There is not! We all supposed it already. But Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker confirmed that Randy Parker is no longer a judge. It’s hard to see how he could have kept his post, what with disappearing for a year or so to be in hiding with his superspy ex(?)-wife April. But this was, I think, the first time it was said on-screen that he’d been replaced.
Randy’s father, Alan Parker, retired from the judiciary a long while ago to write law thrillers. So there is, for now, no Judge Parker in the strip Judge Parker. It’s looking likely that Randy Parker’s successor, Matt Duncan, may not be in the post much longer. But it’s hard to see how Randy would get the job back given that whole “ran off to be with his fugitive wife for a year” thing in his recent history.
Also, I’m still not sure whether Randy and April are married. Another character referred to April as Randy’s ex-wife, but that may just be the reasonable supposition. I admit I don’t know whether you can get divorced from a fugitive, as April Parker had been for years. I would think it has to be possible; it’s abandonment if nothing else, right? But then I remember my parents teaching young me how to guess who was going to win a case on The People’s Court. Think of which party seems obviously in the right, and take the other side, as there’s usually something in the law that makes the ‘wrong’ thing right. It sets one on a path to a useful cynicism.
Abbey is heartbroken. That her family knew about this and didn’t tell her for months, for one. That her husband thought she might have burned her place down, the more devastating thing. She decides she has to divorce Sam, who accepts the decision.
Amidst all this misery Sophie thinks of revenge. She wants Mayor Stewart to pay for blackmailing Sam. And Ex-Mayor Sanderson to pay for spying on Abbey. She turns to Toni Bowen, former Cavelton reporter and failed mayoral candidate, for advice. Bowen advises to talk to Abbey and Sam first. Revealing the forged video could humiliate Stewart and Sanderson. But it’s going to humiliate the Spencer-Drivers first, and more.
Meanwhile Abbey has decided to sell the Spencer Farms. Yes, they’ve been in her family for generations. But she’s fed up with town and with the complicated set of memories. Especially in the dramatic years since Francesco Marciuliano took over the writing. Sophie calls as Abbey is talking this over with the real estate agent. And then the news breaks. Someone’s told the news media about the doctored video. Abbey suspects Sam, but he’s innocent. It’s Sanderson who broke the news. (This suggests, but doesn’t prove, that he only recently learned of the video.)
This re-energizes Abbey. She cancels the sale and Marciuliano jumps the story ahead a couple months, keeping Abbey and Sam from having to be humiliated by this. Abbey has joined the special race for mayor, becoming the third major character to run for mayor of Cavelton in as many years. (Alan Parker and Toni Bowen made their tries in 2020.) Say what you will about Francesco Marciuliano as a writer: he loves his mayoral elections.
And then, from the 16th of September, we settle in to a new story. And a new kind of story. The divorced(?) Sam Driver has a case, the sort of action-adventure detective stuff he was originally introduced to the strip to do. I don’t know what to expect in this shift. There has been crime drama in the strip before. The two big examples were the kidnapping of Sophie Spencer and her bandmates, and in Marie’s husband faking his death. But none of that was stuff that characters were expected to investigate. They were supposed to live through drama. This is about solving a mystery that the main cast could let pass by.
This story, by the way, involves gun violence and murder, so please consider whether you need that in what has been, for years now, a family-drama soap strip. If you do want to carry on with reading about this in your recreational reading, you’ll find the rest under this cut.
For the second cartoon in this bundle, King Features offered the full credits. Which is odd since this is a Gene Deitch-made cartoon; apart from his name and William Snyder’s we don’t get any credits. The Internet Movie Database offers no insight about who offered the story or animation for 1961’s Disguise The Limit.
I have mentioned mentioned I have no idea how King Features Syndicate chose what cartoons to bundle up where in their YouTube channel. There must have been some deliberation to put two Popeye-the-detective shorts next to one another. I don’t know whether the lack of a third reflects their not having another Popeye-the-detective short. (I do find that Paramount Cartoon Studios made a 1960 short with Disguise The Limit as title, but as far as I know the only common elements are voice actors. There’s also episodes of Courageous Cat And Minute Mouse, Kwicky Koala, Darkwing Duck, and That’s So Raven with the title.)
The introduction sets up another cartoon of Popeye and Brutus competing over a job. In this case, a gorilla’s escaped the city zoo, and they called a detective agency, as one will. Apart from Brutus flirting with Olive Oyl about his plans for the reward money we weren’t told existed, we don’t get that. Instead, once things get going, it’s a mistaken-identity farce. Popeye-and-Brutus competing is an always solid premise. But a good madcap mistaken-identity farce holds a more special place for me.
