Has The Guy Who Draws Beetle Bailey Ever Seen A Squirrel?


Before I get into writing way too much about way too small a point, I want to mention my mathematics blog, where I had some more comic strips to write about yesterday. I’d like to say a little more about that, because I want to include an image of a comic strip with alarming art in it.

And if I pad the text enough before including the image, then WordPress makes it appear below the little block on the left with the dateline and tags and so on, then the image is larger, and that’s better.

And I need like one more line before it works on my computer to come out right.

Maybe one more.

One more, I think.

No, don’t need that one.

Beetle, offering food to some kind of small dog. 'I'm giving this squirrel a taste of cookie's stew.' Plato: 'That's kind.' The 'squirrel' looks dazed. Beetle: 'If he doesn't get sick, it's safe for ME to eat.' Plato: 'That's cruel.'
Mort Walker and Greg Walker’s Beetle Bailey for the 15th of August, 2017. So, in the vintage circa-1960 run of Beetle Bailey also on Comics Kingdom they have this fascinating running joke. General Halftrack frets that he hasn’t gotten any orders from the Pentagon for the last three years or so, and that last order was to just wait for their next order. It’s a good joke. It also feeds into the fan theory — yes, yes, all fan theories are the same fan theory — that Camp Swampy is some dopey military-fantasy camp with no connection to the actual US Army. I don’t care for the fan theory but, must say, an utterly forgotten camp kind of makes sense.

OK, so, yeah, since about 1950 comic strips have relied on this Mid-Century-Modern-influenced styling. Every comic strip develops its own non-representational but, hopefully, expressive design. And trying to fit something very different into that design can be difficult. Charles Schulz never figured out how to put a cat he liked into Peanuts. But this … I mean … what the heck?

I’m not saying I can do better. My own squirrel-drawing abilities are sharply limited. I would probably give you a better squirrel if I handed a canvas and ink brush to a raccoon and asked her to draw something. She would refuse, because it’s really crummy to ask an artist to draw something for free. I would offer the onion we kind of forgot we’ve had in the refrigerator since May as payment. She would insist also on getting the block of year-old cheddar that’s going a bit off because we’re not eating as much cheese as we expected. I would say she could have the parts that are starting to go dry, but not the salvageable part. And there we would reach an impasse. In any case, we wouldn’t get some Apartment 3-G nightmare like that. That’s what I’m saying.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose a starting 23 points over the day to close at 400, a new high number and a nice, round number too. Everybody’s in quite the giddy mood, pondering, what can they possibly do to top this? Someone came in from consoling Lisa with the suggestion of “401”, but was called a mad fool and a dreamer.

400

What’s Going On In Dick Tracy? June – August 2017


Are you trying to work out what’s going on in Joe Staton and Mike Curtis’s Dick Tracy? Welcome, fellow confused reader. I’m doing my best to explain the current storyline myself. I’m writing this in the middle of August 2017. If it’s much past that date for you, the story might have changed radically or even concluded. If I’ve written another summary of plot developments they should be at or near the top of this page. Thanks for trusting in me to spot pop culture references in the venerable story comic about a scientific detective.

For other comic strip talk, my mathematics blog just reviewed some strips with the theme of “Pets Doing Mathematics”. Please consider that, too.

Dick Tracy.

4 June – 12 August 2017.

My last update, in early June, coincided with the conclusion of a storyline. So I have a nearly clean field for this one. The story for June and July focused on the B O Plenty family, hillbillies with one Devo hat and a powerful aroma to them who married into the comic strip decades ago. The Plentys worry about strange sounds suggesting their house is haunted. What they should worry about is Paragon Bank noticing there haven’t been any payments on their mortgage, like, ever. In foreclosure, Plenty points out that he paid for the house in full, and turns over the receipt. The judge goes against precedent and rules the bank may not seize their home and destroy their lives.

Not to worry for justice. The bank skips out on paying court costs. Tracy, at the behest of Gravel Gerty, goes to the bank to keep B O from shooting anyone wealthy. And while he’s there Blackjack and his gang pop in and hold up the bank. Tracy doesn’t get involved, on the grounds that he didn’t want to start a gunfight. Blackjack, a hardcore Dick Tracy fanboy, realizes the detective has been replaced by a pod person, but makes off with the cash. Tracy points out that Blackjack’s taken to robbing banks with notorious reputations for cheating people, so, you know. I’m sure the bank is working its way through to paying court costs like the manager says they were totally planning to do.

Blackjack's Hideout. 'I still can't believe it! I had the chance to meet B.O.Plenty and Gravel Gertie!' Winston: 'Why is that bothering you, Boss?' Blackjack: 'It's something you can't understand, Winston. If I'd met the Plentys, perhaps I could have met their daughter, Sparkle. I have all her toys. This is too much for me! I NEED TO GO ROB A BANK!'
Joe Staton and Mike Curtis’s Dick Tracy for the 25th of June, 2017. So, better or worse: Blackjack going on a series of bank robberies, or Blackjack sliding in to Sparkle Plenty’s Twitter direct messages? Because I gotta say, he has got to have the creepiest come-ons.

Sparkle Plenty goes to the bank. There she hears the haunting strains of Blackjack’s leitmotif, Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” (“I get knocked down/But I get up again”), which I am going to go ahead and assume he adopted after falling out of love with Smashmouth’s “All Star”. She appeals to his fanboyishness, offering to sign all his Sparkle Plenty collectible toys if he’ll call off the bank heist. He agrees, dependent on his getting a selfie with her. So that works out great for everybody.

Finance rumbles on. With Fleischer Savings and Loan defaulting on pension obligations Tracy figures he knows Blackjack’s next target. Manager Frank Hickman appreciates Tracy’s warning, but he’s counting on Blackjack robbing the bank to cover a $250,000 shortfall the auditor is days away from discovering. But Blackjack takes his time, as he’s busy building plastic scale models of Dick Tracy. Here the last molecule of plausibility is destroyed. I’ve been a plastic scale model builder since I was like seven and I will not accept the idea of a plastic scale model builder actually putting together a plastic scale model. We just buy kits and paints and glues and gather reference materials and let them sit until a loved one yells at us, then we sell two of the most-duplicated kits at the next yard sale. Building the blasted things goes against the Code.

Anyway, Blackjack wastes so much time that he gets to the bank just after Hickman’s set the place on fire. Tracy and his stakeout team, and Blackjack and his bank-robbery team, turn to rescue operations, hauling people out. Hickman fights Blackjack hard enough everyone knows something’s up. Tracy gets a major clue when all the bank workers say how Hickman set the fire. Blackjack’s arrested too, but he gets to see Tracy’s Wall of Action-Scarred Hats, which is a thing and really thrilling to him. And that, on the 25th of July, wraps up that story.

The Fleischer Savings and Loan is in ruins. Sam Catchem: 'Tracy, all the employees I've talked to say THIS FIRE WAS SET.' Tracy: 'Mr Hickman, we'll have to take you in for questioning.' Hickman: 'I WANT A LAWYER!' Tracy: 'As for you, Blackjack ... ' Backjack: 'I know Tracy. I had to help those people in the bank.' Tracy: 'Thank you, Blackjack.' 'Sure, I rob banks, but I'M NOT ALL BAD.'
Joe Staton and Mike Curtis’s Dick Tracy for the 23rd of July, 2017. What I’ve never been able to work out is whether the name of the Fleischer Savings and Loan is a shout-out to the Fleischer Studios, the animation team that brought us all those great Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons, but also went and made Hunky And Spunky For Some Reason so maybe that’s why they get a rotten bank named for them?

The current story: Silver and Sprocket Nitrate escape from prison. Their liberator: an animate Moai named Public Domain. Domain wants the bogus-film experts to create a phony audio recording. There’s the legend that Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville had recorded Abraham Lincoln’s voice on his phonautograph in 1863. The Nitrates like this idea, figuring they can make it their one last caper before retiring to a farm upstate. While the Nitrates call everybody they know to ask if they can impersonate Abraham Lincoln, Domain primes his mark. And that’s where we stand now.

The work begins at Public Domain's hideout. Sprocket: 'You've got a package, Silver.' Silver: 'THE CYLINDERS ARE HERE! They're made of canova oil, like the ones Edourd-Leon Scott de Martinville used.' Sprocket: 'Are you going to record on this cylinder?' Silver: 'You got it. Abraham Lincoln was supposed to be a tenor with a Kentucky accent.' Sprocket: 'Public domain is right. You're the tops at scams like this!'
Joe Staton and Mike Curtis’s Dick Tracy for the 6th of August, 2017. I am embarrassed to say how much I’m geeking out about this forged-audio-recording storyline. I mean, creating a plausible phony antique media document like this, which I assume has to come complete with a plausible provenance, presses so many nerd buttons on me.

There’s two major plot threads that have been left unresolved but got refreshes recently. Nothing’s been said about the weird noises that made the Plentys think their house was haunted. Other Detective Lee Ebony continues in deep undercover as Mister Bribery’s bodyguard.

