Saturday, October 29, 2005

In Which It is Discovered Big Al Can't Read

I am back from my trip to L.A.! While a good bit of the trip was meetings, I did make my planned trip to the Hammer Museum to see the Masters of American Comics exhibit. The museum was but a short $10 cab ride from the hotel. I was very excited to see the exhibit, and to learn a great deal about the evolution of the comic strip art form. But hark! What did I see upon my arrival? No comic exhibit, that's for certain. The exhibit begins November 20, as is stated VERY CLEARLY in the museum's online exhibition description. Which, I must admit, I read several times as I was getting directions to the museum, museum hours, etc. Obviously, I can't read, or can't make the leap from reading to comprehension; i.e., "Exhibit opens on November 20" = "Exhibit won't be open in late October."

They did have a lot of interesting comic strip books in the museum store, including the complete Peanuts, Krazy Kat, Calvin and Hobbes, along with graphic novels by the likes of Art Spiegelman and . . . a book of Hi & Lois strips. I am quite interested to see how the museum thinks H&L fits in with the classics, but, alas, it is not to be. I am not planning a return visit to L.A.

Instead I did get a chance to see Frank Lloyd Wright's collection of Japanese prints and the permanent collection of the artworks of famed industrialist Armand Hammer. Which was nice and interesting, but . . . well not what I hoped to see.

I did learn that the L.A. Times has 2.25 pages of comic strips. The quarter page? Is at the bottom of a "Kids' Page" and included Heathcliff, Marmaduke, Family Circus, and Dennis the Menace. Brilliant! Put those kiddie strips in their own corner. Then, you can just skip them if you choose. Great idea! I say, quarantine these strips like so many H5N1 infected chickens -- prevent the spread of the comic equivalent of bird flu!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Celebration of Calvin and Hobbes

I will be traveling this week, so don't expect to post much. Maybe a post tomorrow (Monday), but don't count on it. Check back a week from now, and maybe you will be able to read a report on my trip to the "Masters of American Comics" exhibit at the Hammer Museum and Museum of Contemporary Art in L.A.

Speaking of Masters of American Comics, the complete Calvin and Hobbes collection is now available . . . if you have about $100 to spare. I don't have that kind of money to drop on a comic strip collection, but it matters not. Because of this book's release, news organizations have spent some time considering C&H, the state of today's comics, and the genius behind some of the greater strips. Here is NPR's take. That includes some remarks by Berkley Breathed (Bloom County, Opus). Breathed remains amazed at C&H's ability to be funny and endearing to audiences of all ages. It didn't need to be political, and it didn't need to be edgy, and it was brilliantly funny without being off-putting.

According to Neely Tucker of the Washington Post, "'Calvin and Hobbes' was such an exuberant, strange and metaphysical realm you wonder how it ever got shoveled into a comic strip." Complete article here. Do a Google News search, and you will find all sorts of C&H retrospectives. I just got 204 results.

So, artistic genius in the comics is possible. With Calvin and Hobbes, and Gary Larson's Far Side, the '80s were a special time in the funny pages. NOTE: Both authors quit while they were ahead. I hate that they are gone, but thankful that these works of genius did not become watered down pieces of mediocrity.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Two Thumbs Up for Cosmo's Raise!

Class, what is the joke here? ANSWER: He just got a raise, and his new, increased salary only allows him to live comfortably in a world with 1930s prices. And it's 2005!

Why is this funny? ANSWER: Because all bosses are tight wads, and even though he's a bird reporter, we can all identify with the indignity of working for low pay.

No, really, why is it funny? ANSWER: Because a vast majority of the comic strips seem to take place in an unidentifiable past. Is it the 1930s? If so, Cosmo's doing all right!

So, Cosmo's supposed to be Roger Ebert, right?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Fun with Anachronisms

HA HA! Two jokes for the price of one:

1) Thinking a beer belly must be caused by beer, and isn't simply an idiom for having a big gut.

2) Thinking a tee-totaller drinks a lot of tea!

yuk yuk yuk.

There's nothing more to say about it really. It's not particularly bad, as far as daily comics go, but it's a good representation of what we have to put up with every day.

And I doubt cavemen had beer, or beer guts, or tea, or M.D.s, but maybe that is what makes it so funny! It's like when Hagar sees an eye chart when he goes to visit Dr. Zook! HA HA! Vikings didn't have eye charts, silly!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Masters of American Comics

Oh, how much I love making fun of the drivel that is the funny pages. Not funny, not thought-provoking, not in any way reflective of life in today's America (with some major exceptions, of course). Yes, I like it when a strip is funny and/or thought-provoking, but lately, I like it even better when I see a strip so mind-blowingly awful that I spend all day at work trembling like a coked-out junkie, sweating with the anticipation of writing about it that evening . . .

