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? When is Spider-Man coming out of reruns? November 2019 – January 2020


If The Amazing Spider-Man ever returns from reruns of Roy Thomas and Larry Lieber’s work, I’ll share the news here. I’m still figuring to do these plot recaps, and figure to have another around April 2020. So if you’re looking for what the story is after about April, try that link. And, as usual, my other blog keeps up on the mathematically-themed comic strips.

The Amazing Spider-Man.

4 November 2019 – 26 January 2020.

Spider-Man, with the assistance of Black Widow, was fighting the Hobgoblin. The bizarre thing is that Harry Osborn swears he’s not the Hobgoblin. And Spider-Man believes him. But how can this be? Unless there’s someone besides Osborn’s psychiatrist, Dr Mark Stone, in the story?

Spider-Man, unmasked, tied to the bat-glider: 'Don't you remember, Harry? You and I used to be friends.' Hobgoblin: 'Yes, until as Spider-Man you KILLED MY FATHER!' Spider-Man: 'I TOLD you, he destroyed himself trying to kill ME.' Hobgoblin: 'NO! You're a murderer! And you're going to pay --- by becoming a flying bomb!'
Larry Lieber and Roy Thomas’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 8th of November, 2019. Hobgoblin, and this strip, consistently called this flying bomb thing a bat-glider and it lets you know how much money Harry Osborn has that he can license that trademark from DC.

The Hobgoblin uses a decoy to make Spider-Man hug a bomb. While Spidey’s knocked out, Hobgoblin handcuffs him to a goofy-looking flying bomb, and unmasks him. Hobgoblin stops long enough to cackle about how he used to be Harry Osborn. And he’s going to shoot this bat-glider rocket carrying Spidey into Mary Jane and Black Widow. Spidey notices the plot point dropped there. Osborn’s got fair reason to kill Spidey, who he blames for killing his father, and Mary Jane, his ex-fiancée. What’s he got against Black Widow?

Spider-Man, chained to the bat-glider rocket, thinking: 'I did it! I crumpled the main exhaust! And the bat-glider's veering off to noe side! But is it in time to avoid hitting MJ and Natasha?' Black Widow, 'DOWN, MJ!' Mary Jane, shoved over: 'OOOPH'
Larry Lieber and Roy Thomas’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 20th of November, 2019. Mary Jane’s dressed like that because they’re filming stunts for Marvella 2: The Mysterious Island.

On the rocket flight Spider-Man realizes he can’t get his hands free of the chains. But he can … somehow … do thigh-squeezes mighty enough to crumple the rocket exhaust. This should send the glider off-course, although it’s drawn like it actually sends the rocket right for Mary Jane and Black Widow. Well, it’s not like he had much time to change course. But he misses the whole building they’re on. And Black Widow uses her gadgets to send the glider flying straight up, giving Spider-Man time to try breaking out again. Turns out he couldn’t break the cuffs holding him to the rocket, but he could break the rocket fuselage holding the cuffs, which makes sense.

The rocket explodes, or falls apart, and Black Widow catches Spider-Man in the falling. Then the two get a battle against Hobgoblin. This goes well, except that Hobgoblin’s gimmick is flaming jack-o-lantern bombs that explode on contact and that’s a bit goofy. Anyway, they catch Hobgoblin and unmask him. It’s a confused Harry Osborn inside. This makes Spider-Man remember there’s another person in the story. And makes Black Widow identify “Dr Mark Stone”: he’s really … Dmitri Gregorin!

Black Widow: 'You're lucky, Gregorin, that I don't toss you out a window!' Dr Stone/Dmitri Gregorin: 'But --- how did Spider-Man know who I WAS?' Spider-Man: 'When Osborn hesitated between blasting the Black Widow versus the guy he thinks murdered his father --- I knew something was fishy!'
Larry Lieber and Roy Thomas’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 10th of December, 2019. “Basically, any time I encounter someone who doesn’t want to kill me on sight, I know something is up!”

