So I just happened across a news item from 2006. I don’t promise I didn’t run across it before, but I ran across it again, all right? It’s about a pretty neat stunt, the first flight of a human-carrying airplane powered entirely by batteries. Dry cell batteries. In particular, powered by AA batteries. So that’s a neat accomplishment.
It took 160 AA batteries. And now I’m annoyed because “they needed a hundred sixty AA batteries” is precisely the easy, hacky joke I wanted to make about it, and then there it was in the second paragraph of the article. Why can’t I have painted the picture of unwrapping all those annoying blister packs of batteries and trying to load them in and finding you can’t tell whether the positive end is supposed to go to the right or to the left? Where’s the justice?
We’re back with Jack Kinney’s gang today. Shoot the Chutes, the name, refers to the golden-age-of-amusement-parks ride in which you in a big boat go down a sloped waterfall to a big splash. Many amusement parks today have revivals of this. So of course it’s a cartoon about parachute jumping, which is a correct pun. The story is by Ed Nofziger, and the direction by Volus Jones and Ed Friedman, the team we saw going Out oF the World last week. So here’s Shoot the Chutes.
Last week, I thought we had a great premise poorly used. Here, we have a more mundane premise, Popeye and Brutus at a parachute-jumping contest. I want to say it’s also poorly used, but something holds me back.
I will not try to convince anyone this is a good cartoon. It hasn’t got enough delightful moments to be good. And it’s got too much that’s annoying. Most annoying in this is Olive Oyl brattishly demanding that Popeye win her the parachuting trophy. But out of that come bits that seem smarter than that. Like, Olive Oyl’s cheerleading chants. “Trophy, trophy, rah rah rah! Gimme that trophy or I’ll sock you in the jaw!” does not make Olive Oyl seem like a pleasant person. But it is a silly chant for a ridiculous demand. Similarly, “Yakkety Yack! Snik snak! Win that trophy or get the axe!” is goofy. The same happens when Olive Oyl gets tired of waiting for Brutus and Popeye to finish falling and declares “hurry up with that trophy!” It’s a funny demand, and makes the stakes on this tournament ridiculous.
What doesn’t work is that even if a character is supposed to be ridiculously bratty, she’s still being bratty. Working a bit better is Popeye and Brutus quipping their whole way through the parachute drop. I like Brutus swinging the parachute upside-down and then declaring, “Hey! I’m losing!”
So the best interpretation I can put on this is that Nofziger spruced up a stock plot by the characters not taking it at all seriously. Done well, this is great. It depends on the audience knowing the characters well, and knowing the storyline well. But it turns the experience into something I’ve dubbed Cartoon Existentialism. People who know they’re doing these things because what else are they going to do? The Hanna-Barbera cartoons of the 50s and early 60s let this creep in quite well. See any short where, like, Snagglepuss wanders into the story of the Three Little Pigs or something.
Here? It’s not so good. Olive Oyl being obnoxious ironically is still Olive Oyl being obnoxious. Popeye quipping his way through a perilous scenario is an inherent part of his character. It’s only a bit less so for Brutus. After The Ball Went Over, another Jack Kinney-produced cartoon, does this much better. The characters know they’re going through a scenario because they have to do something and if their hearts aren’t in it, they’re at least being weird.
Also, while I can credit Nofziger with sprucing up the stock plot, he also made the stock plot. They’d done flying cartoons before, albeit in the black-and-white era, like Pest Pilot and I Never Changes My Altitude. Why not use some of their plot ingenuity?
The animation’s basically fine. All those seconds with Brutus swinging his parachute side to side seems like it saved the budget. The music was made by hitting shuffle. I don’t know who contestants 1 through 11 were.
A medically better source of transplant organs is Delmer’s family. Might be socially worse, though. Delmer, out of the army, dealt with his experiences by drugs and alcohol. It’s why he tried to mug Jordan in the first place. It’s also why his attempt faceplanted so badly that Wile E Coyote winced at it. Delmer figures his family all hates him for his life-wreck. Turns out they don’t. Once they learn of Delmer’s need, they’re good with it. His brother Dalton is a good match. Dalton insists Delmer has to clean up his act. Delmer’s eager to, though. They schedule surgery quickly. Rex Morgan doesn’t do it, since you want a kidney transplant done by someone who specializes in medicine. All goes well.
Jordan talks with the recovering Delmer about his own breakthrough. Jordan lost a leg while in the army. He’s spun a story about losing it in battle. He was never in battle. He was a cook, and lost it to an improvised explosive device while going to the market. He told himself he made up a heroic adventure because other people expected it. But Jordan’s ready to be honest with people about this, now. And this is why I understand his offering Delmer his kidney. It would be a way to act the hero he felt he was expected to be. They both resolve to do better with their lives.
