Have to say, I don’t see how to read this except as a quiet announcement that there’s been some breakthrough in the cold-war-style relationship they’ve been working out. I’m glad. It’s been an awful year, compounding an absolutely brutal year. That an auto care place can have some chance at happiness can maybe be that first little flower proving that life will come again.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index rose a point after traders finally got around to listening to the Flophouse Podcast Movie Minute thing where Elliott pitches his Ziggy movie and they’re not sure if they’re more entertained or just awestruck by how he went on for seven and a half minutes possibly without taking a breath.
Interested in Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth? Sure, who here wouldn’t be? If you’re looking for a recap of the current plot, it’s cruise ships. But in case the cruise ships plot ever ends there might be something more to say. So if you’re reading this much later than June 2017 you’ll want to see my most recent story summary. It’ll be at or near the top of this page. Good luck, meanwhile.
26 March – 18 June 2017
I mentioned last time the new Mary Worth had lurched into action. Mary Worth had taken Toby’s warnings that they hadn’t been important to a story in ages. Mary Worth decided to make her big story a cruise ship. I had understated then just how much Toby and Mary Worth told each other about how awesome cruise ships were. You know, how they let people with different interests have fun despite travelling together and all that. This had been the focus of like 18 weeks of strips in a row before my last summary. I thought that had all been prologue to make sure no readers questioned why someone might decide to go on a cruise ship as a recreational activity. And I imagined most of you would be willing to take that as read.
Since that time, Mary Worth and Toby have gotten to the cruise ship and been on the cruise ship. A lot. I’m not sure the cruise ship vacation will ever end. I’m not sure it’s capable of ending. This is a cruise ship vacation that my parents and their friend who always went on cruise ship vacations with them might well say was too much cruise ship.
Mary Worth overheard Derek and Katie Hoosier thinking about how this was their first cruise and latched onto them with the resolve and determination of Lieutenant Columbo noticing that Patrick McGoohan is in this episode. But she establishes pretty quick that the Hoosiers are indeed linked in an approved heterosexual monogamous relationship. What possible problem could they have? Well, Derek’s hoping the cruise will help him finally break his smoking habit.
Mary Worth and Toby talk with each other about how CRUISE SHIPS offer all manner of relaxation and entertainment options, including towel folding, lamb chops, and theater. Derek and Katie go to one of the professional entertainments, a show featuring professional entertainment professional entertainer Esme, who sings and dances and wins the wide-eyed gaze of Derek. And that attention is returned by Esme, who meets him at a secret smoke break. She’s smitten by him, which is understandable. Women with tolerably successful entertainment careers are hard-pressed to ignore starstruck young-adult males who exist and have definite physical properties and are able to set cigarettes on fire.
So smitten, in fact, that when the CRUISE SHIP stopped in Haiti for a bathroom break, Esme locked Katie Hoosier in the nation’s bathroom. Derek gets all tense and worried about this. Not unreasonably, I should say, and I’m reminded of an anecdote my father tells about their honeymoon whenever he needs my mother to roll her eyes at him, about what turned out unexpectedly to be a pay toilet in Spain. They knew about the Spain part going in. Not so much about the pay part, nor about the attendants making sure users didn’t leave without paying. Mary Worth suggests Derek try checking Haiti’s bathroom, and what do you know but she was right and everyone was silly not to ask her sooner. All return to the CRUISE SHIP, but Derek ponders what kind of world he lives in that innocent American tourists can get locked in foreign bathrooms.
Derek fumes about this all the way through the CRUISE SHIP’s stops at Jamaica and Cozumel. At least he joins Esme for smoke breaks through all this. The smoke breaks aren’t enough for Esme, who follows Derek to one of the CRUISE SHIP’s piano lounges to give an impromptu concert. Katie catches Derek committing some solo smoking and kicks him out of their cabin if he’s going to be doing that to his lungs. Moments later Katie checks on him and sees that not only is he smoking, but he’s kissing Esme, a woman who is not her. Derek protests that it wasn’t what it looked like. The entertainment professionals on CRUISE SHIP will just naturally pursue and kiss innocent smoking passengers.
Katie is having none of these excuses. Fair enough given that her husband’s been acting like the character in a Jam Handy film whose thoughtless behavior we, the audience, are supposed to discuss amongst ourselves. Plus she got locked in Haiti’s bathroom. It’s going to take a lot to get her to like CRUISE SHIP vacations again. But, then, Mary Worth has barely had anything to do this story except explain to the Hoosiers how CRUISE SHIP carpeting will show you which way is forward and which way is back. And eating things. And going to that towel-folding demonstration. Plus, after all, Katie and Derek are having one actual breach of trust (the smoking thing) and one crazy-but-basically-a-misunderstanding issue (Esme). I bet she has them meddled back into a happy marriage, possibly with children, well before the CRUISE SHIP finishes its tour, if it ever does.
The index rose seven points today as someone finally explained how to make a cell phone actually scan a QR code so it does something, although projections are for the market to drop precipitously tomorrow what with how we’ve already forgotten how to do it.
Hi, reader. This is my best attempt at explaining what’s been going on in James Allen’s Mark Trail for the last couple months. If for you the last couple months do not include, like, May of 2017 then I might be writing here about a story that’s not going on anymore, if the current story ever ends. Right now it’s not looking promising. But in case the story has ended by the time you read this, try reading this instead, as a more current essay might be among its first links. I hope this helps you find what you’re looking for.
Meanwhile in Rapid City, South Dakota, a local tough has robbed a bank, taken a woman hostage, and spotted in the fresh-arrived Mark Trail just the unwitting getaway driver he wanted. Mark Trail, thinking fast, has enough of an internal monologue to ponder the need to alert some official without betraying what he’s doing to the bank robber. And, to a wonder, he does it without letting the reader in on his plan.
