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


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

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

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

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

Mark Trail.

27 March – 12 June 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Animals Watch!

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Gasoline Alley.

21 March – 4 June 2022.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Week!

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

Popeye Now Being Drawn By Someone Younger Than Popeye


I’d been meaning to point to Daily Cartoonist’s recent article that Popeye Sunday-strip creator Hy Eisman was recovering from a medical procedure. That was why the comic had been in repeats. And then all that got upstaged by news this morning. Not anything bad about Eisman, mind you, other than that he is retiring after a long career in comics that, among other things, saw him bring two comic strips to their centennials (Katzenjammer Kids and Popeye/Thimble Theatre). Something potentially great for Popeye the comic strip.

Randy Milholland is taking over the Sunday comic strip, starting this coming Sunday. Milholland was (I think) the most prolific contributor to the Popeye’s Cartoon Club limited-edition comic strip, back in 2019-2020. And I know he’s been lobbying to take over the comic strip, which has been Sunday-only ever since Bobby London got fired in the early 90s.

Popeye pointing out pictures in his scrapbook: 'That's Mary Ann. After a car wreck she got amnesia an' lived as a lost li'l orphink. I helped her find her parenks. And then there's Matey, the newsboy. He wuz a good boy. I can't 'member his face, but I can still hears his voice. [ The picture is just a note, 'Popeye- Get a pitcher of Matey. -Popeye] And last but nevers least ...' It's a picture of Swee'Pea. We see Popeye sharing the scrapbook with Swee'pea in his lap: 'Me ever-lovin' Swee'Pea.' Swee'Pea; 'Awww, Popeye! You've helped a lot of orphans, huh?' Popeye: 'A am the friend of all children, but orphinks need extra care. This old world can be rough on lost li'l ones. 'Sides [ getting angry ] I gotta proteck 'em from the alternative.' Cutaway to dark city streets, where Popeye has just clobbered Batman and tossed him a rubbish bin; a small child holding a Robin costume is behind Popeye. Popeye points at Batman, declaring: 'If I tol' ya once, I've tol' ya a thousan' times! You've ruined enough orphinks!'
Randy Milholland’s Popeye’s Cartoon Club for the 19th of June, 2020. This is not the debut strip of Milholland’s Popeye run proper, just an example of what he was doing for the Cartoon Club. Mary Ann was the main character in the story “Orphan Mary Ann” from 1932. Matey the Newsboy was a character created for the 1930s radio show as someone who could take the Swee’Pea role in stories but could, you know, talk. So that’s the level of deep pull Milholland is comfortable working with here. Also, yes, I saw that bust of Shorty in the second row there.

I’m happy for this news. First because I’m happy when a comic strip gets a new creative team rather than going into perpetual repeats or, worse, cancellation. And you all know how I feel about Popeye. I wanted to be the astronaut who drew Popeye when I grew up. At age seven I overestimated how much society needed Popeye to be drawn and also misunderstood how astronauts best spend their time. But also Milholland seems a great choice from the cartoonists who worked on Popeye’s Cartoon Club. I’d enjoyed the energy he brought, and the blend of zany and sentimental strips. He also brings an encyclopedic if not terrifying knowledge of the Popeye universe. If there’s anybody who’s going to draw a story based on how Davey Jones, of locker fame, is literally Popeye’s uncle, it’s him.

Also, unless I’ve missed someone, Milholland will be only the second credited creator of the comic strip Popeye younger than the actual character Popeye. Bobby London, who drew the strip from 1986 to 1992, was born in 1950, but otherwise? Hy Eisman was born in 1927; Bud Sagendorf in 1915. Ralph Stein was born in 1909, Bela Zaboly in 1910, and Doc Winner in 1885. Elzie Segar, of course, was born before he drew his comic strip (I checked) or, in 1929, debuted Popeye. It’s an odd state of affairs, but, I mean, it’s 2022. There are no not-odd states of affairs anymore.

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


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

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

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

Prince Valiant.

6 March – 22 May 2022.

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

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

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

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

Next Week!

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

Oh also it turns out GoComics carries Miss Peach now


While doing something I now forget I noticed that GoComics carries Mell Lazarus’s comic strip Miss Peach. In repeats, of course, as the comic ran from 1957 to 2002, and Lazarus himself died in 2016.

I don’t know when they added the strip. GoComics used to make a fuss when it added a comic strip. But the last few years I’ve learned about new additions mostly from Daily Cartoonist. Digging through the GoComics archive it looks like they probably added it in late October last year, a time when I’ll agree I was distracted with, you know, everything. There are a smattering of strips in the deep archive, with dates from March 1988 through September 2002; I don’t know whether this includes the final original strips. And I can find some strips with comments dated “over three years ago” so good luck working this out.

I’m glad to see it added, though, first because I like comics and appreciate vintage strips getting fresh attention. But also this is a comic strip I have heard about my whole life but never seen in any newspaper. This including the time in the 90s that I subscribed to a shoddily-run weekly newspaper that was only syndicated comic strips. So I’m glad to have the chance to appreciate what the fuss was about.

Girl coming up to 'Arthur's Election Poll Service': 'Arthur, how often do you take a poll?' Arthur, sitting at a computer: 'Every five minutes. Oops ... Dukakis is finishing his lunch and he's reaching for a toothpick ... He just slipped 4% ... '
Mell Lazarus’s Miss Peach repeat for the 18th of May, 2022. Originally run the 19th of October, 1988. So, for those too young to remember it, this is a correct representation of how stupid and petty the 1988 Presidential Election was.

Or some echo of the fuss. Right now GoComics is running strips from 1988. This I imagine, unburdened by actual knowledge, reflects when the original strips were picked up by Creators Syndicate. But that’s also comics from the 31st year of the strip. There are exceptions but usually a comic strip in its fourth decade has settled into being warm and familiar and pleasant rather than compelling. But there are also charms in a comic strip that assumes it already has you as a friendly, cozy audience.

I also can’t tell you what audience it has on GoComics. Most strips there have an “about” page, so that you can enjoy whatever delight comes from knowing 67,309 other people are subscribed to Herman repeats. There’s no such link for Miss Peach, though. Me, all I want from a Comics “About” page is a list, with pictures, of the main and secondary characters. Please, cartoonists, do this for your readers. Or please, cartoonists’ literary estates, do it.

Also somebody needs to start running Walt Kelly’s Pogo online. It’s amazing such an important comic strip is so hard to link people to.

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Phantom (Weekdays).

28 February – 14 May 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Week!

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

In Which I Politely Ask the Ghost of Brock Adams to Stop Haunting This Blog


I do not know what strange convergence of occult forces drove my brain to remember one dumb little joke about disgraced Senator Brockman Adams for thirty years until I could deposit it on your doorstep two days ago.

Separately to all of that, GoComics has been running Berkeley Breathed’s Outland. And it’s in that era when it had given up on being a new comic and was just Sunday Bloom County But With Way Too Much Of That Cockroach Instead Of The Interesting Or Likable Characters. And we got to this.

