In Which I Am Failed By My Pop Culture Education


What Sitcoms Trained Young Me To Be Ready For:

“Uh-oh! I have dates with two women at the same time! Luckily, they’re at the same restaurant so if I just get tables on opposite ends I can jump back and forth between the two! I’ll have to find a costume moustache which I can attach and remove easily! And perhaps a blazer of a second color!”

What I Actually Have To Do:

We have two contractors coming over to give an estimate for a minor window repair, and they’re both coming sometime between noon and 4 pm! What if they both show up in the same five-minute period? That would be so awkward! Or would it? Maybe? I don’t know, it feels like it should be, if it happened. Any thoughts? Contractors know there are other contractors, right? They have to, don’t they? But what would they say to each other if they did meet?

Also neither of them said a word to our pet rabbit about his being quite large.

Well, mathematics comics, etc, etc. There’s that.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index stayed put at 124 today, which analysts credit to a broken alternator that they’re pretty sure they can replace with a rebuilt one that’ll be just as good as a new except for breaking down in winter this time.

124

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


If you’re here to follow the most recent storylines in Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man, the newspaper-syndicated comic strip version of the character, thanks! This link should bring you to whatever the most recent post is, at the top of its page.

The Amazing Spider-Man, 23 January – 23 April 2017

I last reviewed Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man at what felt like the one-third mark in the current story. Ronan The Accuser had crashed his spaceship in the Arizona desert and slurped up the contents of a diner. Peter Parker and Mary Jane Parker, on a road trip, couldn’t do anything about that, but they do witness Rocket Raccoon’s arrival. Rocket and Spider-Man complete the Ritual Battle of Superheros Meeting, and they pretended to be a costuming family for a motel owner. So what’s the story since then?

Rocket: 'Thar she blows!' Spider-Man: 'But at least there's no lava coming out!' Rocket: 'Yeah, but look what did!' Ronan: 'Hail - Sentry 714!'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 15th of February, 2017. I’m not on my own here about thinking there’s something Stooge-ish about The Sentry, am I? Also, am I alone in being disappointed Rocket doesn’t explain that he’s thinking of space-whales in the first panel? Maybe say something like “Thar She Space-Blows”? … No, wait, that sounds really, really bad. Never mind.

Rocket warns that Ronan The Accuser is looking around for The Sentry, an 80,000-year-old alien-built contraption that looks faintly like a robotic Moe Howard. Ronan figures he can use this to unleash all sorts of accusations on the whole galaxy. Peter, Mary Jane, and Rocket deduce The Sentry must be somewhere in Petrogylph National Monument, as the road sign for it is clear and fills up nearly half a panel. Ronan The Accuser follows similar clues and he and Spidey punch each other until The Sentry wakes up. It goes off to blow up Albuquerque. Rocket remembers that Ronan (“please, my dad is Mister The Accuser”) is extremely vulnerable to Earth air. So he and Spidey try to knock his helmet off, which goes great.

Ronan: 'If I can't reach you at least I can HURL you off my back!' Spider-Man: 'Not with my WEBBING binding me to you!' Ronan: 'Then I'll SQUASH you!' and falls over backwards on Spider-Man. Rocket, to Mary Jane: 'Y-you think your significant other coulda SURVIVED that, Red? Red ... ?'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the for the 3rd of March, 2017. The scene shows off just how new Rocket Raccoon is to all this; if he’d been around he’d know that Spider-Man is very good at scenes that involve someone lying down.

Luckily Newspaper Spider-Man is extraordinarily good at taking blunt force traumas. He uses this to do a “why are you hitting yourself?”, using Ronan T A’s own large hammer to smack his helmet off. Spider-Man tries to put the unconscious Ronan’s helmet back on, on the grounds that he can’t just suffocate the guy even if he is trying to blow up the world or galaxy or whatnot. And I admire this idealistic bit from Peter Parker, who’s not going to be more cruel than he must be, however much trouble it makes. The resolve to be kind even when it’s hard, or worse, inconvenient is something we should take from superheroes. Anyway, Spidey accepts Rocket’s promise that Ronan isn’t dead, he’s just sleeping, and they go off to fight The Sentry.

Spider-Man: 'We'll race to town in the car so that we can stop that ROBOT from trashing the place!' Mary Jane: 'I'll drive.' Spider-Man: 'No, honey --- you've got to stay here and give us a call if Ronan shows any signs of life.' Mary Jane: 'You know, I really wish that didn't make so much sense.' Rocket: 'That's quite a mate you've got there, web-face.' Spider-Man: 'Yeah! I never could understand why so many superheroes stay single. I just hope we reach the city's downtown while it still has a downtown!'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the for the 19th of March, 2017. I didn’t get the chance to highlight this, but Rocket and Spidey spend a lot of time telling Mary Jane to hang back and not do stuff. When they’re talking about who’s going to punch Ronan or The Sentry this makes sense, since Mary Jane is last I looked still a very squishable human. But they also toss off some casual “huh, you know, dames lines that make the sexism of the “you stay where it’s safe” that extra little bit less subtexty.
Also, regarding the line about superheroes getting married: a couple years back Comic Book Spider-Man made a literal deal with the devil to undo his marriage to Mary Jane in order that his 2000-year-old Aunt May would not die a little while longer. This was reflected in the newspaper comic for one story before it gave that up as too stupid a Spider-Man story to respect. And if you don’t know how stupid that must be, search for “stupidest Spider-Man story idea” and be awed.

Rocket and Spider-Man leave Mary Jane to watch Ronan just in case he wakes long enough to gasp out something plot-relevant. And hey! So she flags down a truck and buys it and a bunch of day laborers to bring Ronan to the big Albuquerque fight, because she always travels with that kind of cash. Using the unconscious Ronan — whom The Sentry can’t harm — as body shield Spider-Man teases The Sentry mercilessly. Meanwhile Rocket climbs inside and punches stuff until it breaks.

Spider-Man: You're programmed not to hurt a Kree - but you're so eager to blast ME into atoms - you're darn near short-circuiting yourself, aren't you, Robot? Well, maybe it's time I gave you a HAND at that!'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 12th of April, 2017. Now, gotta say, teasing the robot with the one thing on Earth it must not destroy? Good idea. Giving the one thing on Earth the robot must not destroy so it can go off and put it somewhere safe? Kinda dumb. It works out, because the story was near the end, but sheesh.

Mary Jane: 'There's Peter - but it looks like that robot's getting the BETTER of him! And - where's ROCKET?' [ Deep within the sentry: ] Rocket: 'Got to DISABLE this thing from the INSIDE! But HOW? It's got more parts than STARLORD has pop TUNES!'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man for the 18th of April, 2017. Don’t fear, True Believers. Back in February Rocket Raccoon also name-dropped Groot in a way that was no less awkward or inorganic. I love this sort of thing. Also I love that while comic books have grown many different styles, the comic strip still draws “heaping piles of alien technology” the same way they did in Like 1980. Sincerely. I like those webs of lines drawn against a solid blue background. It gives me nostalgic enough vibes to not worry what’s going on with Rocket’s face there.

So that looks like it’s ended the Ronan and The Sentry menace: this Sunday’s comic teases that coming next is “Farewell to a furry comrade!” A shame, since I’ve loved Rocket’s time on the strip. I mean, all his guest stars insult newspaper Spider-Man relentlessly. And Rocket’s depiction has varied from “pretty raccoony” to “maybe a small, bug-eyed werewolf” to “EEK! wasn’t that the deer-kangaroo-fox-nightmare Tommie brought home to Apartment 3-G that one year?”. (Here’s the Apartment 3-G deer-kangaroo-fox-nightmare for comparison. Warning: deer-kangaroo-fox-nightmare content.) But they really click as the effective and the put-upon members of a team. It can’t last, of course, and I’m sure Rocket is about to deploy some suspiciously vague explanation of how he needs to be … elsewhere, with … other people, soon enough.

Also, yes, Spider-Man did pretty near nothing to drive the story. Rocket did most of the heavy lifting and Mary Jane overcame plot-related sexism to do something too. Peter Parker was mostly there to, I dunno, get hit with stuff. This is healthy.

Peter and Mary Jane Parker were in Arizona to start with as they were taking a driving trip to Los Angeles. I don’t have any guesses who’s going to be the Hollywood antagonist. And I hope it’s not long before they bring Rocket around for another session.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index continued its downward slide as investor confidence was shaken by the realization that after so much hype about the testing of the state’s tornado warning system nobody actually heard any sirens. That’s even more suspicious than the earlier things we were suspecting.

