What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? What’s this about Coach Thorp telling a kid to get an abortion? July – September 2022


Neal Rubin stepped down as writer for Gil Thorp, with his last strip running as my last recap ran. This is convenient for me; I don’t need to explain deep background lore and … oh. Uhm.

So. Henry Barajas knows much more of the lore of Gil Thorp than I do. As part of his first three months of writing the strip he’s brought back Melissa Gordon, who was a student athlete seen in a story from 2002-03. Back then the strip was written by Jerry Jenkins. Yes, the Left Behind novelist. (And illustrated by Frank McLaughlin.) This Week In Milford dug out the original strips and summarized the story, with examples of the strip. I’ll make the story even shorter. Melissa, pregnant with fellow student Kyle Gordon, took refuge with the Thorps when her parents kicked her out. She and Kyle had decided on an abortion and Coach Thorp talked her out of it.

Melissa recounting her past story: 'We went through some rough times.' In flashback Thorp asks her, 'Can you be swayed?' and Mel answers, 'You can't tell me what to do with my body!' In the present, Thorp says, 'Mel, I shouldn't have told you to get that abortion --- ' Mel, tearing: 'Wow. Really, Gil?'
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 15th of September, 2022. In the subsequent strip Melissa says she’s not ready to accept Thorp’s apology and asks him to imagine if that were to happen today: ‘I’d have to fly back to Los Angeles or worse’. I’m not precisely sure what she means, but commenters on GoComics say that in the full 2002-03 story, Gil Thorp pushed his way into Melissa and Kyle’s decision. So while she may well love her child, it also complicated, and changed, her life and can hold Thorp accountable for talking her into it.

Then it got confusing. On the 15th of September (this year) Thorp apologized, saying, “I shouldn’t have told you to get that abortion.” In the comments on GoComics that day it’s explained that this was a lettering error. Barajas had written that Thorp apologized for telling her not to get that abortion. It’s always the critical word that gets dropped, isn’t it?

One can’t fault Thorp for having regrets about advice he gave long ago. One can fault him for saying this to Mel, when he’s having a meal with her and her child. So this makes Mel’s reaction — to someone who had, when she was a vulnerable teen, shown kindness — more understandable. Well, Thorp has been going through a rough time himself. let me try and catch up on all that. Here’s my first attempt at recapping the plot in Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp.

If you’re reading this essay after around December 2022 the most current plot recap should be at this link. Thanks for reading this one, though.

Gil Thorp.

11 July – 24 September 2022.

Barajas opened his writing tenure with Gil Thorp receiving the Jack Berrill Coach of the Year award. (Jack Berrill was, in reader time, the creator of Gil Thorp.) Again. Presenter Emmett Tays introduces Thorp with a quick football story. It’s about how Coach Thorp bonded with him over having abusive parents(!) to help him find the drive to win the big game. It’s a story that makes you ask: wait, isn’t Coach Thorp a mandatory reporter? Even if he wasn’t at the time of the story, is it admirable he saw a kid’s traumatized home life as a chance to complete forward passes? Not that a character has to be admirable to be worth our focus, but Tays is trying to tell a story of Gil Thorp doing something great.

Tays, in flashback: 'Why? I don't need to give [ my mother ] a reason to give me a matching [ black eye ]'. Thorp, in flashback: 'I ain't no snitch.' Tays snickers. Thorp continues: 'My pa was a drinker. He did't know how to communicate any way but with his fists and the belt. But those fellas out thre? You need them as much as they need you. So, let's not send them to the ER?' Tays: 'Heh. Fo sho, Coach.'
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 16th of July, 2022. By the way, we haven’t heard any mention about whether they’re still ‘playdowns’, although I imagine Barajas wouldn’t lose something that distinctive to the strip.

I hesitate to play the “unreliable narrator” card. But it seems important how in the story Thorp speaks with Tays’s voice. I’m willing to suppose the story was compressed to the point it created confusion. What I don’t know is whether this was an adaptation of an actual story from deep in the Thorp archives. What I can say is what this establishes for Barajas’s writing here. It starts with a quick sports story, a promise that he’s not losing sight of that as we get into some serious family drama.

The drama: Coach Thorp’s family is not there. Mimi’s mother is dying, and Mimi’s taking a leave of absence to deal with her. Also, Mimi has not revealed how bad her mother’s health is to Gil. The subject got buried under how their own marriage is failing. She’s taken to leaving notes about how she thinks she’s worthy of his love, but not answering his phone calls. It’s a frustrating level of conflict-avoidance, one that her own child Keri calls her out on. I’m frustrated because I can’t tell you exactly what they’re struggling with. The reader’s desire to know who’s in the Right is understandable. But I’ve seen where people can fail to recognize one another’s signals of acceptance, so the relationship fails without anyone doing wrong.

Beth, a bartender at wherever it is the ceremony was, hits on Gil Thorp before finding out he’s married. Natural mistake. But they’re seen by Luke Martinez, the new coach of Valley Tech, a bombastic and outgoing and somewhat aggressive man. He declares he’s tired of Thorp winning this trophy every year and offers the deal. If Martinez wins next year, Thorp quits, and if he doesn’t, Martinez gives up coaching. Thorp doesn’t see why this man has decided to be Thorp’s problem.

Marty Moon: 'I've known Gil and his wife Mimi for a long time. He would never cheat on her!' Luke Hernandez: 'Are you callin' me a liar, Moon?' Moon; 'I just find it hard to believe --- ' Hernandez: 'You'll see! Gil is not as brilliant as me. I'm in Mensa. My mind is quick.' Moon: 'Anyway, what plans to you have for Valley Tech?' Hernandez: 'Take a wild guess ... '
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 11th of August, 2022. Does … does it involve setting up a web site with Squarespace?

Martinez goes on Marty Moon’s “Behind the Playbook” podcast to boast to everyone about how good he is, which shows how new Martinez is in town. (Also for some reason he’s introduced as Luke Martinnez. Maybe a middle name.) But he drops a mention of seeing Thorp flirting with the bartender. Moon is skeptical. But Martinez says how he’s in Mensa, so anyone should know never to take a thing he ever says seriously. Moon calls Thorp for his side before publishing. Thorp says what happened. He also opens up to Marty Moon of all people about how Mimi’s avoided him and took the kids to her mother’s while he was away for the awards.

When she learns of this Mimi says of course she doesn’t believe anything went on. She’s not jealous of some random person hitting on Gil Thorp. Also that the trip was not set off by anything; it was the only weekend free before his Pinewood summer camp coaching. But she still wants him to be at home, emotionally, more. This desire seems to contradict scheduling a trip away the last weekend he’s free. But it’s muddled but in a way people are.

On the golf course — I think at Pinewood — Gil and Mimi run into Luke and Francesca Martinez and their son Pedro. They play together, and Luke turns on what he believes is charm. His jolly references to Mimi as the ‘ball and chain’ or ‘your old lady’ sink him somehow even farther in Gil’s eyes. Francesca’s happy to meet the Thorps, though, and mentions how she’s a heart surgeon starting at Milford Medical. This is where we the readers learned Mimi was a “stay at home” mother now, though not yet that it’s to care for her own mother.

Mimi: 'You two look neat! Jami, don't stain your new pants!' Gil Thorp, taking pictures: 'Say cheese!' Jami Thorp: 'Huh? Cheese?!' Caption beside him: 'Jami Thorp. Likes: Anime he's not old enough to watch, cheese sticks, Mom's homemade pot pies. Dislikes: THe dark. Radishes. Keri's zines. Dream job: Being dad's assistant coach.' Gil: 'Nice smile, sweetie!' Keri: 'Thanks, Daddy!' Caption beside them: 'Keri Thorp, Pronouns: they/them. Likes: Kurt Vonnegut, the Linda Lindas. Drawing zines. Dislikes: the patriarchy.'
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 31st of August, 2022. No argument with Keri about the Patriarchy here, which is only hurting everyone, including the patriarchs.

