What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? Pinball and Roadside Tourism, May – August 2018.


If you want the most recent happenings in Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D., good news! It’s here. If you’re reading this not too long after August 2018. If it’s past about November 2018, I should have a more up-to-date essay here. May you find the context for the current goings-on that you need.

Now, if you’re looking for mathematically-themed comic strip discussion, that’s my other blog. That’s a fun blog too, I think. But, yes, consider the person making that claim.

Griffy, explaining to the audience: 'A realistic 'pretty girl' has invaded th'Zippy strip! I'm on a search for th'strip she came from so I can get her back home! I've redrawn myself in a realistic style so I can easily enter these 'continuity' strips and accomplish my mission! Hmmm ... 'Rex Morgan, M.D.' looks suspicious! I'll begin with him!!'
Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead for the 14th of August, 2002. Part of the same storyline that gave me that great Mary Worth panel. And this isn’t all!

Rex Morgan, M.D.

27 May – 19 August 2018.

Heather Avery was working out the implications of her husband’s death last time I checked in. The big one: she asked the Avery International to continue on being rich and successful. The little one: she was going to sell the now-empty mansion in town. So Jordan, the live-in caretaker, would have to find somewhere else to live, at least once it sells. Her suggestion: that he use this big pile of money from the freezer to open that restaurant he always wanted to. His own “yes, and” idea: that he marry Michelle, his longtime girlfriend and partner in mansion-sitting. She likes the idea too.

Rex: 'As happy as I am for the newly engaged couple --- we still have patients waiting to be seen.' June: 'Of course. To work, everybody.' Rex: 'I'm looking forward to *that* wedding. Knowing Jordan, the food at the reception will be great!' June: 'The way to a man's heart ... '
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 28th of July, 2018. So this is when we reset the ‘days since Rex Morgan last pretended to do something medical’ counter, by the way.

Heather Avery takes her chance to visit Rex Morgan and family. She explains that in light of her husband’s death, and their child’s birth, she just doesn’t think she can bear to be in the comic strip anymore. She’ll stay in touch, she promises, but she’ll leave everyone else to get about their business.

[ Heather's visit with the Morgans winds down. ] June: 'We'll miss you terribly, you know.' Heather: 'And I you --- but I need to make a fresh start.' Rex: 'We understand and wish you and little Phoenix the best of luck.' Sarah: 'I want Phoenix to have Mr Fuzzy.' (She hands a small teddy bear up to Heather.) Heather: 'How sweet of you, Sarah --- I gave him to you when *you* were a baby.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 16th of June, 2018. I honestly don’t know whether I expect this to be Heather Avery’s farewell from the strip. It at least gives good reason not to worry about her until such time as Beatty (or a successor) has a solid idea, though.

That business is Buck and Mindy, pleasant supporting characters. They’re getting married. They’re doing it in Las Vegas, at a wedding chapel that features an Elvis impersonator who’ll walk the bride down the aisle. Nice to see things working out for them. Buck’s kid Corey is happy with the wedding plans too.

It’s a destination wedding. But at least all the characters who’ve been invited are able to afford the travel. And make the time for it. The characters who made the most time are 50s horror-comics star “Horrible” Hank Harwood and his son, Horrible Jr. They started their cross-country tourist-attractions expedition back in May or possibly 1946 and have been going strong ever since. For a while that was just little check-ins, in the disposable title-panel row of the Sunday strips. They’d mention how they were looking at giant ice cream cone guys, statues of Popeye, large soup cans, mystery castles, and so on. All the filming locations of the improbably long-running King Features comic strip Zippy the Pinhead.

(I’m not ridiculing Zippy the Pinhead, by the way. I love the comic. And I feel good about King Features that it keeps running a comic strip that would be hard-pressed to be less commercial. It’s a good legacy for the syndicate that ran Krazy Kat despite that comic almost trying to shake off readers.)

Hank Sr: 'Now if you can hold still for a while, I can draw your portrait.' Millie: 'That doesn't take much effort. Aside from waitin' on folks, at this age I don't move around much anyhow! But if I close my eyes and start in to snoring', wake me up!' Hank Sr: 'I'm just glad we decided to stop here. It's quite a treat to run into an old friend.' Millie: 'Still, it's one heck of a coincidence that you chose THIS diner, not knowing it was mine.' Hank Jr: 'Pop has a way of stumbling into the darndest situations, Millie. Always has.' Hank Sr: 'I hate to say it --- but when I'm done with this drawing, we'd better hit the road. Maybe we should get our bill so we can settle up.' Millie: 'Oh, you're money's no good here, old man. This one's on the house.' Hank Sr: 'That's mighty sweet of you, Millie. Maybe we'll drop in again on our return trip. But you have to let me pay next time.' Millie: 'My daughter takes over the place next week. You'll have to invite me to dine with you, and since I'll be retired, I' okay with you paying.' Hank Sr (as they do leave): 'Oh --- this is for you. So long, Millie.' Millie: 'Well --- would you look at that ... ' (He's drawn Millie as she looked in high school.)
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 1st of July, 2018. At the diner that Hank Senior just happened to stumble his way into. I admit I’m a bit impressed that he could steer a trip designed to be a sort of ambling, shuffling, let’s-see-where-we-figure-on-going-today expedition to get to the diner where his high school romance worked, and in her last week working there. Be a heck of a thing if he’d gone to all that trouble and she was taking the day off, though.