Opus and Bill the Cat, sitting behind a booth for their Presidential campaign, to a woman strolling past: 'Madam, let me outline what we'll feature if elected. Health care! Chilcare! Warfare! Welfare! Cab fare and hair care! All free. Free! Free! Free! Free! Thank you very much!' Woman: 'Listen, after Jack Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, and Brock Adams, I'm voting for somebody with *less*!' Opus, stunned, says, 'Less?' He reaches over the edge of the booth to scratch out cat, and writes in 'Eunuch'. Opus says to Bill, 'stop grinning, booger-face!'
Berkeley Breathed’s Outland repeat for the 16th of May, 2022. Originally run the 5th of April, 1992. You know, once I heard about the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon I started to see examples of it everywhere.

I suppose that I’m glad to be present at the peak of mentions of Brock Adams since his death in 2004, so, yeah, pleasant enough work there, universe. I would prefer to be at the peak of “Joseph Nebus, having won $275,000 in the lottery” mentions, though, if we could arrange that instead.

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


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

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

Alley Oop.

21 February – 7 May 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Next Week!

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

Pine Ridge is up for sale


I come to this by way of Donnie Pitchford, cartoonist behind the Lum and Abner comic strip, and occasional Dick Tracy contributor. Pine Ridge, Arkansas — specifically, the Dick Huddleston Store and the Lum and Abner Museum — is up for sale. As you might infer, the place is dedicated to the long-running serial radio-comedy show by Chester Lauck and Norris Goff. Lauck and Goff based the characters on their show on people they knew in Waters, Arkansas, a town which changed its name to the Pine Ridge that it inspired. This includes the Dick Huddleston named in the store.

The buildings date to 1904 and 1912, the only pre-1920 buildings remaining in the town. They’re on the United States National Register of Historic Places. It’s been a museum dedicated to the show since the 1970s. The real estate listing offers the buildings and surrounding area — “24+ acres” — and even the 1950s fire truck I didn’t know about. They’re asking $777,000. (The real estate listing also lists 1909 as the year of construction. I’ve learned year-built data can be weirdly unreliable.) I have no information about why it’s gone up for sale, or why now. If I learn anything, I’ll share it.

And for those curious now what Lum and Abner is all about? You may have a delight waiting for you. It was a longrunning, 15-minute serial comedy. Mostly Lauck and Goff talking to one another, doing all the voices for the cast of amiable, eccentric characters in town. The title characters are a fun pair, proprietors of the Jot ‘Em Down Store. Their adventures are driven by their complete lack of guile and ability to imagine anyone else has it. As old-time-radio shows go it’s pretty well-preserved, as something like a third of all known broadcasts survive. For the era this is excellent and that’s still something like 1600 episodes.

I recommend it as pleasant, gentle listening, and also a good way to understand the charms of this kind of serial comedy. (There’s also a 1948 half-hour non-serial version that’s, um, for completionists. There are also some movies, that sometimes crop up on Turner Classic Movies, that are about as good as any old-time-radio movie.) I’m surprised that I appear never to have written specifically about the show, or introduced any representative episodes. Might have to fix that.

Wait Wait Wait, Dennis the Menace Has a Middle Name?


I have been reading Dennis the Menace for — well not my entire life. There was a stretch for the first couple years when I wasn’t able to read. But past that, I’ve been reading Dennis the Menace my entire life and it’s just this week I find out Dennis has a middle name? I knew he had a last name, although it took me long enough to settle on “Mitchell” that I would have been in trouble on a game show. But a middle name? That isn’t “The”? Yes, if you proposed that his name was “Dennis The Mitchell” I would have to accept you were right.

Dennis, around the corner of the house, overhearing his mother, tells Joey, 'Uh-oh! She used all three of my names. That spells TROUBLE!'
Scott Ketcham and Marcus Hamilton’s Dennis the Menace for the 4th of May, 2022. If we can trust Wikipedia, Ron Ferdinand does the art on Sundays and Marcus Hamilton on weekdays. If we trust Comics Kingdom’s credit, the writing is by Hank Ketcham, who retired in 1994 and died in 2001. Maybe he was ahead of deadline but then I don’t know what Scott Ketcham is doing. Well, there’s always paperwork, can’t forget that. You need someone who likes to fill out forms.

Anyway, Wikipedia offers that his full name is Dennis Roger Mitchell, though it doesn’t give a source. The comic strip, I suppose. Also apparently the strip takes place in Wichita, Kansas, if you believe Wikipedia. Wikipedia also claims that Wichita, Kansas, is on the Arkansas River. As far as I know that’s right, so maybe we can trust Wikipedia about this Dennis “Roger” Mitchell thing too. I don’t know.

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


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

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

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

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

Judge Parker.

13 February – 1 May 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this is where we stand as May begins.

Next Week!

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

Sherman’s Lagoon is on GoComics now, not Comics Kingdom


I had read about this on Daily Cartoonist, but forgot in time to be surprised Sunday. Jim Toomey’s Sherman’s Lagoon switched its distributing syndicate recently. It’s moved from King Feature Syndicate over to Andrews McMeel Syndicate. And, so, it’s left Comics Kingdom to settle in at GoComics. As I write this, GoComics only has the strips from yesterday and today. I don’t know whether it’s going to get any (or all) of the 31-year back catalogue of the comic. (If you have Sherman’s Lagoon on your Favorites page on Comics Kingdom, you can still flip back to previous days. But you can’t get a link to, say, last week’s strips to pass on to someone else.)

Hawthorne, crab: 'You'd catch a lot more hairless beach apes if you didn't have that stupid fin.' Sherman, shark: 'Huh?' Hawthorne, wrapping a belt around to tie down Sherman's fin: 'They see you coming a mile away. Here put this on.' Sherman stars swimming off, with his fin strapped down. Hawthorne: 'Now go get 'em, tiger.' Off-panel we hear three people crying, 'AAUUGHH!' in turn. Sherman, fatter, swims back: 'Wow! That was easy! Why didn't I think of that a long time ago?' He fiddles with the belt. 'I already need to loosen this thing a couple notches.' Hawthorne, startled: 'How many did you eat?'
Jim Toomey’s Sherman’s Lagoon for the 1st of May, 2022. Also a pretty good representative of the comic’s sense of humor. If you find nothing entertaining in non-player-characters getting eaten by sharks you probably want a different comic strip.

I hope it does. Sherman’s Lagoon is one of those underrated but reliably funny comics. It’s also, without a joke, the place where I get most of my marine-biology news, as Toomey works what’s new and interesting into the jokes often.

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


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

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

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

Gil Thorp.

7 February – 23 April 2022.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Hamm’s parents, by the way, include a father who ghost-writes autobiographies for business people. I don’t know whether this will have thematic or even plot significance.

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

Milford Sports Watch!

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

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

Next Week!

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

March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing: The Last Quartet: Trivia vs $20,090


Trivia

The Case For: Is no better way to know what company Hi from Hi and Lois works for.

The Case Against: Really aren’t any bars or restaurants hosting trivia nights that have a deep enough menu to support going back for a whole season.

$20,090

The Case For: You don’t know anyone whose life wouldn’t be considerably improved for years if they got an unexpected twenty thousand and ninety dollars, like, today.

The Case Against: Still, just think how much even better twenty thousand, one hundred and fifteen dollars would be.

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


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

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

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

Rex Morgan, M.D..

31 January – 16 April 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Phantom (Sundays).

23 January – 10 April 2022.

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

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

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

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

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

Mary Worth.

16 January – 2 April 2022.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!

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

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

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

Mark Trail.

