Henry Barajas has brought a different style of writing to his and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. Compared to the Neal Rubin era the stories are much less linear, with many characters having stuff going on at once. And Barajas has an apparent desire to set everyone up with a host of issues. The combination has made the strip — already having a reputation for jumping around, because it often changed scene during a day’s strip — seem more unfocused.
So things are still going on, and the story threads are more obvious when read a week or more at a time. This may be inconvenient for people who can only read Gil Thorp in the newspaper, but, c’mon. People doing that aren’t reading my blog, anyway. Still, Barajas may need more experience with providing background or reminders in the text. It’s a hard thing to do. Science fiction fans call it “incluing” and the daily story strips are a master challenge in doing that well.
So this should catch you up to about mid-December 2022 in Gil Thorp. There is probably a more up-to-date plot recap at this link, if you’re reading this after about March 2023. Or if news about the strip happens, I’ll post it here. Now back to the sports pages.
26 September – 10 December 2022.
It’s Coach Kaz’s last season with Milford, we learned as I did my last recap. They hope for a good one, especially as Valley Tech’s Coach Luke Martinez has some bizarre, passionate rivalry with a guy who barely knows who he is. But whose kids get along great with his kids.
Meanwhile, Milford’s been having a good season for the boys football team. After losing the first game the team would go on to a string of of wins, including two wins in a row against Madison, somehow. I assume this was an editing mistake but never saw it explained. Centerpiece for the season — and what I imagine Neal Rubin would have made the focus of the season — is Tobias Gordon. His soccer talent leads Thorp and Kaz to naming him a kicker, and over the season he transitions to being a linebacker. GoComics commenters say this is an improbable turn of events, but I don’t know any better.
Gordon’s progression draws media attention, as he is the first (open) transgender male athlete in Milford football. Early on some of the athletes complain about how Coach Thorp “went and got woke”, talk a win streak squelches. I appreciate the choice to portray treating transgendered people as people as the winning course. But it does carry an undercurrent of “respecting human rights will be profitable” rather than “is what decent people do”. Still, Milford enjoys a good season and is — this week — facing Valley Tech and Coach Martinez in the finals.
Speaking of Martinez. After one of Valley Tech’s wins Martinez describes what his issue is with Gil Thorp. It goes back to the Valley Tech/Milford game of 1987, when he was playing. It was a hard-fought game, and Valley Tech won. But the local press reported on how “Coach Thorp Ends Season Strong”. And now Martinez is out to right that historical wrong.
Thorp goes to the videotape, literally, finding Matty Moon’s broadcast of the playdown game. We see Emmett Tays, whose story of Thorp’s coaching a different game lead Barajas’s tenure, trying to shake off Martinez. Marty Moon seems to toss to commercial mid-play. Even I know that doesn’t happen. What was going on was a light break of the fourth wall, providing space for Gil Thorp’s celebration of Charles Schulz’s 100th birthday. Still was weird reading it the day before.
Anyway, the game was a rough one. Tays sure seems to have done something foul-worthy against Martinez. But Tays fumbles the last play, letting Martinez save the game for Valley Tech. In the 1987 postgame interview Martinez says he hopes “Coach Thorp knows one thing … I’m coming for your spot, Thorp”. Which … doesn’t quite satisfy me? It doesn’t seem to me like Thorp did anything particular besides be the coach he beat in the playdowns. Fixations can be weird, though, and small incidents can curdle in one’s mind.
Other stuff going on. Keri Thorp is having a rough time of it. The school has a mass-shooter drill, with the simulated shooter holding Keri’s class. This is less traumatic than an actual aggrieved white supremacist with a gun collection coming into the classroom, but that’s all. On top of that trauma is a fellow student’s death, identified as “the third overdose this semester”. Three seems very high to me, especially given it was only November, but I understand high school has changed since I was in it.
Dorothy, who’s been bullying Keri (cropping her out of team photos, for example), mocks her for tearing up over this. Kari punches Dorothy, getting her sentenced to counseling through December. I know high school hasn’t changed to much that the worst offense of all is punching a bully. (Many commenters pointed out two years ago we saw a kid expelled for bringing a bread knife in to spread peanut butter on a bagel. Actual violence getting a “talk with someone ineffective” punishment seems like inconsistent standards.)
And in the most important non-student relationship bit of business: Gil Thorp asks Mimi if she wants a divorce. She says she does not, and that she’ll always love him. It doesn’t make their relationship any easier. And I don’t believe Mimi has yet owned up to how her mother is months away from death (and encouraging Mimi to leave Gil). That’s surely a heavy strain that Gil Thorp can’t anticipate or deal with.
Past that there have been a lot of small bits of business. Mimi’s mother noticing how much attention Tobias is paying to Keri, and Mimi encouraging her child if they want to date him. Kaz talking about how happy he is with his partner, maybe wife, Rachel. Keri bruising their ankle in a volleyball practice. Discovering Marty Moon has a two-year-sober Alcoholics Anonymous medallion. (Combined with how amiably he chatted with Gil Thorp back in September, this suggests Moon’s clashes with Thorp reflected alcoholism. I don’t know that Barajas meant that, but it’s a thread for possible exploration.) Thorp saying he’s old enough to have had Cold War civil-defense drills in school. Student Monica Yellowhair preceding her singing the National Anthem with the observation that the school was on stolen land, which narrows Milford’s location down to “the United States”. All told, many miscellaneous things that I’m noting in case they get built on. Or because I took notes and you’re going to see notes. As you like it.
Milford Sports Watch!
Among my notes I tried to keep track of the other schools mentioned in the strip. Here’s my record of them:
- Valley Tech. (28 – 30 September).
- Goshen. (6 – 7 October).
- Central. (10 October).
- Valley Tech, Tilden. (12 – 13 October).
- Jefferson, Madison, Madison again. (7 November). I guess an answer to the question “if Madison is so great why wasn’t there a Madison 2?”.
- Valley Tech. (8 November).
- Valley Tech. (23 – 30 November).
- New Thayer. (3 – 11 December).
- Valley Tech. (12 December).
Who’s trying to kill Sam Driver, and why aren’t they better at it? I look at Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker unless something shoots up my car and I have to drive it into town.