In the Sequel They Join the Writer Doing a New Version of _Turnabout_


I don’t really have the time to go to Hollywood and pitch a script or write it up or anything so if someone could help me out how does this sound to them: movie where the person making a new version of 18 Again wakes up in the body of a person who’s making a new version of Vice-Versa? And so they both go and try to meet up and figure out how to undo this, but they find out that actually one of them is in the body of someone they didn’t know was working on making a new version of Freaky Friday? It’ll be something kind of but not exactly like something we’ve enjoyed enough before!

Statistics 2022: Everybody Likes Me Complaining About Comic Strips, Comic Strip Sites


With the old year pretty well finished off it’s also a good time to look back at the readership figures for it. And yes, I put up with having to go to a whole other web browser because WordPress broke a something.

WordPress tells me, finally, that there were 70,038 page views in 2022. That’s the largest number I’ve had in any single year, and is nearly 10,000 more than I had in 2021. The change alone is more page views than I had in all 2014, when I thought things were going pretty well. You probably thought that about 2014 too.

There were 36,714 unique visitors around here in 2022. That’s a slight growth from 2021’s count of 26,061. Not sure why so few. That’s the smallest increase in unique visitors since 2016, when my visitor count dropped compared to 2015. There were 1,790 likes given to things in 2022, barely up from 2021’s 1,768. Still, that’s my most-liked year since 2018, which I’ll take.

Bar chart of annual readership from 2013 through 2022, showing steady growth except for 2015-to-2016, both in total views and in unique visitors.
And I am amazed that the number of unique visitors is greater than the total number of page views I had in a year through to 2017, and pretty close to 2018. 2022 saw a rise to 1.91 views-per-visitor, my highest number since 2015.

And there were 718 comments given in 2022, again technically an increase from 2021, when there were 700. And similarly this was the greatest number of comments since 2018. So this thing where Garrison and I keep talking to each other instead of anything else is good for my feeling of accomplishment, at least.

As I’d said, people really like to see my complaining about comic strips. Or at least doing plot recaps. Take a look at the ten most popular things published in 2022 and see if you notice anything in common about them:

Going farther down the list of articles I find that while I may have written something that wasn’t related to Funky Winkerbean, I couldn’t prove it. When I got away from that, I was complaining about Comics Kingdom making the Sunday strips illegible, or that time GoComics blew up their own servers for a week and pretended nothing happened. (I still haven’t heard any reports on what went wrong back in early November there.) My most popular piece that wasn’t about comic strips was 60s Popeye: Ballet de Spinach, a cartoon without spinach in it. Why? It’s an okay enough cartoon and an okay enough review but what is the appeal there? Maybe people really want to see Popeye in a tutu and this is what they’ve got?

Anyway my most popular creative piece — and this is going down a long way, I swear — was MiSTed: Safety First (part 1 of 16). The other parts aren’t that much less popular, it’s just this is way down the list.

Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink.
By far the closest I’ve ever gotten to capturing the whole Pan American Highway in one of these.

There were 153 countries or country-like things sending me page views in 2022. Here’s the roster. Yes, it includes Greenland, one of my big ambitions.

Country Readers
United States 47,234
Finland 3,530
Australia 2,974
India 2,294
Canada 2,154
United Kingdom 1,907
Italy 908
Brazil 907
Germany 723
Philippines 621
Sweden 419
Spain 406
France 359
Japan 264
Norway 264
Nigeria 245
South Africa 226
Ireland 214
Singapore 188
Peru 165
Mexico 164
Denmark 159
Austria 143
Romania 142
Netherlands 141
Thailand 141
Bulgaria 132
El Salvador 125
Malaysia 125
Portugal 118
Serbia 113
New Zealand 102
Indonesia 95
Saudi Arabia 94
Czech Republic 84
Turkey 84
Belgium 83
Switzerland 83
Pakistan 81
Argentina 80
Colombia 78
Poland 76
Hungary 75
Russia 74
Kenya 72
Greece 66
Egypt 65
European Union 64
Taiwan 63
Chile 57
United Arab Emirates 56
South Korea 54
Vietnam 54
Hong Kong SAR China 47
Jamaica 47
Bahrain 44
Croatia 43
Ecuador 40
Israel 38
Costa Rica 30
Venezuela 30
Bangladesh 28
Sri Lanka 26
Iraq 24
Macedonia 24
Ukraine 22
Barbados 21
Kuwait 19
Puerto Rico 18
Trinidad & Tobago 17
Bosnia & Herzegovina 16
Slovenia 16
Guatemala 15
Cyprus 14
Estonia 14
Dominican Republic 13
Lebanon 12
Nepal 12
China 11
Lithuania 11
Slovakia 11
Albania 10
Mauritius 10
Jordan 9
Latvia 9
Uruguay 9
Azerbaijan 8
Montenegro 8
Tunisia 7
Bahamas 6
Honduras 6
Cambodia 5
Cameroon 5
Ethiopia 5
Luxembourg 5
Malta 5
Oman 5
Qatar 5
Uganda 5
Belarus 4
Bolivia 4
Kosovo 4
Mauritania 4
Mongolia 4
Morocco 4
Namibia 4
Papua New Guinea 4
Suriname 4
U.S. Virgin Islands 4
American Samoa 3
Armenia 3
Kazakhstan 3
Malawi 3
Panama 3
Algeria 2
Anguilla 2
Fiji 2
Georgia 2
Ghana 2
Guadeloupe 2
Guam 2
Isle of Man 2
Libya 2
Palestinian Territories 2
Uzbekistan 2
Antigua & Barbuda 1
Belize 1
Brunei 1
Congo – Brazzaville 1
Congo – Kinshasa 1
Cook Islands 1
Côte d’Ivoire 1
Cuba 1
Curaçao 1
Gambia 1
Gibraltar 1
Greenland 1
Guinea 1
Guyana 1
Iceland 1
Lesotho 1
Liechtenstein 1
Macau SAR China 1
Madagascar 1
Maldives 1
Mozambique 1
Myanmar (Burma) 1
Paraguay 1
Somalia 1
St. Lucia 1
Unknown Region 1
Yemen 1
Zimbabwe 1

Not to get all giddy about my own numbers, but the 47,234 visitors from the United States is grater than the total number of page views through to 2019. This really shows what talking so much about comic strips will do for me. And my but I’d like to know more about that ‘Unknown Region’.

WordPress tells me I published 209,826 words in 2022, for a words-per-posting average of 575. This is a pretty big drop from 2021, probably because I’m posting shorter segments of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction. There were an average of 4.6 likes per posting, and an average of 2.4 comments per posting, although a lot of posts didn’t get any comment at all because there’s only so much I can say about being mad at Funky Winkerbean.

So thanks for looking around as I look over myself and agree, I write a lot about Funky Winkerbean.

Statistics December: I Give In And See How People Like Being Mad At Funky Winkerbean


WordPress’s statistics page is still broken for Safari. But curiosity finally got the better of me and I used Firefox to look at what December’s, and for that matter 2022’s, statistics looked like. So let’s take a quick peek at that, shall we?

So what I saw in December was a suspiciously even 6,000 page views. That’s my third-highest total in the past twelve months, beating the running mean of 5,710.8 and running median of 5,395 views. These came from 2,957 unique visitors, below the running mean of 3,026.8 but above the median of 2,931. Altogether I got 142 comments which is down a little from the running mean of 151.3 and median of 148.5. And there were 89 comments, way above the running mean of 56.7 and median of 51.5.

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months hovering around 4500 views per month, without strong direction one way or another, until a new peak emerged in April 2022. A smaller peak reappeared in August 2022 and September 2022, with a drop and then a rise the three months concluding 2023.
You know, if a long-running comic strip could end every month it’d do wonders for my circulation, but it would also make me sadder. Maybe I should start giving updates on The Comic Strip That Has A Finale Every Day.

Driving all this, of course, is that people are mad. And what are they mad at? Comic strips. And one comic strip more than any other. Here’s the roster of the five most popular things that I published in December:

My most popular piece that wasn’t about comic strips was Statistics Saturday: Adaptations Of _A Christmas Carol_ Ranked and I’m glad that’s got some love. Some of these versions are quite good.

Talking about the comic strips is sure to stay my biggest feature. So here’s my plan for what story strips to discuss in the coming weeks. There’s no extra Popeye comics that I’m aware of, here.

Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink.
You may think this map is worse, since it squeezes the countries of the world into a smaller space while filling up with white space that conveys no information at all. So it is. But understand the trade-off: someone got paid to make this report worse.

There were 86 countries sending me any readers at all in December. Here they are:

Country Readers
United States 4,391
Australia 247
Canada 185
India 133
United Kingdom 132
Italy 114
Brazil 86
Philippines 54
Peru 47
Spain 44
Germany 39
France 31
Finland 29
Sweden 27
South Africa 25
Japan 24
Norway 22
Ireland 19
European Union 18
Malaysia 18
Mexico 17
Switzerland 17
Romania 15
Pakistan 13
Sri Lanka 13
Austria 11
Denmark 11
Netherlands 11
Thailand 11
Turkey 11
Chile 10
United Arab Emirates 10
Taiwan 9
Czech Republic 8
Indonesia 8
South Korea 8
Croatia 7
Nigeria 7
New Zealand 6
Venezuela 6
Barbados 5
Dominican Republic 5
Hungary 5
Puerto Rico 5
Saudi Arabia 5
Singapore 5
Greece 4
Poland 4
Russia 4
Belgium 3
China 3
El Salvador 3
Estonia 3
Kuwait 3
Portugal 3
Slovenia 3
Argentina 2
Armenia 2
Bangladesh 2
Bolivia 2
Bosnia & Herzegovina 2
Bulgaria 2
Jamaica 2
Kenya 2
Latvia 2
Lithuania 2
Malta 2
Serbia 2
Vietnam 2
Albania 1
Algeria 1
Cameroon 1
Colombia 1
Costa Rica 1
Ecuador 1
Fiji 1
Guatemala 1
Hong Kong SAR China 1
Isle of Man 1
Israel 1
Luxembourg 1
Macedonia 1
Maldives 1
Montenegro 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1
Ukraine 1

I don’t know who’s on a one-reader streak. Not worth digging out. Nice to see the Isle of Man make an appearance, though.

WordPrees tells me that as of the start of 2023, I’ve had 338,223 views from 190,278 unique visitors, made 3,621 posts, and gotten 5,633 comments altogether. And that in December I posted 19,010 words, one of my more verbose months in the year. Must be all that Grumpy Weasel talk. My words-per-post jumped up to 613.2 for the month, and for the year climbed to 575. We’ll just see whether I stay this talkative in the month to come.

Why is everyone mad at _Funky Winkerbean_ this week? (December 31, 2022)


What can you say about a 50-year-old comic strip that died? That it loved the Barry Allen Flash and the mythical Marvel Bullpen? That it was full of names that were not exactly jokes but were odd without hitting that Paul Rhymer-esque mellifluous absurdity? That it spent the last ten years with no idea how to pace its plot developments? Yes, it was all that, but more, it got a lot of people mad at it.

This is not to say that Funky Winkerbean was a bad strip. Outright bad strips aren’t any fun to snark on. You have to get something that’s good enough to read on its own, but that’s also trying very hard to be something it’s faceplanting at. So let me start by saying there’s a lot that was good about Tom Batiuk’s work. The strip started as a goofball slice-of-life schooltime wackiness strip. It would’ve fit in with the web comics of the late 90s or early 2000s. It transitioned into a story-driven, loose continuity strip with remarkable ease. And it tried to be significant. That it fell short of ambitions made it fun to gather with other people and snark about, and to get mad about. Still, credit to Tom Batiuk for having ambition and acting on it. It allowed us to have a lot of fun for decades.

Enough apologia; now, what’s going on and why is everyone angry about it? Last week’s get-together of the whole Funky Winkerbean and Crankshaft gang at St Spires was the last we’ve seen of our cast. Monday started in some vaguely Jetsonian future drawn by comic book celebrity John Byrne. (Byrne has drawn for Funky Winkerbean in the past, most notably for several months while Tom Batiuk recovered from foot surgery. I think Byrne also helped redesign the characters to their modern level of photorealism. I may have that credit wrong.)

Spaceship car flying up to the Village Booksmith shop. Future Lisa: 'I've never been this far into the Outskirts before! Is this what I think it is?' Future Mom: 'Yes ... it's an antiquarian bookstore ... one of the last to survive the burnings! I located an old tree copy of your grandmother's book 'Westview' for your birthday!' They climb up the stairs.
Tom Batiuk and John Byrne’s Funky Winkerbean for the 27th of December, 2022. I’m not sure whether Future Lisa and Future Mom are supposed to be hovering, in the second panel there, or whether it’s just the shadows distracting me. Also, while it is terrible to have a time you might describe as ‘Burnings’, if all it does is reduce the number of the antiquarian bookstores … I mean, I hate to admit it but that’s getting off pretty well.

This epilogue week stars Future Lisa, granddaughter of Summer Moore and great-granddaughter of Les and Lisa Moore. For a birthday treat Future Lisa’s mother takes her by Future Car to “the outskirts”, that is to say, Crankshaft. Future Car has the design of that spaceship toy made from the gun that murdered My Father John Darling. They’re there to go to an antiquarian bookstore, “one of the last to survive the burnings”. The term suggests a dystopia before a utopia, which is a common enough pattern in science fiction stories.

The bookstore is the little hobby business of Lillian Probably-Has-A-Last-Name, from Crankshaft. The old-in-our-time Lillian isn’t there, but a pretty nice-looking robot with a lot of wheels is. Since the bookstore is only (apparently) accessible by stairs I’m not sure how the robot gets in there. I guess if it only has to be delivered here once it can be badly designed for stairs. I had assumed the bookstore was desolate, since the sign for it was hanging on only a single hook. I forgot one of the basic rules for Tom Batiuk universes, though, which is that signs are never hung straight. This sounds like snark but I’m serious. Signs are always hung or, better, taped up a little off-level.

Future Mom’s brought her daughter there to get a “tree copy” of Summer Moore’s Westview, the book that made the future swell. We saw her starting to do interviews for it when time Agent Harley, whom the Son of Stuck Funky folks aptly named TimeMop, shared a dream-or-was-it.

Future Lisa, pointing to book shelves: 'There's another book here that has *my* name on it!' The bookshelf has Strike Four, Fallen Star, Lisa's Story,a nd Elementals Force on it. Future Mom: 'Well, I'll be ... it's a copy of your great-grandfather's book about your great-grandmother ... Lisa!' Future Lisa: 'Ask the robbie if it's for sale!!'
Tom Batiuk and John Byrne’s Funky Winkerbean for the 29th of December, 2022. I would have thought Future Lisa’s meant to be old enough for it to be odd she’d be surprised to see something with her name on it, at least when the name is a common enough one like ‘Lisa’. A friend pointed out if Future Lisa had chosen her name, for example as a result of a transition, then this would be an authentic reaction. Tom Batiuk already did a transgender character a couple months ago, but, what the heck, why not take that interpretation? If Tom Batiuk had an opinion he could have said otherwise.

Future Lisa sees beside Summer’s sociological text other books on the same shelf. Fallen Star, Les Moore’s first book, a true-crime book of how he solved the murder of My Father John Darling. Strike Four, which I mistook for Jim Bouton’s baseball memoir. Strike Four is in fact a collection of Crankshaft strips about the title character’s baseball career. Elemental Force, the anti-climate-change superhero book published by Westview-area publisher Atomik Comix. And Lisa’s Story, Les Moore’s memoir about how his wife chose to die rather than take the medical care that might extend her life with Les. Future Lisa can’t help but ask: what are a sociological study, a true-crime book, a baseball comic, a superhero comic, and a dead-wife memoir doing sharing a shelf? Does this bookstore have any organizational scheme whatsoever? (And yes, of course: these are all books by local authors. Except for Strike Four, which shouldn’t exist as we know it in-universe.)

So they get both Westview and Lisa’s Story. The last Funky Winkerbean is Future Mom telling Future Lisa it’s bedtime. Stop reading Lisa’s Story because it’s bedtime, and “the books will still be there tomorrow”. As many have snarked, this does read as Tom Batiuk making the last week of his strip yet another advertisement for the story about how Lisa Moore died. This differs from most of the post-2007 era of the comic strip by happening later than it. For those with kinder intentions, you can read this more as a statement of how, even though the strip is done, everything about it remains. It can be reread and we hope enjoyed as long as you want. And that it’s appropriate for Lisa’s Story to stand in for this as it is the central event defining so much of the comic’s run.

Future Mom: 'Bedtime, Sweetie!' Future Lisa: 'Aw, mom!' Future Mom: 'Time to retire, young lady. The books will still be there tomorrow ... ' They go off to bed, leaving _Lisa's Story_ floating front and center on the pillows of a Future Couch.
Tom Batiuk and John Byrne’s Funky Winkerbean for the 31st of December, 2022. I am sincerely happy to see a future with that ‘knobbly, curvey architecture and furniture’ style. It’s a very 1970s Future style that I enjoy. It also evokes the era of comic books from when Funky Winkerbean debuted, so it has this nice extra bit of period-appropriateness.

And with this, you are as caught-up on Funky Winkerbean as it is possible or at least wise to be. I can’t say what comic strip you will go on to be mad about. It feels like nothing will ever be that wonderfully maddening again. No, it will not be 9 Chickweed Lane; that’s too infuriating to be any fun getting mad reading. But there’ll be something. We thought comic strip snarking would never recover from the collapse of For Better Or For Worse, and maybe it hasn’t been that grand again, but Funky Winkerbean was a lot of fun for a good long while.

Statistics 2022: Jokes I Thought Of After That I Wished I Included


  1. For Some Bad Wordle Starts: one of them should absolutely have been “four greens, one yellow”.

Yeah, that’s about it. Sorry. It was a real Funky Winkerbean of a year for me and it hasn’t been good for my esprit de l’escalier. Maybe next year.

