I remain absolutely gobsmacked at the goings-on in Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean over the past week and want to scream a little bit about that. Before I do, though, I repeat the warning I offered last week, that the story involves the discussion of the (fictional) victim of murder. Folks who don’t see why that should be part of their entertainment are probably making better choices right now. The rest of us, meet me behind the cut.
Paramount Cartoon Studios, formerly Famous Studios, formerly formerly Fleischer Cartoons, was one of the two most prolific makes of the 1960s Popeye shorts. As their corporate history indicates, they had nearly three decades of experience making Popeye cartoons before getting their slice of the King Features contract. So, I notice, a lot of my reviews express similar sentiments. Paramount was by this time very good at making a cartoon that parsed. The stories almost all had clear plots, and straightforward narratives. The animation might rarely be very good, or even lively, but it would never be bad. This was always the quietly competent studio, not worried that they never hit a home run because they can get on base any time they want.
So a lot of these cartoons feel very routine; you’ll see how many of them I describe as Popeye and Brutus compete for a job, or soem similar stock premise. They sometimes break through, though, particularly when they try for a heavy plot. The best is likely Mystery Melody, adapted from the comic strip. But there’s a version of the search for Poopdeck Pappy here, also interesting; or a five-minute Gulliver’s Travels, or Popeye saving Goon Island. Most any time they try for a more complex narrative it works, and gives us a good interesting story.
In going over the list I find there weren’t any cartoons that I skipped for being too racist. (There is one that wasn’t put on King Features’s YouTube channel and it might have been for a troublesome character depiction, though.) That stands out; there’ve been a number of cartoons I noped out of, mostly for poorly-considered depictions of Native Americans, sometimes for depictions of, say, Chinese people. I’m not sure how Paramount Cartoon Studios avoided that. It’s easy to say their long experience working under the Hays Code trained them to avoid ethnic stereotyping except they did theatrical cartoons with “Indian princessess” and other motifs that these days get a disclaimer.
In any event. If one of these cartoons comes up and you see Seymour Kneitel’s name all over it? You’re in for a safe enough watch. Might not be the great cartoon you’re hoping for, but it’s not going to leave you wondering what the heck that was all about.
Here, with a list order taken from whatever made sense to the Popeye Wikia, is the list of Paramont-made cartoons and what I thought of them.
- Hits and Missiles – one that I did back in 2014 and didn’t revisit for this sequence. I need to replace the video, though.
- The Ghost Host – not enough ghost shenanigans.
- Strikes, Spares an’ Spinach – A bowling cartoon! You never see Popeye go bowling.
- Jeep Is Jeep – another chance to meet Eugene the Jeep for the first time!
- The Spinach Scholar – Popeye goes back to school and gets mostly shamed for his trouble.
- Psychiatricks – It looks like a clip show, but isn’t!
- Rags to Riches to Rags – King Features has withdrawn the video for some reason. Features a P G Wodehouse reference.
- Hair Cut-Ups – Another withdrawn video, this one where Popeye tells the story of Samson and Delilah to encourage Swee’Pea to get a haircut. Features Brutus not being the antagonist.
- Poppa Popeye – Swee’Pea gets swiped by a fake father, and Popeye loses it entirely.
- Quick Change Olie – The Whiffle Bird sends Popeye and Wimpy back to Ye Olden Days.
- The Valley of the Goons – Popeye’s shanghaied into a Goon-hunting expedition and fights for their liberation instead.
- Me Quest for Poopdeck Pappy – Another take on what must be Popeye’s most-retold story; features comparisons, of course to Goonland and to Popeye’s Pappy.
- Moby Hick – The Sea Hag tricks Popeye into helping her recover proceeds from a backstory crime!
- Mirror Magic – Popeye’s Mother in one of her very few animated appearances!
- It Only Hurts When They Laughs – Not reviewed and I don’t see any mention of why I skipped it.
- Wimpy the Moocher – Not reviewed and I don’t see any mention of why I skipped it. The Popeye Wikia’s article mentions how this is mostly a Wimpy-versus-Geezil cartoon, though, and Geezil is so heavily ethnically coded I imagine without knowing that King features maybe didn’t want to show anything where he was a load-bearing character.
- Voo-Doo to You Too – another withdrawn video, this one where the Sea Hag makes a voodoo doll of Popeye. I imagine without knowing that the casual depiction of voodoo might be why the video was withdrawn but can’t say.
- Popeye Goes Sale-ing – another withdrawn video, of Olive Oyl and Popeye doing department store gags.
- Popeye’s Travels – yet another withdrawn video, somehow, but you get the part anyone remembers about Gulliver’s Travels wrapped up in five and a half minutes.
- Incident at Missile City – one I’ve looked at twice now, with a strange world of missile-people, plus Poepye.
- Dog Catcher Popeye – Popeye saves a dog from the catcher, that’s all.
- What’s News – one more withdrawn video, for a cartoon adapted from the comic strip where Popeye takes over a newspaper.
- Spinach Greetings – the Sea Hag has captured Santa Claus and only Popeye can save him!
- The Baby Contest – Swee’Pea and Brutus’s son compete for a baby contest, eventually.
- Oil’s Well That Ends Well – Olive Oyl buys a worthless oil well from Brutus that, whoops, turns out to be a gusher.
- Motor Knocks – Yup, another withdrawn video. But it’s the rare short where Popeye starts out being attentive to his girlfriend.
- Amusement Park – Swee’Pea gets roped into the freak show somehow.
- Duel to the Finish – Olive Oyl tries to make Popeye jealous, so she woos Wimpy because, I mean, have you seen her other choices? And Wimpy beats Popeye in a duel!
- Gem Jam – Sea Hag hypnotizes Olive Oyl to steal a cursed gem. This one is set in India and avoids having offensive depictions of Indian people by not having depictions of anyone besides Popeye, Olive Oyl, and the Sea Hag.
- The Bathing Beasts – Popeye and Brutus compete for the Mister America title.
- The Rain Breaker – Popeye goes up to the clouds to work out why the weather forecast is wrong.
- Messin’ Up the Mississippi – For some reason it’s set on a river showboat.
- Love Birds – Olive Oyl’s pet love bird needs a girlfriend, so Popeye goes to a pet shop run by a monkey.
- Sea Serpent – a withdrawn video, because it shows the shocking truth about the Loch Ness Monster.
- Boardering on Trouble – Popeye and Brutus fight over … the management of their Old Western hotel? Also Popeye draws a gun on Brutus for some reason?
- Aladdin’s Lamp – Olive Oyl accidentally buys a genie lamp and the Sea Hag wants it.
- Butler Up – Once again a withdrawn video. Popeye pretends to be Olive’s butler so she can impress Brutus.
- The Leprechaun – There’s a whole bunch of leprechauns in this, and Popeye gets honorary leprechaun status, which is nice for him, I suppose.
- County Fair – Popeye and Brutus compete to win the county fair.
- Hamburgers Aweigh – another withdrawn video. Popeye uses the Whiffle Hen to turn Wimpy into a burger-hater and the Sea Hag gets in on the mind-control game.
- Popeye’s Double Trouble – yet another withdrawn video. Sea Hag tries to pass her bad-luck coin off on Popeye but, what do you know, but she has the bad luck to slip him her good-luck coin instead. Also, Sea Hag impersonates Olive Oyl and Popeye doesn’t catch on.
- Kiddie Kapers – With a dose of Fountain of Youth potion Brutus turns handsome. With some more, Popeye and Olive Oyl turn into kids.
- The Mark of Zero – Telling the story of Popeye as the people’s hero, Zero, to Olive’s niece Deezil Oyl.
- Myskery Melody – A good moody piece, adapted from the comic strip, revealing the Sea Hag and Poopdeck Pappy’s past.
- Scairdy Cat – Brutus turns to chemical warfare, deploying Fear Gas against Popeye, a thing that won’t ever backfire.