And after such a big build-up, you are now expecting today's "shakes-inducing" strip, right? Wrong! (Although today's Garfield has promise . . . see below). No, that was just my way of letting you down gently when I said that I actually enjoy the comics. God, even the awful ones., yes it is true. I just sort of appreciate whatever niche they hold in our collective psyches. How else would I know that doctors liked to play golf, huh?

Anyway, there is an exhibit, "Masters of American Comics" at the Hammer Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art, in L.A. Briefly:

"The Hammer Museum and The Museum of Contemporary Art jointly present MASTERS of American Comics, a large-scale exhibition comprising in-depth presentations of work by 15 artists who shaped the development of the American comic strip and comic book during the past century. With over 500 objects on view, the exhibition provides understanding and insight into the medium of comics as an art form. The exhibition will be on view simultaneously at both museums." More here. (Interestingly, they do not seem to feature comic strips from the second half of the 20th Century. I WONDER WHY. They stink, that's why. Oh, yeah, that's it.)

And, as luck would have it, guess where I will be in 2 short weeks? L.A., baby! I will be sure to visit the exhibit, and report back.

On to today's Garfield.

Jon looks like such a pervert as he tells Garfield about asking a girl to "Wienerworld." Do I need to point out the obvious here? This is shaping up to be sort of funny, if perverted and inappropriate family fare. Too bad that the "joke" in Panel 3 is that . . . drumroll please . . . the girl (a "perfume tester") turned him down (No! You don't say!) by spraying him with "eau de sauerkraut." 2 nitpicks:

1) I doubt she's a "perfume tester," as those people probably work at the actual perfume company/laboratory/whatever. Why would you be testing perfumes at the mall? OK, we know what he's talking about, so OK, fine.

2) "Eau de saurkraut"???? See, this is why that company needs to have its perfume testers somewhere other than the mall. What a completely gross perfume! Who markets this gross stuff? Bertie Botts???

But, this is on par with some of my favorite Brick House panels, and as a stand-alone panel it does sort of make me laugh:

Dear Penthouse:

I always thought your letters were made up, until I met this guy at the pefume counter . . .

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Marmaduke Challenge: I win

Well, the Marmaduke Challenge is over. I gave Marmaduke one week to publish a hyper-Marm strip. I am going to make the call: I win.

Over the past week, he hula hooped, engineered a mutiny at his obedience class, visited a fast food restaurant, and installed a fancy glass door on his dog house.

The hula hoop incident:

What the HELL is she talking about? You aren't supposed to jump through it; you are supposed to hula hoop with it. Marmaduke is correct, little girl is wrong. Never a good sign when you are out-thought by a Great Dane. And her shirt says "Puppy Love." Should say "Puppy Brained."

The door incident:

Obviously in response to the alien robot visit earlier in the week. Marm told his sob story to ABC and Ty Pennington and got an extreme makeover. All America was touched by the story of the poor creature called "subhuman" with "primitive housing" by a 1950s-era alien robot. Then Ty and the gang showed up, and things are good. Come back Mr. Alien Robot!

But, all that aside, here's the winning entry:

I knew Marmaduke couldn't go a whole week without some sort of over-the-top hyperactivity. And, as Marc pointed out, they sell petrol in Marmaduke-ville. And are they driving on the left side of the road? Great Dane! Are they British? Sakes alive, I never considered it.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Quick Hits

Seems the Flagstons would prefer to just block out their view of the Thurston's yard. I think they care not one whit about their property value. Which is an odd thing, considering Lois is a real estate agent.

HA HA HA! Doctors would rather play golf than help their patients! I hadn't thought of that funny tidbit before. Thanks to Hagar the Horrible for pointing out this little life truism. It was even a problem back in Viking days. In other "up-to-the-minute-humor" bits, it turns out that kids are cute, big dogs are funny, and mothers-in-law can still be a royal pain in the ass:

Oh, dear God of all that is merciful, please, no. Let this be overly excited mothers, NOT a Cathy pregnancy story line. I can NOT take that. No offense to any noseless readers, but I just don't think they should reproduce. Especially when they have poor self esteem, major body image issues, and are still settling in with their husband. Cathy in bathing suit trying-on season is enough as it is. PREGNANT Cathy . . . I can't and won't stand it.

Finally, my new favorite, Brick House, has mystery in his past. What could it be? Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Happy Birthday, Bil!

