What’s Going On In Judge Parker? Where did Randy Parker vanish to? March – June 2021


We don’t know! The past few months of Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker saw a crazification, where what had been a stable arrangement blew up. It’s too soon to say where Randy Parker, April Parker, and their daughter Charlotte are. Nor whether they’re going to run into Ted Forth and shock him by being The Chadwells.

This should catch you up to early June 2021. If you’re reading this after about September 2021, or any news about the strip breaks, I’ll try to have an essay at this link which might help you more.

Judge Parker.

14 March – 5 June 2021.

Charlotte Parker was seeing her mother walk by the house every day. This perturbed her father, Randy Parker, because April was off in Super Hyper Ultra Duper Spy Assassin World. It’s a dangerous world, one in which we’re likely to run into Norton, even though April Parker said on-screen that he’s dead. (Norton will never be dead.) Retired Judge Alan Parker asked Sam Driver to check. Is April Parker lurking around her (ex?)-husband’s home, and if so, why? And this leads to a day in which everything happens at once.

Deputy Mayor Stewart: 'It's just ... you had some properties reassessed at almost double their previous value. Properties that belonged to your opponent's supporters.' Mayor Sanderson: 'It's been a helluva real estate market the last year, Stewart! People had to expect to pay more property taxes.' Stewart: 'You also have Spencer Farms paying triple in taxes from last year.' Sanderson: 'They put a B-and-B on their property. Last year there was no business. But with the pandemic nearing a hopeful end, the value has changed.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 24th of March, 2021. Abbey Spencer has to spend some part of her day wondering why Mayor Sanderson isn’t always dealing with never-suspected evil half-siblings and ultra-hyper-super-duper assassins and drug-dealer starlets and stuff, right? Why does he get to just sit back and do Stephen Colbert Eyebrow Push-Ups at his staff?

The easy stuff, first. Cavelton’s reelected crazypants mayor Phil Sanderson sent out the new property taxes. They include punitive tax hikes on his political opponents, such as Abbey Spencer. This seems like something one could challenge in court. But Sanderson’s already looking ahead to his third term in office. Also to changing the town laws so he can serve a third term. Deputy Mayor Stewart, who I bet has a second name, takes this news with a sequence of faces of pouty concern.

[ While on a stakeout, Sam gets a call from ... ] Sam: 'Neddy! That's wonderful news!' Neddy: 'I KNOW! I can't believe Ronnie's and my show is actually going to series! IT WILL ACTUALLY BE STREAMING FOR ACTUAL PEOPLE TO SEE!' Sam: 'Which channel?' Neddy ;'A new streaming service called Plus+!' (Silent penultimate panel.) Sam: 'Please excuse the silence, but I wasn't sure if you were joking with that name or ... ' Neddy: 'I know. I can't even find the app on Roku. But who cares?!? IT'S ALL HAPPENING!!!'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 4th of April, 2021. “It’s all happening”; hold that thought.

Second, and happy news: Neddy Spencer and Ronnie Huerta’s series got picked up! The show is based on what they imagine the April Parker/Godiva Danube relationship was like. It’s to run on a streaming service that exists in the minds of its investors. Still, a show credit is a show credit. They call that in to home as everything else explodes.

Now the explosions. Almost all the past three months of Judge Parker took place over a single day. Sam Driver, staking out Randy’s home, sees who he thinks is April Parker. He chases her, until a bicyclist accidentally collides with him. The bicyclist has nothing to do with anything and is happy to leave when the woman draws a knife on him. The woman is not April Parker. She’s Rogue Agent Strand, former partner to Norton and a woman who looks rather like April.

[ As an unconscious Sam lies on the street ... Randy wants the full truth ... ] Randy Parker: 'How did you just happen to be here the moment I realized 'Agent Strand' was outside my house? The moment Sam showed up?' April: 'I ... I still have you tapped. I have everyone tapped. I've been tracking the CIA's movements for months.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 3rd of May, 2021. “Really? You have Randy Parker and the CIA tapped?” ponders The Phantom, pausing between his jobs as protector and fair arbiter of the Bangallan natives, and the Unknown Commander of the Jungle Patrol, and the globetrotting terrorist-fighting super-vigilante who answers letters sent to Box 7, Mawitaan. “That’s a lot of cognitive overhead you’re putting on yourself there. Is that really a plausible workload for a human being? Really?”