Part of that resolution in action: Jordan and Michelle, whose last name I have not been able to track down, want to marry soon. [Edited to Add:Dawnpuppy was good enough to tell me her name. Michelle’s last name is Carter.] They’ve been engaged — I think — since before I started doing these recaps. Or I failed to log their engagement in these essays. It’ll be tough scheduling. Jordan has a restaurant opening soon. Michelle pledges she’ll do all the planning. And with the 29th of December, 2018, we leave Jordan, Michelle, Delmer, and that group, for the time being.
The current story started with the new year. Well, the 31st of December. Rex is off to a conference in Phoenix. He’s told his family it’s a medical conference, so please adjust your snarky comments to match what’s in text. On the plane he’s seated next to Brayden, portrayed by that kid from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Brayden’s unnervingly cool about the flight, including the long delay before takeoff.
Unnervingly not cool is another passenger. We haven’t got a proper name for him. Brayden’s called him Mr Cranky and I’ll go with that. He wants to know why he hasn’t got drink service yet. Or why he can’t go wandering around the aisles during the flight. Or why he can’t go into the bathroom right now just because someone else is in it. He’s the kind of supporting character you live for, if you read story strips. His emotions are big, bombastic, and way out of proportion to what’s going on. Yes, I know actual flights have this kind of cartoonishly hostile passenger too often. Doesn’t matter. Every story strip becomes one order of magnitude more delightful when some guest character rampages like a bull through the storyline. Big drunken guy on a flight? Excellent. The only thing better is when the rampaging-bull character’s emotions are wholly out of line with the narrative, or any credible narrative. Looking at you, past week of Mary Worth, and regretting how long it’ll be before I get back to that strip. I’m sorry the flight isn’t long enough he gets to have a fight about how he has a right to play the trombone, and where the stewardesses get off telling him this isn’t a bowling alley flight.
Extremely not cool is a long rumbling noise that starts the 25th of January. It even shakes the cartoonishly unflappable Brayden. It also shakes the plane. The flight attendants prepare for an “unscheduled landing”. They do this with the cool confidence of professionals who’ve recently reviewed the Schedule of FAA-Approved Euphemisms. Their attempts to explain the brace position for landing get interrupted by Mr Cranky. If you liked his rage at having to wait for drink service to start you’ll love how much he hates the flight ending at a ham radio shack so far out in the middle of nowhere that even The Ghost Who Walks doesn’t have a secret airbase there.
So far as I know. I wrote that bit before seeing this Sunday’s strip. We’ll see what happens. (It’s included a lot of people in the comments section complaining the airplane is no craft flown by any actual airline, and has way too much leg room. I am as bothered by this as I am by how people in movies can park downtown.) I kind of what it to involve Zippy the Pinhead berating a thing by the roadside.
What well-intentioned but dumb scheme did the kids in Milford get up to? What well-intentioned but dumb scheme did the kids in Milford get up to after that will-intentioned but dumb scheme? Is Marty Moon going to be set up to be a laughingstock? What blogger is hilariously overestimating how interested people are in second-guessing Gil Thorp’s decision-making process? Wait. I … Um. Well, I should be back on Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp in seven days.
So this is the first, and surely last, time one of my recaps spans three Phantom stories. I’m delighted. This covers the last couple months of 2018. If it’s much past about March 2019 when you read this you’ll probably find a more up-to-date recap at this link. The link covers both the weekday continuity and the separate Sunday storylines. But it should be clear enough what I’m writing about, either way.
The Ghost Who Walks had spent a couple months on his back, last time I checked in. He was recovering from major injuries after a failed capture of Eric “The Nomad” Sahara. The Nomad was in Manhattan, having one last weekend with his daughter Kadia, before going into hiding. Also spending time with his daughter’s roommate, Heloise Walker. Sahara concluded, wrongly but not stupidly, that Walker was a secret agent plotting to capture or kill him. So he threw together a plan. He reported Heloise as a terrorist to the Transportation Security Authority. They arrested her in front of Kadia and everything. This so Kadia would not try to work out Walker’s disappearance. Sahara then collected the released Walker, planning to fly her somewhere she could be killed without detection. My last recap ened with them on the runway, Sahara getting his private jet up to speed.
Walker recovers consciousness just into takeoff. She fights him in the cockpit, sending the plane out of control, crashing it into the suburban neighborhood beside the airport. Walker and Sahara are still alive, and keep fighting, Walker thinking of the 21 generations of Phantoms before her. Walker knocks Sahara unconscious and drags him out of the plane before the airport emergency crash teams can get there.