Reference: The Basque History of the World, Mark Kurlansky.

Why is everyone mad at _Funky Winkerbean_ this week? (December 25, 2022)


I’m not sure everyone is mad at Funky Winkerbean in its penultimate week. Annoyed, perhaps. Irritated. But mad takes a special level of broken trust between audience and creator. Annoyance or impatience is more appropriate when we-the-audience see where this is going and the story won’t get there.

Last week everyone was mad because we’d learned a time-travelling janitor manipulated minds for decades so Summer Moore could start to write a world-healing book. But it was all a dream. Then she wandered around an empty town looking at places she didn’t have any emotional connection to. Then, last Sunday, we switched to Harry Dinkle worried that the incoming blizzard might spoil the church choir concert at St Spires, his side gig. They’re doing “Claude Barlow’s Jazz Messiah”.

This week showed, in both Funky Winkerbean and its spinoff strip Crankshaft, all the big characters braving a massive storm to get to the concert. Like, everybody. Summer Moore hitchhikes her way onto the bus from the Bedside Manor Senior Living Home. (The implication is she’s spent the whole day moping and looking at, like, the instant-photo-print-shop her dad’s high school chem lab partner worked at while home from college and thinking how in the end we are all unfocused Polaroids, and now she wants to go see Harry Dinkle’s church choir sing.) The whole staff of Montoni’s. Les Moore and his wife, Not-Lisa, and Not-Lisa’s daughter from her first marriage Not-Summer. Everyone.

TV Weatherman: 'If you're headed to that concert at St Spires ... you might want to give yourself some extra time!' Guy at Montoni's, pointing out the door and hurrying Funky Winkerbean, his wife and grandkid, Tony Montoni, and a couple other people I don't know out the door: 'You heard the man ... let's get going!' Outside, he leads them to two Montoni's Pizza cars: 'We'll take our delivery cars! They've got brand-new snow tires!'
Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers’s Funky Winkerbean for the 21st of December, 2022. So, uh, apparently they raised enough cash at Montoni’s going-out-of-business sale to get new snow tires? Or was Montoni’s Closing all part of Summer’s dream? But she thought her “dream” might have been overwork from doing interview for her book, that she only announced she was going to try doing when she heard Montoni’s was closing?

So everyone, I trust, gets the reason Tom Batiuk wants this. He’s getting the whole cast of both his strips together so they can bask in one another’s presence one last time. What has gone unexplained, to everyone’s mild annoyance, is the lack of any idea why it’s so important everyone get there. Especially since the church is set in Centerview, the town Crankshaft takes palce in. The Funky Winkerbean folks live in Westview, nearby but still, a bit of a drive.

Especially in the face of a storm that we were told could drop a record amount of snow. It’s the church choir doing a concert that you’d think would have been postponed or cancelled for the weather anyway. It’s not, like, John and George coming back from the dead to play with Paul and Ringo one last time.

It makes sense for Harry Dinkle to carry on despite the weather; that’s almost his defining joke. And to rope his choir into that, yeah, that’s necessary for his joke. Roping the Bedside Manor senior band, that’s his other side gig, in to providing music? Yeah, sure. But once you’re past Sgt Pepper’s Sad and Lonely Hearts Club Band? Nobody else has a reason to be there. The Time Janitor stuff somehow easier to buy, an application of that Father Brown line about Gladstone and the ghost of Parnell. The only person who wants them there is Tom Batiuk, looking to have the whole cast under one roof for the last time, and he gets his way

Single, wide view of the entire cast of Funky Winkerbean and of Crankshaft sitting in the St Spires pews, with the church's choir and the Bedside Manor senior band on the balcony, performing.
Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers’s Funky Winkerbean for the 25th of December, 2022. Once again the Son of Stuck Funky folks do a heroic job: they’ve figured the most likely identities of all 69 characters in this panel. And tagged which ones are Crankshaft characters so it’s okay if you don’t recognize them from hate-reading Funky Winkerbean.

It would be touching if it didn’t look like the populations of two towns decided to get stuck in a single church’s parking lot.

Incidentally on the 24th, Ed Crankshaft saw the Funky cast and said “seems like there’s a lot of new folks here tonight! Hope they’re not all planning to move into the neighborhood!”. It’s a cute way to acknowledge the Funky gang will likely still make appearances in Crankshaft. It would also be a good tip to Funky readers who haven’t heard that they might want to pick up Crankshaft.

It reminds me of when Darrin Bell put the comic strip Rudy Park into reruns. Bell had a natural disaster strike that strip and evacuate all the residents to nearby Candorville, his other — and still going — comic strip. Catch here is I don’t believe Crankshaft’s name has been spoken in Funky for, like, thirty years. It started as a cute and even realistic affectation. Characters remembered there had been a cranky old bus driver who said a bunch of funny malapropisms, but not his name. It’s a bit of a disadvantage trying to point readers to your other project, though. Even Ronald-Ann spent a week shoving the name Outland into Opus’s ears before Bloom County ended the first time. Maybe that’s this coming, final, week in Funky Winkerbean. We’ll see, and we’ll see how mad that gets us all.

Why is everyone mad at _Funky Winkerbean_ this week? (December 18, 2022)


Because it was all a dream.

Or was it?

So yeah, that whole bonkers storyline where the janitor was a Time Agent making sure Summer Moore writes a history of Funkytown? It transpired on Monday this was all a dream, or was it. Which, yes, does address everything I was mad about in the storyline last time. Right down to how we were informed Summer had worked out the specialness of Harley The Janitor. And that her first and only book would be the most important book, like, ever.

Awakened, Summer decides to go for a walk to clear her head. This takes her on a silent walk through Westview, ending at a closed city pool’s old diving board. From atop the ladder she thinks of how “it doesn’t always have to be rise and decline … we have the agency to flip the script and write a different ending”. It’s a sequence that TFHackett, at Son of Stuck Funky, noticed echoed a story a couple years ago. Funky Winkerbean himself wandered around the place and moped about how your hopes and plans and dreams all get washed away. I understand where Funky, or Summer, might want to do something like this. Everybody needs to spend some time walking around feeling sad. Thing that annoyed me is the Funky Winkerbean characters don’t have emotions besides sadness, so the potency of a good mope is lost.

Summer, waking up in bed: 'WHOA!! ... Yipes ... that one one cray dream ... or was it?' She stands and stretches. 'I think all of the interviews I've been doing are clogging my brain!'
Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers’s Funky Winkerbean for the 12th of December, 2022. Well, I didn’t see it coming. Not sure if it’s better making the Time Janitor the dream or the reality.

The idea of closing out the comic strip with farewell visits to all the key places? Good, solid one. Here’s why I’m mad anyway. Summer Moore has not been a character, in the strip, in a decade. She’s appeared a couple times, but she hasn’t got a perspective. I think this past month is the first time we even learned for sure that she was still in college. So her looking at a place doesn’t carry any weight; it’s on us the reader to have a reaction.

This can be fine, if the locations have meaning to the audience. Two of the locations she visited might: the house of band director Harry Dinkle and past Westview High School. Summer wasn’t in band; she played sports so while she knew the band was there she also didn’t care. And while she went to Westview I can’t think of any time she ever reflected on her high school experience. That’s all right; the readers know those spots well enough.

And then we get to the bonkers places to showcase. She visits the house where Summer’s half-brother’s adoptive parents lived when they first got married. Or to speak more efficiently, it’s a house she could not care about. The spot was, as Son of Stuck Funky discovered, shown to readers ten years ago. But who could remember that? And then at her half-brother’s adoptive parents’ second apartment. Comic Book Harriet found these places are versions of Tom Batiuk and his wife’s old apartments. So they make sense as places to fit into the backgrounds somewhere, but good grief. Another spot was a troubled-youth home where Crazy Harry lived for a couple years as a teen. Or, to connect it to Summer, a place where her father’s high school friend who works in a comic book shop now lived as a teen. Again, this can work, if the readers have some reason to connect with it. Summer can’t provide that, and I will wrestle any reader who has feelings about where Crazy Harry lived as a teen.

Thing is the comic strip has got places that would connect to the readers. The high school. Montoni’s Pizzeria, closed last month in a sequence so abrupt it hardly seemed real. The comic book shop. The town park and the gazebo where everything in the world has to visit. Les and his current wife Not-Lisa’s porch swing. Why waste one of the three remaining weeks on things that can’t communicate?

The diving board where Summer makes her observation is getting to where it should be. A diving board has obvious meaning, as a place to ponder frightening transition. And it has a purpose in the comic strip. One running gag in the first decades of the strip was teenage Les Moore failing to find the courage to jump off it. That this is picked well makes the badness of the earlier locations stand out.

Atop the diving board over the abandoned city pool: 'Dad said that from up here you could look out and see how everything in the city fit together. It doesn't always have to be rise and decline ... we have the agency to flip the script and write a different ending!'
Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers’s Funky Winkerbean for the 17th of December, 2022. Eh, not to be all hipster but I liked John Cheever’s original story better.

And then this Sunday’s strip seems to promise nonsense. It’s Harry Dinkle organizing a church concert and worrying about the weather. This seems so detached from the narrative that … well, there’s gossip about whether Tom Batiuk chose to end the strip or was forced to. There’s always gossip like that whenever a strip ends or changes hands. I’m inclined to think it was Batiuk’s free choice. Ending the comic at the end of its current contract, after it had reached fifty years? That seems fair. And a lot of storylines the last couple years have had an elegiac tone. I mean even more than usual for a comic strip so concerned with how everything is getting worse.

The announcement the strip was ending feels like it came late, about six weeks before the end of publication. But, like, Gary Larson announced he was ending The Far Side only about ten weeks before it closed. Charles Schulz gave only about two weeks’ notice, and he was forced to stop Peanuts for failing health. The syndicate would have given him a dump truck full of money to continue or hire a replacement, but he already had more dump trucks full of money than they did. Bill Watterson’s year-long notice that Calvin and Hobbes was ending was an outlier. Norm Feuti announced the ending of Retail about a month before the strip shut down, again after a bunch of stories suggesting an end to things. I forget how freely Feuti chose to leave Retail behind in favor of writing children’s books. Anyway, my point is the public notice doesn’t seem out of line with other strips that chose to end.

But jumping from Summer Moore atop the diving board to a Harry Dinkle story? That seems like a strip running as the normal routine Christmastime action. And therefore a piece for the “oooh, the syndicate and Tom Batiuk are fighting and that’s why the strip is ending” hypothesis. On the other hand, let me be charitable, and set up to reveal myself a fool. This could be a setup that would logically gather the whole cast together and give them a chance to say farewell things. The pacing of this seems awful — why waste weeks on a Dream Or Was It — but it’s been a while wince Funky Winkerbean drew praise for its story pacing. I give up trying to guess where the story is going, or what behind-the-scenes drama might have happened. I’m just going to share what people are mad about.

Why is everyone mad at _Funky Winkerbean_ this week? (December 11, 2022)


I don’t figure to publish nothing but Funky Winkerbean updates until the strip ends later this month. But why not keep people up to date on the strip’s turn to bonkers? Only in an inferior way to the Son of Stuck Funky blog, which has a depth of knowledge and a community that can’t be matched by me? Still, there’s people who’d like a brief recap of what’s going on and that’s what I can serve.

Last time everyone was mad at Funky Winkerbean we’d learned the school janitor was a time traveller there to make sure Summer Moore wrote her book. Since then Time Janitor Harley Davidson has been explaining how he used his super-powers of nudging people’s minds. This all with the mission to make sure Summer Moore gets born. This brought up a sequence of snapshots of the Relationship of Les and Lisa, told in such brevity as to become cryptic.

For example. Last Sunday Harley explained how “when Susan Smith’s actions threatened the possibility of your parents getting back together before they were married … ” he gave “a gentle push to an already guilty conscience”. We see, in the recap, Les Moore consoling Susan Smith, who’s in the hospital. The reader who doesn’t remember the mid-90s well can understand there was a suicide attempt, but not how this fit together. So.

Story from the mid-90s. Susan Smith, one of Les Moore’s students, has a crush on him somehow. And she’s mistaking routine, supportive comments from her teacher as signals that he’s interested too. This was deftly done, at the time. Like, you could see where Smith got the wrong idea, and where Moore had no reason to think he was giving her signals. And was all funny in that I’m-glad-I’m-not-in-this-imminent-disaster way.

This turned to disaster when Smith learned that Moore did not, in fact, have any interest in her. And, particularly, had a girlfriend, Lisa, who was tromping around Europe for the summer. Most particularly when Les asked Smith to mail out the audio tape he was sending Lisa, with his wedding proposal to her. She destroyed the tape, and tried to destroy herself. The thing that Smith confessed was that she had destroyed the tape and that’s why Lisa wasn’t answering the proposal.

Summer Moore: 'When you say 'nudge' ... ' Harley: 'I tough minds ever so slightly to influence an outcome. For example, when Susan Smith's actions threatened the possibility of your parents getting back together before they were married ... ' Flashback to a hospital room, where Young Les Moore tells Smith: 'And by helping you, I did the world a favor too ... because there's a lot of poetry in you that won't be lost now!' Smith answers, 'Mr Moore ... WAIT! There's something I have to tell you ... !!'' In the present day, Harley continues: 'All I had to do was give a gentle push to an already guilty conscience.'
Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers’s Funky Winkerbean for the 4th of December, 2022. Boy, has to be a heck of a thing if Les never told Summer about what role a student’s suicide attempt had in her parents’ courtship, right? Still not answered: why Harley stuck around as janitor at Westview when Summer was off at Kent State for a decade. Oh, and there was a strange energy talking about this story on Usenet, as it first unfolded in the 90s, when a woman named Susan Smith became scandalously famous for drowning her children. (That’s the sort of scandal that got nationwide attention in the 90s.) It had nothing to do with the strip, naturally, but it made rec.arts.comics.strips discussion of the character weirder.

The revelation set Les off to Europe to chase Lisa down, incidentally the first time I ragequit Funky Winkerbean. The thing he kept missing her, getting to tourist sites ever closer to when she left, down to where he was missing her by seconds and the story wasn’t over yet. Anyway, he finally caught up to her in Elea, Greece, at Zeno’s world-famous escape room (it’s a tunnel one stadia long, empty apart from a tortoise and an arrow at the midpoint). As you’d think, Summer Moore got born and all.

I don’t remember, why Les couldn’t send another tape, or a letter, or call like a normal human being might. But I do remember that “intercepted proposal” is a story Tom Batiuk would use again, in Crankshaft. There, Lillian, who I bet has a last name, revealed to her comatose sister Lucy that she was why Lucy’s Eugene stopped writing while deployed overseas. Eugene wrote a proposal letter and promised if Lucy didn’t reply he’d stop trying to communicate with her. Jealous, Lillian hid the letter, and so her sister never married. The story premise might not work for you but it seems there’s something that appeals to Batiuk in it. Also now you understand why Lillian — who’s become a little old lady writing cozy mysteries about bookstore-related murders while running a tiny used bookshop herself — draws hatred from a streak of Crankshaft readers.

Other miscellaneous stuff. There’s a reference to the post office bombing storyline, a 1996 story detailed well on Son Of Stuck Funky for people who want the details. (The story was a loose take on the 1995 bombing of an Oklahoma City federal building by white supremacists.) Harley revealed it was his mental influence that got the band and the football team to donate blood. We should have seen that coming. Why would community leaders come together in a crisis like that of their own free will?

Finally Summer asks whether Harley’s ever ‘nudged’ her mind, a question that can only be believed if answered ‘yes’. Harley says ‘no’ and unloads a double- and then a triple-decker word zeppelin. Its goal: to explain how Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean both happened in the present but were ten years out of synch with one another. Immediately after Lisa Moore’s death Funky Winkerbean jumped ahead ten years. This allowed Tom Batiuk to skip the sadness of Les Moore getting over Lisa’s death and jump right into the sadness of Les Moore’s inability to get over Lisa’s death. But there was no reason for Crankshaft to jump like that. So, for a long while, when Crankshaft characters appeared in Funky Winkerbean they were a decade older and vice-versa.

Summer: 'Did you ever nudge or influence *my* mind?' Harley, in a series of word balloons that fill up *so much* of the comic space: 'No ... I couldn't do that! Your mind had to remain free of any influence from me directly so as not to alter what you may write. That's why there was always my risk of being discovered by you ... and, even though my influence on others was slight ... it still created a bit of an out-of-sync time bubble for this immediate area ... so that Westview actually sped ahead of other localities like Centerville by a bit ... but once I'm assured that your book will happen ... as I now am ... I can see to it that the bubble is absorbed back into the timestream.'
Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers’s Funky Winkerbean for the 7th of December, 2022. There has long been a rumor in the comics snark community that the strips are drawn a year or more ahead of time, but the word balloons and final script not filled in until shortly before publication. (To my knowledge neither Batiuk nor Ayers have confirmed this, but I’m willing to begrudge people who can corect me.) This may sound daft, but it’s not very different from the “Marvel Method” used to produce comics in the 1960s with, generally, better integration of art and story. If true, though, it would explain things like why the word balloons here so badly match the natural pauses in Harley’s speech here. Speech balloon placement is very hard, but look at how awful a set of sentences that is in the second panel, and how badly it fits that grand staircase of word balloons.

Not to brag, but I followed this and even why Tom Batiuk would do that. It’s a riff on DC Comics’s old Earth-1 and Earth-2 and so on worlds. Earth-1 was roughly the Silver Age superheroes, and Earth-2 their 20-year-older Golden Age forebears. Some characters, particularly Superman, appeared in both and so were older or younger when out of their home universe. But it was also confusing to anyone whose brain isn’t eaten up with this nonsense and is why I don’t brag about my brain. And so three percent of the last month of Funky Winkerbean was spent explaining why now Crankshaft won’t be out of synch with it anymore.

