What is it like to be a Beatle?


Sorry to be distracted like this. I just got to wondering, like, how often does Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr, like, just freeze up in the kitchen and think, “I was in the Beatles! And now here I am, peeling an orange! How does something like that happen?” I’m assuming that they occasionally peel oranges. The only reason I can imagine they wouldn’t is if they don’t like oranges. I realize that no life can be all transcendant experiences, but, you know,every now and then Buzz Aldrin must think, “I walked on the Moon and here I am peeling a banana. How?”

I guess it’s a good thing that the biggest thing that ever happened to me was sneezing on the President of Singapore or I’d never be able to handle the small stuff.


By the way, over on my other blog I looked at the Pi Day comic strips. How many of them were about serious mathematics and how many were about pie? The answer may surprise you!

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Why was Neddy angry at Godiva? December 2020 – March 2021


Godiva Danube is dead, killed by April Spencer just days after Neddy had a huge public fight with her ex-friend. The fight was over accusations that Danube had been manipulating Neddy their entire relationship. One problem with the Neddy-versus-Godiva fight is that it key elements were retconned in.

The relationship-wrecking catastrophe was the start of Francesco Marciuliano’s run on Judge Parker. This was the collapse of a clothing factory Danube and Neddy Spencer were opening. It fell into a sinkhole right in front of the press, particularly local reporter Toni Bowen. The factory idea was the last story of former writer Woody Wilson. Wilson had a lot of stories where people lavished riches and wealth and good fortune on the main characters. Here, for example, Danube had pressured her ex-boyfriend and head of Europa Aerospace to just give her the factory site. I have no doubt that Wilson meant the giving to be sincere. (On the characters’ part. When I re-read strips from that era I suspect Wilson was having fun seeing what it would take to make an editor say that was a bit much.)

Godiva Ghost: 'If this is how you really felt, then why didn't you tell me? I was always straightforward with you.' Neddy Spencer: 'Why is it always the biggest liars who say they're straightforward? You lied in plain sight --- to family and friends --- as if nothing mattered but what you wanted. We all suspected you were getting money from some drug lord you were cheating on Rocky with to fund the factory. We all stayed quiet. That's our fault. Because it's hard to realize the person you love can only love themselves.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 25th of February, 2021. This should bring Neddy some peace except she has the same argument in her head, in bed, for at least 25 minutes before falling asleep every night.

Marciuliano has put into the backstory that “everyone suspected” Danube was running drugs. Or otherwise cheating on people to fund the project. Danube did flee after the sinkhole, on Marciuliano’s watch. Her relationship with Neddy collapsed then. We saw all that. But wanting to flee a disaster like that is human enough. And it’s hard to see how the sinkhole could be blamed on Danube or Neddy. If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s whoever failed to survey the grounds properly. Or whoever covered up the grounds results. Which would be a decent retcon explanation for why an aerospace company gave up a brand-new factory to a minor movie star and a young woman with money.

Establishing that Danube was a narcissist, though, is no great stretch. She had a job that selects for narcissism. And a problem dealing with narcissists is it’s hard to distinguish between their thinking of you and their wanting you to think of them. (It’s hard to know this for anyone. But when you see the narcissism you realize how much you don’t know the person.) When you suspect a relationship with a narcissist has gone sour, or become abusive, it forces a lot of difficult memory-parsing. Were they helpful at this delicate moment to be kind to you, or to teach you that kindness comes from them? Your answer depends on your feelings about them, and that affects your future answers about how their motivations. It’s always hard to tease out motivations, and when the narcissist is impossible to cross-examine, there’s not much to do but yell in your head.

So this essay should get you up to date on the plot Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for mid-March 2021. If you’re reading this after about June 2021, or any news breaks about the strip, I should have a post here of more use to you.

Judge Parker.

20 December 2020 – 13 March 2021.

When I last looked in, around Christmas, Neddy Parker was planning to go back to Los Angeles and work on script stuff. Sophie was planning to go to New York City and work on school stuff. And young Charlotte was asking whether mommy — April Parker — would be around. Last we saw April Parker she and her Mom were busy with super-ultra-hyperspy assassin murder agent work. Also April and Randy Parker divorced over the whole CIA scandal thing. I’m not sure when or, in the circumstances, how.

Sophie, in masked line at a coffee shop: 'But really, Soph, if you want to make friends, you have to be more open to conversation. You have to meet people. You have to say --- ' (She notices at the front of the line and says aloud) 'Toni?' Toni Bowen, ordering: 'I'll have a venti ... '
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 3rd of February, 2021. Hey, I’ve been in that coffee shop, but it was in Grand Rapids. They sometimes have vegan muffins that kind of work.

Sophie won’t be completely alone in New York City. Toni Bowen will be there too. Her failed bid to unseat Mayor Sanderson drew enough attention for University of New York to hire her to teach a course on local politics. Unfortunately that’s about as not-alone as Sophie gets. It’s hard meeting people at all, and in pandemic times it’s even worse.

With the kids gone Abbey wonders whether she and Sam should downsize. Or even leave Cavelton altogether. She’s lonely, yes. And regrets the bed-and-breakfast, “a money pit” and business the mayor’s determined to make fail. She talks of wanting a change, although to what and where is open.

Sam, sharing coffee while sitting on the cold patio: 'Just because the mayor's company opened a boutique hotel in town doesn't mean he'll get all the business. Some people really prefer a B-and-B.' Abbey: 'What people, Sam? How many customers have we had? We spent all last year fighting the mayor and we lost. I'm exhausted.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 23rd of January, 2021. Does anyone remember not being exhausted? I don’t remember not being exhausted.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Neddy faces several challenges. One is that Ronnie Huerta has a new roommate, Kat. (I’d give her last name but can’t find it.) She’s playing the Neddy role in the April Parker TV series. Kat is very eager to help Neddy move out, shoving hard in that way people who think they’ve figured out how to solve your problem do. But Kat does have some fair observations. The poor little rich girl whose problem is doing her dream job can maybe find an apartment in the second-biggest city in the country. Also that Neddy not doing this writing is screwing up her, Kat’s, job. (One leitmotif in Marciuliano’s writing is characters explaining how one of the main cast looks to people who have to live with them. And how the main cast needs to get over themselves.) While talking this out with Ronnie, Kat lets slip that she wants to spend the rest of her life with Ronnie. That was something they didn’t realize they were ready for.

And Neddy does get down to work work, as opposed to househunting work. The TV producers want Godiva Danube to be a bigger part of the show, so they need Neddy to write more of her. And Neddy is still angry with the dead Godiva. How do deal with that? Hallucination is a good, tested method. That and my favored technique, a good argument with someone who can’t outwit you.

Ghost Godiva Danube refuses to play fair, though, insisting that while she fled, Neddy didn’t chase either. That she had to recover from the disaster herself. That she was “always there for” Neddy. Which Neddy admits, but argues was because Danube wanted to be the star of Neddy’s suffering. The one that guided where it went. Neddy comes out of this convinced that what she needed wasn’t to tell Ghostdiva off, but to face her own anger. And as Ghostdiva storms off, Neddy feels triumphant that she has.

Charlotte: 'Did you hear what I said? I didn't see Mommy today.' Randy: 'Well, yes, Sweetie. Mommy isn't here.' Charlotte: 'But I see her every other day! Why not today?' Randy: 'I'm sorry, what?'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 2nd of March, 2021. I admire Marciuliano’s courage in having a complicated development explained by interrogating a child too young to know how to tell a story. It’s several levels of difficulty, with the kid needing to lack focus but also share information. And that a child that age isn’t necessarily reliable. Unreliable narrators are always hard to do, but especially so in a comic strip. There aren’t many narrative conventions to fall back on, to hint to the readers about what’s wrong and in what ways it’s wrong.

And then the 1st of March started the current and exciting thread. Charlotte Parker, Randy’s and April’s couple-years-old daughter, says she didn’t see Mommy “today”. You know, like she sees her every day. Which was a development catching Randy by surprise. April’s been busy with that super-hyper-ultra-etc assassin agent nonsense. I did see this excite a bunch of comics snarkers pointing out the idea that April Parker had been secretly visiting Charlotte made no sense at all.

The next week of the strip — the last full week, as I write this — showed Marciuliano explaining how this might make sense. That this was going on for only the last two weeks. That April, if it is April, had signalled to Charlotte to keep it secret. That Charlotte could recognize April because they keep pictures of her in the house. And yes, it may be dumb but it’s a recognizable human dumbness. And that they can’t find anything on the security cameras. Randy got rid of the network of security cameras when he realized April had tapped them all. (I’m not sure we saw that it was April and not the super-hyper-ultra-etc spy network that was holding Norton in mega-secret spy hyper-jail.) This implicit threat to take Charlotte does quite good, fast work in driving Randy crazy. But Randy is right that it’s within April’s demonstrated power set to do something like this, even if it is only to mess with Randy’s head. And, as Alan Parker noted this Sunday, they don’t yet know it is April.

Next Week!

I go back to the top of my cycle, for … I think the next-to-last time. It’s Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man repeats, as we about wrap up Ant-Man and get on to Rocket Raccoon.

The comic strip Buckles is ending in like eight minutes


More, and startling, news from The Daily Cartoonist: David Gilbert’s comic strip Buckles is to end this coming Sunday the 21st. The comic strip, about a (talking) dog and his human keepers, is to end four days short of its 25th anniversary.

I’m sorry for this, not just for my regret at seeing any comic strip end. It was a pleasant comic of that style where the animal talks but is still an animal. And I liked the style of art. I’m not sure where I first encountered the comic. It might have been in the Strips weekly newspaper, which in the 90s would distribute … not all, but a broad slate of the weekday comic strips out there. The paper was a great way to discover new or obscure strips; I know it introduced me to Big Nate, On The Fastrack, Safe Havens, and others that have become regular habits. Buckles would have fit right in.

Underneath several panels of art that's all limited-palette, starkly-silhouetted, with low or no outlines, we see a dog posing like a wolf, stalking deer. The narrator: 'Buckles THE CARNIVORE is on the hunt! HUNGER has led him down a BLOODTHIRSTY path! A herd of potential PREY have gathered in a clearing, unaware of their own EXTERMINATION! The great predator readies his ATTACK! DEATH IS IN THE AIR!' A panel of Buckles leaping, wolflike, at the camera, howling. Final panel, the usual light cartoony figures. Paul holds Buckles the dog back from a pile of grocery bags. Paul: 'Oh no you don't! Stay away from the groceries, Buckles!' Buckles thinks: 'Nuts! Thwarted from the side!' Jill tells Paul: 'If somebody had helped me put them away when I asked ... '
David Gilbert’s Buckles for the 14th of March, 2021. One of many appealing bits of business is Buckles’s fantasy life as a savage predator. Gilbert (like many cartoonists) uses the fantasy sequence as a chance to vary up the art style, and show how exciting strips can be with the space and the time to produce them.

I haven’t heard anything about why the strip is ending. Nor why it’s ending with so little notice. If I learn anything it’ll be by reading The Daily Cartoonist, and I’ll pass it on, because that’s less work than writing 800 words about a 60s Popeye cartoon.

In the past Comics Kingdom has dropped all links to discontinued strips. So if there’s any Buckles strips you quite like, you should download a copy now. If there’s any you wanted to buy a print or other merchandise of, too, do that before Sunday the 21st. I don’t know whether links will completely disappear but it is better to be safe.

60s Popeye: Beaver or Not (Popeye’s swimming in air)


It’s several kinds of unusual in today’s King Features Popeye cartoon. The first is it’s a Gene Deitch-directed short. So, unfortunately, there’s no credits given for story or any of the Czechoslovakian animators. Just Deitch and producer William L Snyder. It’s from 1961, also, which I think makes this the first 1961 cartoon that isn’t from Paramount.

And then the distinctive thing: this is a cartoon where Popeye interacts with no other humans. There’s rather few like that. We know where that’s several cautions. But, here we go, Beaver Or Not.

Does Popeye ever think to try giving up when he notices he’s in a Popeye-Versus-The-Animal cartoon? These cartoons never show him at his best. They run against his (inconsistently followed) “be kind to children and dumb animals” ideal. He usually looks like the jerk. He ends up having to give in and letting the animal have his way. And Popeye is one of those characters who recognizes he’s in a cartoon. Does he ever think to jump to the happy ending?

This time around, Popeye’s battling a pair of beavers. Not sure why a pair, other than to give them a reason to say stuff to each other. Popeye doesn’t need an excuse to say his thoughts aloud, but a beaver needs some pretext. Popeye’s gone to a cabin in the woods for his vacation, and the beavers just then dam the river up. He tries tearing the dam apart so he can have his river.

One can sympathize with Popeye for wanting his vacation to be free of nonsense. But the need to draw the beavers as damming the river up right beside Popeye’s cabin damages the ability to sympathize. So, what he has to walk twenty feet upriver to get to the water? This is worth getting upset about? I grant it’ll be annoying paddling his canoe back through the mud to get home. He already had to paddle about eight minutes of screen time to get to his cabin. That’s an annoyance for off at the end of the vacation, though.

An angry Popeye stands in a dried riverbed, scowling at the two beavers sitting atop their dam which blocks it.
Popeye gets partly or fully covered in mud at least twice this cartoon. Getting covered in mud feels like something that happens a fair bit in Gene Deitch cartoons but I worry I’m just remembering wrong.

Like with any Popeye-Versus-The-Animal cartoon, Popeye tries various ways to get the animals to do what he wants. They don’t care. There’s some good cartoon action about batting dynamite back and forth. Popeye finally resorts to his spinach, with the beavers wondering “what’s he up to now?” and shrugging “who knows?” Popeye does take the gentlest approach, at least, lifting the dam out of the way and tossing it aside. Could have been meaner.