9 January – 26 March 2022.

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Animals Watch

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

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

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

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

Gasoline Alley.

1 January – 19 March 2022.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Week!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Dick Tracy.

26 December 2021 – 12 March 2022.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Next Week!

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

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant? When did King Arthur retire? December 2021 – March 2022


I don’t know! A casual mention in part of the current storyline was that King Arthur had retired, and some time ago. I had just thought they dropped the “In The Time Of King Arthur” subtitle on the title page for graphic design reasons or something. If someone actually knows the strip better than I do, please, let me know.

Nevertheless, this should get you up to speed on Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for early March, 2022. If you’re reading this after about June 2022 there’s probably a more up-to-date plot recap at this link.

Also, maybe of interest, on my other blog I hope to finish my 2021 Mathematics A-to-Z. This is to be with an essay for the letter Z. Yes, it’s run a bit longer than I wanted but please understand: 2021 was a lousy year.

Prince Valiant.

19 December 2021 – 6 March 2022.

Prince Valiant has fallen into an escort mission. Morgan Le Fay, abandoned — and threatened — by the dark forces she had done witchcraft with, needs his protection to get home. They enter Londinium ahead of a Saxon raiding party. The small, forgotten garrison can’t hope to hold out. He declares that King Arthur has ordered the outpost abandoned. And they accept Morgan Le Fay, as the king’s sister, as representing the King’s word.

With the remains of Londinium surrounded by the Saxon enemy, Val has formulated a plan for evacuating the few surviving warriors. He is pleasantly surprised to find several old Roman ballistic war machines still intact, and has them wheeled into the courtyard for critical inspection. 'I have seen such machines in action,' the prince mutters to the dubious Cafalt, 'And I believe, with some earnest repair, we can get these working - if only for one shot.' Then Val is off to see Morgan Le Fay, who has been collecting certain herbs from a long-abandoned Roman garden. He explains his plan, and then: 'We need a grand distraction. You magicians are good with concocting flame and smoke and dazzling effects.' The sorceress replies: 'Tell the men to bring all the oil and pitch in this place, and the naphtha that I believe they will find in the armory's makhazin. I will supply the other ingredients.' The old armorer's forge serves as Morgan's workshop, and she works deep into the night. Weird lights and crackling noises emanate from the chamber. To the uneasy warriors, Val cheerfully offers: 'Trust her - she wants to get out alive too!'
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 30th of January, 2022. ‘Makhazin’, this comic causes me to learn, is one of the many Arabic words brought into Western languages; it means ‘storehouse’ and is where we get the word ‘magazine’ from. It’s first recorded in English in 1583 (and first recorded in Latin in 1214), while this action is taking place … uh .. sometime contemporary to the Emperor Justinian. (The 1982-vintage Prince Valiant strips just got to Justinian’s accession this past week.) But that’s probably why the word’s presented as more obviously a loan word.

So they like this “escape” plan. The trick is getting past the Saxons. There are a couple ancient pieces of Roman war machinery, that might be put together for one shot. And Valiant enlists Morgan Le Fay: if she could do something impressive with flame and smoke, they might have something worth shooting. The plan works: they put together a night of impressive fireworks that panic the Saxons.

In the dark hour before dawn, wrapped infog rising from the Thames, Val and Cafalt make their exit over the decaying Roman bridge, leaving doomed Londinium to the Saxons. In the distance ahead they can barely see their fellow evacuees. They move slowly, cautiously - but perhaps muffled hooves make their horses a bit unsure. Cafalt's steed steps through a rotting plank, cannot regain his balance, and crashes against Cafalt! The sharp cracks and whinnies that echo through the fog are all that Wassa, the Saxon war chief, needs to hear to confirm his suspicions. 'The bridge! They are escaping over the bridge!' Siege laddrers are thrown up to the bridge under Londinium's walls and are quickly mounted by a swarming Saxon horde that finds a lone prince of Camelot standing in staunch defense of his fallen comrade!'
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 27th of February, 2022. I imagine that Schultz and Yeates feel some delight in setting action like this on London Bridge. There was the Roman-era bridge, built somewhere close to the famous and the modern bridge’s location, and it’s plausible that it would be in condition about like this around 550 or so. (Oh, yes, as part of Comics Kingdom’s recent borking of their web site, they’ve switched many of the Sunday comics from their correct three-row, full-page-width format to the narrower, four-row, half-page width. I have informed them of the mistake but they have yet to acknowledge or correct it.)

Briefly. Wassa, the Saxon leader, recognizes this as a diversion for a retreat. The garrison tries to withdraw across the London Bridge. The garrison’s leader, Cafalt, has an accident when his horse steps through a rotted plank. It breaks his leg, and Valiant stands up to protect him against the pursuing Saxons. But it is one fighter, however much he is the protagonist, against the whole war party …

Next Week!

Since I last checked in on Joe Staton, Shelley Pleger, and Shane Fisher’s Dick Tracy we’ve seen Blackjack versus Mr Bones. We’ve seen The Apparatus make a fresh attempt at killing Dick Tracy. We’ve seen mysterious deaths marked by flower petals. And we’ve even seen reruns. I’ll try to summarize it all next week, if things go to plan.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? Why is Savarna trying to destroy The Phantom? December 2021 – February 2022


She’s not. It would never occur to her to try. But once you start the avalanche you can’t tell — you know, I mentioned how of course Terry Beatty, of Rex Morgan M.D., was not trying to upstage me. This in providing a good succinct plot recap right as my plot recap was ready to post. While Beatty might be aware of my existence, there is a story comics creator who I know does know I’m around. Tony DePaul himself posted a good, clear recap of the current daily storyline for The Phantom.

It’s worth the read, first for understanding the writer’s intentions. Also for learning bits about the specific mechanics of writing these stories. Like, what does the script look like? How far ahead are stories written? (As DePaul and his collaborators do things, at least; I imagine every writing team develops their own workflow.) How does a story like this, meant to stretch into a third calendar year, get made?

So that and this should catch you up on Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, through the end of February 2022. If you’re interested in the Sunday continuity, or are reading this after about May 2022, a more useful recap is likely at this link. And, if you’re interested in my explanations of mathematics terms, my glossary project’s resumed over on my other blog. Should have a fresh post up tomorrow, too. Now, let’s talk comics.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

13 December 2021 – 26 February 2022.

I’m not sure what I can add to Tony DePaul’s own summary. My perspective and misunderstandings, I suppose. Still, here goes. In the prophecy of Old Man Mozz, The Phantom successfully breaks Savarna Devi out of death row in Gravelines Prison. But he’s badly wounded, and while the veterinarian they find is able to stitch him together, it’s not over. The Phantom gets a fever, one lasting for days, and in his delusional state he says something catastrophic, that sends Savarna away.

This may all seem like it’s taking a while to get done. Fair enough. But we are seeing what’s meant to be a plausible way that The Phantom — a legacy of five centuries — crashes apart. It’s something that’s survived twenty generations of changing world. Of Phantoms (mostly) dying in action. It’s grown supportive structures, like the Jungle Patrol, that would carry on of their own inertia as long as possible. I quipped in my previous recap of the Sunday strips that The Phantom has to spend about 412 days a year keeping up with ceremonial tasks. He spends a lot of time gluing these structures together. But in exchange, those structures glue The Phantom, the institution, together. It will need a lot to wreck all that. So it has to be something that’s big and complicated and messy.