Not given a refresh the past couple months: crime boss Posie Ermine wants his daughter, who’s been brainwashed and surgically altered into the Duplicate Mysta Chimera (“Moon Maid”), back. There was some (apparent) Lunarian in an Antarctic Valley pledging to investigate the mysterious Duplicate Mysta.

Next Week: Since my car has finally passed 100,000 miles I should take it down to Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley for a check-up. Will there be old-time radio references? You make the call!

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose eight points today despite fears among traders that there might be multiple open-air jazz festivals going on in the Eastside that we’re going to have to deal with? The heck is that even possible?

359

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? May – August 2017


Hi, reader interested in the current plot in Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant. I’m happy to help. I’m writing this in early August, 2017. If it isn’t still then, the story might have moved on. If it’s been long enough then I’ve likely written another update, at or near the top of this page, which might be more on point. Thanks for reading.

If you’re interested in non-story comic strips with a mathematical focus, you might like my essay over on the mathematics blog. Thanks for reading that, too, I hope.

Prince Valiant.

28 May – 6 August 2017.

Last time in Prince Valiant, large man Numair had got bored of the refugees Prince Valiant and company were helping out and struck out on his own side plot. He met up with Taloon, expert but wounded huntress of the refugees. As they decide to rejoin the main storyline they’re confronted by three brigands. Numair and Taloon win their initiative rolls, shooting two and leaving the last to flee for a later story thread.

They bring five horses, captured from brigands, back to the main plot. There among the refugees, Taloon is shocked by the sight of Prince Valiant. This, combined with Karen asking Numair if he’s noticed she isn’t talking to him, increases the number of tension-fraught relationships in the strip to dangerous levels. Over the course of June we get what’s going on there, though. Turns out Taloon has a history with Val. According to a comments from L W Swint on the strip from the 18th of June, this story really did happen on-screen in a 1961 story arc named The Savage Girl.

It is very clear to Numair that Taloon is troubled by Prince Valiant's presence: 'You are not one easily intimidated, yet I see that our Prince Valiant disturbs you...' Taloon's features remain calm, but she exhales deeply. 'I mean nothing to Valiant, but he means a great deal to me. When I was a young girl, I was driven from my tribe and would have died of loneliness were it not for his kindness. One night I saw the servant Ohmed attack his unsuspecting master. I killed that ingrate and fled in a panic. I was pursused by another servant, who eventually won my favors until I discovered that he was the scoundrel who set the murderous plot in motion. Our relationship did not end well for him, and I had lost all connection to the one man who had shown me ... ' A slight noise at the tent entrance breaks Taloon's reverie. It is Val: 'You! I remember you!' Next: Heartbreak.
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 18th of June, 2017. Now, there’s much to be said about trusting the audience to fill in the gaps and not spoon-feeding them everything, and about the need to write concisely so that, for example, you can tell a story without taking too many weeks at it. But I was lost the first time through and it was only in rereading things to write this recap that I quite understood just what did happen between Taloon and Valiant. I think the relationships of all these people could have been done a little more explicitly.

The story, as Taloon tells it: she was saved as a child by Valiant. One night she saw Ohmed attempting to murder Valiant, a man who had freed him from slavery. She killed Ohmed, and fled, eventually falling in with the person who had masterminded Ohmed’s murder plot and killing him. But by then she had lost all contact with Valiant.

The story, as Valiant saw it: “a strange affair”. His bookkeeper tried to murder him. Taloon kills him and flees with his servant, and demands to know, “what game was played at my expense?” Which comes off as harsh, although as I understand it, it’s not like he has the full story.

Nor does he get it. Numair pulls Valiant out of the scene before he can say anything too wrongly accusatory. Karen, Valiant’s daughter, explains how Taloon’s got a hero-crush on Valiant and never got thanked for clearing out Val’s faithless servants. But Valiant gets all huffy about being told he’s wrong for thinking something crazy was going on that night a girl killed his treasonous servant and ran off with another servant.

But Valiant will own up when he says something rash. He tries to apologize to Taloon for … wanting to know what the heck was going on (I admit, I’m not exactly sure myself). He also tells Karen how proud he is that she’s a fine warrior despite getting girl parts all over their wars.

The raiders have finally returned to the camp, but Val has the refugees ready for this attack! The surprised brigands are blocked by a massive gate---young women and children bearing makeshift pikes surround the panicking horses and the defenders are themselves defended by Val's sword-wielding companions. Bukota is particularly happy to again meet the horseman who had trampled him weeks earlier. The confused, frustrated raiders have little stomach for unexpected resistance, and quickly retreat in ungainly disorder, leaving behind their fellow who had catapulted over the gate. Poor bandit --- Val has already started working on him! Next: Val's offer.
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 6th of August, 2017. Fortunately, there are never unhappy follow-ups to the band of helpless victims suddenly being able to fend off the raiders, and this has solved the bandit problem so well that Valiant and company will be able to leave with a clear conscience.

With all those emotions successfully deployed the story can return to the bandits. They attack the refugees that Valiant and company had been uplifting to defensibility. That the refugees have sentries waiting and put some kind of trap for the bandit’s horses in the way strikes them as cheating, and they protest to the tournament officials.

Next Week: I continue tinkering with the time-flow of these recaps, and brave my pop-culture reference detection abilities by poking back in on Joe Staton and Mike Curtis’s Dick Tracy. All going well.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose another nineteen points to another record high and now I’m worried about it breaking through the 400 barrier as we don’t have insurance for that barrier getting damaged or destroyed.

384

Statistics July: How The Month Treated Another Blog, Meanwhile


Time for the regular and not even slightly comical review of my readership in these parts. There were slightly more pages viewed in July than there were in June — 2,132 rather than 2,118, or for that matter 1,944 in May. They came from slightly fewer people, 1,349 unique viewers in July compared to 1,501 in June or 1,291 in May. I credit archive-binges by people. It’s the fourth-greatest number of page views I have on record. Not quite at the high points of the Apartment 3-Gocalypse, but stable.

Are readers engaged with my content distribution model? Tougher to say. I felt bad asking the question. The ‘likes’ recorded had a little uptick, to 154 from June’s 122. That compares well with May’s 167. It’s still not many; July 2015 drew in 349 likes from a mere 1,126 page views. And comments continue to die; there were 11 of them in July, compared to 19 in June and 10 in May. Again, two years ago: 76. Not sure what’s going wrong. It didn’t seem like there was so much comment back then.

The most popular content around here, by far, continues to be explaining story strips. These were the five most popular pieces in July:

I don’t have any of my long-form creative pieces in the top ten posts of the month; the closest, about vacuum cleaners, is somewhere around fourteenth. I should do something to better focus my energies. Also I should keep track of how the story strips people are looking for change over time. It seems like more people look for Prince Valiant updates than I would have guessed.

69 countries sent me readers in July. This compares to 67 in June and 58 in May in the sense of being larger. Here’s what they were:

Country Views
United States 1,454
Canada 96
India 63
Mexico 58
United Kingdom 49
Australia 41
Philippines 36
Brazil 34
Netherlands 23
Norway 23
Romania 14
South Africa 14
Argentina 13
Germany 13
Italy 13
France 11
Sweden 11
Ukraine 11
Ireland 9
New Zealand 9
Russia 9
Spain 8
Hungary 7
Indonesia 7
Austria 6
European Union 6
Bangladesh 5
Poland 5
Belgium 4
Colombia 4
Malaysia 4
Chile 3
Israel 3
Pakistan 3
Panama 3
Singapore 3
Slovakia 3
Taiwan 3
Vietnam 3
Angola 2
Belarus 2
Georgia 2
Hong Kong SAR China 2
Japan 2
Kenya 2
Kuwait 2
Myanmar (Burma) 2
Nicaragua 2
South Korea 2
Switzerland 2
Thailand 2
U.S. Virgin Islands 2
Albania 1
Bhutan 1
Cambodia 1 (**)
Denmark 1
Finland 1 (*)
Iceland 1 (*)
Lebanon 1 (*)
Lithuania 1
Macedonia 1
Madagascar 1
Moldova 1
Peru 1
Puerto Rico 1
Saudi Arabia 1
Serbia 1
St. Kitts and Nevis 1 (*)
Venezuela 1

There were 17 single-reader countries, down from June’s 26 and back to May’s figure. Finland, Iceland, Lebanon, and St Kitts and Nevis were single-reader countries in June also. Cambodia is on a three-month single-reader streak.

Sundays were again the most popular day for posts around here, with once again 16 percent of page views coming on Sundays. But that’s about what you’d expect if people were equally likely to read every day. 12:00 am was once again the most popular hour for reading, with 12 percent of page views coming between 12:00 and 12:59 (inclusive) (I assume). That’s so steady and expected I’m starting to get suspicious of it.