Meanwhile inside Randy’s house is April Parker. She and Randy have a furious argument about how this does too make sense. April’s thesis is that the CIA is going to capture her by killing Randy and kidnapping Charlotte. Strand, who needs back in the CIA Good Graces file, is there to provide credible sightings of April Parker. April can then be framed for the murder of Randy and kidnapping of Charlotte. And this would leave April with no contact with her former life. Unless she turned herself in and revealed everything she’s learned in her rogue super-agent days. The only way for Randy to live, and Charlotte to be free, is to abandon their lives now and join April on the super-assassin circuit.

It’s a lot to swallow. And Randy’s under a lot of pressure. Like, everybody in the world is calling him at once. You tried calling him. If I have two phone calls in a day I’m useless until next Tuesday. The pressure keeps up. “They” get cited as closing in. April insists they must go now. Here the fact that story comics only get two or three panels a day fights the drama. This whole scene takes a month and a half of reader time to finish. It allows for unwanted giggles about April’s insistence they don’t have much time. In-universe, yes. I think you could do Randy and April’s whole scene in as little as five minutes. But, especially with the cutaways to everyone calling or driving to the scene? It was hard to feel the rush day-by-day.

Randy: 'Why ... why would they take Charlotte?' April: 'As leverage to draw me out! They want me dead, but they want my intel on others, too. So ... listen ... ' Randy: 'What?' April: 'I don't hear a sound coming from Charlotte's room.'
Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker for the 6th of May, 2021. Charlotte’s okay! She’s just scared by all this arguing about whether the plot makes sense so she hid a while. Nothing to worry about.

Sam Driver recovers consciousness and races back to Randy’s house. He and Abbey Spencer converge inside, in time to be surrounded by police. Who called them? Unknown. (I’d guess the bicyclist, if it isn’t someone in on the conspiracy.) Where are Randy and April and Charlotte? Unknown. Randy gave his father a quick choking good-bye call and left behind … everything.

The 31st of May saw another several-month time jump, a common Marciuliano response to having crazyfied the story. Randy and Charlotte and April Parker are all missing still. The police and the CIA questioned Sam Driver and everybody they could find. But none of them know anything about anything. That’s about where we readers stand too. (Among other things we don’t know whether anyone in authority believes Sam and all know nothing.) And Sam’s feeling guilty about failing Alan Parker.

How does this all develop? If the pattern follows, we’ll see a couple weeks of rationalizing and stepping back from the craziest parts of what just happened. I can’t guess whether that involves showing Randy and Charlotte Parker. Or showing everyone else reacting to their absence.

Next Week!

Roy Thomas and Larry Leiber’s The Amazing Spider-Man draws nearer to the end of my coverage, but does so in style. By “in style” I mean “with Rocket Raccoon mocking Peter Parker a lot”. Hope to see you next week, True Believers!

What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? Have they hired new cartoonists yet? January – April 2020


Nope, no cartoonists yet. We’re still rerunning a Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber story from 2015-16. If the story will repeat in full, then it will end in the middle of June. The following story would be a team-up with Doctor Strange to fight Xandu. I have not heard anything about hiring a new creative team. Given the lead time needed for comics that run on Sundays, I expect this means the strip is not leaving reruns anytime soon.

If I get any news, I will post it in an essay at this link, where you can find other plot recaps for The Amazing Spider-Man. At least until I decide that rerun Spidey has had enough of my attention.

The Amazing Spider-Man.

27 January – 18 April 2020.

Namor, the Sub-Mariner, ruler of Atlantis, is condemning the surface world for its crimes against the oceans again. He’s not exactly wrong, again. He has noticed this Mary Jane Parker is a feisty woman-type and wants to marry her. Namor declares he’ll take her as a princess anytime she wants, and heads off to make war on the world’s shipping. Mary Jane kind of swoons, thinking she might talk him out of this round of condemning the surface world and all.

News: 'The cargo vessel was sunk at the Sub-Mariner's command!' Peter: 'And you thought Namor wouldn't sink any ships!' Mary Jane: 'At least he let everyone reach a lifeboat. If only I could talk to him!' Peter, chewing down on a cob of corn: 'Hey, just because he proposed to you doesn't mean you could change his mind!'
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 2nd of February, 2020. (Ahem.) “Gosh, what corny dialogue!” I’ll see myself out.

