Math Comics Without Equations


I’ve had the chance to gather another couple of mathematics-themed comics over on the mathematics-themed blog which doesn’t have a decent rendering of HTML’s <cite> tag, which bothers me to no end, although not quite enough to do anything about it. Sorry. There’s people who know what I’m going on about and they don’t care either.

If you weren’t looking for those, Working Daze has carried on its mock history into a Berkeley Breathed 1980s, and then into first a Baby Blues and then a Zits-ish 90s. I’m a bit surprised to see from the comments that this is going to run about another three weeks, and merge into the actual history of the comic strip.

Comics and, well, more comics


Over on my mathematics blog is another review of comic strips that touch mathematics themes, including one joke that I didn’t get at the time and a commenter had to explain to me. If you’re not so interested in that, then, Working Daze has over the past couple weeks continued with its mock history, bringing the strip closer to the present and to comics that people who aren’t steeped in the field’s lore are more likely to recognize.

Finally, Peter Maresca’s Origins of the Sunday Comics last week had a bit of a novelty, a bit of W W Denslow-illustrated, L Frank Baum-written adventure of Dorothy in Oz. It’s hard to explain quite how big Oz was, when it originally came out; I’ve heard it argued that the worldwide fame of Harry Potter is the only thing that comes close, and that seems plausible enough. This is a bit of that enormous early influence. I’m sorry the text is hard to read, but I haven’t any control over that. If you hold the cursor over the middle of the comic, once it’s loaded, you should get an icon of a magnifying glass that lets you zoom in so it’s at least a little less awfully compressed, but it could still be better.

Also, in the Comics


Again over on my mathematics blog is a gathering of some comics that mention mathematics themes and some elaboration on the topics they’ve got into, at least when they inspire something. The allegation that one never uses algebra in real life doesn’t really inspire much to me and kind of makes me wonder if the cartoonist feels inspired. I mean, when I think of a joke that seems particularly clever I feel this wonderful thrill of invention and cleverness as well as giggling at my own joke; does anyone get that when they have the idea to make a character say “I haven’t needed algebra since I left eighth grade”? If not, why do they even do it?

Meanwhile, the comic strip Working Daze has advanced its mock history into the 1970s and once again had one of its former cartoonists get fired and die in apparent professional misery. I’m sure that doesn’t signify anything.

The Abandoned Cathy


I borrow a lot of books from the library, since that’s a great way for a compulsive reader like myself to get exposed to books I have literally no way of telling how many previous readers have held while sitting on the toilet. Plus you get discoveries: in this case, a Cathy comic strip someone clipped from the newspaper and used as a bookmark. The thing is the comic strip is dated 1998, and the book was published in 2004, so whoever left the bookmark had been using it for at least six years before abandoning it.

So now I’m left trying to understand the story of the bookmark-abandoner. Did he find this comic of Cathy doing exercises (spoiler: she doesn’t do a lot of exercise) speaking to him for over a half a decade, and then suddenly, realize that it just didn’t need to be part of his life and he left it in the book in the hopes a future reader would find some meaningful link to the universe through it? Was the clipped-out strip an unwanted gift and he finally found a way to “accidentally” lose it and apologize that it must have been an oversight? Since the bookmark was around page 50 of a 300-page book, is it possible he was interrupted while reading, and returned the book without remembering the bookmark was in there, and he’s been searching the library ever since for the comic strip he wanted back?

With no knowledge of why the strip was clipped out, or how it was viewed, or why it was left so early in the book, I can’t say why it was there, and neither can you, unless it was your bookmark in which case I’ll probably bring it back to the library next week. I use fast food receipts for my bookmarks anyway.

Some November 2013 Numbers (Excluding 14)


So, now, some numbers for November. I hadn’t been watching them so obsessively in the middle of the month and obviously that shows, since my total views dropped to 357 (down from 370), when if I’d known this back around the 20th I might have got out back and pushed. On the other hand the number of unique visitors went from 179 up to 188, my third-highest on record, so that’s something. Mostly it’s a decrease in views per visitor, 2.07 down to 1.90.