They explain who? soon enough: He’s the former Soviet spy who’d killed Black Widow’s friends years ago. She’s been hunting him. He pulls a gun on them, so, Spider-Man webs the gun away from him and Black Widow clobbers him. And now we get explanations. After a lot of plastic surgery Gregorin had set himself up a new life. But he heard Black Widow was after him. And here he had Harry Osborn, trying to cure his obsessive hatred of Spider-Man, as a patient. Why not hypnotize Osborn into an obsessive hatred of Black Widow instead?

Black Widow points out how the laws of pulp writing say it’s impossible to hypnotize people to commit murder. Stone/Gregorin points out, scientific progress! It’s an answer I love. Meanwhile, Harry Osborn, dragged along to all this, says he’s changed. Spider-Man and Black Widow’s great efforts to stop him from hypno-murdering people have done something. He doesn’t hold Spider-Man responsible for his father’s death, or hate him anymore. Or hate anyone. It’s a great moment of hope for us all. And hey, isn’t it great that a supervillain has had his obsessions broken, and he’ll never lapse back into trouble-making ever again?

Filming resumes on Mary Jane’s movie, Marvella 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me. And Black Widow drops the mention that she knows Peter Parker is Spider-Man. But she’s not going to go blathering the secret. Except here, in earshot of everyone else at the wrap party.


And with the 29th of December we transition to the next, and current, story. It first ran from the 23rd of August, 2015 through to about the 14th of February, 2016. So unless Marvel and Comics Kingdom are planning to interrupt this mid-story, these repeats are going to last until the middle of June. So I could pre-write the next two of these, and save myself a rush before deadline in April and in July, but I would never be that kind to myself. The story after that is a team-up with Doctor Strange, against Xandu. Then a team-up with Ant-Man, against Elihas Starr. And then a team-up with Rocket Raccoon, against Ronan the Accuser, which is where I started these plot recaps. If we get to there without new strips I’ll probably drop The Amazing Spider-Man from this series.


That’s far in the future and in the past. The current day past has Marvel Comics’s first great ambiguous villain: Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Since 1939 he occasionally pops out of Atlantis to condemn the surface-dwellers to death for their crimes against the sea. And, since 1939, the surface-dwellers fend him off but admit he’s not wrong exactly. In-between punishing the surface-dwellers for their arrogance he turns ally, and then goes quiet for a while. It is part of the rich tapestry of nature’s cycles, like El Niño-Southern Oscillation or the monsoons that sweep over southeast Asia.

Peter, whispering: 'OK, MJ, I'll hear you out a little longer.' Namor: 'I first clashed with you humans in the year you call 1940 ... but a brave young policewoman named Betty Dean persuaded me not to decimate your New York City!' [ This 1940 scene gets a panel. ] Mary Jane: 'Did he say he attacked the surface world 75 years ago?' Peter: 'His people age verrry slowly, honey.'
Larry Lieber and Roy Thomas’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 8th of January, 2020. I get that there’s a lot of crazypants stuff happening in the Marvel Universe but you’d think “hey, remember that time Atlantis tried to sink Manhattan?” would be something that turns up on, like, the Earth-77013 Forgotten New York web site all the time. It would at least rate as much mention as the Black Tom explosion, anyway.
So Mary Jane, with a couple free weeks, buys an ocean cruise. Peter Parker comes along. They’re a day away from the Virgin Islands when a giant tentacle something reaches over the edge of the boat. Peter Parker’s ready to grab his Spider-Suit when Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, appears. Namor declares that he has spent 75 years warning the surface-dwellers about how they’re destroying the oceans, and he’s had enough. So he’s taking over the world, starting with this cruise ship.

The ship’s captain tries to punch Namor, which goes as well as you’d think. Mary Jane interrupts Namor before he can kill the captain. Namor’s smitten with such a surface-dweller, who reminds him of Betty Dean. Dean stood up to Namor in 1940 (if you believe the comic strip) or 1939 (if you believe the fan wiki). She did much to have Namor bring Atlantis into World War II as co-belligerent with the Allies. So that’s a nice person to remind someone of. Then Namor declares that he shall marry this not-so-mere woman.