But the animals must prevail. They do it by discovering more spinach. (Often the way the animal gets the upper hand on Popeye.) “Let’s try it!” “Why not?” Reasonable. They cut Popeye’s cabin down into the river, for an even more of a dam. And finally Popeye yields to the cartoon he’s in and accepts he has to swim with the beavers or not at all. It’s a happy ending that Popeye could have gotten to sooner if he remembered every past cartoon starring an animal.

It’s all pretty good if you don’t feel like Popeye should be to smart to get in this fight. You know what Gene Deitch cartoons will look like, lots of good funny drawings and a strange soundscape. Sometimes mixed poorly: when he’s done changing Popeye can hear “a sawmill”. I can’t hear it at all. Or working so hard to be funny they don’t quite make sense, as in how the beavers roll around laughing and weightless. They look better for the short segment they’re under water, which is a feat. Usually animating something in the water is the hard part. Solid enough cartoon.

Here are some Popeye-Versus-The-Animal theatrical cartoons:

I bet I’m overlooking some, even besides the hunting cartoons and the bullfighting cartoons. And this is without looking into the many made-for-TV cartoons out there.

Statistics Saturday: Papal Regnal Numbers Over Time, 1900 – Present


Line chart of Papal regnal numbers for each year from 1901 to through 2021; eg, Leo XIII (13), Pius X (10), Benedict XV (15), up to today's Francis (I). Also across this is a red line showing the number has been, on average, decreasing with time.
The red line is the best-fit linear interpolation of these numbers over time. The projection is that if trends of the past 120 years continue then sometime in the year 2070 we can expect a Pope with regnal number of 0.

Reference: Pluto and Charon: Ice Worlds on the Ragged Edge of the Solar System, Alan Stern and Jacqueline Mitton.

60s Popeye: Popeyed Fisherman, which can’t land a whale pun


After a trip into 1961 — and 1936 — with Myskery Melody we’re back to 1960. And to the Jack Kinney studios. This is another cartoon with story credited to Jack Kinney. Animation direction is given to Murray McClellan, a new name in my records here. This is the only time he’s credited as animation director for a Popeye cartoon, too. The Internet Movie Database has him listed mostly as animator, for things ranging from a bunch of Disney shorts through to 60s made-for-TV animation like The Archie Show, the Batman/Superman Hour, and Fantastic Voyage. Also, this is the first I learn that there was a cartoon based on Fantastic Voyage. I don’t know how many stories I expected could be told about a team of heroes who get really small. They made 17 of them.

That takes me off point. But it is a wonder. Here’s the cartoon he has an animation director credit on, though. Here’s Popeyed Fisherman.

This cartoon suffers from coming right after Myskery Melody, I admit. I couldn’t say enough about that one; this is just a normal cartoon. It’s got a nice absurdity. The prompt is that Olive Oyl and Swee’Pea want to learn fishing. Its first joke is given by Popeye in the tag: “inexperience is the best teacher”. For all Popeye’s patient instruction and legitimate-sounding advice about how to fish, Swee’Pea and Olive Oyl are actually able to catch fish. Traditional setup for a fishing joke.

It gets bigger and loopier with fishing from a boat, as Swee’Pea determines to catch a whale. While Popeye instructs them and ignores everything, the boat’s swallowed by a white whale. Popeye finally freaks out, and gets kicked out of the whale. Swee’Pea declares he wants to eat the whale for dinner and Olive Oyl, embracing the daftness, gets out a mop and pail to get ahead on cleaning the ‘fish’. The whale eventually returns to Fishland amusement park, and the cartoon concludes that the whale is Fishland’s somehow and Swee’Pea gets a reward and there we go.

A passed-out Popeye slumped over the tail of a white whale. The whale, on the surface of the water, glides through the sea gate of 'Fishland', clearly some kind of water park; there's a King Neptune figure on the side of the gate. Men along the line of the pier wave their hats and cheer.
Though it’s not my intention to critique the realism of this cartoon, I will say I’ve been fishing twice and nothing like this has happened to me.

It’s easy to claim that any cartoon that doesn’t make sense is ‘dreamlike’. This has a better claim than most, though. It starts from a reasonable, even dull, premise. Going to sea and having weird things happen is an escalation that makes sense. Swee’Pea and Olive Oyl behave daftly once the whale swallows them, but perhaps they’re wiser than Popeye is about how dangerous an early-60s TV cartoon could be. Though what happens is ridiculous, it feels thoughtfully so. It does not make me wonder how the story is supposed to make sense.

MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Raccoon, Chapter XIX


So now I reach nearly the end of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale Of Fatty Raccoon. Again, I don’t know what I’m doing with myself two weeks from now. This chapter is one you can understand without reading much of what’s gone before. It does refer to a loggers’ camp established in chapter 18. But now that I’ve mentioned that, you know as much as you need to from that chapter. Still, that and the rest of Fatty Raccoon’s adventures are at this link. Thank you.


> XIX

TOM: Xixi of Ix.

>
> FATTY GROWS EVEN FATTER

CROW: [ As Fatty ] ‘I thought we were dumping the fat jokes!’

>
> When Fatty Raccoon’s burned feet were well once more,

MIKE: Ah, continuity again. Serial adventures.

> the very
> first night he left his mother’s house he went straight to the
> loggers’ camp.

CROW: [ As Fatty ] ‘I swear if they’re doing Monty Python routines I’m giving them all dysentery.’

> He did not wait long after dark, because he was afraid
> that some of his neighbors might have found

TOM: That sweet Moon that Farmer Green’s son was leaving out.

> that there were good
> things to eat about the camp. And Fatty wanted them all.

MIKE: Fatty’s a big fan of Queen.

>
> To his delight, there were goodies almost without end. He
> nosed about, picking up potato peelings, and bits of bacon.

CROW: Pumpkin scraps.

TOM: Remaindered butter.

MIKE: Irregular porks.

TOM: Off-brand onions.

CROW: Second-hand hash browns.

MIKE: Good-as-new eggs.

> And
> perhaps the best of all was a piece of cornbread, which Fatty fairly
> gobbled.

MIKE: Fairly. He gave the cornbread a chance to get away.

> And then he found a box half-full of something—scraps that
> tasted like apples, only they were not round like apples,

TOM: Ah yes, ‘Fool’s Apples’.

> and they
> were quite dry, instead of being juicy.

CROW: Then there’s the spikes they eject and the wailing of the doomed they emit, but otherwise? Great stuff.

> But Fatty liked them; and he
> ate them all, down to the smallest bit.

MIKE: Animals are famous for liking to eat strange and painfully dry foods.

>
> He was thirsty, then. So he went down to the brook,

CROW: Raccoons are natural problem-solvers.

> which ran
> close by the camp. The loggers had cut a hole through the ice,

TOM: [ As the author ] Uh — did I mention it’s winter? … Because it’s winter.

> so they
> could get water.

MIKE: [ As the author ] Oh and, uh, maybe I didn’t say before but the loggers are all French-Canadian but *not* Catholic. Not sure it’s important, just think you should know.

> And Fatty crept close to the edge of the hole and
> drank.

CROW: [ As the author ] Oh yeah, also remember the animals all wear clown hats, that’s going to be really important next chapter.

> He drank a great deal of water, because he was very thirsty.

TOM: [ As the author ] Sorry, one last thing, they’re all robots who don’t know they’re in a band.

> And when he had finished he sat down on the ice for a time. He did not
> care to stir about just then.

CROW: Lucky thing he’s at one of those newfangled self-stirring rivers.

> And he did not think he would ever want
> anything to eat again.

MIKE: What’s a ‘fangle’ and what makes a fangle ‘new’?

TOM: Um …

>
> At last Fatty Raccoon rose to his feet. He felt very queer. There
> was a strange, tight feeling about his stomach.

MIKE: [ As Fatty ] ‘Am I being strangled by a boa constrictor — *again*?’

> And his sides were no
> longer thin. They stuck out just as they had before winter came—only
> more so.

CROW: Raccoon with attached porch.

> And what alarmed Fatty was this: his sides seemed to be
> sticking out more and more all the time.

TOM: [ As Fatty ] ‘I keep seeing this happen to cartoon characters but never dreamed it could happen to me!’

>
> He wondered what he had been eating. Those dry things that
> tasted like apples—he wondered what they were.

CROW: Bad luck of Fatty that this was the summer of the apple-flavored self-inflating life-raft fad.

>
> Now, there was some printing on the outside of the box which
> held those queer, spongy, flat things.

MIKE:> Oh yeah, there it is on the label: ‘Queer, Spongy, Flat Things to Inflate Your Raccoon’, should have expected that.

> Of course, Fatty Raccoon could not
> read,

TOM: Of course?

> so the printing did him no good at all. But if you had seen the
> box, and if you are old enough to read,

CROW: Arthur Scott Bailey pandering to his audience here.

> you would have known that the
> printing said: EVAPORATED APPLES

TOM: E … Evaporated apples?

CROW: Consolidated grapes!

MIKE: Abbreviated radishes!

CROW: Imaginary corn!

TOM: Dark matter potatoes!

>
> Now, evaporated apples are nothing more or less than dried
> apples.

MIKE: To the lay audience, anyway.

> The cook of the loggers’ camp used them to make apple pies.

TOM: Not to get in good with condensed teachers?

> And first, before making his pies, he always soaked them in water so
> they would swell.

CROW: [ As Logger ] ‘How do the apples look?’

MIKE: [ As cook ] ‘Swell!’

CROW: [ As Logger ] ‘So they’re ready to go!’

>
> Now you see what made Fatty Raccoon feel so queer and
> uncomfortable.

TOM: He missed out on apple pie?

> He had first eaten his dried apples.

CROW: Okay, okay wait, let me write this down.

> And then he had
> soaked them,

CROW: All right, keep laying out the clues, I’ll figure it out.

> by drinking out of the brook.

MIKE: Brook water? What’s wrong with *real* water?

> It was no wonder that his
> sides stuck out, for the apples that he had bolted were swelling and
> puffing him out until he felt that he should burst.

TOM: So evaporated apples take revenge. Got it.

> In fact, the
> wonder of it was that he was able to get through his mother’s doorway,
> when he reached home.

MIKE: Not because of the fatness, because he was out after curfew.

>
> But he did it, though it cost him a few groans. And he
> frightened his mother, too.

CROW: Mrs Raccoon is a long-suffering character this book.

>
> "I only hope you’re not poisoned," she said, when Fatty told
> her what he had been doing.

TOM: Oh, c’mon, where would humans even *get* poison from? Be realistic!

>
> And that remark frightened Fatty more than ever.

CROW: [ As Fatty ] ‘Poissoned? I didn’t even *see* any fish!’

MIKE: [ As Mom ] ‘No, I … you know, I’ll let this one go.’

> He was sure
> he was never going to feel any better.

TOM: This is me whenever I have *anything*.

>
> Poor Mrs. Raccoon was much worried all the rest of the night.

MIKE: Wonder what Fatty’s siblings are up to tonight … ah well.

> But
> when morning came she knew that Fatty was out of danger.

CROW: Aaah?

> She knew it
> because of something he said.

MIKE: Oh, classic Fatty line coming in.

> It was this:

TOM: He’s gonna say it? He’s gonna say it!

>
> "Oh, dear! I wish I had something to eat!"

[ ALL go wild as a sitcom audience, cheering and clapping. ]

>
>

[ To be concluded … ]

The lost opportunity in the Dr Seuss debate


I’m annoyed at all the waste. All this time the past week with people giving bad takes about Dr Seuss books when we could have been having artists draw pictures of us as Dr Seuss characters instead. There’s nobody I know who wouldn’t be delighted to be drawn as Kind Of Walrus-y, I Guess, Maybe With A Pom-Pom. Wearing nothing but gloves, a top hat, and giant bow tie. And if you’re being honest with yourself, you agree. I’m not blaming the artists for this. This is something we have all failed to do.


I am grateful to, and thank, my love for the walrus observation.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Why was that kid going on about the 90s Detroit Pistons? December 2020 – March 2021


The kid, Vic Doucette, was going on about the 90s Pistons because he researched them. He researched them because Coach Gil Thorp referenced them and he wanted to do his job as game announcer well. Not that anything about the Pistons is likely to come up in a Milford basketball game. But a marker of excellence in a field is enthusiasm for its trivia. Doucette’s decided he wants to be an announcer and he is throwing himself wholeheartedly into the role.

This should catch you up to mid-March 2021 in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. If you’re reading the strip after about June 2021 there should be a more up-to-date plot recap here. There’ll also be any news about the comic strip that I learn from reading The Daily Cartoonist.

Gil Thorp.

14 December 2020 – 6 March 2021.

It happens that last time I checked in was the week the story wrapped up. I often feel like these recaps happen suspiciously close to a new story’s start. That’s an illusion created by “close” feeling like “within two weeks, give or take” and that covers, like, a third of my cycle. Still, the new and current story started the 14th of December, neat as I would hope.

We start basketball season. First major player: Vic Doucette. He’s not an athlete, owing to cerebral palsy. He asks Coach Gil Thorp to be the announcer for boys’ basketball games. Thorp is impressed with Doucette’s knowledge of basketball trivia and also his existence as a living body willing to do this job.

Next major player: Shooting guard Doug Guthrie. He has a 1966 Pontiac GTO, which I am informed is an impressive car to have. He’d found and rebuilt it with his dad. And he keeps ducking out for thinks like go-kart races in Florida. Like, real kart racing at 70 mph and so on.