The countries sending me the most readers the past month were, again, the United States and United Kindgom, but Australia popped in out of nowhere. A single reader each came from Austria, Denmark, Malaysia, New Zealand, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey. This is a pretty impressive increase in single-visitor countries from last time, when France was the sole lone reader.

My most popular bits from the past month were:

Not quite making the top five was Also, Heidegger Was A Shingle Weaver, but I’m including a gratuitous link to that because I really liked it.

Lastly, since the comic strip Working Daze has been continuing its mock history on Sundays let me link to the November 24th strip, and the first time I think one of their past cartoonists didn’t end up dying and miserable, and the December 1st strip, which has one who did.

Some More Interesting Comics


Over on Gocomics.com, the feature Origins Of The Sunday Comics which is exactly what it says on the label ran a strip of some historical significance: the first Sunday comic George Herriman did for the New York World, from late September of 1901. Herriman would go on to Krazy Kat, which directly or indirectly influenced pretty much everybody doing comics except Berkeley Breathed, although I have to confess this installment doesn’t really get across why.
The feature also has another early Herriman example, from early November 1901, which shows that I guess in those days everyone just had to do their own Katzenjammer Kids.

Meanwhile the mock history of Working Daze which I like for its craft and research even if I didn’t like the overall strip continued through the 40s and (with today’s installment) the 50s. Naturally I liked the riffing on They’ll Do It Every Time — I remember that comic as being one of the things that awakened me as a kid to irony and the little ways we’re hypocrites even to ourselves — but the 1950s and “magazine cartooning” style really gets me. Partly that’s because it’s a graphic style I might as well have been programmed to like; partly it’s because over on dailyink.com I’ve been reading the vintage 1950s Hi and Lois, (which unfortunately it’s not easy to link to so as to give people a sample) a comic strip more broad in scope than its modern version, and one rich in 50s anxieties, including the fear of electric brains.

Comics Strips: Math and Michigan


Over on my mathematics blog I’ve got a fresh roundup of comic strips that mention some kind of mathematical topic, and my thoughts about the topics those inspire. Some of those are even comic strips that don’t use π as a pun on the concept of pie, so, do enjoy that.

If you don’t, then, here’s the Pearls Before Swine comic strip, by Stephan Pastis, which ran this past Sunday. It’s of a familiar enough form — Pastis setting up a shaggy-dog type story to build to violence — but it flops as a comic strip, and I wanted to do some public musing about why.

The setup is contrived, which isn’t inherently a problem. Many Pearls strips are built around transparently contrived setups, usually in the service of a pun or bit of wordplay. Typically I like those, partly because of the long setup and trying to anticipate where he’s going with this and sometimes getting surprised by where he ends up. (He usually then apologizes it away with a final panel of the characters telling him to “get help” or “stop it”, which is trying to deliver an awful pun and stand away from it; but, the structure does seem to demand some resolution after the punch line and an apology is, if not very clever, at least something.)

But in this case I think the contrivance is deeply problematic, undermining the whole strip: to get to the punch, smash, and trample line, we have to suppose Pastis-the-character has bought a Brutus Buckeye costume for an upcoming speech at Ohio State University, and put it on to drive there, and gotten lost driving there, and ended up in Ann Arbor. I’ll waive my wondering whether it’s possible to dial a pay phone while in a mascot costume and while I haven’t actually noticed a pay phone in Ann Arbor it’s the sort of place I can accept as having some.

Now: buying the costume and wearing the costume to go driving are weird behaviors. Eccentric at minimum. Eccentricity isn’t inherently bad — if you’re trying to do comedy, really, and especially if you don’t have a lot of time to delineate your characters then being wildly eccentric lets you get a joke out in recognizable form — but this leaves me wondering who would even do that? The strip falls flat, to me, at the point of getting Pastis into costume and from there the whole thing is lost. Suggested rewrite: he was invited to play Brutus Buckeye at the Ohio State game and he didn’t have time to change at the stadium, which is absurd but at least some kind of motive.

