies. They ask for Cecil B DeMillstone’s movie headquarters and learn there was a terrible mistake. They went to Hollywood, Florida, a twist I somehow didn’t see coming. Well, I’m sure they’ll be fine.


So the other story ran from the 11th of April through the 24th of May, with a few moments checking in on Rufus and Joel’s progress. This story starts with Dick Tracy, of Dick Tracy fame, stopping in. He’s looking for kids to give shopping sprees to. The Mayor’s choice for this treatment? Aubee Skinner, Ava Luna, and Sophie, who foiled those counterfeiters at the Halloween party and then visited Santa.

They get a great Easter egg, with a $250 spending limit. Aubee hopes to buy something for her parents, but gets distracted when she notices shoplifters. Two people stuffing a lot of watches and jewelry under their big coats. The kids know they can’t accuse grown-ups of shoplifting before they even leave the store without paying.

Abuee, Ava, and Sophie: 'Excuse us a minute, Officer Waffles! We'll be right back!' Officer Waffles: 'Sure!' Sophie points at the two shoplifters, stuffing their coats with jewels and watches: 'Stuff!' Ava: 'That's right, Sophie! They're stuffing watches and jewelry in their coats!' The Swiftys, shoplifters: 'Those kids see us!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 10th of May, 2022. I get the use of signifying names for minor characters. It’s part of the genre of story Scancarelli wants to make, helping establish character without doing characterization that’s not really needed; we don’t need to explore Ima and Eura Swifty’s characters. So, “Officer Barbara Waffles” is a name I don’t get. If it’s a riff on Barbara Walters, all right, but that seems like a name you’d give to someone who was a reporter? Maybe the character goes back far enough that the link made sense originally, but her storyline developed to where now the name doesn’t quite fit? If someone knows, I’d be glad for the insight.

They don’t tell their chaperone, Officer Barbara Waffles, although I don’t know why. It’s possible the kids have made a mistake. They figure to watch the shoplifters, though. The shoplifters see them, and start to flee the store. Sophie runs after, grabbing their loose hat, and somehow the guy trips over her, falling outside the store and knocking over his partner. So now, at least, they’ve left the store without paying for a lot of stuff.

They’re well-known shoplifters Ima and Eura Swifty, quickly taken to jail. And the kids, already renowned for busting up a counterfeiter, get the thanks of Dick Tracy himself for busting up shoplifters. So, have to suppose these kids have a good impression of the cops of Gasoline Alley.

And that’s the standings. This past week we’ve been with Rufus and Joel in Hollywood, Florida, and we’ll have to see what they get up to in the eleven weeks ahead.

Next Week!

Beaver-induced logging fires! Non-fungible tokens! And an older Mark Trail not understanding technology! I look at Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail in a week, if all goes well.

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? Why wasn’t Coffyhead arrested for kidnapping that woman? March – May 2022


In this past Dick Tracy story, Coffyhead kidnapped TV presenter Dot View to ensure her boyfriend Tonsils would deliver a drug package. Tonsils worked with Dick Tracy to get the cops to bust Coffyhead, but Coffyhead had swapped the packages so there was nothing to hold him on. Except kidnapping Dot View, you’d think, right?

What happened was Dot View refused to press charges. Coffyhead explained, to one of his henchman, that he suspected she wouldn’t want the scandal of a trial. And he called it correctly. We learned Coffyhead’s explanation over a week after (reader time) his release, so it has the air of a retcon to answer reader complaints. But that’s impossible given the lead time in comic production. Mike Curtis and Shelly Pleger had the explanation in mind and saved it, is all.

It’s a little surprising Dot View would regard it as scandalous to be the victim of kidnapping. But while Dick Tracy takes place in a fantasy universe where magnetic spaceships fly people to Jupiter and cops rush in to dangerous situations to save lives, it’s not so much of a fantasy as to depict the law-enforcement system treating violence against women as a crime. (And, as a more direct explanation, she may have wanted to avoid her boyfriend having to testify about his transporting drugs.)

So this should catch you up to late May 2022 in Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy. If you’re reading this after about August 2022 there should be a more up-to-date plot recap here. Thanks for reading.

Dick Tracy.

13 March – 28 May 2022.

My last plot recap coincided with the start of a new story. This simplifies my giving of backstory. Vitamin Flintheart signed a Matt McCuller, an up-and-coming “tribute performer” to Tonsils. The original Tonsils, introduced and killed in 1952, was a singer forced by Mr Crime to try killing Dick Tracy. Everyone calles McCuller “Tonsils”, so I’ll go along with that.

New Tonsils doesn’t need to be pressed into crime. He’s trying to get out of drug-running in favor of his singing career. Coffyhead, a coffee-themed villain from 1947, is annoyed his new supplier is quitting on him and vows to teach him “some manners”.

