Or at least was alive and drawing Graffiti sometime this decade. Also, in a development that I’m sure no one ever imagined, it turns out this comic strip that’s been running since twelve years before they invented rocks is all cranky about something the Millennials are probably up to with their smartyphones and stuff. The comments on it at GoComics are also really quite Internet Old Person, if you need more of that in your life, which you do not. Still, while there is much we do not know about Gene Mora, the guy who draws Graffiti, we can at least say he’s drawn a new Graffiti this century.
No, Gil Thorp is not going to be fired. But I’m happy to provide recaps of the stories in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the indefinite future. If you’re in the definite future of after about April 2019 there’s probably a more up-to-date recap at that link.
I don’t just read the story strips for the plots. I also read lots of comic strips for the mathematics, and write about that on my other blog. You might enjoy the results. I do, myself.
26 November 2018 – 9 February 2019.
Some well-intended but dumb schemes were under way last time I checked in. Thomas Kyle “Tiki” Jansen’s family transferred him from New Thayer to Milford when his old gang of friends went bad. The gang got into vandalism, burglary, assaulting Jansen for ditching them, that sort of thing. Jansen’s family had rented but not used an apartment to give Jansen a technical address in Milford. Joe Bolek, that kid who wants to talk about the cinema, figured to help. Record the New Thayer gang beating up on Jansen and boom, Coach Thorp will be glad to let him stay on the team, right?
Coach Gil Thorp sees the video and doesn’t really seem to care. Whoever it is decides these things rules that Jansen’s eligible, so, he plays. With the note that he might transfer back after a year when the seniors in the gang graduate. And Joe Bolek goes meeting up with Kelly Thorp. Both are glad to know someone else who’s interested in Movie Nerd stuff. Gil Thorp is a good partner, but his interest in movies is that they’re important to his wife. That’s great, but a primary interest is still different.
Monday, the 10th of December, opened the new plot. Its main action promised to be glorious and it has been holding up. It’s a sequel, and to a storyline from before I started doing regular recaps. That’s all right. The text fills in all the backstory you need.
It opens with a young man buying space on two billboards. So right away you know it’s a 20-something-year-old who actually falls for the billboard company ads about “See? Made you look!” or “our texts go to the whole Milford area”. Still, it’s exciting. The “Billboard Advertising: It Works” sign comes down, a month before reaching its six-year anniversary. The replacement message: “Is Mediocre Good Enough?” And with that bold demand on the commuters of Milford … nothing happens and nobody much cares.
The other plot thread. It’s basketball season. Milford’s off to an indifferent, one might say mediocre, start. And guard Nate Filion is having a bad time of it. He’s not hanging out with the other basically well-meaning if dumb kids on the team. Or much of anything else. And the billboard takes on a new message: “Don’t Our Kids Deserve Better?”
Filion’s teachers get worried. All that seems to engage him is quoting That 70s Show. That’s no way for a healthy teen to live. Thorp prods a bit, but can’t get anything. And then the billboard goes to its newest message: “Save the Kids — Fire Gil Thorp”, and includes a link to the blog of Robby Howry. Also his podcast. Howry explains his motives to a reporter for the Milford Star who turns out not to be Marty Moon. I don’t know the reporter’s name. You can tell he’s not Marty Moon because his hair is a little different and Marty Moon’s sideburns don’t grow down to join his goatee. I don’t keep doing the six-differences puzzles in Slylock Fox for nothing.
Howry explains to the reporter that he was more than an equipment manager, he was “unofficial assistant coach” for Thorp years ago. And that his conscience would not allow him to let Milford “wallow in mediocrity” any longer. And that he loves the comic strips and wants the story strips held to high standards of plot, character, and art. Anyway, he left because Thorp “didn’t share my commitment to winning.”
That isn’t how Thorp remembers it. But he keeps his memories to himself, his assistant, and us nosey people in the audience. He remembers Howry as the equipment manager and up-and-coming stats nerd. And, dear lord help us, one of those people who insists that you need to be a brand. Before he could be mercifully kidnapped and terrorized by The Ghost Who Walks, he got dumb. He gave in to Maxwell “Max” Bacon’s pleas for Adderall. Except he didn’t in fact do that. Howry gave Bacon aspirin tablets, figuring that’s all Bacon really needed. And who could get in trouble for taking aspirin on game day? Thorp suspended Bacon and dropped Howry altogether. But feels he can’t explain this in public without humiliating students who didn’t deserve that.