My best guess: he’s figuring to pull a Ransom of Red Chief only instead of being a holy terror, he’s going to drive the bank robber past every possible scene of animals interacting in some way. Am I being unfairly snarky? From the 19th of April through the 28th the strip showed the car driving past a clutch of groundhogs, wolf pups, some falcon-class bird learning that it can’t just pick up a jackrabbit, a herd of sheep, another falcon trying to prey upon the dialogue balloons, a couple rams head-butting one another, and some moose or something. After that the bank robber has enough of this, figures out Mark Trail’s got a tracking device put on the car, and rips that out.
After driving past some buffalo, antelope I guess, and groundhogs looking disapproving at a wolf the bank robber tells Mark Trail what they’re going to do. They’re going to go to Johnny Lone Elk’s, tell him that the bank robber and the kidnapped woman are his new camera crew, and put the stolen money in Mark Trail’s camera bags. Then they’ll all go off together to see these prairie dogs and an abandoned airstrip that Mark Trail exposited about earlier.
Meanwhile the local FBI, looking for the bank robbers, is following the clue that there’s something weird about how Mark Trail rented the car. I admit I have never tried to rent a car while being held at gunpoint by a bank robber, but for the life of me I can’t figure how I’d do something weird with my car rental. I mean weird enough that car rental people would notice. Maybe tell them yes, I’d love the car insurance that’s an extra $75 a day and doesn’t do anything my home insurance doesn’t do anyway.
Mark Trail does his best not to act weird around Johnny and his wife and their handyman Nick Charles. But a stray $100 makes Johnny’s wife suspect there’s some connection to the Rapid City bank robbery, suggesting that she’s not really into this story and hopes to get it to the end as soon as possible. On the trail, Johnny knows something’s wrong and arranges for some dramatic talk about trick riding. Meanwhile a prairie dog tries to evade another swooping hawk, possibly the same one that was getting kicked by a rabbit a couple weeks back.
I know this sounds like a lot. But I gotta say, reading it one day at a time, it feels like the whole story has been waiting for stuff to happen. I expect James Allen is going for suspense in the question of how Mark Trail could possibly have arranged for help in all this, but the lack of specifics, or even hints of specifics, undermines that. I’m hoping that we’re about to see some action that brings this to a clear resolution. I’m also curious how the strip is going to turn into some major natural disaster that teaches us to never go anywhere more wild and untamed than an Apple Store. Well, there was threatened bad weather. That could mean anything.
Sunday Animals Watch
Animals or other natural phenomena featured on Sundays recently have included:
Bees, 19 March 2017
Moose, 26 March 2017
Platerodrilus Beetles, 2 April 2017
Feather Stars, “Crinoids”, 9 April 2017
Dracaena Cinnabari, the “Dragon’s Blood Tree”, 16 April 2017
Traders were feeling optimistic and full of pep today as they got like four half-filled loyalty cards at the mediterranean fast-food place merged down into … well, all right, three loyalty cards, but two of them were filled so that’s good for one free lunch today and one free lunch next time if nobody loses the filled card.
On to my other amusements. I seem to be back in a Betty Boop sort of mood. So here’s another of the early Betty Boop shorts. It’s a Talkartoon originally released the 4th of April, 1931. It’s from before Betty Boop had her name, at least publicly (I don’t know when she was named internally). It’s even introduced as a Bimbo cartoon. It’s got a couple of odd points. (It’s also got one bit of ethnic humor that could’ve been far worse.)
So the first oddity here: Bimbo’s the villain. In most of his appearances he’s your generic faintly pleasant heroic-coward inkblot; here, he’s just outright robbing a train. It’s not a bad look for him, really. It gives him the chance to mess around for a couple minutes with incompetent shooting practice that’s got a bunch of good nonsense logic to it. The sequence also lets him set up as villainous without being too evil to be the protagonist.
Second oddity is Betty Boop. She’s voiced here by Harriet Lee, I think for the only time. There’s nothing faintly boop-oop-a-doop about her voice. And as with Bimbo, Betty’s suddenly got a infusion of personality. At least, she’s got a personality with initiative, taking deliberate action instead of just trying to shape what’s going on to be not so bad. She’s got a good song, too. It’s not hard to imagine an alternate track for Bimbo-and-Betty cartoons with them as openly antagonist partners. It gives the story an inherent shape, a tension that makes the cartoon feel more modern than its contemporaries.
Which makes the end all disappointing. Things are crackling along as best they can for an early-30s short and then the climax just … evaporates. Not really any action, just she grabs him and off they go. It’s a good cartoon, threatening to be great.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index rose nine points today and then shrank back one for fear of looking “showy”.
Eh, what the heck. I’ve got a cold, I can do something relatively lazy. Let me share the 1931 Betty Boop cartoon Minding The Baby. It was the next Talkartoon released after yesterday’s installment, Bimbo’s Express. It came out the 9th of September, 1931, just a couple weeks after the previous cartoon. This seems to have been when Betty Boop took over top billing from Bimbo, a sign of her rising star. It would be a couple more cartoons before she got her own introductory song, and less than a year before she’d get a series all to herself. And this for an installment where she’s not got a lot to do herself. Before starting, though, a warning: the story is driven by an obnoxious infant. If you can’t stand crying babies in your entertainment you might want to give this a pass.
I do want to say, this is a fantastic print. I don’t know why it looks so crisp. I suspect it was restored, and then uploaded to archive.org by someone who figured since the underlying cartoon was in the public domain so were cleaned-up and restored copies. Perhaps they are, legally, but it does seem to me that the work involved in making an old piece of film look new deserves its respect at least. I will suppose archive.org knows its business, but I’d like to know how we do have such a good print.
This is another cartoon that’s pretty much just hanging out. Betty wants to see Bimbo for what I suppose is a solid night of canoodling, but he’s got to watch the baby who’s every bratty baby you get in this sort of cartoon. There’s a bunch of puttering around as everyone gets into minor scrapes and gets out again because the world isn’t all that harsh. The jokes barely have anything to do with each other and could almost be shuffled and make just as good a cartoon.