The month started with 58,925 page views from 32,684 unique readers. And, says WordPress, 754 followers who have me on their Reader pages. I’m sure they’re all out there, reading. If you’d like to be among them, now that you’ve read this report about what you might be reading, you can. In the upper right corner of the page is a strip to Follow ‘Another Blog, Meanwhile’ in your WordPress reading tool. And below that is a strip to get the blog by e-mail. Also I know how to put the – in “e-mail” in that strip, too.

I’m @Nebusj on Twitter, and try not to post eight hundred things a day, so I think I’m a good person to follow. Would you please, if you like? At least give it a try? Thank you.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

So the index fell 14 points, but in the last minute Lisa came back, not admitting to anything about how her Tiny McMasions pilot is working out, but ostentatiously dropping two points into the bucket. She hasn’t said anything, but we all know she’s begging us to ask her about it, and I’m not going to give her the satisfaction after all this.

361

Thinking About The Mud Supply


I’m not among those outraged by reports that a New Zealand music festival has spent NZ$90,000 importing five tons of mud from South Korea. What do I know from what New Zealand music festivals need? And besides, Juicero. I got to tell a friend who’d missed that all about the Juicero nonsense yesterday and it was great fun. But the people of a planet that produced Juicero investors have no place faulting music festival organizers for being part of the international mud trade.

No, what’s got me is that festival organizers said this purchase would meet their needs for the next five of their concerts. If this is an annual event, that’s five years’ worth of mud they’re buying. Again, I don’t fault them buying in quantity. If you know you need something and it’s nonperishable and you have the storage space, sure, buying in bulk makes sense. What’s got me is having a projection of your mud needs for the next five years. I have no idea what my mud needs are like. I know it’s killing my budget to keep running to the corner convenience-store-that-wants-to-be-a-neighborhood-grocery-but-isn’t-trying-very-hard to get a box every time I run short. I should write the festival and ask for their advice on mud need estimation. But now that they’re being made fun of in public I bet they wouldn’t think I was sincere. Too bad.

Also I had some more comic strip stuff on my mathematics blog. You might like that. I also started a new sequence of explaining mathematics terms, which I always like doing.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Somehow the Another Blog, Meanwhile traders found another 26 points to rise and I don’t know where they all came from. They can’t all be from swiping digits out of the Labor Of Like Index. We got those allegations cleared up by pointing at them and declaring that they were not allegations but crocodiles instead, and this set off a healthy Internet know-it-all intellectual dogpile from people who insist they do too get the joke but there’s a real point here that some other people might be confused about. I’m innocent, is what I’m saying.

368

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? May – July 2017


Hi, readers of Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s weekday-continuity The Phantom. This is an essay meant to help you catch up on what’s happened in the strip through to late July, 2017. If it’s not close to late July, 2017, for you, the story might have progressed or a new story begun. I’ll try to have more recent essays that bring you up to date at this link. There’s also a separate, independent, Sunday continuity for the comic strip. That one’s written by Tony DePaul also, but is drawn by Terry Beatty. I’ll also have updates on that continuity, sometime soon.

And if you’re interested in comic strips plucked entirely out of continuity, my mathematics blog discusses comics with mathematical themes, and had a fresh post about that mere hours ago. Please read and enjoy, if you think that’s plausible.

The Phantom

8 May – 29 July 2017

Our last check on Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, was about six weeks into The Curse Of Old Man Mozz. The Phantom, 21st Ghost Who Walks, had been so busy clobbering low-level thugs that he barely noticed Old Man Mozz was on the brink of death. His wife, Diana Walker Phantom, investigates. Mozz has been in a series of physically and mentally taxing trances, forseeing …

She’s coy about it, but it’s the death of the current Phantom. In a factory that’s by a charming scenic water wheel, a “weak man” with one of the most punchable faces in the comics will “strike from hiding”, killing the 21st Phantom, shooting him from behind. Mozz promises that this is destiny and no one can save The Phantom. Diana figures she can maybe do something about that. If there’s one thing that’s always avertible, after all, it’s destiny, because we don’t know what the word means.

How To Save The Phantom. Mozz: 'Say NOTHING!' Diana: 'Save his life by doing nothing? NO!' Guran: 'Mozz is right! The DEATH Mozz saw may be the RESULT of us warning the Phantom!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 24th of May, 2017. So, my Rosencranz-and-Guildenstern fanfic for this: one of the other villagers has a vision where Mozz, Guran, and Diana Walker get into an irresolvable squabble about whether Mozz’s vision is a result of warning the Phantom or not warning him, and they have to debate whether to tell Mozz what will happen if he lets his vision be known to anybody else. And then they have to go back in time and prevent the vision from ever being assimilated by the Borg.

But Mozz goes along with it. He decrees that maybe the vision of The Phantom being ambushed was caused by some well-meaning member of his support team warning him. So in a critical moment he would be thinking “is this the critical moment” instead of reacting. Diana is unimpressed by whatever the heck the rules of prophecy are in this story, but chickens out of telling him. Nevertheless, she’s plagued with doubts, and goes to the Whispering Grove, home of Bangalla’s largest forest of demon-haunted trees that seem to be crying out the Phantom’s name. There she reflects how much would get screwed up if the 21st Phantom dies: not least, he’s the only person who knows exactly what strange school in the Far East Kit Walker Junior is in.

The Whispering Grove ... where wind through hollow trees makes an eerie sound. The trees, many of them looking like haunted faces, call 'phan ... tom ... phan ... tom ...' as Diana walks between them.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 12th of June, 2017. Most of The Phantom’s legend seems like the kind of stuff that would naturally grow if we allow the existence of a long-running small-family project based on heroically saving a patch of what turned out to be Africa. The forest full of jack-o-lantern trees whispering The Phantom, though, that’s hard to explain. Also not explained: are they whispering The Phantom in English or in the Bandar tongue?

She can’t stand it, and fetches The Phantom back from his mission of riding his big white horse around the jungle. And she makes Mozz tell him of the vision and his doom at the Waterwheel Factory. His team encourages him to take a pass for a couple weeks, wait out the current crisis and then get back to his world-saving duties. Mozz paints a solidly egotistical picture of this, arguing that The Phantom ought to be killed by some great monster like Chatu. Not by some drip who wears an orange shirt with green stars on it and a vest that looks like it ought to be a Home Depot apron but somehow isn’t. Walker thinks it over and decides no thinking necessary. Ghosts Who Walk just don’t ditch their job that way.

Mozz narrates his vision: 'Felled by no great enemy! A common COWARD! Your thoughts are of THE NOMAD! Of CHATU THE PYTHON! TRUE EVIL you leave to the 22nd PHANTOM!' Describing The Phantom laying, dead, as the common-coward cries with joy.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 6th of July, 2017. The great unasked follow-up question: “wait, so, Mozz, in your visions you can read my mind? Or are you just taking a fair guess based on what you know about me? Because, have to say, there are some serious privacy concerns here, even putting aside the whole death-at-a-coward’s-hand thing. For one, how far before the moment of my death does your mind-reading ability extend? Do you know what I’m thinking of when I think about Jamie?!”

The Phantom rides his horse to Destiny Date Road, where he finds a truck hauling guns to the Waterwheel Factory. He sends his hose off, riderless, to stop the truck. One of the thugs has always wanted a horsey just like this and Phantom Horse is happy to play along enough for The Phantom to clobber them and take the truck. It’ll be a way into the Waterwheel Factory.

Thug, swinging his gun around randomly in the dark, beside The Phantom's horse. 'All right! Hey, uh ... HA! Pretty good TRICK with the HORSE! Who are ya? I'll, uh ... you know! Hey, I'll SHOOT HIM [the horse], man!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 20th of July, 2017. There is something comforting in knowing that however close The Ghost Who Walks might be to his death, low-level minions at the Thug Factory are still going to be in completely over their heads.

The envisioned killer’s scouted out the waterwheel and figured it’d be a great spot to ambush somebody from, just in case. He’s thinking how awesome it will be to kill The Phantom and can’t imagine any way that any of this could go wrong in the slightest, so that’s good for him.

The summary sounds sparse, but that’s because this is a plot summary. Much of what’s gone on has been atmosphere or self-inquiry. Particularly, Diana spent a good while tormented by the question of what she could do to prevent her husband’s getting killed. This included a couple gripping sequences, including her sitting in the Whispering Grove, or enduring nightmares based on her knowledge. That all condenses out of a couple paragraphs about the events of the story, though.

As I’d said recently, I won’t be making guesses about whether The Current Phantom dies this story. Either outcome is properly foreshadowed and set up. Either would be a logical outcome, and it’s doing pretty well to have such a believable ambiguity this far into a story.

Next Week: I change up the order of these strip recaps a bit and return to the time of King Arthur, with a check on Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose three points today to make its third day out of the last four spent at 331, which is a little weird. Also nobody’s seen Lisa since she said she was putting together that Tiny McMansions pilot episode. These are unrelated problems.