Tonsils: 'A regular nightclub gig? That's great, Vitamin!' Flintheart: 'It won't start for a couple of weeks. But the booker wants to meet you tomorrow night at one of his nightclubs being remodeled.' Tonsils: 'Where is it?' Flintheart, handing Moka's [ Coffyhead's ] business card over: 'The Ajax, on eighth street. I do wonder, Tonsils, if you can handle the strain. You'll be doing the Dot View show mornings after the Ajax at night.' Tonsils: 'Don't worry, Vitamin! I'm young. I can handle anything life throws at me!'
Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 10th of April, 2022. Boy, imagine feeling Tonsils’ confidence about being able to handle anything as complicated as lunch, never mind life. On a sincere note, though, I like the center panel in the bottom row there, Tonsils being surrounded by glitter and starry skies as everything seems to be coming together. It’s good emotional illustration.

Coffyhead recognizes Tonsils when he sings on the Dot View Show. (He hadn’t known his supplier’s name.) Tonsils’ performance with Dot View goes great despite tensions: the original Tonsils had a fling with Dot View. She has a similar relationship grow, quickly, with the New Tonsils. Several strips this sequence are about View’s issues having a duplicate of her relationship from back in the Truman era. And Dick Tracy is annoyed with Flintheart for making him interact with the spitting image of someone who tried to kill him. “But Richard,” Flintheart protests, “there are over 50,000 people on the eastside of the city alone who’ve tried to kill you!” Tracy grants the point but, still, the stuff he has to deal with, you know?

Coffyhead, pretending to be a new nightclub owner for Flintheart, hires Tonsils to sing. When Flintheart realizes there’s no such nightclub opening he tips off Dick Tracy. But Coffyhead has already grabbed Dot View to demand Tonsils deliver drugs. And this is where Tracy explains enough of Original Tonsils to the new that readers have any hope of understanding the backstory. New Tonsils goes along with the sting, which fails, as Coffyhead gets the packages switched somewhere the cops can’t find. And Dot View declines to press charges for kidnapping.

[ Old Trouble resurfaces for Tonsils. ] Coffyhead, holding a gun on Tonsils while a henchman grabs Dot View: 'Listen, Tonsils, I don't care about your singing career. I do care about you filling my 'prescriptions'! You've got one day to fill my order. In the meantime, your friend will be visiting with us. Lock the door when you leave in ten minutes.' They exit. Coffyhead cringes, thinking: 'Dot! I'm sorry! Sorry!' He notices: 'Someone's at the door! Is that Coffyhead coming back?' Entering is ... 'DICK TRACY?' Tracy: 'TONSIlS!'
Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 17th of April, 2022. An unstated piece of this is that his ruin was entirely Coffyhead’s petty, ego-driven fault. He was sore at Tonsils for backing out of future drug deliveries, yes. But as he admitted, he didn’t need Tonsils for deliveries. Coffyhead could have got his revenge and kept his successful drug operation going if he’d just sent someone around every week to key Tonsils’ car.

The cops figure out where Coffyhead’s drugs are coming from anyway. Sam Catchem tears open antique chairs at Cawlie’s Furniture to find the bundles hidden inside. The cops manage more precise hits on Coffyhead’s drug deliveries, driving him up the wall figuring out where the leak is. We readers learn it’s “Stuntman Mike” passing information along, but not who that is. Coffyhead reasons it out and figures it’s the delivery guy whose shipments keep getting nabbed by the cops. The delivery guy is Bronko, who was also in the original 1947 story introducing Coffyhead. Back in ’47, Coffyhead abducted and tortured Tracy Junior and Bronko, trying to smash the Junior Crimestoppers Club. It’s weird that Bronko would go work for someone who’d abducted and tormented him years ago. And weird that Coffyhead wouldn’t ponder that more. But as he interrogates Bronko, Dick Tracy breaks in, and grabs Coffyhead. We learn Bronko is, of course, Stuntman Mike. He grew up from the Crimestoppers Club to join the FBI, and was working undercover against Coffyhead.

Bronko: 'Twenty questions, boss?' Coffyhead, holding a gun: 'It won't take that many. Did you know our distributions sites were raided by police this week? Nearly all after *you* made deliveries to them!' Bronko 'I've been real careful! No cops are tailing me when I make a drop!' Coffyhead: 'Well then, I guess they found out *the other way*.'
Mike Curtis, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 9th of May, 2022. It may seem foolish for the police to raid places so close to Bronko’s deliveries. You’d think they would know they were tipping off Coffyhead that Bronko was passing them information.

So that’s all a happy ending for everyone besides Coffyhead, who probably should have stuck to running that San Francisco coffee shop he’d opened after leaving jail. Maybe he was gentrified out of business.


And that, the 15th of May, concludes that story. The current story started the 16th, with someone using hypnotic glasses to rob a guy at the ATM. And, after that, using some kinds of implants to clean out ATMs. This appears to be Mr Memory, an owl-keeping new addition to the comic strip canon. (He appeared, played by Victor Buono, in the pilot for the 1967 Dick Tracy TV series.) He lives near B O Plenty, and gave Tracy’s pal a ride into town. Also, the Cinnamon Knight, another “caped superhero” like are running around all the comics these days, gives Tracy two bits of news. One is that he and his wife are retiring from costumed-superheroing, since they’re expecting a child. The other is that the bank his real-life’sona works at got cleaned out in a robbery last night. And that’s where we stand.

Next Week!

Have Rufus and Joel made it to Hollywood yet? Have a trio of unbearably adorable moppets busted up a shoplifting ring? Are there even more Dick Tracy appearances out there? I answer “yes” three different times, but in more words, when I look at Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley next week, if all goes well.

