What’s Going On In Mary Worth? Why does Saul Wynter have a teenage daughter? March – June 2020


She is not Saul Wynter’s daughter. She’s just watching her for a guy he kind of knows. You might need more to catch up on Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth. This essay should get you to mid-June 2020. If you’re reading this after about September 2020 there’s probably a more up-to-date plot recap at this link, along with any news I have about the comic. And in the meanwhile, I look at mathematically-themed comic strips on my other blog. And now, let’s catch up.

Mary Worth.

16 March – 7 June 2020

Dawn Weston had been long-distance dating Hugo Lambert du Vichyssoise sur l’écureuil, quelque cherchez de la plume verte, Bureau des Passeports. He’s a preposterous, proud Frenchman. You may know him from turning every conversation, including those about neodymium, around to the greatness of France. Thing is, France is pretty far away. And right on hand is Jared Mylo. She knew him from a summer job. He’s a tolerable enough nerd. They go to movies and diners together.

[ When Jared impulsively kisses Dawn ] Dawn pulls back. Jared: 'Dawn, I'm sorry! I'm in love with you!'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 23rd of March, 2020. Crow T Robot: “That’s all right, I’m sorry you’re in love with me too!”

Dawn and Jared hang out, more and more. And it starts to get Serious. At least, Jared does, moving in for a kiss and confessing his love. And Dawn admits she’s fallen for him. So that all sounds nice and great for them. What about Hugo?

Things brings Mary Worth back into the strip for a session of “What’s wrong with you, Dawn?” She tells Dawn she has to be honest with Hugo and Jared, which, I agree with. What I’m vague on here is why she has to make a particular decision. Not that I am suggesting a polycule in the hallowed pages of Mary Worth. I’ve seen many once-absurd things become acceptable in my time; heck, in the last two weeks. But I know there are limits. No, I mean, as far as I can tell, Dawn’s dating two guys, and she hasn’t made any promises of exclusivity to either. If Hugo or Jared don’t insist on an exclusive dating relationship, then, why decide now? Let it roll. See who you like after having a fourth date.

Luckily, Dawn has the chance for a date with Hugo. His company wants him in New York for a week, and she’s free, what with her … just … I think she’s in college? Oh, I guess she manages it during Spring Break. Also, yeah, Mary Worth is using the “let’s pretend the pandemic isn’t happening” approach to handling the biggest and most society-changing event of the millennium so far. So far all the story comics except Judge Parker are carrying on as though things were normal. Yes, this includes Rex Morgan, M.D., and yes, that’s daft.

[ As Dawn and Hugo sightsee in New York City ] They walk along a boulevard, past a Star Wars shop that Dawn's interested in and Hugo is not. At a restaurant Hugo declares, 'Good bouillabaisse, but NOT as good as in Marseille!' At Hamilton, Dawn thinks, 'I'm in an amazing city with a handsome, sophisticated man ... why aren't I happy?'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 19th of April, 2020. It’s a good question. Who wouldn’t be happy going to a performance of Hamilton and being seated right next to the late Ed Wynn? I’d worry that Dawn doesn’t know how to be happy.

Dawn agrees to meet Hugo in New York City, though. She tells Jared that she needs to talk with Hugo face-to-face. Jared, with reason, worries that she’ll never leave Hugo after seeing him in person again. Hugo and Dawn have a fine time in New York City, going around looking at stuff. “Oh, your Empire State Building is fine, but we have a much nicer Empire State Building in Lyons.” “Coney Island is thrilling for those who can’t visit Festyland in Normandy.” As he explains how Paris has a much nicer Statue of Liberty Dawn realizes she’d have more fun with Jared.

So she owns up, admitting her feelings for Jared. And Hugo takes it great. He’s got feeling for someone else, Chloe whom we the readers saw implied months ago. Of course they can still be friends. And he’d still like her to visit him in Paris this summer. Bring Jared along. Dawn is so happy to be let off the hook she doesn’t wonder when Hugo was going to mention he was dating someone else. Of course not; Hugo made up Chloe on the spot to give Dawn a graceful way out of their relationship. He’s just that French, you know? (This means nothing and I’m making up that Chloe was made-up.)

Dawn flies home. She doesn’t think to tell Jared that she broke up with Hugo. To be fair, to tell him would need her to have some means of rapidly communicating with people a great distance away. So Jared spends a week in suspense while we readers wonder, like, Dawn couldn’t text “can’t wait to see you in seven hours”? I never turn my phone on and I haven’t answered an e-mail since 2014 and I’m better than that.