I think I’ve worked out why I like it anyway, though. Have you ever pondered what it would be like to actually live in a cartoon world? One that isn’t just seven minutes on a couple of sets but rather a whole city, one that’s always awake? Sure, people try. There’s the Toontown sequence in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. There’s the animated-background sequences that I swear are there in Cool World. There’s some other glimpses. They’ve mostly struck me false. They’re too high-energy, too busy, too active. If everything is running at a fever pitch then there’s no everyday life.
This is different. This feels like a more lived-in cartoon world, the sort of place where you as a cartoon could just go home and have an ordinary night, listening to the radio (that smiles at you and turns its dial to a show it likes better) or making dinner (catching the hot dogs trying to sneak out of the boiling water and shaming them into putting on a bun, as a robe). Funny stuff happens, all around, but it’s a very low-key, very ordinary sort of thing. It’s an inhabitable place. I feel the appeal. Do you?
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index rose a point today in anticipation of a conference call that everyone expected to be a disaster and instead turned out to be a kind of silly muddle.
I admit I’m feeling a little lazy today, so I’m going to watch a cartoon instead. This cartoon was originally released the 22nd of August, 1931, as part of the Fleischer studios Talkartoon line. It’s from early in Betty Boop’s career, when the studio still thought that maybe Bimbo was a character people would like to come see, what with him existing and probably having some distinct personal traits or something.
So a thing about the Fleischer cartoons you maybe knew, or that you worked out when you think about the story structure. They didn’t really write out plots before they started animation. Especially in the earlier days they’d pick a theme and then stuff some scenes around it. In the best cartoons this produces a raucous, jazzy feeling as you see no end of surprising riffs on jokes. In the worst you realize nothing is going anywhere.
This is a middle one. It doesn’t start out promising, what with spending a minute of screen time just getting Bimbo and his moving company to Betty Boop’s house. Someone making a cartoon on this theme today would establish the moving company in about ten seconds of screen time, and that if they wanted to make sure everyone in back got it. In trade for all the time spent getting to the start of the story is little bits of silliness: the horses’s goofy pace, or the tiny cat emitting a tiny “mew” every time he’s squished by the gorilla(?). Every little “mew” tickled me.
When the action proper does get started, it’s solid stuff. It’s all a bunch of scenes of Bimbo and company moving stuff in more complicated ways than they need to. None of the jokes are very deep, granted, or really character-driven. But there’s a good number of them, and none demand too much time or attention, and there’s usually some cute little fillip along the way, such as the horse flipping the egg on the stove.
Another symptom of the plotlessness of the affair: there’s no climax. I expect a cartoon of this vintage, especially a Betty Boop cartoon, to end with at least some scene of peril that she escapes or gets rescued from. It’s easy to imagine a virtual avalanche of objects being moved threatening to crush Betty, or the moving van to go tumbling down the street. None of that there. It’s just under six minutes of jokes about how can you take stuff out of one place (and not even put it in the new!). Curious affair, overall.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index dropped five points in trading amidst accusations that Lisa was pocketing some of the good-looking points and keeping them for her own nefarious purposes. She insists the purposes are not nefarious, but didn’t like the suggestion they were for scandalous purposes either.
So a little something roiled the normally calm world of ridiculing Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean. Last week the strip did one of its occasional grab-bag weeks, with just spot gags and no storyline or attempt at one. Before I get into that, let me share this link to my mathematics blog, since I did my usual Sunday comic-strip review over there. Thank you.
So. Snark-reading Tom Batiuk strips is usually pretty easy. The comic presents a couple of the lumpy, sad main characters talking about one of their ongoing problems, with something involving words used in slightly unusual ways in the last panel, while everyone smirks and waits for the death of joy. The snarky reader looks over this, points out the joke barely parses, and that the problem as presented could not happen because something or other does not work like that, or because he’s confused parts of the continuity. Then the snark readers wait for the next day. I’m not ruling myself out of this group, by the way. Rolling eyes at Tom Batiuk strips is one of the joys of being a comics fan who never gets enough chances to showcase learning what “bathos” meant for that vocabulary quiz in eighth grade. (Hi, Mrs Furey!)
And now I’d like to make my argument. Please feel free to disagree. Busiek’s right, by the way, that the deadly problem is the comic timing. The first two panels are nothing. Trying to make the punchline also carry the load of setting up the strip is a mess.
But I think the snark-blogging interpretation, that Donna or Crazy Harry has to be too stupid to be plausible, wrong here. I think that Donna’s supposed to be facetious. To say with a straight face the obviously ridiculous is so important to comedy that if we’re to rule it out then I can’t comment in any web forums or Usenet anymore. I think there are line readings that would make the joke work. At least work as well as it can given the attempt at jamming all the setup into the punchline.
Which is still a structural problem in the comic. Written comedy has limited powers to direct how a line should be read. A comic strip has a bit more power, since it can show characters reacting. But the Funky Winkerbean standard is to draw people moping, smirking, or despairing and that doesn’t offer much support for whimsy. A comic strip also has more power to suggest timing and where to pause a line and what to emphasize in it. But those tools aren’t used here.
So that’s my best attempt at making this Funky Winkerbean make sense: Donna is being silly and playful, and we don’t know how to react to that anymore. I’m curious what you kindly readers make it out to be.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index rose two points as the market digested reports that the Earth has an extra layer of tectonic plates within the mantle, which should be reassuring to everyone worrying about whether we had enough. It might have pushed the index higher still if we were sure we understood why it doesn’t look like any other planets or moons have tectonic plates, which seems like a weird oversight. Are we maybe looking for theirs in the wrong places or something?
And as with my other low-daisy-content story strip reviews, this one might be out of date. This post should be good for explaining plot developments in the couple of months before late May of 2017. If it’s later than, oh, August 2017 when you read this, then if all’s gone to plan I have a new post updating things further. My most recent Gasoline Alley posts should be at the top of this link. Thanks for reading and I’ll do my best to be not too wrong in describing the goings-on.