And that old incident I think serves as a good example of the Gil Thorp storytelling style. It has a lot of stories driven by how teenagers are kinda dopey. But there’s almost never actual malice involved, not from the kids anyway. They don’t think of being truly nasty. And they’re limited in how much trouble they get into anyway. Partly because as teens they have limited resources. Partly because as teens they’re a little dopey, so their lack of foresight saves them. That’ll come back around.
And yes, also saving them is the writer. Part of the Gil Thorp style is that nobody’s really involved in serious wrongdoing. Several years ago there was a storyline about a guy selling the kids bootleg DVDs. Except, it turned out, they weren’t bootlegs. The guy got legitimate DVDs. He put them in bootleg-looking cases so his teenage customers thought they were getting away with something. It was a bizarrely sanitized minor transgression. I wondered if Rubin and Whigham were mocking someone who’d sent them a letter about what it was acceptable to portray teenagers doing. Or if they were trying to see if they could fool Luann into imitating it.
(I owe gratitude to the Comics Curmudgeon, for posting about the bootleg-DVD story in a way that I could search for the strips. I’d never have dug them up otherwise.)
So we already had a delightful story about Robby Howry’s quixotic lurch for vengeance going. What takes it up to glorious heights? The involvement of Marty Moon, of course. Moon is delighted to read of someone dishing Gil Thorp-related dirt. Howry is glad to tell Moon at length about how Coach Thorp just lost the game to Jefferson by six, or whatever. And Marty feigns understanding what Howry is going on about when he talks about these pre-measured mattress kit delivery eyeglasses who sponsor the podcast.
Thorp tries his best to ignore Howry, focusing instead on what’s bothering Filion. This goes so far as to remind the whole team about a suicide hotline number and insist they put it in their phones. Possibly overreacting (“Coach, we only lost to Jefferson by six!”) but he does insist he’d rather overreact.
It may earn him loyalty. The basketball team finds people who remember Howry. They work out that as best they can figure, yeah, he needs a swirly. They are correct, but Thorp overhears and tells them: NO. Leave him alone, you idiots. The team, thinking cleverly but stupidly, finds the loophole. They weren’t explicitly told not to go to Howry’s “Fire Gil Thorp” billboard and graffiti it. They’re foiled. Oh, sure, they thought of a great wisecrack about Tiny Tim. But none of them thought to bring a ladder. Which is lucky, since some cops show up. They notice the players look like they’re popular kids, so he lets them go with a warning and a call to the school.
Thorp gives two-game suspensions to the participants and calls Filion in to his office. This is exactly the sort of stupid thing Filion should have done; why wasn’t he? Which is an odd tack but, yeah, I’ve known people I had to deal with that way. Filion finally opens up. With the end of high school coming, he feels like everything is ending. He doesn’t know how to handle that. Now Thorp’s able to hook him, and his parents, up with counseling. And there’s the promise that the team might play better too.
My words alone might not express how much I’ve enjoyed this plot. I’d said last week how I love when story comics get a preposterous character in them. And this is a great one. It’s the story of Robby Howry, a maybe 21-year-old guy, seeking revenge on his high school basketball coach. And going to great effort about this, starting a blog and podcast and talking daily with Marty Moon. And laying out hard cash. I don’t know how much it costs to rent two billboards for a month-plus, but boy, that’s got to run into the dozens of dollars. Add to his mission fanaticism some grand self-obliviousness. He’s confident nobody will mind his whole fake-prescription-drug-pushing thing. Not if the alternative is losing buzzer-beaters to Arapahoe High School. Probably it won’t be as grand a comeuppance as happens to Marty Moon in every Marty Moon story. But it’s so promising.
Milford Schools Watch
People sometimes wonder where Milford is. The real answer is nowhere, of course; it’s meant to be a place that could be any high school. And then mucks things up with the idiosyncratic use of “playdowns” where normal people say “playoffs”. Anyway, here’s some schools or towns named in Gil Thorp the last several months. I offer this so you can work out your own map of the Milford educational system.
- Central City
- New Thayer
- Valley Tech
Okay, “Danbury” really sounds Connecticut. But then there was the thing a couple years ago where they name-checked famous Ohio I-75 highway sign Luckey Haskins.
What is reliably my greatest challenge. What’s going on in Judge Parker? Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley know. I’ll try to figure it out.
I know I’m being hypocritical if I complain about how niche a topic is that someone decides to joke about. I once built an essay around this time in 1857 the Treasury Secretary estimated how many Jersey City municipal bonds were held by foreigners. And goodness knows I’m as up for type jokes as anyone who used to host a web site with information about Linotype operation would be. But here. This was Monday’s Graffiti comic strip.