Comics Kingdom Is Never Going to Make Sunday Comics Readable on Computers


I have mentioned my problems with Comics Kingdom’s redesign. Particularly, they’ve switched the source for Sunday comics, changing from the correct three-row formats designed for comics that get a half-page in the newspaper to a four-row format designed for quarter-pages. It looks ugly and, worse, cheap, to my eye. But it gets worse in that some strips, particularly The Lockhorns and Prince Valiant, turn into something illegible. (Others, like Beetle Bailey or The Phantom, just look ugly.) Viewed on my Favorites page, we get this.

Lockhorns comic for Sunday, the 22nd of May, 2022, showing five comics one atop another, far too tiny to be viewed; the comic fills about one-tenth of the web browser's width.
The Lockhorns for the 22nd of May, 2022.

Prince Valiant comic for Sunday, the 22nd of May, 2022, showing the panels squashed into a width about one-fifth that of the web browser's width. The pictures are barely visible; the text is too small to read.
Prince Valiant for the 22nd of May, 2022.

I have filed bug reports with Comics Kingdom about this every week since February when this started. You can see how much satisfaction I’m getting from this. What I get most weeks is their pointing out that I could simply zoom in the images, even though I always include a screenshot showing what the zoomed-in comics look like. I have explained to them that I know how Zoom works, and I know that it does not, because unlike them, I have tried it. While I feel a bit bad snarking at a customer service representative, I feel worse about four months of being ignored when I report an obvious and easy-to-reproduce problem and getting back suggestions that can not work.

Zoomed-in view of Lockhorns comic for Sunday, the 22nd of May, 2022, showing five comics one atop another. The comic now fills about one-third the horizontal width of the web browser's width, but most of the vertical width, so that the comic is too stretched out horizontally to be legible.
The Lockhorns for the 22nd of May, 2022, but pudgy.

Zoomed-in Prince Valiant comic for Sunday, the 22nd of May, 2022. The strips are now wide enough to fill the web browser horizontally, but also vertically, so that the panels are stretched out absurdly. The text is readable now, but all the characters are squished down so they look squat and very wide.
Prince Valiant for the 22nd of May, 2022, but pudgy.

After a lot of challenging them to read a single word of any of these comics last week they admitted something of substance. That is that when they published the redesign back in February, they switched the formats for many comics to ones that they figured would read better on mobile devices. The argument for this is that most of their readers are on mobile devices. Which may be. And I grant the need to decide what systems you are and aren’t going to support. But it does mean that not a single person involved in this web site redesign ever asked, “What if someone looks at this web site on an actual computer?” Or that people did and they got the answer, “Comics Kingdom does not, and will not, care”.

Now, yes, I know ways around this. Not to brag but I know how to extract the images from what they provide and view them in a readable size. Or you can go to the comics’ own page, rather than your Favorites page, and get more reasonable pictures. This should not be necessary. Comics Kingdom chooses what files to show, and up through February this year they chose files that looked fine for people with actual computers. They could make this choice again. They could even make this a choice for the person reading the site, whether they want the real-computer or the mobile-device versions of these comics. They won’t.

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? When were Prince Valiant’s chronicles written? March – May 2022


One recent Prince Valiant strips is about the evacuation of Londinium. The text mentions how Valiant “cannot know that a much greater city will one day rise from its ashes”. Prince Valiant lives roughly in Justinian’s time, the mid-6th century. So the historical Londinium had been abandoned about a century by then, but I don’t know an obvious reason we can’t believe in a small garrison hanging around the old walls.

The convention of the strip is that it’s an illustration of scrolls telling the legend of Valiant. So this suggests a scroll author who lived after London was reestablished. (There was, in Justinian’s time, a Saxon settlement in what is now Westminster. But the story makes clear that’s not the city we’re looking at.) Sometime after the seventh century, at minimum, and really the later the better, to make the case for London as a great city. But, as often happens with Prince Valiant trivia, I don’t know when we’re supposed to take the scrolls as written.

Still, this should catch you up to late May 2022 in Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant. If any news about the comic breaks, or if you’re reading this after about August 2022, a more useful plot summary should be here. Thanks for journeying into legend with me and all that.

Prince Valiant.

6 March – 22 May 2022.

Prince Valiant coaxed Morgan Le Fay to produce some impressive pyrotechnics. They hoped to evacuate the soldiers holding Londinium, an outpost so forgotten they think King Arthur still reigns in Camelot. It worked well enough to get the garrison halfway across the Thames before their Saxon beseigers caught up.

Le Fay climbs under the bridge. She’s been avoiding the sea because she owes too great a debt to the occult forces living deep within it. But the river is an estuary, at Londinium, and she calls to some great watery force. It rushes in, with a tidal wave that smashes the bridge, and that kills many of the Saxons.

