Thursday, March 30, 2006

Alice Mitchell: Her Clothes and Her Laundry

In a twist on the "Alice goes visiting" standard, Alice is visiting with a woman who seems to be her own age (or even younger!). Typically, Alice gets all dandied up to visit with an older, stouter woman. She brings Dennis along and he says something "cute" like, "Mom, I don't see any battle axes here!" HA HA! It's hilarious, and it's a Public Service Announcement (Parents: Watch what you say around your kids).

I always just assumed that Alice's super duper dressing up was because the older lady she was visiting was snooty. Here, though, she is sitting, having tea (from a tea service!) with a woman her own age. Who are these people, and why are they so fancy? Are they royalty? I mean, what stay-at-home mom do you know that will get dressed up in skirt, blouse, pumps, jewelry . . . to go sit on the couch and have tea with a friend? Is it a job interview? Is it a bigger party or something that requires dressing up -- it's just these two that we get to see?

Now, OK, living in a granola-ish college town, my idea of what is casual and what is fancy may be skewed. 75% of the people at my grocery store wear gym clothes or jeans. No one looks askance if you show up at the movies in jeans and a sweatshirt. When I wear blue jeans and a nice blouse to my neighborhood book club, I rank with the best-dressed there. HOWEVER, I have discovered that my parents' town is fancier than mine. At Thanksgiving, I wore jeans and a sweater to the movies. My parents wore slacks, blazers, coordinated outfits, etc. Who fit in better at the movies? Not me. So, it is possible that Alice lives in one of these less casual towns.

Still, Alice and her friend are just so darn fancy here! Am I out of the loop? Do women really have little get-togethers with their friends, serve tea in fancy dishes, and expect their friends to show up dressed to the nines?

Or is it that Hank Ketchum can't draw slacks? No, that's not it. Mr. Wilson wears slacks all the time. I just think that in Dennis the Menace, women don't wear slacks outside of the home. And that's the way it should be, people! Don't let the feminazis tell you otherwise!

And, besides, what the heck does she mean? She separates her laundry into "whites, darks, and Dennis." So, she puts his clothes in a different pile? What's the big deal? Ooooh . . . 3 separate piles! Maybe she doesn't have a washing machine? Or does she mean she washes DENNIS with the laundry?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Shoe Size

Well, Shoe, you're right about that. More often than not, you and your bird friends are part of the problem, but I'll give you the points on this one.

Of course, it's possible that he's being literal. The comics actually ARE smaller than they used to be. Hence, for instance, the cutting of the first 2-3 panels in most Sunday strips (in the paper at least). From wikipedia:

"Early daily strips were large, often running the entire width of the newspaper, and were sometimes three or more inches in height. At first, one newspaper page only included one daily strip, usually either at the top or the bottom of the page. By the 1920s, many newspapers had a comics page on which many strips were collected. Over the years, the size of daily strips became smaller and smaller, until by 2000 four standard daily strips could fit in the area once occupied by a single daily strip."

And that's your comic strip history lesson for the day. Thank you, Shoe.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Hagar and the Solid Gold Dancers

Hoo Hoo! Oh boy! ROTFL! Disarmament talks! See, it's so, so funny because Hagar is an ancient Viking warrior, with the evil, menacing Attila the Hun as his foe. And it rings so true with us, because in the here and now we are going through the same sort of thing with our current foe, the Red Soviet Menace! Commie bastards! It's even funnier, because Hagar and Attila are talking about swords and spears and the like, but we know in the present day that President Jimmy Carter and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev are negotiating the SALT II Treaty about NUCLEAR WEAPONS!!!

And this is the brilliance of Hagar the Horrible. It puts an ancient Viking warrior in a situation that sheds light on the events we are facing today, in 1978. Brilliant!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Bil Keane has Never Seen a Child

Joly shit! That's one large-ass animal cracker!

OK, maybe he has SEEN a child, but no way has he spent significant time with one, and even less a chance that he's ever actually seen an animal cracker. Because? They aren't that big, Bil, and I don't know if they ever were. That seal wouldn't fit in your typical animal cracker box that looks like a circus train car with the little handy string for carrying it around like a purse. And? There's no seal.

So, nice . . . make a lame joke on "the seal is broken," and make it worse by showing a gingerbread man-sized, non-existent animal cracker seal. The joke is barely forgiveable, and the execution is outlandish. Lame, lame, lame.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More Reasons Why

Still attempting to discover why the bad comics still appear. Daily. Let's look at some other possibilities:

4) THE INTERNET. Now, I don't normally spend much time dwelling on the God-awful soap opera strips. You know, your Rex Morgans, your Mary Worths, etc. They're actually much, much funnier than most of the funnies. Only, unintentionally so. Or is it intentional? Come on. As I see it, these things ONLY exist because of the online communities that have grown up making fun of them. Don't believe me? Check out my (newly updated) links list. Even slightly modern comics like For Better or For Worse are ripe for the snarking.