Phantom, explaining to Mozz: 'Savarna suffered horribly as a child ... her ordeal was just beginning on the night the India Voyager fell to evil men. It made her into someone she was never meant to be. But I won't believe she's deranged, Mozz! She won't harm Kit no matter what she hears me say in Rhodia.'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 13th of January, 2022. I suppose this shows that The Phantom did not know about Jampa’s past with the India Voyager. If he had, he would likely have realized that, in his fever, he said something that let Savarna know where Jampa was.

Savarna’s headed for the Himalayas, and the monastery where Kit Junior, the presumptive 22nd Phantom, is studying. He’s very much not ready yet; he’s not even trying to conceal his face from people. And he’s been thinking how happy he is nobody like Guran, from his pre-monastery life, has appeared, as they would have the news his father died. Then Savarna, from his pre-monastery life, appears, and he’s happy to see her. (I saw some snarking about this inconsistency. Granted it may be inconsistent, but it’s inconsistent in a way normal people are.)

She arrives the week of the 17th of January. That’s when we begin the story/chapter titled Death in the Himalayas. They meet over tea. She explains she’s there for something that needs doing, and something she thought she was finished with. Before The Phantom broke her out of Gravelines he had her swear to be done with revenge. While The Phantom healed, she thought how she was done with killing. And now …

Chief Constable Jampa enters the teahouse. She confronts him. That’s too soft a phrasing. She shoots him. She knows him. Nineteen years ago pirates killed her father, master of the original India Voyager. And her brother. It set her on her campaign of vigilante anti-piracy and anti-fascism. Leading the pirates? That same Jampa. As a girl she was able to scald him, and escape, almost drowning as she does. It makes her life story — and her relentlessness in this point — much clearer.

A panel of Savarna holding her smoking gun. We see, in flashback to 19 years ago, Jampa writing in pain after the young girl Savarna was throw a red-hot pot into his chest. Back in the present, Jampa staggers under the gunshot.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 19th of February, 2022. This is part of the ten-day sequence done entirely silent. That’s a massive technical challenge. And, as you can see, visually striking: as this unfolds even the panel borders fall apart, turning rough and sketchy in the flashbacks, and falling into diagonals for the non-flashback moments. They finally righted themselves this week, as Savarna declares her father and brother avenged.

You may ask how it is Jampa ended up a chief constable in a remote Himalayan village. Well, how is it Kit Junior ended up in the same place? And, if you’ll let me build a castle on some sky, it might not be coincidence. Years ago we got a line that Kit Junior perceived his tutor Kyabje Dorje to be a Phantom-like superhero. Why might Chief Constable Jampa not be that superhero’s nemesis? It might even say why Kit Senior sent his son there rather than, say, to understudy with The Locust or somebody. (Probably not. Kit Senior was sending Chief Constable Jampa money for reports about his son. Diana Walker called Jampa a good man, a blow to her ability to judge character on slender evidence. On the other hand, I thought that mention of Jampa was just Kit Senior distracting Diana and Guran from Mozz’s prophecy. Now, I see DePaul introducing Jampa to this story before his big death scene.)

But this is where we’ve gotten. Savarna, in an understandable fury, has found Kit Junior and shot the chief constable of this Indian village. The Phantom, unaware of this, is returning home. … Or so foresees Old Man Mozz.

Where does The Phantom, who’s learning all this as we are, go from here? Not my place to say. DePaul was good enough to share that this chapter, Death In The Himalayas, is to end the 16th of April. The next chapter, Phantom’s End, is to run 23 weeks. I calculate that to be the 18th of April through to the 24th of September. And then … three more chapters, he estimates, before this is all done. Quite the project.

Next Week!

Saxon invaders besiege Londinium, and all Prince Valiant has to defend himself is whatever he and Morgan Le Fay can whip up! Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant gets a couple hundred words of explanation, again, if things go to plan. We’ll see.

I Feel Like the World Is Being Called Out by This Popeye Strip From 1938


You know, a time when we didn’t have such serious problems to deal with.

Quick backstory: So, Swee’Pea is the king of Demonia, a pleasant enough land except for the Demons who live underground, pull stuff and people down never to be seen again, and keep making fun of Popeye while one of them urges the others to throw dirt in his eye. King Cabooso rules neighboring Cuspidonia, and he’s threatening war for the same reasons every country in an interwar comedy is getting ready to go to war.

Mr Frogfuzz: 'Here we are back in Demonia and the demon situation is worse than ever! King Swee'Pea must act!' Popeye hands the phone to Swee'Pea: 'It's for you, Swee'Pea.' Swee'Pea responds with shock to whatever he's told. Popeye: 'Swee'pea sez not to worry about them de-mings, Mr Frogfuzz.' Frogfuzz: 'Oh, that's wonderful! Did he fix everything?' Popeye :'No, but King Cabooso ol' 'im he is sendin' his army to wipe us off the eart'. So he sez not to worry no more about them de-mings.'
Elzie Segar’s Thimble Theatre for the 24th of September, 1938, and rerun the 23rd of February. 2022. So Comics Kingdom’s web site seems to be more stable now, and it’s only lost my login credentials once this past week. Still not getting the permanent links that I like, so, you reader in the future who sees this broken? Please let me know and then I probably won’t be able to do anything about it, but I’ll agree that Comics Kingdom shouldn’t have broken it. Also, by the time of this strip, it was probably being written and drawn by Tom Sims and Doc Winner; notice that Segar didn’t sign the comic.

What’s Going On In Alley Oop? What’s with all these alternate-universe Alley Oops? December 2021 – February 2022


I don’t know. Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop has embraced the idea of the multiverse and that lets them have silly variations of the core cast. I grant this has dramatic economy. This past story introduced Allen Cooper, the analogue of Alley Oop from the all-villain Universe 4. We do get a glimpse of Lula and Doc Atoby, the villain-world counterparts to Ooola and Dr Wonmug, so that’s banked for future use.

The Alley Oop we’re following is Universe-2’s character, by the way. The original newspaper character is Universe-1. He’s safely ensconced in a continuity that has none of the Lemon/Sayers run’s silliness. And this story also saw a brief visit from Ollie Arp, from the more competent (though still goofy) Universe-3.

So this should catch you up to mid-February 2022 in Alley Oop. If you’re reading this after about May 2022 a more current plot update is likely at this link. Thanks for looking up story elements here.

And after a stumble last week I hope to resume my Little 2021 Mathematics A-to-Z tomorrow. What mathematics term do I try to pick up and explain in an essay a normal person can understand? Why not just look and see, in about 18 hours from when this essay posts?

Alley Oop.

6 December 2021 – 19 February 2022.

Doc Wonmug tracked down the history-rippling destruction of Earth’s atmosphere to the year 2000. Our Heroes went to the Rocky Mountain cave holding the Atmosphere Fixer. It’s a 200-year-old device that daily cleans the world’s atmosphere. (Wonmug notes, defensively, it’s not an “everything on Earth” fixer, which is why there are still environment problems.) It was created by one Janet Higgins, a brilliant scientist suppressed to history. And now, the machine’s been sabotaged to make it look like the Y2K bug destroyed the device and the atmosphere.