- Operation Ice-Tickle – Popeye and Brutus compete to bring back the North Pole and win a date with Olive Oyl! Not the first time I’ve shown a cartoon featuring a balloon flight to the North Pole, somehow!
- The Cure – Wimpy signs up for Hamburgers Anonymous, to overcome his shame at swiping a quarter off of Popeye, and Sea Hug works to bust him out of there.
- William Won’t Tell – A remix of the William tell story. Features Shaggy in a bit part, wearing Olive Oyl’s outfit and Brutus’s beard!
- Pop Goes the Whistle – Swee’pea goes in search of his lost teddy bear and Popeye almost kills himself trying to catch him.
- Autographically Yours – Not reviewed and I don’t know why; I don’t think they posted it.
- A Poil for Olive Oyl – Popeye figures to dive for pearls himself rather than pay for someone who’s already done the work.
- My Fair Olive – Popeye and Brutus compete for Olive Oyl’s affection by … jousting? For some reason?
- Giddy Gold – The Whiffle Bird turns the contents of a Tunnel of Love ride into real things! Oh, Tunnel of Love rides often depict monsters, that’s right. Well, I’m sure it’ll all work out great.s
- Strange Things Are Happening – Everybody is being all weird around Popeye and why are they all talking like they’re trying to kidnap him?
- The Medicine Man – Popeye and Olive Oyl are selling patent medicine and somehow Brutus, the town’s doctor, is the bad guy?
- A Mite of Trouble – once more a withdrawn video. Sea Hag sneaks a fake Swee’Pea into Popeye’s house to find a treasure map.
- Who’s Kiddin’ Zoo – Popeye and Brutus compete to be the new assistant zookeeper, Finally, some kangaroo content!
- Robot Popeye – another withdrawn video, this one where Brutus gets to build the robot Popeye.
- Sneaking Peeking – Popeye tells a fairy tale about the Happy Princess opening a box that contains Mister Mischief.
- Seer-Ring Is Believer-Ring – Olive Oyl accidentally gets a magic ring so Evil-Eye hypnotizes her to get it back. Also somehow Wimpy declares he’s treating everyone at Rough House’s Diner.
- The Wiffle Bird’s Revenge – Her revenge is turning Wimpy into a werewolf for some reason. Also, we get to see Rough House!
- Going… Boing.. Gone – It’s Wimpy and Brutus struggling against each other, with Popeye just included because it’s his name on the series. Features some vanishing cream, a carton motif we don’t get enough of anymore.
- Popeye Thumb – What if Popeye but small? And this teaches Swee’Pea to play baseball.
- Cincinnatti, Ohio
- Schenactedy, New York
- Schenectedy, New York
- Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
- Cincinati, Ohio
- Schenachtady, New York
- Cinncinatti, Ohio
- Culpepper, Virginia
- Schenectody, New York
- Cincinnati, Ohio
- Cinncinnati, Ohio
- Schenachtady, New York
Reference: On The Laps Of Gods: The Red Summer Of 1919 And The Struggle For Justice That Remade a Nation, Robert Whitaker.
The dental hygienist was happy with the way my teeth looked and I sensed I was seconds away from getting another coveted “good at flossing” compliment when their floss snapped and got stuck in my teeth. It’s no fair.
It’s now the fourth part, which is somehow the third chapter, of “Skippy’s Mom”, a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction that I published first sometime in the late 90s. The entire the series should be collected at this link. Let me know if they end up not being.
Slappy Squirrel took Skippy to the fabulous Hall of Records, only to learn there’s no trace of who Skippy’s mother is or where she’s gone. They now go to the hospital to learn what an INK test might reveal about the cute young squirrel.
“I’m going to write in ‘Beethoven”’ is surely a Peanuts riff, but I think not to any specific strip. The references to Orgeon and Gabe Kaplan are, I think, from Bloom County strips when Berkeley Breathed needed to fill out a magazine cover joke. You can see where the inspiration from ripping off better comic writers wore off there. “Ask Beth” was a syndicated advice column in the 90s that somehow managed to be less square than Dear Abby or Dear Ann Landers. The My Little Pony referenced here would have been … uh … three? … cartoon shows back of the current one.
There’s no riffs I need to apologize for, but that one about “no, that’s what happens in a cartoon” is more mean than I would write today.
> Chapter 2 – INK
> Skippy sat nervously in the waiting room, Slappy beside him
> equally as nervous.
CROW: I got edgy just reading that sentence.
> A George Clooney clone
TOM: Clooney cloney Clooney cloney Clooney cloney.
[ JOEL puts his arm on TOM’s shoulder. ]
> walked by causing both of them to stare as he
CROW: Both of them?
> "Skippy Squirel to room 1, Skippy Squirel to room 1."
TOM: B-14. B-14.
JOEL: Captain Picard to the bridge. Captain Picard to the bridge.
CROW: Service manager to register three, please. Service manager to register three, please.
> The voice came
> over the intercom.
TOM: The face came over the jukebox.
> "No matter what happens inside…" Slappy started speaking very softly.
> "You still be there for me…" Skippy finished.
JOEL: In that Ambrose Bierce way she has.
> The doctor looked very stern as Skippy entered the room, it was pretty
> much a normal ‘toon doctor’s office.
CROW: So we’re not going to waste time with setting.
> If you can call a ‘toon’s doctor
> office normal…
JOEL: If you give a mouse a cookie.
> "Look Skippy, I’ll be honest with you, these results are A) Not good and
> B) very strange."
TOM: Uh… I’ll take A.
CROW: B! I want B!
TOM: B! Maybe!
CROW: I’ll take ‘True’!
JOEL: I’m going to write in ‘Beethoven.’
> The doctor said with great precision.
> "Oh, there’s nothing wrong with me…"
CROW: Eh… nothing an apprenticeship to Rocky the Flying Squirrel couldn’t cure.
> Skippy started, "I’m just here for
> an INK sample.."
> "Yes, I know that, but unfortunatly the tests revealed something we did
> not expect,
CROW: So there’s no point in taking the sample first.
> if you would not mind waiting outside Skipy, I’d like to have
> a word with your Aunt…"
TOM: Specifically, the word ‘anisotropic.’
> Skippy looked up at his aunt with _that_ pleading looking in his eye.
> "Sorry, kid. If the doctor says wait outside,
CROW: You go into the wacky routine where you keep showing up in his coat pockets and his cabinets and his sink and his car until he gives up and tells you the cool stuff?
TOM: No; that’s what happens in a cartoon.
> you wait outside…" Slappy
> finished quickly looking away from Skippy.
> Skippy jumped down off the chair and left the doctor’s office closing the
> door behind him.
CROW: Nice of the doctor’s office to close the door for him.
> He pressed his ear hard against the door but it was sound proofed and he
> could not here anything. So he sat outside
TOM: And found somebody’d stolen the fire escape. Whoops!
> and waited reading one of the
> terrible magazines that are indigionus to doctor’s offices everywhere.
JOEL: National Geographic report on "Oregon: Idaho’s tricky pal."
CROW: People magazine tells us about the wild life of Gabe Kaplan.
TOM: Popular Mechanics shows us the future of Popular Mechanics covers.
> After reading every magazine several times the doctor’s office finally
JOEL: [ As Doctor ] Are you still here?
> Slappy stepped outsidem something was really wrong as even her flower was
> drooping more then normal.
TOM: Somebody forget to water the squirrel this morning.
> She took Skippy by the hand and lead him in without saying a word.
CROW: I’ve seen better bedside manners from tests of the Emergency Alert System.
> "Skippy, I’ve had a long chat with your ahem, aunt here."
JOEL: And your aardvark over there.
> The doctor
> stared, he said aunt with a tone of disgust.
> "Yes I had noticed…" Skippy retorted.