331

Vic and Sade: When The Building Falls In


Do you remember being bored? I mean, boredom is still with us. But it’s attenuated now, chopped up into small bits of boredom between something exciting happening on Facebook or watching the spectacle of the Future Disgraced Former President’s self-immolation or the like. And a lot of that is still an expression of boredom, since boredom is the state in which anything is sufficient to hold our attention. A video of a bird putting a cover on a cat isn’t actually interesting, but compared to nothing going on, it’s interesting enough.

But back in the days, we could be bored in quantity. Just have days, especially summer ones, when time stretched out and there wasn’t any prospect of something asking for attention. I’m not saying those were better days. They weren’t. By nearly all measures we are so much better off today that we have cell phones and abundant Internet and are never that far from someone we want to communicate with or something we find entertaining to watch or do.

In this Vic and Sade episode, from the 13th of June, 1939, it’s the boring part of summer. And the best of all possible things happens: something exciting comes up. A good part of an old building collapses. Rush gets to see it. And one of his friends is inspired. He turns something already exciting into a performance. Maybe it’s the sort of thing that could happen today. But I do wonder if it takes being bored, and knowing what the face of long stretches of quiet, inactive summer evenings imply, to see a chance like this and make it something even more.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index held steady today, not changing at all, as more cautious traders worried they were under surveillance by a cheetah and didn’t want to make a move lest they get caught in a rundown between second and third base.

331

Vic and Sade: Meet The Parade Community


I don’t know when this episode of Vic and Sade first aired. It’s dated 1941, but it includes Rishigan Fishigan (of Sishigan, Michigan) as a major off-screen player. And he doesn’t seem to have been introduced before the 12th of December, 1941. The show aired five days a week, but that isn’t a lot of time for Rishigan Fishigan to get promoted from a name on the boss’s Christmas list to a telephoned friend of Vic’s. But they did have as many as thirteen chances to get him kind-of on-stage. (I don’t know whether the show aired Christmas Day, 1941. Nor how many times it might have been preempted for news.)

It’s got to be from early in Rishigan Fishigan (of Sishigan, Michigan)’s tenure, given how exasperated Sade is by the length of his name. So maybe it’s a 1942 episode. No matter. I am delighted by the main conversation’s proposition that one could get a weekly list of all the parades going on in the country. It’s the sort of thing that surely exists today. My love and I schedule our December around a listing of when Rankin/Bass specials are going to air and on what channel. And I find Vic’s proclaiming that he’s a fan of parades likely. It doesn’t seem just a defensive reaction to Sade’s skepticism about the parade list. Remember that Vic was happy to join the All-Star Marching Team for his lodge, and that went off on its own weird little way.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell thirteen points over the trading day, providing a much-needed hushing to all the Another Blog, Meanwhile analysts talking about when we’re going to need to buy an index board that handles four digits instead of just three. Honestly. I get your enthusiasm and all that but really, go play outside.

311

Vic and Sade: Meet Rishigan Fishigan


Sometimes a throwaway gag is too good to dispense with. In this installment, from the 12th of December, 1941, Vic’s boss has given him a list of people to buy Christmas presents for and twenty dollars to do it with. Sade expects she’ll have to do all the bother and that it will be an incredible bother. She’s right, as she makes Vic read the list and consider the complete lack of guidance into what sort of thing any of these people might want or how much they should spend on it.

The last name introduced is that of Rishigan Fishigan, of Sishigan, Michigan. It’s such a catchy name. It’s a catchy town name. It seems like it always attaches to the end of his name, so he’s spoken of as “Rishigan Fishigan of Sishigan, Michigan”. And I am sad that there is no such place as Sishigan, Michigan. We should rename something to be it.

The name must have caught Paul Rhymer’s imagination. Rishigan Fishigan would reappear, in mentions, and eventually as a friend of Vic’s. In later incarnations of the show he would even be a regular character, with dialogue on-microphone and everything. Given how many catchy names Rhymer created I wonder why Rishigan Fishigan (of Sishigan, Michigan) took such hold, although I suppose to say aloud it is to answer the question.

There are a lot of amusingly scrambled place names in the Christmas gift list — I can feel Sade’s righteous anxiety that none of this can be right, even if she allowed that she could buy anything for people she doesn’t know anything about — but I like to think that the choice of “Seattle, Iowa” was retaliation for the existence of “Des Moines, Washington”. I have a friend who lives in Des Moines, Washington, and it nags at me every time I need to send him a card or something. We need some thought put into our Des Moines requirements.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Repeated heavy waves of selling struck the trading floor at Another Blog, Meanwhile over the course of the day, so of course the index went up eighteen points. At this point we have to suspect some of these traders don’t actually know what they’re doing and they’re just making numbers go up and down without thinking about the long-term implications.

324

Vic and Sade: Meet Five Men From Maine


I’ve got a couple reasons to feature this bit of old-time radio. First is that my friend from Maine isn’t on the Internet this week so it’s safe to talk about the state. Second is that I haven’t really featured Vic and Sade lately, so I’d like to give it some attention. It’s the kind of show that isn’t everyone’s taste. But if it is your taste, it’s a powerfully strong taste. So please consider taking ten minutes and listening to it. (The show has a sponsor, as most did back in 1941, and goes on and on. You can zip ahead to about 2:45 into the show before missing anything that isn’t about Crisco, and you can bail out again at about 12:30 in the recording.) So here’s the Vic and Sade for the 30th of May, 1941.

Something I love in the world is that so much of it doesn’t quite make sense. We’re surrounded by weird little incidents and connections and coincidences. Here, Vic gets, by way of a phone call, an invitation to do something perfectly daft: travel — at his own expense — from the middle of Indiana off to Maine to meet five people he’s never heard of for no reason other than that they’d like to meet him. How does this make sense? Hard to say. But I particularly love how Rush comes to ponder how phony-sounding the five men in Maine are. Series creator and author Paul Rhymer had a love for creating names off exactly peculiar that they’re amusing without ever feeling like deliberately funny names. If you live with people named Edson Box, Fred and Ruthie Stembottom, Y Y Flirch, Hank Gutstop, or Rishigan Fishigan from Sishigan, Michigan, how do you call anyone out on having a suspicious name? But what other explanation makes sense?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped 21 points and it’s still over 300 and if you think that’s normal you don’t know what normal is, and I know none of us have had any idea what normal is, not since, like, what? When David Bowie died? The day before that was about the last normal day, wasn’t it? Please communicate in care of this office if you have information one way or another.

306

What’s Going On In Alley Oop? May 2017 – July 2017


Thanks for trying to work out what’s going on in Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop. I’m writing this in mid-July 2017. If it’s a lot later than July 2017, the story might have moved on, although I admit right now that’s not looking very likely. There might have been enough story development that this stuff isn’t useful anymore. If I’ve written a fresh follow-up since this essay, it should be at or near the top of this page. Let me know if you don’t see something and if the story has got so baffling you need an update.

And before I continue may I point out that on my other blog, I talk about whatever comic strips the past week touched on some mathematics subject. These are almost never story strips, but that’s all right. There’s interesting stuff brought up by them. Also, this week it features bunnies wearing eyeglasses, although not as well as they could.

Alley Oop

1 May – 22 July 2017

The current storyline in Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop started sometime in October of last year. The end of April and my last update of the strip coincided with what looked like the end of the story. Volzon, an alien plant-frog-guy with a mind-control ray gun, had been foiled in his attempts to colonize prehistoric Earth. It turns out dinosaurs, like Dinny the brontosaurus, aren’t subject to alien mind-control rays and don’t see any reason they couldn’t eat invading alien spaceships. Good stuff to know.

Alley Oop, knowing a loose end when he sees it, tosses the remains of Volzon’s mind-control gun out of Moo, and rejoins the quest for food and whatnot. King Guz, reasonably annoyed at yet another attempt to overthrow Moo, starts talking crazy about building a dome that will keep invading aliens out. Alley Oop reminds him that just because someone has an idea doesn’t mean that idea isn’t incredibly stupid. And he soothes the mind-control-wary Moovians. Even if Volzon or another Jantrullian return, it’s not like dinosaurs are going to vanish from the face of the Earth.

Tunk, examining the mind ray: 'There are some strings inside this thing.' Lemmian: 'Whatcha got, King Tunk?' Tunk: 'I'm not sure yet, but once I join these strings back together, I'll be able to tell what this thing is!' He gets zapped. Queen Loola: 'Am I imagining things, or is that my husband I see? It's about time you came home, Tunk!' Tunk: 'Quiet, dear, I'm concentrating!' Loola: 'You're concentrating? On what?' Tunk: 'I found a very delicate piece of equipment that needs to be repaired!' Loola: 'Hmmm... What is it?' Tunk: '(Sigh) I don't know yet!'
Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop for the 21st of May, 2017. A couple notes about the art. First, I like the composition of the first panel, bottom row, close-up on the mind-control ray gun and with the characters receding behind it. It’s the sort of composition I’d use for a dramatic picture. Second: I really like Queen Loola’s ‘Hmmmm’ drifting into smaller and smaller characters. These days the use of computer-typeset letters seems common, and I understand why. But that does seem to discourage cartoonists using varied sizes to emphasize tone and pacing of dialogue and that is a loss. I’m glad to see size used.