On the Thames bridge, Val knocks aside Wassa's spear with almost casual disdain, driving the Saxon war chief to even greater rage. Wassa thought yesterday to have an easy slaughter of Londinium's remaining warriors, but today his enem is on the verge of escaping his wrath. Under the battle, Morgan has pulled her way into the river and now stands braced against a pier. She begins a wailing, otherworldly summoning as Val holds back Wassa and his followers, allowing the main body of evacuees time to exit the bridge. And, in the waters below the current has suddenly reversed itself! A surging tide rushes in with supernatural speed from the far-off sea and the old bridge begins to vibrate and then quake before a massive wall of water roaring and crashing up the Thames! All combat ceases before the horrifying spectacle, and Val remembers Morgan's words about the dark, watery forces that would come for her, should she ever again attempt to cross the sea!
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 27th of March, 2022. This storyline maybe isn’t the one with the highest death toll, at least since I started recapping these plots. There was that story about five years ago, where the mad Azar Rasa opened the “Soul of Asia” and set off some explosion big enough to leave a mushroom cloud. But the crashing of a tidal wave to kill however many Saxons (the text says “a hundred” but that surely just means “a rather large number”) feels more bloody, somehow. It’s effective, and exciting, but it feels an order of magnitude more serious than everything that had been going on.

But not Prince Valiant. Nor, to their surprise, Morgan Le Fay. The waters recede, leaving them in an oak tree. Le Fay surmises that the hundred Saxon souls were enough for the watery powers, and that their accounts are settled. The survivors of the garrison are won over, though, to Le Fay’s heroism. Word of her powers spread, clearing raiders away from their path. And when Sir Galahad, meeting them from Camelot, tries to take Le Fay into custody the garrison refuses. Some pledge loyalty to her. She declares she’s going home. And that’s where we stand.

Next Week!

We see a convergence of the world of celebrity impersonators, and drug running, and hypno-glasses, and masked vigilantes who aren’t in Rex Morgan M.D. It’s Joe Staton, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy next week, or at least that’s my plan.

Oh also it turns out GoComics carries Miss Peach now


While doing something I now forget I noticed that GoComics carries Mell Lazarus’s comic strip Miss Peach. In repeats, of course, as the comic ran from 1957 to 2002, and Lazarus himself died in 2016.

I don’t know when they added the strip. GoComics used to make a fuss when it added a comic strip. But the last few years I’ve learned about new additions mostly from Daily Cartoonist. Digging through the GoComics archive it looks like they probably added it in late October last year, a time when I’ll agree I was distracted with, you know, everything. There are a smattering of strips in the deep archive, with dates from March 1988 through September 2002; I don’t know whether this includes the final original strips. And I can find some strips with comments dated “over three years ago” so good luck working this out.

I’m glad to see it added, though, first because I like comics and appreciate vintage strips getting fresh attention. But also this is a comic strip I have heard about my whole life but never seen in any newspaper. This including the time in the 90s that I subscribed to a shoddily-run weekly newspaper that was only syndicated comic strips. So I’m glad to have the chance to appreciate what the fuss was about.

Girl coming up to 'Arthur's Election Poll Service': 'Arthur, how often do you take a poll?' Arthur, sitting at a computer: 'Every five minutes. Oops ... Dukakis is finishing his lunch and he's reaching for a toothpick ... He just slipped 4% ... '
Mell Lazarus’s Miss Peach repeat for the 18th of May, 2022. Originally run the 19th of October, 1988. So, for those too young to remember it, this is a correct representation of how stupid and petty the 1988 Presidential Election was.

Or some echo of the fuss. Right now GoComics is running strips from 1988. This I imagine, unburdened by actual knowledge, reflects when the original strips were picked up by Creators Syndicate. But that’s also comics from the 31st year of the strip. There are exceptions but usually a comic strip in its fourth decade has settled into being warm and familiar and pleasant rather than compelling. But there are also charms in a comic strip that assumes it already has you as a friendly, cozy audience.

I also can’t tell you what audience it has on GoComics. Most strips there have an “about” page, so that you can enjoy whatever delight comes from knowing 67,309 other people are subscribed to Herman repeats. There’s no such link for Miss Peach, though. Me, all I want from a Comics “About” page is a list, with pictures, of the main and secondary characters. Please, cartoonists, do this for your readers. Or please, cartoonists’ literary estates, do it.

Also somebody needs to start running Walt Kelly’s Pogo online. It’s amazing such an important comic strip is so hard to link people to.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? Is anything real happening in The Phantom? February – May 2022


For most of the last year Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom weekday continuity has been an imaginary story. A story of how the current, 21st, Phantom could die. It’s Tony DePaul’s chance to tell a story that probably couldn’t be done in-continuity. Not with how much The Phantom Publishing Empire sprawls, even if King Features Syndicate were brave enough to let the star of its … fourth-oldest(?) … comic strip die. (Barney Google, Popeye, and Blondie are older; any others? Not counting Katzenjammer Kids as it’s no longer in production.)

So almost all these events have been Mozz’s vision of how, if The Phantom rescues Savarna Devi from death row, incredible disaster follows. The death of the 21st Phantom, but also of the whole line of The Phantom. But “actual” things have happened. The Phantom’s told Diana that Captain Savarna is in Gravelines Prison, and that he means to get her out before she’s executed. Diana agrees this is the only thing to do. (Savarna was key to breaking Diana Walker out of Gravelines, in a story that ran eighteen months, from 2009 to 2011.)