> The doctor continued unpreturbed by Skippy’s remark. "and well you’ve
> probably already guessed
TOM: What would happen if you sneezed and hiccoughed at the same time.
> that something must be pretty wrong.." The
> doctor continued.
> "Oh boy here it comes…" Skippy whispered.
JOEL: You’re scheduled to guest star in a Due South/Babylon 5/My Little Pony crossover fanfic.
> "The fact is that your INK is not that of a toon squirrel."
> Skippy looked at the doctor in disbelif.
CROW: Yes, I’m afraid your ink is actually distilled "Ask Beth" columns.
> "Come again!" He said shocked.
> "You are not a squirrel, your INK is more that of a toon cat…"
JOEL: Toon cat! The most incredible leader of the pack!
TOM: INK! Get it?!
> doctor concluded.
> "Get real!" Skippy managed to joke.
> "I am quite serious, we checked the results three times, each time they
> came up the same…"
TOM: Your original character design involved bellbottom pants.
> Was the last thing Skippy heard before he
[ To continue … ]
So I am again angry at Tom Batiuk’s comic strip Funky Winkerbean. Before getting into why I need to warn people the story going on involves a discussion of gun violence and a fictional murder. If you don’t need that in your recreational ranting, yeah. Hoo boy do you not. But for people willing to consider it, come see what’s under the cut.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You may remember the Viennetta, which entered the United States market in the 80s and 90s as a way to provide a presentable fancy-looking dessert to company you wanted to serve ice cream cake. I did not, which derailed my love’s story about buying one. But this is how we got to finding that YouTube has a video titled “How a Viennetta is made (suitable for kids)”.
So it is. And yet the title implies there must be a similar video too emotionally raw and blunt about the horrors of modern life and the existential dread that an adult knows as the combination of regrets and fears for a too-short future all about the making of this ice cream cake. Where is that video? Who made it? Who is watching it? How badly would a child facing the nightmares behind, oh, chocolate or sugar be scarred by what it has to say? Or is the music just too risqué? What makes this undetected video so unsafe?
You can continue to call this vamping, but I am trying to put in some reasonable order the many, many King Features Popeye cartoons of the 60s that I watched. The list today — drawn from the Popeye Wikia and thus in an order I can’t explain — represents cartoons producted by Rembrandt Films or by Halas and Batchelor. Or as everyone’s ever called them, the Gene Deitch cartoons.
I’m an easy touch for a Gene Deitch cartoon. I get where people didn’t like his Tom and Jerry cartoons, Deitch included. But I liked their creative energy and freshness, and I’d put them above the Chuck Jones shorts and even Hanna and Barbera’s own Cinemascope theatrical cartoons. I have much the same feeling here. Deitch cartoons can be weird in theme and plot, but usually successfully, coming together to something that makes sense. The animation works well against its limits. I certainly mentioned a couple times, for example, minor characters having their own walk or run cycles that are a bit out of phase, or even have different periods, so that very little animation looks like more than it does.
Here’s the various shorts that Gene Deitch’s vision oversaw:
- Interrupted Lullaby – King Features took this video down and I don’t know why. Might get around to replacing it.
- Sea No Evil – the one where Popeye keeps buying the same boat gear.
- From Way Out – the one where Popeye accidentally causes an alien invasion.
- Seeing Double – Robot Popeye alert!
- Swee’Pea Soup – the one where Swee’Pea accidentally causes an uprising against King Blozo.
- Hag Way Robbery – the where Eugene is kidnapped and Olive Oyl is all about eating canned olives.
- The Lost City of Bubble-Lon – another currently missing video, sorry. This is the one where there’s an undersea kingdom in a lake or something? It didn’t seem like the ocean to me.
- There’s No Space Like Home – another withdrawn video, sorry. Popeye gets harassed by Martians who, this time, are not mailboxes.
- Potent Lotion – yet another withdrawn video. This is the one where Brutus uses a perfume that makes people want to slug Popeye to cover for a bank robbery.
- Astro-Nut – Popeye signs up to spend sixty days in a simulated spaceflight and it didn’t cross his mind Brutus was going to try moving on Olive Oyl in that time.
- Goon with the Wind – again, a withdrawn video. The Goons here are nothing like Alice the Goon. They’re Moon Goons. It’s not comfortable.
- Insultin’ the Sultan – I don’t seem to have a review of this, or any mention of why I didn’t. From the title and from looking up its plot (Popeye joins the French Foreign Legion) I would believe it if I’d decided this got more racist than I’m going to review if I’m not being paid, but I don’t see a mention of that.
- Dog-Gone Dog-Catcher – Popeye has a dog that he keeps badly, so he makes himself Dogcatcher Brutus’s problem.
- Voice from the Deep or See Here, Sea Hag – Sea Hag scares the residents off a South Seas island so she can set up an Evil Tourist Camp.
- Matinée Idol Popeye – another withdrawn video. Brutus is directing a movie and trying to get leading man Popeye out of the picture so he can move in on Olive Oyl.
- Beaver or Not – Popeye versus two woodland beavers! We always love it when Popeye fights animals, right?
- The Billionaire – Popeye has a fortune, for maybe the only time in his animated existence.
- Model Muddle – Oh hey, a cartoon about Modern Art, I bet this one helps teach kids to appreciate the craft and thought that goes into nonrepresentational and nontraditional arts!
- Which Is Witch – Robot Olive Oyl alert!
- Disguise the Limit – Gorilla costume alert!
- Spoil Sport – Brutus’s cool sporty car or Popeye’s little foot-powered scooter: who will win!
- Have Time, Will Travel – Popeye builds his own time machine and the mystery of Oscar.
- Intellectual Interlude – where Popeye gets to be smart and it’s everybody else’s problem.
- Partial Post – here’s that cartoon where space aliens are mailboxes everyone’s been talking about!
- Weight for Me – Olive Oyl gets fat and Popeye gets all body-shaming.
- Canine Caprice – introducing Roger, talking dog that’s going to Poochie these characters up some.
- Roger – more Roger, and a rare sequel cartoon!
- Tooth Be or Not Tooth Be – where Swee’Pea and Pappy take center stage and Popeye is off … doing … something.
- “That really slaps!”
- “That pours out the happy vibes.”
- “tldr: tyjfdarwqsw!” (or other keysmash after the colon)
- “That is so that!”
- “Yeet that fleek!”
- “That normalizes the singularity!”
- “Well zip my per!”
- “It’s as real as bowling!!”
- “4:34, sweet!”
- “Only now, it cross-pollenates!”
- “That sings!” (said so sarcastically as to become sincere again)
- “Everything else wants to be this and can’t.”
Reference: Mark Twain On The Damned Human Race, Editor Janet Smith.
So the news is that King Features has is developing an animated feature based on Slylock Fox. I don’t know how this is going to work, but I’m looking forward to it starting off with a short cartoon and asking us which six jokes got changed for the replay.
And back to “Skippy’s Mom”, a Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction that I published first sometime in the late 90s. The whole of the series should appear at this link. So far, though, In the story so far, Skippy is wondering who his mother is, and Aunt Slappy’s decided to take him to the Hall of Records and see. I suppose this means his mom’s not Slappy’s sister but who can say, really?
Let’s see what needlessly obscure references I can clear up here. Hm. John Randolph Bray was an animation pioneer of the 1910s; he held the patent on cel animation, where you have a background and draw the characters on a clear sheet put over it. “I”m only three and a half years old” is an Abbott and Costello catchphrase that a lot of Looney Tunes ripped off. Lottery was a 1980s hourlong drama about people who’d won a million bucks in just what it says there, and how this screws up their lives. SpeedScript was a word processor that Compute! magazine published; you could type it in to your Commodore, Apple, or Atari eight-bit computer and process what words you had. “I don’t go to the hospital, but I play someone who does” references a 1980s commercial for … oh, I think cough syrup … in which someone explained he was not a doctor, but he plays one on TV, so that’s why he can endorse whatever this was. I have never seen an episode of Histeria but I remember everyone who was online in the 90s hating it. On the other hand, everyone who was online in the 90s hated a big friendly purple dinosaur who sang silly songs for the little kids in his audience, so maybe we were bad at evaluating things.