5) IT'S JUST BUSINESS, MAN. Jon suggested this idea, and I will just quote directly: "Maybe the big syndicators (can we call them "Big Syndi" like Big Oil and Big Pharma?) package their good comics with the crappy old ones. For instance, United Syndicates may sell Dilbert to a paper but only if they buy Nancy and Marmaduke. Of course, the United webpage lists Marmaduke as a "beloved reader favorite" so that may be part of the problem right there..." First, Jon, damn you, I had managed to forget all about Nancy until now. Second, hmmmmm. . . maybe he is on to something? You know, these syndicates have spun their "beloved reader favorites" into major logo and licensing deals. You can get your favorites on greeting cards, mugs, mouse pads, etc. I guess they must be big money makers for the syndicates, and therefore, they need to use their pull to keep them in the public eye. Just think, if Marmaduke were pulled, who in the world would go out and by a Marmaduke-logoed dog bone? It doesn't really explain Tiger, though. Or Hi & Lois. I'm not sure I've ever seen any Hi & Lois paraphernalia. Thank goodness.

Hmmmm . . . Could it be true?

Uhm, in a word: NO.

Today's culprits: The Internet, Big Business, and Unfunny People. Are there more? Certainly. Feel free to theorize. I'll be thinking of other reasons.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Great Question

The question that really plagues me, that plagues most of us, is “Why?” And maybe for some of you the full question is “Why am I here? What is my purpose?” Or “Why is my life this way?” But what I mean is “Why is (Garfield/Dennis the Menace/Family Circus/Hagar the Horrible/Etc – Choose one or all) still in newspapers? Why, does Tiger still appear in ‘120 newspapers worldwide’ when its creator is dead, and it was never really all that good in the first place? There has to be a reason, right? Let’s examine some possibilities, in no particular order.

1) TO PISS ME OFF. You may not be aware of it, but the world does, in fact, revolve around me. Accept it and get used to it. In this world, everything is done to please or displease me, and clearly the funny page editors like the spike in my blood pressure every morning at 8:15. “WHAT? HOW IS THIS FUNNY? WHY? WHY?”

2) THE FUNNY PAGE EDITORS ARE SCARED OF THE PEOPLE WHO LIKE MARMADUKE, HI & LOIS, ETC. From time to time I get emails from blog readers who will say, “My paper cancelled Marmaduke, but then they started getting letters from all these Marmaduke fans, and so they had to put it back in.” Question: Who are these Marmaduke fans and what power do they have over the funny page editors? Gotta be blackmail, right? Or, could it be violence? Are they the Russian Mafia? In the world of Law & Order, if you cross the Russian Mafia, you usually wind up dead. There may be a Marmaduke Mafia, and, really, the editors have to do what they say.

3) OLD PEOPLE. I hate to offend, but this particular brand of Catskills, 1950s humor seems to be geared toward, well, older Americans. Those who can read a strip about a dad who can’t figure out the oven, and say, “Ah, yes, men can’t cook things, that’s true!” Those for whom “Take my wife . . . please!” is still a knee slapper. And, hey, do you know who reads newspapers these days? Well, let’s just say that as a thirtysomething newspaper subscriber, I am probably in the minority for my age group. Young people don't read the newspaper anymore. Hey, don’t take my word for it:

Notice the dad is getting a hearty laugh from an article (not the funnies).

I’m not saying young people don’t read the paper solely because the comics are so lame. But, when the editors of your local paper put the wishes of the people who pine away for Dennis the Menace (of course, assuming it’s not the Russian Mafia), ahead of the people who would like to “TRY SOMETHING NEW PLEAAAAASE!” you get the sense that the newspaper editors don’t really care what you want or think. It’s the same reason people my age and younger don’t watch the evening news. “Oh, great. They are doing another segment tonight on prescription drug benefits, and tomorrow . . . a segment on advances in hip replacement therapy!”

Hey, I think there need to be outlets in the U.S. entertainment/information community that DON’T cater to every whim of the youngest, hippest, and coolest among us. That’s fine by me, and if the funny page editors want to make their realm a bastion of older folks, good for them. They should just realize that we are ALL going to be older folks one day, and I doubt my generation is going to suddenly find Marmaduke funny, once we hit our 70s. So, funny page editors: just think about what you plan to do in 40 years when your readers are all dead.