Mozz walks through Skull Cave, thinking: 'My CHRONICLE has the power to alter the destiny of the 21st Phantom! Holding him here was the key ... and now DECEPTION must be the banner I fight under! As I battle on to save him from himself ... '
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 26th of April, 2022. Mozz’s certainty that he hasn’t done enough yet has yet to be explained. Savarna learning where Jampa was, but not why he must not be killed, relied on several contingencies. I’m sure DePaul has some reason in mind that Mozz’s scenario — which started with events that have already been avoided — is still a menace.

Mozz insists on another day or two to finish his chronicle, one to be kept with the Phantom Chronicles. He snipes at The Phantom for telling Diana where Savarna is, spotting it as a way to get himself pushed to free Savarna whether or not that’s wise. And he admits to himself (and the reader) that holding The Phantom back is essential to saving him, and that “Deception must be the banner I fight under”. How that turns out, I don’t know yet. Tony DePaul wrote back in February that he had the current chapter — 23 weeks, stretching from the 18th of April through the 24th of September — scripted. This story, Phantom’s End, sees the Ghost Who Walks die, in prophecy. And that there are three more chapters to follow that.

So this should get you up to speed on The Phantom, weekday continuity, for mid-May of 2022. For the Sunday continuity, or if you’re reading this after about August 2022, a more relevant plot recap may be here. That link is also good in case I get any news about the strip.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

28 February – 14 May 2022.

Last time, in my recaps, Mozz had shown Captain Savarna Devi killing Chief Constable Jampa. This in revenge for Jampa, decades earlier, killing her family and stealing her family’s ship and enslaving her. Though Jampa’s not much loved, he is a “keystone” figure, as Kyabje Dorje — head of the Nyamjang Chu monastery where Kit Junior studies — describes. Invaders from the unnamed North, whom Kyabje had been holding off, take the killing of Jampa as provocation. Kyabje and Kit Junior beat back their assassins easily. They’re helpless to fend off the aerial bombardment a week later, one that kills Kyabje, and many people in the mountain city.

A person groans, from the injuries he's taken in air bombing. He took out a phone and started a call. Kit Junior picked it up, saying, 'Hello?' ... I'm sorry, I --- I don't know your language ... I can't ... ' Kit Jr stands amidst the destruction, muttering, ' ... can't help you ... '
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 12th of May, 2022. The color adds to this, but even without, this is an amazing daily strip, with incredible power in that last panel. It sells this as the moment Kit Junior became a different person.

Also killed, Mozz explains, is the part of Kit Junior that would make a Phantom: his youth, his generosity, his goodness. He becomes a legend, commander of guerrilla forces “on a disputed frontier”, killing many to avenge the murdered city.

Heloise, Mozz explains, refuses to become the 22nd Phantom. Something not yet revealed causes Kadia to kill herself. Between the pain of that, and of Kit Junior’s turn away from the Deep Woods, she rejects The Phantom legacy. She leaves for the United States, never telling her children of the Deep Woods or the Phantom or any of this. Diana Walker leaves, takin a permanent post in New York City, refusing to be part of The Phantom’s life anymore.

And in what apparently is to be Phantom’s End — begun as promised the 18th of April — The Phantom journeys into Asia to confront his son-gone-wrong. And it somehow connects to the strange hallucinatory landscape where The Phantom faced a demon-image of his own father. This in the 2020 story of The Llongo Forest.

The Phantom: 'Mozz, does anything at all go my way in this vision of yours? Now, I suppose, you're going to tell me I don't find Kit?' Mozz: 'In a manner of speaking, Phantom ... he finds you.' Mozz holds up his Chronicle, which shows a sketch of the strange surreal tableau from The Phantom's hallucinatory encounter with his ancestors.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 9th of April, 2022. Wait, this is another strip where the second panel is shorter then the first and third, but overlaps it left to right … is this a flash forward or … you know, I’m writing this after midnight, I need to let go and allow the story to happen. Sorry.

A hallmark of this story has been how it’s told out of order. Not just that it’s The Phantom hearing Mozz’s prophecy. But we get pieces of the prophecy and then come back to fill them in. Hearing the fact of Kadia’s suicide, for example. Mozz writing out how The 21st Phantom’s body is buried. The mountain city being bombed, seen first from Kit Walker’s perspective months ago (our time) and now from Diana Walker’s this week. The Phantom’s campaign for governor falling apart when he’s found in a love nest with a “singer”. I’ve tried to untangle that, as my mission is the draining of all storytelling to leave a list of events behind. But if you find the story confusing between now and my next plot recap, I recommend re-reading in blocks of a week or a month at a time. And looking to see where DePaul has said what happened, and whether the story is fleshing that out. If a major event seems to have been written off in a single panel, there’s reason to think the strip will come back to that.

Next Week!

Will Prince Valiant overcome his greatest menace yet: the Comics Kingdom redesign that makes the Sunday strips illegible if you have an actual computer and read the strips on your Favorites page? Oh, also Morgan Le Fey? We’ll find out as I recap Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant. Unless Comics Kingdom cancels my subscription because I will not stop complaining about their lousy redesign and even worse customer support.