> Chapter 1 – Hall of Records
TOM: [ As Ted Knight ] Here at the fabulous Hall of Records, the Superfriends struggle to complete a property title search.
> The hazy sunlight filtered into Skippy’s room, Skippy still asleep
> bundled the blanket around his head to keep the light out.
> "Skippy, it’s time to get up…"
JOEL: C’mon, they spun off Buttons and Mindy to another show and we have to do double duty.
> Slappy shouted from somewhere
> "Okay Aunt Slappy." Skippy said tiredly.
> Skippy clambered out of bed
CROW: And awoke with a clatter; he sprung to the window to see what was the matter.
> and headed down stairs.
> "You ready to find out about your Mom?" Slappy asked sarcasticly.
> "Hunh?" Skippy replied still half asleep, in fact more like 75% asleep…
TOM: 83 and 94/44ths percent asleep.
CROW: What, he doesn’t know whether he’s awake or asleep?
JOEL: Must be a school day.
> "Hall of records this morning, no?" prompted Slappy.
CROW: Touch any part of this squirrel to continue.
TOM: "I don’t see the ‘Any’ part."
> "Oh of course…" Skippy said tiredly.
CROW:Adverbs: The bread crumbs of the English language.
> After a filling breakfast of Nutritionly lacking suger coated generic
JOEL: Generic cereal. For your generic comedic needs.
> Skippy and Slappy went to the hall of records for all the ‘toons
> in Burbank.
TOM: But they’re in Lompoc.
> "Here we are kiddo, you’re about to meet with your past,
CROW: I *told* you to wash out your lunchbox at the start of summer.
> it may
> be unpleasant…" Slappy intoned.
> "That’s okay, no matter what I find inside,
JOEL: I’ll still have a song in my heart.
> you’ll still be here
> for me Aunt Slappy." Skippy said cheerfully.
> The big double doors to the hall of records swung open
> as skippy
> and slappy walked inside.
> "Good morning…" Said a familer voice from behind the counter, it was
> Hello Nurse.
> "What are you doing here?" Demanded Slappy.
TOM: Chapter 18A-65A of the Uniform Fanfic Code requires that as many bit characters as the author can name be jammed into the story somewhere.
> "Oh Warners don’t pay me enogth to work as just a nurse so I work
> here part time to make ends meet, and I’ve not be in a cameo for quite
> some time…" Hello Nurse replied.
JOEL: Say what you want about the rest of the story, but Hello Nurse is showing ten times as much personality here as she ever did on the TV show.
> "Oh Carefull there.." She shouted as skippy was about to step in some
> oil. "Yakko and Wakko came here earlier, they’re still not quite over
> it.." Hello Nurse said pointing to the pools of oil.
CROW: Apparently Yakko and Wakko just joined the Autobots.
> "Yeah yeah yeah…" Slappy said impatiently.
JOEL: [ Flatly ] She loves you; you know you should be glad.
> "Look can you tell
> my nephew here who his mom was?"
CROW: I hope it’s that lethally cute squirrel from that old Chuck Jones cartoon that tried to open a coconut, remember?
> "No." Hello Nurse said promptly.
> "Okaaayy Then what are we doing here?" Slappy asked.
TOM: [ Whispering ] We’re ganging up on "Histeria." Don’t snicker.
CROW: Not a problem.
> "Oh no Miss Squirrel, I can’t tell your nephew,
JOEL: That would be cheating.
> but I can
> show him which file it would be in.." Hello nurse replied.
> "Well, we don’t have all day…" Slappy impatiently muttered.
CROW: It’s the file marked "Who is Skippy’s Mom?"
> "Let me just feed his details into the computer, okay Name,
TOM: John Randolph Bray Process.
CROW: I’m only three and a half years old.
JOEL: Half-orc Fourth-level Paladin/Magic-User.
> and ID#"
TOM: Or monsters of the ID number.
> Hello nurse asked politely
> "Skippy, I’m 8 and I’m a squirrel!" Skippy exlaimed.
CROW: Don’t you watch the show? What’s your problem?
> "My Id number is A1SQIP3"
TOM: Aluminum Squip Oxide?
> "Thank you Skippy.." Hello nurse gently spoke, "The computer is coming
> up with the details now.."
JOEL: Ah, here it is. You’re scheduled for crossovers with the Rescue Rangers, Battlestar Galactica, and Lottery.
> The computer made lots of grindy disk noises,
TOM: You know, DOS 3.3 did include the ‘black pepper’ option.
> Skippy, Slappy
> and Hello Nurse covered thier ears in pain.
> The computer suddenly stopped,
CROW: Looked at the audience, shouted "People!" and ran through the wall.
> Hello nurse looked shocked as she
> looked at the screen.
> "Is something wrong?" Asked Skippy.
> "I’m not sure…"
TOM: "What do words mean, again?"
> She replied. "Look!" She said turning the screen
> around. Skippy stared at the screen, large flashing red letters continuly
> blipped up. "NO RECORD FOUND?!"
> Slappy shouted, "What’s that supposed to mean?!"
CROW: [ Eagerly ] It means anyone who does even *one* upside-down jumping jack on a bed of pizza rolls gets in the Guinness Book!
> "It may just be a system failure I’ll get the mechanic on to it right
TOM: We must rotoscope the turtle I have Minnesota saw marbles once.
> She said running off to fetch a mechanic.
> A short while later Hello nurse returned with a monkey.
> "Who’s he?" Skippy asked indignetly.
JOEL: Head of programming for UPN.
> "Abu, pleased ta meet ya!"
CROW: We’ve really needed to runt you out to someone!
> The monkey replied, "I’m the mechanic."
> Abu took out a small laptop and plugged it into the large PC that _was_
> the hall of records mainframe.
JOEL: Back in the good old days, before SpeedScript ruined everything.
> Abu tapped away franticly with the keyboard and it was almost an hour
> before he said anything.
CROW: Maybe he should wiggle the plug?
> "This is not good…" Abu said looking at Skippy.
TOM: I am *so* tanking on NetTrek.
> "According to this there is no Skippy Squirrel…" Abu finished.
> "How can that be?" Asked Skippy tearfully.
JOWL: The crossover you were scheduled to do with "Sportsnight" vanished without a trace, and took you with it.
> "Probably just a mistake at the hospital kid." Abu said trying to
> cheer Skippy up.
CROW: That is a pretty cheery thing to say.
> "A hospital could do a INK test on you Skippy." Hello Nurse offered,
TOM: ‘Cause, see, INK is like DNA for a cartoon.
> "That way we could then match your INK
CROW: Get it? ‘Cause a cartoon has INK rather than DNA.
> to all the INK’s in our database
> and find out that way.."
JOEL: [ Slapping TOM’s shoulder ] HA HA! INK! Get it? INK!
TOM: That hurt.
> "I’m not sure…" Slappy started, but then she saw Skippy crying.
> "Come on, let’s go to the hospital…"
TOM: I don’t go to the hospital, but I play someone who does on TV.
[ To continue … ]
There are a lot of reasons to be annoyed at Tom Batiuk and Dan Davis’s Crankshaft right now. Let me set up the background: the Valentine was a failed sidewalk movie-palace theater in Centerville, Ohio. After it closed it got reopened as a strip joint that, somehow, failed even faster. Now, movie star Mason Jarre and his partner Cindy Summers have ventured over from Funky Winkerbean and it sure seems obliterated the ten-year gap between the events of Funky Winkerbean and of Crankshaft. (Since 2008, both strips have taken place in “the present”, but one was ten years behind the other. So characters from Funky Winkerbean are ten years younger when they’re in Crankshaft, and Crankshaft characters are ten years older when they’re in Funky Winkerbean. Until now.) Jarre gets the idea to buy the Valentine and reopen it as a movie theater which, luckily, it’s still basically okay for. And he calls the real estate agent on the sign.