118

Exclusion


I’ve got the usual Sunday comic strips post over in the mathematics blog. Have you given it a try? It might like the company. There’s an Archie comic over there, if that affects your choice. If not, that’s fine. We’ve been spending the weekend trying to figure out which of Paas’s four egg-dye tablets that could plausibly be pink actually is the pink already. People keep asking the Internet this question and there’s suspiciously few answers considering it would just take one person with a dye kit and two pictures, and then we’d know which tablet isn’t supposed to get mixed with vinegar. Fix that problem, Internet. Anyway, fresh off yesterday’s activities, a scene that came to mind:

Egg by itself on one drying rock, with a bunch of eggs near one another on the other drying rack.
Not pictured: the eggs we put in the shrink-wrap leopard-print plastic thing, which is a shame because until this year I had no idea what Edith Prickley would look like as an egg.

“Hey? Hey guys? Guys? What are you talking about? Are you doing something? Are you talking about me? Can I come over and talk with you? Can I? Guys? Hey, are you ignoring me? Do you wanna talk about me? It’s okay with me if you wanna talk about me. Hey?”

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose three points today as those turned out to be peanut butter smidges we got from the candy store. Not that caramel isn’t good too, you understand, just that peanut butter smidge.

136

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


Hi! Thanks for coming here trying to understand what’s going on in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. The most recent of my posts tracking the stories should be at the top of this link, until I forget to tag some of these installments. Thank you.

Gil Thorp

16 January 2017 – 15 April 2017

When last I checked in on the goings-on of Milford school coach Gil Thorp and his band of students it was basketball season. The story was about Aaron Aagard, who’s 46% punchable, 51% charming for a teenager and 3% basketball phenomenon or something. It’s a good enough mix. His problem was he was really good some days, really bad some others, and he’s known to go to raves even in whole other towns. Some teammates overheard he was “taking Molly”. My “hep” “cat” informants assure me this is how “the kids” refer to the ecstasy when they “rap” about drug habits. Aagard had promised Coach Thorp he’d clear up their misunderstanding. I predicted it would turn out he was taking his “generically-disabled niece or something” Molly to the raves.

'Let's pretend I remember 6th-grade Career Day. What about it?' 'Aaron's Mom gave a presentation. She was a -- what do you call it? Actuarily?' 'An actuary.' 'Right. Making solid coin. So why are they living in a dumpy apartment?'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 6th of February, 2017. On the one hand I admire the kids for remembering Career Day from like four years ago and that one of their classmates had the job of actuary. On the other hand, what are they doing remembering Career Day from like four years ago and that one of their classmates was an actuary? I don’t even remember if we ever had a Career Day, and if we did, all I could say about it is that one year my Dad played Santa Claus for the Winter Concert. Not really his career, though.

Shows what I know; Molly O’Herlihy is his girlfriend who totally exists and all, he just doesn’t want to show her off because you know how teenage boys are. There’s no group less prone to ostentatious displays of deployed heterosexuality. Thorp tells Aagard’s teammates to stop trying to figure out his deal, so they continue trying to figure out his deal. They have a breakthrough when they realize Aagard lives in an apartment far below his mother’s standing as an actuary. It’s good thinking on their part. Any mathematics major who’s bought his department’s propaganda will tell you how actuaries are just rolling in cash. If I ever need a quick 25 grand I just have to walk down to the business district and mutter about how I’ve got an advanced degree in mathematics and then, like, Jackson Life Insurance supposes I might be an actuary and they should pay me something just to be safe.

'My Mom had a drug problem before. That's when we lost the house. Now it's the same deal. She'll buy a few groceries on payday, and then the rest of the paycheck disappears. It's funny how being hungry can get in your head!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 3rd of March, 2017. I do like Aagard’s body language here and the way he’s moving. He’s showing that he does believe himself to be the lead actor on a sitcom in his head, yes. But he’s also showing how he’s the sort of outgoing, open, inviting person whom I like being around for maybe three minutes before I start thinking, “oh no, I think he likes me, how do I get out of here?” and have to set a tablecloth on fire to escape.

Coach Thorp, roused into something like action, checks in on Aagard’s mother. She’s not even actuarying, just doing bookkeeping for a couple small businesses. Aaron Aagard, deploying the sort of pacing that indicates he thinks he’s the charming star of an occasionally-serious three-camera sitcom, explains that the problem is not drugs. It’s drugs. His mother’s opioid habit. So he does well when there’s enough money in the house for, like, food and all. This leaves Thorp some unpleasant responsibilities. Thorp tries to figure out what he can do without screwing up Aagard’s life all the more. It’s not like he can even just pass Aagard some money to get groceries without inviting a world of scandal. So he covers where he can, inviting his student for one-on-one dinners in public areas.

An extra push at practice. 'Oxygen! Plasma! Something!' And a standard meal for Aaron. '*Another* piece of pie?' Another scene. Thorp. 'I'm coming in. It's time for a heart-to-heart with your mom.' 'Good luck with that.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 15th of March, 2017. Moments before the big climax, and Aagard’s mother realizing that she has failed Actuary Law and shall be hauled off for “rehab” that consists of her being stripped down to her basic demographic elements.

After being fed enough pie and I’m going to go ahead and assume cheese fries, Aagard consents to turning his mom in to the Actuary Police. Before she’s taken off to answer sumptuary charges of living beneath her actuarial station she gets to see one last, and first, basketball game starring Aaron. Pressured, he has a lousy game, at least until Thorp points out that as a person with advanced mathematical skills and training, Tina Aagard completely lacks the ability to tell whether a basketball player is doing well or badly. I agree, although the boo-ing from the rest of the audience might clue her in. Anyway, with that reassurance Aagard finishes up decently and goes into foster care with one of the teammates who did so much to change the set of hassles he’s dealing with.

Got to say, honestly, I did enjoy the story. I’m snarking about it because it’s more fun to recap stuff with a little silliness. The pacing was decent, the star was appealing, and Thorp got to be charmingly exasperated with the kids who insisted on figuring out what Aagard’s deal was. And the underlying problem was credible, and that the characters were stuck in their situation made sense too. It wasn’t anybody being stupid, just, stuck over their heads in a situation that just grew bad.

April started softball season. Its plot starts with student reporters for the Milford Journal discovering the school board’s vice-president way padding his expense accounts and he gets all angry at them for doing this. I understand. When I travel for work I live in fear the company’s going to decide I’m indulging my hedonism at their expense. And I fly United. Meanwhile in sports, transfer-student pitcher Ryan van Auken reveals that he’s handled his anger issues by putting that energy into having a large face. That’s been about all the time we’ve had for this story so far, so I don’t figure to predict where it might be going. When there’s updates, I’ll pass them along. Thank you.

'Yeah. Like I *said*. I used to have a temper, but it's *handled*. Got it?' 'Sorry, dude. I didn't mean anything by it.' 'Me, either. I was just messing with you.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 10th of April, 2017. This is more nostril than I’m used to getting this early in a story. But it does make me excited to think of just how much eye-rolling Coach Thorp is going to have to do in dealing with this.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell two points over wait Princess Lolly of Candy-Land was removed from office when Queen Frostine became a Princess herself ? Also there was a Princess Lolly? Also wait, since when are there even characters in Candy-Land? What do you mean since 1984? What is with reality anymore? What?

133

Sorry, Working On An Ingenious Invention Here


So if you’re like me, and I think you are, when you go to a hotel you use the tiny bottles of shampoo they give there? And in those circumstances there’s plenty of shampoo to clean your hair using that little dabby dot that you get out of that? And it’s not a large dot. It’s about half the size of a tear, if a tear were half the size of the dot of shampoo you get out of that bottle. And somehow this little blop of shampoo, that’s less than one-quarter of the size of itself, is plenty. And yet at home it takes way more shampoo. I mean, I get the cheap shampoo, because I never look at myself so I have no idea my hair looks like that, so it’s easy to do this. I’ll use enough shampoo to cover myself to a depth of eight feet, and still wonder if I need to repeat. (No.) So there’s clearly some difference in hair-cleaning pressure between hotel showers and home showers and I just think there’s some way to exploit this to make a new and very clean, manageable, vibrant, and bouncy source of power.

While I’m busy you can read my mathematics-comics stuff over on the other blog. That’s content, so that’s exactly as good as something here.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Trading values rose over seven percent today, even something like seven point three percent, as everyone got all thrilled on this shampoo power news and thinks it’s going to be so great I knew them when I wasn’t important enough for anyone to know. I’m trying to stay humble and I do not have a secret list of which Another Blog, Meanwhile index traders I’m going to shun once I even can.