Namor: 'If your husband is content to have you sail the seas without him then I will make you a far better mate than he does!' Mary Jane: 'Let GO of me!' Peter: 'You heard her, Namor! LET HER GO!' Namor: 'Hah! I knew my actions would bring even the most CRAVEN spouse out of hiding!'
Larry Lieber and Roy Thomas’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 22nd of January, 2020. Yeah, part of what makes Peter Parker Spider-Man is that everybody negs on him, but the Newspaper comic seems like it hits this beat especially hard, and it is always funny.

Mary Jane shows superheroic courage in not laughing in his face. Besides, she’s married. “Oh yeah? To some invisible boyfriend in Canada, I bet,” he answers, and keeps on this marriage idea until Peter Parker steps up. And so, as Mary Jane was trying to avoid, they start Superhero Battling. Difficulty level: Peter has to keep announcing how, like, the deck is slippery, that’s why he can knock over Namor. Not because he has the proportional strength of a spider.

How will this fight end? How will this cruise end? How will it get to an Atlantean child in a New York City hospital held at gunpoint by the Army? How will the story go on until June? There are at least two ways to find out.

Next Week!

Last time I looked at Alley Oop and company, got blipped out of existence. How’s that working for them? It’s Jonathan Lemon and Joey Alison Sayers’s Alley Oop up for recapping next week, unless something demands my attention more.

Is There Life After Apartment 3-G?


My love asked if I planned to keep doing comic strip reviews now that I don’t have Apartment 3-G to fill a weekly essay. And if I’m not, then what am I going to do instead? They’re good questions. I don’t know just what I’ll do yet, although I don’t figure on regularly snarking on another comic strip.

There’s plenty to snark about. And there are many fine, quality comic-strip snark blogs, and Usenet group rec.arts.comics.strips. RACS is a bit more likely to talk up the good side of comics, and the business and other sides, I should say. It isn’t all the making fun of any one comic strip, not since the glorious fiasco of Lynn Johnston’s For Better Or For Worse‘s end, an event known throughout all comic-strip commentary communities as the Foobocalypse. We still look back on it with glee. (“Here’s the strip where Johnston warns Elizabeth that if she doesn’t give up her life and marry Granthony soon then she’s going to start killing supporting characters, starting with Grandpa Jim.”) And a bit of snark is a healthy thing. It deflates self-importance, it melts pomposity, and it binds disappointed audiences in giddy consolation.

I came by my Apartment 3-G coverage honestly, when I was entertained by how baffled the comic strip left me. There hadn’t been anything so engagingly dadaist since the last years of Dick Locher’s run on Dick Tracy, when very few plot points were endlessly repeated and abstractly illustrated. There isn’t anything like it now. Even the stodgiest story strip (Mary Worth, by my lights) or the slowest-moving strip (Rex Morgan, in which June Morgan’s 27 months of pregnancy have just ended with her delivering a way overdue baby elephant) are relentlessly understandable. Apartment 3-G I was trying, honestly, to work out what was happening and why it was happening. And I meant to try understanding what was going on both on-panel and behind-the-senes. The jokes were flavoring used to make that more palatable.

So while I’m certainly going to toss jokes off in the direction of misfired comic strips (mostly in RACS, I figure), I don’t expect to make that a regular feature here. There’s nothing going on in Judge Parker that needs earnest explanation. Compu-Toon maybe. But I fear there’s something uncharitable in searching out a target for evisceration. If I’m going to put too many column-inches into ridiculing something, it should be with the hope that something useful will come of it. It should be for a better understanding of the bad, or to share with an audience that wondrous sense of strange outsider-art that true ineptness has. Sneering is an individual right, as quirky and as personal as the set of things we delete from our search histories. Nobody needs to be told to sneer at things. We need it to be at least a bit celebratory.

That said, yes, Mary Worth is getting a little creepy lately, and the dialogue reads ever-more like spies passing messages. (Mary Worth: “We can be more aware of how we affect each other and the environment.” Eight-year-old Olivia: “I like to think that change for the better … and not just the worse … can happen very quickly, too!”)