So, look, fine. The Funky Winkerbean and Crankshaft timelines are unified again and we’re not going to ask nosey questions about character ages and when events took place. (This after Cindy just went to her 50th reunion in Funky Winkerbean, a strip which earlier this year showed Crazy Harry in high school in 1980, a date not fifty years ago yet. Fine.) And Lois Flagston isn’t so comfortable selling a commercial property since she’s always been about selling houses. Fine. And for some reason Crankshaft is hanging around while Lois shows Jarre around a place he’s already clearly decided to buy. And Jarre is acknowledging that Lois Flagston is a fictional character, existing as she does in the comic strip Hi and Lois. Fine. I will take all that for the sake of doing a story.
But by God and Rube Goldberg, Hi and Lois is set somewhere in New England, it feels like probably Connecticut, and there is no excuse for her having a listing in Ohio, and there is no possible way she is in a short driving distance of someplace that’s a day-trip to Cedar Point. I do not accept it, and shall not accept it, good day sirs.
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.
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.
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.
It struck me over this weekend that, like, the Andy Capp strip for next Monday or maybe the Monday after that is going to be weird. Like, did they have a tribute strip ready for Queen Elizabeth’s death prepared already, or are they working to put something together just now? I have similar questions about Fred Basset but, c’mon, we all have an idea what a Fred Basset memorial-to-the-Queen strip has to look like. There’s no limit to what might appear in Andy Capp.
You can argue that I’m vamping on starting my next project here. But I’m also using this gathering of links to all my 60s Popeye cartoon reviews as a chance to better-organize my tags on them, and to discover where I missed a cartoon in my reviewing. I may come back around to them.
So here are the Larry Harmon-produced Popeye cartoons. If you’re curious why this list is in this order, it’s because I’m using the order given at the Popeye Wikia. Why they have that order I don’t know. Maybe production order or production code corder? Maybe original airing order? Maybe in order of when they discovered one of these cartoons? I have no way of knowing. It is going to take me forever to do the Jack Kinney and the Paramount cartoons.
- Muskels Shmuskels — Popeye has to not fight. King Features took the original video of this one off and I haven’t got around to finding a replacement, sorry.
- Hoppy Jalopy — the racecar cartoon, one of the last ones of my project here.
- Dead-Eye Popeye — not reviewed! I had complained of this as too boring to review, back then, and I can’t imagine that stopping me from having thoughts about it now.
- Mueller’s Mad Monster — it’s got a cuteish robot and a bunch of Cartoon Existentialism.
- Caveman Capers — yes, this is the one with a dinosaur.
- Bullfighter Bully — it’s the one where Popeye gets kissed by a calf.
- Ace of Space — for once, aliens abduct Olive Oyl, instead of Popeye. He seems offended.
- College of Hard Knocks — where I couldn’t figure out if Brutus was a legitimate teacher.
- Abdominal Snowman — an Abominable Snowman cartoon, with Olive’s mysterious uncle Sylvan Oyl. What pun is his name about? (There was a Sylvan Oil company in Oklahoma through the 1950s; was that it?)
- Ski-Jump Chump — starring Brutus as Gorgeous Pierre and Jackson Beck doing his French Accent Character.
- Irate Pirate — another one where the video has gone dark. I’ll see if I can do anything about that, until I forget.
- Foola-Foola Bird — turns out to be on Foola-Foola Island, raising the question of why it was so hard for everyone but Popeye to find.
- Uranium on the Cranium — which, of course, has Brutus dress up in a gorilla costume so he can get the uranium mine.
- Two-Faced Paleface — yeah, this one I skipped for the racist depiction of Native American characters.
- Childhood Daze — another Fountain-of-Youth cartoon, this time with Popeye getting youngified.
- Sheepish Sheep-Herder — one more with a missing video. Sorry.
- Track Meet Cheat — a fine enough idea for a cartoon foiled by not really being sure if Brutus is the problem here.
- Crystal Ball Brawl — Wimpy gets a way to foretell the future! Other than asking Eugene the Jeep!
And finally for now, here’s my similar list for the Gerald Ray-produced cartoons.
- Aaka [*]
- Cctct [*]
- Illii [*]
- Mnn [*]
- Nd [*]
- Tnn [*]
[*] Signifies is also an alien character, species, or world in C J Cherryh’s Chanur novels.
Reference: The Air Show At Brescia, 1909, Peter Demetz.
So I was downstairs, and realized that I had something which I had to bring upstairs, and also that there was something upstairs I had to bring down. I went upstairs to bring the thing down, without taking the other thing up. Once upstairs, I immediately felt foolish that now I had to make an extra trip. How and why?
We’re finally to the start of “Skippy’s Mom”, the next Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction I have for you. The whole of the series should appear at this link. So far, though, we’ve just had the introductory host sketch. They’re about to enter the theater.
These Are The Days was a short-lived Hanna-Barbera cartoon of the 70s. It was set in a small rural town around the turn of the century and was so well-meaning yet dull. Vitagraph was a silent movie studio — they did newsreels of the Spanish-American War — that Warner Brothers bought in 1925. Warner Brothers slapped the name on some 60s cartoons for mysterious reasons, probably to keep the trademark just in case. The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn’t is an early 70s Hanna-Barbera move in which Jeremy Squirrel and the squirrel family have to save The First Thanksgiving. Cartoon Network ran it a bunch back in the 90s as part of their campaign to bore the audience away.
[ 6.. 5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1.. ]
[ ALL file in. ]
TOM: In the year twenty-nine ninety-three… uh… four A six D six hundred and two B.
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
> Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
> Due to circumstances outwith my control
CROW: For example, the images in Pringles commercials…
> and the fact that I’m a sick
> puppy (No really I have a killer headcold
JOEL: From outer space!
> …) here _is_ the CORRECT
> version of Skippy’s Mom. (I Hope)
> I would personally like to apolgise
CROW: Maybe ‘correct’ is an exaggeration?
> to anyone who has already read the
> orginal posting
TOM: It’s the latest in fanfic technology, the story that makes fun of itself.
> found that it did not finshed and has given the entire
> plot away.
> Anywho at last a mere 28+ hours over due here is Skippy’s Mom
JOEL: This is good. I’ve always wanted to see a "Family Ties" fanfic.
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii; name="PS6.TXT"
TOM: It’s us-ascii versus them-ascii in an all-out battle for world domination!
> Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
CROW: Shave and an inflation-adjusted haircut.
> Content-Disposition: inline; filename="PS6.TXT"
> | Skippy’s | Charles "runt-abu" Brown would like to dedicate this
> | Mom | story
JOEL: Before the second reel is out, to landing a cartoon character on the moon and bringing him safely back to Max and Dave Fleischer.
> to the following individuals who lived in a
> |An A! Fanfic by| world full of darkness but are now in the light.
CROW: Thomas Edison, Christine McGlade, and Morris Udall.
> | runt-abu | Princess Diana, Mother Teresa and to all those who morn
TOM: Need an Abu but can’t afford to own one? Come on down and runt one, on daily or weekly schedules. Exit 13 on the Northway.
> \—————/ them; This is there space of memorial:–
CROW: Is it naptime?
JOEL: This is the worst Rorschach test I’ve ever seen.
TOM: It is a chance for us to get a spoon and tunnel our way out.
> Thank you for remebering
JOEL: We forget what.