135

PS: Um … Okay, so, no, this shampoo power thing won’t work. Sorry for the inconvenience.

What’s Going On In Judge Parker? 1 January – 8 April 2017


Hi! Looking for my most recent report on Judge Parker? This might be it. But check this page, with all the Judge Parker-tagged essays, just in case it’s not.


When last I talked about Judge Parker, new writer Francesco Marciuliano had finished his round of thoroughly blowing up the Parker and Spencer families’ incredible streak of fantastic good luck and fortune’s favor. Judge (Retired) Alan Parker’s movie deal had stalled and his new book was going nowhere. Sophie Parker had reappeared after months missing, with the rest of her band still gone, abducted by strange parties unknown. And Parker Sr had received a mysterious bouquet and message from shadowy intelligence-types, and made a promise to “have it done for you soon”.

Blowing up plots is fun and, relatively speaking, easy. How has Marciuliano handled putting things back together?

Judge Parker

1 January – 8 April 2017

Sophie Spencer, returned just in time for Christmas, has as rough a time of it as you might figure. Finding her father’s Crazy Evidence Wall, full of clippings thumbtacked in around circled notes (no strings of yarn connecting stuff, though) sends her into a rage which she takes out on her room, setting off a potentially-fatal-to-their-marriage fight between Sam Driver and Abbey Spencer. But Sam persists, setting back up his Crazy Evidence Wall, growing out his beard to Not Obviously Unhinged levels, and finally (this week) agreeing to go to Ambush Ridge with Sean Ballenger, father of the first abducted teen to have been released. That should turn out well. He can still get his beard out to Riker In The Borg-Are-Everywhere Timeline levels, if need be.

Abbey: 'Sam, please! Don't do this! We just started healing and now you're walking right into a crime scene without even discussing it first?' Sam: 'Like I said, there will be police. I will be with a cop. This isn't the first crime scene I've investigated.' 'Sam, you're not listening to me! You're doing the lone wolf thing again!' 'Abbey, I am listening to you. And I'm not being a lone wolf! This whole time, feeling like I couldn't protect us. Feeling helpless because I couldn't solve Sophie's case. But if I go where Sophie was held, maybe I can solve this. Maybe I can end this for good. And not as lone wolf but with an officer.' Meanwhile the officer, out of uniform, is loading a shotgun into his personal car's trunk.
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 2nd of April, 2017. Not to be distracted by petty things but since the start of the year Abbey and Sam have talked about his being a ‘lone wolf’ approximately 628,969,274,033,384 times. I think it might mean something special between them.

Sophie, understandably still traumatized, gets into therapy. It played as a belated move, but just because even when stuff is happening swiftly there’s only a few panels per day and a lot was going on. In-story it was clearly set up within days of her release. This might still be late, but after all, nobody expected her tolerably safe return. She reveals that the only thing she knows of her kidnapper is that she soundd “so much like Abbey”, calling her adopted mother “a cheat” who “doesn’t deserve what she has”. It’s hard not to see this as teasing the fourth wall, or smashing right past it, given the years during which the Parker-Spencer-Drivers were in fortune’s favor. Marciuliano had a more literal, and classically soap-operatic, idea in mind.

Sophie at therapy. 'Neddy and I had nothing but each other after Grandpa died, until Abbey adopted us. But the kidnapper said Abbey doesn't deserve what she has, and I don't either. The kidnapper kept yelling at me that the good fortune wasn't ours, wasn't mine. I wasn't even a Spencer --- it was time for the other shoe to drop. What did she mean?' 'Did you tell this to the police, to Abbey?' 'No. I was afraid! What did the kidnapper mean? It made me feel that everything in my life was an illusion. That's all I could think of when I was trapped --- is it true? Is my life with Abbey based on some lie?'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 26 of February, 2017. I haven’t talked about Mike Manley’s art, so please take this chance to look at it. This is a big talky scene, and it’s not boring. Good coloring helps, certainly, but I think the page would read at least as well without that. Sophie gets to emote, and her speech is well-paced, especially in the second row.

The other kidnapped kids reappear with their own harrowing tales. They had been kept in a remote shack, fed occasionally, waiting for any sign they might be able to escape, or any hint about what this was all about. They don’t get much. Some kind of ransom, some kind of torture to make Sophie Spencer “fall in line”. And then the gradual and then sudden collapse of the kidnapping scheme, as the woman in charge — the one who sounded so much like Abbey — has a fallout with another woman, “the only one who ever helped” her. The One Who Sounded Like Abbey shoots her partner, and then starts shooting the guards. The kids escape when she comes around to kill them, injuring but not killing The One Who Sounded Like Abbey.

Deep in the woods, a standoff between two women holding guns on each other. 'You never had a handle on this plot! You had a vague idea, a dream, but you never knew what you were doing!' 'I wasn't going to be forgotten. I had to remind everyone I'm also family.' 'If family's so important to you, then why are you pointing a gun at me? I'm the only one who ever helped you! I took the boys in case of ransom. I took care of my crew so no one would talk. You were too insane to do anything!' 'Call me insane one more time.' 'And you still wonder why the Spencers abandoned you.' Two gunshots.
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 12th of March, 2017. So how did Francesco Marciuliano’s Reddit AMA back in November go? … Oh yeah.

So who is The One Who Sounded Like Abbey? The clear implication is that she’s Abbey’s sibling, or some other person with a claim to the Spencer family (and fortune), denied for reasons not yet revealed. Or at least someone who believes she has a claim.

Not yet resolved: who the mysterious intelligence-type guy was that phoned Judge Parker Senior, or what he was promising to do.

I say Marciuliano’s succeeded in both blowing up the old status quo and putting things together into a plausible, credible, and intriguing new storyline. I’m looking forward to the next couple months of this.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose five points when someone looked up legendary 19th Century baseball player Tim Keefe and found out he first played in the major leagues for the Troy, New York, Trojans, inspiring a round of looking up 19th Century baseball team names and subsequent merriment that hasn’t been dimmed even by Richard pointing out how difficult it is to say what a baseball team’s name, as opposed to the nickname they were called by for a while, was before about the 1920s.

126

The World We Need


I did some more comic strip review stuff on my mathematics blog and I figure to do more of that on Sunday, but that isn’t what’s got my focus right now. I got a mildly ironic purchase of the Superman Showcase #3, a collection of early-60s Superman comic books. What can I say, I like the Silver Age of superheroes doing goofy things for peculiar reasons. (No color, but that does mean they can include more stories to sit on your head and make you beg for logic, which works for me.) I was sold on the book, even though it might not be very good for me, when I ran across “The Babe of Steel” story, originally from Action Comics number 284.

In it, Superman receives a message from an invisible hand on what I had thought was the Super-Chalkboard but which on careful review is just an ordinary grade chalkboard. It warns him of peril, which he figures he can best cure by turning himself into an infant for 24 hours. Fortunately he has the stuff on hand to do this, because that’s the world Silver Age Superman lived in. If I had to choose a superhero world to live in, it would be the one where Superman has the ability and willingness to spend 24 hours as an infant in response to cryptic messages on chalkboards. If you don’t agree, I don’t know that we can truly understand one another. Anyway, while waiting for the big problem to show itself this happens:

Baby Superman comes across a guy with a homemade rocket. 'My laboratory experiements lead me to the conclusion that the Earth will soon explode as did the planet Krypton years ago! But before the Earth blows up, I will do as Superman's father, Jor-El, did on Krypton with *his* infant son ... fire my son into space in a rocket!' And Supermanbaby thinks: 'This fellow is cracked! Too many years of lonely scientific work on this island must have affected his mind!'
Not to spoil the comic for you, if such a thing is possible, but as I make it out Superman didn’t really need to be an infant for the problem he got the message about, and there’s not really anything in the message saying he had to be an infant to resolve it. It’s hard to escape the idea Superman was looking for an excuse to spend a day as a toddler, which, you know, takes all types and whatnot. It just looks like he was using the message as pretext rather than necessity is all.

And I gotta say, Supes, of all the living beings on planet Silver Age Earth, how are you the one to leap to this particular conclusion? I mean, you have travelled back in time on like a half-dozen different occasions to see how the Kryptonian Jerk Council dismissed your own father’s conclusions about Krypton exploding as the ravings of a madman, right? Don’t go telling me you were right. That’s only moral luck, and you should be above that. Just saying.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index dropped eight points as fallout from that zinc warehousing scandal continued to — hang on. No, it rose eight points. Maybe it turns out the zinc thing isn’t all that much to worry about. That’s going to be a relief to everyone who worries about New Orleans zinc warehousing.