Atlantis starts sinking ships, although gently, to avoid loss of life at first. And then Water Force One, carrying Namor, shows up at the East River docks. Namor’s come to scold the United Nations. And he’s brought along an adorable water moppet. He’s Pharus, a kid who’s contracted Backstory Syndrome, suffering from human pollution and doomed never to recover. Namor says the Atlantean hospitals can’t help him. Spidey asks, well, why not try human hospitals? They’re sure to do great with a non-human child who can’t breathe air without taking an oxygen pill and who’s got all the symptoms of mer-consumption. As they punch each other, Mary Jane kidnaps Pharus. With the help of Dr Liz Bellman she gets him away from the Atlantean guards and over to Metro General Hospital.

Atlantean Guard: 'HALT or we open fire!' Mary Jane, holding a terrified Atlantean boy in her arms: 'Please, I'm trying to save this boy!' Pharus: 'LET ME GO!' Guard: 'Namor ordered us to guard the lad.' Other Guard: 'You leave us no choice ... ' Dr Bellman, swinging a stick that cracks open the guard's helmet, so his water spills out: 'There's always a choice, little boy blue!' Shocked guard: 'WHAT IN NEPTUNE'S NAME?'
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 16th of March, 2020. The art in the newspaper Spider-Man strip, at least its last decades, was mostly serviceable. But I appreciate that, by luck or design, in that first panel there Pharus’s face perfectly captures that moment when everything is spinning out of control into something new and horrifying and bad. It’s amazing to think that it was drawn well before 2016.

Namor tosses Spider-Man into the water, where they can fight on the Sub-Mariner’s home lack-of-ground. Mary Jane scolds Namor, who says there’s no reason for him to keep fighting now that he’s beaten. Namor accepts Mary Jane’s answer to where Pharus went, and then heads to the United Nations, in session.

He informs the assembled heads of state that he’s taking over the seas. If the surface-dwellers keep control, after all, Earth will soon be dead. It’s a complaint he’s made before and, again, he’s not exactly wrong. He gives the United Nations one day to figure out how it’s going to fix pollution and that’s it. And then he leaves, before anyone can stop him. And almost before Spider-Man wakes up again.

Robbie Robertson: 'How can you think Spider-Man's IN LEAGUE with Namor, when Peter's photos show the Atlantean dragging him in the water?' Jameson: 'Pictures can lie, Robbie. I say the two of them headed underwater to avoid witnesses while they plotted strategy!'
Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 10th of April, 2020. I don’t read the comic books, except that one where the “I don’t want to cure cancer, I want to turn people into dinosaurs” meme came from, and I’m an estimated sixteen Spider-Man movies behind current. Am I correct in supposing, though, that when Robinson feels things are a little slow he just tosses out, like, three names and a place to hear Jameson’s conspiracy theory for Spider-Man connecting them? If not, then I am happy to sell this scene to Marvel Entertainment Products LLC for a reasonable rate, inquire within.

Well, at least Peter Parker can sell some pictures of Spider-Man fighting with Namor. J Jonah Jameson is delighted to have proof that Spider-Man and Namor are in a state of cahootery. While Jameson explains his reasoning, though, the still-woozy Peter Parker faints. Parker says he got hit by debris during the fight. Jameson sees a chance to rush to Metro General Hospital. Which turns out to be a lucky break: Peter Parker mentions that’s where Mary Jane said the Atlantean boy was. So now Jameson figures to prowl around the hospital until he finds Pharus.


Will Jameson, and Spider-Man, find the Atlantean boy? Will there be some act of human kindness that melts Namor’s hardened heart? Will the surface world remain in control of the seas? Will there be an astounding link to the policewoman Betty Dean who headed off the Sub-Mariner’s destruction of the surface world in 1940? Will Scrooge become a second father to the boy, who did not die? There are two ways to find out, one of them coming back here around mid-July and the other looking at late 2015 and early 2016 on Comics Kingdom. Your choice.

Next Week!

Eh, nothing much. What’s Moo with you?

Suddenly Clickbait Gets Me Worried


So then I saw this ad.

Picture of a guy standing in a cemetery with the headline 'Surprising Look At Who's Going Bankrupt In America'

Um … who … uh … is it dead people? Dead people are going bankrupt at surprising rates? What rate of dead-person bankruptcy wouldn’t be surprising? I mean, dead people may have few expenses but they’ve got no income and over a long enough time, you know, these things add up. Or is it cemetery caretakers? Maybe … groundskeepers who look kind of like they’re wearing a Post Office shirt? I’m confused by all this.

Well, meanwhile, my mathematics blog has some more comic strips to talk about. And also remember last week I wrote about conspiracy theories and this one where the Illuminati had Whitney Houston killed? I’m not saying this Vulture article was a coincidence, but when’s the last time you saw a mention of Whitney Houston an the Illuminati in the same essay? Just linking.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Traders don’t see what’s so funny about this after the index lost another five points overnight when they were being so reasonable about it all..