Brutus and Popeye put on gorilla costumes to go to the zoo and catch the gorilla, as one will. Olive Oyl insists Popeye should dress as a female gorilla, something achieved by putting on a hat “with ribbons yet”. It’s silly, yes, but it also makes the mistaken-identity stuff possible. It almost reads as a joke about how cartoon design treats female as a declension from the male, marked by accessories like hats and perfume. I don’t know that this joke was intended. But I’m amused by it even if it wasn’t put in on purpose.
I like the idea of this cartoon a good bit. Whether it succeeds has to depend on your patience for how everybody gets confused about which gorilla is which. Brutus punching Popeye’s hat off and it happening to land on the actual gorilla makes enough sense for a cartoon for me. Reasonable people can disagree. I’d like the action to have been a little faster, and maybe for one or two more rounds of the characters losing track of who’s a gorilla and who’s in a costume. Maybe if Brutus’s gorilla outfit looked like the others and he wore some prop. But either of these might have made the short too complicated for the intended audience. (Although every time I watch Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July I realize I’m not young enough to understand Winterbolt’s scheming anymore.) Or just demanded too much screen time.
The short has a couple beats that sound like that classic old Popeye muttering, but promoted to front-line dialogue. Like, Popeye planning, if the reward money turns out to exist, to “buy a new hat, I suppose”. Or after noticing the gorilla “bent the bars like they were butter” declaring “We’ll look for a gorilla with butterfingers”. The response doesn’t make sense except as riffing on some already funny words. I like that sort of dialogue, though, and want to encourage cartoons that have it.
King Features has chopped off some or all of the credits the last couple shorts. This was a particularly severe case, with even the title card lost. It’s only the title of the collection on King Features’s YouTube page that makes it clear we’re starting on Private Eye Popeye. The Internet Movie Database tells me this is a 1960 Jack Kinney-produced short, with story by Raymond Jacobs and direction by Rudy Larriva. With that established, let’s watch.
My first watch of this, I hadn’t looked up the credits. I wondered if it might be a Gene Deitch short. The nice moody opening pan across the waterfront, with the music too soft for me to notice first time through, seemed suggestive. And little bits of not-necessary but fun flourishes, like Popeye poking his cleaning rag through his magnifying glass, or the title bar identifying Olive Oyl as a private eyess, seemed like Deitch’s touch. Shows what I know, even after all this time.
A leftover Jimmy Durante caricature claiming to be the police chief assigns Popeye and Olive Oyl to catch diamond smugglers. It’s Brutus and the Sea Hag, of course. Popeye wisely calls on Eugene the Jeep to find the plot. This gets a clever bit of Eugene spelling out ‘DIAMONDS’ with his tail, a message Our Heroes can’t interpret. Brutus locks Popeye in the hold, and hits on Olive Oyl, who hits back. Popeye finds his way into one of those giant deck tubas that ships have in cartoons and silent movies, and holds a gun on Brutus. This feels out of character, as much as it makes sense for “a private eye”. Anyway, the Sea Hag steals the gun and Brutus steals Popeye’s helicopter.
The big action scene here is Popeye clinging to the helicopter while Brutus flies it. The helicopter breaks up and Brutus and Popeye with one propeller each try to grind the other’s propeller to nothing. This is another thing that made me think Gene Deitch: the action is very much what the 1930s theatrical version of this cartoon might be. It’s got that blend of action and danger and absurdity. Popeye eats his spinach, granting super-powers to his propeller blade, and sends Brutus to the sharks below. To be eaten, if we take the text literally, another moment that feels out of character. The Sea Hag’s still loose, but Olive grabs the gun, accidentally shooting down a jar of diamond-encrusted pickles to knock out the Sea Hag. That sounds like gibberish but all the story pieces hold together.
It’s a strongly story-driven cartoon, especially for a Jack Kinney production. I think of his shorts as being more mood pieces. This strong a narrative I’d expect from Paramount or Gene Deitch. It’s a mostly good blend that they have going here. Not sure I like the guns, or the suggestion Brutus has been killed. And the music is the usual for Kinney, a random shuffle of stock cues mixed at the wrong level. But the whole is a successful short. You can see the version of this that might have been made in, oh, 1938, without feeling too bad that it wasn’t.
The blue balloon was something with a secret message that The Pouch was trying to send to an unknown party. We haven’t learned what the message was. Nor who was to receive it. Nor why they shot Pouch over a couple-day delay of it? For this story, at least, it’s a MacGuffin. I expect that it’ll come back later. Staton and Curtis have enjoyed planting things for use months or years later. (But, they have yet to follow up on whatever was haunting the Plenty household years ago, too.)
Aquarius and his drug-dealers in the 1312 Bedwell commune had captured Tiger Lilly. Lilly was there to retrieve a stolen blue balloon for information broker The Pouch. Aquarius, meanwhile, wanted to harass The Pouch for chasing away his dealers such as “Dollar” Bill Dolan. (Pouch’s cover is selling balloons at the zoo, and wants disreputable crime like drug dealing kept away from his scene.) The Pouch had, in fact, told Tiger Lilly to take care of Dollar Bill. Lilly did this by killing Dollar Bill and disposing of his body in the woods. I’m not sure if Aquarius knew or suspected that, though. But that’s where we were in January.