Wonmug: 'I appears they damaged the temporal rod, causing the machine to fail. I believe they were attempting to make it look like it succumbed to the Y2K bug.' Ooola: 'But why engage in subterfuge? Any damage would have had the same result.' Wonmug: 'Agreed. Whoever did this was *not* a master villain.' Allen Cooper, emerging from hiding: 'Correction! *I* did this, and I *am* a master villain!' Alley Oop: 'You heard the man. He's handsome *and* a villain.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 24th of December, 2021. Have to say this for Cooper and the rest of his Universe-4 band: they are right up front about their villainy. They don’t go concern-trolling of how they’re just so extremely worried that someone might pretend to be trans so they could take women’s soccer scholarships, or that someone taking food assistance nevertheless has luxuries like a phone and a freezer.

Ted emerges and identifies Alley Oop as the saboteur. Ted is a robot Higgins created and watching the Fixer. (I get an impression of Tik-Tok of Oz looking at Ted, but that might be coincidence.) Oop’s innocent, of course. It turns out to be Allen Cooper. Cooper claims to be avenging his parents, killed when the atmosphere failed to save them, and anyway this isn’t his universe. And leaves.

Alley Oop pursues him to Universe 4 and falls into Cooper’s trap. Then punches his way back out of it, a nice reminder that he is a strong and dynamic guy. (Though the actual escape gets done off-panel for comic value.) Alley Oop figures to bring Cooper to Time Court, but doesn’t know how to do that. Fortunately Ollie Arp, their Universe-3 counterpart, pops in and is happy to bring Cooper to Time Justice.

Wonmug: 'Apart from having a missing part, your atmosphere fixer has held up remarkably well for the last 200 years.' Higgins: 'I assume I've finally gotten the recognition I deserve? For saving humanity?' Alley Oop: 'Sorry. No one's ever even heard about --- OOF!' [ as Wonmug elbows him in the belly. ] Wonmug: 'Of COURSE you've received recognition. Every city in the country was renamed Higginsburg.' Higgins: 'Eh, it's a start.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 1st of February, 2022. So, not to take this trifle seriously, but I’m curious how the Atmosphere Fixer ended up put in the Rocky Mountains in 1800; it seems like a hard place for a white woman to get. Why not an Appalachian mountain, or somewhere in Great Britain where all the atmosphere trouble started? Also we have to seriously respect Higgins’s mechanical-tooling skills, especially if she were working from North America in the 18th century.

Back in our universe Doc Wonmug and Ooola haven’t had any luck fixing the broken atmosphere fixer. So Ooola goes back to 1800 to find Janet Higgins. Higgins is a bit prickly, but content to go to the future and save the world again. She assumes she’s finally gotten the recognition deserved and Doc Wonmug nudges Alley Oop out of telling her the truth. And she is delighted to be reunited with Ted, who’s also felt every moment without her was a millennium.

Higgins fixes the thing fast. And Wonmug, considering the hard life she’s had, offers her and Ted something better. He sends them to the year 2782, when Earth finally becomes a Utopia.

Ooola; 'This is kind of like being back in Moo. But without the dinosaurs.' Alley Oop: 'Yeah, I miss them too.' Ooola: 'Strange that we haven't seen anyone yet.' Oop: 'Maybe that's *why* it's Utopia.' Wen, emerging from behind a tree: 'Oh, we were just letting you settle in. My name is Wen.' Oop: '*AH*! You startled me! My heart is racing.' Wen: 'Don't worry, only the finest adrenaline flows here.' Oop:'You're right! It *does* feel nice.'
Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop for the 15th of February, 2022. This seems fine.

The 11th of February, Alley Oop and Ooola sneak off to Utopia — Eutopia, they soon learn — against Doc Wonmug’s warning that they’ll just wreck it if they visit. (He includes himself as someone who would definitely screw utopia up.) They’re welcomed and everything seems great. Can’t help noticing Ooola watching a white rabbit run off somewhere, though, in one strip. I am a STEM idiot, yes, but I am capable of recognizing an allusion sometimes.

Next Week!

I hope to catch you up on how The Phantom, the Man Who Cannot Die, learns how he was going to die. It’s Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, one week from now. As ever, that’s if all goes well.

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Why is April angry the show she wanted made got made? November 2021 – February 2022


So back in 2019, April Parker learned Neddy Spencer and Ronnie Huerta were writing a screenplay based on her life. And demanded they rewrite it to be correct. To tell the truth about her situation, on the run from CIA super-high-ultra-duper prison and all. This past month, the show finally debuted, and she was livid. Offended that someone was using her life to make a show.

This inconsistency hasn’t been explained. I’m not sure there is a way around it. The hypothesis I was working from was wild but not impossible: that the whole series was made by the CIA to flush April Parker out of hiding. In this interpretation, the woman who gave Neddy and Ronnie all those notes was a CIA (or equivalent) agent, trying to get things going. (Neddy Spencer would be involved so they’d know who April Parker would seek out and harass.) It’s a bit wild, but no wilder than actual things done.

But I don’t see how that’s tenable. In August 2019 we saw Norton say he had sent April “elsewhere” from Cavelton. And the woman identified as April refers to “the reason my Dad sent us here”, the screenplay she didn’t suspect existed. There is still some slender room there, in case the plan is to retcon that person as yet another April Parker lookalike. Norton had one (so far as we know) working for him, Agent Strand. The show chose to cast another. That becomes a reasonable choice if the whole show was some bonkers sting operation.

But it’s hard to see how to square this all so it fits. More plausible may be that what April Parker imagined in 2019 was so different from the reality in 2022 that it was not what she wanted. Or that she loved the dream of a TV show based on her life (don’t many of us?) and found the reality too much to bear.

So this is my attempt to bring you up to speed for Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for mid-February 2022. If you’re reading this after about May 2022, or if any news about the comic strip breaks, you should be able to find a more relevant essay here.

And on my other blog I hope tomorrow to resume my Little 2021 Mathematics A-to-Z. This is a glossary project, looking at words from mathematics. Tomorrow’s word? Triangle.

Judge Parker.

21 November 2021 – 13 February 2022.

Last time you’ll recall, Deputy Mayor Stewart took time off his job of making mopey frowny faces to show Sam Driver a video. It’s drone footage that appears to show Abbey Spencer setting fire to her bed-and-breakfast. Stewart is ready to propose something when Alan Parker interrupts the two, and the Deputy Mayor flees.

Driver: 'SO IS THE VIDEO REAL OR NOT?' Stewart: 'You saw the footage. Footage the mayor never saw and I could bury ... just as I alert the media that in good faith as deputy mayor I can't stand by a lie anymore, revealing the mayor alone committed arson, so much was his hatred for Ms Spencer. Then I'm no longer just 'deputy'.'
Francesco Marciuliani and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 2nd of December, 2021. A part of Comics Kingdom’s current web site borkery is that the permanent links aren’t working. I can’t create them, and old ones aren’t working. So I have to make do with temporary ones that I think non-subscribers can only use for a week. If this changes I’ll try to fix these.

They meet up in the park. Stewart avoids answering whether the drone footage is true. And asserts he left the flash drive with video on it by mistake. But he has a deal: he’ll tell the public that Mayor Sanderson burned down the bed-and-breakfast. The motive? Sanderson’s ongoing irrational hatred for the Spencers. Why would he do this? Well, he’ll become mayor. And he’ll have some wealthy, grateful patrons when it’s time to run in his own right. So, do they have a deal?