124

Why Do Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean Look Different?


They have some new artists. Tom Batiuk recently announced that Chuck Ayers, who’d done the art for Crankshaft and pencils for Funky Winkerbean, is leaving to do “other things”. I haven’t seen anyone say what those things are; I hope they’re personally rewarding things. Also, I had no idea that Ayers was doing the pencils for Funky Winkerbean. I had thought that Batiuk drew the whole strip, except for well-publicized guest-artist events or when he’s had to focus on medical care instead.

Dan Davis, who’s worked on a bunch of comic books and pencils for Garfield, took over the art on Crankshaft starting with this Sunday, the 2nd of April. Rick Burchett, who’s won two Eisner awards, is to take over penciling for Funky Winkerbean starting with the Sunday, the 25th of May.

Ayers is, according to Batiuk, not leaving the Crankshaft world altogether: “Chuck and I will still be working on selected story arcs down the line. This is one of those rare examples in life of being able to have your cake and eat it too, and I couldn’t be happier as I move forward on Funky and Crankshaft with these titanically talented artists.”

King Features’s press release about this consistently spells Ayers’s name “Ayres”, which seems like the kind of joke we’d make about Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean.

'Tom Batiuk Picks New Artists for His Comics', announcing the retirement of Chuck Ayres [sic], whose name has been spelled 'Ayers' on the comics page for years now.
King Features’s press release on the new artists for Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean. I know this wasn’t the snappiest title I’ve ever given a piece, but I know what people look to me for, and it’s explaining that sometimes a comic strip gets a new artist.

In still more comic strip talk, my mathematics blog etc you know the rest. Thank you, won’t you?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose eight points which some analysts are crediting to the traders remembering for once to say “rabbit, rabbit” first thing the 1st of the month. Some even said “rabbit, rabbit” the first thing Monday as the start of the working month, which started the usual squabble about what they’re doing on the weekends, then. Good question. It fully deserves an answer.

129

Priceless


I imagine my love and I aren’t alone in following the news about that giant Canadian coin stolen from that museum in Berlin. If you missed the news, a giant Canadian coin was stolen from this museum in Berlin. Here “giant” refers to the coin. It was a solid gold piece with a denomination of one million Canadian dollars. It’s worth, at current gold prices, of over four million Canadian dollars. (This suggests a great money-making scheme, wherein if we get enough money together it’ll be four times as much money. Joke’s on you. We’ve all bought into the scheme and called it “the economy”.) The Canada was the normal-size Canada as far as I know. What’s a little enchanting about this is that the coin denomination is bilingual. On one half it reads “1 Million Dollars”. On the other it’s “1 Million de Dollars”. I love the old-fashioned sound of “a million of dollars”. It redoles of gilded-age finance. I know “redole” is not a word. I mean “it’s redolent of” but I’m trying to avoid passive constructions.

The theory of how this 21-inch-across, 220-pound coin got stolen is that the thieves dragged it through the museum, out a window, and down along the railway track. My love pondered what a hobo walking that line would make of seeing a giant gold coin being rolled down the way. I know what I would do in that circumstance. I would bug out my eyes, reach into my hobo jacket, pull out the whiskey flask, dramatically pour out the contents, and toss the empty canister over my shoulder. I have seen too many stupid movies. It’s affecting my behavior in hypothetical situations.

The Royal Canadian Mint made five of these million-Canadian-dollar gold coins “because we can”, according to its web site according to The New York Times. That’s a fair reason. It beats “because we can’t” or “because the alternative is to be licked by an opossum” or “because otherwise we have to paint the basement”. At least it’s a fair reason to make the first one. You can’t really prove you can do a thing unless you do the thing, or do something close to the thing. Like if they minted a 975,000-Canadian-dollars gold coin. If they ever did that I’d entertain no doubts about their ability to make a million-Canadian-dollar gold coin. But it looks like they skipped right to the million one. Maybe they were confident after the success of their 925,000-Canadian-dollars gold coin. Or maybe out back they have a bunch of test misfires. Coins that came out as spheres, say, or that swapped the locations of the English and the French denomination inscriptions. Or that time they put gold into the machinery and a bunch of cheeseburgers came out and they can’t explain that.

I don’t know who the other four million-Canadian-dollar were made for, or why. At least one was put on display in some Berlin museum. I guess that’s better than leaving it in the Stray Stuff drawer in the front desk, along with the rubber bands that break when you try to band things together and that couple of pound coins you swore you were going to spend the last time you went to Britain and then didn’t. But what purpose do the others serve besides proving your annoying lefty friends correct about the moral imperative to grind up the rich for bone meal?

The Royal Canadian Mint will make more, in case you want one and are willing to risk the Revolution not coming anytime too soon. That’s got me wondering how much it costs to get a million-dollar coin minted. At least a million dollars seems likely. But how much more on top of that? And can you get it FOB? This is a very funny joke to people who remember that mention of railroad tracks earlier and who also get lots of stuff delivered by the Railway Express Agency, which folded in 1975, which is why I’m a humor blogger and not a successful humor blogger. I wonder if you get a discount if you bring your own gold. I’m imagining now showing up at the front door of the Royal Canadian Mint, at I’m guessing 1867 Mint Street, Canadopolis, Canada K1A 0G8, with a wheelbarrow full of ore and asking where the service counter is. (Alternatively, “où est le counter de service?” which is pretty good French considering how long it’s been since I took a class.) I bet they have a pamphlet showing the way. Mints like that always have more and more specific pamphlets than you could imagine.

Also the million-Canadian-dollar gold coin is merely one of the world’s largest gold coins. A correction to the New York Times article reads:

While it was the world’s largest gold coin when it was issued, in 2007, that distinction is now held by the Australian Kangaroo One Tonne Gold Coin, minted in 2011.

I shall be very disappointed if the Australian Kangaroo One Tonne Gold Coin is not the most dangerous gold coin in existence. I know what a dangerous ecosystem finance is, and Australia’s got to have the most dangerous. I bet it’s highly venomous and prone to exploding when threatened.

And now I’m wondering, what if it was just someone from Giant Canada that picked it up? Thought it was loose giant change in the giant drawer? I’d go ask Giant Canada but my voice isn’t loud enough for them to hear me at that height. I suppose it isn’t something I have to resolve, anyway.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Trading dropped three points before dissolving into just a mess when someone brought up that recent Family Circus from a little while ago where they use the phrase “on fleek”. And we never knew “on fleek” was a thing, but blast if we’re going to let Family Circus be more in-touch with the pop culture than we are. And yeah, that “on fleek” has gotten to where it’s appearing in the comic strips that don’t admit they’re reruns of decades-old strips sometimes with a little new art means the phrase has to be completely dead and maybe two years away from an ironic revival but sheeesh no, we can’t have this at all and now we’re going to have to look up that David S Pumpkins thing that everybody was giggling about back in October right before the world ended?

116

Yes It Would Help If I Finished Stuff More Than Two Hours Ahead Of Deadline Too


If I did anything on my mathematics blog this past week it was look at some comic strips, and yes, it includes that Todd the Dinosaur comic that you’re all sure I made up. It was a slow week.

Slow enough, indeed, that I don’t have a humorous picture or a Star Trek screen grab to share here and make the page look at least a bit more full. I’ve been busy kicking myself because of a joke I had thought of last Thursday that I meant to put into that “On This Date” article, and then forgot to in the time it took me to go downstairs to my computer. And then remembered when I went out for something or other, and forgot when I got home. The farther I got from my computer, the more powerfully I remembered the joke. It just didn’t get in there. You can go and check. I’m not saying this was a great joke, the linchpin that would tie the whole piece together. It would just have added a bit of a smile late in the bit, and I forgot to include it and it won’t make sense out of that context. So now I have to wait until it’s been long enough I can do an “On This Date” piece again without obviously repeating myself. I bet I forget the joke then, too. I need to write it down.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index fell five points as a high-pressure system moved in, forcing everything to be that tiny bit more squished down. You never think of air doing that, do you? But it’s got to, if that’s what pressure means, right?

115

What’s Going On In Mary Worth? December 2016 – March 2017


When I reviewed Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth back in December I wrote that it had changed rather less than Mark Trail and Dick Tracy had. Only the artist had changed; the writer hadn’t. And that’s still so, although I suspect a pretty significant change in the nature of Mary Worth may be happening. Let me explain.