Gasoline Alley, 27 February – 26 May 2017.
Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley has four major kinds of storyline, with many variations possible in those types. Three have been seen since late February. The missing one is the magical-fantasy storyline, wherein Walt Wallet or crew visit the Old Comics Home or something similar. The kind of story that just warps what reality could be. That hasn’t been around the last few months.
The second time is your classic old-style sitcom, ah, situation. The kind where one of the main cast has some scheme that gets advanced and then falls apart. You know, every sitcom from the 50s and 60s, and many of the radio sitcoms from the 40s. It’s an old-fashioned format but it’s still a perfectly workable one. Last time we looked at Gasoline Alley they were coming near the end of one of these. Walt Wallet had been invited to the TV show Shark Bait to pitch inventors his idea: put every household appliance together in one big raging appliance monster. The millionaire or billionaires (the strip made a point of raising confusion about this) don’t see how it would work, and one of them finds that exactly this idea was patented by the Hotenkold Appliance Company in 1935 and still makes the things. As predicted by everyone who’s encountered stories before, Walt Wallet does not go home wealthy. (The strip didn’t pay off the millionaire-or-billionaire question.)
The strip passed things off to Hoogy Skinner and her kids Boog and Aubee, for a medical check. This led a couple of weeks of pediatrician jokes and let us follow the Physician Assistant, Chipper Wallet, into the third of the stock Gasoline Alley plot kinds. And I’d like to mention the smoothness of the segue: we followed Walt Wallet out of the TV show plot, passed off by switching from one car to the next with characters that brought us to Chipper Wallet, and from that into his story. It’s all smoothly done; I wonder if daily readers even notice they’re being passed on like that.
Anyway, this third kind of storyline is the public service announcement. Chipper Wallet leaves the office to drive to Durham, North Carolina, where he’s to speak at the dedication of the Veteran’s Memorial Garden of the Physician Assistant Society. Wallet gets waylaid by some car trouble and meets Reverend Neil Enpray and mechanic Don Yonder whom I’m just going to assume are from the Earth-2 Gasoline Alley. They gave me the vibe of being established characters but I don’t know the canon nearly well enough to guess. But it’s mostly a chance for the characters to explain to the reader about what they are, what they do, why they’re important. The story ends with Wallet being reunited with a woman he, as a Navy Hospital Corpsman in Vietnam, helped deliver a child. As I say, a bit of story and a good bit of public service announcement. It’s also a chance to fundraise for the historical society.
And this led into the current storyline, one of the fourth type. It’s the weepy melodrama. It stars Joel and Rufus, two of the (bluntly) stupider adults in the strip. They’re usually busy with more outlandish hijinks and misunderstandings. (The segue for this story was Rufus bringing his cat in to see Chipper Wallet on the grounds that of course he’s a vet; he served in the Coast Guard.) Rufus has just met Scruffy, a kid whose family just moved into the abandoned old grist mill and is so poor they can only use parts of the Walt Kelly Pogofenokee comic-strip-southern dialect. The story’s in its earliest days so not much has been established past that the family’s desperately poor. I expect this is going to lead Rufus and Joel in a story in which they make some grand and slightly overcomplicated gesture to help that which misfires but still results in their being a little better off. (At this stage it’s playing Santa Claus Running Late. This may evolve.) That’s the kind of story Gasoline Alley does.
The Sunday strips have all been one-off jokes, mostly characters setting up and delivering corny old gags well, and not part of any continuing storylines. That’s fine and pleasant but there’s no context I can usefully give to them. They’re whole on their own.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index rose eleven points as everyone was relieved to learn everyone else had clicked on that silly clickbait ad about ten ways to earn money from your hobby and there was no reason everyone should feel ashamed that, like, apparently there’s people whose hobby is investing in real estate? I mean, come on. Anyway the index is at 210 and that’s not even an all-time high and isn’t that amazing too? It’s amazing, yes.
While Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant runs fewer strips than any of the other syndicated story strips, it’s still worth reviewing. They take a good bit of space, and they pack events into it. If you’re reading this much after May 2017, you may want to check if I have a more recent update. It should be at or near the top of this page’s links. Thanks for reading.
Prince Valiant, 19 February – 21 May 2017.
We left Prince Valiant and crew resuming their journey to the Mystic East. They’d defeated the tyrant Azar Rasa and scattered his armies and detonated his Soul of Asia bomb. The grateful giants who’d created the Soul of Asia prepared a boat, with a pilot and a team of dolphins pulling their craft. So a giant alligator attacked.
This set off an earthquake that set the dolphins free and knocked the giant out of the story. It’s the groundbreaking for a new waterfall, which the gang falls down. Valiant gets knocked in the head and misses just how they make their escape. It’s pink dolphins. Prince Valiant and company are recovered on shore by (checks encounter table) some refugees from Azar Rasa’s wars.
But all’s not well at refugee camp. They’re plagued by attacks from (checks encounter table) bandits on horseback who’ve been plaguing the refugee herders. Large hairy man Numair goes naked bathing. It’s in the same pond the robe-dressed Karen means to use for laundry, and they talk about how glad they are they’re not totally into each other since that would mess things up with Karen’s husband Giovanni.
After thinking hard about it Valiant decides to save the refugees; he, Bukota, and Giovanni work on building shelters. Karen leads a fishing class, and Numair goes off with bow and arrow to hunt for the next plot point. While hunting the small game he (checks encounter table) finds a badly wounded woman who’s killed three bandits. He recognizes her as Taloon, the excellent huntress that head refugee Korsheed had mentioned, and he ties some sticks around cloth around her leg as a show of healing.