Third major player: Tessi Milton, forward for the girls’ basketball team. And teammate to Corina Karenna, who’s transferred over from volleyball. The girls’ team feels disrespected, relative to the boys’ team. She comes into significance later in the proceedings.

Narrator: 'Milford gets hot, the crowd combusts --- and Vic Doucette fans the flames.' Doucette, announcing: 'Three-pointer by Mark 'Fear Of' Godleski!' Narrator: 'Late 4th Quater, Milford by 1 --- and a collision!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 6th of January, 2021. To get a handle on Doucette’s character: we see him working on these nicknames before the game starts, including things like asking Tessi Milton if “Tessi” is short for anything, so that he can look more spontaneous. That’s a level of professionalism I hope to someday achieve.

Doucette got the job of announcer because he was willing. It turns out he’s eager, though. Enthusiastic even. He works out catchy nicknames for everyone, he rallies the crowd, he shows open and unbridled delight in a high school thing. He goes to away games — where he’s not an announcer — to take notes about the team. He follows Gil Thorp’s mention of the 90s Pistons to study how Ken Calvert announced players, and pick up moves from that work. In short, he shows unbridled interest in a thing. In high school. Vic Doucette is braver than the troops.

At a postgame dinner at The Bucket, Guthrie talks about Doucette’s car. It’s a modified 2004 GMC Safari. The modifications are to help Doucette when he’s having a harder day. They bond over the car talk, though, Guthrie asking about the MV-1, identified as “the first van designed for wheelchairs from the start”. So you know how deep the car thing interests Guthrie.

The girls’ basketball team, meanwhile, wants for attention. Tessi Milton figures to get Vic Doucette to announce their games, too. It’s not a bad plan. In boys’ basketball he’s advanced to running in-game givewaways and stuff that plays well with the crowd. (He’s giving away the hot dog and soda that are his “pay” for announcing. I mention because the strip made a point of mentioning it. I appreciate the craft of that. You can fault Gil Thorp for many things, but it does justify most everything that appears on screen. It may be the story strip that most improves on rereading twelve weeks’ worth at a go.) Fun enough that Guthrie even skips a car-racing thing to play. Doucette even has some decent sports-psychology, talking Guthrie out of the funk of a lousy game.

Tessi Milton: 'The girls need you, Vic. Can you do the announcing at our games?' Doucette: 'Umm ... Well ... Hmm ... ' Later, Guthrie: 'What did you tell her?' Doucette: 'Mostly, I sputtered. I should study more, not less. And I'm already not seeing my friends enough.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 4th of February, 2021. I don’t know whether we’re to take that last panel as Doucette smoking or just that the air is cold. I suspect the latter, on grounds of dramatic economy: if we were supposed to think Doucette smoked, some panel would make that unambiguous.

So Milton asks Doucette to announce their games. He’s not sure. He needs time to study, after all, and see his friends and do stuff that isn’t basketball announcing. Also, I notice, he uses a crutch reliably from mid-January on; he hadn’t needed one earlier. This may be a signal that he’s getting worse.

He decides to announce girls basketball games, though, saying, “studying is overrated, right?” And he brings the same level of research and hard work to this that he did the boys games. It goes well, and Milton’s grateful, to the point everyone tells Doucette that she’s flirting with him. So he asks her out and she “can’t this weekend”.

Guthrie, with Tom Muench, are late to a practice. They’re pulled over by a traffic cop, who recognizes that they’re popular white athletes and lets them off with a little car talk. But, running laps at practice, Muench sprains his knee and is out for a couple games. And this throws Guthrie way off his game.

Doucette notices all this, and tries to sort out Guthrie’s problem. He observes how Guthrie’s interested in someday driving racecars at 200 mph; it’s hard to do that when you’re worried about running laps. And this bit seems to help.

Tessi Milton: 'Vic asked me out. It's awkward.' Corina Karenna: 'Why? It seemed like you were flirting with him.' Milton: 'A little. ... We needed a PA announcer. But seriously: would you go out in that grandpa van?'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 5th of March, 2021. The rest of the team is aghast at describing a 17-year-old Pontiac as a “Grandpa Van”.

After a girls basketball game, Tessi Milton dodges Doucette, whom she points out to her teammates has asked her out twice now. Her teammates point out she was flirting with him. Which she owns up to, yes, but they needed an announcer. And while he’s “a nice guy,” well, “would you go out in that grandpa van?” Which does support Karenna’s earlier assessment that Milton is a deeply shallow person. To be empathetic, though, Milton is in a lousy place herself. Suppose you’ve agreed the team needs Doucette to announce their games; what tools do you have to get him to do it? There’s no pay available, and no glory either. What option does she have but flattery? And — I write before seeing Monday or Tuesday’s strips so may be setting myself up to be a fool — faulting Doucette’s car is less bad than sneering at the idea of dating someone with cerebral palsy.

And that’s the standings as of mid-March. It does feel like Milton’s being set up for some comeuppance. But the story might resolve to something as simple as hurting a guy who’s been quite giving. It does feel to me significant that Doucette’s repeated his worry he’s ignoring friends and school for all this announcing work, though. Also that he’s seen using the crutches more than he was early in the story. Maybe not significant is Guthrie mentioning how his dad teaches driving to the area cops, part of why he and Muench were let off with small talk. I’m not making detailed predictions, though.

Milford Schools Watch

Who’s Milford playing? The past couple months, these teams. If you want the win-loss record, oh, I don’t feel up to tracking that. You have your fun.

Next Week!

Is super-hyper-ultra-duper extra-special spy agent April Parker back in town? I’ll check in on Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker if things go to my plan.

Statistics February: People Are Acclimated To The New Mark Trail


As the month is well underway, it’s fair to look at what the readership around here last month was like. I can see from the most popular posts that people were upset about Mark Trail. But the number of people looking up Mark Trail, or other comic strips, dropped for the fourth month running.

It’s almost at a transition point, too. According to WordPress there were 4,778 page views here in February. That’s just below the twelve-month running mean, from February 2020 through January 2021, of 4,851.3. It is still above the twelve-month running median of 4,385.5. This tells me I’m benefiting from people who want the change in artist explained if not justified. The thing is, February’s also a short month. There were on (arithmetic mean) average 170.6 page views per day in February. The twelve-month running average was 158.9 leading up to February. The twelve-month running mean median 143.9. So I’m coming back to normal, after the Mark Trail boost, but not quite there yet.

Bar chart of about two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. The past five months have seen a steady decline; in February 2021 were 4,778 views from 2,780 visitors.
Thinking of starting a rumor that Olivia Jaimes is taking over The Far Side just so I can enjoy the sweet popularity of clickbait and outrage.

The story’s similar for the unique views. There were 2,780 unique viewers in February, a mean of 99.3 per day. The twelve-month running mean was 2,879.4 unique viewers per month, but that’s 94.3 per day. The running median was 2,564 unique viewers per month, or 84.1 per day.

On things that are exactly in line with everything? There were 101 likes given my blog in February. The running mean was 101.8. The running median 99.5. Prorated per day, it’s a little less in-line. This was an average 3.6 likes per day, compared to a running mean of 3.3 and running median of 3.2.

And comments! I had comments in February, always to my amazement. In particular there were 38 comments. The running mean was 35.5 and running median 38.5. This is an average 1.4 comments per day, with a running mean of 1.2 and running median of 1.2 for the twelve months leading up to February.

This all suggests I’m losing the Mark Trail outrage readership. The Mallard Fillmore controversy might help me out a bit this month.

I intended to link the five most popular articles from the past two months. This ended up with another tie for fifth place. That’s convenient, though, as it lets me reach to one of my long-form pieces.

I do expect to finish off The Tale of Fatty Raccoon this month. I haven’t decided whether to go back to writing wholly original long-form pieces or what. I might do some more MiSTings. They’ve been pleasant to do, although much of that pleasantness depends on how Arthur Scott Bailey is good source material. I can’t guarantee that another book would be as good. Also I don’t know that I want to go another twenty(?) weeks on some forgotten animal-adventure book. I’m open to hearing opinions, if anyone has them, though.

What I do plan on writing are comic strip plot summaries. My plan for the month ahead is to take this order, provided breaking news or special circumstances don’t get in the way:

Yeah, The Amazing Spider-Man is never coming out of repeats. I figure to do a couple more recaps, to get back to the story where I started doing plot recaps, and then retire it. I might start recapping Rip Haywire to make up the gap, or shift to an 11-week cycle. Or if there’s another good story strip I’m overlooking, and that could use recapping, let me know. It’s what people like to see me do, and it’s fun doing, so that’s a good match.


Map of the world showing the United States in darkest red, with Canada, India, and the United Kingdom in a moderately dark red, and then pink for much of the rest of the Americas, Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and some of the Pacific Rim. There's few readers in Africa or in the arc from Iran through China.
Not sure which of these are small islands with one or two page views and which ones are my need to clean my screen. Please let me know of any world islands you don’t see.

77 countries sent me readers at all in February. Here’s the roster:

Country Readers
United States 3,505
United Kingdom 167
Canada 159
India 150
Philippines 81
Australia 63
Germany 53
Brazil 52
France 44
Spain 36
Finland 29
Italy 28
Peru 22
Mexico 21
Norway 20
South Africa 19
Sweden 19
Latvia 18
Malaysia 18
United Arab Emirates 15
Poland 14
Portugal 12
Denmark 11
Kuwait 11
Austria 10
Indonesia 10
Jamaica 10
Saudi Arabia 10
Netherlands 9
Singapore 9
Belgium 8
Costa Rica 8
Egypt 8
Ireland 7
Japan 7
Serbia 7
Chile 6
Puerto Rico 6
Thailand 6
Hong Kong SAR China 5
Lithuania 5
Nigeria 5
Switzerland 5
Croatia 4
European Union 4
Greece 4
New Zealand 4
Argentina 3
Czech Republic 3
Hungary 3
Turkey 3
Vietnam 3
American Samoa 2
Cayman Islands 2
El Salvador 2
Georgia 2
Iceland 2
Israel 2
Kenya 2
Romania 2
Slovenia 2
South Korea 2
Sri Lanka 2
Taiwan 2
Zimbabwe 2
Bangladesh 1 (*)
Belize 1 (*)
Bhutan 1
Bulgaria 1
Colombia 1
Guam 1
Iraq 1
Jordan 1
Liechtenstein 1
Pakistan 1
Russia 1
St. Martin 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1

Thirteen of these were single-reader countries. Only Bangladesh and Belize have been single-reader countries for two months running. Nowhere has a three-month or longer streak going.


WordPress says that I posted 19,578 words in February, which comes to an average 699.2 words per post. To date for 2021, I’m averaging 686 words per post. I need to stop having such verbose discussions of Popeye cartoons. It’s been 40,444 words for the year, up to the start of March.

Between the first publication of the nursery rhyme Mary Had A Little Lamb (the 24th of May, 1830) and the first of March, I’ve published 2,950 things to this blog. They drew a total 217,379 views from a recorded 123,380 unique visitors.

I’d like to have you as a regular reader. I don’t know how this would convince you. But you can add my posts to your RSS reader. If you lack an RSS reader, you can sign up for a free account at Dreamwidth or Livejournal. Then add any RSS feed to your reading page through https://www.dreamwidth.org/feeds/ or through https://www.livejournal.com/syn. If you’re on WordPress already, you should be able to use the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button to add it to your Reader page.

Thank you all for reading, including those of you that are bots seeking blogs to which you can post “Great topic with lots of valuable information to think about thanx! amazorn-11824500683037495538aqprd.zabooty.narf”. Those are the ones that make it all worthwhile.

60s Popeye: Myskery Melody, a cartoon people have been asking for


For today I have a 1961 Paramount Cartoon Studios-produced cartoon. Myskery Melody is credited to Seymour Kneitel for the story and the direction. And it features something that Garrison Skunk has been asking for! So let’s watch the cartoon.

The story credit is a bit of a fib. Not to discount Seymour Kneitel’s work in putting the story together. But it was based on the 1936 comic strip storyline Mystery Melody. As often happens with the conversion of a print story to screen, the print version is better. But the print version had five months at six strips a day to tell its version. The cartoon has five minutes. Kneitel had to do serious work to shrink and adapt it. He’s helped by reducing the character set to the bare minimum, and cutting out side stories. And by Elzie Segar’s tendency to get caught by a funny idea and do that for three weeks straight while he thought of the next plot point.

Dark, foggy, swamp-bound scene of the Sea Hag on a raft, the full moon in back of her. She plays her flute with her vulture sitting up ready to launch.
I don’t know why she covers her face to play the flute. I know she was introduced that way in the comic strip, as part of making her the more mysterious and inexplicable, but I don’t know if that signifies anything more than we’re supposed to find her mysterious.

The story as we get it animated: Poopdeck Pappy’s haunted by a weird melody that Olive Oyl and Popeye can’t hear. We see it’s the Sea Hag playing her flute in a wonderful dark, spooky swamp. She sends her vulture to grab Pappy’s hat, and he tells the backstory. When a young sailor he courted the beautiful Rose of the Sea — “afore I was married”, a reassurance that Popeye is not literally a bastard. But when he finally kissed her, she transformed into the Sea Hag. He freaked out and ran, and the Sea Hag has held it against him for 80 years. Pappy looks a bit shallow, but he was young and saw his girlfriend transform to a witch. It’d be strange if he weren’t freaked out. And it’s got the feel of a folk take. I’m too ignorant to pin down one that quite works like this, but discovering your beloved is secretly an evil spirit has got to be done before.