This gets us to the new school year, though. And the formal reintroduction of the Thorp Children, who’d gone without much (any?) mention in years. It’s also where we learn that Keri Thorp goes by they/them pronouns, the second nonbinary human character I know of in the syndicated strips. (The first would be Kelly Welly, in Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail.)

We also meet Melissa Gordon, and her child, born Tabatha but now her son Tobias. I don’t know that this is the first transgender human character in syndicated newspaper comics, but Tobias is at least the first in a long while. (I’m adding the ‘human’ qualifier as I’m not sure how to characterize Rosebud from the 1980s Bloom County. I imagine “aged in awkward ways”. And of course Krazy Kat is a bunch of essays.) Also that, apparently, she and Kyle married, but separated. Melissa asks for Thorp’s hep watching after Tobias, who, yeah, can’t be having a good time in high school. I’m sure it’s better now than it would be in, oh, 1992, but that’s still not great.

And we finally see Mimi Thorp going to Milford Adult Care, spending time with her mother, who says she has six months to live. Also we meet Mimi’s replacement as girls coach, Cami Ochoa, a name that seems familiar but that I haven’t mentioned here at least. (Also the part of my brain that used to do Jumble notes her name is an anagram for ‘I Am Coach O’. This I suppose is coincidence.) The girls volleyball team wins their first game, but Coach Ochoa crops her out of the team photo for some reason.

Keri, seeing Pedro Hernandez: 'Uh, I'm Keri ... ' Fernanda Hernandez: 'The Thorp kids are here? Ay! Nice to meet you, Mija!' Luke: 'Stay for dinner! Fran cooked some arroz con pollo y papas!' Keri: 'If you say so!' Whispering to Jami: 'Why didn't you tell me your friend's brother is super hot?!' Jami, whispering back: 'You're the worst.'
Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 26th of September, 2022. Quite like the sibling dynamic here, by the way.

Meanwhile, Jami Thorp doesn’t have to worry so much about making friends at school. He’s getting along great with this Luke Martinez Junior character, prompting Coach Thorp to eat his glass. Jami and Keri like the Martinez kids, though, as if they have an instinct to drive their father crazy.

And it falls outside the official date range for this recap. But we learned this week that Assistant Coach Kaz is moving to another school after this year. We’ll see whether it’s Valley Tech or someone else.

Milford Sports Watch!

Here’s my attempt at tracking all the schools besides Milford that get a mention or appearance. Summers usually see a lull in team references, but this has been a quite short season. All that time on new drama, I suppose.

Next Week!

This was a lot of work on changed character relationships and settings and newly complicated backstory. I’m looking forward to settling down to a nice easy recap week. I look at Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker next Tuesday, if all goes to plan.

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


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

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

Rex Morgan, M.D..

3 July – 17 September 2022.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

The Phantom (Sundays).

26 June – 11 September 2022.

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

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

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

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

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

Mary Worth.

19 June – 3 September 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Mark Trail.

12 June – 28 August 2022.

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Animals Watch!

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

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

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

Gasoline Alley.

5 June – 20 August 2022.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Dick Tracy.

29 May – 13 August 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

Prince Valiant.

22 May – 7 August 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

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

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

The Phantom (Weekdays).

16 May – 30 July 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

Alley Oop.

9 May – 23 July 2022.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

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

Judge Parker.

1 May – 17 July 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

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

Gil Thorp.

25 April – 9 July 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Milford Sports Watch!

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

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

Rex Morgan, M.D..

17 April – 2 July 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

The Phantom (Sundays).

10 April – 26 June 2022.

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

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

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


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

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

Mary Worth.

3 April – 18 June 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Mark Trail.

27 March – 12 June 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Animals Watch!

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Gasoline Alley.

21 March – 4 June 2022.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

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

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

Dick Tracy.

13 March – 28 May 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

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

Prince Valiant.

6 March – 22 May 2022.

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

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

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

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Phantom (Weekdays).

28 February – 14 May 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

Alley Oop.

21 February – 7 May 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

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

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

Judge Parker.

13 February – 1 May 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this is where we stand as May begins.

Next Week!

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

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? What is Scooter’s deal? February – April 2022


Eli “Scooter” Borden seems to be a key figure in this season’s story in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. We met him challenging folks with his baseball trivia. He’s part of the scheming to help pitcher Gregg Hamm cover up his lousy eyesight. His girlfriend’s on the girls’ tennis team.

He picked his own nickname. He says “without it, I’m a too-short kid named Eli”, but that with it, coaches figure he’s a small speedy guy. We do see Coach Thorp and Assistant Coach Kaz talking about how he’s fast. It’s not clear to me whether they’ve fallen for his branding or because they’ve watched him move.

This should get you caught up to late April 2022 in Gil Thorp. If you’re reading after about July 2022, or news about the strip comes out, a more useful essay should be here. Also, on my mathematics blog I try to talk about mathematics-themed comic strips. Must admit it’s been a little slow for that, lately, though. Maybe it’ll pick up. Meanwhile, let’s get back to the high school sports.

Gil Thorp.

7 February – 23 April 2022.

Pranit Smith, on the boys’ basketball team, figured he was pretty good at sports betting. Then he snuck his way into a real for-money sports betting web site. And then friends started asking him to place bets for them. And, thing is, he takes bets before he takes the cash to cover them. When many of them don’t win — and even his own bets fail — he’s in a fix, since the people who did win want their payouts.

Achebe: 'You want me to *hurt* guys so they'll pay their gambling debts?' Smith: 'No! Um, not exactly. I mean, a threat should do it, mostly. Or just a hint.' Achebe, talking to Gil Thorp: 'You gotta step in, Coach. This is crazy.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 26th of February, 2022. So this explains why the strip made a point of mentioning Gordon Achebe’s joining the basketball team. The text never mentions the racial component of Smith hoping this large (he was a football player) Black kid trying to be threatening. It’s an extra element of danger that I’m not sure the story meant for Smith to realize he was flirting with.

He has a brilliant idea. Like most brilliant ideas the kids in the strip have, it’s dumb. He asks Gordon Achebe, who again I think was on the football team before, to … you know, go mention to people who still owe Smith money. Not beat them up or anything, understand, just kind of … you know, noticeable and intimidating.

Achebe goes right to Coach Thorp, who once again can not believe what his idiot players are up to. He walks Smith through exactly how dumb this scheme is. And suspends him from games indefinitely. Smith also gets a five-day suspension. But Smith gets in line fast and behaves well enough that Thorp lets him into the final game of the season. He does well, scoring 13 points on a game that’s a 14-point win anyway.

Smith’s even able to solve his deadbeat-bettors problem. He lets it be known that his suspension can’t end until he turns over the names of everyone who owes him money, so, people pay up. He’s bluffing, but it works. He tosses off a joke about how if he’s this good at betting there are online poker sites. His friends toss him out of the story.


Meanwhile, the girls’ basketball team also had a story, unrelated to this one. Team Captain Hollis Talley freaks out on learning she was at a party where some teammates were drinking alcohol. Almost, anyway. They had two cans of hard seltzer for six people. She sees this as something that could threaten the team and/or her appointment to the US Air Force Academy. Her team responds to her concern with eye-rolling disdain and nominate her for Team Karen.