Numair follows the dead bandits’ footprints back to their horses and bribes them with some sweetgrass. He and Taloon set off back to the refugee camp, thinking of how swell everything is and how cute it is they met one another, but (checks the encounter table) there are three brigands lying in wait. So somebody’s going to have an unhappy next installment.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index rose an astounding twelve points to an all-time high as traders were buoyed by how well the new computer is generally behaving, and also by rumors that there might have been a second 80s cartoon about robot cowboys in Space Texas. Analysts are skeptical but, you know, it was the 80s. And we’re trying very hard not to suppose that since everything is going swell that everything is doomed and will never be good again.
Before I do, though, here’s my mathematics blog, which looked at only a couple of comic strips this week because nobody gave me anything to write about from Tuesday through Saturday last week. I blame the crazy guy who writes Dilbert because, you know, why not?
Anyway. No time for a full update about the plot in Mary Worth because it’s mostly been “cruise ships are awesome” and “smokers are mostly crooks”. I just want to talk about the title panel from Sunday’s strip. Normally these include a quotation from a person too famous to have their quotes be reliably sourced and, when they turn out to be legitimate quotes, to usually mean in context the opposite of whatever they seem to say in a Mary Worth quote box. Here’s Sunday’s.
Mary Worth can quote Mister T now?
So I’m thinking here an Indiegogo to hire some suitable actress who’ll portray Mary Worth doing nothing but reading Mister T’s greatest lines, and a handful of his most mediocre lines for contrast. I’m accepting donations and nominations for what to have Mary Worth read but obviously I’m putting the highest priority on memorable quotes from the Ruby/Spears Mister T cartoon, if there are any. That interview mentioned in my picture caption is also a good mine of stuff to say.
The index rose another point today to what everybody’s pretty sure is an all-time high? It seems like it ought to be, anyway. Point being now everyone’s miserable because they just know there’s now way that is going to last and we’re probably going to crater to, like, sixty before the week is over.
And now the Sunday continuity for Tony DePaul and Terry Beatty’s The Phantom. If you’re looking for the weekday strips that’s a separate line, most recently covered here. If you’re reading this much later than May 2017, look at the top essays at this link instead. It’ll have both the Sunday and the weekday continuities in it, and unless I change the order in which I go around the story comics, the Sunday one will more likely be at the top. So there’s that.
The Phantom (Sundays), 13 February – 13 May 2017.
When I last reported on The Ghost Who Makes Up Proverbs About Himself, Sunday pelage, he was in a Chicago mobster’s bedroom, encircled by Chinese-hired ninjas. You know, as protectors of coastal African nations will. The Phantom was drawn there when a plane crash brought to his attention Mikey D’Moda, who at age maybe fourteen is the over-promoted scion of the D’Moda crime family. After listening to the kid for about ten minutes The Phantom figured we can’t let people like this run around and flew to his great-grandfather, the only other blood relative who’s part of the story and whose first name I can’t find. Sorry.
The Elder D’Moda, bedridden since his death by old age twenty years ago, sees in The Phantom a strong man, a potential new consigliere. The Phantom won’t have any of it, and offers the deal by which Elder D’Moda makes restitution and the Younger D’Moda never speaks to anyone, ever again. Given a good hard look what his family business has come to, Elder D’Moda off and dies, and Mikey leaves for a farm upstate.
So this story, begun the 26th of June 2016, officially wrapped up — by the “Next: NEW ADVENTURE!” box — the 2nd of April. The new story, started the 9th of April, is titled The Phantom Is Everywhere, suggesting the surprising return of Klondike Kat’s nemesis Savoir Faire in a comic strip other than Dick Tracy. The suggestion is wholly unrelated to the actual content of the story and I apologize for wasting your time with it. Phantom Wiki reports this is the 185th Sunday story.
The story opens in a Wambesi village terrorized by a trio of “agressors” who in Lee Falk’s words “preach a hateful ideology” and loot the place now and then. But Jungle Patrol is there, hiding among the villagers and waiting for their moment. One of the Jungle Patrol blows a whistle, and the bandits are caught when they go to the free throw line. Jungle Patrol’s speculation afterwards is that it may be tied to The Python, the terrorist leader whom The Phantom broke out of Boomsby Prison to hold himself, privately, in a secret grass hut guarded by villagers.
And that’s about where things stand today. The disadvantage of these Sunday strips is there aren’t so many Sundays in the week, so there’s not as much to write up. But if you the reader are curious about the stuff I’ve elided, or want permanent links to strips not featured here, please comment. I’ll try to be useful.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index rose six points after everyone gathered around to hear my annual rant about how the Mother’s Day Card industry somehow has cards for every possible relationship except the person who has a good relationship with their mother-in-law and wants to send a card as a person and not as the person who happens to be married to the mother-in-law’s child. It brings everyone a strange amount of joy to see me upset at the injustice of it all.
And now I’m in The Phantom zone. This week I’ll do my best to explain the weekday continuity in Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s comic strip. Next week I’ll catch things up on the Sunday continuity. If you’re reading this much later than May 2017, you should be able to find a more recent review on this linked page. It’ll have both the Sunday and the weekday continuities in it; I’m sorry, I don’t know a good way to sort those out. Thanks for bearing with me.
Have to admit this is one of those stories where I just could not get into our protagonist’s mindset. I would get The Phantom wanting to protect his image, and using his iconography on something trivial can serve to trivialize him. But I’m just not seeing how someone who’s cultivated several dozen and often very specific Old Jungle Sayings about what The Phantom does or what you do when you meet The Phantom is doing saying this is the step too far. The case could have been made, but I didn’t see it.
That wrapped up the 11th of March. From the 13th of March started a new story, The Curse Of Old Man Mozz, which Phantom Wiki says is the 247th Phantom Daily story. Lee Falk promises that in it, faithful mystic and old-guy Old Man Mozz will foretell the death of the 21st Phantom, our current purple-clad superhero.