Pappy says the Sea Hag’s been looking for him for 80 years, which indicates he has a high opinion of himself as a suitor. Well, he is a guy. It doesn’t seem like she must have been looking for him long. He was sitting in jail on Goon Island for forty of those years. But this may be a continuity separate from the Goonland short. I mean, I know it is. The continuity of Popeye is about personality and attitude, not about what happened when. In the comic strip Mystery Melody was only the first major story after Pappy was found.

In a bright purple sitting room, young Poopdeck has opened his eye in horror that the woman he's kissing is the Sea Hag.
I’m looking at how Sea Hag’s shoulder and neck have to be twisted so she can hold her hands like that while kissing Poopdeck. I can’t see where that’s comfortable for her.

The Sea Hag uses her flute to bewitch Pappy. She gives him a chance to love her as Rose of the Sea and when he refuses, she puts him in the dungeon. Popeye reasons that what he could use is Eugene the Jeep, who what do you know but is right there. Eugene charges for the castle and chases off the Sea Hag, shooting electricity from his tail, a thing we didn’t know he could do before. Didn’t know it in the comic strip version, either. The Sea Hag’s vulture tries to take Popeye away, but he eats his spinach and punches his way free. And pushes the castle out of the way, freeing his father. We have a happy ending, with the last joke being Pappy spooked by a mysterious whistling that’s the tea kettle. It’s one of the few jokes in the short.

I like this short. It’s one that gives the Popeye characters history, the illusion that there’s a world going on even when Popeye isn’t on-screen. And it has some nice haunting moments; that shot of the Sea Hag playing her flute in the swamp is a good spooky one. And the Rose-of-the-Sea backstory for Pappy feels like the sort of folklore that belongs in a story about a rough-and-tumble sailor from a rough-and-tumble family. The time spent on setup does mean there’s no time for development; we have to go almost directly to the resolution. It’s a good trade, though, as the setup is good.

It’s unusual for the cartoons in being dramatic rather than comic. And it’s unusual for the King Features era in being plot-heavy. (Though Paramount cartoons seem to be the most plot-driven of the King Features run.) Nobody’s acting dumb, or even petty. It’s even got structure, with Pappy telling his history while the vulture flies back to the Sea Hag. Popeye cartoons don’t usually have things developing in parallel.

The Sea Hag runs, screaming, down a hill while Eugene the Jeep shoots electric bolts from his tail, jabbing her back.
This seems harsh but you do have to remember, she kissed Poopdeck without revealing that she was secretly ugly. Also there was that thing where she kidnapped Poopdeck too.

That I know the comic strip version of this story spoils things a little. Comics Kingdom reprinted it in the Vintage Thimble Theatre run. So I know the pieces of the comic strip story dropped, most of them for time. Much of this is Wimpy coming along and getting his greedy hands on the Sea Hag’s flute. I’ve mentioned the relationship between Wimpy and the Sea Hag before. Mystery Melody isn’t the comic strip series that established that relationship, but it did build on it. The comic strip also had two disturbing sequences. In one, Popeye beat up the Sea Hag’s vulture, literally tearing him apart. She used her flute to stitch him back together and restore his life. Great stuff, inappropriate for this cartoon. This audience anyway. But if they wanted to make an animated Popeye Movie? That would be a powerful scene.

Wimpy, speaking of the Sea Hag: 'Do you think she really has passed on?' Popeye: 'A'course, I ain't positiff, but I think the Jeep turned her into a mummy. ... We can't leave her standin' there against the wall ... le's put'er into a easy chair.' Wimpy, exiting: 'Well, that's that. Let's be going.' Popeye: 'Jus' a minute, Wimpy.' A somber-looking Popeye carries a pillow over, and sets it behind the seated, mummified Sea Hag's head. He walks off, mournful, and carrying his hat in his hand.
Elzie Segar’s Thimble Theatre for the 22nd of August, 1937, reprinted the 20th of August, 2020. The story had been quite a lot of silly fun before this, and right after this bit of Maybe Eugene Just Killed Her, went into several weeks of jokes about what they could do with the Jeep’s electric-power tail. Elzie Segar: master of a consistent and not-at-all jarring tone.

The other bit from the comic strip dropped here is the battle between the Sea Hag and Eugene the Jeep. In the cartoon, the Sea Hag’s terrified and runs off. In the comic strip Eugene hunts down the terrified Sea Hag, electrifying her until he finally leaves her “mummified”. That, too, is a downright disturbing moment, especially as it comes after a lot of funny bits where Eugene surprises the Sea Hag. It gives Popeye a fantastic moment, though, mourning the possibly-dead Sea Hag and scolding his father for not pitying her in that state. Again, so inappropriate for a cartoon with this scope and audience, but also, a great bit for the full-length movie.

There’s some other things dropped from the comic strip version. Toar, for one, but also Alice the Goon and the Sea Hag’s new lackey of Bolo. I can’t fault them cutting these characters, who didn’t have much to do in the comic strip version anyway.

You see how enthusiastic I am about this cartoon and the original comic strip story. The 1960s run of cartoons had much working against them. But this shows how much they could work well, too.

Statistics Saturday: Tunes I Remember Learning For Introductory Violin In Elementary School


Part of my recurring series, On Reflection I Don’t Understand My Childhood At All.

  • Mary Had A Little Lamb
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • Jingle Bells
  • Memory (from the musical Cats)
  • Tomorrow (from the musical Annie)
  • Theme from Masterpiece Theater (from the not-necessarily-musical Masterpiece Theater)
  • I Love Rock and Roll
  • Daisy, Daisy

I think it was even in that order in the music instruction book too.

Reference: Asimov’s Chronology of the World: The Story of the World From the Big Bang to Modern Times, Isaac Asimov.

Why did Mallard Fillmore stop running in the newspaper?


So I learn, from reading The Daily Cartoonist, as usual, that the Gannett Group of newspapers has dropped Mallard Fillmore. This hasn’t affected me any, as I dropped Mallard Fillmore decades ago and don’t intend picking it back up. But Bruce Tinsley — who created the strip, and has been sharing it with Loren Fishman lately — reports that the entire chain of newspapers has dropped it.

Tinsley, according to The Washington Times, claims people at King Features Syndicate explained “they weren’t sure exactly why” Gannett dropped the comic, “except that they were sure it was about those two cartoons”. This references two recent strips in which Mallard Fillmore came out against human rights; you can see them at the Daily Cartoonist link above.

This is possible, although such an explanation demands one believe in a corporation that cares for human rights. And supposes that this thirdhand story about someone’s guess is correct. Another possible explanation is that this follows Gannett’s recent merger with GateHouse Media, after which they dropped all staff editorial cartoonists. They may not be very interested in editorial cartoons as a genre. And, too, Mallard Fillmore has long had as a selling point that it provides “balance” to Doonesbury. Doonesbury has not run a new daily strip since Joe Biden was vice-president. It’s not unreasonable that newspapers might figure they don’t need to “balance” that anymore.

Anyway, I’m sure the market will swiftly correct the problem. Otherwise there might be some bad side-effects from having every newspaper published by one of three companies. If Mallard Fillmore is that well-liked, surely another newspaper in each city will scoop it up and reap the rewards of happy subscribers. And it still runs online, through Comics Kingdom or many newspaper web sites.


[ Edited 7 March 2021 to add ] The Daily Cartoonist has a follow-up report about the strip’s removal. Amalie Nash, senior Vice President for the USA Today Network, said the decision was made after a “review of the recent work showed it did not meet our standards” and it did not relate to any specific strip. Tinsley finds this implausible and blames “Cancel Culture” for his woes. It does indicate he lost 55 newspapers in the cancellations.

MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Raccoon, Chapter XVIII


And welcome all to the 18th chapter of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Fatty Raccoon, in MiSTed form. Yes, I don’t know what I’m going to do when I reach the end, which should be in a couple more weeks. I’m open to suggestions. Basically if you’ve got Fatty Raccoon in a Kids Crew adventure? I’m interested.

This chapter stands on its own. But if you’d like to read what led to this point, all the chapters of this Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction are at this link. Enjoy.


> XVIII
>
> THE LOGGERS COME

MIKE: Episode 18 … I don’t know, the Star Wars movies aren’t doing it for me anymore.

>
> Fatty Raccoon was frightened;

CROW: By what? Everyone in the forest mocking him, Jimmy Rabbit shaving him, or Farmer Green’s son trapping him?

> he had just waked up and he heard a
> sound

TOM: ‘Waked up’?

> that was exactly like the noise Farmer Green and his hired man
> had made when they cut down the tall chestnut tree where he was
> perched.

MIKE: Major breakthrough in the tree-falling-in-a-forest problem.

>
> "Oh, Mother! What is it?" he cried.

CROW: ‘Oh, Mother!’? Is Fatty dressed in a Lord Fauntleroy costume?

>
> "The loggers have come," Mrs. Raccoon said.

MIKE: Yup, this year’s got brood-X cicadas and brood-IV loggers.

> "They are cutting
> down all the big trees in the swamp."

TOM: The final week of _Pogo_.

>
> "Then we’ll have to move, won’t we?" Fatty asked.

CROW: Picturing Fatty’s family tromping off somewhere with a bunch of bindles.

TOM: Oh so cute!

>
> "No! They won’t touch this tree," his mother told him.

MIKE: ‘They signed my quitclaim deed, the fools!’

> "It’s
> an old tree, and hollow—so they won’t chop it down. It’s only the good
> sound trees that they’ll take."

CROW: Yeah, keep telling yourself that.

>
> "But I thought this was a good tree." Fatty was puzzled.

TOM: Fatty about to learn his home is actually on the wrong side of the deer tracks.

>
> "So it is, my son! It’s a good tree for us.

CROW: Wallpaper peeling off.

MIKE: Cabinet falling loose in the pantry.

TOM: Raccoon infestation … wait, wait.

> But not for the
> loggers. They would have little use for it."

CROW: But what if the loggers are just jerks?

>
> Fatty Raccoon felt better when he heard that.

MIKE: Just to be sure, Mom hires a spider to write out ‘SOME RACC’ in the branches.

> And he had a good
> deal of fun, peeping down at the loggers and watching them work.

TOM: Joking around with that Robin Williams Bat and watching the loggers summon that liquid ooze monster.

> But
> he took care that they should not see HIM. He knew what their bright
> axes could do.

CROW: They could curl his moustache!

>
> When night came Fatty had still more fun.

MIKE: More fun than watching loggers? Sure you can handle that, Fatty?

> When the loggers
> were asleep Fatty went to their camp in the woods beside the brook and
> he found many good things to eat.

TOM: Ah, playing his hits. Nice.

> He did not know the names of all the
> goodies;

CROW: ‘My name’s *Jimmy*!’

MIKE: ‘Yeah, and I remember your barber shop!

> but he ate them just the same. He ‘specially liked some
> potatoes which the careless cook had left in a pan near the open
> camp-fire.

TOM: Potatoes au gratin? In only fifteen minutes!

> The fire was out.

MIKE: It had errands in town but if you want to wait, I’ll let you know when the fire gets back in.

> And the pan rested on a stump close
> beside it. Fatty Raccoon climbed up and crawled right inside the pan.

CROW: [ As Fatty ] ‘FOUND ANOTHER THE MOON!’

> And
> after he had had one taste of those potatoes he grew so excited—they
> were so good—

TOM: They weren’t *that* good. They were only *so* good.

> that he tipped the pan off the stump and the potatoes
> rolled right into the ashes.

MIKE: Oh no, the potatoes are getting dirt on them!

>
> Fatty had jumped to one side, when the tin pan fell.

CROW: [ muttering ] Tin pan … alley … all … eat?

TOM: Needs work.
[ CROW grunts, agreeing ]

> It made a
> great clatter;

MIKE: Quick, rush to the window and see what’s the matter!

> and he kept very still for a few moments, while he
> listened. But no one stirred.

CROW: Not even a mouse.

> And then Fatty jumped plump into the
> ashes.

TOM: Hey, Fatty wins a cricket tournament.

>
> WHEW! He jumped out again as fast as he could; for beneath the
> ashes there were plenty of hot coals.

MIKE: It’s ‘hot’ as in ‘spicy’. Don’t be a food wimp.

> Fatty stood in them for not more
> than three seconds, but that was quite long enough.

TOM: Don’t want to over-braise your raccoons.

MIKE: That’s … not braising.

> The bottoms of his
> feet burned as if a hundred hornets had stung them.

TOM: Is it parboiling?

MIKE: No, not even remotely.

>

TOM: Sous-vide?

MIKE: I’m not letting you cook anymore.

> He stood first on one foot and then on another.

CROW: And still had two feet to go!

> If you could
> have seen him you would have thought Fatty was dancing.

MIKE: It’d be a cakewalk if someone brought some cake.

> And you might
> have laughed, because he looked funny.

TOM: [ As Fatty ] ‘Hey, I’m in actual pain here! Also I need potatoes.’

>
> But Fatty Raccoon did not laugh. In fact, he came very near
> crying.

MIKE: Jeez. This book was *fun* back when it was Fatty eating sweet corn.

CROW: Tom Batiuk wrote the back half.

> And he did not wait to eat another mouthful. He limped along
> toward home.

CROW: Loggers wake up to this scene and figure, job well done.

> And it was several days before he stirred out of his
> mother’s house again. He just lay in his bed and waited until his
> burns were well again.

TOM: Mom writes a note to keep him home from Raccoon School.

>
> It was very hard.

CROW: I don’t know, I wouldn’t mind if I had never stirred from bed since 2015.

> For Fatty did not like to think of all those
> good things to eat that he was missing.

TOM: Like … sausage and Duraflame logs.

> And he hoped the loggers would
> not go away before his feet were well again.

MIKE: And before he gets his new tongue installed.

TOM: It’s wireless!