Organic farmer Tim Wildman, evicted from the Bedwell Commune a year ago, gives backstory. The Commune’s organizer, and mansion owner, is Peggy Bellum, paraplegic since a car accident three years ago. Her nephew Aquarius was doted on until the accident, which “changed” him, though he still tends his aunt. But the changes brought drug use, and dealing, into the Commune. Meanwhile, Peggy Bellum’s brother Stephan — handling her money — wants to sell the mansion for “development”, which she can’t refuse hard enough. Stephan tells that Aquarius is drug-dealing, a revelation that convinces Peggy her brother is lying to scare her into selling out. So that’s the people with money or property think about all this.
Where did we get from there? Well, a bunch of parties pursued their own Brilliant Schemes at once. This all makes sense, but it did make the day-to-day action harder to follow.
First party: Tiger Lilly. The Bedford Commune drug dealers caught him and tossed him into the root cellar out back. Not the basement and I’ll explain why that matters. He’s able to break the ropes tying him down. And to break through a ceiling vent (the door is too solid), in front of the cops. I’ll explain why cops are there, too. He doesn’t know that Dick Tracy Jr’s trail cameras spotted his dumping of Dollar Bill’s body. Still, you see why he’d figure he should run. But has the bad luck to try carjacking the truck that B O and Gertie Plenty are canoodling in. So he’s arrested for involuntary manslaughter.
Second party: Pouch. He wants that blue balloon back. He breaks into the basement — not the root cellar — planting a device to release mercaptan. The residents figure it’s a gas leak, and all evacuate. Cheesecake, Aquarius’s girlfriend or possibly wife, takes Peggy Bellum to a hotel to wait the trouble out. Pouch breaks in, finds the balloon, and has to hide while Dick Tracy’s gang searches the place. I’ll explain why they’re there later. But he succeeds, and turns the blue balloon over to his contact. His contact shoots him. This seems like an overreaction even to being days late on the delivery. But we don’t know what the message — seen in black light to be a string of binary digits — was about.
Lucky for Pouch, his titanium wallet deflected the bullet, and park cops noticed and rushed him to the hospital. He won’t say anything about who shot him or why. Less lucky for him, he passes Tiger Lilly on the way out of the hospital. Lilly, reasonably but wrongly thinking Pouch left him for dead, slugs him. (Remember, Pouch couldn’t have seen Lilly, and had assumed Lilly had ditched him.)
Third party: Dick Tracy. He’s got the corpse of Bill Dolan. He and Sam Catchem suspect a link with 1312 Bedwell, since look at those numbers. But the only tie they can find is Tim Wildman. He’s an organic farmer who gave Catchem the tip that the Bedwell Commune was even in this story. He’s glad to give them backstory about the Commune and his eviction from it. Tracy figures there’s at least enough to do a wellness check, in case there’s any abuse of a disabled person going on. And a stray witness is able to tell Tracy and Catchem that Pouch is in this story too, so they hope to interrogate him.
Tracy arrives at 1312 Bedwell with the representative from Child and Family Services. In case you wonder why marginalized people will refuse the civil benefits to which they’re entitled for their protection. They all get there as Tiger Lilly escapes the root cellar. Also, by coincidence, shortly after Pouch sets off his mercaptan bomb.
So. Pouch is able to hide from the cops, and gets to his appointment to be shot. Tiger Lilly escapes his confinement, only to get clobbered by B O and Gertie Plenty and arrested. Ty, the drug dealer who took up Dollar Bill’s beat, comes back to the house in time to get arrested. And while they’ll get to interrogate Pouch in the hospital, he won’t say anything about anything.
Anyway, with Peggy declaring she’ll revoke the power of attorney given Stephan, Grubbard acts. This in drugging Peggy Bellum (and incidentally Cheesecake). His brilliant plan: smother Peggy Bellum, let Stephan inherit all the money, and then abscond with the money to Bogota. It feels like an improvised execution. Aquarius’s unexpected visit to his aunt foils it, starting a fight that Tracy and company are luckily on hand to interrupt.
So this gets things resolved as well as they could. Tiger Lilly’s arrested for manslaughter. The cops would like to ask Pouch about his “I am innocent of the crimes you are investigating” T-shirt but he refers them to his T-shirt. Oscar Grubbard’s arrested for assault and attempted murder. Most of the 1312 Bedwell residents get charged with drug possession or trafficking. Aquarius also gets a false imprisonment charge. The strip doesn’t specify if this means imprisoning Tiger Lilly or imprisoning Peggy Bellum. Peggy Bellum donates the house “to charity”, and moves in with Tim Wildman.