The next bit: He got lost driving to Columbus, Ohio, and ended up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ann Arbor really isn’t near Columbus. It’s a couple hours mostly due north. The only way you can end up in Ann Arbor if you’re driving to Columbus is if you’re driving from Michigan, in which case, well, you’ve heard of Ann Arbor. This can maybe be patched up a little, by supposing that Pastis flew into Detroit for something (perhaps that should be the speech he was giving?), bought his Buckeye costume (from where?) and then started driving to Columbus, which is weak but at least puts together a minimally plausible scenario where Pastis might be in a Buckeye costume in Ann Arbor.

Also, he should have had the strip published the weekend of November 30th, when the University of Michigan is to play Ohio State (in Ann Arbor, conveniently enough), so the implied buildup to the battery is the more credible.

Comics I Like: Working Daze


I’d wanted to point out that John Zakour and Scott Roberts’s comic strip Working Daze, normally a panel strip built around a comic workplace (chock full of science fiction fandom references), has been doing something interesting the past several Sundays: it’s been presenting the history of the strip from 1912 to the present day. Obviously the strip isn’t nearly that old, but the false history format is one that I fell in love with when I first saw The Garry Shandling Show 25th Anniversary Special and have admired when I run across it since. In my undergraduate days I tried to pitch such a mock history of our little weekly student newspaper for our spoof issue and couldn’t find any takers; when years later The Onion: Our Dumb Century did the basic gimmick (albeit, probably, better) I felt vindicated even though nobody would ever care about it. I like to think my love of the form is for more than just the technical ingenuity it takes to make something that looks plausibly old-fashioned, but I know, deep down, I really love the challenge of making something that looks plausibly old-fashioned, and the more specifically it mocks up the old thing the better.

Zakour and Roberts aren’t just making a mock history, though, but are being careful to have their installments burlesque actual comic strip history. Someone well-informed in the history of the comics can pick out the specific inspirations for many of the reference and allusions and personality types mentioned in the authors and editors and licensing tie-ins presented, and those who don’t should be able to appreciate the strips on their own. If they go on to learn more about the field they might get that thrilling moment of realizing what the joke was, sometime later on.

The links so far — which have only brought the strip up to the 1940s — are:

  • September 22: the strip in 1912.
  • September 29: 1913 and the first Sunday panels to 1919.
  • October 6: 1922 and the new artist.
  • October 13: 1926 and animated cartoons.
  • October 20: 1930, which was a fairly eventful time.
  • October 27: The late 30s and you start noticing they declare all the former cartoonists went on to die young, impoverished, sickly, or all of that at once.
  • November 3: The strip becomes a straight drama for World War II.

Turbo Comics


Over on my mathematics blog I’ve again gathered a bunch of comics which have some kind of mathematics theme and talked about whatever comes to mind on reading those. If you like seeing stuff in the comics footnoted, you might enjoy that.

If you don’t, then you might enjoy something I have: according to the WordPress statistics page, people are coming to me while searching for “facts about turbo movie”. I should be delighted beyond all reasonable measure if my information page about Turbo were to become one of the Internet’s leading pages about the film, before the film is consigned to the same “wait, did that really exist?” bin that, say … oh, I forget … has gotten immortal fame for.

I’m also getting a little interest in “rutgers vs houston football game death” and “mcdonald’s ketchup”, not to mention “lisa kudrow” for some reason.

The Krazy Centennial


I missed it by a day, apparently, but according to a post over on Usenet group rec.arts.comics.strips, October 28th was the centennial of the first Krazy Kat comic strip. More or less. The comic strip, drawn by George Herriman, started out in the somewhat amorphous way comic strips did back then as a running gag sharing space with his till-then hit feature The Dingbat Family. It’s only in 1913 that the strip was spun off into its own regular feature with a title and everything.