The action opens with The Phantom raiding a Thug Factory, punching and taking names. Then he punches the names and throws them down a well. He spends a couple weeks at this, since the Thug Factory is churning out product like crazy. He grabs guy after guy eager to beg for a deal and who learn their deal is they’re being left for the police. Or, well, the Jungle Patrol, who’re totally legitimate and respectable forces for law and due process rather than a self-sustaining militia.
Along the way Devil, the Phantom’s pet wolf, took a pretty nasty tumble along with one of the Thug Factory’s newest products. Ghost Who Punches finds medicine guy Guran is strangely uninterested in his medical guy work. Phantom figures to work out what his deal is, although it’s his wife, Diana Palmer-Walker, who successfully follows him. Guran’s destination: The hut of Old Man Mozz, where he’s sprawled out on the floor surrounded by mysterious vaporous mists and muscle loss. Mozz is not ill, Guran promises Palmer-Walker. He’s just having visions.
We haven’t heard officially what he’s envisioning, but Lee Falk may have dropped a clue when he said Old Man Mozz would foretell the death of the 21st Phantom. Misdirection? Possibly, although The Phantom has noticed how end-of-life-y things feel lately. What we’ve been given doesn’t promise the current Kit Walker’s going to die before it’s over. But I’m curious how it’s going to affect the continuity of the series. The Phantom 2040 cartoon, back in the 90s, tells stories of the 24th Phantom, after all, and while it accounts for the short career of the 23rd Phantom, there is the 22nd, who last year was sent to get himself shot in Tibet, ready to become part of the comic. Just observing.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index rose nine points today in response to a Reuters report that frozen orange juice concentrate was selling at 150.80 on the commodities market, which seems like a good deal for orange juice concentrate? Also it’s something there’s a thriving international commodities market in? All right, we never see that in grand strategy games where you do trades of goods with other countries but what the heck. Frozen orange juice concentrate. Business is weird.
So, my conversion of this blog from miscellaneous humor stuff into comic strip review goes well. According to WordPress’s statistics I had some 1,765 pages viewed from 1,099 distinct readers in April. That’s down from March’s 2,085 pages from 1,308 visitors. But it’s near enough January’s 1,837 views from 1,093 visitors that I’m not going to go fretting nonstop about that. If nothing else, April’s “What’s Going On In” comics were about stuff like Gil Thorp and Alley Oop, which people don’t find as ironically fascinating as Mary Worth or Rex Morgan. Oh, I had Judge Parker, surely a perennial, but also Spider-Man which has too strong a narrative drive to really confuse people.
No, what I’ll fret about if you don’t mind is the number of pages liked. There were 147 ‘likes’ clicked around here in April. That’s not far off March’s 154 or February’s 169. But WordPress increased the range of months I can see on the chart. That’s made me realize the ‘likes’ around here have been trending downward, like some exponential decay, since about March of 2015 when there were 443 likes. I haven’t dug in to see how what I wrote differed back then from what I write now. But I wonder. Wouldn’t you? If you’re reading this far into my data moping here, you wonder at least a bit.
Comments have a similar-looking decline. Oh, they were up in April, to 26 from March’s 12 and February’s 15. That still shows a steady decline, though. I won’t bother with a picture of that over the course of months. Sometime last year — I forget when — I shifted the way I link to old stuff. The new way doesn’t show up as a comment on the linked essay, so that I have a truer count of how many things people are saying something about. On the other hand, this does mean the page referred to doesn’t show that it’s been referred to by anything else. Maybe I should go back to the old way; that might help people archive-binging find other interesting stuff. If you know anyone who’s archive-binged my little thing … uh … thank you. I’d like to hear what makes it easier, though.
The top articles around here the past month? Mostly comic strip plot summaries. I suspected this would happen, and accepted it. I’d like to be known as a sometimes-absurdist humorist plainly in the Robert Benchley tradition, but if my ability to pay attention to Gasoline Alley is of more use to the world, fine. Nobody ever gets famous for what they want to be famous for.
Now on to a big old list of countries and readers! Everyone likes those, unless they go unlisted. In which case it’s something they could fix themselves, isn’t it?
Hong Kong SAR China
Trinidad & Tobago
Turks & Caicos Islands
United Arab Emirates
I make that out to be visitors from 51 countries, down from March’s 55 and April’s 61. There were 13 single-viewer countries, down from March’s 14 and February’s 22. Egypt, Ukraine, and Taiwan are the only three countries that were single-reader countries in March also, and March was a complete single-reader turnover from February.
I start May with 52,737 page views from 28,546 distinct visitors, I’m told. WordPress says the most popular day, with 16 percent of views, is Wednesday, just as it was in March. It says the most popular hour, with 13 percent of views, is once again 12 am. That’s down from 15 percent the previous month.
WordPress figures I start the month with 729 readers here, up from 725. I’m flattered to see any follower that hasn’t two days later had their blog closed or made private or whatnot. You bloggers who follow your statistics obsessively know what I’m talking about. If you’d like to join them there should be the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button off on the right side of the screen. Or you can follow by e-mail, joining a group of elites such as my dad. And I’m also @nebusj on Twitter, where I supposedly have 237 followers, and won’t try to scare any of them off. Thank you, won’t you?
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index gained a point when investors were sweeping out the corners like they’ve been promising to all week and saw one had rolled under there, raising hopes for what might happen if they ever do that proper whole-floor mopping they’ve been talking about since March.
Anyway, while last week’s issue of the local alt-weekly didn’t have a New In Town article to let me know what bars are opening, it did have the list of what bands are performing nearby. So now I know that whoever’s been booking acts for The Loft got sloppy about covering up how they’re also working for Moriarty’s Pub. Or else we had three musical acts lived that sitcom premise of having to cover two gigs at the same time in places that aren’t even next to each other. I hope they figured out where they should be and when. Also I hope they foiled international spies or something along the way because part of me still thinks the world should work like 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoons.