Talley: 'Drinking could cost us suspensions --- and if things blow up, the Air Force Academy could turn me away.' Teammates: 'So, this is you being selfish 'cause we want to be a little stupid.' 'Let's get out of here.' Sasaki: 'That went well.' Talley: 'I'm a born leader.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 18th of February, 2022. This is a nice little show of the different levels of maturity within the group here. Talley can see how something that is, really, harmless (two hard seltzers for six kids) could still explode and leave her covered in blame. Her teammates can’t see how their actions could have a consequence and can only understand Talley as selfish or controlling. And there is a struggle in establishing yourself as a leader so that people go along with you even if they don’t agree with your stated reasons. Talley getting along that path, even if she doesn’t get there, is a big element of this story. And, to add some pleasant ambiguity, there are absolutely no consequences for the drinking at the party. No grown-ups ever learn about it (that we know about), nobody gets in trouble, nothing bad happens except her teammates think Talley is power-tripping.

She has some constructive moping about this, and about the team’s poor performance and worse morale. Talley asks Coach Mimi Thorp to move her from center to guard, displacing her friend Cathy Sasaki. And working outside of regular practice with Maddie Bloom, another guard. This works well for the team, which gets them some compelling wins against teams that had been beating them. The important thing is getting the team to work. One person, and I’m not sure who, says she hopes that if she is Team Captain next year she’ll be able to make choices like Talley has.


The 26th of March saw the basketball storylines end. The 28th of March saw the start of the spring, boys softball, story. The key player here is Gregg Hamm, pitcher who’s going blind. His vision’s bad enough he can’t read the catcher’s signals anymore. But he, catcher Wilson Henry, and second baseman Eli ‘Scooter’ Borden work out an alternative. Borden will catch Henry’s signals and relay them by code words in his relentless chatter. Despite being a brilliant plan, it’s not too dumb, although I’m not clear how well Hamm can pitch if he has that poor vision. Also I don’t know why a sixteen(?)-year-old is losing his vision that fast and whether his parents know about this. He does fine his first game of the season, though.

Thompkins: 'So, Wilson is on board?' Borden: 'As long as Gregg doesn't hurt himself, or the team.' [ Cooley at Milford, and ... ] Borden, at second: 'C'mon, guys! Let's make some noise out there!' (The catcher signals) Borden: 'No stick, 32. Rock and fire!' Gregg Hamm, thinking: 'OK ... fastball it is!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 22nd of April, 2022. So Hamm says his right eye is useless, his left eye is blurry and getting worse, and Coach Thorp doesn’t know. But we also know he’s doing all right on pop quizzes. I understand that Hamm has exactly the eye condition that causes what the plot is. But I don’t know what eye problem would fit all these traits (plus that it hits a teenager). But I’m also fortunate to have never had a serious eye problem myself. The closest I’ve had is needing to give our pet rabbit eyedrops for her cataracts, and pet rabbits are almost never expected to play even slow-pitch softball.
Hamm’s parents, by the way, include a father who ghost-writes autobiographies for business people. I don’t know whether this will have thematic or even plot significance.

In the parallel, girls’ tennis, story, Scooter Borden and his friends come out to cheer for his girlfriend Charis Thompkins. They bring their enthusiasm, if not an understanding that one simply does not hoot in the middle of a volley. It’s too soon to say where this storyline’s going too.

Milford Sports Watch!

Here’s my best attempt at keeping track of who’s played against Milford teams the past couple months and when they did it.

(It’s really the only attempt I made.)

Next Week!

Randy Parker returns to his dad’s comic strip! How does this roil Cavelton? I explore Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker next week, all going well. I need to start writing this recap, like, today.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan? Why is there a superhero in Rex Morgan? January – April 2022


Terry Beatty, besides writing and drawing Rex Morgan, M.D., also illustrates used to, up to 2017, illustrate The Phantom weekday continuity. So I surmise he feels comfortable with action scenes and likely that he gets a fair chance to draw them. The just-started storyline has a masked vigilante prowling the mean-ish-esque(?) streets of Glenwood, though.

It appears Beatty is exploring “real-life superheroes”, a minor phenomenon that does exist. Most “real-life superheroes” are people who cosplay for publicity or educational purposes. A handful try, as in the comic, actually confronting “evildoers”. That’s more rare, I imagine from a mix of people realizing they don’t have actual plot immunity, and how even if you’re assaulting a mugger you’re still the one committing assault. But it’s hard to make a good story where nobody makes bad life choices. So this plot recap focuses heavily on Rene Belluso, who enjoys a Wile E Coyote-like talent for bad life choices. At least, he has the talent, and we enjoy watching people fly in from across the world to sucker-punch him. This should catch you up to mid-April 2022 in his antics and in the new superhero in town.

If you’re reading this after about July 2022, or if news about the strip breaks, a more up-to-date recap should be at this link. And on my mathematics blog I did another short essay about mathematics topics in comic strips. You might enjoy that too.

Rex Morgan, M.D..

31 January – 16 April 2022.

Sarah Morgan’s joy at being the coauthor of a Kitty Cop book was spoiled when Rene Belluso claimed she copied the Doggo Twins characters from him. Belluso had been her art instructor, back before Terry Beatty took over writing the strip. Sarah doesn’t think she stole the characters from him, but she doesn’t know. A car accident gave her a soap-opera amnesia that wiped a year of her memory. (It also brought her art skills down to good-for-her-age, not remarkable-prodigy.) So the gang was getting together to figure what they know about this.

Belluso sure seems likely to be running a scam. In his spare time from art instructing he also ran a mystic-healing cult, and got busted for phony Covid-19 cures. But they can’t find evidence that Sarah drew anything resembling the Doggo Twins before she was taking classes from Rene. Kyle Vidpa — formerly blocked writer of Kitty Cop — believes in Sarah’s innocence but that’s not something they can act on. Their lawyer advises at least listening to what Belluso would want to settle out of court.

Belluso: 'This man is lying! I created the Doggo Twins years before the Kitty Cop book was published!' Thorson: 'I ain't no liar, Mr B'luso. You know that. All what I said here is a hunnert percent truthful.' Lawyer: 'Mr Belluso, according to Mr Thorson, you planned to use Sarah's amnesia to support the false claim that she stole the Doggo Twins idea from you.' Belluso: 'HE MADE ALL THAT UP!' Lawyer; 'Including the detail that you planned to use vintage paper to make your drawings appear old? A common tactic in art forgery, something with which you have much experience.' Belluso: 'True, I once used my art skills for less than legitimate purposes, but that was a logn time ago.' Lawyer: 'We have records of Internet sales of forged cartoon art traceable to you, from within the last two years. Between Sonny's word and your record, it's clear your claims are false, and we'll not be settling with you for *any* amount. in fact, we'll be filing suit against *you* for the damages that your false claims have caused the Kitty Cop brand.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 27th of February, 2022. Not to detract from the repeated sucker punches delivered to Rene Belluso here, but is his planning to use vintage paper the sort of insider knowledge only an expert would have? All I really know about forgeries is that I’m an American who’s heard of Hugh Trevor-Roper, but I’d still think “have paper that’s at least as old as the drawings on it are supposed to be” was the first necessary step.

Sonny Thorson enters the picture. He comes to the Morgan clinic, spilling what he knows about his former cellmate Rene Belluso. He says that Belluso, hearing the news that Sarah Morgan was the mysterious coauthor of the new Kitty Cop books, saw an opportunity. He could make money, and get back at Rex Morgan, by forging some older Doggo Twins art and claiming to be their author. (Rex Morgan had foiled Belluso’s Celestial Healing scam.) Thorson doesn’t care one way or another about Rex, but he didn’t want a kid scammed like that. Thus, his report, one that he repeats to Belluso and his lawyer.