This fine example of dramatic irony gets a little bit weirder when you remember the premise of the comic strip. Alley Oop is a time traveller. He’s been, repeatedly, to the present day and knows that dinosaurs do vanish. On the other hand, he also knows the Jantrullians don’t manage to conquer the Earth, not before about 2016 anyway. (I don’t know if he’s ever been to our future.) I’m not sure how wry this is all supposed to be.

Meanwhile in the loose end, it turns out Alley Oop threw the remains of Volzon’s mind-control gun all the way into Lem, where King Tunk found it. As he only just got in the story he doesn’t know what it is or what it should do, but he can tell these are a bunch of sparky wires that got ripped apart. He figures he could twist the wires back together, cover them with tar, and wrap the whole remains of the gun in a palm leaf and maybe then it’ll work again. I admire his ingenuity and his success. I mean, I’ve needed the help of the car care place down the street just to take off my license plate holder. Twice. He’s fixing up an alien mind-control gun using sticks and leaves.

King Tunk, thinking how to repair the ray gun: 'Let's see - I need something sticky t'glue these things together! Hmm ... I've got it! Th'tar pit!' (He runs to the tar pit) 'This should do it! There's nothing stickier than this tar!' (He glues the ray gun together, and wraps it in a leaf.) 'Maybe once those strings are coated with this goo, they won't shock me anymore! I guess I'll just hafta settle for making a skin for this thing to cover up that hole! The tar should keep it secured. Not bad! Now it's time to figure out what this thing can do!'
Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop for the 4th of June, 2017. Seriously, folks, give it up to King Tunk and his hacking skills. This is a great bit of problem-solving and thinking outside of the box by someone who lives tens of thousands of years before boxes were invented. Think what this guy could do at your town’s Maker Faire.

At least he’s trying to. He tromps into Moo with the repaired gadget, accusing King Guz of designing a weapon to attack Lem. His attempt to use it backfires, leaving him in a dazed and suggestive state. King Guz sees an opportunity, figuring “I think it’s high time Tunk did something good with his life”. This serves as a reminder that there are people who can’t be trusted with mind-control technology, and that would be pretty much “people who’d use it on the unsuspecting”. And I’m not sure it should be trusted to people who’d volunteer to have it be used on either. I get the idea, but there’s such major issues about consent and the respect of personal autonomy that I can’t see a way around it.

King Tunk: 'You designed this weapon [ the ray gun ] to attack Lem!' King Guz: 'You're crazy! I didn't make any weapon!' Tunk: 'Let's see what it can do!' Alley Oop: 'Noooo! STOP! Quick, Guz, shield your eyes!' The gun shoots out a fizzly bunch of lines that boomerang back at Tunk. Tunk: 'What's goin' on with this thing? Is this what this thing's supposed t'do? I'm ... ' And he falls over, wide-eyed and staring vacantly.
Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop for the 9th of July, 2017. I didn’t realize until this point that all the plot-representative strips were from King Tunk’s storyline, with nothing about Alley Oop trying to talk King Guz out of building a stupid dome and promising that nothing bad can happen to Earth as long as there are dinosaurs. Well, all right. Again, have to give it up for King Tunk that the mind-control ray gun is working at all he repaired its dinosaur-chewing damage using tar and leaves. Also have to give it up for Jantrullian technology that the thing can be repaired in the field so easily. I bet Volzon would feel the right fool that it ran off so fast.

Anyway, this storyline keeps puttering on at the lethargic pace of a strip that makes sure the Sunday strip contains all the plot of the six weekdays around it. I would have bet the mind-control ray story was over with the end of April, so I’m not going to make guesses about when this story will end. There’ve been some teases that King Tunk needs to learn about working with people, and maybe that’s where the mind-control gun is going. We shall see, I assume.


Next week: News about Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom. The weekdays storyline, not the production of the comic strip.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose — wait, this can’t be right. OK, it’s what everybody is saying, anyway. All right. The index rose 36 freaking points during the day, blasting way past the 300 margin and raising questions about whether the whole project is properly ballasted or what. I’m skeptical. Not looking to cause trouble but I’m not one of those people cranky about how they didn’t buy when it was at 80 or that did sell when it was at 256 because whatever this is, it’s not right.

327

Phantom Enjoys Daring Last-Minute Escape From Certain Doom


Tony DePaul, writer for The Phantom, was kind enough to stop in and give news about his strip.

The news is that he and King Features Syndicate have reached an agreement about the rights to the stories he’d produced for the comic since 1999. And they have an agreement to have him keep writing as long as both sides are happy with the way things are working. The breakthrough apparently grew over June, after he’d announced the intention to leave. King Features’ general manager for syndication, who hadn’t been directly involved in negotiations, asked for an informal meeting to see what could be done, and after — well, suppose it can’t have been more than a month of talks, yes, something could be done. And just in time, too; DePaul says Jeff Weigel, the Sunday artist, had just run out of story to draw. Mike Manley, the weekdays artist, had about six weeks of story yet.

I’m glad, certainly. The Phantom‘s been reliably interesting and who would want that messed up? Also the hint about how long the current Sunday storyline has to run confirms my resolve to change some of my “What’s Going On In” schedule. I’d been thinking to separate the weekday and the Sunday summaries for better pacing. Moving the next Sundays recap to closer to the end of the current storyline suits me. I was also thinking to move around some of the other strip recaps. I’d set the order without any plan, and I’d like to break up what seem like blocks of too-similar comics.

DePaul teases the idea that the current daily storyline will end in the death of the current Phantom, especially in saying how the story “would have been a superb sign-off to my Phantom career” and describes just how screwed up things would be if the 21st Phantom were to die just now. Me, I’m not making guesses. While the narrative would fully justify the current Phantom’s death this year, escaping certain death is just what superheroes are all about.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose an astounding fourteen points after looking up the lyrics and finding that the karaoke machine had it right. There is a bit in “I Just Called To Say I Love You” that goes “no Libra sun”, and hey, there’s this whole stanza that just goes through the months, one at a time, and counts Libra for September which is fair enough, although is there really anything distinctive about September’s sun? Granted that April is the cruelest month, what is September? The snarkiest month? When it’s up against November? No, that doesn’t make sense.

269

What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? April – July 2017


Thanks for finding my little attempt to explain the goings-on in Stan Lee, Larry Leiber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man comic strip. All this explains what’s been going on through to about the middle of July, 2017. If it isn’t a little bit after the middle of July, 2017, this probably won’t help you much figuring out where we’ve got to. If I’ve written a new update on the stories, they should be at or near the top of this page. Good luck.

The Amazing Spider-Man

24 April – 15 July 2017

I left Spider-Man in Los Angeles, at the end of Rocket Raccoon suggesting that maybe Newspaper Spidey would get to meet the Guardians of the Galaxy sometime. It’s possible. The newspaper Spider-Man is its own continuity, separate from the mainstream Marvel Univers and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But it is a continuity: guest characters sometimes come back after getting into new fixes that they need Peter Parker to not really do a lot about. The current story is such a case.

At their hotel Peter Parker and Mary Jane run into Aunt May, who’s taking a vacation from her work back home of being over forty thousand years old. Also Mary Jane’s Aunt Anna, who I didn’t know existed. I think she vanishes after the first week or two anyway, to my regrets. I’m going to assume a talent scout spotted her and realized she’s perfect for the lead in the dark, gritty, action-packed Mary Worth Cinematic Universe kickoff movie.

As Mary Jane spins out three anecdotes and two improvised gags on a chat show a mysterious eggplant wearing sunglasses starts hitting studio security with a stick. It’s the Mole Man, familiar to Amazing Spider-Man as the ruler of the subterranean world of … Subterranea. They were caught by surprise when someone asked the name of their land. Mole Man is also, per a story from a couple years back, a would-be suitor to Aunt May. See what I mean about continuity?

Aunt May had rejected his proposal, since as fun a date as he was they lived in separate worlds and barely knew one another and I think he met Aunt May when he was busy kidnapping her. I forget. Anyway, the separate-worlds thing might no longer be an issue because he’s been deposed. Tyrannus the Conquerer, fresh from thinking of the first name he could for who he was and what he would do, has taken over. And now Tyrannus is coming for the surface world.

Mole Man: '1600 years ago the usurper's name was AUGUSTULUS, back when he was the LAST ROMAN EMPEROR.' Petey: 'Assuming that's true - how has he LIVED so long?' 'SUBTERRANEA is home to MANY wonders, Peter Parker, as your WIFE and AUNT could tell you, having actually BEEN there! One of them is what you could call ... the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH! Having discovered it, he's had many centuries to AMASS POWER. Now he calls himself TYRANNUS and I fear he'll not be CONTENT with ruling the mere INTERIOR of this planet!'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 4th of June, 2017. I am trusting this Augustulus thing is from the main comic book history and had no idea. I’ll suppose the Fountain of Youth being in Subterranea is also from the comic books, but that leaves me wondering, like, is the Mole Man also hundreds, maybe thousands of years old? Or was the fountain just hanging around waiting for a spunky young failed Roman Emperor to put it to use? Also, does this mean we should add the newspaper comic to Augustulus’s Wikipedia page as part of his Legacy?