I have no explanation for this phenomenon.
Yes, yes, I too read today’s Alley Oop. And, like you, I worry about this strange interpretation of the Moo Universe. I mean, King Guz actually doing a thing? But, new writers, new start for the strip. I don’t need to have an opinion about this for eight weeks yet. I can hold.
What I’m on about today is Gene Mora’s comic strip Graffiti. If it is a comic strip. I don’t know. It’s always just text on a wall, so maybe it’s a comic panel. It’s not usually a funny wall. Whether it’s funny text depends on your sense of humor. Anyway, here’s Saturday’s installment.
So, like, what the heck? Like, is Gene Mora even alive? Is the comic strip still in production? I’m also not sure what the joke is supposed to be here. Playing on the similarity in sounds between “brown” as in cow and “Dow” as in Jones? Referencing the hit Broadway musical of 1968? Where does this come from and where does it go? These are all questions I feel I cannot answer.
If you know, or know someone who knows, please let someone know.
All right, so, wait. I got myself all ready to believe that Gene Mora’s Graffiti has got to be in reruns because at the top it reads “Copyright 2018 UFS Dist. by Andrews McMeel for UFS”. And UFS here is the United Feature Syndicate, which hasn’t been around since 2011. It had sold its licensing over to Iconix Brand Group, whose Wikipedia page claims they could get licensed products into Sears, KMart, and JC Penny’s. So I’m sure these are people who can handle the future of licensed Fort Knox merchandise. And then it sold the rest of itself to Universal Uclick, as part of that stage of pre-revolutionary capitalism where every thing is divided up between the bigger company and the smaller company. So it’s got to be reruns, with the copyright date just changed because somehow they can do that when they reprint comic strips for some reason. And fine. But then I got looking at one of John Graziano’s Ripley’s Believe It Or Not strips from last week.
OK, and that’s also got a Distributed by Andrews McMeel for UFS sticker on it. And that strip talks way too much about quirky oddball news items, printed one lead-time after everybody heard about them, for them all to have been made before 2011. Unless John Graziano’s Ripley’s Believe It Or Not is eight years into the most astounding string of forecasts of future mildly quirky events ever known to humanity and they’re saving that to reveal on the comic strip’s centennial this December.
That or both Gene Mora and John Graziano got like ten thousand “Distributed by UFS” stickers printed up and they’re not going to waste them until they’ve used every one of them up. Or someone at Comic Strip Master Command decided to keep the name UFS around, as a sentimental thing for fans of comic strip syndication companies. Which, all right. So that’s something for me and maybe like nobody else in the world ever.
So in short I don’t know what’s going on with this weird minor comic strip. And if I ever find out, it’ll probably be a little bit disappointing.
I don’t mean to pick on utterly harmless obscure comic strips. A lot of them are. And I have some knack for discovering comic strips so obscure that I’m not even sure the cartoonist’s family knows it’s being made. So please understand, I’m not saying that I want Gene Mora to quit writing and drawing Graffiti. But, I mean, look at yesterday’s.
This … has to be a rerun, right? I mean, yes, comic strips usually have a weird lag in their pop-culture awareness. And that lag only gets worse as a comic strip ages. And Graffiti has been running since Apollo 9 was on the launchpad. I guess? I don’t know. Sometime 1969 anyway. It might have been running only since Apollo 12 was on the launchpad. So given that it would be remarkable if the comic strip could reference anything more current than Disney’s Dinosaur.
And please understand, it’s not like I dislike the thing. I even have a weird nostalgic feeling about it. I remember as a kid reading it in the News Tribune. It was one of those weird comic strips they didn’t allow on the comics page. It just floated around somewhere in that section, waiting for people to happen across a drawing of a wall with text on it.
I mean, the copyright is 2018, but that doesn’t mean anything anymore. Why would it be copyright Andrews McMeel when they haven’t called themselves that since 2011? Right? Unless Gene Mora just had a whole lot of page blanks with the old name put up and is still using them? Which is ridiculous, but if you’re anything like me you know how long a comic strip still in production will show last year’s copyright sticker even after the new year’s begun. And, like, comic strips that would seem to take a lot more work, like Funky Winkerbean or Andy Capp, famously got a year or more ahead of publication. Could Graffiti? I just don’t know.
Don’t read the comments, but yeah, commenter, I’m sure a lot of people get their lives ruined when they’re sued for being politically incorrect. Happens all the time.