With this, and with evidence Belluso’s sold forged cartoon art in the last two years? Vidpa’s lawyer announces they won’t be settling but will be suing for damaging the Kitty Cop brand. Belluso storms out, declaring they haven’t heard the last of him. We might have; when we next see him, mob-type people are demanding to know how he’s going to get them their money. Terry Beatty even inserts a panel saying we the readers can imagine his fate, as he doesn’t know whether we’ll ever see Belluso again.

If that’s not enough stomping on Belluso’s head, there, his lawyer admits he’s not really a lawyer. He’s an actor Belluso hired and possibly even paid under the guise of “some sort of performance art”. This would explain why Belluso gave press conferences about suing but didn’t file any actual documents in an actual court. The acting lawyer gives Rex Morgan and all tickets to see him in Hairspray.

And if that’s still not enough stomping on Belluso’s head? Sarah, busy thinking up names for Kyle and Lauren’s newborn child, finds a sketchbook from before she was taking art lessons. It’s got a date, a sketch of the family from before Michael and Johnny were there, and a dog drawing recognizably a forerunner to the Doggo Twins. So they’ve got plenty to force Belluso to make a public statement of how he’s big dumb dummy who’s soooooo big and dumb and stupid. He flees before he can be forced to make it, but into the hands of those mob types mentioned above. And with the 2nd of April that brings this story to an end.


The current story starts on the 3rd of April, with a Sunday strip re-introducing the strip and main characters. Rex Morgan has a new patient, Clayton. (I don’t know his first name.) He’s there for a rotator cuff injury, which calls for rest, ice, physical therapy, and time. There’s also a bunch of other bruises that Clayton explains as boxing and mixed martial arts lessons. Morgan advises taking a break from them, too, until he heals. Clayton promises he will, but is lying. He has a mission.

Would-be car thief: 'The *Street Sweeper*? What are you going to do --- hit me with that broom?' Clayton, presenting himself as The Street Sweeper: 'If you insist.' He thwacks the thief with his push broom. Thief: 'Ow!!! Hey --- knock it off!'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 14th of April, 2022. Absolutely magnificent strip here. The only thing that could possibly improve it is if Clayton/The Street Sweeper were hitting Les Moore instead.

So we see him that evening, on his mission, “to protect the streets of Glenwood”. I mean, he took an oath and everything, what choice does he have? He confronts a guy who’s checking for unlocked cars. The would-be car thief asks what his deal is. Clayton explains: he’s keeping the streets safe and clean. He is … The Street Sweeper. While the would-be car thief laughs at this superhero name, Clayton whacks him with a push broom. While the readers laugh at this, the comic takes the lead for Funniest Story Strip of 2022. Clayton prides himself on a job well-done. Meanwhile an onlooker takes his photo, launching the “superhero” as a local human-interest-piece.

And that’s our standings for mid-April 2022.

Next Week!

Betting! Betting and eyesight accommodations! It’s Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp in a week, is my plan.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)? Why is the Sunday Phantom illegible now? January – April 2022


So back in February Comics Kingdom pushed a big change in their server code. This caused it all to break for a couple days. Most of this has been fixed. But among the things still broken are that some strips, including The Phantom, appear on Sundays in the wrong aspect ratio. That is, they’re shown in the format used for newspapers squeezing them to one-quarter of a page, four rows by two columns. I imagine this is a badly-implemented idea to make it easier to read on a phone, and is garbage for people who read this on a real computer. When I read my regular Favorites page, the strip appears about two inches wide, and while I can still read the action, it’s harder than it should be.

It could be worse. They print The Lockhorns in the format intended for newspapers running it as one tiny column, and so appears on-screen about one-half an inch wide. Utterly illegible. Comics Kingdom would be aware of this if anyone read their Technical Support or their Report A Bug complaints, as I have informed them of this every week since the problem crept in. They finally promised to have someone look at this when I sent in the billing question of why I was paying for a subscription for illegible comics.

Anyway. The saving grace is that Comics Kingdom does use source images that are huge; for Sunday pages, the average image is about 112 gigabytes of data. So I can reprint the comics — a fair use as it is part of review and critique of the original — big enough to be easily legible on whatever you use to read.

This all is meant to catch you up to mid-April 2022 for the Sunday continuity of Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom. If you are looking for the weekday-continuity story of The Phantom’s death and destruction, or if you’re reading this after about July 2022 and want the Sunday story, you may find a more useful essay here. They will never fix the image problem.

And on my other blog I’ve been reading comics for their mathematics content again. You might enjoy that.

The Phantom (Sundays).

23 January – 10 April 2022.

Nayo and Abeo, two young women of the Mori tribe, created their own custom for their passage into adulthood. They went as few Mori ever do into the big city of Mawitaan. This was going great for them. The city folk found them such curious novelties as to not mind their taking food from markets or rough sleeping in the parks and such.

'There are times when The Phantom leaves the jungle and walks the streets of the town as an ordinary man. - Old Jungle Saying.' The Phantom, wearing a hard hat, emerges from a van. We see him in a selection of scenes: checking an electrical meter, delivering a package to a doorstep, working at a construction site, birdwatching in the park. In each scene we see the Mori women, doing their city stuff: walking about, looking at the sites, having ice cream. The narration explains: 'Mori girls, far from home ... awed by the great city ... innocent of its dangers. The Phantom ... hidden in plain sight. He is this ordinary man (the delivery guy) ... this man (someone looking over blueprints) ... he is every man ... any man ... The Phantom walks among the good with one purpose ... among the evil with quite another.'
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom for the 20th of February, 2022. So we can read this literally; The Phantom is, after all, watching Nayo and Abeo. But I’m interested in something in his outfit-switching, particularly his delivering a package in the third row, first panel, there. I get that he wants to not be noticed by the Mori women, and changing outfits like that reduces the number of visual hooks he offers for them to recognize him, if they don’t notice he’s always wearing eye-concealing dark sunglasses. But if he’s, like, pretending to be a delivery guy for the day, he has to have all these packages to drop off places. Even supposing that the deliveries are fake, this is an outfit that doesn’t let him follow when they wander through Central Park and take a rental boat.
A steady thing this story has been the acceptance of the Mori women by the neighborhood, and how everyone has decided to go along with their wandering around town like they knew what they were doing. Are these different guises, then, The Phantom pretending to be ordinary men, or, are these ordinary men, by watching for and trying to protect the innocent outsiders, taking on their share of The Phantom’s duties? I suspect the entirety of the story won’t support that interpretation. But if it is only my idiosyncratic reading that this strip offers the message that every person is a hero when they are kind? I’m comfortable reading this strip that way.

Still, cities are dangerous when you don’t have permanent shelter or money or such. Especially if, as they have, you’ve attracted the eye of a sex slaver. But they’ve also, at the request of their tribe, got a protector, The Phantom. The Ghost Who Walks lurks around town, and when he spots the sex trafficker he slaps him silly and throws him into the trash.

That’s not enough hint for him, though. (To be too fair to the guy, we don’t see on-screen that The Phantom warned him off the Mori women, or abducting women at all. It would be consistent with the text that he had no idea what this assault was for.) A few days later when the women go into a nightclub, he follows. And gets drugged drinks from the bartender. The Phantom follows, of course. He punches out the bartender, which makes him quite popular. (It’s also the first Phantom Ring-marking in a while, so far as I remember.) And grabs the trafficker, slamming him into the window of the limousine of the trafficker’s buyer. That guy speeds off, but The Phantom takes the trafficker’s personal information to turn over to the Jungle Patrol. And clobbers him with the Phantom Ring, a second permanent marking this story.