Mary Worth

12 December 2016 – 25 March 2017

If readers have any expectations for Mary Worth it’s that there will be a series of relentlessly literal, linear stories resolved by people having very heteronormative romances ideally ending in weddings, thank you, and recapped on Sunday with the decoration of a dubiously-sourced quote of dubious relevance. I’m not saying the strip doesn’t provide that anymore. But I do think it’s getting a little more textured than that.

When last we left things Iris and advice-columnist Wilbur had agreed to a pause on their relationship while he went around the world interviewing sandwiches of other lands. Mary Worth gives Iris some legitimately useful advice, helping her ambivalence following a dinner invitation from Zak, a much-younger community college student pursuing an Associate’s degree in Probably Being A Rotten Millennial, Those Rotten Millenials.

'I really like him, Mary. I don't know him well yet, but I really like him! He wants me to have dinner with him! If I continue to see Zak, it may lead to ... something more. He's my son's age, Mary! Should I still see him?' 'Iris, I think as long as you're seeing Zak out of genuine interest and not backlash at Wilbur ... Enjoy getting to know him better!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 11th of December, 2016. I admit I have not been in a situation like this. My relationships have been almost entirely with people who have names that were trendy around the time of my birth, so they don’t seem trendy or weird or anything but instead proper and right. The bigger problem is more that it’s not clear Zak has anything to talk about. But not having anything to talk about is a common problem in the youth, and it can be cured by doing stuff, which, must admit, youth is good at.

Meanwhile Mary Worth keeps on grinding out “Ask Wendy” columns for Wilbur, who’s too busy globetrotting to tell people to listen to their hearts. She gives some wishy-washy advice to a person torn between two jobs, and that surprised me. The relationship between the two-jobs and the two-boyfriends questions is obvious. But it seems unusual to me that Mary Worth would manage the trick of having characters talk about something that isn’t directly the plot. It’s a basic storytelling craft, but it’s one of those crafts for a story that’s more than just a plot delivery service. Case in point: Mary’s original advice isn’t enough, and she has to give it again, at a later point in Iris’s Zak-versus-Wilbur debate.

Iris tries dating Zak some. She goes to a concert with him and some of his rowdy college friends, who notice that she’s way older than him. She makes a reference to Casablanca that goes completely over Zak’s head, and she decides it isn’t working out. This might be premature. There’s a lot of pop culture from before you were born to catch up on, even the great movies. On the other hand, “Here’s looking at you, kid” is not an obscure reference these days shut up I’m not old have you thought about how you’re the old one instead huh? They part amiably, anyway.

Iris: 'I see you with your friends ... and I know you belong with them. Not with me. Zak, thank you for everything. It's for the best we say goodbye.' 'If you say so. Iris ... ' 'Yes?' 'One last thing.' And he gives her a deep, bending-over-backwards kiss.
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 12th of February, 2017. Must say that Zak’s taking it well, possibly because they were only on maybe two dates and they were pretty casual ones and it’s possible he doesn’t yet understand that she’s breaking up with him.

Now for the next bit that surprised me. Before the Zak story started, Iris’s son Tommy got addicted to Vicodin. But he’d been assigned a help group and resolved to stop getting fired and that seemed like the resolution of that. The storyline reappeared, though, at the end of Zak’s adventures in the comic. The Sunday panel even noted how recovering from an addiction like that isn’t a straight path; one will have setbacks and feel like any progress is lost. To see that fact faced directly in the comic feels novel. I expect a problem fixed to stay fixed. It’s another bit of better crafting.

'I wonder if I should be further along by now. Better. Stronger. Calmer.' 'Give yourself credit, Tommy. Embarking on your recover is a brave and wise thing.' 'Thanks, Ma.' 'Like the tide, progress is made in an ebb and flow pattern. Rarely is progress advanced on a straight path. You're doing fine. It's okay to pause and wrestle with demons along the way. I've had to do it myself.'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worthfor the 5th of March, 2017. I’m not sure which demons Iris is talking about here. Her most recent encounter had been deciding whether to girlfriend it up for Zak or to stay true-ish to the globe-wandering Wilbur. That’s not demons, though. But the comic has a long run behind it and Iris has probably been up to all sorts of weird yet minor problems during it.

Life continues. Wilbur Weston pursues his around-the-world tour for his column about disaster survivors, showing up to ask people who’ve been through a mudslide why they haven’t died. Just imagine. You’re in Sao Paolo. The earth itself slides out from under you, and from above you, washing away the whole world in a cataclysm that takes a moment yet goes on forever. You make it out somehow. And then, there, is longtime Charterstone resident Wilbur Weston. He’s standing with notebook in hand, camera strapped around his neck, and a jar of mayonnaise wedged under his opposite arm. He says one thing to you, heedless of whether you speak English: “What are you doing, being alive like that?” He surely must be an image from the deepest recesses of … well, not the deepest recesses. Maybe one of the lighter ones, from the less-serious areas. A vision from the outskirts of the Greater Heck Metropolitan Statistical Area, the place where it’s all strip malls and commercial office parks just before the farmland takes over from the main drag of Heck. Seeing that wouldn’t haunt me to the end of my days, but it would throw me off for as much as a half-hour, like the time the cashier at Wendy’s saw me come in and warned they were out of potatoes. How can I have gone to any Wendy’s enough times they know I’m there for the potatoes and Freestyle Coke machine? How?

Toby mentions to Mary Worth how the two of them haven’t been in any stories worth anything in donkey’s years, hint hint, and they figure to take a cruise. Mary’s longtime would-be fiancee Jeff doesn’t come along, what with Mary figuring he probably wouldn’t have any fun anyway what with his knee and how it connects his upper to his lower leg through a complex mesh of cartilage and muscle and she’ll totally talk with him about how he didn’t want to go after they get back.

And here I’m not sure if the storytelling is getting clever or if I’m just giving them too much credit: Wilbur’s current round-the-world trip interviewing disaster survivors got its start when he went on a cruise and that ship had your usual sort of cruise-ship disaster. He was so moved by the experience of not dying he wanted to find out about other people not dying from stuff instead of writing the “Ask Wendy” advice column he’s turned over to Mary. Are cruise ships a new leitmotif of change and new beginnings? Or is it just fun drawing people on boats? We’ll see. I’m just surprised the craft is getting more advanced like this.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell seven points today as someone came across the French franc on the street and it started haranguing them about how nobody calls or visits or checks up on it anymore, and the whole scene was so awkward and tense nobody was in a good mood all day.

120

In Which Things Are A Little On The Nose Here


Just saying.

Oh, also, I want to point out my mathematics blog, with its weekly review of comic strips that mention mathematics in some way. Yesterday I put in the comics for the week prior and that included Pi Day so you can imagine just what sort of merriment was filling the comics pages. OK, that was filling three or so strips worth. But it was there. There isn’t a lot more to say on this point, but I want to say just a touch more because of the Responsive Design theme I’ve got on this. It rearranges stuff based on how wide the browser is. And with the browser I post stuff in, at the width I like it being open to, I have this slender column on the left with a posting’s dateline and tags and Leave A Comment link and all that. And if I include a picture that’s far enough down the page that it’s past the Leave A Comment link then it gets to use that horizontal space for itself. So it gets to appear bigger by virtue of an optical illusion created by having more horizontal and vertical space. (It’s a very convincing illusion.) And I like the picture bigger, so that’s why I’m going on until I have enough words that I can

Sitting atop a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pinball machine: a box of Little Caesar's pizza.
Technically speaking I do not know whether there was any pizza in the box or not, but the event which I did not stage works equally well either way. The instruction card mentions the “Bodacious Skill Shot”, which serves as a reminder that there are some bits of vocabulary shared between Manhattan-dwelling turtle ninjas and Great Smokey Mountains-dwelling moonshiner Snuffy Smith.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped one point today as Dan thought he saw a sewing magazine promise “three alternatives to clapping” and he was stumped trying to think of a third. The trading floor broke out into one faction pointing out that the magazine cover promised alternatives to stitching and another faction saying sure, there’s snapping fingers, and there’s stomping on the floor, but what would be a third? And then the day ended in squabbles about whether it counts as an alternative to clapping if you slap your hand against some other body part, like your thigh or something.

126

Caption This: Running Like A Chicken Edition


As I promised my other blog, the serious one, talked more about comic strips with mathematical themes yesterday. At least it did if the automated posting worked right. I set that one and this to appear without my specific intervention because I think I’m going to be busy? I might be busy anyway.