The first cop on the scene is one who’d arrested Walker at Sahara’s misdirection earlier. Walker tells him Eric Sahara is The Nomad, internationally wanted terrorist. She flees. The cop follows, and shoots, but into the air. She escapes.
Back home in Bangalla, The Phantom wakes after uneasy sleep. He gets the message Heloise Walker left earlier in the morning, and in my previous recap. The one about her having found The Nomad and her then-plan of getting him to share his plans. The Phantom’s ready to run for New York, despite his neck being only barely connected yet. It’s moot anyway. Heloise Walker calls with the news about The Nomad’s arrest.
She’s stumbling around convenience and dollar stores. She’s trying to disguise herself. She’s certain that the authorities have her picture, and soon, her identity. The authorities publicly claim the cop’s body camera malfunctioned. That initial reports of a girl being with Sahara were mistaken. That it was that one airport cop to credit for this capture. Heloise guesses, correctly, that that’s a lie. And she’s torn between pride in her having stopped a major international criminal and wanting to go home.
In this he lays out some of the setting. Notably about his tutor, Kyabje Dorje, who gives off strong Phantom vibes himself. That he’s a scholar, a gentleman. He occasionally returns from disappearances with unexplained injuries. (Be a heck of a thing if he goes flying off to vanquish evil and maybe reconnect with his mentor in El Paso who taught him the mysterious ways of the cowboy, right? By “a heck of a thing” I mean “a thing that seems like the premise of a guest-star Control agent on Get Smart”.) And about Chief Constable Jampa, the local corrupt law agent. They got off to a bad start, with Jampa holding this foreigner at gunpoint. He relented only because Kyabje Dorje’s whole monastery insisted. Since then … well, we haven’t seen anything. But we’ve got the threads for this ready to go.
Anyway, he wraps up, congratulating his dad for capturing The Nomad and all. He makes a couple ironic jokes about his sister having a soft time of it. And he sends his love. And wraps up the letter and burns it to ashes, the better to keep family secrets.
And that’s that story. This past week, the 10th, started the 251st daily-continuity Phantom story, “Heloise Comes Home”. The title picks up from what Heloise said in the last strip of “A Reckoning With The Nomad”. She’s made her way back to the Briarson School, not because she figures she can return to classes. “Crashed Your Roommate’s Father’s Private Jet And Got Him Arrested For Terrorism” gets you out of the semester in most any school. It’s only an urban legend that it’s an automatic A for the semester, though. Walker gets back to her room and very briefly informs Kadia they have to flee now or they’ll never get out of the country. But that’s all she’s had time to do.
I have no information about where the story might be going. (And I’m not seeking any. I’m content to read the comic like anyone might. Let actual comic strip news sites carry teasers.) I can see obvious potential paths. It would be ridiculous were authorities not to investigate Kadia Sahara. This though she does appear to be wholly uninvolved with anything. Fleeing the country would be the first suspicious thing she might do that we’ve seen on-screen. Heloise Walker would likely be investigated as someone near to Eric Sahara even if she weren’t on the body-camera footage. That her mother’s got a senior position with the United Nations is likely to attract more official attention. And it makes me realize I don’t know what the world thinks the senior Kit Walker does. That is, they do see this fellow named Mr Walker who’s always wearing sunglasses and has antique airplanes and the like. I don’t know what people imagine his day job to be.
A running thread of Heloise Walker’s story has been her desire to be a female Phantom. It’s quite fair that she might be afraid of that now that she’s been through an intense and terrifying experience. (Can’t forget that, for all her poise and formal-dinner-wear outfit, she is a teenager, 15 or 16 years old.) Reconciling the fantasy of her family’s superheroic lifestyle with the reality is a solid character challenge as well.
The index fell two points in response to news that Boeing had completed the first successful flight of its new 787-10 Dreamliner passenger airplane because it sure seems like we’ve been reading about the Dreamliner for ever and how is it only now having its first flight? We don’t follow aerospace news closely but jeez, they’ve been working on the Dreamliner since like the Ford administration. The heck, guys?
The index is not trying to get all smug or anything but would like everyone to notice how it gained nine points. Trading was described as “brisk”, “light”, “grimy”, “creaky”, “tense”, or “numerous”, based on where in the list of officially approved adjectives the person asked had gotten. It sounds like they’re not taking the question seriously. Still, 113, hey there.
OK, OK, dream that seemed like it went on for two hours or more. I will take your advice. Never again will I try to sneak out naked to the mall’s movie theater with a bunch of archeologists. While there’s probably someplace I could get some respectable cover there, I wouldn’t have any place to keep my wallet so I’d have to watch the movie from the changing room. Also there’s so many venues for embarrassment with the archeologists, especially when people challenge their key findings and they have to fly, cross-country, to Seattle by way of Los Angeles, which just makes for two hecks of long trips. I don’t even know why the movie was controversial to the archeologists. Maybe something in it presented the Nuditarians in a light not generally accepted by current research.