Next Week!

Is Terry Beatty — weekday artist for The Phantom — not drawing enough vigilante-superhero stuff? We may have an answer as I recap Rex Morgan, M.D. next week, if things go to plan. And if some shadowy figure of concealed identity doesn’t punch me first.

What’s Going On In Mary Worth? What is this ‘school management’ thing? January – April 2021


The current story in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth has Toby afraid someone will report her to “school management”. She’s teaching at a community college. While I suppose the school has management, every school I’ve ever had dealings with has called that administration. It’s such a weird and needless error I’m wondering if this is some odd localism. Like, I’ve never lived in southern California. I don’t know if community colleges there call it management instead? The way there’s some places where, like in Gil Thorp, the school sports teams go on to playdowns rather than playoffs?

I’m also stumped by the sign outside Santa Royale Community College. It has “Santa Royale Community” in large print on two lines, like a normal place, but then “College” tucked off to the right in half-size print. It was done several times, so this doesn’t look like it patched an art error. When I spot something that unnecessarily wrong I doubt my own judgement: is this alluding to something I happen not to know about? Maybe I’m an easy audience. But when I get mean in my snarking I want it to be about a writing issue deeper than a one-line correction in the script.

So this should get you caught up to early April in Mary Worth. If you’re reading this after about July 2022, there should be a more up-to-date plot recap here. Thanks for following along.

Mary Worth.

16 January – 2 April 2022.

Wilbur Weston had fallen, to great acclaim, from a cruise ship and was lost at sea. This after Estelle had given in to his and Mary Worth’s nagging to forgive his jealous, possessive, often drunk misbehavior and gone to sea with him. When she refused his way-too-hasty proposal he went off in a drunken stupor, climbed the railings, and disappeared.

He washed ashore on a dessert island. He assumed it was deserted but three-day pleasure cruises out of southern California don’t go past many uncharted islands. The place was a resort island owned by the cruise line, and they’re able to sort him out and get him home in a week.

A week that Wilbur’s daughter Dawn, and Estelle, and Mary Worth have spent mourning and telling each other how this wasn’t any of their faults. Their mourning turns to joy and then exasperation when he walks in the door. Joy, yes, for the obvious reasons. Exasperation because why didn’t he tell them he was not dead? He wanted to surprise them. I get the impulse, but this is another reminder that if you ever catch yourself doing something that would happen in the sitcoms you watched as a kid? Stop what you are doing. The women’s exasperation and anger is short-lived, though. I mean, what are you going to do, hold Wilbur to a consequence for needlessly traumatizing you?

Mary Worth: 'C'mon, Estelle, I'm angry just like you, but this is Wilbur we're talking about. You forgive him, don't you?' Estelle: 'I *want* to. I'm just not felling it yet!' Dawn: 'I guess it'll take time.' Mary Worth: 'At least we have each other through all the highs and lows of life with Wilbur!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 2nd of February, 2022. Look, I’m a great believer in forgiveness, even after grievous harm. But you know what I need? Some expression of regret, at minimum for screwing up. We never saw Wilbur even have a moment where he realizes why his clever idea didn’t land like he expected. So this hasn’t done much to encourage readers to regret cheering on Wilbur’s plunge into the ocean.

Left unmentioned except by comics snarkers is that Wilbur Weston’s side job is his “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” column, interviewing people who survive disasters. And that he got the idea for this column the last time he survived a cruise ship disaster. (That one was his boat capsizing, sadly not in any major shipping lanes.)


With the decision that that’s just Wilbur his story wraps up the 6th of February. The current story began the 7th of February, with Toby Cameron’s birthday party. It’s one of those where she’s haunted by feeling age. Still, her new job, teaching art at Santa Royale Community College, is going well.

One of her mixed-media students, Cal, is very happy with her instruction, and asks for her feedback about his sketchbook after class. They have a pleasant talk, she encouraging him and he lapping up her enthusiasm. He’s also seen the animal figurines on her web site, which lets us know he’s got at least a bit of a crush on his instructor. Cal accidentally tossing a Frisbee into Toby, and her returning it, the next day, reinforces that for him. And she’s glad to show off the Frisbee skills she honed in her youth; little feels better than turning out to still have it.

After Cal stays after class again, talking mechanical pencils, one of the other teachers stops in to disapprove. Helen Moss, Community College lifer, sneers that he’s too young for her, and warns her against the relationship. This sends Toby’s mood into a tailspin; the next day, she goes off to sit on a hill and think. Cal notices her and goes over to ask how she is. Moss sees this and scolds her for giving a student “special treatment”.

Toby, sitting on a hill beside Cal: 'Even though I came up here to be alone, I'm glad to have company, and I'm glad you're here. I had the worst day recently, and it got me down, but maybe you're right and I should just ignore it.' Cal; 'Yeah ... think of the good days! There are a lot of 'em!' Toby: 'Now that I think about it ... there are!' Cal: 'It'd be a crime for someone great like you, Ms C, to feel down in the dumps for too long!' Cal; 'It happens to the best of us, but that helps! Thanks, Cal.' Meanwhile ... Helen Moss watches through binoculars, and thinks, 'I *see* you!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 27th of March, 2022. Part of Toby’s bad day was almost causing a traffic accident by running a stop light. So I agree with letting that slide off your back, apart from the reminder to pay attention to the road. But there is a running theme in Mary Worth advice to only think about happy stuff and that gets a little creepy. Anyway I love that Helen Moss brings her binoculars in to work at the community college just in case she can catch someone canoodling.

Moss warns that if she keeps it up she’ll report Toby to “school management”. Toby tries to work out what this means. Like, is that the school administration? Might she lose her job over this? What if Ian believes Moss that she’s building a relationship with a student? (This seems extreme, but a few years back Toby did, wrongly, suspect Ian of having something going on with one of his students.) So Moss has sent her into a spiral of doubt and fear for the future.

And that’s where the board pieces stand as of early April.

Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!

  • “The breaking of a wave cannot explain the whole sea.” — Vladimir Nabokov, 16 January 2022.
  • “I gotta keep breathing, because tomorrow the Sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?” — Chuck Noland (Cast Away), 23 January 2022.
  • “The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.” — Ashley Montagu, 30 January 2022.
  • “One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and be understood.” — Lucius Annaeus Seneca, 6 February 2022.
  • “Let us never know what old age is. Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years.” — Ausonius, 13 February 2022.
  • “Take the attitude of a student. Never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new.” — Og Mandino, 20 February 2022.
  • “I don’t see myself as extremely handsome. I just figure I can charm you into liking me.” — Wesley Snipes, 27 February 2022.
  • “In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter … for in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” — Khalil Gibran, 6 March 2022.
  • “Accusations fit on a bumper sticker. The truth takes longer.” — Michael Hayden, 13 March 2022.
  • “Where words are restrained, the eyes often talk a great deal.” — Samuel Richardson, 20 March 2022.
  • “Remember we’re all in this alone.” — Lily Tomlin, 27 March 2022.
  • “Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia.” — Charles M Schulz, 3 April 2022.

The Schulz quote, by the way, D D Degg at The Daily Cartoonist correctly spotted as reflecting the 1980 storyline where the gang was sent to an evangelical Apocalypse-prep cult. The exact phrasing in the comic is different from what Mary Worth quotes, though. Snopes notes the quote’s adaptation from the strip, and says this precise phrasing comes from a faxlore-type piece circulating on the Internet from no later than 2000. The faxlore is apparently a quiz “to demonstrate the importance of having people who care about you”. Snopes cites the Charles Schulz Museum as saying the precise line never appeared in his work. I told you these quotes were dubiously sourced.