I’d post an update with a later report of just how busy I was and when except I can’t figure that’s in fact interesting either. My point is, if I did have something posted there yesterday, it might be something interesting to you today.

And if it’s not then I’ll just go back to grabbing frames from Star Trek: The Next Generation, such as for instance this:

Data's disembodied head plugged in to one of the pull-down tray tables in Lower Engineering. From the episode 'Disaster'.
Shortly after this episode Data began reviewing music, if I may make a needlessly complicated Mystery Science Theater 3000 reference. Say what you will, but Next Generation had some great severed-talking-head effects.

“Counselor? Do you know when you might be able to resume my exploration of the idiom `would lose my head if it were not attached’ anytime soon? And in … I am not certain which corridor?”

Have something better? I’m not surprised. Give it a try.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Traders lifted the Another Blog, Meanwhile by two points today after stretching carefully and bending at the knees before they realized the index was a lot hotter than they realized and nobody had brought any oven mitts.

129

In Which Barney Google Makes Me Unsure About The Point Of Existence


Way, way back in the day Barney Google and Snuffy Smith was a story comic. It was always funny or trying to be, but it was also doing a storyline. Comics Kingdom is reprinting strips from that time. In like 1940 or so Snuffy Smith got drafted and the strips since then have put him in a bunch of goofing-around-the-Army-camp stories. In the current one Barney Google, stationed in Australia, sent a kangaroo over to his friend. Snuffy used it first to set up boxing matches that turned into some pretty solid comedy, with the poor human begging outwitted handily by the kangaroo. And now as of September 1942 Snuffy Smith is using the kangaroo to pass messages along for money. And now we get to this comic:

'Gee Snuffy - I'm s'pose to meet my gal at the Mosey Inn, 7 o'clock sharp - but I can't get out! Would you send Chosef over there with a note?' 'Why, shore! Jes' scribble it off and I'll chase him right over - uh - that'll cost ye 50 cents messenger fee - cash on th' barr'l top.' (Later) 'Hey, yard bird!! Here it is past midnight and that !!@#* kangaroo ain't back yet!' 'Simmer down, cousin - your leetle pullet got th'message - ye can depent on it.' (At the inn) The kangaroo is dancing with the woman.
Billy DeBeck’s Barney Google and Snuffy Smith for the 25th of September, 1942. Say what you will, but that as an almost oppressively adorable kangaroo. Like, possibly the most adorable kangaroo to ever appear in a syndicated comic strip and if you know a better one please send it along. But I warn you: I can provide other strips with the kangaroo holding stuff in his paws.

And I guess I’m just stuck thinking, when this was published the Battle of Stalingrad was barely through its first month. US Marines were trying (unsuccessfully) to pass the Matanikau River on Guadalcanal. Four Royal Air Force bombers sent to Oslo on a civilian-morale-building raid failed to destroy the Gestapo headquarters but did kill something like eighty civilians, and lose one of the bombers in the process. The British destroyer Somali finally sunk in the Greenland Sea four days after being damaged by German submarine U-255. Four ships of Allied convoy QP 14 had just been sunk by U-435. Japanese forces landed on the Gilbert Island of Maiana. And the British destroyer Veteran and the United States Liberty ship Stephen Hopkins were days away from being sunk. And … Snuffy Smith’s kangaroo was dancing. And I feel like this is utterly mad and then I think, well, what am I doing, and why that? I think what I’m saying is I don’t want to feel like I need a hug just because a kangaroo’s dancing to swing music.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index jumped nine points, but its knees aren’t what they used to be, and it had to fall down two of them before finishing, wincing and groaning about it all.

116

Caption This: Or As Picard Knows This Stuff, Tuesday


I talked some more about mathematically-themed comic strips on the other blog and there you go. I’m not figuring on doing another of these reviews this week so that’s your big chance to read what I have to say about Bud Blake’s Tiger. Well, I think that’s worth doing. Meanwhile as I sit and think up other things to write here’s my usual sort of Next Generation captioning stuff and you’re invited to participate.

Two Picards walking into the shuttle bay, the way pairs of Picards will.
Really, how many times did they come up against duplicates or clones or lost twins or whatnot of the original crew? Is there anyone besides Counsellor Troi who didn’t meet themselves at least once? Also: didn’t Counsellor Troi have advanced training in psychology or whatever her mental-health specialty is? Shouldn’t we be calling her Doctor Troi?

Picard: What the — oh, jeez. No. Not another one of these. No. Shan’t do it. You all deal with your own spacetime anomaly clone alternate-timeline nonsense without me.

Picard: And that goes double for me!

Picard: No, now you’re just encouraging them!

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped today amidst rumors first that actor Bill Pullman had died and then accusations that the person who’d mixed him up with actor Bill Paxton, who had just died, was doing that bit about not being able to tell the two apart. She insists no, she honestly and sincerely just mixed them up and is sorry for the confusion and for

94

Rather Than Asking Funky Winkerbean What The HECK Is Wrong With You


I mean, I want to. Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean is somehow in the second week of a story in which Funky Winkerbean tries to renew an expired driver’s license. And if that seems like not much of a storyline consider that Batiuk has decided to see just how big a jerk Funky can possibly be during it. Or possibly how big an idiot. Anyway it’s left me seething with rage and so I’m going to turn to more productive stuff like the mathematically-themed comics on my other blog and, oh, I don’t know. Here’s a screen grab from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Heart of Glory”, known as “that one from the first season where we started thinking maybe the show could be good after all”.

Worf and two guest Klingons of the week standing in sickbay over the body of a dead guest Klingon of the week. All but the dead one are howling at the boom mike.
Boy, I feel bad for the extra caught in this shot leaning against the water cooler. Awkward!

o/` Be-el-ze-bub has a devil put aside!
For me …
For Meeee …
FOR MEEEEEEEEEE! o/`

If you want to put in your own different caption here, please, go ahead.

Thanks, all. Boy am I angry at Funky Winkerbean.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose one point in trading described as “partly cloudy” and with “smatterings of applause”. We have no explanation for what this should mean.

106

What’s Going On In Prince Valiant?


I remember reading this week’s story strip as a kid. It was obviously an important one as it got so much space in the Sunday Star-Ledger‘s pretty good comic section. It didn’t look like a story strip, what with it having knights and sword fights and I would swear the occasional dragon. But I never knew what was going on, since there weren’t any word balloons and everything was explained with these giant blocks of text that I thought were trying to sound olde-tymey. I’m curious how my memory matches the actual fact, but it’s so hard online to look up stuff from the 70s and 80s.

Prince Valiant.

Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant has good reasons for looking like that. The strip, created in the late 1930s by Hal Foster, keeps that close to its roots, with the action in the panels and the dialogue kept quite separate. This separation was not idiosyncratic when the comic strip started. Mandrake the Magician, The Phantom, Flash Gordon and other adventure strips of the time similarly ran their Sunday continuities with action and dialogue separated.

There is, yes, a lot of history to read in the comic strip, which just finished its 80th year. The comic strip reached panel number 4,176 this Sunday. They put the number right there in the comic, as if they’re trying to lure in the slightly obsessive reader. Kind of them. You don’t need to know it. The characters are straightforward enough to drop in on. The settings are classics, at least for a kind of story I didn’t really read while growing up. But that are at least good backdrops for cartoons set in those kinds of settings. The home setting is Camelot-era England and the lands surrounding the North Sea. But sometimes the gang goes on an expedition. Like, now.

I’m not sure when Team Valiant set out on an adventure to the east. But they’ve been tromping around the Far East for well over a year now and I forget what they set out to accomplish. What they have done is have a series of adventures in fresh, attractive settings. And they have looked great, which is tolerably true to both longstanding Western European folklore about the riches of the East and to how, historically, Western Europe of that time was a pit. At least compared to rich, stimulating places like Byzantium and Arabia and India and China.

The sorcerer-king was made welcome in the subterranean city; but he grew jealous of his host's knowledge, and greedy for power. He learned their secrets and then he deceived them. He stole the terrible key to power that we call the Soul of Asia. To us, that artifact appears sorcerous --- but it its creators, it was a device that released the most basic forces of Nature, the unseen forces that build and destroy our material world. Aristotle posited that our world is made up of infinitely small quanta of energy. The Soul is the key to that primal energy! It rends the fabric of matter and opens gateways to things that would seek to destroy our world! Brandishing the terrible thing, the sorcerer-king could not be contained in the hidden city. He struck a deal with the rightful owners: he would never unleash the artifact's power so long as they did not seek to take it from him.
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 29th of May, 2016. I’m delighted to have a story where Aristotle is used to explain the nigh-omnipotent travel valise instead of it being a lost invention of Archimedes. Alas, the Soul of Asia gets taken by a baddy and that takes the rest of the year to deal with.