The Library of Congress has what appears to be the daily Krazy Kat‘s first run, naturally from about two weeks later when the San Francisco Call got around to running it (the strip’s in the upper left corner of the page, to the side of The Dingbat Family and for that matter another little runner of Krazy and Ignatz showing the way the characters first got introduced to the public).

For all that it’s one of the great comics of the 20th century I’m still not sure I recommend it, at least not to people who aren’t going in ready to love it. The comic comes from the far side of some kind of extinction-level event in humor circles, where stuff from long enough ago seems (generally) vastly overwritten for the meager joke even when it can be made out. (I don’t know why humor changed so drastically; I suspect talkies and radio, as they rewarded brevity and didn’t require making sure that any plot points of the joke were repeated so the people in back had a fair chance of hearing.) Krazy Kat‘s most accessible gags tend to be drawn from vaudeville and so feel old even when the specific one is new, or from minstrel shows, with all the uneasiness that knowing the source inspires.

But if you persist to learning the rhythms of pacing of the strip it gets rewarding. I think that may be because Herriman’s characters are strongly defined with a couple simple traits. They don’t seem to have the sort of complicated inner lives that would let them, say, get away with an eight-panel monologue the way Charlie Brown could; but, they have a few clear notes that produce wonderful chords when they have a storyline to play around. The strip most like it today, I’d say, is Pat McDonnell’s Mutts (no surprise as McDonnell’s an authority on Krazy Kat), where again each character may have only one or two strong personality traits, but they’re so clearly defined that they can be soundly funny.

The Library of Congress page there also has an example of Cliff Sterrett’s Polly and her Pals, which began in late 1912 and ran forever, or at least until after Sputnik and that’s help up as one of the most important graphically innovative strips of the time, although this particular example is from early in its run and doesn’t obviously stand out; and Tom McNamara’s Us Boys, which I don’t know much about. Apparently it started no later than 1912, and continued at least through 1928, but I can’t find much about it on a casual search. (The title doesn’t help matters, as search engines nowadays are too sophisticated to think I actually mean I want these particular words right next to each other.)

Some Mathematics Jokes Explained


Once again I’d like to point folks over to my mathematics blog, where I’ve done another roundup of the comic strips that touched on mathematical themes over the last couple weeks and try to say something interesting about them. I admit this hasn’t got necessarily much of my natural comic touch, whatever that is, but I’m starting to wonder what the guy who draws In The Bleachers majored in, which is surely something.

More Comics (still not all of them)


For the folks who liked my last head-sup over to the mathematics blog, because I talked about comic strips with mathematical themes, I have another roundup of some of the comic strips which, in the last ten days, also found reasons to try telling jokes about mathematics. It won’t be on the quiz, but this will be.

The Comics (or some of them)


Over that way a bit on my mathematics blog I do a bit of talking about comic strips which mention mathematics or mathematical themes or that just catch my eye for whatever reason. So if you’re interested in comics and a particular theme I’d appreciate your poking over there and reading them. My commentary on them isn’t meant to be funny, but the strips are at least trying for that.

Numbers the August 2013 Way


I said last month I was going to carry on tracking numbers, even if some of them are kind of disappointments, such as the square root of five. The big number according to WordPress’s statistics counters. The number of views dropped from 375 in July to 349 in August, and I don’t have the excuse of a shorter month for that. The number of visitors also dropped from 178 to 141. But this does mean the number of pages per viewer has risen from 2.11 to 2.48, which is the highest on record. I may not be getting many readers in, but they’re reading more of me.