This threatened to completely overwhelm the comic, too, much as Zippy talking to roadside attraction statues took over that comic for about a decade. It was interspersed with Jordan-and-Michelle, and with Buck-and-Mindy, weeks. And then a bit that seriously broke up their looking at the world’s largest strawberry or the Oz Museum or stuff. In a small town diner Hank Senior encounters … Millie Gray. They were a pretty serious thing back in high school, but went their separate ways and had nice happy lives anyway. It’s a sweet little sentimental interlude, closed with Hank Senior admitting to his son that he knew exactly who was working that small-town diner, thank you.

Also breaking up the roster of watching people look at tourist traps: their RV breaks down. They rent an SUV to make the rest of the trip. So that breaks up a lot of them admitting that things are there to be seen. Still, they get to Las Vegas in time for the wedding and that’s all nice. Rex Morgan takes a moment to reflect on how great it is even if it’s slightly daft and hey, did you see where there’s a fourth wall over there? Anyway, pleasant stuff.

[ At the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas ] Hank Jr: 'We'd better get back to our hotel, Pop. You'll need your nap before the wedding.' Hank Sr: 'I suppose so. Wouldn't want to snooze during the nuptials --- but let me finish this game first. I'm going for a personal record.' Hank Jr, picking up his cell phone: 'Okay. I'll get it on video so you can relive the moment.' Hank Sr: 'That's my boy!'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 10th of August, 2018. So I assume no cartoonists read what I write. Even though, yes, I know that The Phantom‘s writer Tony DePaul checks in now and then. I’m just not important. But. It’s not literally true that when I’m not blogging I’m playing pinball. It’s near enough. The Las Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame is one of the major things I hope to get to. And its founders have connections to my hometown, as it’s run by someone who ran Pinball Pete’s, the venerable East-Lansing-and-Ann-Arbor institution. So if I were conspiracy-minded, and thought it even the faintest bit plausible that Beatty knew anything about me including the fact that I exist, I could paint this as a crazily obscure call-out to me. But I’m not, and I don’t, and it isn’t. It’s just a neat coincidence.
Also it is absolutely true that having something big and important and impossible to reschedule to get to will make you have the best pinball game of your life. Nobody understands how this happens, but if the effect could be harnessed it would revolutionize competitive pinball.

If it sounds like not a lot has actually, you know, happened I suppose I can’t argue otherwise. The stories have advanced only in little pieces and none of them has been that dramatic. I say, admitting that one couple has married and another has decided to marry. I do them some disservice by unwinding the story threads like this. It makes the action seems even slighter than it was. But, hey, sometimes everybody’s just having a nice calm time in their lives and manage a pretty good road trip. I say this not two days after my love and I learned that a correct answer to “Just how many tiny public parks with WPA-era 25-foot-long battleships built out of poor-grade ore rock can there be in this tiny copper-country Michigan village?” is “no fewer than two”. Touring quirky roadside stuff is for people who can handle ambiguous directions.

(Also we’re hoping in the coming week to eat at a Li’l Abner-themed restaurant but will be all right if it turns out we’re just not able to.).

Next Week!

It’s time for Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp! So how did The Milford Trumpet’s attempt at journalistic bear-baiting go? We’ll see what Barry Bader has to insist was taken out of context. At least if my plans turn out right.

Unintended Results: Books About Movie Musicals Edition


Stimulus:

Just Imagine was a million-dollar musical comedy set in the far future of 1980, with futuristic gadgets, a trip to Mars, and a Sleeper-like shlub waking from a fifty-year coma. Unfortunately, and not infrequent in 1930, the good ideas were mitigated by workaday routine, a wan score, and not quite enough wit. It starred a Swedish-dialect comic called El Brendel. Remember the name and tremble.

Footnote in the book Dangerous Rhythm: Why Movie Musicals Matter, Richard Barrios.

Response:

Seeing Just Imagine is the most important thing I can do this week and I must know everything there is to know about the work of Swedish-dialect comic El Brendel.