A problem endemic to stories about time travellers meddling with history is character autonomy. Add to that Harley’s claimed power to nudge people’s choices — including, we learn, getting Lisa to move back to Westview, and getting Crazy Harry a job with the comic book shop so he wouldn’t move out of town — and Summer has good reason to wonder about her parents. Harley owns up to changing Les and Lisa’s schedules to have the same lunch period. And to set it so nobody else would sit near them. But no, he says, Lisa chose of her own free will to go talk to the only person she could.

Comics Book Harriet, at Son Of Stuck Funky, has an outstanding deep-dive into Les and Lisa’s high school relationship, as it developed in the 1980s. It’s (of course) not this relationship of destiny, but a much more ambiguous and generally funny thing. The element I had completely forgotten is that Lisa started out as a terrible girlfriend. The comic logic is correct: you can preserve Les’s role as a loser if his girlfriend’s a terror. (It does play a bit into a misogynist idea of The Women They Be Crazy Harridans. But when you look at the full cast, with characters like Cindy Summers the Popular But Shallow Girl and Holly Budd the Hot Majorette … uh … well, sometimes you have to go with the cast types that give you scenarios.)

Anyway with that complete lack of reassurance Harley … explains how he got his name? And this was what confirmed I’d need to do another “why is everybody mad at Funky Winkerbean” essay. Because we’re told that when he arrived in Sometime In The Past Westview he needed to establish an identity. He saw a guy on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and figured, yeah that. I’m not faulting him for choosing a goofy name. He needs to blend in with a community where people have names like “Funky Winkerbean”, “Les Moore”, “Holly Budd”, “Jack Stropp”, “Bob Andray” (cute!) (strip of July 18, 1976), “Mason Jarr”, “Chester Hagglemore”, “Cliff Anger”, and so on. He doesn’t know where to find a level. (I made a version of this crack on Son of Stuck Funky and folks asked why I didn’t list “Harry L Dinkle” among the names. And I don’t know; it just doesn’t strike me as the same sort of goofy as, oh, “Rocky Rhodes” or “Ferris Wheeler” do.) My issue is: he didn’t work that out before leaving his home time? He has a time machine and he couldn’t spend an extra day thinking out his cover? The only way I can see that making sense is if Harley had to leap into the past before he was ready. Since we haven’t seen anyone trying to stop him, this implies some Quantum Leap scenario, where Harley is moving uncontrolled from event to event, forever hoping his next expository lump will be the lump drone.

Oh also, today (the 11th) we learn Summer Moore’s not-yet-written transcendentally important book will also be her only book. As if anyone could live up to that standard. Also that Harley hasn’t messed up the book by telling her this. Why? Because she somehow “figured out” all of this on her own, without sharing any of it with the reader. Good grief.

It is technically too soon to say whether everyone will be mad at Funky Winkerbean next week. [ Added after seeing Monday’s strip: Yes, everyone already is and will still be. ] However, Epicus Doomus promises in a Son of Stuck Funky comment that “this thing is about to take the stupidest possible turn you can imagine” while staying “staggeringly boring too”. I, too, am curious.

Statistics November: I Don’t Know What People Like Here but Have My Guesses


So that thing I complained about last year, where WordPress was showing nothing but an error page when I looked up my statistics? It’s still doing that. I posted to their support forum about it and just got that they dunno, sounds like a browser bug to them. And while I could try another browser, you know what? I’m not the one who broke something, WordPress did. I could go on nagging them about this but I’m focusing my attention on nagging Comics Kingdom until they take their advertisements off subscribers’ pages or run the Sunday comics at a readable size. Have to have priorities.

Anyway, I suppose that the things people really want to see around here are me explaining comic strips. Why Is Everyone Mad at _Funky Winkerbean_? wasn’t published in November, but I’m going ahead and supposing it’s going to be one of December’s top posts. But the other comic strip plot recaps are always well-received. And my plans for this month’s plot recaps are:

But things might change. We’ll see. And I do figure to write about Funky Winkerbean when that seems urgent. Maybe other things too, if they turn up. I’ve been thinking about slipping in another story strip, one that’s snuck in under everyone’s attention in the last couple months. You’ll know if I do.

Why Is Everyone Mad at _Funky Winkerbean_?


This may be hard to believe but as recently as the 21st of November, nobody was mad at Funky Winkerbean. At least nobody was mad enough at the soon-to-expire strip to click the ‘angry’ react at the bottom of Comics Kingdom’s page. That changed the 22nd, and since the 25th of November there’s been only one day that the strip got fewer than a hundred angry reactions, as of when I write this. So I want to explore that since people mad at comic strips is good for my readership.

But first, anyone really interested in this should visit the Son of Stuck Funky blog. It has always provided daily snark and commentary and research on Funky Winkerbean. The community there knows the strip with a depth and insight I can’t match and, yeah, they’re feeling extremely ambiguous about what to do next year.

So. The current, and it appears final, Funky Winkerbean story began the 24th of October. Summer Moore, the much-forgotten daughter of Les Moore and Dead Lisa Who Died of Death, returned from college. Her absence as a significant character for like a decade was explained as she kept changing her major. Now she’s thinking to take a gap year in her grad studies. Her goal: writing a book about Westview, the small Ohio town where Funky Winkerbean takes place. She figures to write about how the community’s changing over the last couple decades. Her plan is to use oral histories of her father, her father’s friends, and her dead mother’s diaries. Dead Lisa left a lot of diaries. And also a lot of videotapes. She recorded them after she decided it would be easier to leave a lot of video tapes with advice for her daughter rather than not die of breast cancer. (I sound snide, but what did happen was after a relapse she decided not to restart treatment.)

Les: 'So you're not going to be doing any interviews for your book today?' Summer: 'Actually, I'm reading Mom's diary ... so I'm interviewing Mom.'
Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers’s Funky Winkerbean for the 21st of November, 2022. The last Funky Winkerbean (as of this writing) that nobody was angry at. It’s possible that there was some anger that got unrecorded because of Comics Kingdom changing out their commenting system and destroying years of earlier comments.

She started just in time! She’s barely decided to write a book when Funky Winkerbean, the character, announces he’s closing his restaurant, Montoni’s. The pizza shop was the social center of the comic strip since 1992. This event went so fast — in under a week of strips they were auctioning off the fixtures — and with so little focus that it felt like a dream sequence.

By the way if this storyline turns out to be a dream sequence, it would both make more sense and deserve even more to be punched.

So after some interviews Summer goes to the Westview High School janitor, a guy named Harley. Who turns out to be a longtime background character; ComicBookHarriet found he entered the strip no later than 1979. Summer says she kept finding a pattern, not shared with us readers, where Harley’s name popped up too much. And she read something in her mother’s diary about feeling watched. Harley curses himself for being a novice and starts to unreel the story that’s got everyone mad.

Because it turns out that Harley is not merely a janitor who’s been there since before they invented high-fiving. No. He is, in fact, a Custodian, one of a group of people from some other time, with a mission to tend “important nexus events in the timeline” so they’re not disrupted. You know, like in Voyagers!, which you remember from my childhood as somehow the only TV show even more awesomer than Battlestar Galactica. Or like the early-2000s Cartoon Network series Time Squad, which answered the question “what if Voyagers! had three main characters but they were all jerks?”

So he’s been around for forty years watching over Westview High School as a janitor. Apparently it wasn’t intended, exactly. It’s that his Time Helmet got stolen, years ago, by … Donna, who back in the 80s wore this goofy space-guy-ish helmet to play video games as “The Eliminator”. Part of modern Funky Winkerbean lore was that she had worn the helmet to disguise her identity. This way, fragile boys wouldn’t freak out at a guh-guh-guh-girl being good at video games. (Which, eh, fair enough.) (Also she got her Mom to call her ‘Donald’ to help her cover.)

We’ll get back to this in a second. But a lot of what has people mad about this is that the strip revisited The Eliminator’s helmet a few months ago. This in a story where Donna’s husband, Crazy Harry, found the helmet in the attic, put it on, and found himself somehow back in April of 1980. He met up with his high-school self. He told Young Lisa that Les Moore liked her in a not-at-all extremely creepy way. He almost told her to get regular mammograms. He bought a copy of Spider-Man’s debut (a comic book twenty years old at the time) at a convenience store. And lost it, for John The Comic Book Guy to find. And he blipped back to the present. Everyone agreed that was wild. It must have been a hallucination from the helmet outgassing, the way 40-year-old plastic will. Anyway after that weird yet harmless experience they throw the helmet out. But a stray cat wandered into it and blipped into hyperspace. This in just the way The Eliminator would back in the day.

Harley: 'I couldn't just take back the helmet from Donna without drawing attention and possibly disrupting the timeline ... so I gently nudged her mind to make her think that she created it ... ' We see in flashback young Donna picking up an issue of 'Eerie Comics' with something like the Time Helmet on it. Harley: 'And I touched the mind of the comic artist Ken Kelly to put it on a comic book cover to give her the inspiration for it.' Flashback to Donna playing Defender: 'I'm the Eliminator, the most feared video game player in the galaxy!' The Eliminator vanishes, Harley: 'So I knew where the helmet was should I need it! Although, I did get a fright the first time Donna disappeared from the present for a couple of seconds!'
Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers’s Funky Winkerbean for the 27th of November, 2022. Again, not clear how this was easier than just breaking into Donna’s attic and swiping it in the decades that the helmet sat forgotten in a box there. The bit of Eliminator blipping out there reflects a common old Funky Winkerbean motif where wacky stuff would happen, like a character blipping into hyperspace. And apparently that needs explanation now because we can’t just have whimsy. Yes, that’s another thing to be mad about.

Back as it were to the present. So, Harley took a job as a janitor to be where he could watch over stuff. OK. He lost his Time Helmet when the young Donna swiped the cool-looking helmet form his supply closet. He couldn’t snag it back because that would disrupt the timeline. But he could touch her mind enough to make her think she’d made it herself, like she’d always told people. And touched the mind of comic book artist Ken Kelly to make a design that Donna would use as the basis for her helmet. Because that’s easier than touching Donna’s mind to bring the helmet back. And all this mind-touching isn’t creepy or weird so you will stop thinking it is, starting now [ snaps fingers ]. Anyway he figured he could always snag the Time Helmet if he really needed it … except that then it went missing a couple months ago and he has no idea where it went. It’s that cat wearing it.

There’s the first big thing everyone’s mad about: how the heck does it make sense to leave the Time Helmet lost in someone else’s attic for 40 years? And was his mission supposed to be “hang around Westview High School for forty years in case something happens?” And if that was the plan, then what Time Admiral’s great-grandmother did he punch out as a baby to draw that assignment?

Next big thing: what big nexus is it he’s there to protect? And can we shut down everything if his mission was being sure Les Moore wrote How Dead Lisa Died In The Most Tragically Tragic Thing That Ever Happened To Anyone Ever? In a twist, considering Dead Lisa has been the center of most every Funky Winkerbean story the past fifteen years, it is not. No, the thing that needs protection is the book that Summer Moore is about to start writing.

Yes. As you might think if you watched Bill And Ted Face The Music but missed the movie’s thesis that utopia can only be created as an active collaboration of all people, Summer Moore’s going to create a utopia. Specifically, her book connecting the grand sweeps of history to Westview inspires “a science of behavioral-patterend algorithms that will one day allow us to recognize humanity as our nation!” If I have this right, Harley means she lets them invent psychohistory, like in Isaac Asimov’s science fiction novels. In The End of Eternity and Foundation’s Edge, Asimov’s capstones to exploring the implications of a mathematically predictable future history, he concluded psychohistory would be a bad thing. I have to paraphrase because I don’t have the energy to dig up either book. But viewpoint characters come to see the future psychohistory creates as “condemned to neverending stasis by calculation”. I agree we could make a much better world if we treated all people as worthy of our brotherhood. But if the powerful can choose to shape future history they will not choose one for the good of the powerless.

Summer: 'You're here to make sure I write my book!? But what's so special about it?' Harley: 'Your ability to detect patterns will allow you to write a book that connects matters of ordinary small-town households to matters of immense consequence. What you write about sparks others to build on it to create a science of behavioral-patterned algorithms that will one day allow us to recognize humanity as our nation!'
Tom Batiuk and Chuck Ayers’s Funky Winkerbean for the 2nd of December, 2022. Recommended reading: Katherine MacLean’s short story “The Snowball Effect”. Anyway, the pattern I would like explored is why this strip has major characters named Crazy Harry, Harry Dinkle, Holly Winkerbean, and now Harley Janitorman. What’s with all the two-syllable H-y names, huh?

So that’s what else has people mad. First, the declaration that yet another character in this strip is going to become an important author. Authors already in the strip have written a blockbuster biggest-movie-of-the-year superhero franchise, a bestselling memoir that got turned into an Oscar-winning movie, and an Eisner-winning graphic novel. Second, not even an important author but someone who makes a better future. Third, an author whose work is so important it’s worth having a league of Timecops send one of their members to while away his life watching over her. But not someone good enough to do things like “not lose his Time Helmet for forty years”. Also not good enough to “maybe get a job somewhere near where Summer spends ten years in college”. Or even a job “where Summer spent anything but four years of her life”. Fourth, that it’s toying with some respectable comic book or science fiction ideas, badly. As said, it’s fiddling with what you see in the Bill and Ted movies, or with The End of Eternity, but missing their points. And, what the heck, because all this is being presented in big blocks of exposition rather than, you know, a mystery. Summer’s presented in-text as though she had cracked an elaborate mystery. But we-the-readers never saw any clues or even more than maybe two people mentioning the janitor had been here forever.

Oh also, that we’ve never seen evidence that Summer writes, or is any good at writing. Sometimes a newcomer has an amazing talent, yes. To get back to Isaac Asimov, he write “Nightfall” — acclaimed for decades as the best science fiction short story ever — when he was about twenty. It was only his seventeenth published story. Writing about the experience, Asimov noted that, had someone told him the night before he began writing, “Isaac, you are about to write the greatest science fiction short story ever”, he would never have been able to start. He’d have been destroyed by the menace of that potential. I think we don’t have enough time for a clash between forces helping and hindering Summer’s writing. I can imagine the story, though; Jack Williamson wrote something like it, in the Legion of Time. I’m told, anyway. I haven’t read it.

Anyway, everybody likes that the strip is trying to go out bonkers. But it’s fumbling the ideas, so the plot points don’t hold up to casual scrutiny. And they’re being delivered in time zeppelins of word balloons. I’ll try to post updates, when they’re deserved. But again, Son of Stuck Funky is the place to really know what’s going on here.

Statistics October: What a Mystery Things Were in October 2022


There’s some kind of WordPress problem going on where I can’t look at my statistics page right now. I mean as I write this. I don’t know what’s going on when this posts. So I snagged a couple screenshots and things when the month actually started, Universal Time, and can share what I know from that. But there’s data I failed to download at the time, including the roster of how many views came from which country, that I don’t have. I also don’t have the roster of what the most popular October posts were. But I’ll make do with what I have.

There were 5,379 page views around here last month. That’s down a little from the last couple months. But it’s above the twelve-month running median of 4,858.5 views per month, and not too far below the running mean of 5,511.9. I’ve had a couple freak months around here recently. These views came from 2,811 unique visitors, down from the running mean of 2,942.6 but just about right on the running median of 2,815.

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months hovering around 4500 views per month, without strong direction one way or another, until a new peak emerged in April 2022. A smaller peak reappeared in August 2022 and September 2022, with a decine after that.
Yes, they changed the typeface for that little pop-up window with the number of views and visitors and views per visitor. No, I don’t know what it means. No, it can’t be anything good.

There were 146 likes given around here in October, slightly below the running mean of 159.9 and median of 159.5. Doesn’t seem significant to me. Comments are hidden in the screenshot I took at the start of the month, and I can’t get them right now. So that’s formally a mystery. I think it was more than in September, though, something above 80, which way beats the running mean of 50.4 and median of 51.5.

I don’t have the roster of what were the most popular posts here in October but I’m going ahead and guessing it was plot recaps for Gil Thorp and for The Phantom weekdays. Here’s my schedule for what comics I’ll try to recap the next couple weeks.

That’s, of course, subject to change as I get way behind on everything.

WordPress figures I posted 21,772 words in October, which is my most talkative month of the year. It brings me to a total of 177,577 words for the year, and an average of 702.3 words per posting. It seems a bit much to me, too. I’ll try and do more of those one-liner posts, but they’re harder to think up.

Between the end of filming for the movie The Gun In Betty Lou’s Handbag and the start of November I’ve posted 3,560 things here. They’ve drawn a total 5,426 comments, and 326,624 views from a recorded 184,350 unique visitors.

If you’d like to be a regular reader around here thank you, that’s very kind. Checking in daily works. You can also use my RSS feed, https://nebushumor.wordpress.com/feed/, with whatever RSS reader you have. If you don’t have an RSS reader you can sign up for a free account with Dreamwidth, and add this (or any RSS feed) to your friends page there. To read around here, you can use the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button on the right of this page. Or you can get essays e-mailed to you, using the box just below that, and see the least copy-edited version of these posts.

And so if I may leave you with anything to remember, it’s the words to a square dance you had to do every day for like three weeks in second grade that you haven’t thought about in decades but that are all that’s in your brain starting now. All join hands and circle left around the ring; when you get home, get ready to swing. Swing with your partner, and go two times around. Now do-si-do with your corner gal, and come back to your home. Now promenade your partner round the (something).

60s Popeye: Where There’s A Will, there’s Gerald Ray


My little encore takes us back to Gerald Ray studios. I’m sorry this recently-discovered ‘Episode 42’ of King Features’s Classic Popeyes didn’t also include a Gene Deitch and a Larry Harmon short, so it could be a farewell tour of all the studios.