Woman: 'You've done nothing but attack Ms Spencer for months. 70% of those polled say they can easily see you burning down her property.' Man: 'And now businesses are refusing to work with you. We have a giant, brand-new warehouse that sits empty.' Sanderson: 'BUT WHERE IS THE PROOF?!?' Man: 'This is bigger than that now. This is about business.'
Francesco Marciuliani and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 12th of January, 2022. I like the Network vibe of this scene. The attitude that it doesn’t matter whether Sanderson committed arson that completely destroyed a building and could have killed people and animals. All that matters is there’s money a warehouse isn’t making.

What’s one more illicit deal for Sam Driver? He goes for it. Days before Christmas, Stewart announces what he “knows”. And while I’m not clear what evidence Stewart gives the public, he is believed. Mayor Sanderson’s backers inform him it’s over. It doesn’t matter whether there’s proof. “This is about business.” And so he resigns, in a humiliating speech calling for the people to rise up and demand their voice be heard. That’s another interesting choice because while Sanderson has been presented as a short-tempered, irrational, and awful person … we don’t have evidence that he actually did anything here. All we’ve seen is the video that seems to show Abbey Spencer burning down her money pit of a bed-and-breakfast. The text, so far, shows this as rich and ambitious people overthrowing the legitimate and innocent mayor of Cavelton.

[ Sophie watches the drone footage of Abbey supposedly committing arson ... ] Sophie: 'This is BAD, Sam.' Driver: 'But we both know there's no way Abbey could actually have done that, right?' Sophie: 'It's not just that. It's how you agreed with the Deputy Mayor's terms. It's how he has you in possession of evidence. It's everything. And it's how you don't sound entirely convinced that Abbey is innocent. You do believe she's innocent, don't you, Sam?' Driver: 'Of course I do. I do! It's just, well, the video ... ' Sophie: 'This is all BAD, Sam.'
Francesco Marciuliani and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 9th of January, 2022. Oh, also, about fixing these links? I will absolutely forget unless somebody nags me into fixing them. So if you’re reading this sometime in the distant future of, like, March 2022, and want me to fix the links, leave a comment, please.
The Spencers celebrate, of course. But Sophie — preparing to return to college — notices how Sam Driver’s still stressed. She spies on him, catching him with the flash drive. He can only explain it by showing the video, and Sophie points out how this is all kinds of bad. Stewart could not have left the flash drive by accident. Stewart must want Driver to have incredibly incriminating evidence. And there is something really wrong that Driver treated the video as legitimate.

But we still don’t have an explanation for what it truly is.


Meanwhile, some happy news. Ronnie Huerta and Kat’s relationship had shattered when Huerta tried to get some space before their wedding. Huerta had spent every moment from their breakup calling asking to talk with Kat again. Kat finally took a call. And they had a serious and meaningful talk. One where they talked about what was going wrong. One that’s better than any relationship advice I’ve seen in Mary Worth. Their problem was a plausible pattern. Huerta felt overwhelmed by Kat’s determination and energy. Kat felt she needed to put more into the wedding plans because Huerta was withdrawing. And these reactions to the problems encouraged the original problems to worsen.

Kat, on the phone: 'Ronnie, I ... I'm not sure if I should confess this --- because I really feel my anger is justified --- but I still miss you.' Ronnie: 'I miss you, too.' Kat: 'Well, duh.' Ronnie: 'Hahaha and now I'm laughing awkwardly because I'm not sure if we're at that point yet.'
Francesco Marciuliani and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 17th of December, 2021. By “a comment” I mean “a string of comments” because I am sure to need that.

The thing is they both want to be together. And that’s a good thing. My experience is, if two parties want to get along, they can. And they do, moving back together in time for the debut of their show, Converge, on streaming service Plus+.


The debut comes the 24th of January, reader time. The reactions are … mixed. Sophie’s college roommate Reena is impressed, wondering why Sophie never told her she was interesting. Alan Parker is traumatized by the sight of an actor playing April Parker and demands that monster out of their home, even in TV version. Neddy and Ronnie … are pretty sure the show will get better. And April Parker …

[ As Alan storms out after catching a glimpse of April on Neddy's show ... ] Alan: 'HOW COULD YOU BRING THAT MONSTER INTO OUR HOME?!' Katherine: 'ALAN!' [ Someone starts building their own head of steam about the April character ... ] April: 'Seriously, does that person act or sound like me AT ALL?!' Randy: 'Is this really our biggest concern right now, April?'
Francesco Marciuliani and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 29th of January, 2022. Randy Parker thinks it’s much more important that the plotting problems be resolved, and soon, or the show won’t be picked up for a second season.
She is angry. She can’t believe the casting, for one. And she’s offended someone “stole [her] life and put it on TV”. It inspires a fight between her and Randy Parker. Also at last we see Randy in whatever secluded secret hideout they’re at with April Parker’s mother. And with little Charlotte Parker, who wants to go back to their real home. Randy does too, or at least, he’s realized hiding out from the world of super-duper-hyper-spy etc is no kind of life. (We also get a mention that April’s mother “put [ Norton ] out of his misery”, which reinforces the idea he’s dead. I don’t believe it either.) It’s a bad situation. And we’re left with the mystery of why April Parker is so angry with a show she demanded.

Also the stress of being an international(?) super-fugitive is breaking down Randy’s feelings for his possibly-ex-wife. We’ll see how that develops by the next time I check in, I expect.

Next Week!

Did our heroes prevent the destruction of Earth twenty years ago? And did it involve a suppressed-to-history female scientist? I’ll answer these questions ‘yes’ using more words when I look at Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop next week, all going well.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about The Amazing Spider-Man reruns? The past three months of that have covered roughly what this essay does. Glad to catch you up there.

Comics Kingdom is still trying to fix things and also get people to read _Animal Crackers_


Comics Kingdom’s attempts to get their page back to working as well as it did two week ago seem to be carrying on. At least the normal page displays all right. The page that used to list all the comics they carry in alphabetical order is showing a post from 2015 where Bizarro artists Wayno and Piraro point to a blog post by Tina’s Groove artist Rina Piccolo. (The server that Piccolo’s blog was on has expired and the link’s been infested with malware.)

There isn’t a working zoom feature, but if you right-click on an image you can open it in a new tab, and that’s a usually larger version, which is the only way I can do the Slylock Fox six differences puzzles. Also the tab for making a permanent link — instead of one that non-subscribers can only see for a week — is dead. The permanent links are dead, too, which is making a hash of many of my What’s Going On In … posts.

Screenshot of my comics page featuring Animal Crackers: the toucan(?) asking Lyle if he's doing anything special for Valentine's Day, and Lyle Lion saying 'Lana is in the driver's seat when it comes to planning. I'm just along for the ride.'
Showing off Mike Osbun’s Animal Crackers for the 14th of February, 2022. (It does match the strip on GoComics for the day.) Other Tribune Content Agency comics include Broom Hilda, Gasoline Alley, Pluggers, and Gil Thorp. Also Love Is…, which used to run on GoComics but doesn’t anymore. That last isn’t running on Comics Kingdom … so far as I know.