According to WordPress, the top articles of the past thirty days were:

  1. You Can Send Me Any Obsoleted Bills For Responsible Care in which I do some thinking about how to arrange money;
  2. What I Notice In Every Old Picture Of Me and what’s horribly wrong about all those pictures, based on the real actual me;
  3. Community Calendar: Streetlight Counting Day for a little event;
  4. Getting Started and my troubles with that;
  5. In Which I See Through A Chipmunk and the odd story of the squirrels and their comedy club develops; and
  6. Some Parts Of The Horse, a quick useful guide.

None of these was a top-five article last month (the last two were tied for most views). S J Perelman: Captain Future, Block That Kick! was tied for tenth place, so it’s staying popular. My top commenter is again Corvidae in the Fields, whom I thank for loyal readership, followed by Chiaroscuro, who just edges out Ervin Shlopnick, all friends loyal, true, and talkative.

I learned also how to find the most-commented-upon articles, which do include backlinks or trackbacks or whatever the heck they’re called. For this month the top five of those were:

  1. In Which I See Through A Chipmunk (as above);
  2. You Can Send Me Any Obsoleted Bills For Responsible Care (ibid);
  3. Comic Strip Celebrities Named (one from late July that was liked);
  4. Some Now-Forgotten HTML Tags (one of last month’s most popular bits);
  5. Fly The Little Skies (a short bit from late May and about the tiny airport in Trenton, New Jersey).

Once again the countries sending me the most visitors were the United States (268), Canada (8), and the United Kingdom (7). Countries sending only one visitor include Singapore, Chile, Peru, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Albania, Portland, Mexico, and France, so while I may be losing popularity in Sweden, Poland is holding steady.

It does strike me that the shorts, usually one or two hundred word pieces, get a lot more views than the weekly essays that aim at seven hundred words. This may be telling me something important about how I write.

Over on the Other Blog: Comic Strips!


It’s not got quite so large a fan base — well, I post less, because it’s harder work — but I do keep up a mathematics blog where among other things I review comic strips that have touched on mathematical themes. I’ve just put up a fresh summary of this past month’s, and if you’d care for pointers to a bunch of comic strips and some mention of what they’re talking about, please visit.

I should warn you that this includes a lot of comic strips that you probably didn’t know existed, because somehow I keep finding comics like Rabbits Against Magic or On A Claire Day that nobody else has ever heard of or read. At least people have heard of Mutt and Jeff, although they stopped reading it back in the Coolidge administration, and maybe remember hearing about Wee Pals. It’s a talent I somehow have.

And One More Krazy Kat


I don’t mean to turn this entirely over to a “you should like Krazy Kat sort of blog,” particularly since it definitely isn’t for everyone. But some of them are accessible even without getting into the strip’s odd rhythms and pace, so here’s another to enjoy.

Continue reading “And One More Krazy Kat”

Here Are Some Numbers (July 2013)


Since my last monthly-statistics roundup post was successful, in that it was a thing that existed and didn’t produce any unwanted explosions or anything, let me repeat the thing. This is just for generally tracking the health of this humor initiative and whatnot, and who knows where that’ll end up? Your guess is as good as mine, although this coming month probably isn’t going to see me get to Altoona, which is a shame.

WordPress says the blog got 375 views in July, which is disappointing only because in June it got 441, and July is a longer month given that it has the whole summer’s heat to expand it. There were also only 178 distinct visitors, as opposed to the 227 distinct viewers in June. This does have a positive side, though: it means the average number of pages each reader went to increased from 1.94 to 2.11, although that’s probably not statistically significant and besides I had 2.17 pages per visitor back in May, but you don’t see me telling everyone that. There’s right now 239 people following announcements about this blog, at least, through e-mail, WordPress, or Twitter, that I know of.