I saw that Sports Authority didn’t get any bids for its stadium naming rights. Somebody else brought it up. I wasn’t prying. I was vaguely sad about Sports Authority going bankrupt, what with how I kept thinking I might go buy one of those nice slick-looking exercise shirts for years without doing it. I didn’t think I had the figure to wear one just yet and I didn’t want to go buying two of them, one for now and one for when I could look good wearing it. But I don’t blame myself for Sports Authority going bankrupt since I don’t think I’m to blame. It would be at least four shirts and a pair of ankle weights that they needed to sell to make the difference. And I already got ankle weights, back in 2010. They’ve been satisfying. They fit well on the shelf in the basement where they can fall onto my toes when I’m trying to get a can of fossilized paint. I forget where I bought them. Anyway, I was willing to let them go to wherever expired companies go without further action.
It was Consumerist.com that told me an asset auction turned up no bidders for their stadium naming rights. Also that they had stadium naming rights, for Mile High Stadium in Denver. I hadn’t heard the Broncos had sold their stadium name but that figures. Corporations like to graffiti just like any of us do. By paying an exposition authority they can get away with it just like the rest of us don’t. Here I have to divert for a real thing that I saw when I was living in Singapore years ago. I didn’t notice any noteworthy graffiti for months which is not a tautology because shut up. When I did spot one, it was spray-painted on a steel girder at a construction site. It read, “I Love Singapore”. Nice trolling, whoever you were.
Maybe I’m numbed to the selling of naming rights to everything. It’s hard to avoid, anyway. Sports venues and like got named for the team that got them built. Or at least the union-busting rich people that bought the place after the team went bankrupt. Or for lumps of matter you could put in your mouth and chew. If that didn’t suffice you could name them for geographical features, which is how we got Madison Square Garden or Mile High Stadium. I’m not saying the geography names were all that good. Madison Square Garden hasn’t been near Madison Square since Coolidge was President. I assume that’s because of a primitive 20s form of Gentrification. Mile High Stadium is actually only eight feet above ground level, owing to the high cost of stilts. But they offered a kind of certainty. They were named for places and you could be pretty sure about places being around. This was before we discovered continental drift and marketing.
And it is marketing. Corporations figure they want people to like them more. I can sympathize. It’s hard liking corporations. They’re not really about doing things that serve any particular good. They’re mostly about holding the rights to leverage real estate transactions. And who cares for that? It doesn’t matter what a company says it is. It’s just an operating entity existing on behalf of a holding company that’s really in it for the leverage. So you can understand how a corporation would try to make itself look better. They pick hanging around professional athletes. That way they can tie their image to an event that will end with any given consumer’s preferred team losing about half the time, and failing to achieve a championship most of the time. This reminds us that corporations how we as people organize to justify doing dumb or offensive stuff. Some places are astounding at naming rights. Lansing’s baseball stadium sold the park’s name to a law school and the field itself to an insurance company. They don’t seem to have thought to sell the name for the stands, or I just didn’t notice. I can’t wait for them to sell the naming rights for the slow-moving line of confused people at the hummus vendor’s.
Still, I’m surprised to learn nobody wanted to buy the Mile High Stadium naming rights. I’d imagine someone to try just for the fun of it. I’m thinking of starting a collection. Between me and all my friends we could probably put up literally hundreds of dollars to the cause of buying me the naming rights for Mile High Stadium. And I know what you’re thinking, that we’d come up with some hilarious syllable goo and pretend that’s the name for the place. First level thinking. We need better. I’m figuring to name it after some other stadium, like, Giants Stadium at Mile High Stadium. Or the Boston Commons Candlestick Veterans Park at Mile High Stadium. It’s at least as good as any other name.
Hm. Maybe I need a little more. I should sell the idea rights to this name.
So, unknown chalk artist working the sidewalks at Silver Beach in Michigan. I like your comic stylings. It’s a good joke, efficiently delivered. But, first: this should have been pluralized. Well, I’m willing to yield on that, especially if you also wrote this somewhere else nearby. Reasonable people can disagree. Second, though: you meant to spell it “obscenity”. Still, good job, I have to say.
Among non-obscene things, Reading the Comics, July 29, 2015: Not Entirely Reruns Edition is the latest entry in my mathematics blog. If you like comic strips that mention mathematics or if you want to hear something about a guy named Pafnuty, please check over there. Most of the comics are not newly published for the first time this week, but then, if you haven’t read them before how would you know?
Also, hey, I just had my 19,000th page view! Yay!
Edit: Yeah, I called it ‘Silver Lake Beach’ to start. I don’t know why.