Also, and this is the strangest thing, my comics page has started to include Mike Osbun’s Animal Crackers, a comic strip they don’t even explicitly list. It’s a Tribune Content Agency comic strip and normally runs on GoComics. The Tribune’s Shoe appears on both Comics Kingdom and GoComics, but I wasn’t aware of any other crossover comics. The link that my Favorites page provides for the site shows nothing of substance. More on this as it comes to pass.

Yeah, Comics Kingdom really borked their web site


I try not to overreact to small service glitches on the big comic strip sites. But Comics Kingdom has had a couple days of this so it seems to be a big glitch. For me, it was showing the daily strips at about 200% screen width, but starting the strip from halfway across the screen. Also, it used to do a bit where if a comic strip hadn’t updated recently it was put down at the bottom of the page. That’s a feature I only slowly came to appreciate: if I had missed a comic strip, it wasn’t gone, just sitting there after (for how I arrange the page) Krazy Kat.

Yesterday they e-mailed advice on what to do, and I pass that on in case something kept you from getting the news. The steps they recommended were: log out of Comics Kingdom. Use the web browser’s preferences to delete all cookies from ComicsKingdom.com and empty the browser cache. Then quit the browser and restart it, and log in again. When I did that the difference was dramatic: now when I looked at my Favorites page, it showed nothing but the warning that I had to be logged in to use this feature.

That got cleared up overnight, and now I can see a reasonable-looking page. The comic strips run nearly the full width of my web browser, as I’d like. Whatever changes they’re up to has broken the permanent links, which is making a hash of my What’s Going On In … posts. I hope this is a temporary matter.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Why Is That Kid Betting on Sports Events? November 2021 – February 2022


That kid, Pranit Smith, is betting on sports things because if you do it right you win money. He may be urgently short on money — he at one point says he gets the coffees he does because of a “low budget”. But that hasn’t been explicit. He’s betting online using his older brother’s identity. He also gives a curiously long explanation for how his brother has the name ‘Bob’. I believe that’s so we the readers understand Bob is a real person and Pranit’s misdemeanor is just using that driver’s license (or whatever the proof of age was) instead of counterfeiting one. It’s about setting the level of his transgression.

This should catch you up on Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for mid-February 2022. If you’re reading this after about May 2022, or if news about the strip breaks, there’s probably a more useful essay here. Thanks for reading.

Gil Thorp.

15 November 2021 – 5 February 2022.

Last time you’ll recall, consciousness enthusiast Boyd Spiller had been hypnotizing the problems out of everyone. Worked great until the overloaded Kianna Bello sprains her foot after one of Spiller’s hypno-rest sessions. Tevin Claxton, whose choking under pressure seemed relieved by Spiller’s help, had enough.

He climbed on the lunchroom table to announce he’d been seeing a sports psychiatrist who was helping him. Spiller’s YouTube-lesson hypnosis was harmless nonsense until it wasn’t. But thanks for trying to help.

[ The normally reticent Chance Macy takes the pulpit ... ] Kid 'Dude, can you speak up?' Macy: 'Probably not. But here's Tevin, our quarterback. He's been great --- but he had to deal with negative expectations, based on just four or five plays last year.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 3rd of December, 2021. Regarding that first panel: I do not read the comics to be called out like that. And no, the evidence is that I can’t speak up.
So that’s got Bello not talking to Claxton. And Coach Thorp required to give a pep talk about how the team was good because they worked hard and together. They lose the next football game, though, and one of the players gets wounded. The ever-reticent Chance Macy decides it’s his turn to say something. He announces where he’s going to college so he can play football without anyone seeing (it’s Canada). And that everybody has to learn to say when expectations on them are unreasonable.

For example there’s Bello, burdened by how everyone expected she could take on more responsibilities. Or Claxton, who got razzed a lot for a couple bad plays the previous year. Macy calls for everyone to go easier on each other, and ourselves, and “snot-pound Valley Tech”. It reads like a goofy replacement for something an actual high schooler might say. But everyone in the strip agrees they have no idea what that means. Macy just said something weird and got away with it. Since they beat Valley Tech, that’s all working out well. Unfortunately Goshen beating Oakwood means that Milford will finish the season in second place. At least they close the season on a win.


And that closes the football-season story. The 13th of December started the basketball-season story. Girls basketball player, and swiftly-named team captain, Hollis Talley is going to the US Air Force Academy. And, on the boys team, Pranit Smith is doing great in his fantasy-football picks. He’s a mediocre player, but in a tight game Coach Thorp spots where passing the ball to Smith can let him get a three-pointer that wins the match. It sets him on a string of great performances. Since this is early in the season, this has to set some terrible comeuppance in motion.

Smith: 'My first bet was a four-team parlay. One of the teams pushed ... ' Teammate: 'It's football. Everyone pushes.' Smith: ''Push' means tie. Anyway, that made ita three-teamer at 6-1 odds. And I won. I just wish I'd bet more.' Other teammate: 'Congratulations. Sounds like a great first step toward disaster.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 24th of January, 2022. Since there’s no ties in college football, this indicates Smith was betting on professional football. If we were to foolishly try to tie this to current events, then this has to be the week of November 14, when the Lions and Steelers tied. Anyway, since it is true that every team in football pushes, wouldn’t it be a better name for the sport if we called it “pushball”? Let’s just see what happens if we try.

Using his elder brother’s name, Smith opens an actual betting for-cash account. And, worse, it starts out great. Some other kids start giving money to him to put down bets. So everybody else waits for the incredible obvious disaster even people in adjacent comic strips sees coming. Even Coach Gil Thorp Assistant Coach Kaz, who only gets to overhear the players’ nonsense, notices he’s paying attention to his phone rather than the game he’s playing.

Meanwhile on the girls team, the season’s starting pretty rough. Talley feels she should be doing something captain-y to turn things around. But she doesn’t know what. Ask people to do extra practices? Coach Mimi Thorp is also frustrated but hasn’t got an answer. Talley is able to coax some of it out of Cressa Baxter: her knee hurts, but she’s not willing to spend her last season benched. The doctor’s supposed to drain it in a few days so that problem may fix itself.

And one last bit. Gordon Achebe, who I think was on the football team, joined the basketball team. I don’t know the significance of this. (I don’t seem to have mentioned him before, around here.) That it was established suggests he might be being set up for something.

Milford Sports Watch!

Who’s Milford playing? What schools get mentioned in the strip? There’ve been a lot the past couple months, as the strip showed a lot of games being played and a lot of talking about conference rivals. Here’s, to the best of my knowledge, the full list. Also mentioned, as schools that seniors were graduating to, were McGill University and the Air Force Academy.

Next Week!

Whatever happened to Judge Parker? I share what I know from readingFrancesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker, if all goes well.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? Is Terry Beatty trying to upstage you? November 2021 – January 2022


No, of course not. Terry Beatty might be dimly aware of my existence. But he has other things to think about, including anything. Still, last week he did do a three-day sequence, as though drawn by Sarah Morgan, explaining the current story. This isn’t the first time he’s done a strip that recapped the plot very well right before my What’s Going On In post. So it’s easy to fear he’s decided everyone can do without me. (I would rather everyone make the decision on their own that they can do without me.)