In Which I Politely Ask the Ghost of Brock Adams to Stop Haunting This Blog


I do not know what strange convergence of occult forces drove my brain to remember one dumb little joke about disgraced Senator Brockman Adams for thirty years until I could deposit it on your doorstep two days ago.

Separately to all of that, GoComics has been running Berkeley Breathed’s Outland. And it’s in that era when it had given up on being a new comic and was just Sunday Bloom County But With Way Too Much Of That Cockroach Instead Of The Interesting Or Likable Characters. And we got to this.

Opus and Bill the Cat, sitting behind a booth for their Presidential campaign, to a woman strolling past: 'Madam, let me outline what we'll feature if elected. Health care! Chilcare! Warfare! Welfare! Cab fare and hair care! All free. Free! Free! Free! Free! Thank you very much!' Woman: 'Listen, after Jack Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, and Brock Adams, I'm voting for somebody with *less*!' Opus, stunned, says, 'Less?' He reaches over the edge of the booth to scratch out cat, and writes in 'Eunuch'. Opus says to Bill, 'stop grinning, booger-face!'
Berkeley Breathed’s Outland repeat for the 16th of May, 2022. Originally run the 5th of April, 1992. You know, once I heard about the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon I started to see examples of it everywhere.

I suppose that I’m glad to be present at the peak of mentions of Brock Adams since his death in 2004, so, yeah, pleasant enough work there, universe. I would prefer to be at the peak of “Joseph Nebus, having won $275,000 in the lottery” mentions, though, if we could arrange that instead.

What’s Going On In Alley Oop? Did a story start in the Sunday Alley Oop? February – May 2022


I’m hesitant to call it a story. But the Sunday Little Oop comics seem to have changed premise. After a couple years of Little Alley Oop being trapped in the present day, he and Penelope are back in prehistoric Moo. Penelope’s time machine got swiped by a pterodactyl, Angry Hank, and there’s no obvious way for her to get back. I’m interested how this different set of fish-out-of-water jokes will go.

But that’s the Sunday comics. The weekday comics are the main continuity and that’s what I hope to catch you up on here. This should explain Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop through to early May 2022. If any news about the comic breaks, or if you’re reading this after August 2022, a more useful essay is likely here. Thanks for time-travelling with me.

Alley Oop.

21 February – 7 May 2022.

Alley Oop and Ooola had just ducked out to 2782, when Earth is finally Eutopia. And it sure seems nice. Lots of leisure. Tubes from from ears of corn pop out on command. What’s not to like, besides the ominous warning of the corn dog guy who’s dragged away and replaced?

Stev: 'It's come to my attention that you've been asking a lot of questions about Eutopia. I'm going to need you to stop that.' Alley Oop: 'Sorry, Pal. You can't stop our natural curiosity.' Stev kneels beside an enormous pit: 'Well, *this* is the alternative.' Alley Oop: 'Pfft. A bottomless pit? I'll just live the rest of my life falling. Get a falling job, start a falling family.' Stev: 'There *is* a bottom. And it's covered in *spikes*.' Oop: 'Oh, no! That will really cramp my falling lifestyle!'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 2nd of March, 2022. Stev and his threats play less of a part in the story than highlighting them like this suggests. I mostly like the camera angle in that third panel and Alley Oop’s plans to develop a falling lifestyle. It’s a level of building-on-a-dumb-premise that tickles me.

So they ask a couple basic questions and Stev, leader of Eutopia, is ready to banish them to the death pit. They instead explore behind a forbidden door. They’re caught, fitted with shock collars, and impressed into the huge underclass of degraded laborers, or laborers. Their job: be at the ready to load the pneumatic tubes with corn or books or whatever the surface-worlders demand.

A note under the pillow interrupts Ooola’s drudgery. It’s an invitation to the Revolution. Krev, the security guard who put Oop’s shock collar on, sent it. Krev’s realized the world sucks. The strange, curious outsiders of Alley Oop and Ooola may be what’s needed to take down the dystopia. The three of them look for support from other oppressed workers. They gather a revolutionary vanguard of almost twelve people, most of whom we never see.

Ooola: 'Why did you want to meet with us, Krev?' Krev: 'You two are legends around here. Word is, you appeared out of nowhere and started asking forbidden questions. You're right that Eutopia is not all it seems to be, and I'm going to help you take it down.' Oop: 'Let's blow up the whole planet!' Krev: 'I was thinking something a little more strategic.' Oop: 'Fine. We'll start by blowing up small things and then do bigger explosions.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 30th of March, 2022. As a person who’d rather be playing some grand strategy game far too complicated for himself to understand than do most anything else … uh … yeah, Alley Oop understands strategy.

What can they do? Sabotage. Pneumatic tubes offer great chances for this. They start a campaign of putting the wrong stuff in tubes. Cross-connecting tubes. Reversing tubes. After a couple hours they check up stairs and, what do you know, society’s collapsed. Wen, the guide who’d explained Eutopia to Alley Oop and Ooola, is guarding his precious box of remaining corn. Stev cowers behind the remains of his throne before abdicating and running away.