Before anyone can ask serious questions (“Wait, to Tyrannus was the Western Roman Emperor Augustulus, deposed in 476 AD, and kept alive by the Fountain of Youth that’s in Subterranea? Is this a thing in the real comics or … the heck?”) a giant rampaging armadillo-beast breaks through the Los Angeles streets and starts rampaging, giantly. Also Mole Man says the beast’s named Lenny. Mole Man can’t bear to hurt Lenny, but Spider-Man shames him into doing something, since giant rampaging armadillo beasts seem like they’re too hard a problem for Spidey to handle. Mole Man knows how to handle Lenny: chop off some of his scale, then toss the scales down the pit he’d just dug, and Lenny follows. This works because … I’m not sure, exactly. Giant rampaging armadillo monsters can’t resist following their own scent, I guess is what they say.

Mole Man: 'You must SURRENDER me to that underground entity before he LAYS WASTE the entire city!' Spidey: 'My specialty's FIGHTING, not surrendering. Didn't it used to be YOURS as well?'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 17th of June, 2017. It’s difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t read the newspaper Spidey regularly just how humiliating it has to be for Newspaper Spider-Man to have to nudge you into action.

Spidey and the Mole Man face a giant ARMADILLOID ... Spider-Man: 'Any idea how we can send that thing PACKING?' Mole Man: 'I thought you had SPIDER-STRENGTH.' Spidey: 'I do. But then, I seem to recall that armadillos are a lot like ANTEATERS ... and anteaters EAT spiders for breakfast!'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 19th of June, 2017. Now that’s more the Newspaper Spider-Man we know and love: fobbing off his job on other people and thinking about when he can get back to sitting in a dark room, moping and watching Press Your Luck reruns. Also, while I suppose Spider-Man’s paid more attention to this than I have it seems like if anteaters do eat spiders for breakfast then they’re suffering some mission creep. Just saying.

Mole Man recognizes that Lenny was sent to bring him back to Tyrannus. And while Lenny failed, Tyrannus will send more, possibly harder-to-foil monsters. He resolves to surrender himself to spare the surface world, which underscores how complete a heel-face turn he’s done in the face of Aunt May’s affections. And nothing is going to talk him out of this except if Aunt May asks him to stay and what do you know happens but? She accepts his hastily renewed marriage proposal. The gang retreats to discuss options and how Mole Man can afford to support Aunt May in the style to which she’s become accustomed and maybe next week they’ll talk about stopping Tyrannus or something.

The aftermath of the attack by a huge subterranean monster ... Mary Jane: 'Sounds like every POLICE CAR in LA is headed our way!' Mole Man: 'If they recognize me, they'll IMPRISON me and throw away the key! You see, Spider-Man? It's just as I told you. There's NO PLACE for the MOLE MAN in the outer world! I MUST go below and surrender to Tyrannus!' Spidey: 'WAIT! Maybe we can ---' Mole Man: 'NO! I will NOT stay on the surface - no matter how many times you ASK me!' Aunt May: 'Then, Melvin, what if I asked you?'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 2nd of July, 2017. I realize that Mole Man hasn’t got the highest self-esteem, what with his being a pop culture character with the name ‘Melvin’, it seems premature to say there’s no place for him in the Outer World just because the tyrant of the inner world sends monsters out to drag him back. He’s got a lot of drama surrounding himself, yes, but that’s due to other things.

Next week: Jack Binder and Carole Binder’s Alley Oop and the aftermath of the pantsless alien’s mind-control gun. And one final note for this week: if you like more talk about comic strips but would like them to be more about word problems, please consider my mathematics blog, which reviewed the past week’s syndicated comic strips with mathematics themes on Sunday. It also does this most Sundays and sometimes the odd extra day of the week, such as “Thworbsday”.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

And now the index jumped up thirty points to what’s got to be an all-time high as traders realized they’re not Belgian and don’t have to eat crickets if they don’t want to. This is just proving my point, guys, and I don’t see why you think this is anything else.

256

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? April – July 2017


Greetings, high school-ish sports-like fans. If you’re looking for a recap of what’s happening in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp good news! You’re in a reasonably right spot. If you’re reading this much later than July 2017, then there’s a good chance they’re on to a new story and one that I might have recapped yet. The most recent essay describing plot developments should be at or near the top of this page. Thanks for reading and we’ll see you not in the playdowns.

Gil Thorp

17 April – 8 July 2017

Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp typically runs in seasons, matching the major sports seasons. In April it began the softball-season storyline. This featured two plot threads: transfer student Ryan van Auken, who’s overcome his anger issues and large face to pitch rather well, and Dafne, reporter at the school’s Milford Trumpet, uncovering a school board official padding his expense accounts. Now on to the action.

Ryan pitches pretty well, closing out one win. Guys from the track and field team meet up with girls from Central High, who after some trash-talking their sport get into some light dating. And then action heats up when Dafne gets the anonymous tip to ask why it was Ryan transferred from a private high school to the public Milford.

Dafne: 'Sorry, guys. To me, the only thing more boring than Track is Field.' Track and Field Guy 1: 'Hey ... I resemble that remark!' Track and Field Guy 2: 'Can you believe she trashed our sport to our faces?' Track and Field Guy 1: 'Pretty cold. But give her credit --- it's a funny line!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 28th of April, 2017. While I don’t think it’s a funny line, I agree it’s the sort of line that high schoolers will think is funny, so I give it a pass. I will say the comic does, to me, a credible job in making high schoolers sound like high schoolers. Or at least people who could be high schoolers.

She finds the answer: he hit a girl, during an argument, and by the time the scandal shook out he had to transfer. Her editor is interested, but doesn’t think it’s a story they can run, what with Ryan being a high-profile athlete and his victim only being a girl or something. Well, her editor puts it in a better-sounding way: there’s no police report, there’s no charges, their whole idea of what happened comes from social media gossip at his old high school, and that’s not a lot to hang a story that could trash Ryan’s life on. I’m skeptical of the “won’t someone please think of the star athlete’s career prospects?” line of reasoning. I am open to the argument that it’s not obvious that whatever did happen between two underage people should necessarily be broadcast to the world.

Word of the story leaks out when she leaks the story out to friends who promise not to spread gossip. Protesters start popping up with banners showing the girl he’d hit and signs like “Remember Me?” When this rattles Ryan into completely blowing a game Gil Thorp sighs mightily and decides he has to ask what the heck’s going on and why it should involve him. Ryan’s parents explain: the pictured girl, Alyssa, was Ryan’s girlfriend at the private school. In a fight, according to his parents, Ryan tried to push her out of the way and caught her cheek instead. Ryan admitted he shouldn’t have done that; Alyssa agreed it wasn’t hitting, but by the time the story got around school it was battery.

Ryan Van Auken's parents catch Gil up on their son's troubles at his former school. Auken Mom: 'He and Alyssa were squabbling. He tried to push her out of his way ---' Auken Dad: 'Which he shouldn't have.' Auken Mom: 'And the heel of his hand caught her on the cheekbone.' Auken Dad: 'But he DIDN'T hit her.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 9th of June, 2017. I have never been in a situation anything remotely like Gil Thorp’s here. So how is it that I know exactly the tone of Auken Dad’s voice here? … Also, I note that we the readers only know the story from Auken Dad and Auken Mom’s summary of it here. Ryan doesn’t say anything on-camera, and Alyssa hasn’t appeared in the story except as a picture on a protest sign. So far, anyway.

So, they moved to a new neighborhood, new school, and Ryan went to anger management classes and to counseling. Meanwhile, Dafne argues that the protests make Ryan’s past a legitimate story. When the editor quashes the story, Dafne quits the paper, which is the sort of principled stand I’m sorry I didn’t take when the editor of my middle-school newspaper wouldn’t run my detailed report of the student walkout that year. Well, it was the last month of eighth grade anyway; quitting wouldn’t even have had a symbolic effect. Still …

Student newspaper editor: 'If Ryan hit a girl and there's no police report ... how do you know he hit a girl?' Dafne: 'Social media. I know some people who know some people who go to Kingsbrook. It was big news there last year.' Editor: 'I bet. But does that make it news for us?'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 22nd of May, 2017. I do appreciate that Mrs Student Newspaper Editor is asking serious, good questions that teach journalism even as she’s warning Dafne off the story. Dafne may not realize how slender the evidence is for what she knows, and doesn’t seem to have an answer to whether something being salacious (and maybe true) necessarily makes it news.