Hey comic haters! Just a warning: posts may possibly be few and far between over the next few weeks. The baseball playoffs have begun. Now I have more things to do with my leisure time, and, shockingly, my leisure time has not expanded to meet my leisure needs. This strange thing called "work," still takes too much time.

It's OK; I am a Braves fan, and once they are eliminated, my "need" to watch the playoffs decreases. They are my team and I like to be supportive and all, but, let's get real . . . I'll probably be back here blogging full time by the weekend.

OK, so not much to say today (the game starts in 14 minutes), but I would be remiss in not wishing a belated happy birthday to our very good friend, Mr. Bil Keane. Bil turned 83 yesterday.

I know you are shocked! 83!!!! And, yet, his brand of humor is so hip, so relevant to today's life. It's like he (and his sons) are keenly (hehe -- puns are fun!) tuned in to life in America today. It's uncanny.

Let's look at today's strip, shall we?

Well, looky there: Billy is talking about baseball, just like I was talking about baseball!!! See what I am saying about Bil Keane and his hand on the pulse of America? Yes.

Who are these embarrasing players Billy refers to? Kent Tekulve? Don Mossi? Willie McGee? Wait. . . no . . . those are just ugly players.

How about Mike Kekich and Fritz Peterson? They are the Yankee pitchers who swapped wives! Dude, you just know that wife swapping is a kink that Keane tries to hide.

Or, Rafael Palmeiro, former Viagra pitchman, current steroid cheat and teammate tattler? Daryl Strawberry? Dwight Gooden? Jose Canseco?

Whatever, Billy. Be happy you have a signed baseball. Don't you remember who signed it for you???

Braves-Astros in 3 minutes. Adios.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

He's a Brick House!

Mighty mighty, just lettin' it all hang out


It's so fun to make fun of smart non-athletic people! Keep it up, Gil Thorpe!

(Never mind that in 20 years, Brick will be able to BUY you all. Ignore that bit).

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Your Alien Logic Confuses Me

I guess Marmaduke is sort of like Gil Thorpe, in that once you start nitpicking it, you can't go back. Also, the title character in both is big and flatheaded.

A few notes about the selection above:
1) You will have to click to enlarge it
2) It's not the entire strip. If you are that interested, you can go to the Marmaduke page.

OK, so the gist is this alien, which looks remarkably like a 1950s sci fi robot, comes down to Earth, and its only contact with a live being is with -- CAN YOU BELIEVE IT??? -- Marmaduke!! Of course, this gives the alienbot the wrong idea about what life on Earth is really like. FUN. NY.

My nitpick is with the fourth panel above. The alienbot says, "Send word: Earth is occupied by subhuman creatures with limited vocabulary, walk on four legs, and are covered with hair and live in primitive housing." First, terrible sentence structure, Mr. Alienbot! Shouldn't there at least be a "who" before "walk on four legs"? Yes, there should. The sentence as written is incorrect. But, since it is an alien, who PROBABLY doesn't speak English as a first language, I'll let it slide.

My main nitpick: Clearly this alien feels Marmaduke is representative of all living being on Earth (the "humor" is that we know this is a false assumption! HA HA!). The alienbot does not know humans exist, so why does he have a name for them ("human") and how can he compare Marmaduke, and rank him as subhuman, if he does not have a human to compare him to?

Marmaduke is just not logical.

Are the Marmaduke creators telling us there is human life elsewhere in the universe??? Why, that is UNPROVEN! Why is it my comics page? Marmaduke should be teaching us intelligent design.

So, I am still looking for the answer to my personal Marmaduke challenge, but in the meantime, April Patterson has suggested another challenge: Caption the lazy Marmaduke panel. Good luck!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Marmaduke Challenge

Puh-leeze. You, and I, and anyone who's read Marmaduke more than twice know that this statement is patently false. You never have to tell him to relax? Except that half the Marmaduke "jokes" are about how he is so hyper and so large that his people have trouble keeping up with him. So, which is it? Yes, dogs can be lazy and then the next minute they can be hyper, but this strip doesn't work.

OK, let's think of a lazy comic pet. Hey, how about Garfield? Now, imagine this same one liner in Garfield . . . Close your eyes . . . imagine Garfield sacked out on top of his table like always. Jon and his buggy eyes says to us, "I never have to tell him to relax." OK, we get the picture -- Garfield is lazy! Thanks for pointing that out (again)! It's not funny, but at least it would make sense. In this strip, it's not funny, and it contradicts everything we already know about Marmaduke.

I guarantee you that at some point in the next week, there will be a Marmaduke strip where the point will be how energetic he is. Where the owner would like to tell him to relax. The challenge begins today.