Alley Oop: 'We should probably head home, Krev.' Ooola: 'It was a pleasure overthrowing a corrupt socio-political system with you.' Krev, walking into the ruins: 'Be well in the 21st Century. Maybe you can take some of what you learned and create a new utopia there.' Silent penultimate panel. As they zang back to the present, Oop says, 'I give it a year before their whole perfect society collapses.' Ooola: 'A year? I was thinking a week!'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 30th of April, 2022. Hey, remember that last time a couple years ago the Republicans shut down the United States federal government, and it was impossible for them to resolve the problem, and then the air traffic controllers went on strike for about 25 minutes and the Republicans settled down and funded the government to basic levels of functionality? Just a thought that crossed my mind about the corrupt sociopolitical system.

Krev declares they’re starting a new world, a true utopia, a more equitable and egalitarian society. And with bold hopes for a new future, that Ooola guesses will last maybe a week, Our Heroes return home.

Oh, yeah. Remember last time I mentioned noticing the strip where Ooola sees a white rabbit running along? And I felt good that despite being a STEM idiot I can recognize allusions to some of the most foundational images of our culture? Yeah, that white rabbit never figured into the story in any way. Sorry.


With the 2nd of May, we start the new story. Dr Wonmug, Alley Oop, and Ooola are off to 1501 Italy to meet Leonardo da Vinci, little suspecting he’s one of the cast of Bill Holbrook’s comic strip Safe Havens. (Honest. Lot of backstory in that strip.) And that’s as far as we’ve gotten. We’ll pick it up in eleven weeks or so, if things go as I expect.

Next Week!

The Phantom is, as we all know, the Man who Cannot Die. What Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom weekday continuity proposes is, what if he could? They figure it would go something like this. I’ll catch you up on it in a week, unless Mozz warns me of disaster to unfold if I do.

Wait Wait Wait, Dennis the Menace Has a Middle Name?


I have been reading Dennis the Menace for — well not my entire life. There was a stretch for the first couple years when I wasn’t able to read. But past that, I’ve been reading Dennis the Menace my entire life and it’s just this week I find out Dennis has a middle name? I knew he had a last name, although it took me long enough to settle on “Mitchell” that I would have been in trouble on a game show. But a middle name? That isn’t “The”? Yes, if you proposed that his name was “Dennis The Mitchell” I would have to accept you were right.

Dennis, around the corner of the house, overhearing his mother, tells Joey, 'Uh-oh! She used all three of my names. That spells TROUBLE!'
Scott Ketcham and Marcus Hamilton’s Dennis the Menace for the 4th of May, 2022. If we can trust Wikipedia, Ron Ferdinand does the art on Sundays and Marcus Hamilton on weekdays. If we trust Comics Kingdom’s credit, the writing is by Hank Ketcham, who retired in 1994 and died in 2001. Maybe he was ahead of deadline but then I don’t know what Scott Ketcham is doing. Well, there’s always paperwork, can’t forget that. You need someone who likes to fill out forms.

Anyway, Wikipedia offers that his full name is Dennis Roger Mitchell, though it doesn’t give a source. The comic strip, I suppose. Also apparently the strip takes place in Wichita, Kansas, if you believe Wikipedia. Wikipedia also claims that Wichita, Kansas, is on the Arkansas River. As far as I know that’s right, so maybe we can trust Wikipedia about this Dennis “Roger” Mitchell thing too. I don’t know.

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Why does the CIA even want April Parker? February – May 2022


So, most important thing, before even that: Norton Dumont is dead, according to April Parker, on the 18th of February. She’s speaking to her mother, the one person she could not deceive about this point. But I believe there is still a way he could squeeze back out of death. My recollection (I’m not checking) is that it was April Parker’s mother who killed Norton. We don’t know that April saw the corpse; she could be taking her mother’s word and her mother might lie. But we do have what appears to be the author’s intention as of early 2022.

On to why the CIA wants April Parker. I admit it’s hard remembering. But Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley told the essentials of it back in July and August 2017. Super-Hyper-Ultra-Duper CIA Spy April Parker discovered she’d been sent on make-work assignments. Smuggling blank papers into Scary Countries, that kind of thing. It was a test of loyalty, yes, along with some missions “to get [her] hands a little dirty”. This to suborn her into a rogue sub-agency within the CIA. She couldn’t reveal them without admitting her role in selling intelligence to non-approved countries. And between that, and her father (Norton Dumont) selling weapons to any and all takers, they figured they had a reliable agent.

[ A year ago, in a Vienna hotel ... ] April: 'Dad, they trapped me. They're going to say I sold state secrets. And they sold arms to --- HOW COULD YOU SUPPLY ARMS TO ROGUE AGENTS?!' Norton: 'It was through a subsidiary of a subsidiary. When I found out, that's how I found you here.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 22d of August, 2017. Once again a reminder that any company large enough to have subsidiaries is probably too large to be any good.
She wouldn’t go along with it. Her father, aware of all this from his connections, shot the person trying to recruit April. Also his bodyguards. So the CIA — whether the “legitimate” or the “rogue” agents I’m not sure — want April and Norton for killing CIA agents. Also for whatever their role is in selling arms and information. In any case she’s the patsy for the whole scandal that you maybe missed because, jeez, can you remember any specific thing from 2017? Be honest now.

So this should catch you up to the start of May, 2022 in Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker. If you’re reading this after about August 2022, a more up-do-date plot recap should be here. So let’s catch up on what happened since my last plot recap.