The current part of the storyline is just a few weeks old, so it’s a good chance to hop on Prince Valiant’s boat if you want. Valiant has just overseen the downfall of a Himalayan-or-so tyrant named Azar Rasa who was hoping to use the awesome powers of the Soul of Asia to conquer Asia. And what is the Soul of Asia? It’s some kind of briefcase-size magical energy construct thingy with an awesome lot of power. It’s potent stuff, built on the learnings of the giants living deep in the Earth.

With the Soul of Asia finally in his posession, Azar Rasa turns the awful weapon toward Karen, Val, and Numair. A figure suddenly rushes from behind and skewers the unsuspecting sorcerer with a savage lunge! It is Vanni 'I have failed my responsibilities too often. Let me make amends now!' Azar staggers and falls into the volcanic well, carrying the Soul of Asia down with him! A massive explosion roils up from the depths - the demon writhes and disappears into a geyser of molten rock and the subterranean chamber convulses and begins to shatter! Vanni and Karen, Val and Numair all rush for the stairs leading out ...
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 25th of December, 2016. Don’t worry, it turns out the gang outrun the Soul of Asia’s tripping of the false vacuum and collapsing the universe in a spasm of zero point energy’s release. Also if you aren’t squicked by giant centipedes then check the previous Sunday’s comic for a really huge view of that demon. It’s dramatic but not for everyone.

So, Valiant escaped Azar Rasa’s prison by trying, since even in long-running comics security guards aren’t any good at their job. And with the help of the giants, who dress like yetis — did I mention the giants dress like yetis before? — the good guys blew up the mountain and killed the last of Azar Rasa’s followers. They pitched the Soul of Asia and Azar Rasa into Mount Doom, and all is as well as could be. That’s where 2017 started.

Val and his company have barely started their long journey home when three giant figures appear before them. Their eyes are magnetic and an alien voice seems to form in Val's head: 'This Karen and Numair have done us great service, and we would repay them. Come, we will show you a safer route through these mountains.' As if in a dream, Val finds he has no will to refuse. Save for their native guide and the pack animals all follow the giants into a cleft in the ridge and deep into the earth. Val finds he cannot fight the cloudy unreality that settles over his mind. Karen touches his shoulder: 'Do not worry - Numair and I have come this way before. They mean us well.' Time itself loses meaning and Val has no idea how long it is before the passageway opens up onto a vast subterranean gallery holding a shining city like no other he has ever seen!
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 22nd of January, 2017. Prince Valiant is strangely reluctant to just trust giant, weirdly-dressed strangers using telepathic coercion to lure him into remote, untraceable redoubts. Strange fellow.

The giants who dress like yetis are grateful to Team Valiant for helping clear up this mess where they kind of let humans get their grubby hands on a briefcase of unimaginably vast destructive power. (They hadn’t wanted to let the original sorcerer-king take it, but he had the thing, and promised not to grab it back if he didn’t use it.) So they offer help, promising to show an easier way that Our Heroes can get to wherever the heck they’re going. They lead the gang deep into the earth and hook them up with a boat and a team of pink dolphins to haul the boat through the underground river.

What had been a dreamlike journey down a subterranean water world has turned into a nightmare! A great behemoth heaves its bulk onto the craft bearing Val and his company. Their giant pilot responds with a blinding ray shot from his strange weapon but the creature's attack sets the boat to capsize! The best recoils, the pilot throws himself athwart the craft in a desperate attempt to steady the violent rocking and falls over the side! The crisis snaps Val out of his lethargy, but a fraction of a second too late to catch the guide. Then the low rumble from the river grows into something terrifying ... earthquake! The walls begin to crumble, the river begins to boil, and the dolphins that pulled them forward abandon their harness! What else could go wrong?
Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant for the 12th of February, 2017. Won’t lie to you: any time a giant behemoth rises from the sea I get more interested in the story. Doesn’t matter if it’s Prince Valiant, Star Wars, Sally Forth, Paw Patrol, or Alley Oop. You have my attention. Use it well.

It’s going well.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose a point today and everyone is blaming the peanut-butter-yoghurt-shelled pretzels they got at the store.

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105 Minutes Of Your Life You Won’t Get Back, Unlike Any Other 105 Minutes Somehow?


So the overhead business is that my mathematics blog had another comic-strip-review day. No pictures, but you can get to places with pictures over there. That’s something, right?

In other news, my love was directed to a pinball podcast from 2007. It features something like an interview with Python Anghelo, crazypants designer behind video games like Joust and pinball games like Popeye Saves The Earth, the game with the most intense backstory ever when you consider a Popeye pinball game really just needs to set up stuff that he can then punch.

The interview is enlightening because it tells me what it would be like to interview a Dr Bronner’s Soap Label that had gone into game design. I think the host asks two, many three question, one of which gets answered, and then just lets Anghelo talk. Here’s the specific episode, TOPcast show 42 from the 1st of July, 2007. In at least one point Anghelo seems to suggest he composed poems for guidance for his game concepts, and I don’t know of any of them which have come to light, but the poem for the cancelled Zingy Bingy must have been to die for. Or to kill your game division for.

For those who somehow don’t know the big names of 80s/90s pinball design: there were a bunch of big names in 80s/90s pinball design. Don’t worry about who’s who. Zingy Bingy was a concept for making an “adult” pinball game. According to legend it featured things like flippers that were shaped to resemble a part of the male anatomy which was not fingers and which could under the right circumstances grow. Also according to legend the project went on until an actual grownup at headquarters heard this was going on. That covers the essential background. Go, enjoy listening, and pause anytime you start feeling dizzy.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose two points before trading was suspended in order that everyone could make valentines to give to all the other traders, thank you. Also to wonder about people who complain that they make kids give valentines to everybody else in class these days because they’re all pretty sure that’s the way it was done back when they were kids too, and it’s not like it was any hassle back then.

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What’s Going On In The Phantom (Sundays)?


So The Phantom, The Ghost Who Walks, is a bit of an overachiever. It’s understandable. He’s the 21st in the line. Consider how many family businesses fall apart when the fourth generation would have taken over if anyone could be found to run things. He must’ve been raised barely able to imagine anything else in life. So while Mark Trail might take Sundays off and Alley Oop might just reiterate his adventures and Spider-Man might get a bit of work done, The Phantom gives us a whole separate story. It’s the only story strip doing that. So it gets a second round of story-recapping from me. Last week I covered the dailies and stuff hasn’t changed much since then.

The Phantom (Sundays).

The Phantom is sworn to defend the people of Bangalla. But it’s a complicated, global world. It always has been. The first Phantom was an English sailor caught in the spice trades. The Phantoms who’ve been on-panel since the comic strip began haven’t been less worldly. This serves some good purposes. For one, it defuses the strip’s built-in concept of the White Savior To These Helpless Black People. That’s also defused by the development and ongoing presentation of Bangalla as a functional liberal democracy. But it helps if The Phantom uses his time and suspiciously great wealth to fight crime wherever it leads, anywhere in the world. And it means the strip can leave the jungle behind without straining its premise.

The current Sundays storyline began the 26th of June, 2016, with a plane crash, always the start to a good jungle adventure if you’re not on it. The plane carries Mikey D’Moda, teenaged idiot scion of the Chicago Mob who’s being traded to the Chinese crime syndicates in exchange for not having him around until he’s eighteen. That and a shipment of authority-attracting guns are supposed to bring a truce to the underworld, because that plan always works out.

Mikey D'Moda tells his great-great-great grandpa of his plane crash in 'Nowhere, Africa', and that his mob boss's Chinese friends have gone missing. The Phantom snarks on how Mikey talks. But Mikey offers to help The Phantom get a better suit if he's ever in Chicago.
Tony Depaul and Terry Beatty’s The Phantom for the 14th of August, 2016. I appreciate The Phantom for its action and adventure, but I really like moments like this where the characters get to kick back and consider how silly everything is. Also I appreciate how completely you know who Mikey is by the end of this one installment.