As it’s a Gerald Ray-produced cartoon I don’t have a story credit to gie you. Direction is credited to Bob Bemiller, who’s directed four other credited cartoons here. These include the introduction of Deezil Oyl and that remake of a Woody Woodpecker cartoon. So from 1960 here’s Where There’s A Will.

Barnacle Bilge is dead! Yes, we’re all heartbroken. But lawyer Clarence Barrow summons Popeye by phone to the reading of the will, at noon today, or he’ll be shut out of the will. Popeye volunteers to tell Brutus, also mentioned, so that they can collect whatever Bilge’s estate offers.

You, having seen cartoons before, know where this is going. Brutus launches a campaign of schemes to stop Popeye from getting there. They don’t just fail, sometimes they fail so badly Popeye doesn’t even know he’s being stopped. Despite Brutus’s best efforts, Popeye gets there anyway, and it turns out Barnacle Bilge’s fortune is worthless. Except, ah, once Brutus is kicked out of the cartoon it turns out there is a fortune after all, and now it’s all Popeye’s. (Popeye donates it to the orphans, as is his custom.)

The story outline seems like one you could do with any set of characters. Thinking it over, I don’t remember any that are quite like this, at least not in theatrical cartoons. There’s a Droopy cartoon circling similar territory (Wags to Riches, remade as Millionaire Droopy) but not quite this. I can think of a Bullwinkle story that also circles this territory (Rue Brittania) but isn’t there.

At a formal table that looks like a dinner table. Clarence Barrow the lawyer drones on, reading the will. Brutus reaches across the table, holding Popeye by the neck, readying to slug him. Brutus is holding a small can of spinach, although not for long.
Gentlemen, please! Brawling? In the great Clarence Barrow’s dining room?

There’s little about this setup that needs it to be Popeye or Brutus to work. The discovery that Bilge’s fortune is a can of spinach, and Popeye using that to beat Brutus up, is about it. Still, there’s a lot I enjoy in this short. The more I thought about what essay to write the more I liked the cartoon. The jokes may not be very deep, but they are nice and broad and goofy in a charming way. Maybe I’m an easy touch for “walk this way” gags. They seem well-aimed for the intended audience, though. And they’re well-paced. If you don’t like a joke that’s fine, they’re not lingering and there’ll be another one soon. This reflects an important insight of Jay Ward studios, that Gerald Ray — who worked on Bullwinkle — seems to have picked up. You can make a slender animation budget look like more with good editing and good voice acting.

Adult me better appreciates small jokes that I’m sure I never noticed as a child. Like the lawyer reading the will, oblivious to Popeye and Brutus knocking each other out around him. Or Brutus tossing Bilge’s can of spinach out to Popeye and us hearing the Popeye-the-sailor-man fanfare and saying he should not have done that. It’s common in Gerald Ray shorts that jokes are presented well. It helps me think fondly of the shorts after I’ve watched them, and as I think out what I want to write about them.

What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays)? Why are we seeing the death of The Phantom? August – October 2022


OK so, once again I am asking people to get this straight: the Phantom is the man who cannot die. If we see what looks like him dying, it’s because that is not what we’re seeing.

Which is, indirectly, a key point in a lovely essay Tony DePaul published recently. In The Death of the 21st Phantom DePaul explains why this was a story he needed to write, and get into print, now rather than later. One core insight is that the whole run of the comic strip — 86 years now — we have been seeing the same Kit Walker, Phantom. 21st of his line, in the comic strip continuity. And that he has not died tells us of a choice the writers of the comic strip have collectively made: he is not going to die on-screen in the comic strip.

But we can’t know when the comic strip will die. Not that there’s any specific reason that this strip should end. But the newspaper industry is near failure under the relentless assault of vulture capitalists. It’s hard to imagine most comic strips surviving its last collapse. And from these insights DePaul discusses why he wanted to spend so much time on an imaginary story … if it is imaginary. Also with some thoughts about what went into it, including confirmation about the role an earlier story served for this. It’s also a really good summary of where this quite long story has gotten, to the point that I’m not sure I have anything to add but typos. We’ll see.

My goal, though, is to get you up to speed on Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom, weekday continuity, as of mid-October 2022. If you’re reading this after December 2022, or you’re interested in the Sunday strips, or news about the comic strip breaks, you may find a more useful essay here. Or, you know, that X-Band Phantom podcast, they talk about the comic strip a lot, and several times a month.

The Phantom (Weekdays).

1 August – 15 October 2022.

Last time I checked in we were still watching Mozz recount his prophecy of The Phantom’s ruin to The Phantom. This despite Mozz letting The Phantom — and us — know that he would deceive if that’s what was needed to save him from ruin. To that end Mozz had coaxed The Phantom into letting him write his own Chronicle. Mozz’s Chronicle would look like The Phantom’s own Chronicles of his and his ancestors’ adventures, and be kept in the Skull Cave like them.

Chronicle book in hand, Mozz tells of a dire future. The Phantom, seeking his son — who’s become a guerilla leader in northern India — is mistaken for an assassin. Manju, Kit Junior’s trusted partner, now an expert sniper, finds the already-wounded Kit Senior and shoots him through the chest. And shoots his eyeglasses off. A mysterious figure demands he stand, and The Phantom looks up and — we the readers see his face, unconcealed by sunglasses or a mask or even deep shade. It’s stunning.

The fatally wounded Phantom sees a pair of tall boots in front of him. The boot-wearing figure demands, 'You heard me ... on your feet.' He starts to look up, and we see The Phantom's eyes for the first time ever(!). The yet-unseen boot-wearer orders, 'I said stand up ... '
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 15th of August, 2022. I’m not sure it’s wise for me to share this since now that you’ve seen The Phantom’s face you’re going to die. I mean, I guess you were probably going to anyway so that maybe doesn’t spoil your plans but it’s a rude thing for me to do to you.

Tony DePaul confirms that this has never happened in the strip before. Not only does nobody in The Phantom universe see The Phantom’s eyes, but none of us readers outside have seen it either. Even for an imaginary story — and after he’s taken a fatal wound — it feels illicit.

The demand to stand came from the 20th Phantom, appearing — with all the Phantoms before him — before the dying man’s eyes. The spectral voices promise he was the 21st Phantom. He staggers back to his feet, to Manju’s shock and amazement. She will conclude that he’s the one assassin who could have killed Kit Junior. Manju’s not so awed as to not shoot him again. But he’s all right with embracing this end.

The final thoughts of the dying Phantom, which are of his holding his wife close, as they fade to black.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 27th of August, 2022. Tony DePaul points out that in the final panel you can see a skull in Diana’s hair, a touch that’s entirely Mike Manley’s brilliance.

Manju and the soldiers with her bury him. She toasts him, even, when she gets back to camp, and shows Kit Junior souvenirs taken from the dead man. They’re the Phantom’s rings, the “Good Mark” ring with the four swords and the “Skull Mark” ring with you-know-what. Kit Junior recognizes this, and has Manju take him to his father’s grave, without saying who it was she killed. He says a regretful farewell and … what else is there to do? Die, similarly, in a year’s time, tells Mozz, his body left unburied in some valley of the Nyamjang Chu river (in Tibet and India).

And this concludes his prophecy. The Phantom, eager to get on to saving Savarna Devi from Gravelines Prison — the mission that started this wrack-and-ruin — promises it’ll be different. For one, he’ll bring Devil, his wolf, with him, something not done in the prophecy. And he knows what will happen if Savarna learns that her former enslaver Jampa is the constable who butts heads with Kit Junior’s mentor Kyabje Dorje.

The Phantom takes the Chronicle that Mozz held, as he read, to keep his promise to set it in Skull Cave for all tim. He intends a trick, to keep his wife or Guran or anyone else reading it, and so inters it in the burial vault reserved for him. And, confident he’s outwitted fate, he rides off to Gravelines.

Mozz, thinking, while Diana reads his prophecy-Chronicle: 'Have I forestalled the death of the 21st Phantom? Or merely incited fate to bring him to that same grave by a path I've not been permitted to see?' To himself, he says, 'This is why I wanted you here in the Deep Woods while I recorded my prophecy, Phantom ... and why, on our final reading, I stepped forward to select a Chronicle you would naturally see as MINE!'
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 29th of September, 2022. This isn’t a thought that could fit naturally in my essay, so I’ll stuff it here. I was surprised to realize that the Phantom we’re currently reading is the same one since 1936. I would have bet money that there would have been at least one on-screen transition from the Original to a New Phantom, plausibly either in the 70s or 80s as comics took a different representation of emotional truths, or in the 90s when a lot of characters tried to reboot and refresh into edgier forms. (Remember ‘Electric Superman’?) I’m fortunate nobody had ever come up to me and said, “Hey, Joseph, do you feel like betting five bucks against my ten that the Phantom introduced in 1936 had at some point in the comic strip continuity died and passed his mantle on to the Phantom we’re currently reading in today of, oh, let’s say 2004? Does 2004 sound like a good year for this bet?”

Diana is aware that Mozz has been writing a Chronicle. But Mozz is sworn to not say a word of his prophecy. His silence when Diana asks about it fires her curiosity. And, wordlessly, enters Skull Cave and takes his Chronicle off the shelves. He had handed The Phantom a different Chronicle, confident this would trick The Phantom. One may think he was lucky that The Phantom didn’t leaf through the book to make sure what we was hiding in the vault. But if there’s any character we can say will know what someone else will or won’t do in a situation, it is Mozz.

Anyway, Diana starts to read Mozz’s Chronicle. Her learning of Mozz’s prophecy of The Phantom’s death was enough to avert it in The Curse of Old Man Mozz. Could history repeat itself? Mozz claims he doesn’t know. And with that, the 1st of October, the story Phantom’s End, 261st daily continuity story, concludes.


The Phantom wakes from his campsite to see his wolf Devil growling at a large flaming skeleton.
Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s The Phantom for the 7th of October, 2022. “Settle down, Devil, it’s just the Now That’s What I Call 80s Heavy Metal album I had delivered.”

The current story, conclusion to this project, The Breakout, began the 3rd of October. The Phantom’s resolved to rescue Savarna, despite Mozz’s warnings. And to avert everything he’s foreseen. At his campsite, he’s revisited by the flaming skeletal ghost of his ancestors, last seen in the Llongo forest in a hallucinatory vision. The Phantom isn’t intimidated by this now-familiar portent of doom, though. So that’s something.

Next Week!

We relax a bit from all this heavy talk about prophecy and supernatural visions with some witch-burning. Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates’s Prince Valiant gets my attention in a week, if all goes as has been foreseen. We’ll see.

Statistics September: How Many People Wanted Me To Tell Them The Phantom Wasn’t Dead Last Month


If there is a refrain for 2022, it’s “boy, remember when we thought 2020 was a rough year?”. But the other is that Tony DePaul and Mike Manley’s project, to show what it would look like were The Phantom to die, sends people here to check if he’s dead. Four of the five most popular posts around here in September were various What’s Going On In The Phantom (Weekdays) essays. Seeing the list assembled like that reveals that I have not been consistent about whether to capitalize the (Weekdays). Don’t think that isn’t bothering me. (The other piece was me explaining a Far Side that I only got in October 2022, thirty-plus years after first seeing it.)

Still, I like taking this near-the-start-of-the-month chance to look at what was popular that I published recently. The five most popular things I published in September were being upset about comic strips, so I guess thanks, Tom Batiuk? Here’s what people most liked:

I sometimes write things that are not me being angry about comic strips! The ones that people are interested in are me describing what’s happening in the story strips. My plan for the next couple weeks is to publish about these strips which, yes, includes the weekday Phantom run:

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months hovering around 4500 views per month, without strong direction one way or another, until a new peak emerged in April 2022. A smaller peak reappeared in August and September 2022.
Between The Hypothetical Death of The Phantom and the new-look Gil Thorp and Tom Batiuk being all like that it’s good times for me. I just know that we’re heading into something like four weeks of Les Moore sulking about how people don’t remember the Death of Lisa Moore the way Lisa would have wanted them to, though.

Popularity is one thing. Quantifying popularity is another thing, a way of being unhappy for no reason. WordPress has a handy reference of how many of various kinds of interaction happened here in the month. For example, it reports that in September there were 7,217 page views from 3,890 unique visitors. That is, if I haven’t missed something, my third-highest number of page views ever. It’s way above the twelve-month running mean of 5,250.5 views, and also the running median of 4,729.5 views. The number of unique visitors is also well above the running mean of 2,795.0 and the running median of 2,721. If I could just be this annoyed by Funky Winkerbean all the time …

But I am not. And looking at measures of things more like interactions and less like gawking at my rage gets us a more average month. There were 163 things liked in September, not all of them September-published pieces. This is above the running mean, 154.4, and the running median, 154.5, likes. But it’s not that more than average. There were 80 comments given, and that is a big number for me, highest since July 2021. The running mean was 46.7 and median 47.

There were 80 countries or country-like constructs sending me page views in September. 15 of them were single-view countries. Here’s the roster:

Country Readers
United States 4,455
Australia 947
United Kingdom 233
India 227
Canada 209
Italy 150
Brazil 86
Philippines 71
Germany 66
Nigeria 55
Spain 54
Portugal 53
Serbia 45
Norway 44
Japan 35
Finland 29
Saudi Arabia 28
South Africa 28
France 27
Sweden 27
Singapore 19
Austria 17
Netherlands 16
Romania 16
Mexico 15
New Zealand 14
Pakistan 14
Russia 14
Denmark 13
Thailand 13
Ireland 12
Hungary 11
Turkey 11
Argentina 10
Belgium 10
Indonesia 10
United Arab Emirates 8
Colombia 7
El Salvador 7
Barbados 6
Greece 6
Israel 6
Malaysia 6
Switzerland 6
Guatemala 5
Kenya 5
South Korea 5
Ukraine 5
Croatia 4
Cyprus 4
Kuwait 4
Hong Kong SAR China 3
Jamaica 3
Latvia 3
Slovakia 3
Taiwan 3
Trinidad & Tobago 3
Albania 2
Costa Rica 2
Czech Republic 2
Egypt 2
European Union 2
Peru 2
Poland 2
Uganda 2
Antigua & Barbuda 1
Armenia 1
Azerbaijan 1
Bosnia & Herzegovina 1
Bulgaria 1
Cameroon 1 (**)
China 1
Luxembourg 1
Montenegro 1
Mozambique 1
Puerto Rico 1
Slovenia 1
Somalia 1
Venezuela 1
Vietnam 1
Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink.
This month’s baffling anomaly is why I had nearly a thousand views from Australia for some reason? Did I toss in a really good Barassi Line joke I forgot about?

Cameroon has been a single-view country for three months now. No other country can presently make a multi-month claim without fibbing.

WordPress figures that I published 17,279 words in September, which brings me to 155,805 words for the year. Between the release of The Secrete of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue and the start of October I’ve published 3,529 posts that drew 321,250 views from 181,533 unique visitors.

Folks who’d like to be regular readers I suppose know what they’re doing. Still, if you need help, try using the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button that’s on the right-hand column of this page. It’s called “Another Blog, Meanwhile” because of a thing that happened to me in 2015 that I’ve explained, like, twice since then. So that’s the sort of person I am and if you still want to follow me, thanks for the patience. It’s kind of you.

What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? Is there a story in Rex Morgan right now? July – September 2022


Since my last update on Rex Morgan, M.D. there was one complete story, about the health problems of Aunt Tildy and her husband. And then there’s the month or so since then. This hasn’t focused on any particular character, and hasn’t shown any particular event developing. It seems to be more a refreshing of audience memory of various characters and their situations than anything else. So I can’t say what the story is, as it’s not yet clear who’s taking the lead.

I’m sure it will be clear by December 2022, when I expect to come around to Glenwood again. If you’re reading after about December 2022, or any news breaks about Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D., I should have a more useful essay here. Thanks for being with me now, though.

Rex Morgan, M.D..

3 July – 17 September 2022.

Last time I checked in, Andrzej “Count Crushinski” Bobrowski felt sick. He snuck out on his wife, June Morgan’s vaguely-Aunt Tildy, to the hospital. His presumed heart attack turned out to be heartburn. No big deal, but Rex Morgan does deliver a stern warning against driving yourself to the hospital when you’re feeling like that. You might pass out or something and have an accident. Released, Andrzej buys flowers and chocolate and tries to pretend he wasn’t anywhere in particular for hours on end.

Rex Morgan: 'With your symptoms, coming to the hospital was the best choice. What was *not* a good choice was driving yourself.' Andrzej: 'I'm a good driver, though. Tildy even says so.' Morgan: 'Yes --- but if you're having a medical emergency, you could lose control, cause an accident and injure yourself or someone else. Always have someone else drive you.'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 6th of July, 2022. Well, fortunately, we know nobody’s going to be making the mistake of driving themselves to the emergency room anytime soon!

It doesn’t work and Tildy scolds her husband for sneaking off to the hospital like that. Only then she’s feeling woozy and doesn’t feel she can spoil Andrzej’s day by having him drive her to the hospital. So she takes his car and drives herself, hoping to outrace her symptoms to the emergency room. She loses.

[ Tildy blacks out while driving to the hospital ] ... [ and her car runs off the road! ] (We see Tildy unconscious at the wheel, and the Cadillac roaring - crunch -thud!)
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 21st of July, 2022. Oh.

She’s fortunate not to be seriously hurt in the accident. In the hospital June scolds her to let the doctor on call treat her instead of holding out for Rex Morgan. Tildy turns out to have a more serious problem, a cardiac arrhythmia that they hope to treat with medicine. Andrzej rushes to join his wife and acknowledge the irony that she did the thing she had just scolded him for doing. But everything except the bills looks okay. Andrzej and Tildy settle down to watch what they think are the free streaming movies in her hospital room. And that wraps up the story.