>
>

[ to be continued ]

The Guy Who First Drew Beetle Bailey Had Seen Squirrels


Yes, it’s time for another installment in my sequence of mocking a successful cartoonist for not solving the problem of how to render animals using a style optimized for caricaturing humans. But we had a development this week, thanks to Comics Kingdom’s run of vintage Beetle Bailey strips from nearly 60 years ago:

Chaplain, outside his tent, setting bread on a feeder hanging from the trees: 'Something for my friends the birds.' He hands a bit of bread to a suspicious but interested squirrel. 'ALL the animals of the world are my friends.' We see him walking away from Sarge, shaving at a tree set up with a mirror nailed to it; he's put a piece of bread in the confused Sarge's hand.
Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey for the 13th of August, 1964, reprinted the 1st of March, 2021. Also this past month I learned that Sergeant Snorkel’s look was based on an actual person Mort Walker trained under, First Sergeant Octavian N Savu, who apparently never knew anything about it himself. The Chaplain’s name is Stainglass, by the way. I have no information about the squirrel’s name or real-world inspiration.

So, yes, we can say that Mort Walker had seen squirrels in 1964.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? Is it all about Buck getting diabetes? December 2020 – February 2021


The last three months? Yeah, it’s been all that story. In what I am sure is not Terry Beatty undermining me, this past Sunday’s strip summarized it all anyway. Well, if you’re reading this after about May 2021, or any news breaks out about Rex Morgan, M.D., I’ll have an essay at this link. Thanks for reading.

Rex Morgan, M.D..

6 December 2020 – 28 February 2021.

The current story was just a week old when I last checked in. Buck Wise, who has a job doing … something … with collectibles? … was feeling tired and thirsty. Like, a lot, even considering it was 2020. Still, Rex Morgan was opening his clinic for virtual visits. So even though he can’t point to any particular complaint, and has been losing weight, he gets a checkup.

Buck, over the video: 'I sorta slowed down on the exercise. And I'm always hungry --- emotional eating, I think.' Rex: 'And you've lost weight anyway?' Buck: 'Yeah. But that's good, right?' Rex: 'That depends. Are you thirsty more than usual?'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 17th of December, 2020. I do want to credit Beatty with the deft little touch that Buck and Rex look, on the laptop screens, awkward in the way that people do look awkward while video conferencing. It has to have demanded some restraint to not draw them at angles where you could pretend the screen was a comic strip panel. This is not me being snarky. By the time an artist is professional it takes conscious effort to draw so a figure is “wrong”.

Rex Morgan suspects a medical condition, but has Buck come in to his clinic anyway. The results of the blood draw: he’s got a crazy high blood glucose count, and needs a second screening. And to not finish the fries and triple-thick butterscotch malt he just got from the fast food place.

The second draw confirms Rex’s suspicion. Buck’s got type-two diabetes. They’ll start with oral medication, regular blood glucose checks, and diet changes. Buck comes into the clinic for a third time, to learn how to test his blood glucose levels. And on the way home gets one last bacon cheeseburger, fries, and triple-thick malt. Which, yeah, hard not to empathize.

Narration Box: 'Newly diagnosed as a diabetic, Buck breaks down and cheats on his diet.' Buck, slurping a malt and eating fries, thinks: 'Okay, I'll give all this up ... but after this one last time. Oh, man, this is SO good. I may still have to do a cheat day once in a while.' Narration: 'Not a good idea, Buck --- but some people have to learn their lessons the hard way.' Buck: 'So good!'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 1st of February, 2021. It’s rare in the story strips for the Narration Box to get so personally involved! It’s fun to see and makes a bit more out of what’s otherwise just a guy giving in to his appetites. As it happens, so far, he hasn’t had to learn anything the hard way, but Beatty’s been basically kind to the major characters and right now? In these times? I’ll take the kindness.

He feels lousy after the cheat on his diet. But he uses the stationary bike until his glucose numbers look not-awful again. He does confess to Mindy, his wife, who’s kind about not making him feel worse for the occasional backslide. (Yes, the “backslide” happened before anything else could, but I’m aware I wouldn’t do much better.) And she’s happy to find diabetic-friendly meals in a good variety.

So, yeah, that’s been the story. Buck’s learned he has diabetes and his family is positive and supportive. It’s not been much of a conflict and it did feel like a lot of the story was Buck going back in to the Morgan Clinic. But, you know, what else should happen?

Next Week!

It’s the other comic strip you’d expect to address Covid-19! But isn’t doing so. Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp gets its innings, even though it’s not yet softball season, if all goes well.

In Which I’m Upset About Comic Strips, Yes, Again


I mean to be sympathetic and kind toward comic strip artists, and especially the ones who do puzzle comics for kids. It’s hard to put in a puzzle worth pondering, in so little space, and when you can’t be sure what your readers can do. So it’s just impossible to hit them all, all the time. But the big puzzle this Sunday in Slylock Fox? The dry-cleaning problem? With the alligator taking a couple of capes in? I have issues. And, just to show that I’m trying to be fair to the cartoonist I’ll put my complaints behind a cut.

The puzzle: 'Slylock Fox and Super Cluck dropped off identical-looking capes for cleaning. Slylock stepped in after solving a cyber crime and Super Cluck arrived after rescuing occupants from a burning building. The clerk accidentally mixed up the capes. How were the proper owners determined?' Solution: 'Super Cluck was recently in a burning building. The cape that smells of smoke belongs to him.' In the six differences panel there's a drawing of a man in the background; in one, he has a slight mustache and in the other he does not.
Bob weber Jr’s Slylock Fox and Comics for Kids for the 28th of February, 2021. Also I haven’t before noticed Super Cluck in the Slylock Fox universe and I’m happy to suppose this is a SuperChicken reference and appreciate that.

Continue reading “In Which I’m Upset About Comic Strips, Yes, Again”

60s Popeye: Egypt Us, a cartoon that needs a better name


Ugh, that title. I’m sorry. I was considering skipping this cartoon altogether. Besides the title, it’s also got a plot which depends on The Natives picking up a white woman as their priestess/human sacrifice. There’s bits suggesting the cartoon means to teach the audience that the premise is nonsense. It’s a weak case, though. If you decide you don’t need to deal with this in your recreational reading, you’re right, and we’ll catch back up later.

Pushing me toward giving this 1960 cartoon any attention is that it’s a Gerald Ray-produced short. The Popeye Wikia lists only ten Ray-produced cartoons, the fewest of the five studios roped in to the project. So I’m slower to throw it out, although I’m not sure that’s right.

Tom McDonald is listed as director. There’s no story credit. Here’s the cartoon, though.

What keeps me from skipping this cartoon altogether is attitude. Driving the plot is that a “tribe” of “Egyptians” kidnaps Olive Oyl with intentions of human sacrifice. They don’t seem to be taking the sacrifice all that seriously, though. The Leader, questioned by Popeye about why they’d sacrifice their own priestess, shrugs and answers “Doesn’t everybody?” This all fits in line with that era’s Cartoon Existentialism. Think of all the Flintstones animals who work as appliances because “It’s a living”. It takes some edge off if the characters seem to be going about it because they’ve got to do something, even if they know it’s ridiculous.

There’s a pleasant ridiculous air to the whole thing. Even the voice acting feels lighter and more playful than usual. Things like Popeye calling Olive Oyl “a venison of loverliness”. His mangling of loveliness would have been enough, but the whole line is better still. The cartoon starts with a nice underplayed joke that they’re in Egypt because they got lost driving to Coney Island. The car’s overheated; there’s a quick glance at the dashboard being silly and breaking down. Olive Oyl calls the Sphinx the funhouse; she puts on a bathing costume like you’d joke about for the 1890s. Wimpy finally nags everyone into letting him start making lunch; in seconds he puts together a hamburger stand.

Popeye is dragged, one person on each arm and leg, into the underground temple where Priestess Olive Oyl sits on an elevated throne, surrounded by worshippers.
Popeye has had lower-drama girlfriends, but this kind of mess is part of the appeal.

And, well, the “Egyptians”. They speak in “hieroglyphs” that I’m going ahead and assuming are fake. But they’re spoken in word balloons, as though this were a 1910s cartoon. After Popeye calls for subtitles, the “hieroglyphs” even translate to English. Popeye has always been a cartoon that breaks the fourth wall. Part of what makes the black-and-white cartoons so appealing is the sense that Popeye’s chatting with us about the artifice around him. Having a character’s word balloon be on-screen, and tangible, is an unusual sort of joke, though. There’s precedent, in the theatrical shorts where Martians kidnap Popeye, and he learns what’s going on from reading the subtitles for the audience. It’s still a kind of joke that works for Popeye and its rarely done.

In an 'Egyptian' temple the leader of the 'Natives' smugly declares, 'DOESN'T EVERYBODY?' in a squared-off word balloon. Popeye has his head turned away from the camera to read the word balloon.
I am thinking of pulling out this screenshot next time I’m in a conversation thread that just Will. Not. End. in the hopes of confusing everybody long enough to make my getaway.

The cartoon also has a plot tick that reliably entertains me. Popeye keeps running back from the “Egyptians” to remind Wimpy not to eat without them. It’s the plotting equivalent of a spinning-plates act. This isn’t many plates. Nothing like in Barbecue For Two, which had a nice stretch of Popeye trying to keep even with things. It’s enough, though. It lets the Olive Oyl plot advance without having to explain why anything is happening now. Popeye can just come back to find she’s over a fire pit or whatever. It also must have helped production that they didn’t have to show things happening. Popeye can ask what’s going on and it doesn’t seem out of place.

It’s the unusual cartoon to feature a full-body morph for Popeye too, as he turns into a bowling ball to knock down the “Egyptians”. It also features Popeye starting his rhyming couplet too “soon”, and Wimpy delivering the closing lines. Lot of fun stuff here. Shame about the embarrassing stuff.

Statistics Saturday: The Internet, by Volume


Large chunk: arguments that the Star Wars prequels are good, actually. Equally large chunk: arguments that no, no they are not. Small chunk: absolutely everything else
Not depicted: arguments that The Rise Of Skywalker, by returning to the menace of Emperor Palpatine and bunches upon bunches of Death Star cannons, is making a trenchant point that among the tragedies of authoritarianism is that it lacks creativity. That even in terror all it can truly do is make more of what has already been terrifying; all prospect for original life is strangled by the drive to control. Omitted because even people who like The Rise Of Skywalker don’t like it enough to argue for it.

Reference: Wotalife Comics #4, cover date Oct-Nov 1946, Fox Feature Syndicate, publisher.

60s Popeye: Messin’ Up The Mississippi (it’s in fact quite tidy)


Soundtrack recommendation: a little piece by Sparks.

Wow, feels like forever since I did a cartoon here. Messin’ Up The Mississippi is a 1961 Paramount Cartoon Studios-produced short. Story by Carl Meyer and Jack Mercer and directing by Seymour Kneitel, almost the team you’d expect if you just knew it was a Paramount cartoon.

I don’t know why this is set on a showboat. Like, what about this cartoon couldn’t be done at any theater in any town? The only joke here that would need to be rewritten is Brutus’s comeuppance, where he’s forced to run along the paddle wheel.

This isn’t to say the cartoon is wrong to set things on a showboat, or to set it in some generic Mississippi River town. It’s that Meyer and Mercer decided they wanted this set on a showboat for some reason, and that reason isn’t obvious in what came out. Did they discover in writing there weren’t any good story bits to do that involved the boat? Or at least weren’t bits that they had time for, once the essentials of the plot were out of the way? Or did they want nothing more than to give Mae Questel the chance to try a Southern accent?

On stage Brutus wears a caveman's skinned-hide outfit; he's holding his hand up and speaking confidently to Olive Oyl at the piano to play on.
How long has Brutus had that costume, and what was it acquired for?

The plot’s all good enough. It’s almost archetypical for a particular kind of Popeye cartoon. Popeye’s a performer, Olive Oyl the manager, and Brutus is the stagehand and janitor and ticket-taker and all. He’s jealous so figures to sabotage the act and take Popeye’s place. The sabotage works long enough for Brutus to run on-stage in his caveman skin. But Popeye’s finally aware that he wasn’t tossed greased bowling pins by mistake. So, he grabs some spinach and lifts Brutus who’s himself lifting a whole lot of weights. Even juggles them with his legs, which is quite the feat. There isn’t a fight after this, not really; we just go to Brutus tied up and trapped on the paddle wheel. This supports the idea they just ran out of time for the premise.

It’s all done with the general, steady competence you’d expect from Paramount. It had much of the feel of one of the theatrical shorts. It’s certainly in the vein of Tops in the Big Top, where Popeye and Olive Oyl are circus acrobats. In that one Bluto’s the ringmaster, and has only jealousy of Popeye’s relationship with Olive Oyl to motivate him. Here he’s motivated by a desire for celebrity. So it’s the unusual cartoon where Brutus isn’t interested in Olive Oyl. Just in being on stage.

MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Raccoon, Chapter XVII


I hope you’re all still enjoying this MiSTing of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Fatty Raccoon. If not, don’t worry, there’s only a couple more chapters and then I have no idea what I’m going to do.

This chapter stands on its own. But if you’d like to read what led to this point, all the chapters of this Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction are at this link. Enjoy.


> XVII

MIKE: I usually take a 2XVII but I’ve been feeling thin lately.

>
> FATTY FINDS THE MOON

TOM: Not *that* The Moon, mind you. A different The Moon.

>
> Wandering through the woods one day,

CROW: In the very merry month of … December.

> Fatty Raccoon’s bright eyes
> caught a strange gleam from something—something that shone and
> glittered out of the green.