Mikey escapes to a freedom lasting whole minutes before The Phantom catches him. Meanwhile the grownups in the Chicago and China Mobs get arrested and interrogated, there to scatter some plot seeds that haven’t yet blossomed. Incidentally along the way the Jungle Patrol gives one of the prisoners the private phone call to his lawyers he’s entitled to, but “accidentally” records it on a phone. I mention this because it’s something true about The Phantom universe.

The good guys are, basically, good guys. But they fall way short of the superhero ideal. They’re not scrupulous about civil rights or the law or ethical behavior. See, for example, The Phantom’s vast wealth, said to be acquired from among other things pirate treasures. That’s fine for a pulp adventure hero; but, in the real world, stuff doesn’t stop having a legitimate owner just because someone else stole it. The Phantom could probably make a claim on stuff that has no recoverable provenance, but he’s not going to that effort.

The good guys typically get away with their cheating because the writers are on their side. But it does come back to bite them sometimes. One of the lingering human rights abuses has been The Phantom keeping the terrorist Chatu in a private, secret prison. This is understandable. Chatu arranged the kidnapping and faked-murder of The Phantom’s wife from his actual professionally-built prison cell. But, still. Is keeping him in a wood hut in the jungle really better? I believe that’s being left around to generate future stories.

Mikey advises his great-grandfather that his being kept hostage in China would never have brokered peace in the Chicago mob, which I agree with but don't understand fully anyway. Then Bruno calls and warns that 'our Chinese friends ain't too happy you come home, Mikey', even though that really does seem to be the fault of a plane crash of unexplained cause.
Tony Depaul and Terry Beatty’s The Phantom for the 25th of September, 2016. And, again, I like how Mikey seems to have learned everything about his crime syndicate from watching the Saturday Night Live parodies of mob movies. He’s probably a little young to have picked up anything from the “Goodfeathers” segments on Animaniacs but he would have too.

After spending minutes listening to Mikey, The Phantom decided the thing to do was punch the crime out of both Chicago and China. He heads first to Chicago and then, conveniently, China follows along. Or someone does, anyway. In a long sequence The Phantom’s chased around the D’Moda Crime Estate by mysterious shadowy figures who look to be ninjas. Yes, I associate ninjas more with Japan and turtles than I do with China, but c’mon. It’s the Chinese Mob. They can hire out. My supposition is that the Chinese Mob is offended that the truce fell apart when Mikey’s plane crashed. This seems to me unfair. But I suppose if you aren’t sure about the good faith of another party then it’s not worth your time to work out the difference between accidents and betrayal.

The aged D'Moda warns The Phantom that in his prime he'd have mopped the floor with the Ghost Who Walks. Phantom warns 'there's a dangerous man on the estate tonight. Other than me.' Cue the ninja throwing stars!
Tony Depaul and Terry Beatty’s The Phantom for the 1st of January, 2017. Honestly a little surprised that D’Moda here hadn’t been punched by one of The Phantom’s ancestors, possibly repeatedly. He does often turn up people who’d encountered his ancestors. Comics Kingdom’s vintage strips reveal he always has. It’s one of the little things that gives heft to a continuity.

So, now, The Phantom is in the dying elder D’Moda’s bedroom, as at least one ninja closes in. The Phantom’s getting to some Peter Parker-y levels of snark against his opponent. It’s a good way of keeping the panels from being too much just guys hitting each other and grunting.

Phantom getting inside his ninja attacker's head: 'You've come a long way to put in a day's work, friend. Do you get expenses on a job like this? Travel? Meals? I'm sure you must. Only an amateur would work for a flat fee and end up flat on the floor for his trouble!'
Tony Depaul and Terry Beatty’s The Phantom for the 5th of February, 2017. The Phantom does raise some fair questions about working as a ninja for hire. I suppose they’re all the sorts of thing you learn to charge for as any kind of consultant, but you do still have to learn that. This implies there’s someone who trains people to be ninjas for hire. Might be someone who got out of the ninja game directly. Might be someone who’s just a standard consultant and realized a lot of ninjas handled their freelance business badly. Never know.

The Sunday Phantom is written by Tony DePaul, just as the weekday ones are. The Sunday strips are drawn by Terry Beatty, who also writes and draws Rex Morgan, M.D..

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

And now the index rose back above the psychologically important 100 barrier. Likely this reflects people’s relief at having that whole index-rises unpleasantness behind them and how we’re just going crazy eating the Valentine’s Day candy while it’s in style.

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Statistics Tuesday: What January Meant For My Humor Blog


And now, just a little late, I get around to reviewing my readership numbers for these parts (and parts of parts) for January (for 2017). It was a well-read month for Another Blog, Meanwhile. It may have shown me my true blogger-calling.

So in January 2017 there were, WordPress says, soem 2,340 page views from 1,361 distinct visitors. That’s way up from December 2016’s 1,396 views from 818 visitors, and November’s 1,219 views from 708 visitors. It’s my most-read month since the Apartment 3-Gocalypse and that time I got named in The Onion AV Club. (This is the sort of complicated, obscure thing I think is a good joke. The AV Club article didn’t name me, even though the article was written by a guy I knew from Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfic-writing, but I used his offhand description of me to give this blog its name. Now that I have explained this you understand why it is appropriate to be amused.)

That fact, and the list of the five most popular articles this past month — four of which got over a hundred page views each! — tells me something important in what people like from me. January’s most-read articles:

Mark Twain I imagine popped up because it’s a pretty good piece people might have heard about but not known where to find. I’m happy to keep them from learning about archive.org if it’s any good to me. The Popeye pinball reappeared because a thread on pinball site Tilt Forums about awful, awful games referred to it. Popeye has a really crazypants backstory you have to see to believe, and then not believe.

But the rest is all me explaining story strips. Just like my Apartment 3-G narration. All told six of the ten most popular essays were explaining story strips. People want to know what’s happening in the story comics, without actually reading the story comics, for which I can’t blame them. I mean, I enjoy them, but they are a lot of padding and reaction shots and repetitions of what was already established and sometimes you just want to know why everyone is all tense today. I’m glad to discover this need and my ability to fill it. It’s just a shame I figure I’ve got two weeks before I run out of newspaper-syndicated story strips. I don’t figure to move on to web comics. There’s too many of them, for one thing, and nothing in Endtown needs explanation until that point two-thirds of the way into a story when it’s impossible to guess what’s going on or why.

Now to page views per country, so far as WordPress tells me anything:

Country Views
United States 1926
Canada 64
United Kingdom 57
France 35
Germany 35
India 29
Australia 23
Ireland 11
Mexico 11
Hong Kong SAR China 10
New Zealand 10
Philippines 10
Italy 8
Spain 8
Sweden 8
Vietnam 8
Netherlands 7
Singapore 6
Trinidad & Tobago 6
Finland 5
Israel 5
Japan 5
Argentina 3
Austria 3
Bangladesh 3
Cambodia 3
Norway 3
Portugal 3
Brazil 2
Egypt 2
Kuwait 2
Poland 2
South Korea 2
Tunisia 2
Armenia 1
Denmark 1
Ecuador 1
El Salvador 1
European Union 1
Kenya 1
Madagascar 1
Mongolia 1
Pakistan 1 (*)
Puerto Rico 1
Russia 1
Serbia 1
Uganda 1
United Arab Emirates 1 (*)

Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates were single-reader countries in December also. No countries are on a three-month single-reader streak. My “European Union” visitor is back, or replaced. I make this out as readers from 48 countries, with the United States strikingly dominant there. 14 single-reader countries. In December there were 42 countries listed altogether, 18 of them single-reader. So I suppose despite appearances the world is getting a little better, at least by that measure.

What else is there to measure … oh. There were 163 pages liked around here in January, up from December’s 137 and November’s 134. There were 39 comments, which doesn’t sound like many for the number of page reads, but that’s better than December’s 20 or November’s 14. I think the secret is to say wrong stuff about the comics and then people will come in to try fixing it.

February started with the page here having got 47,049 page views from some 25,045 distinct viewers or other. And WordPress claims I’ve got 711 followers on WordPress, plus six by e-mail. For at least the third month running the most popular day around here was Tuesday, which got 18 percent of page views. The most popular hour was midnight, 8 percent of page views, just like the last two months. I don’t know why Tuesday should stand out, but it’s only barely standing out.

Anyway, if you’d like to follow me, you’re probably reading this already. But there should be a ‘Follow This Blog’ link, for WordPress or for e-mail, somewhere around here. Probably on the upper part of the page, if I understand the theme right. We’ll see when someone complains I have it wrong.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose two points today and someone pointed out that could be called a “safety”. No dice. The moment is passed.

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