OK, so the protagonist volunteers to try out the diagnosed-with-multiple-controllable-conditions scientists’ new evolution-accelerating treatments. After several preliminary sessions seem to do little he finds that in subtle but key ways he’s been altered to a more perfect specimen for a human-like species in our environment, including:
The tissues within his knees regenerate their soft, padded material for several further decades, indicating he might reach his mid-90s before his knees start to ache.
His body produces virtually no cholesterol anymore, so that what he consumes in his ordinary diet is sufficient for membrane fluidity in his body’s cells and restoring his nervous system’s myelin sheathing, without the risk of building unwanted amounts in his blood vessels.
Now his skin produces so much vitamin D that despite living in mid-Michigan it’s no longer necessary to consider taking supplements during the long winter, although if he moved to a less cloudy area he might be at mildly increased risk of hypervitaminosis D.
There’s a slight notch in his thigh so that when he flies coach he can plug the earphone into the seat speaker plug without it digging into his leg.
He shows virtually no signs of repetitive strain injury while typing anymore.
What do you think? Can I build this into a six-volume mega-book series ready for movie franchising?
Apparently, the name is meant literally: the check-in desks have never known the touch of human civilization, there are wild packs of coyotes running on the baggage carousels and running a thriving illicit taxi service, and if you do insist on getting an agent you need to hew one yourself out of wood, using an axe, and primitive colorations you make from combining kerosene seeping from the ground with such lead or cadmium or other poisonous metals as you are able to scrounge from some manner of ore.
There might someday be a day I laugh about this, possibly when the time comes for them to cancel my flight next week.
While looking for schemes to fly around the holidays I discovered that United Airlines is willing to fly me, or possibly anyone, from White Plains, New York, to Akron, Ohio, on January 6th, leaving at 7:36 am and arriving at 3:24 pm, for only $883. Of course it’s not nonstop. For that kind of cash you’re lucky they’re landing at all instead of just circling around Akron, pointing it out to you, and laughing as they sail off to Louisville.
That’s intrigued me. United appears to believe that there are people who need to get from White Plains to Akron on the first Monday of the new year so desperately that they’ll pay nearly a thousand dollars for the privilege. Or else United really, really hates the idea of getting up in the morning, for which I can’t blame them, although they’re the ones who don’t think they could just get started two hours later and let people get into Akron in time for dinner. Maybe United is trying to insult one of the towns, but in that case, is it White Plains or Akron they’re being snarky about? I’m guessing it’s not White Plains, given how that municipality has such convenient access to Rye Playland, but beating up on Akron seems just mean-spirited. Maybe it’s January 6th that they’re trying to insult, supposing that the day has too much going for it and needs to be taken down a peg?
I wonder how many people are taking them up on the offer. Will the people who do gather in the lounge at White Plains Something Or Other Airport and swap stories about what’s in Akron that’s worth nearly a thousand dollars, eight hours of travel time, and a stop in O’Hare for. “I dunno,” I imagine their saying, “Just wasn’t hep enough for the flight from Binghamton to Moline, Illinois, I suppose.”
From: email@example.com Subject: UPA8100 Flight updates now available.
Thank you for signing up to receive e-mail updates on any changes to your forthcoming flight UPA8100 from Salisbury, North Carolina to Plattsburgh, New York. We send our smuggest condolences to you on the occasion of whatever life choices have forced you to fly from Salisbury, North Carolina to Plattsburgh, New York, this Friday departing at 5:42 am and hope you enjoy leaning your forehead on our new comfort-rated windows just cool enough to make lifting your head feel like too much work.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Flight Delay – UPA8100 departing at 5:56 am
Due to delayed crew arrivals at our Hartford, Connecticut, branch facility flight UPA8100 will now be scheduled to take off at 5:56 am. Please be at the airport before it takes off as this simplifies boarding procedures.
I had occasion to fly through Trenton’s airport, and don’t you go mocking the choices in my life that had me flying into Trenton on business now. It was the smallest airport I’d ever flown through, and that’s including airports that only exist in simulator games on my iPad. It was so cutely tiny I wanted to pick it up and carry it home with me, and it would fit, too, in my backpack. It was small enough that its official three-letter airport designation only had two letters. All the signs in it were sans serif because they couldn’t fit the words otherwise. It’s the first airport I’ve ever been in that’s half its own size. It’s a good thing I wanted an economy car from the car rental or the parking lot might have capsized.