Next Week!

While the Ghost Who Walks hears out the story of how everything he and twenty generations of ancestors strove for fails, in the daily strips, Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom, Sunday continuity, has more lighthearted fare. We’ll catch up with that in a week, if things go to plan.

What’s Going On In Mark Trail? Why did that lizard rapper visit Rusty? January – March 2022


Part of the current story in Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail was a family reunion. The Trails, and the Rogers family, got together. Reptiliannaire, the eco-rapper Mark Trail visited two storylines ago, visited after the launch of his new album. Reptiliannaire’s one of Rusty’s favorite singers.

Mark Trail said something about his father hiring Reptiliannaire. This is plausible. His father, Mark “Happy” Trail, runs a granola concern big enough to be a local environmental hazard and bully, though not so big as to be bought out by a real bastard company like Nestle. But this means Reptiliannaire went from his album launch to working a private event. That’s a lot of work. But it could be that the reptile-themed rap star world is small enough that you have to do that much work. Nobody confirms that Happy Trail hired him, though. As Mark Trail had a successful heist with Reptiliannaire that time, it’s plausible Happy Trail invited him and he came to see a quasi-friend and a fan. Take the interpretation you find most credible.

So this should catch you up on Mark Trail for the end of March, 2022. If you’re reading this after about June 2022 a more up-to-date plot recap should be here. I’ll also post news about the comic strip at this link. Thanks for reading and now let’s explore what all is going on with environmental villains who need punching.

Mark Trail.

9 January – 26 March 2022.

Mark Trail, Diana Daggers, and the veterans on the De-Bait Team had a plan to fight Duck Duck Goose shipping. The plan: make a public spectacle of themselves. Our Heroes got as many small ships as they could together to blockade the Lost Forest-area waterway the zebra-mussel-contaminated ships used. It’s a popular protest, because we all want that thrill of that stuck boat again. Duck Duck Goose makes the concession of declaring they’re totally going to make things better. And have Mark Trail, Diana Daggers, and Cliff (who probably has a last name) arrested.

[ Mark and Cliff both post bail in the Lost Forest county jail, but Diana is left behind. ] Daggers, from behind bars; 'Go on, Mark! Tell my story! I will carry on, an envronmental rebel! And let my sacrifice show --- ' Sheriff: 'Okay, Miss Daggers. You're free to go.' As she takes the box of her things she asks, 'Eh? Who bailed me out? I burned all my bridges in California.' [ As Cliff called it, an old friend showed up when she least expected it. ] Her phone's getting a call; 'Aw, Bee Sharp?'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 26th of January, 2022. Along with the protest Mark Trail posted his story, and Kelly Welly boosted it to their millions of followers.
Cherry posts bail for Mark, and someone’s able to post bail for Cliff. Diana Daggers is ready to sit it out in jail when Professor Bee Sharp bails her out. He’s apologetic for taking “Cricket Bro” Rob Bettancourt’s NFT money and glad to use it for something moral. She’s glad to help him patch his coat. And somehow the cops haven’t connected him to the boat explosion in Miami. You remember, from the story where Mark reconnected with his father, Mark “Happy” Trail. Hot Catch magazine editor Rafael Suave loves the story and the publicity the arrests generated. Mark Trail gets 55 new social media followers, only a few of him ask do he rp. It’s a happy resolution altogether.


A minor plot resolved: the Sunny Soleil society has some tiny aquariums with Marimo balls. These can also spread zebra mussels. They give the readers instructions on how to dispose of them safely (freeze them for a day or more and throw them in the trash). And explain to Violet Cheshire how to handle it: let Cherry Trail handle it, for free. (This is also a good way to handle the poison ivy or the knotweed growing in from your neighbor’s yard.)


The 7th of February starts the current batch of storylines. One is about Rusty Trail and his natural love of cryptids. He shares one about the Seaside Specter, a onetime human covered in seaweed and coral with eyes like a puffy-eyed fish. (Looking at him curses your eyeballs.) He would bond with Cherry Trail’s sister Olive at the family reunion, the big setting for the start of this story.

[ Rusty discovers his Aunt Olive knows a lot about cryptids. ] Olive: 'So you're going to the West Coast to get footage of the Seaside Specter?' Rusty: 'It's a lifetime opportunity! I may not get another chance!' Olive: 'Kiddo, I have hunted cryptids. It's dangerous out there. Take this.' Rusty: 'Is taht a face shield?' She holds one, offering face, nose, and mouth protection: 'Yeah. This will protect you from looking directly at the Seaside Specter.' Rusty: 'Cool! Thanks, Auntie Olive.' [ And that's how Rusty learned the importance of masking up! ]
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 4th of March, 2022. Really sweet of her. Not clear why she had that on hand, unless Mark or Cherry had told her about Rusty’s cryptid mania. I’m assuming the “it’s dangerous out there, take this” is a meme reference and I have no way to guess whether it’s something Olive would be expecting Rusty to get. Book recommendation: Joshua Blu Buhs’s Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend.
The reunion is a roller coaster of emotions for Rusty. He wanted to meet relatives as much as any kid that age does. But then it turned out Reptiliannaire, his favorite eco-rapper, was doing a concert nearby. There was no going to that, though. Happy Trail, though, is sensitive to his grandson’s feelings. That’s why Reptiliannaire visits, however the thing got arranged.

The happiness screeches to a halt when Happy Trail and Jolly Roger mention they’re doing new TV commercials. The young Mark Trail was traumatized by being the semi-willing child star of those ages ago. (Other kids, such as Rob Bettancourt, teased him for his natural on-camera squareness.) Now he’s traumatized because the new spokescreature is a monkey. That part’s survivable, but Monk Trail is also being turned into an NFT. Happy Trail’s startled to learn there’s anything about NFTs to concern an environmentalist, or a non-fool. His surprise that his new business partner didn’t bring up this big problem invites the question of how Happy Trail has built a successful business. You’d expect he would have been phished into sending the company to an e-mail claiming to be the county IRS inspector. Perhaps his really good Chief Operating Officer retired two weeks ago.

His NFT partner, in Portland, is Jadsen Sterling. Happy Trail asserts that Sterling and his brother are friends of Mark Trail’s. Turns out Sterling’s (step)brother is Rob “Cricket Bro” Bettancourt. Mark Trail spends the flight to Oregon (where they’d been planning to go for reasons that escape me; maybe it was a vacation?) trying to work out Sterling’s deal. He runs a tech firm committed to NFT scams, but makes his real money logging.

[ Mark discussees his concerns with Cherry on the way to Portland. ] Mark Trail: 'I know my dad means wel, but sometimes his choices really BUG me!' (The word 'Bug' is highlighted; the panel shows a close-up on a pandora pinemoth while Mark's plane is in the background sky.) 'The dad I remember would've never done business with other companies that hurt the environment like NFTs do.' Cherry: 'Mark, your dad isn't the man you remember anymore. He's older and he's looking to connect. Try to be kind.'
Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail for the 16th of March, 2022. This is another moment of Rivera making clear the decision to treat the “traditional” Mark Trail as father to the one she’s writing about. And it’s another good reminder of our need to be as compassionate as we can even to the people who’ve hurt us.
And yet Sterling has the spare time to catch the Trails at the airport and offer them a ride. He introduces himself as “Crypto Bro” and hey, his brother Cricket Bro is there too. They share a story that’s brief but nice — how they bonded as stepbrothers over surfing — and then how they had befriended Happy Trail on the beach. They’d been cut off by their father, and Mark Trail wasn’t speaking to his at the time. This is a small story moment I find quite humanizing and effective. It’s a deft reminder that these people, villains as they are to us, have lives they’re basically happy with and have reason to be basically happy with.