From the 16th of August the new story started. I’m not sure how to word that. At least it’s when we began checking in on major characters. Hank Harwood Junior, for example, is off to see Yvonne, whom he met on his and his father’s road trip a couple years ago. (She’s the daughter of Millie Grey, a woman that Hank Senior might have married, and re-found with in her last days.) Buck Wise, who seems to do some kind of agent merchandising work or something, promises to check in on the elderly Hank Senior.

[ What's going on with the good folks here in Glenwood? Hank Jr is taking a trip out of town, hoping to find romance. ] Hank, on the phone: 'Boarding my plane in ten minutes. Can't wait to see you.' [ Buck is checking on Hank Sr. ] Hank Sr: 'Kind of you to stop by, Buck, but I don't really need babysitting. I'm old, but not helpless.' [ Truck Tyler looks forward to his gig at Lou's despite reservations about the opening act. ] (He's practicing guitar.) [ Kelly buckles down and studies hard to make the best of her senior year. ] (She's taking notes.) [ While Niki can't wait for the weekend. ] (He's reading a chemistry book and thinking 'This is SO dull.') [ And Rex? Treating patients, as always. ] (He's hold a stethoscope to a child's chest.)
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 11th of September, 2022. As it only feels like keeps happening, Terry Beatty summarized the strip quite well in one Sunday strip so you don’t need me. I mean, it’s absolutely coincidence even though this is the third time in eighteen months that he’s drawn a solid recap the weekend before I was going to publish mine.

After discovering that his son Corey is somehow taller than him, Wise checks in on another of his projects. This is managing the revived career of roots country singer Truck Tyler. Wise arranged a new opening act: ‘Mud Mountain’ Murphy, whom Truck had thought was dead. Nope, he was just living off the grid a while, hiding out in Funky Winkerbean after donating all his comic book stuff to Boy Lisa and joining the team at Atomik Comix. But he’s back now. Tyler is skeptical: Murphy was famously unreliable. Wise says Murphy insists he’s gotten his act together.

And then on to some of the teenagers, a futile attempt to warm me up for recapping Gil Thorp next week. Niki Roth once again uses his delivery job to get into the comic, and to visit his girlfriend Kelly. (She’s the Morgans’ babysitter.) Kelly is ready for senior year, and thinking of college. Niki has a faint awareness that they’ve been in high school since the comic strip started in 1732. He is not ready for college, or even next week, which, mood.

I want to say that’s how far the story has gotten, but as you see, it’s not much of a story yet. It seems more to be refreshing our memory of the various characters and their settings. We’ll see what thread takes the lead and where it goes by the time I get back to this strip in eleven weeks or so.

Next Week!

It is, with no snark and no exaggeration, my greatest challenge in plot summarization in years. Maybe ever. For the first time I try to explain what’s going on in Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. Be with me here in a week to learn how much I don’t know about the history of Gil Thorp and how much Henry Barajas does.

Statistics August: People Want Me To Explain If The Phantom Is Dead Already


Once again, not to spoil things, but the man who cannot die. But people are very interested in the current, yearlong-and-still-going, story in which Mozz foresees and tries to prevent The Phantom’s death. And the wholesale destruction of his family’s heritage. Let me start off by sharing the five most popular things published in August, for the month of August:

Also ranking high were earlier essays about what was going on in The Phantom. I trust that’s from old links or imperfect Google matches. I’m sure everyone found their way to something useful, sooner or later.

Comic strip recaps remain my most popular feature here, though. Let me share my plan for those comics for the next couple weeks. It’s to cover these, at these times:

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months hovering around 4500 views per month, without strong direction one way or another, until a new peak emerged in April 2022. A smaller peak reappeared in August 2022.
Only 1.94 views per visitor, so there’s no way to use this data to test Benjamin Franklin’s aphorism about fish and visitors smelling after three interactions with the main content repository server.

As for readership totals? Those were doing pretty well in August. All that Phantom trade, I’m sure. There were 6,375 page views here in August, well above the twelve-month running mean of 5,109.1 views per month. It’s even farther above the twelve-month running median of 4,702.5 views in a month.

There were more unique visitors too. 3,292 unique visitors stopped in over the course of August, which was a dogleg left under some lovely shade. The running median is 2,742.8 unique visitors, and the median 2,682.5. I was even better-liked: the number of likes given was 206, way above the mean of 148.7 and mean of 147. It was chatty on top of that, with 61 comments, compared to a mean of 46.8 and median of 47.

85 countries or their equivalents sent me any views at all in August, up from 81. 19 of them sent a single view, barely down from 20. Here’s the roster of all the origins of my viewers:

Country Readers
United States 4,378
Australia 527
India 221
Canada 195
United Kingdom 157
Italy 104
Brazil 73
Germany 47
Nigeria 42
Bahrain 41
France 41
Sweden 40
Ireland 39
Spain 37
South Africa 33
Philippines 23
Romania 22
Malaysia 20
Finland 18
Mexico 17
Netherlands 15
New Zealand 15
El Salvador 14
Indonesia 14
Japan 14
Austria 13
Kenya 13
Saudi Arabia 11
Denmark 10
Portugal 10
Belgium 9
Serbia 9
Singapore 9
Czech Republic 8
Norway 8
Switzerland 7
Bangladesh 6
Greece 6
Thailand 6
Turkey 6
Russia 5
Taiwan 5
Trinidad & Tobago 5
United Arab Emirates 5
Estonia 4
Iraq 4
Argentina 3
Chile 3
Ecuador 3
Egypt 3
Israel 3
Poland 3
Slovenia 3
Sri Lanka 3
Ukraine 3
Vietnam 3
Colombia 2
Croatia 2
Honduras 2
Kuwait 2
Lebanon 2
Montenegro 2
Pakistan 2
Peru 2
South Korea 2
Uganda 2
Albania 1
Bahamas 1
Barbados 1
Belarus 1
Cameroon 1 (*)
Cook Islands 1
Costa Rica 1
Côte d’Ivoire 1
Dominican Republic 1
European Union 1
Guam 1
Guatemala 1
Hungary 1
Libya 1
Liechtenstein 1
Madagascar 1
Morocco 1 (*)
Namibia 1
Zimbabwe 1

Cameroon and Morocco were the only single-view countries in July also. No country is on a three-month streak.

Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink.
I learn the location of so many minor islands I would otherwise have thought was crud on my computer screen by dragging the window around a little, and vice-versa.

WordPress figures I posted 19,115 words in August, which is my chattiest month this year. It brings my word total for the year to 138,526. Since the debut of the original Card Sharks to the start of September I’ve posted 3,499 things here. They’ve drawn a total of 314,034 views from a recorded 177,643 unique visitors.

If you know someone who could be my elusive reader from Greenland, please let them know about the RSS feed for my essays, the most convenient way to read anything online. Or that they could get essays e-mailed them as I publish them, once a day, slightly later each day of the month, before I fix the typos. Or they can click the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button in the right column of this page, and add the page to their WordPress reader. If you don’t know anyone in Greenland, I’m not surprised. I don’t either.

60s Popeye: Weather Watchers, and an arguable end to my 60s Popeye Watching


I have for today the last of the 1960s Popeye cartoons that King Features has put up on their YouTube channel. Or so I thought. Every source I can find says there were 220 of these short cartoons made, over a course of days and at a cost of hundreds of dollars per cartoon. King Features uploaded them four at a time into 22-minute “episodes”, and has 55 of them. And yet when I mentioned the Gerald Ray-produced The Last Resort last week, I couldn’t find where I had reviewed it in any of these essays. (I had an earlier review, from 2014, that I let stand.) I have no explanation for this.

I figure, if I can find the spoons, to go through the episodes King Features still has up and see if I overlooked that one, and any other shorts, somehow. A possible complication is that King Features has withdrawn seven of its episodes, and thus 28 cartoons. I don’t know why. My guess in the absence of actual knowledge is someone noticed there was something objectionable in one or more cartoons of the set. I would be happy to hear from someone who knew, but doubt I will.s

So for cartoons that are not missing? Here’s the last of the Jack Kinney-produced shorts. The story’s credited to Raymond Jacobs, and the animation direction to Volus Jones and Ed Friedman. From 1960 for the last(?) time, it is the Weather Watchers. Let’s weather.

Oh did I ever want my reviewing project here to end on a strong cartoon. Something I could spill over with good things to talk about. That’s more fun than even snarking is. But what we have is another of those Jack Kinney productions that makes more sense the less closely you’re watching. Like, tune out and come back to the next scene and you can rationalize how Brutus and Popeye got here and why. But go from what’s on-screen and you have a bunch of leaps of logic.

This is another in the Popeye-and-Bluto/Brutus-Compete-For-A-Job shorts. This time Popeye starts out with the job nice and secure and Brutus schemes to steal it, a variation not done much. I can’t think of another short with that setup. This time around Popeye works for the weather bureau, relying on the corns on his feet or a spin of his wheel-of-fortune for his forecasts. And his forecasts are terrible, or at least he gets two wrong in a row. The first time he’s wrong is enough to get a complaint from Brutus, who’s also asking about openings at the weather bureau. The rain, against a forecast of “fair and sunny” weather, is enough for Olive Oyl to give Popeye something like notice. He forecasts “fair and sunny” again, and Brutus sabotages this by seeding clouds.

A very wet Olive Oyl, wearing a ruined hat and looking miserable, enters the door of the Weather Bureau.
Actual footage of me reviewing my notes for this short.

With her new hat spoiled, Olive Oyl fires Popeye and hires Brutus. Popeye discovers the moth balls used to seed the clouds that something’s up, and figures it must be Brutus since who else is in the story? Well, Wimpy is, as the slightly goofy TV weatherman. The pop culture of that era tells me weather reporters of that era were goofy performers. The shift to professional meteorologists came later. But Wimpy never interacts with anybody that we see, so, Brutus is the safe and correct bet. Popeye sabotages Brutus’s forecast of sunshine, and Olive Oyl gives Brutus twenty years less chance to prove himself than she gave Popeye. Brutus turns on Olive Oyl, grabbing her by the neck, and Popeye rushes in, saving the day. As a punch line, Popeye, restored to his forecasting job, says tomorrow will be “Sunny as [Olive’s] smile, fair as [her] complexion, and warm as [her] ever-loving’ heart.” As it starts to rain, Popeye declares, “Women, phooey!” and starts singing about how ’cause he ate his spinach he’s Popeye the weatherman.

The plot summary, I imagine, sounds fine to you too. The sequence of events is what makes sense for a story about Popeye as a weather forecaster. It’s in the connective tissue of plotting that it falls down. We can take as implicit that Brutus did promise he’d eat his forecast if it were wrong. But Olive Oyl talks about how “Yes, I fell for your mothball gag”, a gag she hasn’t been seen to learn about. Heck, a gag that even Popeye has only assumed happened. Popeye sabotaging Brutus’s weather is correct, but not justified. He doesn’t know Brutus did anything. (This short suggests Brutus is a stranger to Olive Oyl, at least, and surely Popeye.) Also his sabotage is weird: dump a gigantic can of spinach into a water tank and blow up the water tank so we get spinach rain? And this when Popeye doesn’t even eat spinach himself, unless that too is off-screen, despite what we get in his not-finished closing couplet.

Popeye, on top of a water tank, pours in the contents of a gigantic can of 'King Size Spinach'.
Either that can is labelled upside-down or Popeye opened it from the bottom side, which is weird.

Get the premise and take any scene and you can imagine the scene before it which sets it up. But the scene that sets it up is never in the short. Once again we have something that makes more sense the less you pay attention. It gives that odd dream-narrative tone so common to the Kinney-produced shorts. I enjoy some of that. Dream logic makes the story feel fresher and more surprising. But it keeps me from calling this a good cartoon. It’s a first draft of a good cartoon, that’s all.


And with that, that’s all for my King Features Syndicate Popeye cartoon reviews! Until I find ones that I overlooked, at least. I would love to tell you what my plan is for the next thing to take my review-day slot. I haven’t decided, though. I’m open to suggestions, particularly if they’re ones that have reasonably stable web locations. Or I can just review that Beetle Bailey half-hour special they made for CBS in like 1989 and forgot to air. We’ll see.

Why I Am Angry at Funky Winkerbean, Yes, Again


I wrote a version of this as a comment on the Son of Stuck Funky blog, the web’s premiere source for remembering things about Funky Winkerbean, but you know? I’m still bothered so I’m going to write more.

Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean opened this week with Crazy Harry bringing over a bunch of tapes of Lisa Moore. Lisa Moore died, reader time, in 2008. It was a big story, where she responded to the news her breast cancer had returned by recording videotape messages for her daughter and then dying. The dying may seem like an extreme reaction. It seemed the best way to escape her husband, Les Moore, the most insufferable person on the comics page. It hasn’t worked, as Les Moore wrote a book about her dying and turned it into a graphic novel and an annual fun-run and a failed made-for-TV movie and a completed made-for-theaters movie and the whole of his personality except for being snide to acquaintances.

A couple years back Les Moore loaned the suspiciously many videotapes to Crazy Harry for digitization. And today, years after finishing the project and I thought returning the tapes, he came over with a bunch of the Lisa Moore tapes. What’s got me angry is a line that I might have ignored if I had more patience with the comic strip.

Summer: 'Hey, Harry!' Harry, carrying a box of VHS tapes: 'Hi there, Summer!' Summer: 'What brings?' Harry: 'Donna said I had to get rid of my boxes of VHS tapes or open a museum ... and I found some of your mom's old tapes that I forgot to get back to you.' Flashback: Harry, coming up to the same porch: 'Hi, Lisa ... I just thought I'd stop by and say 'hi'.' Lisa: 'And you just did ... twice!'
Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean for the 15th of August, 2022. Summer there is Summer Moore, the little-seen daughter of Les and Lisa Moore. She’s important in that she sits on the patio swing that Lisa Moore sat on.

Why does Crazy Harry explain that “Donna said I had to get rid of my VHS tapes”? Yes, yes, I know, because she was tired of them cluttering up the basement or whatever. But Tom Batiuk decided that Harry’s wife was tired of the clutter. Why? What does that explanation do that, oh, “I was organizing my VHS tapes and noticed I still had some” would not? Or “your father asked about a couple of these tapes, which are more precious to him than are his daughter, his current wife Not-Lisa, or the Academy Award won by the woman who played Lisa in the movie about Lisa’s Death”?

Because it fits a pattern and it’s a subtly annoying one. It’s the same role that most all the male characters have been through, where their mother made them get rid of their comic books. Or their wife made them get rid of their superhero stuff. The current era of Funky Winkerbean sees a lot of characters passively accepting the indignities of life, yes, as see Lisa Moore’s whole acceptance of death. Why is it the only time a women in this strip take an active role, it’s the off-screen decision that the man in her life has to give up a hobby?

The one time I can think of when the woman didn’t make the off-screen decision to make one of the player-characters give up a hobby was a story a couple weeks ago. Funky Winkerbean’s wife decided they were going to go to a estate-planning seminar. That’s a reasonable and grown-up thing to do, yes. It’s also something she forced him to do, and he was a total Les Moore about the experience. (The Son of Stuck Funky folks, who have an uncanny ability to find old plots, also found where Funky and Mrs Funk went to an estate planner five years ago. I’m tolerant of comic strips repeating themselves — it’s baked into the genre — but I do want the new iteration to at least be pleasant.)

Why can’t Crazy Harry decide he’s got too many hobbies and VHS tape collecting isn’t bringing him joy anymore? Why can’t Crazy Harry notice he’s got stuff he doesn’t need and doesn’t want? Why does Donna have to be the heavy? Also, why did Lisa Moore have more hours of screen time than Regis Philbin did? These are all questions I feel I cannot answer.

Statistics July: Some Round Numbers


I do like looking at my readership figures, once a month, as it’s a convenient way for me to think that I should be more popular. It also lets me lay out what my plans are for the coming month. This plan is always that I’m going to keep recapping the plots in the story strips, since that’s always the most popular thing I post. Let me start with that, come to think of it. My schedule for the coming weeks is to describe the goings-on in:

Going to be a fun month. The Dick Tracy-to-Mary Worth swing is a bunch of strips people are often asking Google about. And, you know, people have been hopping mad about Mary Worth lately, and we’re getting more Wilbur Weston in, my readership prospects are good.

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months hovering around 4500 views per month, without strong direction one way or another, until a new peak emerged in April 2022. July's figures are about the same as June's.
Once again I didn’t get a snapshot exactly at the end of June because I was doing things. But they were different things that I was doing than I was doing at the end of June. I bet the end of this month I get the screenshot exactly on the dot, though. Who ever heard of doing a thing on a Wednesday?

To the specifics, though. There were, WordPress says, 4,727 page views here in July. That’s just five fewer than there were in June. This is below the twelve-month running mean of 5,082.3 views per month, although that figure’s skewed a bit by the spike of readers in April. It is above the running median of 4,585 views per month, suggesting a bit of general growth overall.

There were 2,700 recorded unique visitors, again down a bit from June, but in line with the averages. The running mean for the twelve months leading up to July saw 2,714.6 unique visitors each month. The running median was 2,616.5.

There were 100 likes given around here in July, a second suspiciously round number. This is the first one that looks a bit sad, as it’s below the mean of 154.1 and median of 154.5 likes given in a month on average. And the number of comments — 26 — was similarly way below the running mean of 56.5 and median of 51.5. The implication is that people may see my writings more as something to read than as something to engage with. And that’s not bad, really, as I’ve struggled to engage with things myself lately. Hi, every WordPress blog I’m subscribed to but have left comments in as recently as never.

Despite the lower numbers of likes and comments, stuff got read a good bit around here. These are the posts from July with the greatest number of views, in descending order:

I do expect a Gil Thorp surge for a couple months now, while new author Henry Barajas establishes things like that Gil Thorp flies now and has an unsettled home life.

Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink.
I look at a map like this and I think is it possible to have at least one country in red for each line of longitude, the whole world round? It’s got to require Greenland to do, right? Anyway so if this is your first encounter with my writing, this photo caption is a good representative one.