Anyway, Gil Thorp calls on Central High School’s Coach Skip Farrow to figure out who the protest ringleaders are, and since they’re all seniors they can rest assured the problem will cure itself and Ryan can have at least one trouble-free year. And then he calls the protest leaders to explain that they’re all quite sure Ryan made a mistake and is incredibly sorry about it, which is sure to clear up the whole sorry mess.

Dafne: 'You humiliated my BEST FRIEND so you could get next to ME? I'll tell you what you can GET. Get out of my way!' She shoves Jimmy. In a diner, Dafne consoles Carrie: 'See? I told you Gary Meola was out of my league.' Dafne: 'Trust me: you have that exactly backwards.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 4th of July, 2017. Jimmy comes in later with a black eye and from this panel I don’t really know how he got it. Maybe he really did happen to run into a door like he says and all of this is just coincidence.

Or perhaps dramatic irony will: while hanging out Milford’s Gary Meola admits to Central’s Carrie Hobson that he’s only there so Jimmy can get some time with Dafne. Dafne’s furious that Gary was putting her on, and shoves Jimmy out of the way in order to comfort her best friend. This … somehow … results in Jimmy getting a black eye, which he excuses as “I ran into a door and shut up”. He passes along as many apologies as he can to Dafne and now we understand why the track-and-field guys are even in this story. And that’s about where events rest today.

Next week: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man in its first post-Rocket-Raccoon review.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose a point as trading spirits were raised by a series of videos of hamsters putting things in their mouths successfully.

209

Statistics June: Or What Was Popular Around Here


Now, finally, I’ve run out of excuses and will talk about my popularity around here as measured by WordPress’s statistics page. June was my second-most-popular month this year, based on readers. There were 2,118 page views, up from May’s 1,944 and April’s 1,765. I credit this to people wanting to understand what was going on in Judge Parker, which has seen a lot of stuff going on the past couple weeks worth keeping track of. There were 1,501 unique visitors in June, my second-best count of unique visitors ever. That’s the highest it’s been since the Apartment 3-Gocalypse, when The Onion A.V. Club casually mentioned my existence and people checked to see that I do indeed exist.

This surge in popularity did nothing about the long-term decline in the number of likes: there were only 122 of them in June, the lowest total in years. Comments were up to 19 from May’s 10, but that’s still below April’s 26 and it’s meager in any case. I need to find somebody I can banter with and force them to say something every post, I think is the problem. I am a little surprised the story comic review posts don’t inspire more responses. Maybe I’m giving off vibes that I have said everything I can imagine ever saying about Gasoline Alley so nobody feels the desire to see if I could maybe say a little more.

The most popular postings in June were all comic strip stuff:

You have no idea how much it bugs me that I took so long to decide between “What’s Going On In” and “What’s Going On With” the various story strips. I’d go back and change the inconsistent ones but I feel somehow like making a change like that now would be falsifying my historical record, unless I put in a note saying what I had changed and why, in which case I’d still see it every time. And the URLs would have the old, inconsistent titles anyway.

And as you can see, I could probably shut down everything I do around here besides the comic strip story summaries and not lose that much readership. The only original-writing piece of mine to crack the top ten was a couple words about how impractical an idea for a supervillain I had. The most popular long-form piece I wrote came in 11th, How To Program (Computers). Perhaps I do need to yield gracefully to what people are telling me they like.

So where am I getting readers from? According to WordPress my page views for June came from:

Country Views
United States 1669
India 73
Canada 53
United Kingdom 44
France 27
Australia 23
Brazil 18
Germany 14
Philippines 12
Romania 12
Russia 12
Sweden 12
Mexico 10
New Zealand 10
Austria 9
Poland 9
Kenya 7
Bangladesh 6
European Union 6
Norway 6
South Africa 6
Argentina 4
Japan 4
Portugal 4
Denmark 3
Hungary 3
Italy 3
Netherlands 3
Pakistan 3
South Korea 3
Spain 3
Thailand 3
Afghanistan 2
Chile 2
Colombia 2
Georgia 2
Indonesia 2
Jamaica 2
Nepal 2
Puerto Rico 2
Ukraine 2
Armenia 1
Belgium 1 (*)
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1
Bulgaria 1
Cambodia 1 (*)
China 1
Croatia 1
Curaçao 1
Egypt 1
Finland 1
Ghana 1
Greece 1
Iceland 1
Laos 1
Lebanon 1
Malawi 1
Malaysia 1
Mozambique 1
Nicaragua 1
Panama 1
St. Kitts and Nevis 1
Taiwan 1 (***)
Turkey 1 (*)
US Virgin Islands 1
Vietnam 1 (*)
Zambia 1

I honestly believe that to be 67 countries, up from May’s 58 and April’s 51. I also make out 26 single-reader countries, up from May’s 17 and April’s 13. Belgium, Cambodia, Turkey, and Vietnam were single-reader countries in May, also. Taiwan is on a four-month single-reader streak.

The month started at 56,793 page views, from something like 31,335 unique viewers. Sundays were the most popular day for reading around here, with 16 percent of page views coming that day. In May it was Fridays that got 16 percent of page views. That’s so close to one-seventh of the readership that I suppose it shows no date is particularly tredy around here. The most popular hour was that from 12 to 1 am, which is also the hour I set most things to post. That got in 12 percent of page view, just like in May.

I failed to check how many people were subscribed via WordPress at the start of the month. There are 744 right now, and two of them have been around fewer than eight days, but that doesn’t tell me anything about who might have unsubscribed between the 1st of July and today. It’s somewhere around 742 readers that I started the month with, anyway, up from 736 at the start of June.

If you’d like to be a subscriber, please use the blue “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” strip on the upper right of the page here. If you’d rather get this delivered by e-mail, there’s a “Follow Blog Via Email” box just underneath that. And I’m on Twitter as @nebusj if you’d find that more fun.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose nine points today when the adoptable pet of the day turned out to be two puppies even if they only had a picture of one. Traders are willing to suppose in the existence of puppies they haven’t seen. Aren’t so many of us like that?

224

In Which I’m Afraid I Just Let You All Down


I don’t mean to disappoint. It’s just that my love and I have been busy the whole last week, visiting small amusement parks and giggling at mistakes in their signs. I should say we’re not doing this maliciously. We go in expecting we’re going to have a great time, wearing the T-shirts for other small, obscure amusement parks, sometimes on other continents. And we do have a great time, because there is a real delight in a small park where they’re still going on about how they put in a frog jumper ride in 2011, and at any moment you might blink and be in the middle of a swarm of up to forty kids, some of them reaching up to the lower end of your knee, in a screaming birthday-cake riot. But the point is I haven’t had the time to write anything amusing and I apologize for that. Here’s my mathematics blog writing about comic strips yesterday. Thanks and I’ll be back to normal not tomorrow because that’s going to look at the June statistics. But sometime or other. You’ll know it when you see it.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose above 200 which is being treated as a great triumph for the long investors what with this being index territory nobody has seen in two days. Well, if it makes them happy, good. They can deal with it.

201

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? 8 April – 2 July 2017


Greetings, fans of Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker who aren’t just reading Marciuliano’s blog in the first place. If you’re interested in my working out the last couple months of plots, and it’s around July 2017 when you read this, good. Otherwise, the stories probably will have developed some. At or near the top of this link I hope to have my most recent Judge Parker recaps. Thanks, reader in the future. Good luck finding what you need.

Judge Parker.

8 April – 2 July 2017.

When I last checked in on the Parker/Spencer/Davis clan, Marciuliano had not just gotten the kidnapped Sophie Spencer back home, but her bandmates had been rescued too. They told a harrowing tale of kidnappers, a mysterious woman who sounded like Abbey, and a lot of gunshots and violent endings that would leave anyone pretty well-traumatized.

Sam Driver, having got nowhere with his Crazy Evidence Wall, chose to meet up with Totally Legitimate Non-Suspended Non-Crazy Not-An-Ex-Cop Sean Ballenger. He’s the father of one of the other kidnapped teens and wants Sam’s help finding any booby traps and remaining homicidal gunmen at the kidnappers’ hideout. On the way there Ballenger mentions that, oh yeah, he’s been suspended from the force and isn’t handling a really severe trauma any better than Sam is and oh yeah, here’s the booby traps, right where the homicidal Woman Who Sounds Like Abbey left her webcam pointed. Sam starts to suspect a trap, but Ballenger’s so enthusiastic about it he gets himself severely wounded even before the Woman Who Sounds Like Abbey can shoot them.

Sean Ballenger smashes through a door. Sam: 'Ballenger, are you okay?! You really cut yourself!' Ballenger: 'Forget it! FORGET IT! Keep moving!' 'This is turning into a giant fiasco, ballenger.' 'Stay alert Just stay sharp.' 'We're walking right into a trap, Ballenger.' The Woman Who Sounds Like Abbey is vanished, disappeared through a tunnel.
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 16th of April, 2017. I have to say I understand why the police put Ballenger on indefinite leave from this. Also, I like the little artistic touch of the Woman Who Sounds Like Abbey not having finished her soda in the title panel there.