Well, the other "answers to why" will have to wait on another post. We have gone too long already. Not to fear, there are other possibilities. But for today, our three main culprits for the continued appearance of Hi & Lois in your paper are: Big Al, the Russian Mafia, and Old People.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Good Morning, Tiger

Well, as Marc promised, the comics in my Florida paper WERE in color! The hotel paper was USA Today, but I did get Florida Today on Saturday and Sunday. And yes, all the Saturday comics were in full, riotous color.

The "highlight" of the comics page for me was my re-introduction to Tiger. I recall this strip from my distant past. Maybe it was in the Nashville paper in the 80s? I do not remember, but this is not my first exposure to Tiger. I had wiped my memory of the strip, like you do anything that isn't worth the brain cells to remember. Here is Monday's strip in case you are unfamiliar with this particular brand of "humor:"

OK, so Tiger, the main character, is the chap in the black ball cap. The other dude is Tiger's best friend, Hugo. I learned this on the "About the Characters" page. There, I also learned about the two primary girls in the strip. Bonnie is "Hugo's outspoken yet brutally honest 'girlfriend'." Then there's Suzy: "She's everything that Bonnie isn't — blonde, feminine, innocent and liked by everyone. That makes them rivals!" And ZZZZZZZZZZ. . . . What is WITH the Betty and Veronica-ization of the funny pages? Dennis has Gina and Margaret; hell, even Curtis has Chutney and Michelle. It's the ultra-feminine pretty girl vs. the tomboy. ZZZZZZZ

When I was in Florida, the strip I saw included Tiger's brother "Punkinhead." Here he is in today's strip:

As you can see, he looks remarkably like Alfalfa from the Little Rascals gang. Of course, any humor modeled after 1920s-1930s childhood characters is cutting edge, and always funny. You think I am being sarcastic, but need I remind you of Eddie Murphy's Buh-weet? You can get a laugh just reading this.

Shockingly, Tiger isn't as funny as Eddie Murphy.

This strip first appeared in 1965. The creator retired in 2004 and died in 2005. He didn't have a son or friend take over, but the strip, much like Peanuts, is now in reruns. This is, according to toonopedia, because the gags are, ahem, "timeless." Hey, just like the Little Rascals!

And, oh my God. Why is this still taking up space in the funny pages? THE CREATOR IS DEAD. THESE ARE ALL RERUNS. I am ALMOST willing to make an exception for the seminal and often brilliant Peanuts. But Tiger? Really? This takes up space that could be given to other, new artists? Why? There are people who would complain if it were taken away from the funny pages? Can't they accept that the artist is not creating NEW stuff? That he is DEAD???

What if other entertainment venues followed the same logic as the comics? So, Mickey Mantle retires. But, the Yankees just keep sending him out to play. Then, he dies. So, all Weekend at Bernie's-like, the Yankees send his corpse up to bat (this may be what Ted Williams was up to with the whole cryogenics freezing thing). Better yet, when the Mick's turn to bat comes, they could just play a rerun of a previous Mantle at bat from the 1950s or 1960s.

Then again, I do listen to the Beatles from time to time, and half of them are dead. And, you go to an art museuem to look at say, Rembrandt. And he's dead, too. So, are the comics supposed to be like fine art? Or oldies music?


Grrrrrrr . . . Tiger is my new nemesis. Too bad it's not carried in my local paper. Then, I could work up a real sense of righteous outrage.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Apologies for the Delay

I am having some difficulty getting images to post, and haven't had the time to sit and figure it out. A new post is ready to go, and will be up once I get the time to get the image issue worked out.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Tuba, Tuba, Tuba Chameleon

As we all know, there are a handful of comic truisms: teenagers borrow money, short order cooks make food that gives you indigestion, men like to golf when their wives think they should be doing chores, a mother-in-law visit is always a surprise and huge imposition. Any of those scenarios is not only true-to-life, but also hilarious, right?

So, imagine my surprise at today's Heathcliff:

And what's weird about this? Well, of course, in the comics, cats play the harpsichord, NOT the tuba! Duh. No, not really. What's weird is that Heathcliff actually wants to get in to see the vet. See, in the comics (and in real life, quite frankly) pets, and especially cats, DON'T like to see the vet. I'm not a regular Heathcliff follower. Is it possible that he likes the vet? I know Marmaduke, that big lovable lug, HATES the vet.