81 countries or things as good as countries sent me readers in July, down-ish from June’s 82. 20 of them got a single page view, though, up from 16. Here’s the roster:

Country Readers
United States 3,546
India 169
Canada 152
United Kingdom 136
Australia 98
Italy 67
Germany 53
Brazil 38
France 32
South Africa 25
Singapore 22
Serbia 21
Austria 18
Philippines 18
Denmark 17
Finland 16
Pakistan 16
Poland 16
Spain 14
Sweden 14
Norway 13
Belgium 11
Jamaica 11
Iraq 10
Ireland 10
Japan 10
Mexico 10
Switzerland 10
Netherlands 8
New Zealand 8
Nigeria 8
Croatia 7
Peru 7
El Salvador 6
Argentina 5
Malaysia 5
Portugal 5
Romania 5
Bangladesh 4
Barbados 4
Colombia 4
Greece 4
Israel 4
Russia 4
Saudi Arabia 4
South Korea 4
Thailand 4
Tunisia 4
Bosnia & Herzegovina 3
Czech Republic 3
Hungary 3
Vietnam 3
Chile 2
Georgia 2
Hong Kong SAR China 2
Indonesia 2
Macedonia 2
Trinidad & Tobago 2
Turkey 2
Ukraine 2
United Arab Emirates 2
Algeria 1
Cambodia 1
Cameroon 1
Congo – Kinshasa 1
Ecuador 1
Egypt 1
Fiji 1
Honduras 1
Jordan 1
Kuwait 1 (**)
Lebanon 1
Lithuania 1
Mongolia 1
Morocco 1
Namibia 1
Nepal 1
Oman 1
Qatar 1
Taiwan 1
Venezuela 1

Kuwait has given me a single view for three months in a row now. No other country has been a single-view country more than one month in a row. Greenland has resumed not being a country that looks at me at all.

WordPress calculates that I posted 17,264 words in July, an average 556.9 per posting. This is down a little and brings my year-to-date average to 563 words per posting. I’m at 119,411 words posted for the year, as of the start of August.

Between the development of the lunar rovers and the start of August I’ve had 307,659 page views here, from a recorded 174,357 unique visitors. Who’ll be number 175,000? I don’t know. Probably someone from Greenland.

If you’d like your chance at being that reader from Greenland, though, good luck! The best route to reading my essays is to add the RSS feed for my essays to your reader. If you don’t have a reader, but you do have a WordPress account, you can click the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button on the upper right corner of this page. If you don’t have a WordPress account, you can use the box beneath that to get uncorrected and typeo-ridden posts e-mailed to you the moment they’re published. Or you can just click on a page that looks good and read that. Whatever’s brought you here to read this you could do again tomorrow. And maybe the rest of this month as I finally run out of 1960s Popeye cartoons to watch. I know, I’m baffled that could happen too.

What’s Going On In Gil Thorp? Who’s writing Gil Thorp now? April – July 2022


Neal Rubin stepped down as author of the Gil Thorp comic strip on Saturday. Per the Daily Cartoonist, Rubin said he felt himself running short on ideas after eighteen years at this. And he wanted to focus on his day job, sports writer for the Detroit Free Press. His comic strip retirement coincides suspiciously well with the window for my plot recaps. It’s convenient for me when the story strips have plots end right around my plot recaps. So I’d like to make explicit to them, you know, don’t contort your plans for my sake. I can cope with a period where I pay attention to how I credit these strips.

The new writer — the fourth in the strip’s history — is Henry Barajas. Barajas has some renown for comic book series that I admit I was unaware of. (This is not a slight on his work; it’s me admitting my ignorance. I haven’t followed comic books directly since Marvel’s New Universe was put out of its misery.) But they include Helm Greycastle, the biographical La Voz De M.A.Y.O. Tata Rambo, and some Avengers and Batman stuff. An interview with the Tucson Daily Star says “He plans to introduce characters of color and with different sexual orientations and gun violence,” as good a case for the Oxford Comma as I know.

Anyway, this recap should get you up to speed on the final story of Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp. If you’re reading this after about September 2022, or any more news breaks about Henry Barajas and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp, you may want to check the essays here. Thanks for reading.

Gil Thorp.

25 April – 9 July 2022.

Greg Hamm, on the boys’ baseball team at Milford, was losing his eyesight. Rapidly. His catcher, Wilson Henry, and the second baseman, sports trivia maven Eli “Scooter” Borden, had a scheme to work around this. Borden would relay the catcher’s signals by code words in his chatter. This works okay for pitching. Fielding is harder; if a ball isn’t in Hamm’s dwindling field of vision he’s helpless. When a hit zooms right past Hamm’s head without his even flinching Coach Thorp works out what’s up, and pulls the kid.

It turns out Hamm’s done an outstanding job concealing his vision problems. He even worked out how to fake his way through eye tests, so his parents and eye doctor didn’t know how bad it was. Now that they do know? Dr Maisano explains to Coach Thorp that this is the last year he could play baseball. If he wears facial protection, something like a catcher’s mask, he should be reasonably safe. Coach Thorp finally accedes to letting Hamm play.

[ Paying a visit to Gregg Hamm's eye specialist ... ] Dr Maisano: 'Trust me, Coach. I'm more irate than you. He's taken so many eye tests, he figured out how to fake his way through one.' Thorp: 'And now that you've re-tested, Doctor?' Maisano: 'Let's go talk behind his back.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 25th of May, 2022. Everyone dad-jokes about studying for their eye exams and then this kid went and did it!

The trick with a vision-impaired pitcher is the other teams work out where his blind spot is, and can hit to it. Borden’s girlfriend Charis Thompkins has an answer, direct from Borden’s trivia banks. Relief pitcher Ryne Duren played a decade in the late 50s and early 60s, and used his poor vision as a psychological weapon. Duren’s warmup pitches would go wild, an intimidating thing for batters to face. (Oh, and the plot bits about Thompkins and the girls’ tennis teams were not followed up on.)

An old trick is good again. Hamm warns a batter off bunting by “accidentally” throwing a pitch that barely misses the batter. The umpire demands Hamm be thrown out but Coach Thorp refuses, noting, you can’t eject a player for one bad pitch, whatever you think of his eyesight. This seems like a good way to insult the umpire while staying within the rules and make sure you never get a toss-up call your way again. Thorp tosses in an insult of how that umpire called an earlier game, which probably felt good anyway.

The blend of Hamm’s actual control, and ability to look uncontrolled when it’s intimidating, works. It launches the boys baseball team into the postseason. And the local media is quite interested in a blind pitcher.

[ After Gregg Hamm whistles a fastball four feet outside ... ] Umpire: 'Your pitcher is a menace. Take him out.' Thorp; 'You're ejecting him because he threw ball one?' Umpire: 'I'm not tossing him. But he can't see.' Thorp: 'He just fielded a batted ball. He hasn't even hit anyone. And no rule says you can make me pull him!'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 10th of June, 2022. I’m a little surprised if there isn’t any rule by which an umpire can declare a pitcher (or other player) is too dangerous — or endangered — to play. But, as Thorp notes, he hasn’t hit a pitcher, or thrown anything wilder than ball one, and he’d fielded a ball well just one or two strips before. I suppose an umpire would have to be able to point to specific cause, that isn’t shown. This even though everyone knows what stunt Hamm was pulling. (Thorp goes on to warn Hamm not to pull the stunt again, although it’s not needed.)

The trouble is the other major part of this story. Hamm’s father is pathologically camera-shy, to the point he hides from people taking cell phone pictures of the parents in the stands. He works so hard to not be noticed that everyone notices, and feeds rumors that he’s in the witness protection program or something. Coach Thorp hears the rumors and decides to just ask the Hamms what’s going on. Greg Hamm’s mother gives the clue.

Before he was a ghost-writer for businesspeople committing books, Greg’s father was Mason Hamstetter. Hamstetter had been a hot journalist, with great cover stories in big magazines, book deals, everything you hope for when you’re a writer. He was also a plagiarist. He faked quotes. He invented sources. He got caught. So he fled New York, and truncated his name, and did his best to completely hide from a shaming public. And now, after a decade of hiding, Hamm’s wife has had enough.

Mason Hamm meets Coach Thorp, who admits he doesn’t see how there’s anything to talk to him about. But if you ask his opinion, it’s this: nobody has any idea who he is or why they should care about him. Meanwhile his son’s got an amazing story that shouldn’t be hidden for the fear that one of the four guys in a Manhattan publishing office who kind of remember his name might hear about it. It’s a hard truth that Mason accepts. He allows his son to do interviews and talk about his experience. A reporter is curious about Mason, and suggests a “where is he now” interview. But his boss kills the story because nobody cares. Having lived through his two worst fears and finding them not so bad after all? He’s able to settle in to having a son whose story might become an inspirational book he might write.

Gil Thorp: 'What now? More ghost-writing?' Mason 'Hamm' Hamstetter: 'Some. But I'm thinking of finally writing a book under my own name ... about watching my son lose his vision, and how that helped open my eyes.' They shake hands. Thorp: 'That, Mr Hamstetter, I'd buy.'
Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp for the 9th of July, 2022. The last week of the story included several parting moments, including a “be seeing you” on the wall at Channel 6, which looked like a reference to something else. But it’s not reading too much into the text to notice having a ghostwriter resolve to publish under his own name being the farewell thought of a comic strip writer — surely the slightest level of fame a writer can enjoy — moving on to other projects. On the other hand, who ever heard of a Detroit sports writer getting into the inspirational-disease-memoir racket?

Greg Hamm pitches for Milford in the state tournament, but the team loses 9-4. It was still a good season.

And with that, the 9th of July, the story ends, as does Neal Rubin’s tenure writing Gil Thorp. I’ll learn the new direction of the comic strip as you all do, but I intend to recap it in just about three months. See you then.

Milford Sports Watch!

Next Week!

Sam and Abbey’s marriage collapses while Randy Parker tries to clear his wife’s name by slipping a hard drive full of super-ultra-duper CIA secrets to a streaming-media TV show consultant. This and more in Francesco Marciuliano and Mike Manley’s Judge Parker, next week, if all goes like I plan.

Statistics June: How Much People Wish I Could Have Done Something More About Mary Worth Last Month


I did my best to work out the baffling plot point that Helen Moss, longtime teacher at Santa Rosa Community College, had to leave after her onetime crush Ian Cameron told her to stop being a jerk to his wife. I’m still not confident I have the reason clear, but I offered what I had. And people wanted to know! As I look over what the most popular June 2022-dated postings were here, the last month, my Mary Worth plot recap tops the list. Here’s the five most popular new articles from June:

Mind, the most popular thing I had of the entire month was an October 2020 post where I admitted finally getting this one Far Side. People always like hearing when someone else was baffled by a comic strip. It’s one of Gary Larson’s many gifts to us all. Anyway my favorite of the last month remains the resolve to eat Cheese Idaho.

Still, the comic strip talk is always going to be my most popular thing here. Were I to shut down the rest of the blog, that’s the part that would go last. So here’s my plan for what to talk about this coming month, and when:

Meanwhile, I still like to keep track of how popular my slightly popular blog is, and how that’s changing. And I share that because somehow that’s usually a well-liked feature too. In June 2022, according to WordPress, I had 4,732 page views here, which is below the running mean of 5,034.2 views for the twelve months leading up to June. It’s above the running median of 4,449 page views, though. These came from 2,742 unique visitors, which is above both the running mean of 2,696.7 and running median of 2,547.5. So, hey, more visitors, all of whom get tired of me faster! That’s a something.

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months hovering around 4500 views per month, without strong direction one way or another, until a new peak emerged in April 2022. There is a small wedge of July 2022's readership figures included at the end of the chart.
I know, it’s weird that I didn’t get a picture of the readership as of 7:59 PM Eastern Time the 30th of June but, understand, I’ve got stuff to do. Sometimes. Like twice a year or so. It happens.

There were 143 likes given to anything at all over the course of June, which is a little below both the running mean of 153.3 and median of 154.5. And there were 40 comments, which seems like more than I remember, but is below the mean of 56.7 and median of 53, again both of which seem like more than I remember. I have no explanation for this phenomenon.

There were 82 countries, our country-like entities, to send me any page views in June. That’s up from May’s figure of 75, if you like. 16 of them sent only a single page view, down from May’s 17. None of these countries was Greenland. I know, I’m feeling it too. Here’s what countries it was:

Country Readers
United States 3,336
India 219
Australia 169
United Kingdom 168
Canada 146
Brazil 68
Italy 54
Germany 42
El Salvador 35
Sweden 34
Philippines 30
Spain 27
Netherlands 17
Nigeria 17
Romania 17
Serbia 17
France 16
Ireland 16
Japan 16
Mexico 16
Finland 14
Thailand 14
South Africa 13
Norway 11
Vietnam 11
Croatia 10
Kenya 10
Malaysia 10
Singapore 10
Czech Republic 9
Denmark 8
Colombia 7
Austria 6
New Zealand 6
Poland 6
Taiwan 6
Chile 5
Ecuador 5
European Union 5
Hungary 5
Pakistan 5
Peru 5
Switzerland 5
Turkey 5
Albania 4
Bahamas 4
Bangladesh 4
Belgium 4
Egypt 4
Indonesia 4
Sri Lanka 4
Bosnia & Herzegovina 3
Iraq 3
Israel 3
Jamaica 3
Russia 3
Saudi Arabia 3
United Arab Emirates 3
American Samoa 2
Costa Rica 2
Estonia 2
Hong Kong SAR China 2
Jordan 2
Lebanon 2
Panama 2
Portugal 2
Anguilla 1
Argentina 1
Belarus 1
Bolivia 1
Dominican Republic 1
Ethiopia 1
Greece 1
Guam 1
Kazakhstan 1 (**)
Kuwait 1 (*)
Montenegro 1 (**)
Puerto Rico 1
South Korea 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1
Tunisia 1
Uruguay 1
Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink.
This struck me as pretty good coverage from South America but it turns out it’s almost always like that. I’m just not paying attention well enough.

Kazakhstan has been a single-view country for three months running now, even though I’d think Kazakhstan has other things to do than check in on my a very slight bit. Kuwait’s been a single-view country two months in a row now, although I guess maybe they have fewer things to do? Montenegro is also on its third month giving me a single view per month. I don’t know how to much to expect they have to do.

WordPress figures I posted 18,738 words in June, my most talkative month this year. It’s an average 624.6 words per posting, and brings my average for the year up to 564 words per post. This may be too many words. It brings me to 102,147 words for the year 2022, so far. Between the Broadway debut of the musical 1776 and the start of July, I’ve posted 3,437 things to this blog. They’ve attracted a total of something like 302,932 views from 171,984 visitors.

If you’d like to read these posts regularly, I’m flattered. The best route is probably to add the RSS feed for my essays to your reader. If you don’t have a reader, but you do have a WordPress account, you can click the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button on the upper right corner of this page. If you don’t have a WordPress account, you can use the box beneath that to get posts e-mailed to you the moment they’re published and before I’ve corrected some embarrassing typos. And if none of that works for you, eh, I suppose you know your business. Carry on with what seems reasonable. Thank you.

Also Here’s One of My Dumber Giggles for the Week


So, when I write up these Mary Worth plot recaps I copy out the dubious inspirational quotes first. And to do that I start by copying the last quote from the previous plot recap. And then I delete most of the words from that quote, so I can start typing a new one in just by double-clicking on the one word and typing. This week, this resulted in my getting this ominous declaration from the creator of one of the most beloved comic strips of all time:

Screenshot of a text editor showing a dozen lines all reading ``Don't.'', attributed to Charles Schulz, and given different dates.
I’m sure Charles Schulz said “don’t” at some point in his life, I just suppose it probably wasn’t at one-week intervals like this.

It feels weirdly threatening, like he’s worried I’m thinking about drawing Snoopy’s nephew Stretch or something.

Statistics May: Finland Doesn’t Love Me Anymore, But …


The subject line gives it away, unless I change the subject line. Another Blog, Meanwhile saw the readership from Finland return to what seems like a normal level after April’s big spike. Without that, and without the number of people looking for my Paas Easter Egg color pictures, the monthly readership figures are more normal.

They’re also lower. There were, according to WordPress, 4,378 page views here in May. That’s a great number compared to, say, 2019. But it’s a fair bit below the running mean of 5,078.5 views per month for the twelve months running up to May. And the running median, less vulnerable to weird fluctuations, of 4,585 views per month. There were 2,501 recorded unique visitors, below the running mean of 2,736.5 and running median of 2,616.5. Not too much lower, though.

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months hovering around 4500 views per month, without strong direction one way or another, until a new peak emerged in April 2022.
I know the plot shows 2,500, but I went back and double-checked, and someone snuck in between when I took this screen shot and when the month ended, by Universal Time, one minute later. So it can happen!

There were 188 likes given in May, a greater number than any month since May 2021 somehow. It’s well above the running mean of 154.3 and running median of 154.5 likes in a month. (And not all these likes went to things published in May.) There were 43 comments, below the mean of 56.3 and median of 53, but still a respectable number as I make these things out to be.

My most popular posts of May were the usual mix of me talking about comic strips or cartoons, with a dose of old-time radio and me generally complaining mixed in:

My most popular piece of original comic writing was In Which I Am Terror-Stricken, culmination of a set of second thoughts I had about the thing I devoted most of March and April to.

But, as mentioned, it’s the story strip plot recaps that bring so many readers here. My plan for the coming month is to cover these strips, on these dates:

As ever, this is subject to change as breaking news warrants.

75 countries sent me page views in May, down from April’s 81. 17 of them were single-view countries, the same number as in April. Here’s the roster of those countries, and take a look at the big exciting news for one of them. Do you spot it? I’ll let you know after the strangely popular table of countries.

Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink. For a change of pace, Greenland is in pink also, reflecting some readership there.
Not surprised Bangladesh hasn’t been reading me. They’ve got bigger problems. I assume, anyway. I don’t know but it seems fair to suppose all the other countries out there have bigger problems than would be helped by reading me.
Country Readers
United States 3,073
United Kingdom 171
India 157
Canada 125
Germany 90
Australia 72
Philippines 51
Brazil 41
Thailand 36
El Salvador 35
Italy 35
Nigeria 32
France 28
Spain 26
Finland 24
South Africa 24
Ireland 22
Sweden 22
Netherlands 21
Singapore 19
Austria 17
Vietnam 17
Malaysia 16
Romania 16
Peru 15
Argentina 12
Japan 11
Colombia 9
Czech Republic 9
Hong Kong SAR China 9
New Zealand 9
Mexico 8
Portugal 8
Norway 7
Denmark 6
Ecuador 6
Greece 6
Switzerland 6
Indonesia 5
Nepal 5
Pakistan 5
Poland 5
European Union 4
Mauritania 4
Russia 4
Saudi Arabia 4
Turkey 4
Venezuela 4
Belgium 3
Chile 3
Croatia 3
Cyprus 3
South Korea 3
United Arab Emirates 3
Bangladesh 2
Jamaica 2
Kenya 2
Puerto Rico 2
Bulgaria 1
Cambodia 1
Egypt 1
Greenland 1
Guatemala 1
Hungary 1
Israel 1
Kazakhstan 1 (*)
Kuwait 1
Lesotho 1
Malta 1
Montenegro 1 (*)
Oman 1
Palestinian Territories 1
Qatar 1 (*)
Serbia 1 (*)
Slovenia 1

Kazakhstan, Montenegro, Qatar, and Serbia sent me a single page view in April also. There’s no countries to have sent me a single page view three months running now. But did you notice it? That’s right, I got me a reader in Greenland! Woo-hoo!

WordPress figures I posted 17,161 words in May, my second-most for any month this year. That’s 553.6 words per posting in May, although my average for the year remains 552 words per posting. Between the start of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and the start of June, I’ve posted 3,407 things to this blog. They’ve drawn 298,200 views from 168,914 visitors.

And I’m happy to have readers, regular or sporadic. The easiest way to read me regularly is to add the RSS feed for essays to whatever your reader is. If you don’t have an RSS reader, you can get one by signing up for a free account at Dreamdwith or Livejournal and put them on your Reading page. If you’ve got a WordPress account, you can click on the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button on the upper right corner of this or any page. If you’ve got an e-mail account, you can use the box beneath that to get posts sent you as they’re published. To read sporadically, carry on with whatever you’ve been doing. It’ll probably work out all right. Thank you.

Statistics April: What Does Everybody In Finland Want With Me?


It’s rare, but now and then this blog gets noticed. Usually it’s someone more popular than me linking to one of the images from my story strip recaps. So, turns out the 10th of April was one of those days. More mysterious is that it was someone in Finland doing it: that day I got 3,405 page views, a number that’s not far off my usual monthly total. This all came from 109 unique visitors, a figure that’s on the high side, but not outrageously so.

Also baffling is I can’t figure what everyone in Finland was looking at. I don’t mean literally everyone in Finland; Finland has a population of something like 5,500,000 people and 3,405 page views isn’t enough. Even if we suppose each page view was shared by a thousand people that’s still only about three-fifths of the population. But it’s still a lot all at once. It wasn’t any of my posts, so it must have been an image. But which one? So if you were one of the three-fifths of the Finland population who looked at something from my blog on this past 10th of April, could you leave a comment? I’m just curious what everyone was looking for.

The effect, anyway, is to give me a weird, distorted readership spike in time to replace the one in April 2021 that’s been distorting my twelve-month running averages. WordPress logged 8,350 page views around here, the second-greatest monthly total on my record. As you’d expect that’s well above the 5,167.9 running mean and 4,585 running median. If we take the Finland spike out, the month turns out to be close to the twelve-month running mean. WordPress figures there were 3,090 unique visitors, which is close to in line with the running mean of 3,028.5 and running median of 2,616.5 visitors.

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months hovering around 4500 views per month, without strong direction one way or another, until a new peak emerged in April 2022.
I’d have liked to have got this screen grab at the moment when April 2022 ended, by WordPress’s clock, but I was doing things that involved not staring at a computer to watch for one particular second of the month. I know, I don’t know what I was thinking.

Likes and comments continue to dwindle out of existence. There were 133 likes given to things in April, and 42 comments. The mean for the twelve months leading up to April was 154.8 likes and 56.1 comments. The median was 154.5 likes and 53 comments.


So here’s the five most popular posts from April. Stuff from earlier than April was more popular than even the top position, yes. But you don’t need to know that around Easter people find my post about which Paas tablets are which color egg. I am annoyed that the color gnomon I used — the Coke Zero can — got redesigned, though.

This is the first time in ages I remember my most popular thing not being comic strip news. That’s sure to change for May, since my schedule for story comic recaps is:

I’m aware people really, really want to see The Phantom die already. Again, though, Man Who Cannot Die.


So even though Finland sent me like 3,250 more page views than usual in a month, it still wasn’t the country to send me the greatest number of page views. The United States was, as it ever is. Here’s the roster of readership by country.

Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink. The exception is Finland, which is almost as dark red as the United States.
Finally, a challenging sphere-of-influence map for Victoria Revolutions players! It’s been ages.
Country Readers
United States 3,768
Finland 3,259
United Kingdom 197
Canada 157
India 150
Australia 113
Germany 79
Brazil 58
Sweden 45
Philippines 42
Singapore 37
France 36
Kenya 23
Italy 22
South Africa 21
Colombia 19
Nigeria 19
Denmark 17
Spain 16
Ireland 15
El Salvador 14
Chile 13
Mexico 10
Romania 10
Malaysia 9
United Arab Emirates 9
Czech Republic 8
Peru 8
Taiwan 8
Ecuador 7
Egypt 7
Hong Kong SAR China 7
Netherlands 7
Norway 7
Russia 7
Poland 6
Saudi Arabia 6
Austria 5
Belgium 5
European Union 5
Pakistan 5
South Korea 5
Switzerland 5
Thailand 5
Argentina 4
Bangladesh 4
Costa Rica 4
Jamaica 4
Japan 4
Lebanon 4
New Zealand 4
Bulgaria 3
Greece 3
Iraq 3
Jordan 3
Kuwait 3
Latvia 3
Ukraine 3
Vietnam 3
Hungary 2
Indonesia 2
Israel 2
Kosovo 2
Portugal 2
Bahrain 1
China 1 (*)
Cyprus 1
Dominican Republic 1
Guadeloupe 1
Guinea 1
Honduras 1
Kazakhstan 1
Mauritius 1
Montenegro 1
Morocco 1
Namibia 1
Nepal 1 (*)
Qatar 1
Serbia 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1 (*)
Venezuela 1

That’s 81 countries altogether, same as March, with 17 of them single-view countries. That’s up from March’s 13. China, Nepal, and Trinidad & Tobago are the only countries to have also sent a single page view in March. No countries are on a three-month streak. I am surprised to have seven page views from Russia, and three from Ukraine. I would have thought people in both countries have anything else to think about than my nonsense.


WordPress figures I published 16,407 words in April, which is almost suspiciously in line with the rest of the year. It’s the great formalism of that March Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing, must be. That and my decision to stop listing every single incident in the story strips in favor of summarizing plots. This all brings me to 66,248 words published for the year, and an average of 552 words per posting.

Between the events of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the start of May, I’ve published 3,376 posts here. They’ve gathered 293,822 page views from 166,414 unique visitors, although have left most of those gathering dust in the linen closet.

If you’d like to be a regular reader, please be one. The RSS feed for essays is at this link, and if you need an RSS reader sign up for a free Dreamwidth account. You can add RSS feeds to your Reading page there. If you’ve got a WordPress account, you can click the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button at the upper right corner of this page. There’s also a box to have posts e-mailed as they’re published and before I can edit my typos. Thank you for being here and here’s hoping this is a good month ahead.

Statistics March: How Much People Want Me To Explain Comic Strips To Them


For most of March I put a lot of time into the Pairwise Brackety Contest Thing, an ill-defined matchup of items. I figure to do four more of these, so there can be sixteen pairs, which I only just now realize is half the number of first-round contests in the actual March Madness. Well, too late now. Anyway, I’ve enjoyed doing these a lot. It’s fun thinking of good Dadaist pairs, and coming up with two quick jokes on the topics has felt like a good exercise. It’s been a relief, too; as sometimes happens, the tightness of the format makes it easier to write.

Ah, but does anybody else like it? And from looking over WordPress’s statistics, the evidence is people kind of tolerate it. The system records me as having had 4,985 page views in March. This reinforces how I should hit refresh from a private-browsing account fifteen more times each month. This is below my twelve-month running mean, for the months leading up to March 2022, of 5,259.0 views in a month. It’s also a second straight month of decline. However, it is above the twelve-month median, which was 4,585 page views.

There were 2,888 unique visitors, which again is below the twelve-month running mean of 3,087.3 visitors. But it’s also above the running median of 2,616.5. This is all consistent with a slow rise in popularity, muddled by January 2022 having been an unusually popular month around here. That popularity was likely spurred by Mary Worth, which teased us all with the prospect of Wilbur Weston dying in a cruise ship accident. Well, tomorrow I expect to recap Mary Worth again, but sorry to say, Wilbur Weston won’t be dead for it.

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months have been hovering around 4500 views per month, without strong direction one way or another. After a local peak in January 2022 readership has declined month-to-month, but stayed above the typical figure for the past year.
Of course the story comics give me a lot of readership, but I am wondering what’s going to happen when I run out of those 1960s King Features Popeye cartoons. And what’ll I review after that? Cartoons people like, instead? … Probably not that.

Still, I can always find something more ambiguous in the data. There were 140 likes given here, in March, which is below both the mean of 153.8 an the median of 154.5. And there were 26 comments given, which is great compared to my mathematics blog. But it’s less than half the usual, where the mean was 60.3 and the median 56.3. This despite the head-to-head nature of the Pairwise Brackety Contest. I’d have imagined that would inspire jumping on to the joke. I always fear that my jokes are too closed, but I also don’t know another way to write.


Here are the five most popular posts from March. There were a couple posts from before March even more popular, mostly people who wanted the goings-on in Judge Parker explained. We’ll get there soon enough.

And my plan for this month’s plot recaps for story comics is these strips, in this order:

This is a pretty high concentration of the strips people really want to know about. I’ve thought some about rearranging the strips to spread the popular things out, but I’m not sure that I could do much better. Dick Tracy hasn’t been a huge attention-getter lately, but it has some hot streaks, you know?


Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink.
Hey, it’s an inverse map of the Non-Aligned Movement countries!

There were 81 countries, or things like countries, sending me readers in March. That’s down from 90. Thirteen of them were single-view countries. That’s down from 24. Here’s the roster:

Country Readers
United States 3,466
Canada 207
Brazil 180
India 165
United Kingdom 146
Australia 101
Germany 68
Italy 66
Philippines 58
Hungary 38
Spain 32
Sweden 27
Denmark 20
Egypt 20
France 19
Singapore 19
European Union 18
Finland 18
Ireland 18
Czech Republic 17
Nigeria 17
Mexico 14
Norway 13
Austria 11
Saudi Arabia 11
Japan 10
Kenya 10
Belgium 9
South Africa 9
Malaysia 8
Netherlands 8
Taiwan 8
Hong Kong SAR China 7
Indonesia 7
Jamaica 7
Poland 7
Serbia 7
Turkey 7
Greece 6
Macedonia 6
New Zealand 6
Thailand 6
Ecuador 5
United Arab Emirates 5
El Salvador 4
Guatemala 4
Peru 4
South Korea 4
Argentina 3
Bulgaria 3
Colombia 3
Malawi 3
Mauritius 3
Papua New Guinea 3
Switzerland 3
Costa Rica 2
Croatia 2
Estonia 2
Israel 2
Lebanon 2
Pakistan 2
Portugal 2
Puerto Rico 2
Romania 2
Russia 2
Slovenia 2
Sri Lanka 2
Vietnam 2
Albania 1 (*)
Belarus 1
China 1
Curaçao 1
Ghana 1 (*)
Gibraltar 1
Latvia 1
Morocco 1
Nepal 1
Oman 1 (*)
Palestinian Territories 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1
Yemen 1

Albania, Ghana, and Oman were single-view countries in February also. No countries are on a three-month streak for sending me single views. I’m surprised to have two views from Russia as I would think they had other things on their mind than whatever the heck Wilbur Weston’s problem is. Maybe they needed the break.


WordPress calculates that I published 15,472 words in March, an average posting of 499.1 words. This gives me a year-to-date total of 49,841 words published, and an average post length of 554 words.

Between the marriage of Agent 99 and Maxwell Smart and the start of April I’ve published 3,346 things in this blog. They’ve drawn 5,052 comments over the course of 285,472 page views from 163,332 unique visitors.

If you’d like to be a regular reader, I can’t stop you. I can help you a little bit, though. The RSS feed for essays is at this link, and if you need an RSS reader and can’t find one anywhere, try getting a free Dreamwidth account. You can add RSS feeds to your Reading page there. If you’ve got a WordPress account, you can click the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button at the upper right corner of this page. There’s also a box to have posts e-mailed you as they happen, and before I can edit my typos. I feel awful about that, but I’ve tried copy-editing my posts before they go up, and there’s still errors even in stuff I fixed years ago. I have no explanation for this phenomenon.

Statistics February: How Much Less People Are Interested in Me When Wilbur Weston’s Not On-Screen


There is no getting around it: people really, really want to follow Wilbur Weston dying. Since my last Mary Worth plot recap, he has not died. He didn’t even get a round of people to start slapping him and never stop, the way he deserved. And with that, my readership has dropped again. So let’s take a look at the specifics.

January 2022 was my most popular month in almost a year. February 2022 was almost suspicious in its averageness. WordPress recorded 5,411 page views here. For the twelve months from February 2021 through January 2022, the mean was 5,206.3 page views and the median 4,585. There were 3,012 unique visitors, down from January again. But the twelve-month running mean was 3,067.9 unique visitors. The median was 2,616.5 visitors. So really this suggests a month with more readers than average, and looking at the graph suggests that.

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months have been hovering around 4500 views per month, with a sharp rise in January 2022 and drop for February.
Mm. Hmm. Hm. How wrong would it be to offer Tony DePaul cash in exchange for having Mozz write up the death of Wilbur Weston? Bear in mind things have been a little tight and I could only go up to $37.25.

The number of likes continued its ongoing decline, to a mere 151 over the month. But the twelve-month running average was 149.7 likes, and the median 149, so, what more could I want? Comments I don’t answer? I got 52 of them (counting my answers), below the running mean of 59.1 and running median of 56.5.

What were the popular things from February? Comic strip talk, obviously. What people wanted to see was Wilbur Weston die, fairly enough. Or to hear whether it’s just them or has Comics Kingdom screwed up its web site. It’s not you. Just go ahead and assume, for all time, that Comics Kingdom has messed something up. So here’s the five most popular things from February and see if you can work out what the readers want to see:

My most popular piece that was not based on comic strips? That would be In Which I Am Looking for a Peer Reviewer and reveal that I’m spending my days watching Buzzr instead of doing anything else. I’m sorry, but Celebrity Whew! is a crackling good watch. Also, I believe I have worked out a scenario in which a contestant on Card Sharks could run out of cards, but I want to confirm my reasoning before publishing my results.

My schedule for the story comic plot recaps, for the coming month, is this:

All of that is subject to breaking news, of course. But all the story strip plot recaps are at this link, if you want to be sure you miss none of them.

Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink.
Also coincidentally a map of the telegraph-connected world as of 1872.

There were fully 90 countries sending me readers in February, up from January’s figure. 24 of them were single-view countries, a substantial jump percentage-wise from January’s 17. Here’s the roster of those figures:

Country Readers
United States 4,219
India 195
Canada 144
United Kingdom 123
Australia 78
Germany 62
Philippines 56
Brazil 49
Sweden 41
Italy 28
Spain 26
Finland 25
Mexico 24
Japan 21
Ireland 18
Turkey 18
Colombia 15
France 15
Russia 15
Egypt 13
Nigeria 13
Belgium 10
Poland 10
Saudi Arabia 9
Argentina 8
Norway 7
Vietnam 7
Costa Rica 6
Singapore 6
Switzerland 6
Uruguay 6
Bulgaria 5
Ecuador 5
Greece 5
Malaysia 5
New Zealand 5
Thailand 5
Barbados 4
Cyprus 4
Czech Republic 4
Hong Kong SAR China 4
Indonesia 4
Netherlands 4
Pakistan 4
Peru 4
Puerto Rico 4
South Africa 4
Guatemala 3
Portugal 3
Romania 3
Slovakia 3
U.S. Virgin Islands 3
United Arab Emirates 3
Austria 2
Azerbaijan 2
Denmark 2
Israel 2
Kenya 2
Kuwait 2
Luxembourg 2
Macedonia 2
Malta 2
Mongolia 2
South Korea 2
Taiwan 2
Venezuela 2
Albania 1
American Samoa 1
Anguilla 1
Bangladesh 1
Belize 1
Bolivia 1
Bosnia & Herzegovina 1
Brunei 1
Cambodia 1
Cameroon 1
Cuba 1
Estonia 1 (*)
Ethiopia 1
European Union 1
Ghana 1
Hungary 1
Lebanon 1
Libya 1
Myanmar (Burma) 1
Oman 1
Papua New Guinea 1
Paraguay 1
Slovenia 1
Ukraine 1

Estonia was the only country to send me a single page view in January also. There’s no countries on a three-month streak of reading me as slightly as possible.