While Ballenger distracts the Woman Who Sounds Like Abbey by bleeding profusely, Sam discovers her wall of Off-Model Spencer Family Photos, plus her time bomb. He grabs Ballenger and runs him right out into waiting police with drawn guns ordering them not to move. Sam’s not even able to explain that he’s both rich and white before the bomb explodes, destroying the compound and what’s left of Sean Ballenger’s career. With this mess on their hands the police give the whole kidnapping investigation a serious escalation, moving it into the hands of some guy with a much darker suit jacket.

Back home, Sam shares with Abbey some evidence he’d been withholding from the police. The Off-Model Spencer Family Photo he’d taken just before the bombing leads to the discovery Abbey’s father had a whole second family. It’s a good juicy bit of gossip, and a nice proper soap-opera development. It does make me wonder, though, like, was Abbey’s father already an established character back in the day? What would Nicholas P Dallis, or whatever later author introduced Abbey’s father, think of this wrinkle being added to his life? I suppose they don’t really have a say, what with being dead or retired from the strip or whatnot, and maybe they’d like having something juicy and exciting like that added to the character’s story.

Sam, to Abbey: 'I wanted to show you this first, before I showed it to the police. I found this photo of you and your dad in the kidnapper's house. Do you know who the woman is?' Abbey: 'Sam, I don't even know who this kid is!'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 16th of May, 2017. By the way, has Sam got around to showing this to the police yet? I’m not sure and it’s too late in the day for me to go double-checking. Just curious. Also, belatedly but: ‘Kabrash’? Is that a Rip Haywire reference?

It makes me realize among the reasons I shouldn’t write a story comic is that I’d be afraid of breaking someone else’s universe by doing something like that. That’s not to say I think Marciuliano is breaking anything; the development’s a fine enough one. It’s about my worries about how ineptly I’d do something like this. I mean, ask me to write about the week Captain Kirk spent falsely accused of a jewel heist on Rocket Raccoon’s planet? I could probably whip that one out. Ask me to write something that changes our ideas of what drives Captain Kirk as a person? No way. Something mentioned a good deal in how-to-write texts is that there’s a certain arrogance in writing. The writer has to assume that she has something worth reading. It seems like it requires a certain greater arrogance to do your writing with someone else’s work. At least it takes self-confidence.

Sam shaves off his Crazy Beard and takes down his Crazy Evidence Wall, to restart it with a perfectly rational and appropriate thumbtacking up of the Off-Model Spencer Family Photo. And Sophie Spencer, released from full-time psychiatric care, goes to her (biological; she was adopted by Sam and Abbey) grandfather’s grave in search of reassurance. Abbey follows, and can give a hug, in a scene that is touching.

So with that done Sophie offers some more information about the Woman Who Sounds Like Abbey. The Woman — named Senna Lewiston, it transpires — believed Abbey’s father was going to leave her mother and marry Senna’s mother. In revenge for the “stolen” life Senna had Sophie kidnapped and was trying to gain her sympathy and support in destroying Abbey’s life and place in life.

Sophie, to Abbey: 'But you know what the worst part is? [The Woman Who Sounds Like Abbey] almost had me believe [you had stolen her life]. She almost made me side with her and hate you. But ... I couldn't. I was confused. And I was really angry. But she never got me to hate you.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 21st of June, 2017. Part of the family-healing moments that make for the resolution, at least for now, of this broad and dangerous kidnapping scheme that marked the complete upending of the strip when Marciuliano took over writing. You know, I’m cool with Rip Haywire references. It’s a pretty fun comic even if the mandatory pop culture reference each panel get tiring and I honestly can’t tell if they’re rerunning comics or doing a variation on the Catpocalypse story. I’m just curious is all.

Meanwhile, one can’t help but notice we haven’t actually seen the body of the Woman Who Sounds Like Abbey. So, you know, soap opera rules. Plus, Senna Lewiston, the police had worked out, somehow bought the kidnapping compound in cash, despite the lack of visible means of supporting massively complicated, expensive revenge schemes. How to explain this? Good question and possibly related to a plot thread that’s been dormant for months, possibly since Marciuliano took over the strip last fall. April Parker, wife of the current Judge Randy Parker, and sometime CIA … person, was sent off on a mission to one of those foreign countries the CIA is always sending people off to in soap opera stories like this. She hasn’t been head from since. And Randy suspects his wife “may have betrayed this country, and she certainly betrayed our marriage with secrets upon secrets”, since she’s gone missing and the CIA won’t stop asking him where she went. So he’s been letting the house get disarrayed enough that the Judge (ret) Alan Parker has noticed, and he’s thinking about putting together his own Crazy Evidence Wall.

Caught up? Good. The strange thing to me about all this is how much there’s been both a lot happening and yet it’s only been one story. And, for that matter, only a couple of days of action within that story. It’s not so breathtaking and baffling as immediately after Marciuliano took over. And basically all the crazy stuff has been explained in ways that pass an initial reading. There may be implications that don’t make sense, but the emotional tone and course of stuff has been believable enough. And with the April Parker storyline heating up I’m looking forward to this fictional CIA fiasco almost as much as I’m looking forward to our next real-life CIA fiasco. Can’t wait.

Next week: a hopefully fiasco-free look into the life of Gil Thorp. See you then, I hope.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

In its third straight day of sliding the Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped below two hundred bringing it to territory it hasn’t seen since the 9th of June and that’s somehow the worst thing these people can imagine happening even though that was like three and a half weeks ago. I mean, they sound a little whiny to me, too.

196

Me Week: The Quintessence Of My Humor Style


If anything characterizes what I think is funny, it’s “slightly over-researched stuff”. So here’s some pieces that exemplify that. When Time Came To New Jersey was somehow not that week’s long-form piece, but rather just a little something dashed off because I got to thinking about the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. And the question it raises I still haven’t answered, although I also haven’t asked any of the many people I in principle could to get some kind of answer.

In Why I Never Finish Just Reading A Stupid Book Already I get thrown off a book about usury and debt by a casual line about what the Secretary of the Treasury was doing in 1853. So I’m not just a person who reads about a history of usury and debt but also thinks about the change of office between Secretaries of the Treasury that happened in 1853.

And then in What Causes People To Sometimes Read About Canada there I go again, reading about the prelude to the British North America Act of 1867 (oh hey, happy birthday and stuff there) gets me thinking about the nature of boredom.

If you needed something else to read, here Twenty Books About Things That Changed The World and I thought I had read a majority of them. Huh.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell 29 points today as analysts and traders realized suddenly the year was half-over and they were just starting to feel good about that when they realized there was as much 2017 yet to come? And actually even more 2017 since the 30th of June is only the 181st day of the year and there’s 184 left in the year if we see the whole thing after all.

242

Me Week: That Big Rainstorm Back in November


I’m still laughing about the end of the Silver Bells In The City parade last November, when it got really wet all of a sudden. Also I’m still drying out. So I wanted to give people another chance to read about it. Also after that I got to see how the event played on TV, and it wasn’t any less wonderful. Plus, hey, my continuing fascination with how it is that somehow calendars work. It seems to me there’s something weird going on there that someone ought to do something about explaining.

And then, here Writing To Be Read, my observations about ways to tailor one’s writing so that it can achieve popularity. Reading over it I realize how little I do to try to be easily read. Meanwhile two years later An Open Letter To, Really, Every Social Media Ever gets to be one of those social-commentary pieces I read while either chuckling or despairing and I’m not sure which. So you’re sure to love it!

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell nineteen points as investors were finally convinced that no, that was legitimately a “Crazy Eddie pees his pants” joke made in Hagar the Horrible last week and didn’t there used to be, like, rules about that or something?

262

Me Week: Around Town


Carrying on pointing out old stuff I’ve done: somewhere along the way I learned that I live in an interesting area. I mean, I’m probably the sort of person who can’t help finding the place he lives interesting, because I love looking at things and the harder you pay attention the more you notice how much of it doesn’t quite make sense. But for a while I was cagey about saying just where I was, lest A Chaos Fairy send agents out after me. But eventually I got to see the appeal of using my actual location for stuff.

The first breakthrough? Escape to Lansing,, inspired by a web site the city put together for a trade group sent to South By Southwest. It left me with all sorts of questions like whether other cities have business districts that support the existence of screen doors.

Anyway, Trending In Mid-Michigan continues on that thread, and mixes it with some of the local history that I’ve gotten to learn about. Also a really big piece of coal that might or might not be right by the pet shop with the river of giant koi you can feed. I went on the next week to look at more stuff that isn’t actually in town anymore, or that is a little bit inaccessible because there isn’t really a good street crossing near it.

And, finally, what the heck. Curiosities on the Highway observes some stuff from 70 miles per hour. They raised the speed limit in some areas to 75 now.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

After rising twelve points in brisk market talk traders for the Another Blog, Meanwhile index paused, looked at each other, and asked “what have done?” because, wow, 281? How could it have got up this high from a humble origin at like 100?

281