So, here's my theory on what's behind this one. The Heathcliff "writer"/"artist" was recently stuck waiting for the doctor. OK, that's true to life. You really do have to sit in the waiting room and read their magazines for a long time (but, where else are you going to keep up on the details of Nick and Jessica's divorce, huh? The grocery store line, duh). So, the Heathcliff guy, and it looks like his name is Gallagher, thought, how could I get in to see the doctor quicker? And, Gallagher thought, "I know! I will hammer some watermelons with a big wooden mallet!" HA HA HA! Nooooo . . . what he thought was "What if I happened to have a tuba, and I just went right up to the receptionist and started playing it?" Then, he chuckled to himself. Boy! What an idea for a strip, right? So, he just RUINS the whole concept of "pets hate the vet" and sticks Heathcliff in his spot. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

Surprisingly, Heathcliff looks to be a fairly decent tuba player. You can tell this because the musical notes coming out of it are straight and unbroken. The comic convention for bad music is broken, wavy notes. But, this strip here is messing with all kinds of comic conventions, so we really have no clue what goes on in Heathcliff world.

This may be the last post for awhile. I am leaving town soon, but am quite excited to see what wonderful comics the Orlando Sun Sentinel shares with its readers!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Hi and Lois Have a Junk Drawer!

Did you know it? Hi and Lois have a junk drawer (and, no, that's not a euphemism, despite the obviously smoldering H&L love). They actually do have a junk drawer, the basis of today's "joke:"

You may be wondering what exactly makes this funny. You may have a junk drawer in your very own home! Have you ever realized how funny it is that you have a drawer filled with random stuff? No? Think about it . . . there is a drawer in your kitchen that has scissors, Scotch tape, pizza coupons, string, a Maglite, and some stray batteries! HA HA HA! Isn't that funny? Still not?

Hmmmmmm . . . what if your husband asked for a AA battery and you said it was in "The Battery Drawer," but really, of course, it's not "The Battery Drawer," but the junk drawer! HA HA! Right? No? What if your husband asked you where the extra battery was, and you said "The Bronx is up and The Battery's down!" HA HA HA. No.

Although . . . if you type the word "drawer" enough, it does start to look kind of funny. Drawer. It's like a person who draws, but not. Drawer. That's a funny word.

P.S. Hi seems to be a vampire or other mystical creature. His reflection in Panel 1 doesn't jive with the "real" Hi. Spoooooky.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

You Go, Girl!

If you watch any amount of television, you are more than likely familiar with the character archetype, "Sassy Black Woman." Sassy Black Woman can be counted on to dispense street wisdom to the white folk. She's typically overweight, and gives her advice in a no-nonsense, take-no-guff style. She uses exaggerated hand gestures and often punctuates her advice with a cock-eyed "girl, please" kind of look. Also: she is sassy. Don't cross Sassy Black Woman!

Loretta Devine is a fine actress, and, for my money, the greatest SBW out there. Just last weekend, I got to see her as Sassy Black Woman in both Grey's Anatomy and the movie Crash. You think there's a better SBW out there? Pfffffft. Girl, please.

Ironically, in the midst of the nagging wives, sniveling bureaucrats, meddling mothers-in-law, short-tempered bosses, lazy teenagers, and extremely cute children, the Sassy Black Woman is a stereotypical character archetype the funny pages actually DON'T traffic in. Hooray for the funnies! Perhaps the closest to an SBW is Curtis' teacher, Mrs. Nelson:

But, Mrs. Nelson isn't particularly sassy. Besides, she's more of the hard-ass teacher archetype, and less of the SBW. Interestingly, the great Loretta Devine (mentioned above) managed to combine the two in her role of Mrs. Marla Hendricks in the late, less-than-great Boston Public.

That very long-winded introduction out of the way, I am pleased to note that a wonderful SBW graced my Funny Page this morning, courtesy of Funky Winkerbean's breast cancer support group. Ladies and gentlemen, the Sassy Black Woman:

Girl! Please. She' got the patented SBW look DOWN! Look at her providing that sassy street wisdom to the white ladies! Girl, don't be frontin', you funky and you IN Funky.

Excellent. Another stereotype covered in the funnies! Keep it up funnies!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A Tale of Woe

Guh-ross! That "cold dog" is one of the grossest things I believe I have ever seen. YUCKY.

It's all black and shiny and it looks like it is staring at me. It also looks a little bit like it is wiggling. Those lines around the outside of the cold dog are supposed to be the flat part of the plate, but they make it look like the cold dog is ALIVE.

AIEEEE! It is staring out at you from its charred, grimacing, mouth-like bun. It wiggles in its captivity: the gaping maw of the mouth bun has trapped it, and now this seemingly innocent kid wants to subject it to more punishing heat rays. "Help me!" the cold dog's one eye implores you. But you cannot possibly help the cold dog; its very nature is hideous to you. You look away, pretend not to notice. Thelma will reheat the cold dog for Jeffy. This is inevitable. This is life.

You glance away in the nick of time. Oh look! There's that cute little Dennis fellow bothering grumpy Mr. Wilson.