Sarah Morgan's Diary. Sketches, with text explaining, done as children's illustrations on 'lined' paper. 'My old art teacher, who I don't even remember because of my head injury is saying I STOLE the Doggo Twins idea from him! I know I made them up, 'cause I took the idea from our two dogs and my two brothers. I mixed them together and got the Doggo Twins! But I based their look on an old drawing of mine from when I was taking lessons from that guy. Did I copy his drawing into my sketchbook, along with all those drawings of feet he made me do? I don't think I did --- but if I did, I may be in a lot of trouble --- and I think it'll cost my Mom and Dad a LOT of money! Plus I'm getting HATE MAIL from people mad at me for messing up the Kitty Cop books with a 'stolen' idea! How did this happen? I'm just a KID!!!'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 23rd of January, 2022. It’s a little surprising that nobody with the publishing house had tried, before publication, to be certain Sarah Morgan was the originator of all the ideas in her story. I suppose we can assume they made a good-faith effort but didn’t think to check whether it was possible she was using something from her sketchbook from before her amnesia.

It’s probably coincidence. He has got to have projects besides “mess with a lower-tier comics blogger’s most popular feature”. It’s 2022. Nobody has time to pointlessly mess with me.

Anyway, this and all my plot recaps of of Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. should be at this link. This essay should get you up to speed for the end of January 2022. If you’re reading this after about May 2022, there’s likely a more current recap there. And now, on to what Terry Beatty explained already, but with more of my words.

Rex Morgan, M.D.

7 November 2021 – 30 January 2022.

I left off last time as Jordan’s old army buddy Griff set off a car bomb, killing Griff’s new boss. This lets Jordan and Michelle enjoy a happy wedding and reception. Rex and June Morgan hear about this on the news and remark how lucky it is such a horrible thing had nothing to do with them. It could pack satiric punch, if Terry Beatty wished to write a harder-edged strip than he’s doing here.

[ Home from the wedding ] June: 'Thanks for watching the kids, kelly. Your mom just pulled up front.' Kelly: 'Okay. I'll head out. They were angels today.' Rex: 'That's because they knew we were bringing them cake.' Michael and Johnny both ask for their cake. Rex: 'Okay, you kids get plates and forks. It's cake time!' As they eat, Rex and June unwind. re: 'Is it fair that they get cake without sitting through the wedding?' June: 'That was a lovely wedding, Rex --- no griping.' Rex: 'Not complaining. Hey, let's check out the news.' News reporter: '... where a downtown parking garage was rocked by an explosion. It's believed one person was killed in the ... ' June: 'Oh my *gosh*. Turn that *awful* news off. That has nothing to do with *us*.
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 14 of November, 2021. I get that Rex’s endless talk about the food is supposed to be endearing, and to build up how good Jordan is as a cook. Still, Rex says ‘cake’ in each of the first five panels here, to the point it reads like an in-joke being exposed.

The 15th of November started the next, and current, story. It starts on “a brisk autumn day”, intended to suggest that some indefinite time has passed. It’s the delivery of actual published copies of the Kitty Cop book young Sarah wrote for Kyle Vidpa. It’s meant, then, to be months after the previous week’s events. It still seems like a very fast publication cycle to me, but could be kids’ graphic novels move fast. They also have stuffed dolls of the Doggo Twins she created from mixing the Morgan’s dogs and boys together.

Sarah gives a signed advance-review-copy of her book to her friend Edward. Edward can’t resist boasting to his big sister how his friend is the pseudonymous author of the newest book in the hit Kitty Cop series. His sister doesn’t believe him … until noticing she did have an Advance Review Copy. The question of who Vidpa’s coauthor is becomes a media sensation. This may be because Vidpa was already a reclusive bestselling author. So Edward’s sister calls the local news station, figuring she can sell the secret to them. Soon reporters won’t stop asking the Morgans to confirm or deny that their daughter co-wrote this book.

[ Kyle Vidpa posts a video to the Internet ] 'You know me as Kyle Vidpa, author and graphic artist of the Kitty Cop graphic novels. But until today, none of you have ever seen my face. I'm going public today in response to recent events regarding my collaborator, Cynthia Ivy. There has been much speculation about her real identity, and recent news reports have made that public. The truth is that 'Cynthia' is a nine-year-old fan who sent me a *wonderful* story --- a story so good, I convinced her to let me use it for my new book. She wasn't looking for fame or attention --- she just wanted to give me a gift to show how much she loves Kitty Cop. *I'm* the one who decided to publish her work --- and she and her family, understandably, wanted to remain anonymous. But a curious public and the media have revealed her identity. We can't undo that, but I'm going to ask you Kitty Cop fans a favor. Leave her alone. Don't bother her or her family. She's just a kid, and has *no* interest in being famous. Like Kitty Cop says, 'It's the right thing to do --- so let's do it right!''
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 19th of December, 2021. He goes on to suggest that if fans leave Sarah Morgan alone he’ll do regular video sessions with the fans, so it’s endearing to see how he thinks this is going to make his life easier.

Vidpa does what he can to lift the media siege. He posts a video, his first ever, asking for privacy for his co-author and offering his fans regular media events if they’ll be nice about it. It’s a deal the fans are willing to take, at least, and things settle down.

That is until Rene Belluso reenters the strip. Belluso’s had a string of various scams, both before and during the pandemic. He came into the comic as an art tutor for Sarah Morgan several years ago, when Woody Wilson wrote the scripts. This was part of a story where Sarah Morgan was revealed to be a superhuman art prodigy and might become one of the all-time greats. When Terry Beatty took over the writing he dialed that back. This included giving Sarah a car-accident-induced amnesia which dialed her art skills down to “good but plausible for a kid that age”. It also eliminated a year’s worth of her memories. She couldn’t remember Belluso except as someone her parents sometimes got tense about. … We have always thought.

Belluso hold a press conference alleging that the Doggo Twins were his creation, that Sarah saw when she was taking art lessons. And … it’s not impossible that he’s being honest here. I mean in the same way it’s not impossible that Slylock Fox will find Reeky Rat did not steal Rachel Rabbit’s soda pop.

Sarah, looking through her old sketchbooks :'Here's the dog drawing. I sure did draw different then. I don't know why the dog is so cartoony when the rest of the drawings are more realistic.' Rex, looking over the sketch, which has a cheery cartoony dog labelled 'Doggy!' next to a realistic foot sketch: 'This is from when you were taking lessons with Rene Belluso?' Sarah; 'I guess so. It's a cute dog, isn't it, Dad?'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 11th of January, 2022. While I know, c’mon, it’s Rene Belluso, I do appreciate that at this point there is a serious uncertainty about this. Might she have copied the dog from, as Belluso claims, work that he had been doing? If she didn’t, what was it doing in the middle of a bunch of more photo-realistic work?

Sarah can say how she thinks she had the idea of the Doggo Twins. But it’s impossible for her to say she didn’t see it before her amnesia and unconsciously swipe them. They find the sketchbook with the first drawing of something like a Doggo Twin. It’s from when she was taking lessons from Belluso. It’s a very cartoony drawing on a page of more realistic sketches. The Morgans get a lawyer involved, to gather statements that could be useful in a court of law. Belluso hasn’t actually filed suit yet. And he has a long track record of running scams. But, after all … sometimes Reeky Rat is the wronged party, you know?

Next Week!

So how did that sports hypnosis work out for the big game against Valley Tech? I check in on Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp next week, if all goes well.

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