My top five most popular pages of the past 30 days were:

  1. About The Spider-Man Comic Strip, which I did expect to be a popular one since it involved (a) the chance to put up a comic strip that (b) was ridiculous on its own, thus needing no work on my part to amuse.
  2. Basic Dishwasher Repair, which has also gotten some curious attempts at linking from what look like big dishwasher-repair fan sites on the web, which can’t possibly exist, except it is the Internet so who am I to say there aren’t vast dishwasher-repair fan communities, other than a sane person?
  3. Five Astounding Facts About Turbo, That Movie About A Snail In The Indianapolis 500, another rare venture into direct pop-culture commentary for me and again something I thought would be popular because even after seeing the movie I can’t believe this thing actually exists.
  4. Argument With The Rabbit, which I again thought was destined for success given how it’s about a cute pet.
  5. Some Now-Forgotten HTML Tags, which rests comfortably in that set of nerdly jokes that lets me talk about Usenet, which was really great in its heyday and still has flashes of greatness.

Nothing that was in the top-five last month made it over to this month, a bit surprising, since S J Perelman’s “Captain Future, Block That Kick!” was one of last month’s big winners and I posted that back in March. That one dropped to around number 23 in the rankings.

My top recent commenters include, again, Corvidae In The Fields, and thank you for that, then Chiaroscuro (similarly), fluffy (again, thanks), and Ervin Sholpnick.

In July the countries which sent the most visitors to me were the United States again (308), the United Kingdom (11) and Canada (also 11), with last month’s number three, Brazil, falling off the charts altogether. If anyone’s going to be down that way please ask someone what’s wrong. Sending me only a single visitor each were Poland, Lebanon, Turkey, Malaysia, South Korea, Russia, and Sweden, so at least I haven’t lost my Polish or my Swedish viewers.

Comic Strip Celebrities Named


The new survey of the top comic strip artists is out. According to the American Newspaper Standards Institute and its top survey-response team the most popular creators of comic strips this year are:

  1. Charles Schulz
  2. The Guy Who Draws Calvin and Hobbes
  3. Garfield
  4. The Guy Who Draws Far Side
  5. The Guy Who Draws Cathy
  6. Walt Disney
  7. Snoopy
  8. The Cryptoquote feature
  9. Grant Snider
  10. Bambi

About The Spider-Man Comic Strip


The Amazing Spider-Man daily newspaper comic strip for today, the 9th of July, is first of all a thing that exists. Second, well, you saw it. It really is just what you saw there. No kidding.

Let me explain how things got to this point and please note that I am not fibbing or exaggerating.

In the strip — drawn by Larry Lieber and Alex Saviuk, and written by Stan Lee and a Markov Chain algorithm — Spidey, in San Francisco (never mind why he was there; it was stupid), needs to get to the war-torn republic of Some Latin America-y Country Where They Just Keep Having Revolutions. He needles his boss, J Jonah Jameson, to wiring him the money for a ticket on the grounds there’s pictures to be taken and Spider-Man’s going to be at the Revolution.

At the check-in line Peter Parker realizes that security might make him open his shirt revealing his Spider-Man costume underneath. Inspired by a bratty kid whining about how they don’t have private jets like the Avengers, he sheds his clothes and duffel bag and goes climbing the walls of the airport insisting he has to get on the plane without proving who he is besides doing the web-crawling thing. And that’s where we get to today’s strip, with President Obama saying it’s OK for Spider-Man to fly out of the country. How Peter Parker is supposed to explain his getting to Latin America-y Country when “he” doesn’t board the plane is left for us to guess.

All this may seem a very stupid way of going about things, but do bear in mind that in the -30- Universe of the Marvel Newspaper Comics, Spider-Man gets hit on the head a lot.

I admit that reading Spider-Man is among my ironic pleasures, and I have some thoughts about why reading something that just drizzles incompetence down on the reader is delightful, that I need to organize into a proper essay. For now I just want you to cackle at this.

The insanely colored United States flag in the third panel, by the way, is because like many newspaper strips this one gets badly colored for online publication by, apparently, people who can only do flood-fills on portions of the original artwork that are white. Since darker colors like red or blue get inked in as black, this means that December is visited with a number of Santas Dressed As Johnny Cash, and that early February sees Hi and Lois making Goth Hearts at one another. It’s not helped that there’s very little evidence that the people doing the colorizing even read the strips as they’re coloring them. There was even a Barney Google a couple months back (which I can’t seem to find right now) in which Snuffy Smith complains that a wanted poster of him is only in black-and-white, not in color, and sure enough, the poster got colored in, badly.

