Melodrama Monday: People who love to hear themselves talk

Tommie in Apartment 3-G just spent the entire week telling Lu Ann that she found a vet who might be willing to take the deer off her hands and completely failed to mention what exactly she thinks anyone would want with an orphaned deer that's now spent half its life living in a New York City apartment. She hasn't actually spoken to this vet either, she's just assuming that it will all work out.

"Tommie," asks Lu Ann, "did you get an appointment for Lily?"
"Not yet, Lu Ann." says Tommie. "I've called Jack Riley, but no one answers. I made another call, Lu Ann. And this time I got an answer."
"From Jack Riley?" asks Lu Ann, who apparently wasn't paying attention.
"From the town clerk in Happiness Falls!" says Tommie.
"That's the little burg where Jack Riley lives, Lu Ann." they both say in eerie unison.
"How did the town clerk help, Tommie?" asks Lu Ann.
"She gave me the lowdown on Jack Riley." says Tommie, giving a thumbs-up. "It seems he's the original cranky guy with a heart of gold."
"Maybe it's true, Tommie!" says Lu Ann, again clearly not paying attention.

So with no real reason to suppose that Jack Riley will take the deer or do anything to help her at all, Tommie packed the car, took the deer and drove to Happiness Falls.

In Judge Parker, Alan and Katherine, having accidentally brought down a surveillance drone, decided it wasn't really a priority and went to meet April's father.

"It's an honor to meet you, Alan!" says Abbott. "I thoroughly enjoyed 'The Chambers Affair'!"
"That's good to hear, Abbott!" says Alan. "We're writing the screenplay now!"
"April mentioned that! If it's half as good as the book..." says Abbott, "...you'll take Hollywood by storm!"
Alan basks in the absurd praise.

He did eventually get around to telling Abbott about the drone, but he has his priorities. First you have to tell him you love his book, then you can move on to other matters.

This week in Funky Winkerbean Holly made an off-hand remark about comic books being a boy thing and Donna took that as an opportunity to tell a boring story.

"Comic books aren't solely a guys' domain, Holly." says Donna. "After all, you're talking to the gal who once bore the sobriquet of the 'Eliminator.'"
Cut to sepia-toned flashback.
"The 'Eliminator' is one of the coolest guys on the planet." says a slack-jawed boy as he watches Donna, disguised in a ridiculous helmet, playing an arcade machine.
"Heh, heh..." thinks Donna. "Little do they know."

This went on for another four days, believe it or not, and in the end the message seems to be "Comics aren't just for boys. I know, because I used to play video games wearing a disguise so that no one would know I was a girl." I'm really not sure how that evidence was supposed to support that point.


Weekend Workshop: Big Changes

Based on The Pajama Diaries, 2014-03-25.
What a coincidence!

Based on Rex Morgan MD, 2014-03-25 and 2014-03-27.
Sarah gets what Sarah wants.

Based on Luann, 2014-03-28.
If Brad and Toni join them then things will really be looking up for this comic.


Philosophical Friday: Leave Mimes Alone

Brewster Rockit: Space Guy! 2014-03-25.
Todd the Dinosaur, 2014-03-28.
Why are mimes consistently portrayed in comics as being really annoying? Is anyone actually bothered by mimes? Are mimes even common enough for people to have much of an opinion on them at all? Seems like a really weird target to pick. Is this some historical thing that has just become comedy shorthand even though it no longer makes sense, like slipping on banana skins? What did mimes ever do to deserve this?

Hägar the Horrible, 2014-03-27.
Seeing that Hamlet's girlfriend's name here got me thinking about the names of comic strip characters and how weird they are. "Hernia" is certainly up there, but it's not as atypical as you might imagine. On The Fastrack has "Fistula Breech", there's Blondie's "Dagwood Bumstead", B.C.'s "Cute Chick" and "Fat Broad". One of the kids in Baby Blues goes by "Hammie".  Hi and Lois called their twins "Dot" and "Ditto", and there's Lois's brother Beetle Bailey.

I don't know where I'm going with this, it's just something that struck me.


Sitcom Thursday: Surrealism, Nihilism, Solipsism

Lost in an endless void, Fred Basset looks around himself but sees no one.
"Is there anyone out there?!" he thinks, beginning to panic.
There is not.

"What's going on?" asks Major Greenbrass.
"The general is having a fight with his wife" says Sheila. "And he's trying to negotiate a truce"
The general is in a tank, his head sticking out of the hatch in the top. Martha stands in front of the tank, rolling pin in hand, glaring at him.
"I'll put the tank back if you'll put the rolling pin down" says Gen. Halftrack.

Pvt. Bailey and Sgt. Snorkel are in a jeep together. Snorkel seems a little worried.
"Where did you get the gas this morning?" he asks.
"At the airport" says Bailey.
"I thought so" replies Snorkel.
The camera pans out to reveal the jeep is not, as might be expected, on the road, but is actually soaring through the air far above Camp Swampy.

Pvt. Bailey is driving a jeep (on the road this time) when he spots a moose on the side of the road. Surprisingly, the moose appears to be attempting to hitch-hike. Later, Bailey and the moose arrive at Camp Swampy.
"Why are you giving him a ride?" asks Sgt. Snorkel.
"Because if I didn't you wouldn't have believed me" explains Bailey.