MIKE: Oh yeah, it’s Gleam Squirrel season.

> Fatty wanted to see what it was,

TOM: Raccoon laser eyes on.

> though he
> hardly thought it was anything to eat.

TOM: Oh. Raccoon laser eyes off, then.

> But whenever he came upon
> something new he always wanted to examine it. So now Fatty hurried to
> see what the strange thing was.
>
> It was the oddest thing he had ever found—flat, round, and
> silvery;

CROW: Fatty discovers his first flying saucer.

> and it hung in the air, under a tree, just over Fatty’s head.

MIKE: A shower head?

TOM: Jeez, there’s got to be nicer ways to tell him to take a bath.

> Fatty Raccoon looked carefully at the bright thing. He walked all around
> it, so he could see it from all sides.

MIKE: So someone hung a half-dollar from a tree?

> And at last he thought he knew
> what it was. He made up his mind that it was the moon!

TOM: Oh, yeah, I can see where — *what*?

>
> He had often seen the moon up in the sky;

MIKE: Okay, yeah, sky, that checks out.

> and here it was,
> just the same size exactly,

CROW: *Exactly*?

TOM: I think Fatty’s one of those people who doesn’t believe you can see the moon during the day.

> hanging so low that he could have reached
> it with his paw.

MIKE: ‘Could have’. Big talk there, Fatty.

> He saw nothing strange in that; for he knew that the
> moon often touched the earth.

CROW: Fatty studied astronomy at an un-accredited college.

> Had he not seen it many a time, resting
> on the side of Blue Mountain?

TOM: Uh … all right, Counselor, I’ll let this continue but you’re on a short leash.

> One night he had asked his mother if he
> might go up on the mountain to play with the moon; but she had only
> laughed.

CROW: [ As Mrs Raccoon ] ‘The Moon is a cow place. We raccoons have Toronto.’

> And here, at last, was the moon come to him!

TOM: This is so awkward because The Moon’s meeting someone else there.

> Fatty was so
> excited that he ran home as fast as he could go, to tell his mother,
> and his brother Blackie, and Fluffy and Cutey, his sisters.

MIKE: And Jimmy Rabbit’s imaginary brother.

>
> "Oh! the moon! the moon!" Fatty shouted.

CROW: Tattoo’s catchphrase for _Fantasy Island: 1999_.

> He had run so fast
> that, being so plump, he was quite out of breath. And that was all he
> could say.

MIKE: He’s thinking of making Moon Pies and … Moon cakes …

>
> "Well, well! What about the moon!" Mrs. Raccoon asked.

TOM: Moon salad, Moon pudding …

CROW: Moon sausages? … I don’t know, this category’s stumped me.

> "Anybody
> would think you had found it, almost." And she smiled.

CROW: Is … is ‘you found the moon’ some 1915 slang or something?

MIKE: [ Shrugs ]

>
> Fatty puffed and gasped. And at last he caught his breath
> again.
>
> "Yes—I’ve found it! It’s over in the woods—just a little way
> from here!" he said.

TOM: And up a considerable bit!

> "Big, and round, and shiny!

CROW: Huh … well, that sounds like the Moon, sure.

> Let’s all go and
> bring it home!"

MIKE: Oh, I don’t know. You never play with that Ceres you brought home last year.

>
> "Well, well, well!" Mrs. Raccoon was puzzled. She had never heard
> of the moon being found in those woods;

TOM: Oh, now our woods aren’t good enough for the Moon?

> and she hardly knew what to
> think. "Are you sure?" she asked.

CROW: Have you checked it for any identifying Apollo landing sites?

>
> "Oh, yes, Mother!" Fatty could hardly wait, he was so eager to
> lead the way.

TOM: He’s going to be so embarrassed when he gets back and it’s just Pluto.

> And with many a shake of the head, Mrs. Raccoon, with her
> family, started off to see the moon.

MIKE: This reminds her of the time Fluffy brought home a Lesser Magellanic Cloud.

>
> "There!" Fatty cried, as they came in sight of the bright,
> round thing.

CROW: Oh, that’s not the Moon, that’s just Callisto.

> "There it is—just as I told you!" And they all set up a
> great shouting.

TOM: Finally a Raccoon Moon.

MIKE: Man in the Moon wearing in eye mask.

>
> All but Mrs. Raccoon. She wasn’t quite sure, even yet, that Fatty
> had really found the moon.

CROW: If this is the Moon why does it have a sticker saying Made In Queens?

> And she walked close to the shining thing
> and peered at it. But not too close!

MIKE: Screen falling off the door, door hanging off the hinges …

> Mrs. Raccoon didn’t go too near it.
> And she told her children quite sternly to stand back.

TOM: Don’t want you to get scrooched by mistake.

> It was well
> that she did; for when Mrs. Raccoon took her eyes off Fatty’s moon and
> looked at the ground beneath it—well!

CROW: Wait, that’s no moon …

> she jumped back so quickly that
> she knocked two of her children flat on the ground.

CROW: It’s a space station!

>
> A trap!

CROW: It’s a trap?!

MIKE: Subverted expectations.

> THAT was what Mrs. Raccoon saw right in front of her.

TOM: Sharp eyes on Mrs Raccoon.

MIKE: She learned from that time she tried to bring home Saturn’s rings.

> And
> Farmer Green, or his boy, or whoever it was that set the trap,

CROW: Like there’s another person in the story?

MIKE: [ Shaking his fist ] Jasper Jay!

> had
> hung that bright piece of TIN over the trap hoping that one of her
> family would see it and play with it—and fall into the trap.

TOM: The trap of carrying your old-timey tintype photograph around the amusement park all day.

> Yes—it
> was a mercy that Fatty hadn’t begun knocking it about. For if he had
> he would have stepped right into the trap and it would have shut—SNAP!

CROW: Jeez, who tries to trap a perfectly innocent Moon?

> Just like that. And there he would have been, caught fast.

TOM: All right he’d be trapped, sure, but he’d have a Moon, too.

>
> It was no wonder that Mrs. Raccoon hurried her family away from
> that spot.

CROW: What can I say? This house is falling apart.

> And Fatty led them all home again. He couldn’t get away
> from his moon fast enough.

MIKE: Leaving the trap as a little surprise for Brownie Beaver there.

>
>

[ To continue … ]

Longtime Phantom writer who’s not Tony DePaul retiring


Once again reading The Daily Cartoonist gives me news about a writer planning to leave The Phantom. In this case it’s Claes Reimerthi, who’s been writing for the character since 1984.

His work — three hundred stories, which appears to give him more stories than anyone but Lee Falk himself — has been almost all for Team Fantomen, the Scandinavian-produced comic book. It’s a side of The Phantom that I know almost nothing about. I’m aware that ideas flow between the continuities. Writers too: Reimerthi did some work for the comic strip (apparently stories adapted from the Team Fantomen line) after Lee Falk’s death. And I learn that Tony DePaul wrote for Team Fantomen before taking up the newspaper strip. I don’t know what concepts Reimerthi might have done that’s been adopted into the newspaper continuity. But I do see that Comics Kingdom’s archive reaches back far enough that it includes about half of The Halloween Kidnappers, the first of his stories for the newspaper comic. So it’s available for subscribers or, if I ever feel a strong need to do even more plot recaps, for me.

It’s always a delight learning about new aspects of something I think I know tolerably well. This does make me aware of The Chronicle Chamber, an impressive-looking Phantom blog. Also that it’s got a podcast about The Phantom, one that’s run since 2013 and has got up to 182 episodes as I write this. I hardly feel qualified to listen to such a thing.

And, again, I’ll post news I get about The Phantom at this link, along with plot recaps. At my current schedule I should get to the weekday continuity in six weeks, and the Sunday continuity again in twelve weeks.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? Why is The Phantom talking about Emperor Joonkar so much? November 2020 – February 2021


The Phantom is using this story as a chance to reinforce the legend of his immortality. He’s using what he learned from The Phantom Chronicles to talk as though he were friends with an historical ruler of Bangalla.

This should catch you up on the Sunday continuity for Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for late February 2021. If you’re reading this after May 2021, or are interested in the weekday continuity, you may find an essay here more relevant. Not to be too much of a tease, but I may just have something to mention shortly. Also, over on my mathematics blog I write about things that aren’t comic strips. Most of the time. I do the occasional comic strip there, too.

The Phantom (Sundays).

29 November 2020 – 21 February 2021.

The Ghost Who Walks had rescued The Detective, a Bangallan police officer thought dead at the hands of a criminal syndicate. The Phantom sees this as a chance to bust up some gunrunners, sure. But also a chance to build his reputation. So he leans in, talking a great deal about The Detective’s many-times-great ancestor, the late 17th century Emperor Joonkar. And a friend of the 7th Phantom. Meanwhile, he prods The Detective into busting up the gang as it arrives at a warehouse.

Phantom and The Detective look at a minivan with 'Thugs Fated To Fall Next.' Phantom, whispering: 'Take out the driver. Leave his friend to me.' Detective, whispering: 'Hold on! My Bibi says you saved Joonkar from slavery. Tell me how!' Detective, thinking: 'This is the test! He won't know how Bibi tells the tale! That Joonkar was enslaved at sea, that he was made a gallery slave!' Phantom, moving in: 'We're wasting time; let's get to work.' Detective: 'I knew it! You're just a man! You haven't fought evil for centuries!' Phantom, with Detective's help, punches the thugs unconscious. Phantom, full voice: 'I hope your Bibi tells this one how it really happened. Your ancestor Joonkar was sold into bondage as a galley slave.' Detective: '!!'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 6th of December, 2020. DePaul has used this story to tease at some inconsistencies in how the story of 7th Phantom encountered Emperor Joonkar has been told. That brings in a brilliant element of how much even what we-the-readers-see is legend based on what the “actual” events were. Like, did Lee Falk himself, transcribing from The Phantom Chronicles, make a mistake or alter things for dramatic effect? Still, the Ghost Who Walks is lucky the story passed through The Detective’s line didn’t mutate in a way inconsistent with what the Chronicles had.

The gang is, lucky for The Phantom and The Detective, coming in groups small enough for two guys and a wolf to knock out. And yeah, The Detective. It’s another story where people get addressed by title. When they get to the boss level, they’re able to just drive a truck into the warehouse and hold the bosses at gunpoint.

And, as a bonus, to give The Detective the chance to hit the bosses a lot. This is extrajudicial and all, yes. But they are the people who had The Detective locked in a cell below the water line, which so nearly drowned him. It can be called karmic justice, at least.

Phantom, as he and The Detective move in for the bosses, thinks 'Something tells me this round won't last long.' While fighting, Detective thinks: 'This man! Phantom! Ghost who walks! He set things right! These cowards used me for a punching bag ... dumped me in a hole in the ground ... left me for dead ... then comes a man straight out of jungle lore! A champion!' (They finish clobbering the bosses.) Detective, thinking: 'Has he really been fighting men like these for 500 years!?' Phantom, aloud: 'Well done.'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 7th of February, 2021. A big part of this story has been The Phantom playing up the illusion of his immortality. And he’s done a great job playing it up so The Detective would plausibly believe he’s encountered the legendary defender of Bangalla. The Detective’s scrupulous in not mentioning The Phantom or hinting at him in his reports, though. So I’m not sure how this is supposed to burnish The Phantom’s legend. I suppose either The Detective is expected to mention it informally, with friends and family. Or The Phantom figures it’s worth making sure some individuals believe really, really strongly. Then his legend can take care of itself.

So, with the whole criminal syndicate recovering from being punched, The Detective calls in the Mawitaan police. And explains to them how he’s not dead! And how he punched unconscious a whole crime syndicate! And did not need the help of an immortal spirit-protector summoned to his aid by his worried grandmother! Because The Phantom finally learned the name of The Detective — Yusuf Ali Malango, badge 941 — and vanished.

This past Sunday strip did not promise a new adventure next week. I imagine there may be a coda with The Detective’s Grandmother. We last saw her in August, waiting by the giant Phantom head that Emperor Joonkar had people carve into a mountain. After that, though, I expect the 191st Sunday story to begin. We’ll see, though.

Next Week!

I get to one of the two story comics that are addressing the pandemic at all. It’s Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D., here in a week, if all goes well.

In Which I Learn There’s A Sequel


So I was talking with a friend about how we don’t really remember anything ever happening in Jules Verne’s classic From The Earth To The Moon. So I checked Wikipedia and learned no, they just get going to the moon at the end of the book. It’s in the sequel, Around The Moon, that they go around the Moon. And this made me learn that twenty years after that, Verne wrote another sequel, The Purchase of the North Pole or Topsy Turvy depending on which sentence you’re reading in Wikipedia at that moment. And the plot’s just got me all giddy with delight but I’ll put it behind a cut in case you don’t want spoilers.

Continue reading “In Which I Learn There’s A Sequel”

60s Popeye: Hag-Way Robbery, and the mystery of how you kidnap a Jeep


There’s no story credit for the 1960 William L Snyder-produced Hag-Way Robbery. I regret this. It is directed by Gene Deitch, and made by his team of Czechoslovakian animators. You all know I like Gene Deitch cartoons. They have a weirdness that I enjoy, starting with how the opening credits fanfare begins early and so Popeye’s pipe-tooting sounds like it comes in late. Let’s see what happens after the credits.

Eugene the Jeep is kidnapped! And it’s the Sea Hag who did it! Popeye has pulled together his trusted regular cast and sails to rescue him! It’s a bold opening, one signalled by rousing music and the camera panning in on his ship moving at an angle.

Olive Oyl, hands clasped together and eyes closed in joy, looking at a room stocked floor to ceiling with cans of olives.
Um … sure, this is a thing that motivates Olive Oyl!