(I haven’t linked to the dailyink.com page with a comments thread about today’s installment and you will thank me for it because Internet Comments Thread With Something Vaguely Political Starting It.)

Forms of New Jersey Local Government (1)


One of the top 36 most popular ways of organizing a municipality in New Jersey is the Faulkner (1923) Huffle-Manager system. In this scheme, the municipality’s government is organized into a town council, elected in a nonpartisan manner based on who forgets to actually post any roadside signs insisting that they have a name until after the election. In this scheme the Mayor is selected at-large from the council, and is typically surprised when they turn up outside her or his home at 3 in the morning with a big net and tagging collar. The mayor in these schemes has no vote and cannot speak on pending resolutions, but is able to veto resolutions by arm-wrestling any of the councillors. The councillors serve as department heads, typically, the Director of Public Safety, the Director of Public Works, the Lord High Admiral, the Speaker-To-Vulcans, and the Designated Sneezer; in municipalities with seven councillors, one is typically the Alto Saxophonist and the other is responsible for keeping the garage cleaned.

[ On an unrelated note, over on my mathematics blog I do a regular bit of reviewing comic strips that mention mathematics subjects, and just posted one. It’s not deliberately meant to be funny, but for those interested in talk about comic strips with a particular theme it may be of interest. ]

Krazy Kat and what kind of Moon?


When I taked about a Krazy Kat strip which I liked, BunnyHugger mentioned liking another of the strip’s installments, recently rerun on DailyInk.com. I like that one too, and so let me share it also.

One of the delights in reading Krazy Kat like this, once a day, much like the original readers got it, is catching the artist, here George Herriman or his assistants, catching on to something and riffing around it, and getting to see the improvisation as it gets worked out. Herriman was apparently in a Moon mood, run at least from September through November 1943, and I’m curious to see how the theme works itself out. (There are also a couple of other Moon-themed strips I might run here.)

The experience is different from that of reading the comic strip in book collections, the way probably most Krazy Kat readers know the strip, probably because book collections for all their considerable virtues do encourage gulping down months worth of the strip at a sitting. Sipping allows you to realize that you’ve seen the same topic spread over different days, and to bind the remembrance of those days together.

Comics I Like: Krazy Kat


I wanted to bring to people’s attention the Krazy Kat comic strip of the 15th of November, 1943, which was rerun among DailyInk.com’s “Vintage” comic strips on the 15th of May. It’s a fine example of the sort of logical paradoxes that tickle me, at least.

George Herriman’s Krazy Kat is often cited by comics connoisseurs as the greatest of all the greats. I think that’s overrating it, because it is often a pretty cryptic comic strip. The fundamental gag that the strip kept coming back to is Ignatz Mouse throwing a brick at Krazy Kat, who interprets this as an act of love, and getting arrested by Officer Pupp, who longs to protect Krazy. The permutations of how the brick-throwing is set up and done and responded to were thoroughly explored over the strip’s decades. By 1943 these had been done so many times the strip’s readers — and there were few of them; it never really caught on with the mass audience, though Harriman’s boss (William Randolph Hearst) loved it — that these points would often be done in shorthand, a brick tossed off, as it were, in the sidelines and the inevitable pattern alluded to. That’s bound to happen in any long-running story franchise, but it makes the strip harder for a newcomer to approach. Mark Leiknes’s Cow and Boy has a similar problem, as I see it: there are many running gags, summoned without warning for the day’s punch line, and a new reader is justifiably lost trying to understand what’s supposed to be funny, at least until some time is put into the reading.