Judge Parker.

13 February – 1 May 2022.

Randy Parker’s choice to take Charlotte and run off with April Parker last year was becoming a strain. Randy argued their lives had become constrained to whatever safe house April and her mother, whose name I still haven’t caught, set them in. The argument about how being on the run is itself a prison is a good one, and that hints at what they’ve been doing off-screen. We don’t see specifics yet and I know some will say we’ll never get specifics. I am trying to not be so cynical a reader.

April makes a big decision: she will turn herself in to the CIA. She wakes Randy and their daughter Charlotte for a farewell hug, telling him only that she’s going for “supplies”. Once she leaves, her mother tells Randy to go with Charlotte to any airport and check in at any counter; that’ll do the rest. Randy’s confusion I know prompted some to snark about his slowness. But we readers have information Randy doesn’t about April’s plans. I’d expect April has accustomed Randy to sudden changes of plans for concealed reasons. For all he knows April may have decided they’re relocating to that island the Katzenjammer Kids are on or something.

Male CIA agent: 'Why would Parker lead us into a trap? We havne't been able to find her for years. Why not just stay hidden?' Female CIA Agent: 'Because in her eyes we've taken everything from her ... her life. Her family's safety. Her very reputation. After a while that kind of anger builds and builds until you just want to burn down the world.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 9th of March, 2022. Before anyone asks how April Parker’s cell phone could be useful after years of inactivity I note my cell phone is from 2008 and I once went twelve months without receiving an incoming call on it. I am very well-liked.

April drives to a remote alley and turns on her old phone. The CIA detects this immediately, and has agents in to scoop her up in minutes. Randy, as April’s Mother directs, takes Charlotte to the airport and checks in at any airline, getting them arrested immediately. Both these feats suggest a CIA more effective than my reading about the actual agency suggests, but we are in the world of fiction. Meanwhile April’s Mother blows up their safe house, allowing the reasons for this to escape me. I guess to cover her own tracks somehow?

Alan Parker: 'Katherine! They found Randy and Charlotte! The CIA found them! They're alive!' Katherine: 'Oh, thank heavens!' Alan: 'I ... I can't believe this is happening! I can't believe I'm going to see them again!' Katherine: 'Where are they?' Alan: 'I ... I don't know.' Katherine: 'When are they coming home?' Alan: 'I'm not sure.' Katherine: 'How are --- ' Alan: 'Okay, in my utter shock I forgot to ask a few crucial questions. But focus on the big picture here!'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 27th of March, 2022. On the one hand, it’s reasonable Alan would be so overwhelmed by the information as not to be able to think of the obvious follow-up questions. On the other, he was a lawyer(?) and a judge and should have follow-up questions as a matter of reflex. But then he has been retired a long, long time. And this is about intensely personal matters, which put anyone off their game. Anyway, this is one of those installments where you can see Marciuliano’s comedic training from Sally Forth sneak through.

The CIA tries to debrief Randy, but he doesn’t know anything about what April had been doing or where she even is now. (She’s in CIA custody, something Randy correctly surmises.) So he and his daughter are set loose, as Randy observes, under close scrutiny. Alan Parker is overjoyed, bursting with happiness in a way that I’d like to feel myself sometime. Randy feels overwhelmed with everybody wanting to comfort him and ask what the heck happened. We also learn that after Randy abandoned his home nobody, like, cleaned out the fridge or turned off the air conditioning or anything. I would have thought a month or two in his father would at least have started mowing his lawn.

Eileen, producer: 'Listen, Ned, not gonna lie. Was all prepared this week to give you the hard news your series was dead and our partnership was ending ... ' Neddy: 'Please tell me there's a 'but' in all this.' Eileen: '*But*, with April back in the news and your series about her all over social media, things have changed *dramatically*!'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 12th of April, 2022. Neddy Spencer and Ronnie Huerta were afraid of what may happen if they didn’t tell April’s story right, in the eyes of the ultra-mega-super-spy. And we readers learned April hated the show as made, though Neddy and Ronnie can’t know that yet. They would reasonably be afraid of that, though. So a not-yet-stated bit of drama is Neddy and Ronnie committed to writing about a person they have reason to fear will be violent if they are wrong in their guesses about what she’s been doing.

And then some good news drops for Neddy Spencer and Ronnie Huerta. Their show, Convergence, based on April Parker and Godiva Danube’s lives, was floundering on streaming service Plus+. But with April Parker back in the headlines, the show about her became popular enough to need a second season, about April’s time in hiding. Neddy and Huerta don’t know anything about that, but they know enough to promise they’ll have something.

And this is where we stand as May begins.

Next Week!

To bring back things from 2017, Spider-Man has been running the story of Curt “The Lizard” Connors and Bruce “The Incredible Hulk” Banner. Mary Jane just interrupted the ritual meeting-fight between the two superheroes. So since that’s all explained I’ll check in on Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop. Alley and Ooola went to a far-future utopia, but does it have a secret? Of course it does. Does that secret involve pneumatic tubes? It’s utopia, of course it has pneumatic tubes. Let’s not be silly here. I’ll get to that plot’s recap next week, if all goes well.

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