Popeye’s assembled a crew of Olive Oyl, Wimpy, and Swee’Pea because who else are you going to call on? I mean and not seem like you’re being a Popeye Hipster. (Toar, Professor Wotasnozzle, Alice the Goon, and maybe the sheriff from this one story in 1930 would be my selection, though.) He’s stocked up with plenty of canned spinach, canned hamburgers, canned baby food, and … canned olives. I think this is the first and last we’ve ever heard of Olive Oyl caring about olives, but she has to eat something for the gimmick to work. It seems odd to establish these supplies, but the cartoon knows what it’s doing. These are important to the plot.

The Sea Hag’s plot, anyway. From her shark submarine — where Eugene looks adorably cross in his cage — she pipes in a tube to steal all Popeye’s spinach. And to spray in labels so that everything else pretends to be canned spinach. You may ask how she can spray in labels that all land perfectly on their targeted cans. Sea Hag’s magic, you have to give her that. With Popeye unknowingly disarmed she shoots torpedoes, and he goes belowdecks for a can of spinach and finds nothing. He sees no choice but to try everything else. Meanwhile Wimpy, Olive Oyl, and Swee’Pea eat a lot.

The Sea Hag cackles as she connects a cylinder vacuum cleaner to the periscope of her submarine. Eugene the Jeep, caged, looks on angrily.
The Sea Hag woke up this morning figuring that her day would go something like this.

It’s all strongly paced, with the story just not pausing. It’s a good reminder that limited animation does not mean it has to be slow or even dull to look at. Deitch follows Jay Ward’s rule that even if you can’t animate smoothly, you can at least have all the pictures be funny along the way. The strong pace also keeps questions of story logic from cropping up. Like, why doesn’t Popeye have a can of spinach in his shirt like he always does? Or, more importantly, how do you kidnap a Jeep, who can just disappear and reappear anywhere he wants? As, indeed, Eugene does, when Popeye gets to the final can and it’s canned orchids, the Jeep’s particular food. Also, where did the canned orchids come from?

Eugene we can answer at least. He’s a magical being, closer to the fae folk than you see in your average comic strip or cartoon. He’s content to go along with personal inconvenience if it promises some interesting mischief.

Eugene the Jeep sniffs at an opened can labelled spinach and that actually contained orchids. Popeye, desperate, on his knees, throws his arms out in frustration, apparently yelling at the Jeep.
I didn’t mention explicitly but there are a lot of funny expressions and poses this cartoon. Most of them for good effect, like making Popeye look the more desperate as he searches for spinach. Some for arbitrary effect; like, there’s a joke early on (about 18:23) where Popeye tells Wimpy to “keeps a sharp eye out for a ugly dame”, the Sea Hag. Olive Oyl steps in, asking, “did you call me, Popeye?” And he and Wimpy act all abashed, as though they were saying anything about Olive Oyl, let alone anything derogatory about her. It’s like the compulsion to fit a joke in overrode the logic that Popeye hasn’t got anything to be embarrassed about here.

But there’s little time to consider the rest. Sea Hag, low on fuel, tosses Popeye’s spinach into the boilers. The smell is “the next best thing to eating spinach”, and Popeye gets his power-up. One might complain about the logic; I’d ask, is that really less plausible than the time he ate his spinach after being disintegrated? Anyway, Popeye won’t hit the Sea Hag, but he will maroon her, on a beautiful island where the can learn to be good.

So, I like this. A lot. It’s energetic, it’s silly. Sea Hag’s got a pretty good plan. There’s bits of plot that don’t make sense and I don’t care about rationalizing them, which shows how well they did entertaining me.

60s Popeye: The Medicine Man, not a musical-romance, sorry


We’re back at Paramount again today. The story’s from Carl Meyer and Jack Mercer and direction by Seymour Kneitel. Here’s the 1961 short The Medicine Man.

Popeye and Olive Oyl sell a “Spinach Health Juice” this cartoon. They do it in the form of the patent medicine show. At least the pop-culture version of the patent medicine show. It’s an interesting choice since, like, was anyone bothering with this sort of show after it became possible to buy radio time instead? But it’s presented as though the audience knows this kind of thing happens all the time.

Something else interesting in the choice. By doing their patent-medicine show they attract the attention, and ire, of Brutus, who’s got his quack doctor business in town. Never mind that it’s odd Popeye and Olive Oyl would be selling a fraud. It’s a spinach potion, so it works. No; it’s that Popeye and Olive Oyl are the ones disrupting the equilibrium. And not from a motive of foiling Brutus’s deviousness. All they’re doing is looking out for themselves.

After that nice, morally ambiguous start, the cartoon settles into more normal things. Brutus sabotages the show, giving Popeye an unstoppable hiccough. If you have unstoppable hiccoughs in a cartoon like this, the cartoon becomes about stopping them. Brutus’s first attempt: jumping beans, of course. Next: dive bombing a plane. It’s not the escalation I’d have expected, and Brutus does complain how it’s a “perfectly good plane gone to waste”. Then have Popeye breathe from a paper bag full of pepper. This gives him hiccoughs and sneezes, an escalation of silly noises. Then a sleeping pill makes Popeye start snoring, for a good silly rhythm. Anyway, some violence, spinach juice, more punching, Brutus flees the scene.

Olive Oyl watching over a poor, sickly Popeye. In the foreground Brutus as a doctor pours sneezing powder into a paper bag.
Also, hey, a cartoon where the action doesn’t all take place in the same plane. That’s always nice to see.

Popeye closes with a couplet, this one promising an apple a day keeps the doctor away. It suggests the writers forgot Popeye and Olive Oyl started out selling patent medicines.

I can’t fault the cartoon for going in the unstoppable-hiccoughs direction. It’s a venerable and funny enough physical problem to have. Jack Mercer’s rhythm in hiccoughing, sneezing, and snoring is funny. But I’m more interested in Popeye and Olive Oyl being the instigators of trouble. It’s an unusual role for them and the story shift means that’s irrelevant. Also more could be done with the Spinach Health Juice since it is a thing that works in-universe. I know that’s possible since the 1932 Betty Boop, M.D. has her selling a potion that does work. (In that cartoon, the potion is just water, but it works anyway. A warning about that cartoon, if you decide to watch: Betty Boop’s potion has a name that’s based on a slur. The cartoon might also inspire feelings of body horror.) As with the plane, it’s a waste of a perfectly good premise.

MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Raccoon, Chapter XVI


For this week I bring you chapter 16 of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of Fatty Raccoon. This and all previous chapters of this into Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction are at this link. If that seems like a lot to read to get up to speed here, yeah, and don’t worry. The chapter explains itself pretty well. But it does reference Chapter 13, when Jimmy Rabbit and, he claims, his brother played a prank on Fatty.


> XVI

TOM: Everyone who used to be a Vi, stand up.

>
> FATTY RACCOON PLAYS ROBBER

CROW: Stealing Farmer Green’s cornfield, as a bit.

>
> After Fatty Raccoon played barber-shop with Jimmy Rabbit and his
> brother it was a long time before he met them again.

CROW: So Jimmy Rabbit’s brother is a figment of his imagination, right? That’s why he doesn’t have a name?

> But one day Fatty
> was wandering through the woods when he caught sight of Jimmy. Jimmy
> dodged behind a tree.

TOM: Gee, why?

> And Fatty saw Jimmy’s brother peep from behind
> another.

MIKE: One more peep and we turn this forest around and go home.

> You see, his ears were so long that they stuck far beyond the
> tree,

CROW: Whoops!

MIKE: Be fair, now, why would a rabbit learn how to hide?

> and Fatty couldn’t help seeing them.
>
> "Hello!" Fatty called. "I’m glad to see you."

TOM: Mwuh-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaa!

> And he told the
> truth, too. He had been trying to find those two brothers for weeks,
> because he wanted to get even with them for cutting off his moustache.

CROW: And hiding his fez and penny-farthing bicycle.

> Jimmy and his brother hopped out from behind their trees.
>
> "Hello!" said Jimmy. "We were just looking for you." Probably
> he meant to say, "We were just looking AT you."

TOM: [ As Fatty ] Well, I was looking *through* you.

CROW: [ As Jimmy’s brother ] But you’re not there.

TOM: [ As Fatty ] Like you even exist!

> He was somewhat upset
> by meeting Fatty; for he knew that Fatty was angry with him.
>
> "Oh, ho! You were, were you?" Fatty answered. He began to
> slide down the tree he had been climbing.

MIKE: [ Sings the Batman 66 transition theme, slowly ]

>
> Jimmy Rabbit and his brother edged a little further away.

CROW: [ As Jimmy ] Have to … go … wax a … squirrel?

>
> "Better not come too near us!" he said. "We’ve both got the
> pink-eye, and you don’t want to catch it."

TOM: Why, a pink-eyed raccoon would be adorable!

MIKE: Or haunt your nightmares.

>
> Fatty paused and looked at the brothers.

MIKE: [ Making air quotes ] ‘Brothers’.

> Sure enough! their
> eyes were as pink as anything.
>
> "Does it hurt much?" Fatty asked.

CROW: Only when we look at stuff.

>
> "Well—it does and it doesn’t," Jimmy replied.

MIKE: [ As Jimmy ] Like, my brother? Nothing bothers him, because he’s made of nothing! Neat how that works, right?

> "I just stuck a
> brier into one of my eyes a few minutes ago and it hurt awful, then.
> But you’ll be perfectly safe, so long as you don’t touch us."

TOM: And you don’t jab a brier into your eyes. Sheesh.

>
> "How long does it last?" Fatty inquired.

MIKE: How long do you hold a grudge?

>
> "Probably we’ll never get over it," Jimmy Rabbit said
> cheerfully. And his brother nodded his head, as much as to say,
> "That’s so!"

CROW: Cut that out! You don’t get to support your brother if you don’t exist!

>
> Fatty Raccoon was just the least bit alarmed. He really thought
> that there was something the matter with their eyes.

TOM: Oh, they just need reading glasses. It’s nothing.

> You see, though
> the Rabbit brothers’ eyes were always pink (for they were born that
> way), he had never noticed it before.

MIKE: Also raccoons are maybe colorblind? Who knows?

> So Fatty thought it would be
> safer not to go too near them.

CROW: Fatty is the most bluffable raccoon out there.

TOM: He’s used to just chewing his way through life.

>
> "Well, it’s too bad," he told Jimmy. "I’m sorry. I wanted to
> play with you."

MIKE: [ As Jimmy ] Oh yeah? What game?

TOM: [ As Fatty ] Well, it’s 1915, so the only games are tiddlywinks, whacking each other with rolled-up newspapers, and baseball.

>
> "Oh, that’s all right!" Jimmy said.

CROW: Hey, there’s stuffing ferrets down your trousers, that’s something.

MIKE: Crow! They’re *children*!

> "We can play, just the
> same. I’ll tell you what we’ll play. We’ll play—"

TOM: PLINKO! For a chance to win up to FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS!
[ MIKE, CROW cheer ]

>
> "Not barber-shop!" Fatty interrupted. "I won’t play
> barber-shop, I never liked that game."

MIKE: Even though I started playing it with my brother right away.

>
> Jimmy Rabbit started to smile. But he turned his smile into a
> sneeze.

CROW: Awwwww, bunny sneezes, too adorable!

> And he said—

MIKE: Yes yes, go on?

>
> "We’ll play robber.

TOM: [ As Fatty ] Robert?

MIKE: [ As Jimmy ] Robber.

> You’ll like that, I know.

TOM: [ As Fatty ] But how do you play Robert?

MIKE: [ As Jimmy ] It’s Robber. You play a robber.

> And you can be
> the robber. You look like one, anyhow."

TOM: [ As Fatty ] How can I look like a ‘Robert’? Anyone could look like a ‘Robert’, there’s like four kinds of Robert out there.

MIKE: [ As Jimmy ] I … you know what? Yes.

>
> That remark made Fatty Raccoon angry.

TOM: ‘You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry … heck, our author doesn’t like me at all!’

> And he wished that Jimmy
> hadn’t the pink-eye. He would have liked to make an end of him right
> then and there.

CROW: You know what Fatty could use? A peer group.

>
> "What do you mean?" he shouted. "Robber nothing! I’m just as
> good as you are!"

TOM: Really curious how this scene plays out in _The Tale of Jimmy Rabbit_.

>
> "Of course, of course!" Jimmy said hastily. "It’s your face,
> you know, That black patch covers your eyes just like a robber’s mask.

MIKE: [ As Fatty ] Oh! I thought you were talking about this giant bag with a dollar sign on it.

> That’s why we want you to be the robber."
>
> Fatty had slipped down his tree to the ground; and now he
> looked down into the creek.

CROW: Right next to the mirror department of the forest.

> It was just as Jimmy said. Fatty had never
> thought of it before,

MIKE: But how *do* you tell a cabbage from a lettuce?

> but the black patch of short fur across the
> upper part of his face made him look exactly like a robber.

CROW: Fatty had gone his entire raccoon life without considering human melodrama stage conventions for marking someone a robber.

>
> "Come on!" said Jimmy. "We can’t play the game without you."

TOM: We can’t ditch you without you coming along!

>
> "Well—all right!" said Fatty. He began to feel proud of his
> mask. "What shall I do?"

TOM: Well, first, rob something.

CROW: *Robert* something.

>
> "You wait right here," Jimmy ordered. "Hide behind that tree.

MIKE: … Bob’s your uncle …

> We’ll go into the woods. And when we come back past this spot you jump
> out and say ‘Hands up!’ … You understand?"

CROW: [ As Fatty ] OK, so, the Robert I’m playing, is he motivated by avarice or desperate need?