That’s how the Bros and Happy Trail turned into a big business-family partnership mess.  And also explains why Happy Trail might not have asked them questions about the downsides of NFTs.  And that’s where we stand at the end of March. Also going on: a bunch of first panels with animals in the foreground looking at the camera. That’s a welcome feature to return to the strip.

Sunday Animals Watch

What parts of nature got attention in Sunday strips the past three months? And how badly off are they? Let’s review.

  • Zebra mussels, 9 January 2022. Still a problem despite the plan to ignore the problem, somehow.
  • Bobcats, 16 January 2022. Robertcats, if you haven’t been introduced, thank you.
  • White-tailed deer, 23 January 2022. The population was in danger until we tried “have people not just shoot them”. Weird.
  • American kestrels, 30 January 2022. They only weigh like six ounces which, even considering birds don’t weigh much, doesn’t seem like much.
  • Horseshoe Crabs, 6 February 2022. Which have survived 455 million years, and then humans screwed things up.
  • Alligators, 13 February 2022. My father’s living in South Carolina and constantly sending pictures of alligators that get near the apartment complex while my mother rolls her eyes all the way into North Carolina.
  • Wildlife Crossings, 20 February 2022. Not an ideal solution to the problem of highways but at least some remediation.
  • Vultures, 27 February 2022. Apparently they don’t circle dying animals? Huh. This is going to mess up the late, lamented comic strip Little Dog Lost.
  • Spotted Owls, 6 March 2022. Threatened by invasive barred owls.
  • Pandora Pinemoths, 13 March 2022. They don’t eat, as adults, because nature is weird and creepy.
  • Western Gray Squirrels, 20 March 2022. You know how bad humanity is doing that we’re screwing up squirrels? Seriously.
  • The Northwest Rainforest, 27 March 2022. Both of the remaining trees.

Next Week!

Wilbur Weston is not dead. I’ll go into the unhappy story of why not when I recap Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth. That’s my plan for what to do next week.

What’s Going On In Gasoline Alley? Why would anyone make a Gasoline Alley movie? January – March 2021


The current Gasoline Alley story is built on some Hollywood types coming in make a movie about the town. While the town’s residents are interesting to the comic strip readers, one might ask why anyone in-universe would care about this town? Longtime readers enjoy the more-or-less plausible lives of interesting characters. But why pick this place, other than that Walt Wallet is a generation older than Betty White?

While searching for something else, I ran across this timeline of events in Gasoline Alley. It’s a list of some of the big story events including when Skeezix turned up on the doorstep. and seems to be pretty solid for events up to about 1950, that is, the era when the comic strip made its reputation. It may not convince you — I mean, breach of promise stories? Everyone did them back then and that’s such an alien idea today, like suing somebody for not wearing a hat — but it gives some idea what all happened.

Over on my mathematics blog, I just looked at the comic strips which observed Pi Day. How many of them were about mathematics? The answer may surprise you!

This essay should catch you up to mid-March 2022 in Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley. If you’re reading this after about June 2022, there’s likely a more up-to-date plot recap at this link. And now, action!

Gasoline Alley.

1 January – 19 March 2022.

The current story had just been called when I last checked in. Some Hollywood types are descending on Gasoline Alley to make a movie. Rufus and Joel try to clean City Hall up to the point that it shines. The movie makers slip and fall on the wet floor. The comic relief pair suppose that the movie makers want to sue them for damages. After their attempts at disguising themselves fail completely, they run off to hide in a cave.

Joel, mop in his hand: 'Oh, man! We done done it now!' Rufus, standing over the puddles of water: 'We sho' is sorry, Mr De Millsbrothers! Th'flo' was wet!' DeMillstone: 'My name is DeMillstone! SOMEBODY BETTER HELP ME UP!' Assistant: 'Do you need an ambulance, C.B.?' DeMillstone: 'Get those two men's names on the double!' Assistant with a clipboard: 'Doubling pu right now, sir!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 8th of January, 2022. Cecil B DeMillstone is an almost inevitable name for a Hollywood Movie Mogul in this genre. Rufus I assume is mashing the name up with the Mills Brothers, who were a quite popular singing quartet especially through the Golden Age of Radio.

The movie folks turn their attention to Walt Wallet. They turn over some kind of prospectus for a movie based on his life. It’s a big, bold work, not bound tightly to the facts. He calls Skeezix over to describe some of them. And to recount a story that … actually, he’s told before, back in January and February of 2014. But he claims that when exploring in Egypt ages ago he and his party, desperately short on water, fell into the tomb of the Pharaoh Do-Ra-Mi. They found an urn on the shelf, with ancient, stale water that they drank happily. And then found the hieroglyphics proclaimed it the “Energy Shot – For Youth”. Which, well, he is a pretty spry fellow for being six years older than the SOS distress signal. But back in 2014 when he told this story he was making up that it was the Fountain of Youth. He was spinning yarns back then, which, fine. But when why his shock in 2022 when someone believed him?

In the flashback, young Walt Wallet looks over an ancient urn, while a camel licks him and two porters look on: 'After drinking the water, I felt great and tried to decipher the hieroglyphics on the urn!' In the present day Skeezix asks, 'What did it say, Uncle Walt?' Walt: 'Extreme energy shot for Youth!'
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for the 25th of February, 2022. When this joke was done back in February 2014 — the first panel of the 2022 strip seems to be an elongated version of the 2014 version — it set off a short-lived mania for Walt’s Fountain-of-Youth water. I’m not surprised I had forgotten this, but I am surprised Skeezix doesn’t remember it, because he had the plan that abated the mob scene. On the other hand, Skeezix has had nearly a decade of other shenanigans around him, too.

After sharing this and some other, lesser tall tales with Skeezix, the movie folks call to say never mind. They’re not doing Walt Wallet’s life, which is a shame, since this was an excuse for Scancarelli to draw a young-looking Walt Wallet doing a lot of fun action. (One of the stories shows him hopping a train, which seems mundane enough to have happened.) But the movie folks have decided to do a science fiction piece, Teenage Thing Meets The Creature From Gasoline Alley. Scancarelli’s heart is in doing a 1950s radio sitcom and I like him for that.

The movie producers still want to get hold of Rufus and Joel. The pair emerge from hiding, when the bear they were hiding with kicks them out. And that’s where we stand. Will it turn out they’ve made a bad assumption about what the movie folks wanted them for, so that their winter hiding in a cave was foolish? There’s no way of knowing except reading, or remembering the rules of the 1950s radio sitcoms that the comic strip wants to be. We’ll check back by June, anyway.

Next Week!

The only question worth asking right now is when is Mark Trail going to punch an NFT? And the answer is, always, not soon or often enough. But if we’re lucky by next week I’ll be able to tell you just when Mark Trail does. That’s Jules Rivera’s Mark Trail next Tuesday, if things go to plan.

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? Why did that guy’s Wrist-Radio Explode? December 2021 – March 2022


In the recently concluded story in Dick Tracy the villainous Mr Bones’s purloined Wrist Wizard exploded. This was hard on him. It seemed like an arbitrary and unexplained resolution to Mr Bones’s murder plan.