Also if it seems like we have a lot of Reno’s in town yeah, it kind of does. We also have a lot of Tin Can Bars, it seems like, but they don’t have shows I guess. Nothing like we have Biggby Coffee shops, mind you. But nobody has as many of those as we have, not even us.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index dropped another four points owing to investor confidence being shaken by this incredibly long line to get out of the parking lot. And yeah, the line got so long and so slow they just raised the barrier and waved people out without charging but, still, what was going on? That isn’t right.
Really am sorry, folks, but I only noticed this in the classifieds of our local alt-weekly and it’s an exciting opportunity. The City of Lansing, Michigan, is looking for someone who can supply it with bituminous material. You have to have your offer of the stuff turned in by Tuesday afternoon, so there probably isn’t time to go checking everything in your storage locker for signs of bituminosity. But if you have some on hand, this is your chance! Don’t miss it. You never know when fair-sized mid-Michigan cities will need material that’s got even one tuminous to it again. Bituminous is a special treat.
Also there was something about blueberry pies on Friday but we both missed that.
Finally over on my mathematics blog I just went crazy solving a puzzle from a FoxTrot Sunday strip and believe me, you want to see that. Someone does.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index was slightly up today as traders found all kinds of material in their junk drawers and had expectations that at least some of it will be bituminous. What are the odds that none of it would be? Exactly. It just can’t happen.
And I’m back around to Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop. While I’m writing about the current storyline, it’s possible you’re reading this while trying to figure out what some other storyline in my future is about. That’s only fair given we’re talking about Alley Oop, isn’t it? Anyway, if you’re reading this much later than about May or June of 2017, you may want to look at whatever essay’s at top of this page. It should have my most current low-daisy review of what’s going on.
Dire? I suppose, although the comic strip — while taking its adventure seriously — never get all that dire. Plus at that point only Alley Oop himself had been taken over. He was joined by Zan, while fellow Moo bit player Bug ran back to his sergeant to report on the alien invasion. Ooola overhears; the soldiers work up a story about how Oop’s just got so much meat to bring home he hasn’t had time to get mind-controlled by an invading pantsless alien plant-frog guy, a story she pretends to believe.
Volzon, warming stuff up for the reinforcements by having Oop and Zan punch trees, spots Bug and the Sarge and takes them over in time for the mind control ray to wear off Alley Oop. And while Oop had been under the ray for like six weeks of reader time, in story time it can’t have been more than a couple hours. It suggests there’s some practical problems in an economy built entirely on mind controlling cavemen. At least it means they’d be spending a lot of time re-zapping Moovians instead of enjoying stealing the fruit of others’ labor.
While Volzon gloats about preparations for his totally hip log-cabin spaceport being underway Ooola gets tired of not being in the story. She teams up with Dinny, Alley Oop’s pet/friend dinosaur, and go looking for him by the ancient Moovian technique of trying. Volzon’s startled by the big charging dinosaur somehow living at the same time as cavemen, but before he can question the plausibility of this worldbuilding the invading pantsless alien plant-frog guy discovers his mind control ray doesn’t work on dinosaurs. Yes, I enjoyed writing that sentence. I’m going to be cheery about it for days to come.
It gets worse for the invader. Even when Ooola’s separated from any dinosaurs it turns out her boogie board is an effective defense against mind control rays. With Oop coming out of control and Dinny coming close to suppertime, Volzon retreats to his pocket-dimensional spaceship and takes off for some easier invasion target. Possibly, like, the place forty miles down the road but, that would be in a different comic strip.
If this isn’t the end of the story it’s darned close. The past week has been Oop explaining what was going on to Zan, Bug, the Sarge, and someone else who joined the story while I wasn’t looking. There might be another week of transition left in things, but we’re getting onto a new story soon enough. I thank Jack Bender and Carole Bender for organizing stuff that neatly.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index rose four points today on rumors of investor confidence and a sense that what’s the worst that could happen? The folks shorting the index have their answers, but nobody listens to them until the market crashes and they’re the only ones with money until everyone else gathers around and punches them.
I’m sorry to be a little down but over the weekend I learned that my phone, my camera, and our Mi-Fi device all use the exact same size mini-USB plug. And then we also successfully used our Mi-Fi device to get a little bit of functional Internet in a place that didn’t otherwise have it. Oh, it only lasted until the Mi-Fi device’s power wore out, and we weren’t able to buy a second day of service in a row. But still. Three things using the same mini-USB plug, and using a Mi-Fi device to have a portable block of Internet service where we needed it? When am I ever going to achieve anything as impossible in life again?
Rocket warns that Ronan The Accuser is looking around for The Sentry, an 80,000-year-old alien-built contraption that looks faintly like a robotic Moe Howard. Ronan figures he can use this to unleash all sorts of accusations on the whole galaxy. Peter, Mary Jane, and Rocket deduce The Sentry must be somewhere in Petrogylph National Monument, as the road sign for it is clear and fills up nearly half a panel. Ronan The Accuser follows similar clues and he and Spidey punch each other until The Sentry wakes up. It goes off to blow up Albuquerque. Rocket remembers that Ronan (“please, my dad is Mister The Accuser”) is extremely vulnerable to Earth air. So he and Spidey try to knock his helmet off, which goes great.
Luckily Newspaper Spider-Man is extraordinarily good at taking blunt force traumas. He uses this to do a “why are you hitting yourself?”, using Ronan T A’s own large hammer to smack his helmet off. Spider-Man tries to put the unconscious Ronan’s helmet back on, on the grounds that he can’t just suffocate the guy even if he is trying to blow up the world or galaxy or whatnot. And I admire this idealistic bit from Peter Parker, who’s not going to be more cruel than he must be, however much trouble it makes. The resolve to be kind even when it’s hard, or worse, inconvenient is something we should take from superheroes. Anyway, Spidey accepts Rocket’s promise that Ronan isn’t dead, he’s just sleeping, and they go off to fight The Sentry.