WordPress figures that I published 16,171 words in February. That’s an average of 577.5 words per posting, both figures down from January but not by much. The average to date this year dropped from 587 words per post to 583.

Between the launch of Voyager 2 in 1977 and the start of March there were 3,315 posts in this blog, which drew a total of 200,487 views from 160,436 unique visitors. And they drew 5,026 comments altogether. I don’t know which one was the 5,000th. I also don’t know if that counts the ‘Pending’ ones that I’m pretty sure are spam but can’t bring myself to delete. Also a couple from people who wanted to give me a not-for-publication comment or correction.

If you’d like to be a commenter, please say something. If you’d like to be a reader, please read. The RSS feed for my essays is this link. Or you can click the “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” button at the upper-right corner of this page, and get it in your WordPress reader. You can also use the subscription box to get posts e-mailed to you in that narrow window between my scheduled post and my first round of typo corrections. I don’t do anything with your e-mails besides have WordPress send out posts, but I can’t say anything about what WordPress does with them. Sorry.

Statistics January: Nearly 7,000 People Wanted To See Wilbur Weston Die


One hates to be morbid. But it’s hard not to notice how many people come visit my blog here because they suspect a comic strip character is going to die. The Phantom’s projected death has brought hundreds of page views around here in recent months. Wilbur Weston falling from a cruise ship to wash ashore on an unknown island? That’s brought even more. It also looks like somebody on Facebonk mentioned me in some way that made people curious. So that’s all pleasant enough for me. Not so good for Wilbur.

My readership jumped considerably in January, rising to 6,892 page views from 3,853 unique visitors, as WordPress counts things. That’s well above the twelve-month running mean for January through December 2021, which was 5,055.4 page views per month from 3,004.7 unique visitors. It’s also well above the running median of 4,585 page views from 2,616.5 unique visitors. This will all die down as Wilbur Weston does not.

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months have been hovering around 4500 views per month, with a sudden new spike upward in January 2022.
I don’t feel bad about missing 7,000 by 108 page views like this. If I had missed by eight, now, that I’d be fuming about until I remembered absolutely anything else going on these days.

The things suggesting engagement were up, but not much. There were 158 likes given in January, compared to a running mean of 148.4 and running median of 141.5. There were 59 comments, compared to a running mean of 58.2 and running median of 52.5. And some of that was passing messages on to people. Well, it’s all content, say people who write algorithms instead of read.

My most popular post in January was this past October’s Mary Worth plot recap, because it asked how Wilbur Weston could be so incompetent. By far. It was almost twice as popular as the second-place finisher. My most popular posts from January were also Wilbur-centered. And the rest? Here’s the five most popular things published this past month:

It does all suggest that people know what they like from me, and it’s me talking about comic strips. Sometimes without even complaining about them. Granted, yes, it’s fun and funny to complain about the trivial. Anyway, TCM (United States feed) is showing Please Don’t Eat The Daisies this Sunday, and I might catch that again. Among original, non-comic-strip writing Statistics Saturday: Gifts Given for Squirrel Appreciation Day This Year was my most popular thing this past month.

Still, I’d be quite the fool to drop my story strip plot recaps. All the story strip recaps should be gathered here. And my plan for the next couple weeks is to cover:

Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink.
So if I’m reading this map right, Alaska is strawberry-flavored. Can somebody go and lick it for me?

Once again 80 countries or country-like entities sent me page views. 17 of them were single-view countries, down from December’s 18. Here’s the roster:

Country Readers
United States 5,059
India 239
Canada 238
United Kingdom 191
Australia 131
Bulgaria 116
Japan 82
Brazil 63
Finland 57
Germany 57
Sweden 56
Philippines 51
Italy 48
Austria 36
France 33
Ireland 30
Spain 29
Thailand 28
Portugal 24
Denmark 18
New Zealand 17
Singapore 17
Egypt 14
Romania 13
Argentina 12
Indonesia 12
Israel 11
Netherlands 11
South Africa 11
Turkey 11
Hong Kong SAR China 10
Macedonia 10
Malaysia 8
Peru 8
Venezuela 8
Nigeria 7
Belgium 6
Mauritius 6
Mexico 6
Norway 6
Poland 6
Taiwan 6
Costa Rica 5
Ecuador 5
Greece 5
South Korea 5
Switzerland 5
European Union 4
Hungary 4
Lithuania 4
Pakistan 4
China 3
Croatia 3
Czech Republic 3
Puerto Rico 3
Saudi Arabia 3
Trinidad & Tobago 3
Ukraine 3
Bangladesh 2
Chile 2
Russia 2
Serbia 2
United Arab Emirates 2
Barbados 1
Colombia 1
Estonia 1
Guadeloupe 1 (*)
Iraq 1
Jamaica 1
Kosovo 1
Kuwait 1
Luxembourg 1
Mongolia 1
Namibia 1
Panama 1
Sri Lanka 1
St. Lucia 1
Uganda 1
Uruguay 1
Vietnam 1 (*)

Guadeloupe and Vietnam were the only single-view countries on a two-month streak. Nobody’s on a three-month single-view streak.


WordPress figures that I published 18,198 words in December. (I reused a bunch of words, though.) This puts me at an average 587 words per posting this year, though I expect that figure to change. I’m not going to do the work needed to keep it constant.

Between the debut of short-lived game show Whew! and the start of February I’ve published 3,287 things to this blog. They’ve drawn a total 275,048 views from 157,401 unique visitors, they figure. And, for what it’s worth, a total of 4,974 comments. This suggests lucky comment #5,000 might come to the blog this month. It’s going to be people asking why Wilbur Weston isn’t dead.

If you’re looking to be a reader there’s nothing you need to do but read. If you’d like to use your RSS reader to get posts, here’s the feed. If you want to subscribe, there’s the ‘Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile’ button at the upper-right corner of this and every post. And just beneath that is a box to have posts e-mailed to you. I don’t do anything with that e-mail address except send posts. I can’t say what WordPress does with your address. Leave them in the junk drawer with a promise to do something about them soon, is what I would do with them.

Statistics 2021: At Last, How The Old Year Liked Me Writing About _The Phantom_


I have not been avoiding a check back on the past year, to see what WordPress figures my readership was like. I simply have had that thing happen where I get up, have lunch, do three things, and then it’s 11 pm. You may have noticed this in your own lives, depending on when you have lunch.

WordPress figures there were 60,665 pages viewed here in all of 2021. That’s the largest number of page views I’ve gotten any year, to date. These views came from 36,061 unique visitors, as WordPress counts visitors. That, too, is the largest number of unique visitors I’ve gotten in a year. I owe it all to talking about comic strips.

Bar chart of annual readership from 2013 to the present. It's been one of steady growth except for 2016. 2021 showed 60,665 views from 36,061 visitors, at 1.68 views per visitor and a total 365 posts published.
Not to brag but do you have any idea how many extrapolations I, using my mathematical training, could make from a data set as small as this? And how bad all these conclusions would be? It’s thrilling stuff.

As measures of engagement go? 2021 saw some rises here. There were 1,772 things liked during the year, well above 2020 and my highest count since 2018. And there were 700 comments, not just a nice round number but more than 2019 and 2020 gave me combined. (2018, again, was higher still, but 2018 was a better year for most people than 2021 was.) I owe it all to talking about comic strips.

I mean that last with typical literalness. The five most popular things I posted in 2021 were:

I would be nowhere if people weren’t curious about The Phantom.

My most popular piece that wasn’t about comic strips was 60s Popeye: Myskery Melody, a cartoon people have been asking for. This is also gratifying. The 60s cartoons are not regarded as important even to fans of Popeye. I’m glad to know that there are people who’ll pay attention if you give serious consideration to the pop-culture footnotes.

My most popular piece not tied to a review or recap was A question created when I was looking up _The Odd Couple_, a serendipitous event. I’ve been reading an early-90s encyclopedia of cartoon animals and yesterday came across its entry about The Oddball Couple, the cartoon I can’t believe existed. Even this independent evidence of its existence doesn’t convince me.

I went all 2021 without doing any original long-form essays. In its place was Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan fiction. The most popular piece of that was MiSTed: The Tale of Fatty Raccoon, Chapter XIX. I don’t know how that of all the chapters got the top

I don’t know how long I’ll go on posting MiSTings. They offer the considerable advantage that I know how to write them when I don’t feel much like writing. But all the Mystery Science Theater 3000 stuff I gather at this link. And the thing everyone really wants from me, the story strip recaps, are all gathered at this link. There are also individual links for all the story strips, by title. The Phantom is here, and the other ten story strips I’m still covering have their own tags. Yes, I’m also bothered by how Wilbur Weston returned home in Mary Worth today.

Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink. Africa along the Mediterranean coast, and the southern tip, are in pink also, as is the horn. Most of central Africa is unrepresented, though.
It’s always obvious how I never get readers from Greenland. But did you know I never get readers from Togo, Benin, Chad, or the Central African Republic? Equatorial Guinea has no interest in my writing either.

There were 157 countries or things as good as countries to send me some page views in all 2021. Here’s the roster as WordPress makes them out:

Country Readers
United States 42,643
India 2,412
Canada 2,309
United Kingdom 1,755
Australia 1,413
Germany 1,022
Philippines 853
Brazil 762
Sweden 438
Italy 437
Spain 414
Finland 351
France 346
South Africa 328
Ireland 242
Norway 224
Mexico 213
Japan 210
Malaysia 182
Indonesia 176
Greece 168
Netherlands 159
Romania 144
Ecuador 138
Singapore 128
Denmark 127
Austria 124
New Zealand 121
Portugal 117
Thailand 105
Nigeria 96
European Union 92
Argentina 91
Peru 90
Russia 87
Switzerland 87
Turkey 87
United Arab Emirates 80
South Korea 77
Poland 73
Sri Lanka 70
Saudi Arabia 65
Israel 63
Belgium 62
Kuwait 61
Chile 59
El Salvador 58
Colombia 55
Hong Kong SAR China 55
Egypt 53
Serbia 53
Taiwan 53
Jamaica 46
Oman 46
Puerto Rico 46
Hungary 41
Pakistan 41
Czech Republic 40
Trinidad & Tobago 37
Kenya 35
Latvia 34
Lebanon 31
Vietnam 28
Croatia 27
Ukraine 24
Jordan 23
Bangladesh 21
Bulgaria 21
Iceland 20
Macedonia 19
Qatar 19
China 18
Venezuela 17
Iraq 16
Costa Rica 15
Georgia 15
Paraguay 14
Bahrain 13
Lithuania 13
Montenegro 13
Guadeloupe 12
Malta 12
Barbados 11
Slovakia 10
Bosnia & Herzegovina 9
Mauritius 9
Albania 8
Algeria 8
Bahamas 8
Belarus 8
Morocco 8
Cayman Islands 7
Estonia 7
Fiji 7
French Guiana 7
Macau SAR China 7
Nepal 7
Papua New Guinea 7
Cambodia 6
Guatemala 6
Panama 6
Zimbabwe 6
Belize 5
Dominican Republic 5
Libya 5
Mongolia 5
Slovenia 5
Uruguay 5
American Samoa 4
Bolivia 4
Brunei 4
Cape Verde 4
Guam 4
Guernsey 4
Maldives 4
St. Lucia 4
Tunisia 4
Cyprus 3
Honduras 3
Namibia 3
St. Vincent & Grenadines 3
Sudan 3
Tanzania 3
Bermuda 2
Burundi 2
Cameroon 2
Guyana 2
Isle of Man 2
Madagascar 2
Moldova 2
Senegal 2
Uzbekistan 2
Åland Islands 1
Armenia 1
Azerbaijan 1
Bhutan 1
Botswana 1
Cook Islands 1
Côte d’Ivoire 1
Cuba 1
Dominica 1
Ethiopia 1
Ghana 1
Jersey 1
Kyrgyzstan 1
Liberia 1
Liechtenstein 1
Luxembourg 1
Malawi 1
Mauritania 1
Nicaragua 1
Palestinian Territories 1
Sint Maarten 1
Somalia 1
St. Martin 1
U.S. Virgin Islands 1
Uganda 1

I had no page views from the Vatican in 2021. I’m less surprised by that than I am by having had one page view from the Vatican on my mathematics blog. They have to have better things to worry about than what the current story in Gil Thorp is.

WordPress figures I posted a total of 269,360 words in 2021, for an average of 738 words per posting. That’s my most verbose year on record, which reflects how much bulk goes into the various MiSTings. Each post got, on average, 4.5 likes and 2.2 comments.

If you’d like to follow Another Blog, Meanwhile, it’s easy enough to do. There’s a button labelled “Follow Another Blog, Meanwhile” in the upper right corner of the page. You can also subscribe for e-mail delivery of articles at they post. I do nothing with the e-mail address besides have the WordPress Corporation send them out. I can’t say what else the WordPress Corporation does with them. If you have an RSS reader, you can use the feed https://nebushumor.wordpress.com/feed and read without showing up in my statistics.

Whatever way you read, though, I appreciate your doing. Thank you and I hope all’s going okay for you.

Statistics December: How Can I Care About December 2021 When Wilbur Weston Might Be Dead?


Yes, yes, I, like everyone who’s reading Mary Worth, am excited to see Wilbur Weston’s fallen off a cruise ship. I’m hoping to get to recapping it next week, when we might know whether he’s dead or what. Let me share what my plan is for comic strip recaps, before I get into anything further here:

I’m willing to chance the schedule when circumstances warrant. But, for now, yes, Wilbur Weston has fallen into the sea in what might be the first Mary Worth death since the legendary Aldo Keldrast. We’ll see. All my recaps of what’s going on in the story strips are at this link.

Still, I do like sharing my readership figures around here, for reasons I can never quite articulate. I guess other bloggers like the reassurance that it’s not them, their readership has fallen off since a couple years ago.

Bar chart of two and a half years' worth of monthly readership figures. After a peak in April 2021 the months have been hovering around 4500 views per month, without strong direction one way or another.
1,389 followers! If they were all lined up behind me, they’d bump into the wall. Our living room isn’t that large.

In a reversal of the pattern since 2018, my readership increased from November to December 2021. The total number of page views for the month increased to 4,492. This is below the twelve-month running mean of 5,161.0, though, and also below the running median of 4,728. April was a very popular month around here, thanks in part to my post about which Paas tablet matches which color egg. Also to people wanting to know what was going on with The Phantom, a reliable source of readers this year.

The number of unique visitors rose too, again reversing the usual November-to-December trend. There were 2,568 recorded unique visitors in December, but this again is below the running mean of 3,072.4 and the median of 2,722.5. Liking me (nb not licking) was above the averages, though, with 166 likes given in the month. The mean for the twelve months ending with November 2021 was 145.3 likes, and the median 138.5. Comments were about average: 51 given around here in the month, compared to a mean of 55.4 and a median of 51. Certainly average enough.

My most popular post from December was comic strip based, of course. And I’ve been making more short, punchy little posts that have been well-received. I like this, since I like anything being well-received, and short stuff is quicker to write. I wanted to share the five most popular things from December and there was, naturally, a tie for fifth. So here’s the top several things:


Mercator-style map of the world, with the United States in dark red and most of the New World, western Europe, South and Pacific Rim Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in a more uniform pink.
Hey, I’ve almost got the Pacific Ocean surrounded! It’s almost impossible that it should sneak out now!

There were 80 countries sending me any page views at all in December. Greenland was not among them. Here’s the countries that were:

Country Readers
United States 3199
India 171
Canada 153
United Kingdom 132
Australia 121
Germany 79
Japan 60
Philippines 50
Italy 41
Brazil 38
Ireland 27
Sweden 27
Spain 26
Nigeria 21
Norway 21
Netherlands 18
France 15
Sri Lanka 14
Finland 13
New Zealand 13
Thailand 13
Egypt 12
Mexico 12
Peru 12
South Africa 12
Indonesia 11
Malaysia 10
Russia 10
Switzerland 10
Taiwan 10
Austria 9
Romania 8
Singapore 7
Belarus 6
Paraguay 6
Denmark 5
Hong Kong SAR China 5
Portugal 5
Saudi Arabia 5
Bulgaria 4
Colombia 4
Greece 4
Jordan 4
Kenya 4
Puerto Rico 4
South Korea 4
Iraq 3
Jamaica 3
Poland 3
Trinidad & Tobago 3
Ukraine 3
United Arab Emirates 3
Belgium 2
Cambodia 2
Croatia 2
Georgia 2
Israel 2
Kuwait 2
Macedonia 2
Montenegro 2
Pakistan 2
Turkey 2
Albania 1
Azerbaijan 1
Belize 1
Chile 1
China 1
Costa Rica 1
Côte d’Ivoire 1
Ecuador 1
El Salvador 1
Guadeloupe 1
Guam 1
Honduras 1
Hungary 1
Lebanon 1 (*)
Serbia 1
Slovakia 1
Tunisia 1
Vietnam 1

Of the 18 single-view countries (up from 14 in November) only Lebanon is on a two-month streak. Nobody’s on an even longer streak.


Wordpress figures that I posted 18,853 words in December. Even though those were not all different words, that was still my second-least-loquacious month in 2021. This was an average of 608.2 words per posting. And it brought me to a total for the year of 269,360 words, averaging 738 words per posting.

Between the discovery of the English Channel and the 1st of January I’ve posted 3,256 things to this blog. They’ve drawn 268,184 views from 153,567 unique visitors. And there were 4,915 comments overall, some of which I should get around to reading one of these days.

Statistics Saturday: Some Partly Unfoggy, Semi-Unclear, or Sort-of-precise Words


  • Inapproximativish
  • Unbecloudedish
  • Inbrumousesish
  • Ungauzyish
  • Uniexactish
  • Unloosish
  • Immistyish
  • Immurkyish
  • Ummushyesque
  • Inopaquish
  • Antiundeterminedly
  • Unvaguish

Reference: Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meaning, Sol Steinmetz.

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