It was remarkable good luck for Dick Tracy. It wasn’t unexplained, but the explanation was given back in December of 2016. The old model of Wrist Wizard — the evolution of the famous two-way wrist-radio — had a defect that could cause it to explode. I expect it was inspired by that time those real-world phones kept catching fire. Still, it’s not like they all caught fire. Anyway, this is the second time one of them exploding has saved Dick Tracy.

[ Diet Smith Enterprises ] Tracy: 'We got your safety recall for our wrist wizards. Have you fixed the problem?' Smith: 'Not yet, but I have a replacement for you.' Tracy: 'Say, this looks like the original 2-way wrist radio you issued us! Does it have the same functions as the wrist wizard?' Smith: 'All the critical functions are the same, Tracy, but the most power-draining features have been cut to prolong battery life. This battery is less powerful but very stable, and it fit the high-profile body of the wrist radio perfectly. Will it do in the interim while my team overhauls the wrist wizard?' Tracy: 'I think so, Diet. It's like visiting an old friend!'
Joe Staton, Mike Curtis, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 11th of December, 2016. Haven’t heard how the Wrist Wizard redesign has gone. Might be they’ve figured since they’ve lasted five years with this design of just stuffing it in old wrist-radio cases they had the new design and didn’t realize it. I’m not sure that four buttons and a speaker is enough of an interface for everything the Wrist Wizard did (two-way video communication, the ability to respond to eye blinks of a wounded officer). But then the Wrist Wizard had two buttons and a keyboard projected holographically on your palm so can say?

So this should catch you up to mid-March, 2022, in Joe Staton, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy. If you’re reading this after about June 2022 a more up-to-date plot summary should be here.

On my other blog, I finally finished my A-to-Z, explaining Zorn’s Lemma. I’ve also, often, used the mathematics blog as a chance to talk about comic strips with mathematics themes. Pi Day, of course, encourages comic strips to mention mathematics. Or pie. So I linked to old Pi Day comics roundups there. I’ll have this year’s roundup soon, don’t worry. They talk a good bit about pie.

Dick Tracy.

26 December 2021 – 12 March 2022.

Mr Bones, hired by the remains of The Apparatus crime syndicate, had a decent plan for killing Dick Tracy. It was to shoot him. To get Tracy in shooting range, Mr Bones stole the Dick Tracy memorabilia collection of Blackjack, who’s a criminal, yeah, but a superman. Blackjack broke out of jail to recover his collection. Mr Bones hooked up with Blackjack, only to abduct him.

The plan: Mr Bones would, as Blackjack, text Dick Tracy promising to turn himself in. And once Tracy was near enough, shoot him. Blackjack he tied up, dropped a fake suicide note beside, and set the gas going to blow up the hideout. So this would make it look like Blackjack had shot Dick Tracy and then killed himself.

Mr Bones: 'You're not fooling me, Tracy!' Tracy: 'That Wrist Wizard's glowing red! Get rid of it, quick!' It explodes; we see Tracy wincing from the sight as Mr Bones cries in agony. He runs away; Tracy runs after; 'No! Don't move!'
Joe Staton, Shelly Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 14th of January, 2022. You know we never had to deal with this sort of thing when we had Casio calculator watches and land-line phones. Not to be a Plugger or anything but, just saying.

This goes wrong a couple ways. First, Dick Tracy turns out to be hard to shoot at close range. Second, Mr Bones did not expect the Wrist Wizard from Blackjack’s collection(?) was getting ready to explode. (He used the Wrist Wizard to contact Dick Tracy as Blackjack.) Third, nobody expected that when the Wrist Wizard exploded Mr Bones would fall over the ravine to his death. Also, Blackjack was able to escape his bonds enough to call the cops. I don’t know how he escaped his hideout exploding around him, though. His bonds were rolls of plastic wrap tied around him while he slept, which I can believe as a cost-effective way of holding someone. I would think it would mess up making his death look by suicide, though.

And with that, the 15th of January, Mr Bones’s story closes. We follow with two weeks of a Minit Mystery. And a repeat, which so far as I know Dick Tracy hadn’t done before. (Could barely do before.) This repeated a two-week mystery, solving the murder of Mr H K Krispies, based on parlor-room mystery rules. Seems fine enough, if you like that sort of mystery.


The new, current story started the 30th of January. For it, Mark Barnard gets a guest writer credit. It stars Yeti, last seen in December 2020, I thought killed by his own poison spider after a spectacularly failed meteorite heist. Yeti’s gimmick is selling poisons, and business is bad enough without someone killing his customers. He sends his underlings Ferret (sister to Rabbit, underling killed last story around) and Ape to check on his clients. They get to Hiram “Boss” Moran’s place to find Dick Tracy and Sam Catchem there, investigating Boss Moran’s murder.

Tracy and crew notice the poisons Hiram had. Also rose petals on the grounds. They suspect could maybe be Yeti doing the killing? Yeti, meanwhile, hears of this on the radio and is livid, suspecting Ape and Ferret have betrayed him. Ape and Ferret, meanwhile, don’t know where to go given that Yeti won’t care that there is no conceivable way they could have prevented Moran’s killing. And along their way to not knowing where to go, they sideswipe a patrol car.

Tracy, for the heck of it, checks the owner of the sideswiping car and finds it’s Constance, sister of Thomas “Rabbit” Dooley. They know Rabbit as a poisoned body found outside city limits. So they conclude Yeti’s probably alive and selling poisons again. And Catchem keeps thinking of those rose petals. It reminds him of the flowers Daisy Dugan kept on his lapel, except for not being daisies.

A tall, slender woman in red and a stooped-over man in suit and bowler hat appear at the sewer entrance: 'Surely you haven't forgotten, Yeti ... leaving me to DIE?' It's revealed to be Daisy Dugan. Yeti: 'DAISY!'
Joe Staton, Shelly Pleger, Mark Barnard, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy for the 2nd of March, 2022. The commenters referred to the woman here as “Natasha”, based on the Boris-and-Natasha pose in the first panel. That stuck with me hard enough that half my references to her in this post called Rose “Natasha”.

Ape and Ferret, at least, confirm that seven of Yeti’s ten clients are still alive. But who could be targeting Yeti’ clients? They drive back to the sewer entrance to Yeti’s lair, unaware Tracy and Catchem trail them. Also that ahead of them is … Daisy Dugan. He’s angry, with reason, at being left for dead in the failed meteorite heist. With him is his sister Rose. Their revenge: first killing his market, then here, to leave Yeti to die in agony.

(I get either leg of this plan: killing Yeti’s clients so his business collapses, or shooting Yeti so he bleeds to death in the sewers. Doing both seems like they couldn’t decide on a revenge. Possibly Rose and Daisy couldn’t agree and finally went with both.)

Foiling them is the arrival of Ape and Ferret, who draw their guns. And coming up behind them are Dick Tracy and Sam Catchem, bringing more guns to a four-way armed standoff. Yeti starts shooting his poison darts at everybody, Ape and Ferret included. Rose starts shooting her bullets at everybody. Tracy and Catchem duck out of the way until Daisy Dugan surrenders.

Ape, Ferret, Daisy Dugan, and Rose Dugan they’re able to capture alive. Yeti disappears into the tunnels, but Tracy is confident there’s no way he can escape this time. And that, the 12th of March, seems to end this part of the Yeti’s story.


Sunday the 13th sees the start of a new plot, one lead off by Vitamin Flintheart and a celebrity impersonator he’s found. I have no idea where this might go. But that’s what the next plot recap is for, eleven weeks from now.

Next Week!

So how about a goofy, silly representation of the movie business? No, I’m not putting Funky Winkerbean in my rotation. We head on down to Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley and maybe see what’s become of Rufus and Joel. If all goes to plan, anyway. See you then.

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