> Legal type stuff:–
CROW: You know, 14 inch paper, note pads, writs, attainers. *Stuff.*
> This document is Copyright (C) 1997 Charles "Runt-Abu" Brown
> (runt@—.——.–.–). All rights reserved.
TOM: In fact, they’re downright timid. They’ve got to meet new people.
> The characters of the Warner Siblings and related characters are
> copyright and trademark Warner Bros. Animation, and are used without
JOEL: Also without socks.
> Their use within this work of fiction is in no
> way, meant to infringe or steal that copyright, nor to dilute the
> characters themselves.
TOM: That happened by accident when I spilled paint thinner.
> No profit on the part of the author is made
> from this document, and this document is used only for entertainment
> purposes. If there are any legal problems with this document,
CROW: Please review randomly selected episodes of "These Are The Days" until your head explodes.
> contact the author to make arrangements to amend these legal
JOEL: [ Raising his hand ] Uh, waiter? There’s a lawyer in my soup.
TOM: Keep your voice down, or everybody’ll want one.
> This work may be freely distributed in any media
CROW: So if you ever wanted to compose a Gregorian Chant based on an Animaniacs fanfic, here’s your chance.
> as long as it is not; altered for its original
> form, and that no money is charged for the document itself.
JOEL: I like reading these notices just to see credit given to the Vitagraph Corporation.
CROW: [ Announcer voice ] Vitagraph. You know the name, you have no idea what we do, and that’s the way we want it. Vitagraph.
> It may be
> included on any archive collection under the same terms.
TOM: It’s only to be included in free-range archives.
JOEL: This is going to be a hard "Hangman" puzzle.
CROW: That’s it. Did somebody go back in time and step on a butterfly while we weren’t looking?
> Skippy Squirrel stared out his wooden window into the dark night,
TOM: Oh, Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo…
> clouds over head covered the half moon and obscured the stars.
> His aunt slappy came in, "What’cha thinking about Skippy?" She asked
CROW: [ As Skippy ] Whether the Trix rabbit is actually being tortured by various kids or if he just stumbled across the alien technology from "Forbidden Planet" and is now denied cereal by the monsters of his own id.
> "Oh nothing.." Skippy replied instinctivly.
> "You were wondering about your mom again weren’t you." Slappy said
JOEL: The way you never do on the show.
> Skippy’s attitude suddenly changed, became darker, sadder.
CROW: Skippy Squirrel *is* Batman!
JOEL: Or… Bat… Squirrel… Man.
> "Yeah… I.. I just wish I had know who she was.." He whispered.
TOM: Mostly he hopes it wasn’t any of the squirrels from "The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn’t."
> "Now Skippy what have I always told you?" Slappy demanded.
> "Never to mix up dynamite with candy." Skippy paused for a second;
> "Always use live ammunition
CROW: As a hand lotion?
> and …."
> "And actions do things; thoughts don’t…" Slappy finshed for him.
TOM: Unless your thoughts are being dubbed in for the audience.
> "Tommorrow morning we’ll go down to the hall of records and find your
JOEL: Embarassing 70s glam rock album.
> mom… If you go to bed now…"
> "Gee that’d be great Aunt Slappy!" Skippy said excitedly.
> "Come on kiddo, time for lights out…."
CROW: Our animators ran out of money.
> Slappy said tucking Skippy in.
[ To continue … ]
Once again, not to spoil things, but the man who cannot die. But people are very interested in the current, yearlong-and-still-going, story in which Mozz foresees and tries to prevent The Phantom’s death. And the wholesale destruction of his family’s heritage. Let me start off by sharing the five most popular things published in August, for the month of August:
- What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? Did Captain Savarna have kids with The Phantom? May – July 2022
- Why I Am Angry at Funky Winkerbean, Yes, Again
- What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? Why can’t Dick Tracy neutralize the Moon People’s superpowers? May – August 2022
- And Then I Noticed Something About Funky Winkerbean
- What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? Where is King Arthur that Arn and Maeve are regents? May – August 2022
Also ranking high were earlier essays about what was going on in The Phantom. I trust that’s from old links or imperfect Google matches. I’m sure everyone found their way to something useful, sooner or later.
Comic strip recaps remain my most popular feature here, though. Let me share my plan for those comics for the next couple weeks. It’s to cover these, at these times:
- Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom (Sundays) (13 September)
- Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. (20 September)
- Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp (27 September)
- Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker (34 September)
As for readership totals? Those were doing pretty well in August. All that Phantom trade, I’m sure. There were 6,375 page views here in August, well above the twelve-month running mean of 5,109.1 views per month. It’s even farther above the twelve-month running median of 4,702.5 views in a month.
There were more unique visitors too. 3,292 unique visitors stopped in over the course of August, which was a dogleg left under some lovely shade. The running median is 2,742.8 unique visitors, and the median 2,682.5. I was even better-liked: the number of likes given was 206, way above the mean of 148.7 and mean of 147. It was chatty on top of that, with 61 comments, compared to a mean of 46.8 and median of 47.
85 countries or their equivalents sent me any views at all in August, up from 81. 19 of them sent a single view, barely down from 20. Here’s the roster of all the origins of my viewers:
|Trinidad & Tobago||5|
|United Arab Emirates||5|
Cameroon and Morocco were the only single-view countries in July also. No country is on a three-month streak.
WordPress figures I posted 19,115 words in August, which is my chattiest month this year. It brings my word total for the year to 138,526. Since the debut of the original Card Sharks to the start of September I’ve posted 3,499 things here. They’ve drawn a total of 314,034 views from a recorded 177,643 unique visitors.
If you know someone who could be my elusive reader from Greenland, please let them know about the RSS feed for my essays, the most convenient way to read anything online. Or that they could get essays e-mailed them as I publish them, once a day, slightly later each day of the month, before I fix the typos. Or they can click the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button in the right column of this page, and add the page to their WordPress reader. If you don’t know anyone in Greenland, I’m not surprised. I don’t either.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’d say I’m 90, maybe 95 percent sure who the killer is this episode of Columbo.
I haven’t picked my next project to review, no. And it’s convenient — for me at least — to have an index page linking to all the essays of a big group project. On the other hand, there were like four hundred thousand King Features Popeye cartoons of the early 60s. So I’m going to part out these index pages. The studio of origin is the natural dividing line there. Yes, I am keenly aware that Jack Kinney Productions made eight hundred thousand of these shorts. I’ll deal with that later.
Here, then, are the Gerald Ray-produced Popeye cartoons, with whatever thoughts I had about them:
- Where There’s A Will — I can’t find that I did see this! If I’ve missed it on King Features’s YouTube page please let me find it, I can still fit a couple more reviews in.
- Take It Easel — this is the remake of that one Woody Woodpecker cartoon and where I wonder if Milt Schaffer was using a pseudonym to work for Walter Lantz some.
- I Bin Sculpted which is another but much looser remake of older Popeye shorts.
- Fleas a Crowd which is a flea circus cartoon that got released on vinyl for some reason.
- Popeye’s Junior Headache with Olive Oyl’s niece, not Popeye Junior.
- Egypt Us and I’m sorry about the title and what the cartoon thinks Ancient-flavored Egyptians are.
- The Big Sneeze which is trying to be an Abominable Snowman cartoon but doesn’t manage the trick.
- The Last Resort which I did not review as part of this project, and that King Features doesn’t seem to have on its page, which is a shame because it’s one of the few appearances of Toar. Again it might be hidden on King Features’s YouTube page somewhere.
- Jeopardy Sheriff which is another title I don’t understand but moves well enough as a cartoon.
- Baby Phase the juggling dream story.
Coming up next: oh, I don’t know. Maybe Gene Deitch? Maybe Larry Harmon?
|Day||Slugging-Ready Comic Strip|
|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.
I submit it is particularly unfair to get a bit of floss stuck in my teeth again.