TOM: [ As Jimmy ] Buh?

>
> "Of course!" said Fatty. "But hurry up! Don’t be gone long."

CROW: [ As Fatty ] It affects how intense the Roberting is! What directions it might go. So I’m imagining my Robert as someone who turned to crime after losing his savings in the collapse of the Knickerbocker Trust Company.

TOM: [ As Jimmy ] Uh … sure?

>
> "Leave that to us," said Jimmy Rabbit. He winked at his
> brother; and they started off together.

CROW: [ As Fatty ] Oh, I know, you pretend to have documents relating to the United Copper Company, that’ll really make this scene crackle!

>
> Fatty Raccoon did not see that wink.

MIKE: And with that, his life changed forever.

> If he had, he wouldn’t have
> waited there all the afternoon for those Rabbit brothers to return.
> They never came back at all.

CROW: Be cunning and full of tricks! Also have the author hate Fatty, that’ll carry you far.

> And they told everybody about the trick
> they had played on Fatty Raccoon.

TOM: ‘We told him we were gonna play with him, and then we didn’t! What a loser!’

> For a long time after that wherever
> Fatty went the forest-people called "Robber!" after him.

MIKE: Well, this has been a merry descent back into middle school.

> And Jasper
> Jay was the most annoying of all, because whenever he shouted
> "Robber!" he always laughed so loudly and so long.

TOM: You suppose Jay is the bird we’re supposed to try to be naked as?

> His hoarse screech
> echoed through the woods. And the worst of it was, everybody knew what
> he was laughing at.

CROW: This chapter’s making me understand why Fatty wants to eat everybody he knows.

>
>

[ To be continued … ]

Mr Dooley on ‘Keeping Lent’


A post by Mike Peterson at The Daily Cartoonist made me aware of this piece by Finley Peter Dunne, part of his Mister Dooley series. So here’s a bit from the 1899 collection Mr Dooley in the Hearts of his Countrymen.


Mr Dooley: Keeping Lent.

Finley Peter Dunne

Mr McKenna had observed Mr Dooley in the act of spinning a long, thin spoon in a compound which reeked pleasantly and smelt of the humming water of commerce; and he laughed and mocked at the philosopher.

“Ah-ha,” he said, “that’s th’ way you keep Lent, is it? Two weeks from Ash Wednesday, and you tanking up.”

Mr Dooley went on deliberately to finish the experiment, leisurely dusting the surface with nutmeg and tasting the product before setting down the glass daintily. Then he folded his apron, and lay back in ample luxury while he began: “Jawn, th’ holy season iv Lent was sent to us f’r to teach us th’ weakness iv th’ human flesh. Man proposes, an’ th’ Lord disposes, as Hinnissy says.

“I mind as well as though it was yesterday th’ struggle iv me father f’r to keep Lent. He began to talk it a month befure th’ time. ‘On Ash Winsdah,’ he’d say, ‘I’ll go in f’r a rale season iv fast an’ abstinince,’ he’d say. An’ sure enough, whin Ash Winsdah come round at midnight, he’d take a long dhraw at his pipe an’ knock th’ ashes out slowly again his heel, an’ thin put th’ dhudeen up behind th’ clock. ‘There,’ says he, ‘there ye stay till Easter morn,’ he says. Ash Winsdah he talked iv nawthin but th’ pipe. ”Tis exthraordinney how easy it is f’r to lave off,’ he says. ‘All ye need is will power,’ he says. ‘I dinnaw that I’ll iver put a pipe in me mouth again. ‘Tis a bad habit, smokin’ is,’ he says; ‘an’ it costs money. A man’s betther off without it. I find I dig twict as well,’ he says; ‘an’, as f’r cuttin’ turf, they’se not me like in th’ parish since I left off th’ pipe,’ he says.

“Well, th’ nex’ day an’ th’ nex’ day he talked th’ same way; but Fridah he was sour, an’ looked up at th’ clock where th’ pipe was. Saturdah me mother, thinkin’ to be plazin to him, says: ‘Terrence,’ she says, ‘ye’re iver so much betther without th’ tobacco,’ she says. ‘I’m glad to find you don’t need it. Ye’ll save money,’ she says. ‘Be quite, woman,’ says he. ‘Dear, oh dear,’ he says, ‘I’d like a pull at th’ clay,’ he says. ‘Whin Easter comes, plaze Gawd, I’ll smoke mesilf black an’ blue in th’ face,’ he says.

“That was th’ beginnin’ iv th’ downfall. Choosdah he was settin’ in front iv th’ fire with a pipe in his mouth. ‘Why, Terrence,’ says me mother, ‘ye’re smokin’ again.’ ‘I’m not,’ says he: ”tis a dhry smoke,’ he says; ”tisn’t lighted,’ he says. Wan week afther th’ swear-off he came fr’m th’ field with th’ pipe in his face, an’ him puffin’ away like a chimney. ‘Terrence,’ says me mother, ‘it isn’t Easter morn.’ ‘Ah-ho,’ says he, ‘I know it,’ he says; ‘but,’ he says, ‘what th’ divvle do I care?’ he says. ‘I wanted f’r to find out whether it had th’ masthery over me; an’,’ he says, ‘I’ve proved that it hasn’t,’ he says. ‘But what’s th’ good iv swearin’ off, if ye don’t break it?’ he says. ‘An’ annyhow,’ he says, ‘I glory in me shame.’

“Now, Jawn,” Mr Dooley went on, “I’ve got what Hogan calls a theery, an’ it’s this: that what’s thrue iv wan man’s thrue iv all men. I’m me father’s son a’most to th’ hour an’ day. Put me in th’ County Roscommon forty year ago, an’ I’d done what he’d done. Put him on th’ Ar-rchey Road, an’ he’d be deliverin’ ye a lecture on th’ sin iv thinkin’ ye’re able to overcome th’ pride iv th’ flesh, as Father Kelly says. Two weeks ago I looked with contimpt on Hinnissy f’r an’ because he’d not even promise to fast an’ obstain fr’m croquet durin’ Lent. To-night you see me mixin’ me toddy without th’ shadow iv remorse about me. I’m proud iv it. An’ why not? I was histin’ in me first wan whin th’ soggarth come down fr’m a sick call, an’ looked in at me. ‘In Lent?’ he says, half-laughin’ out in thim quare eyes iv his. ‘Yes,’ said I. ‘Well,’ he says, ‘I’m not authorized to say this be th’ propaganda,’ he says, ‘an’ ’tis no part iv th’ directions f’r Lent,’ he says; ‘but,’ he says, ‘I’ll tell ye this, Martin,’ he says, ‘that they’se more ways than wan iv keepin’ th’ season,’ he says. ‘I’ve knowed thim that starved th’ stomach to feast th’ evil temper,’ he says. ‘They’se a little priest down be th’ Ninth Ward that niver was known to keep a fast day; but Lent or Christmas tide, day in an’ day out, he goes to th’ hospital where they put th’ people that has th’ small-pox. Starvation don’t always mean salvation. If it did,’ he says, ‘they’d have to insure th’ pavemint in wan place, an’ they’d be money to burn in another. Not,’ he says, ‘that I want ye to undherstand that I look kindly on th’ sin iv’—

“”Tis a cold night out,’ says I.

“‘Well,’ he says, th’ dear man, ‘ye may. On’y,’ he says, ”tis Lent.’

“‘Yes,’ says I.

“‘Well, thin,’ he says, ‘by ye’er lave I’ll take but half a lump iv sugar in mine,’ he says.”

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? What happened for Skeezix’s centennial? November 2020 – February 2021


So … uh … nothing. The 14th of February, 1921, was the day that Gasoline Alley turned into a comic strip anyone but a specialist would have heard of. It’s when Walt Wallet found an abandoned infant on the doorstep. The child was soon named Allison (Get it? Alley-Son), but everyone’s called him Skeezix. It was a milestone for the comic, and for comics. It pioneered the comic strip where characters grow up in something like real time.

The comic strip’s long acknowledged this big deal, as it should. And this year, for the 100th anniversary of the moment there was … a pleasant enough Valentine’s Day card and acknowledgement of Skeezik’s 100th birthday (observed). And that’s all, to my shock. I had expected this to be feted. I imagined at least another visit to the Old Comics Home. I have no explanation for why this wasn’t a bigger deal. Over at The Daily Cartoonist, D D Degg has similar thoughts, plus a good number of historic Gasoline Alley strips observing the day. This including Skeezix’s first appearance.

So this essay should catch you up to mid-February 2021 in Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley. If you’re reading this after about May 2021, or if any news on the strip breaks, I’ll have an essay here may be of more use to you.

Gasoline Alley.

8 November 2020 – 14 February 2021.

When I last looked in, Slim Wallet had finished running a Halloween haunted house successfully, only to hear noises downstairs. It was his mother Lil, and his cousin Chubby. It’s an unwelcome-houseguests story, the kind where a vague relative visits. The kind where they have heavy trunks and don’t move them upstairs.

Slim, looking at a turkey: 'Mother! How did you manage to get this huge gobbler?' Mother: 'Easy! I shot dice with the butcher and ... ' Chubby: 'She won!' Slim: 'Honestly?' Mother, with her fingers crossed behind her back: 'uh ... honestly, I won!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 25th of November, 2020. Still, they did think to get a turkey for everyone for Thanksgiving, so it’s not like they’re impossible houseguests.

Despite their help with thanksgiving, Clovia’s quite stressed having them around. Slim’s not too thrilled by them either. So in the tradition of old-time-radio and old-fashioned TV sitcoms, they hatch a Scheme. They’ll use the haunted house props to make Lil and Chubby think the place is haunted. To work! Lil’s makeup kit is out of place. The clocks are set wrong. A weird figure appears before them. This convinces Lil and Chubby, who flee. Clovia’s proud of her husband’s haunting. Slim’s baffled because he hadn’t even started haunting yet. But how could that happen?

Clovia: 'Slim! Lil and Chubby ran out of here like they'd seen a ghost! If you didn't scare them off, who did?' Ghosts behind Clovia, unheard: 'We did! We messed with the clocks again ... ' Clovia: 'Brr! A cold feeling just came over me and ... did you hear a voice?' Slim: 'Cut it out, Clovia! You're scaring *me*!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 7th of December, 2020. You’d think Slim and Clovia would be used to it with this sort of thing happening to them all the time. Well, if we were good at noticing the patterns in our own lives we’d all have lives with different problems.


So that wraps up the story, on the 8th of December. The 9th of December started the next, again centered on Slim and Clovia, so there’s little transition needed. Bleck’s Department Store asking Slim if he can play Santa again this year. Trouble is in washing it. The dryer doesn’t work.

Clovia: 'Wake up, Slim! The electrician's here!' Slim: 'Grok! Umph! Huh?' Slim, rousing himself: 'You were due yesterday! What took you so yawn, er ... long?' Frank Nelson: 'Oooh! It's a long way from the north Pole to here by reindeer!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 17th of December, 2020. The story had a lot of the Frank Nelson character. I understand some of that, since he’s a fun person to write and probably the Jack Benny Program regular most easily plucked out of that context. Having him in two key roles seems like maybe too much, though.

The dryer repair person says the dryer is fine. Dire news from the electrician: he’s the Frank Nelson character. He figures the dryer needs a new power cord. Fixing that doesn’t help. His next diagnosis is the circuit breaker. Now the dryer works … once. They yield to the inevitable and go shopping for a new dryer. The dryer salesman is Frank Nelson again.

This leads to a couple weeks of delivery attempts by Sidney and Lew. They feel like a reference to me. I can’t figure out who, though. There’ve been a lot of delivery-team scenes in the past. In the first delivery attempt, Slim’s fallen asleep and can’t hear them. On the second attempt, Slim and Clovia are awake. But they notice a dent on the back of the dryer, and touch-up paint on the front. I’m not clear where the damage came from. Frank Nelson offers them a $150 discount to take the dryer, but Clovia suspects it’s not a new dryer. She’s convinced by the promise of a discount, though, and Sidney and Lew are happy to leave. And the new dryer doesn’t work.

Sidney, trying to hold the dryer up against the front steps: 'Ring the door bell, Lew! [ Ungh! Oof! ] I can't hold this elephant forever!' Lew: 'Hush, Sidney!' [ He rings the bell. ] Sidney: 'Nobody's home! Let's leave it on the steps!' Lew: 'How many times to I have to tell you to hush, Sidney?' Sidney: 'Two thousand, two hundred, and twenty-two times!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 18th of January, 2021. You see what I mean about this feeling like a reference, though? I’d expect if Sidney and Lew were screen characters that there’d be, you know, one tall skinny guy and one short fat guy. They’re almost identical, which evokes a Heckle-and-Jeckle or Mac-and-Tosh pairing. Or maybe this is just Scancarelli making up something that feels like a callback. He’s got the talent to do that.

So if you like this mode of American Cornball plotting? (I do, by the way.) You likely enjoyed Scancarelli’s skill respecting the styles and conventions of the genre. If you don’t like this, the story was like chewing tin foil. You know, these are the sorts of stories he wants to tell.

Sidney and Lew return, to take out the broken one and return a new one. And that seems to work, and to end the story, with the 6th of February.


Last Monday the current story began. It features Gertie, Walt Wallet’s live-in caretaker. At the supermarket she encounters someone in distress. She’s lost her glasses, and crying. Gertie volunteers to help. I don’t know where this might lead.

Next Week!

It’s Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity. How does the Ghost Who Walks help a Bangallan detective return from the dead? We’ll see, or we’ve already seen. All I do is recap what anyone could read. See you then, unless something urgent comes up.