90

The Triangle Code


My love and I were talking about the Pythagoreans because that’s the kind of people we are. Also because the Pythagoreans are interesting. They have that mix of philosophical and mathematical ideas fused into something too nutty for Ancient Greece to put up with. It’s hard to be sure we know much about the Pythagoreans that’s true and not the result of people making fun of them.

Thing is, Pythagoras must have had something going for him. Remember, he was able to tell people he could write on the moon, appear in many places at once, and show off a golden thigh in the Olympics. And he still got followers. Most of us couldn’t lie about our cell phone’s camera resolution and get anyone to believe it. Maybe he was just that charismatic; maybe he had a good organization behind him.

There’s stories that Pythagoras had children. Maybe that’s a pious myth from his followers, attributing all the cult’s children to him. Maybe he figured he had a mass of children inside the Sun. Maybe he actually did, though. Maybe there’s, even now, people directly descended from Pythagoras out there. What’s got me is that after Pythagoras’s cult got broken up, possibly by running them into beans, that’s the last we hear of them. There’s no sad little attempt to put the gang back together led by his son or some fan who figured the thing just needed better presentation. It’s just gone.

Or is it? What if the Pythagoreans just went underground, building their number in the strictest of secrecy? And then working to alter the world to their liking? They might pull stunts like rejiggering the way we write numbers so that it’s based on “ten” or pushing the idea that the planets move around the sun. We realized we’ve got the seeds here for a nice and stupid Dan Brown-esque novel here. And every time we need comic relief just stuff in one of those stories people keep telling about the Pythagoreans.

This got me thinking about conspiracy theories. Why do people like secret-masters-of-the-world conspiracy theories? The traditional answer is that the world is big and scary and looks crazy most of the time. But if some secret organization is manipulating everything to their benefit, well, all right. It may make no sense but at least there’s some plan behind it all.

A couple months back I heard of a conspiracy theory behind Whitney Houston’s death. Apparently she said something about the Illuminati while appearing on Ellen and they got her for it. And that’s got me wondering. Suppose the theory’s true. That implies someone found the Illuminati and thought joining the secret rulers of the world was a great idea. And the guy went through the intense screening and interview process. Think what his résumé must have looked like. Think of his getting letters of reference from imaginary people so far as anyone can prove. The guy showed up for the first day of Illuminati work — imagine what the paperwork is like! — and watched all the training and harassment and drug policy videos. And then after all that, he gets his first assignment. And it’s “watch the daytime talk shows in case popular singers mention the Illuminati”. And he couldn’t even complain to people about the lousy job he’s got. He knows he’s monitored by the guy in Secret Cubicle SOC1-L7-07A. (The cubicles go right from SOC1-L7-07 to SOC1-L7-08 without an ‘A’ in-between.) And that guy’s fed up with IlluminaTwitter notifications.

OK, maybe some super-technological monitoring system means they don’t have to watch everything. Maybe their IlluminaComputer tells them when someone said something too much. That means there’s secret rulers of society having meetings about whether the time has come to kill Whitney Houston. Maybe the appeal of conspiracies is the fantasy of being part of an organization that has purposeful meetings.

I mean, you never do hear about someone who joins into the secret conspiracy ruling humanity, and finds it’s full of the same petty office politics and dreary paperwork and meaningless action as anyone else’s job is. Though in that circumstance, you know, well-done.

Confidential to guy in SOC1-L7-07A: I’m not saying the Illuminati have any connection to the Pythagoreans. I know you guys brand around a pyramid, which is a completely different kind of triangle, unless you imagine folding it in half. I’m not looking for any trouble. I only watch Ellen when someone left it on at the vet’s office. And I didn’t even realize Whitney Houston had died. I guess she did. That would be a weird thing to fake, unless she was needed in some secret bean work.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose three points today, reaching our FM radio home of just the hits of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, and today. We think the station was abandoned years ago and someone left their iPod on shuffle.

104

Capsule Dream Movie Reviews: Circle of Blue


Look, it’s really effective when that amusement park scenic-railroad ride dives under the surface and turns into an impossibly long trail leading Night Court‘s Dan Fielding into the discovery of the shadowy conspiracy and their fiendish machine that’s apparently setting up to destroy the world. It’s just that Circle of Blue as a title seems way off-point for a Muppet movie that as far as I can tell doesn’t even have any Muppets in it.

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