Rocket and Spider-Man leave Mary Jane to watch Ronan just in case he wakes long enough to gasp out something plot-relevant. And hey! So she flags down a truck and buys it and a bunch of day laborers to bring Ronan to the big Albuquerque fight, because she always travels with that kind of cash. Using the unconscious Ronan — whom The Sentry can’t harm — as body shield Spider-Man teases The Sentry mercilessly. Meanwhile Rocket climbs inside and punches stuff until it breaks.
Also, yes, Spider-Man did pretty near nothing to drive the story. Rocket did most of the heavy lifting and Mary Jane overcame plot-related sexism to do something too. Peter Parker was mostly there to, I dunno, get hit with stuff. This is healthy.
Peter and Mary Jane Parker were in Arizona to start with as they were taking a driving trip to Los Angeles. I don’t have any guesses who’s going to be the Hollywood antagonist. And I hope it’s not long before they bring Rocket around for another session.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index continued its downward slide as investor confidence was shaken by the realization that after so much hype about the testing of the state’s tornado warning system nobody actually heard any sirens. That’s even more suspicious than the earlier things we were suspecting.
I’ve got the usual Sunday comic strips post over in the mathematics blog. Have you given it a try? It might like the company. There’s an Archie comic over there, if that affects your choice. If not, that’s fine. We’ve been spending the weekend trying to figure out which of Paas’s four egg-dye tablets that could plausibly be pink actually is the pink already. People keep asking the Internet this question and there’s suspiciously few answers considering it would just take one person with a dye kit and two pictures, and then we’d know which tablet isn’t supposed to get mixed with vinegar. Fix that problem, Internet. Anyway, fresh off yesterday’s activities, a scene that came to mind:
“Hey? Hey guys? Guys? What are you talking about? Are you doing something? Are you talking about me? Can I come over and talk with you? Can I? Guys? Hey, are you ignoring me? Do you wanna talk about me? It’s okay with me if you wanna talk about me. Hey?”
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index rose three points today as those turned out to be peanut butter smidges we got from the candy store. Not that caramel isn’t good too, you understand, just that peanut butter smidge.
When last I checked in on the goings-on of Milford school coach Gil Thorp and his band of students it was basketball season. The story was about Aaron Aagard, who’s 46% punchable, 51% charming for a teenager and 3% basketball phenomenon or something. It’s a good enough mix. His problem was he was really good some days, really bad some others, and he’s known to go to raves even in whole other towns. Some teammates overheard he was “taking Molly”. My “hep” “cat” informants assure me this is how “the kids” refer to the ecstasy when they “rap” about drug habits. Aagard had promised Coach Thorp he’d clear up their misunderstanding. I predicted it would turn out he was taking his “generically-disabled niece or something” Molly to the raves.
Shows what I know; Molly O’Herlihy is his girlfriend who totally exists and all, he just doesn’t want to show her off because you know how teenage boys are. There’s no group less prone to ostentatious displays of deployed heterosexuality. Thorp tells Aagard’s teammates to stop trying to figure out his deal, so they continue trying to figure out his deal. They have a breakthrough when they realize Aagard lives in an apartment far below his mother’s standing as an actuary. It’s good thinking on their part. Any mathematics major who’s bought his department’s propaganda will tell you how actuaries are just rolling in cash. If I ever need a quick 25 grand I just have to walk down to the business district and mutter about how I’ve got an advanced degree in mathematics and then, like, Jackson Life Insurance supposes I might be an actuary and they should pay me something just to be safe.
Coach Thorp, roused into something like action, checks in on Aagard’s mother. She’s not even actuarying, just doing bookkeeping for a couple small businesses. Aaron Aagard, deploying the sort of pacing that indicates he thinks he’s the charming star of an occasionally-serious three-camera sitcom, explains that the problem is not drugs. It’s drugs. His mother’s opioid habit. So he does well when there’s enough money in the house for, like, food and all. This leaves Thorp some unpleasant responsibilities. Thorp tries to figure out what he can do without screwing up Aagard’s life all the more. It’s not like he can even just pass Aagard some money to get groceries without inviting a world of scandal. So he covers where he can, inviting his student for one-on-one dinners in public areas.
After being fed enough pie and I’m going to go ahead and assume cheese fries, Aagard consents to turning his mom in to the Actuary Police. Before she’s taken off to answer sumptuary charges of living beneath her actuarial station she gets to see one last, and first, basketball game starring Aaron. Pressured, he has a lousy game, at least until Thorp points out that as a person with advanced mathematical skills and training, Tina Aagard completely lacks the ability to tell whether a basketball player is doing well or badly. I agree, although the boo-ing from the rest of the audience might clue her in. Anyway, with that reassurance Aagard finishes up decently and goes into foster care with one of the teammates who did so much to change the set of hassles he’s dealing with.
Got to say, honestly, I did enjoy the story. I’m snarking about it because it’s more fun to recap stuff with a little silliness. The pacing was decent, the star was appealing, and Thorp got to be charmingly exasperated with the kids who insisted on figuring out what Aagard’s deal was. And the underlying problem was credible, and that the characters were stuck in their situation made sense too. It wasn’t anybody being stupid, just, stuck over their heads in a situation that just grew bad.
April started softball season. Its plot starts with student reporters for the Milford Journal discovering the school board’s vice-president way padding his expense accounts and he gets all angry at them for doing this. I understand. When I travel for work I live in fear the company’s going to decide I’m indulging my hedonism at their expense. And I fly United. Meanwhile in sports, transfer-student pitcher Ryan van Auken reveals that he’s handled his anger issues by putting that energy into having a large face. That’s been about all the time we’ve had for this story so far, so I don’t figure to predict where it might be going. When there’s updates, I’ll pass them along. Thank you.
Another Blog, Meanwhile Index
The index fell two points over wait Princess Lolly of Candy-Land was removed from office when Queen Frostine became a Princess herself ? Also there was a Princess Lolly? Also wait, since when are there even characters in Candy-Land? What do you mean since 1984? What is with reality anymore? What?