I have a fresh Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction to share! Way back in the 20th century I came upon one Charles Brown’s Animaniacs fan fiction “Skippy’s Mom”. Its inspiration: if Skippy is Slappy’s nephew, who is his mother? Answering this sort of question is just what we created fan fiction to solve. Brown’s answer is … not what you might have imagined.
I wrote longer fan fictions back in the day, so this one goes on a bit. This section doesn’t even get out of the introductory host sketches. Those sketches were inspired by watching a bunch of Cartoon Network, as you can tell. Also from my annoyance at bad snarking on Scooby-Doo. There was not a horde of comedians making bad jokes about Scooby-Doo, unless you count people on Usenet having fun. I like think I’m a bit kinder these days to snark that doesn’t meet my high standards, but I know deep down I’m cranky about people doing the same stuff I do. One hazard of MiSTing is it gets very easy to get mean and I’ve tried to get better about that.
Not many references to explain here. Hal Jordan was the Green Lantern when I was a kid. Ken Connell was the hero of the New Universe comic Star Brand, in the 80s. He got a magic alien tattoo that gave him all the superpowers and he accidentally blew up Pittsburgh with it. Ralph Hinkley, or Hanley as they abruptly renamed him for some reason in the middle of 1981, was the star of The Greatest American Hero, or as you might recognize better if you read it while you were eight, only the most greatest TV show in the history of ever. The goofball scenarios they reference were all things the Green Lantern did in the Challenge Of The Superfriends cartoon, keeping this animation theme going. I used to write more thematically unified back then.
[ OPENING SEQUENCE ]
[ 1.. 2.. 3.. 4.. 5.. 6.. ]
[ SOL DESK. JOEL, TOM and CROW are at the desk, deep in discussion. ]
CROW: I’d say he would grow up with eating habits memorized, but not internalized. He’d eat healthily but not understand why.
TOM: The answer has to depend on whether the child can shapeshift. That changes everything.
JOEL: [ Touching CROW and TOM’s shoulders ] Oh, hey, we’re on, everyone. Hi there, and welcome to the Satellite of Love. This afternoon we’re going to participate in a hideously evil experiment, and before that we’re discussing a ‘Winnie the Witch’ cartoon Hanna-Barbera made in the 60s.
TOM: In this short, stork error delivers a baby to Winnie Witch, a feeble simulacrum of Witch Hazel, and she adopts it.
CROW: But the baby’s reluctant to drink milk, so she turns it into a kitten.
JOEL: And we’re debating the long-term developmental challenges this may inflict on the baby.
CROW: Such as confusion over self-identity and body image.
TOM: And whether it’d ever learn to eat healthily. If habits are learned by storing memories in that big ol’ chemical soup of the human brain, then how are they wrecked by completely rewriting the kid’s biochemistry, from cat to kid and so on?
JOEL: So far we don’t know.
TOM: I’d say it depends if the kid can shapeshift on his own. If he can, then when he’s hungry for — let’s say — Brussels sprouts,he’ll turn into a beaver or whatever eats them. When he needs meat, he’ll become a basset hound or something.
CROW: When he needs plankton he’ll turn into a whale.
TOM: Exactly, Crow, you get it.
JOEL: Uh, guys, humans don’t eat plankton.
TOM: Just because you don’t, don’t assume nobody ever does, Joel.
JOEL: It’s just not something we can eat.
CROW: Maybe that’s the problem. Did anyone ever transmogrify *you* when you were growing up, Joel? [ JOEL shakes his head and starts to answer ] Aha! That’s it!
TOM: Yeah! Your problem isn’t that this kid is getting the benefits of a proper polytheriomorphic childhood.
[ JOEL skeptically mouths the word "polytheriomorphic." ]
CROW: You’re just jealous that you never got to be anything other than a poor little human.
TOM: Aw, Joel, why didn’t you share your pain with us?
CROW: We’d have understood.
JOEL: Guys, it’s not like that. Humans aren’t supposed to —
CROW: No, no, don’t talk.
TOM: We love you no matter what you weren’t in your past.
CROW: We’ll help you through this.
TOM: You can hold us, if you like.
[ JOEL sighs, gives up, and hugs TOM and CROW. ]
JOEL: You guys are true friends. Thank you.
MAGIC VOICE: Commercial sign in five seconds. Cambot and I are here for you too, Joel.
JOEL: Thanks, Magic Voice. I’m sure Gypsy is too.
[ COMMERCIAL SIGN flashes. JOEL taps it. ]
GYPSY: [ Calling from offstage ] You said it!
JOEL: We’ll be right back.
[ COMMERCIAL BREAK ]
[ SOL DESK. Zoobooks are scattered over the table. JOEL, TOM, and CROW are examining different pamphlets. ]
CROW: How about the rock hyrax?
JOEL: And what’s a rock hyrax?
CROW: We can give you a weeklong tryout with it, maybe try a bush or tree hyrax if you’re not fully satisfied …
TOM: I’m holding out for you as a woylie. It’s a cute little kangaroo that feeds on roots, tubers, seeds, and legumes. See the picture?
JOEL: Yeah, nice. And what’s the hyrax, Crow?
CROW: I… uh… have no idea. But if you became one, then we’d know, right?
TOM: Yeah, unless he got caught in the mouse traps.
[ MADS sign flashes ]
JOEL: Hang on, Loopy the Lion and Hardee Har Har are calling.
[ DEEP 13. DR. FORRESTER has what looks like a plunger mounted on a water gun; TV’S FRANK is in the background, wearing a bullseye target and holding a SCOOBY-DOO T-shirt. DR. FORRESTER is by a table with considerable clutter on it.]
DR.F: Touche, turtle. Our invention this week is based on beating back the horde of comedians who make incredibly trivial comments about ‘Scooby-Doo.’ It’s a high-powered gun designed to stop them. It tracks certain characteristics of people who’ve figured out they can approach being amusing by talking about this overexposed show — rising levels of unjustified smugness, a clumsily jocular air around them, Scooby Snack Powder… who needs details? TV’s Frank will demonstrate.
FRANK: [ Sheepish ] Now?
DR.F: No, Frank, next week.
DR.F: [ Growls, lowers the gun, riffles through the stuff on the desk, making a mess and loud noise. ] NOW!
FRANK: OK, like, you notice how it’s always the creepy old guy wearing a dumb mask? And how these kids don’t have jobs or school or parents or anything? And was Shaggy stoned or what?
[ As FRANK talks, DR. F raises the gun and aims. As FRANK finishes talking, DR. F fires the gun, sending the plunger flying to the bullseye. FRANK, "impaled," begins a prolongued death scene as BUGS BUNNY might do. ]
DR.F: A sharp, thin needle at the end of the plunger makes your displeasure really stick. [ He begins cackling, and suddenly stops. ] Over to you, Hokey.
[ SOL DESK. The brouchures are cleared away; JOEL, TOM, and CROW all have hefty instruction manuals. TOM and CROW’s are opened. ]
JOEL: Anyone who lives long enough, be he Hal Jordan, Ken Connell, Ralph Hinkley, or Joel Robinson, will eventually be host to benevolent aliens who grant one a ring, tatoo, suit, or some other token of almost unlimited power to use for the good of humanity.
CROW: But will you know how to use it?
TOM: Great power carries with it great responsibility, and you must be prepared to use that power efficiently and for the good of all.
JOEL: [ Showing off his book ] Which is why we’ve created the nigh-omnipotent token’s user’s manual!
TOM: Indexed, cross-referenced and with a web site for newly discovered twists, this guide will help any new superhero do his or her best possible good.
CROW: See, here, ‘Earth threatened by gigantic comets’…simply power up and move the comets out of the way.
TOM: Whereas under ‘City threatened by nuclear missiles’… use your powers to turn the missiles into giant sticks of butter.
JOEL: Have to move your entire legion of friends in a hurry? Fire up your token and expand your hands, then fly them all there!