[ As Jared wonders ] Jared, wondering 'You said you have feelings for me. Now that you've seen Hugo again, does that still hold true?' [ Dawn boards her plane to return to Santa Royale ] Dawn does as described.
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 5th of May, 2020. Jared, thinking: “Without Dawn even my hobby of piling up small flat-screen TVs brings me no joy!”

So that’s all sorted by the 15th of May. The 16th of May starts the traditional stretch of thanking Mary Worth for her Tuxedo Mask-esque contribution to the story. Dr Jeff takes the lead. But then Dawn comes around to say how she was right to pick Jared over Hugo. I disagree, myself. Jared’s pleasant enough but Hugo has a nice home-grown cartoonishness that makes him fun to play off. Dawn talks about how she felt about having feelings for a long while. And she talks about Jared’s good qualities long enough to make us ask who she’s trying to convince. But she finally gets that out of her system by the 31st of May.


The start of June starts the new story. It’s about Saul Wynter, delightfully cranky old man with a young dog Mary Worth made him get. His cousin, who I bet has a name, has died. Her bereaved husband Lyle needs help. The Company is sending him to Venezuela, to take part in a hilariously incompetent coup attempt against Nicolás Maduro. But who’s to look after his kid, Madi, who’s going through the phase of young-teenage life where she looks kind of like she might be in the new Heart of the City?

[ As Saul Wynter talks to his distant relative ... ] Saul: 'My late cousin was like a sister to me before she moved to the midwest.' Lyle, on the phone: 'Her passing has been hard. Especially because my late mother-in-law took care of Madi.' Panel showing Madi, staring at her phone and cursing. Saul: 'How is Madi? I haven't seen her since she was a toddler.'
Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth for the 3rd of June, 2020. Yes, structural demands — mostly that people who missed a day or two can pick up the plot — require emphasizing that Saul’s cousin has died. But in-universe Saul Wynters has only just learned that she did die. So if you read the dialogue literally it comes out all weird, even though it shouldn’t. That Lyle immediately mentions his “late” mother-in-law, again, needed for in-cluing readers. And any other phrasing comes off as callous (“my dead mother-in-law”) or worsens the wall of text (“mother-in-law took care of Madi until she died”). I’m not sure there is a graceful way out of this other than not reading the strip with hyper-attentive focus and just accepting the conventions of the medium.

So after protestations, Saul Wynter agrees to take in a 13-year-old for summer. Or until Lyle can be exchanged for a Venezuelan spy. Or Venezuela agreeing not to switch oil contract denominations from dollars to euros. I’m looking forward to this story. We’ll see where it goes.

Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!

  • “Your friend is your needs answered.” — Khalil Gibran, 15 March 2020.
  • “Although I may try to describe love, when I experience it, I am speechless.” — Rumi, 22 March 2020.
  • “Rare as is a true love, true friendship is rarer.” — Jean de la Fontaine, 28 March 2020. (Bonus Saturday quote!)
  • “Came but for friendship, and took away love.” — Thomas Moore, 29 March 2020.
  • “Follow your heart and make it your decision.” — Mia Hamm, 5 April 2020.
  • “One thing I want you to understand is if I make a decision, it’s my decision.” — Mike Singletary, 12 April 2020.
  • “Love and doubt have never been on speaking terms.” — Kahlil Gibran, 19 April 2020.
  • “Honesty is the best policy.” — Benjamin Franklin, 26 April 2020.
  • “We must let go of the life we planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” — Joseph Campbell, 3 May 2020.
  • “Choose your love. Love your choice.” — Thomas S Monson, 10 May 2020.
  • “Familiar acts are beautiful through love.” — Percy Bysshe Shelley, 17 May 2020.
  • “Love is a friendship set to music.” — Joseph Campbell, 24 May 2020.
  • “Love is the only constant, the only reality, and when you accept and understand that you will know it.” — Frank Natale, 31 May 2020.
  • “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.” — Elon Musk, 7 June 2020. (He didn’t actually say this, but he paid a bunch of money to the person who did in order to take over credit for saying it.)

Next Week!

I’m supposed to have an easy time! See if I have an essay on
Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom (Sundays) done more than 45 minutes before deadline!
It’s going to be close.

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


[ Edited the 15th of May, 2017 to add: ] I’m grateful you see this site as a place to learn what’s going on in Mary Worth. My most recent story summaries should be at or near the top of this link’s essays, if you are looking for the current or for more recent stories than this post has.


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.

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