Still, this Krazy Kat is emphatically not cryptic. It’s even one that could be drawn and run in the comics pages today without seeming to come from another era. It’s just amusing.

The Lockhorns Confuses Me


Something about this Friday’s installment of Bunny Hoest and John Reiner’s The Lockhorns fascinates me and I thought I’d spend a couple words working out just why. You can see it here, or from its original source on dailyink.com at least through the April 11, 2014.

It’s simply Loretta insulting Leroy, because he’s asleep and she thought of something with the word “sleeper” in it. And I understand the attempted joke so, at least, the objective is nominally met: Hoest and Reiner said something intended to be funny, and this reader saw it and recognized it as such an attempt. Good so far. Yet …

Where are they? From the bag of popcorn in Leroy’s hand and the unused seats folding up, the implication is they’re at a movie theater. All right. Why are there two windows in the walls? And is that a door or … what … in the back? But if they’re not at a movie theater, then where are they? Why would Leroy have a bag of popcorn and why would the seats pop up?

Stipulating that they’re at a movie theater, what’s going on that Loretta thinks to tell a stranger that Leroy would have to be in a sleeper cell to be a spy at all? Are they watching a spy movie? The trailers for a spy movie? Did the strangers say something that would connect the stuff on-screen to Leroy’s nodding off? What logical precursor keeps Loretta from spouting a fairly weird non sequitur?

Also, is anyone enjoying the supposed movie? It’s a lot of faces of resignation and a grim determination to see this miserable night through to the end. Can that be what they meant? But why that?

Ultimately, I think if it weren’t for the windows I’d never have noticed this panel enough to have questions about it.

Comic Strips: The Heart of Juliet Jones


I don’t wish to spend too much time doing snarky humor on this blog — not because it can’t be fun, but because there is so much of it already around — but I realized I’ve spent so much time giggling about this particular comic strip that I really ought to share it. The web site Dailyink.com runs, besides a bunch of the King Features Syndicate comic strips you can’t quite believe are still running (The Katzenjammer Kids Somehow Because It’s 2013, Right?), some classics from the old days (The Katzenjammer Kids Slightly Less Somehow Since It Was 1940 I Guess).

Among them is Stan Drake’s The Heart Of Juliet Jones, the long-running soap opera strip about how Juliet Jones does not get married. In a strip rerun just a couple days ago, originally printed the 28th of December, 1955, her engagement with Johnny the Civil Engineer certainly appears to have wrapped up its mild complications (Johnny was so into the chic of building bridges he hasn’t minded that he’s under-paid and under-promoted at work) when, well, here. You don’t really need even that much introduction to follow it.

The ruthlessness with which the potentially happy ending is crushed makes me laugh in a way that can’t have been meant — or could it?

I’ve listened to quite a few old-time radio mystery and suspense shows, with the arch, melodramatic acting and loud organ stings at every carefully highlighted moment building to the twist Rod Serling would later rip off; they can manage to be both tolerably suspenseful and utterly unbelievable at once, and I wonder if the original audiences were listening with the same mix of suspense and incredulity that I have. Remember that one of the great radio suspense shows of all time, really and truly, was — exactly as the Bill Cosby routine had it — an episode of Lights Out about a scientist whose biochemical experiments caused the beating heart of a chicken to grow until it consumed the East Coast. Scary? Yes. Too ridiculous to be scared by? Yes. (Unfortunately only truncated versions of the original radio broadcast seem to be available.)

How long have they coexisted? And were the great soap opera strips of the past living in the same intersection of reality and disbelief?

Comic Strips I Like: Unstrange Phenomena


I like comic strips, a lot, and thought I’d talk about one of them. That’s Ed Allison’s Unstrange Phenomena, presently running at Gocomics.com. The strip is updated weekdays. I’ve always been partial to both simple absurdity, such as today’s Grand Whiffle Dam project, and to the mock explanation which gets the rhythms of imparting knowledge while being nonsense down. So this strip sates several of my tastes regularly.