CROW: Keep your excessively large hands out of your line of sight, or flight will become erratic.
TOM: What do you think, sirs?
[ DEEP 13. FRANK is gasping, continuing the act. DR. FORRESTER is at the camera, sneering. DR. FORRESTER makes quote marks with his hands where appropriate. ]
DR.F: Infinitely clever, mes amis. Your pain this week is a beauty of an Animaniacs fanfic entitled "Skippy’s Mom," by one Charles "Runt-Abu" Brown. It’s the heartworming story of Skippy Squirrel as — could you see this one coming — he finds his Mom. Read it and weep, my little Nimrods of the nitrate stocks.
[ FRANK groans ]
DR.F: Oh, suck it in, wimpy.
[ SOL. As before. ]
[ MOVIE SIGN flashes ]
JOEL: Later! We got movie sign!
[ To continue … ]
So I was thinking about the younger generations and how they’ve never known a world without the Internet. I’ve known both kinds of worlds and thought folks might like to know something of what it was like. What I’ve got, though, is that we used to do stuff like laying awake at night, trying our best to remember the name of Paul Reiser. So this is a problem we’ve solved. Yay us! Anytime we like we can say, “Hey, Siri, tell me the name of Paul Reiser” and get an answer right away. I’m not saying everything is better today. But some things are, and among those things are the greater openness about gender diversity and that if we struggle to remember the name of Paul Reiser it’s for recreational purposes only. That’s something good.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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’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.
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.
But do you suppose whatever advertising person first came up with the “Oops! All Berries” promotion got adequate thanks for inventing such a great meme format? Like, “Oops, All [ thing ]” just communicates whatever the heck the thing is and someone’s to credit for that. I’m not too worried, as you can see from how this hasn’t got me running late or anything. Just thinking about it, is all.
Or almost all. I’m at peace with there being a couple of the two-hundred-plus King Features Syndicate cartoons that I haven’t recently reviewed. But I always like at the end of a big project like this I like to think about what it means.
I can’t say this has prompted me to have a major critical revision of the 1960s cartoons. Or to push for one. The 1960s cartoons are mostly regarded as a cheap, hurried cash-in, of a quality ranging from mediocre to garbage. I’m warmer to them than that, but the conventional wisdom is near enough right. There are some cartoons that I’ll advance as “pretty good” or even “good”. More that are “interesting”. But like everyone knew going in, the theatrical shorts are better. The black-and-white shorts better still. I haven’t looked at the 1980-era Hanna-Barbera series to compare those. Might try them. I know late-70s Hanna-Barbera hasn’t got a high reputation. But it could make Saturday morning cartoons at least uniformly okay. None of that Testimonial Dinner bizarreness or that one where Popeye turns into a giraffe there. (All right, there’s the Superfriends where Zan and Jana are unable to outwit a defunct roller coaster. That was a bit slipshod.)
And yet those are two cartoons that leapt immediately to mind. The lure of the novel, or the exceptional, is hard to resist when you watch a lot of something. That’s no different here. Give me a bonkers premise or a plot that’s too incoherent to be dream-logic and I am fascinated. This is not an effect any studio ever tries for; probably you couldn’t manage it if you did. (Compare that one episode of Dexter’s Laboratory written by a seven-year-old. It was one of the most compelling episodes of a generally good show.) What chance does a merely well-made episode, like Myskery Melody, have against that? Yet that’s also a cartoon that leapt right to mind and that I will keep promoting while I can.
The King Features cartoons introduced some good trends. One is that they largely shed the plot of Popeye-and-Bluto/Brutus-compete-for-Olive-Oyl. There were some cartoons that used that frame, sometimes to good effect. But it was a story done four billion times already, especially in the 1950s shorts. Clearing it out opens up the universe to do a series of golfing jokes or driver-safety jokes instead. Another is expanding the cast of characters. Elzie Segar’s Thimble Theatre overflowed with neat characters. The King Features shorts finally animated the Sea Hag, and brought Poopdeck Pappy and Eugene the Jeep back to being major characters. It also gave some outings to lesser characters like Roughhouse, the Whiffle Hen/Bird, King Blozo, Castor Oyl, Toar, and the many vaguely defined relatives of Olive Oyl. Even footnotes like Ham Gravy got some scenes.
Not enough of them. The Sea Hag and Eugene the Jeep make the leap into major characters, as they should, because they’re endlessly fascinating. King Blozo almost makes it, but not quite. So do Alice the Goon and Professor Wotasnozzle. I’m glad they got the time they did, and wanting more is a good state to be in with them. Professor Wotasnozzle might be the biggest disappointment. He’s in a good spot to give Popeye some goofball super-science gimmick to deal with. Instead what we mostly see is him in a framing device. He sends Popeye to another era to do the same schtick without even a clear idea whether Popeye knows what’s going on.
The shorts give this sense of new ground breaking, of new possibility. There were far more characters, most of whom worked, and fresh stories available to tell. Even more settings. Many cartoons were set in Popeye’s Boring Suburban Home. But they weren’t required to be, the way so many of the 1950s Famous Studios seemed. Sometimes that setting was even part of the story, as in Coffee House, the Beatnik cartoon. Or, for a mixed benefit, the attempt to set the cartoons in India or China or such. This usually turned out so racist I refused to review the cartoon. One can see the charitable reading, that the cartoons are trying to be more ethnically diverse. This sort of nonwhite-people-written-by-very-white-people can be a well-intended stumble. It was endemic to 1960s and 1970s programming. Still not going to listen to Chinese Wimpy.
There’s also a sense of there being no grown-ups in the room. The shorts feel like they’re the story person’s idea, untouched by worry that they fit the Intellectual Property Use Guidelines. Often this freedom from supervision also seems to be freedom from a second draft. Especially if Jack Kinney’s or Larry Harmon’s studios produced it. But a lot of exciting, creative novelty comes from people who have skill in their craft and only casual supervision from the people paying for it. The shorts didn’t enjoy this as much as they might. The sense remains, in most of these shorts, that anything might happen. Popeye’s in caveman times. Olive Oyl has a pet tiger. Wimpy crosses the Whiffle Hen and becomes a werewolf. A living missile wants to kiss Popeye. Brutus builds a robot Eugene. Aliens come to Earth, disguised as mailboxes. Brutus magics away Popeye’s arms. Wimpy is a millionaire, twice. Alice the Goon is hypnotically compelled to make out with Popeye. Cheese wheels from the Moon hold Wimpy hostage. Swee’Pea is the focus of a revolution. I made up at least one of those; can you tell which ones?
All this new freedom and new ground and lack of restraint, though, is most often let down by the result. The animation can’t ever be as good as the theatricals, certainly. And given the circumstances it couldn’t be as good as the 1980 Hanna-Barbera era either. Every studio managed at least some interesting touches, sometimes in a simple clever edit or a move that surprised one. More often the letdown is in the story, or at least the editing. There were so many odd pauses or absent bits of narrative logic it was no longer worth mentioning, at some point. I don’t know how often I accused, especially, a Jack Kinney short of having a dream logic. Or planned to but cut it for being redundant. We had that, though. Someone with experience in how stories work can fill in gaps. But the intended audience of young children? How do they know enough about how stories work to understand that? (On the other hand, maybe they mind since they don’t know that Brutus’s promise to eat his weather prediction was not set up.)
To summarize my feelings for all this, then? Besides the powerful nostalgia I feel for cartoons I watched, and loved, uncritically when I was young and impressionable? It is that I saw so many times that this could be a really good cartoon, hidden underneath what is an okay cartoon. So a new project for when I win a billion-dollar Powerball is to to take like three dozen of these shorts, have someone do another two drafts of the story, and have them animated by people who have the time to draw all the characters in all the scenes they’re in. We’ll get at least a couple great cartoons from that.