I’m sympathetic to people who didn’t follow the story as it unfolded. There are a lot of threads, and they were woven together. And the plans of some parties interrupted plans of others. If you have a GoComics membership I recommend going back and rereading it all at once, though. The pieces do fit together well. It’s easy to imagine this as a competing-capers-gone-wrong movie.
So the 11th of April finished off that story. The current story began last week, the 12th of April. Abner Kadaver, back from the dead, breaks his accomplice Rikki Mortis out of jail. That’s as much as I can tell you now.
Ocean County Library Card. I haven’t lived in Ocean County, New Jersey, for 27 months. Even my parents don’t live there anymore. It’s nearly a thousand miles away and while I do sometimes return to it the chance I will be seized with an urgent need to borrow a book while in the area and couldn’t just use the Rutgers library instead seems pretty small. Verdict: Yes, needs to be kept.
Loyalty Card, Subway chain, New York Yankees design style. Acquired in April of 2012 again in Ocean County, New Jersey. Yankees pattern might arouse a low-level grumbling from the people who could, theoretically, spit in my egg-and-cheese flatbread sandwich if I took my eyes off them and they were particularly devoted fans of the Detroit Tigers or such other teams that aren’t the Yankees. Loyalty points never redeemed. The last time I attempted to use it was in Trenton while trying to buy some cookies in early 2013, which resulted in the discovery that the Trenton-area Subway didn’t respect the loyalty cards of the Ocean County-area Subway shops. This also implies that if I did try using it in mid-Michigan I might just get slugged. Verdict: set it on the dresser underneath where I keep my wallet so it’ll be on hand whenever I might go out and possibly need it.
MTA subway card. Goodness knows when I’m going to find myself in Manhattan or Brooklyn or maybe some other borough if New York City still has them anymore and I might need to get to the Port Authority and I’m certainly not going to go buying another card when my old one still has easily $7.35 on it. Verdict: Definitely keep. Maybe get another just in case.
Loyalty Card, Panera Bread. With my track record of buying stuff from Panera Bread sometimes four, maybe even six times per year it would be foolish to give this up. I’ve surely worked my way nearly to getting a free small coffee or whatever is going on. Verdict: Move to the little plastic-covered pouch up front where it’s more accessible than even my driver’s license.
Little Metal Tab Containing A Combination Lock’s Default Code.Verdict: absolutely keep, for the overwhelming sentimental value.
Movie Ticket Stubs. Granted the risk is small that a genially cranky police officer from a pulp series of detective fiction, under the belief that I am a world-renowned jewel thief who’s only pretending to go straight even though I keep solving miscellaneous non-jewel-related crimes for him, will demand to know my alibi for the late afternoon of the 14th of August this year, but if he does then I can suavely pull out the receipt showing I bought tickets to see the Rifftrax version of Godzilla, and thus come under greater suspicion because why would I be able to answer where I was and what I was doing unless I were covering up my participation in the Tubbsworth National Bank heist, anyway? Similarly for the times I saw Frozen, Star Trek Into Darkness and Lincoln. Verdict: talk with my old pal Alan the fence who’s working the pawn shop down on the waterfront and get myself kidnapped by the actual bank robbers who’re figuring to put an end to my meddling, and Jeanette, give me three hours and telephone the Inspector to report I just left for the laundry just opposite the bank.
Discover Card. Originally put in the wallet just in case I find myself at the Great Adventure theme park, where the card offers a discount on buying expensive but tolerable pizza and soda, and to draw the pleading attention of the Discover Card Corporation, which really wants me to use it for stuff and things, like, you know? Verdict: Leave in the little cubby-hole on the nightstand and try to plug my ears at night so the desperation of the card, wanting so much to be used for something, anything, doesn’t deprive me of sleep.
Curiously Sandy Grit of Some Kind. Possibly sand, possibly dust, possibly unused coffee grounds, possibly industrial-grade diamond chips. Verdict: attempt to clean out, only to find it’s impossible to clean this kind of wallet.
There are many ways that you can become a giant, here defined as a person fifty or more feet tall, or long while lying down. The easiest is to be born as one, of course, although many mothers protest this for the obvious reason, that it’s harder to fit the giant toddler into preschool programs. Next is to fall through a portal into an alternate universe in which the general scale of things is different, but this has its hazards as the flow of time might be different and you might be stuck in a dopey cartoon of some kind. Being the subject of an experimental gigantification ray is a convenient approach for people who are looking to work with their local mad scientist, or if they prefer the equivalent there’s magic spells that are poorly understood. Surely the most exciting method of becoming a giant is to take a job as a self-trained scientific detective, find one can’t use the magnifying glass to find clues correctly, and go stumbling into gigantism thusly. The important thing isn’t how you become a giant, it’s that you try.