One-Panel Wednesday: Cats, Dogs and Skunks

Heathcliff has had his owner buy (or make?) a hat that is a throne for him to sit upon, so that he might survey the world as he is carried about.
"Is that a new throne hat?" asks a woman.
Does this mean that there's an old throne hat that's been replaced by this new one?

Heathcliff and Sonja watch fearfully as three skunks ride past on six-wheeled, army-green vehicles.
"Everyone moves aside for the skunk buggies." says one garbage man to another.

Hazel and the Baxter family go to the cinema. George decides to see "Flames of Passion" while the others watch "The Magic Elf".
"See you after the show, Mister B." says Hazel.

A Ballard Street resident attempts to teach her dog to read.
"Remember, we always read left to right and top to bottom." she says.
The dog seems to be concentrating.


Action Tuesday: More comics about comics

When I last brought you up to speed on Dick Tracy, the Nitrates were leading the police on a high-speed chase, and since then things have progressed more-or-less predictably. The disastrous end was assured, but one small twist was that Sprocket actually drove into a lake on purpose as a form of self-destructive revenge against Silver, who apparently had been hitting her off-screen. Tracy and Sam were right behind and witnessed the car going into the lake.

"Tracy?" asks chief Patton over the wrist wizard. "What's happened to the Nitrates?"
"The drove into the lake, chief." replies Tracy. "The Flattop car broke through the ice and sank like a stone!"
"Is there a chance they survived?"
"We'll need divers and a recovery rig to reach them, chief, but I'd say no. No chance at all."

That said, we'd just seen the Nitrates still alive and talking in the car, so I won't believe it unless I see a body. If they do reappear though it probably won't be soon since the next we see Dick he's heading back to police headquarters to read some comics, specifically a satirical comic clearly based on him called J Straightedge Trustworthy. What is it with comic strip characters reading comics lately?

An interesting thing about this is that J Straightedge Trustworthy is clearly an homage to Fearless Fosdick, which Dick Tracy said was his favourite comic, which means that within the world of Dick Tracy there are actually now two separate comic strips making fun of him. He likes one, but we don't know how he feels about the other yet. Well, I think it's interesting.

Mark Trail, meanwhile, has discovered that Marlin is a poacher and has gone to look for some evidence, but while snooping around Marlin's workshop he was caught by Jessica.

"Jessica, I need to ask Marlin some questions about his business!" saus Mark, utterly failing to explain why he broke into the workshop.
"Maybe I can help you!" says Jessica, suspiciously.
"Jessica, did you knwo that Marlin is involved in poaching?" asks Mark. It's well-known that a criminal can't lie if you just ask them a straight question like that.
"What!?" demands Jessica indignantly. "That's ridiculous ... why would you say something like that?!"

And Peter Parker's vow to hang up the Spider-Man costume for a while lasted about as long as one might expect. He turned on the TV and saw some people in trouble. It's one of my favourite things about Spider-Man that he so often finds out about people in trouble only because of how much television he watches.

In this case he saw some construction workers hanging dangerously from a girder and felt that he couldn't rely on Iron Jonah (or any of the numerous other super heroes in New York) to save them so he had to get out there. Having managed to get both men to safety he was faced with the further problem of keeping the girder from crushing a bus that just drove under it for some reason.

"Spider-Man's swinging into that girder's path!" narrates an onlooker.
"What's he gonna do — try an' catch it?" asks a passing Canadian.
"No!" calls someone else. "He swung right under it — and now he's stuck his webbing to that sculpture!"
"What good'll that do??" asks a fourth bystander.

It's good to see the utter lack of faith the people of New York have in him.


Melodrama Monday: Comics About Comics

Mary Worth has left us on a cliffhanger today — did Tommy fall back into old habits; is he currently sleeping off a hangover (or worse), or is he just tired? This could be interesting, but right now we just have to wait.

So instead let's talk about the Batiukiverse (a term I just came up with to describe the world of Funky Winkerbean, Crankshaft and John Darling). Did you know that Tom Batiuk likes comic books? He's often done comic book and super hero parodies and the comic shop is one of the key locations in Funky Winkerbean, but it seems like he's now turning both his current comics into stories of people buying and reading comic books.

For a while now, Holly in Funky Winkerbean has been attempting to help her son Cory complete his comic book collection while he's serving overseas in the military, but now Jeff in Crankshaft has spent the last week looking through his old comic book collection in the attic and has just decided to try to find one he's missing on eBay.

So that's what Batiuk's comics are about now. People finding, buying and reading old comic books. It's just that from here on out.

"Hey, donna." says Holly, smirking.
"Hi, Holly..." says Donna with a smirk. "I'm just waiting for Crazy to get off work upstairs at the Komix Korner. Speaking of which, Crazy told me all about the comic book quest you're on for Cory."
"Yeah..." says Holly, "I suppose it's my way of getting in touch with my 'Y' chromosome."
The two exchange knowing smirks.

"I could never find the issue of 'Action Comics' that contained the second part of the 'Congorilla' story in this comic book." says Jeff sadly, to no one. "I've spent my whole life wondering how it ended, and then it hit me... eBay!"
He smiles as he sits down at his computer, unaware as yet that the chances off finding a specific, obscure issue of an old comic book for sale at a reasonable price are practically non-existent.


Weekend Workshop: Everyone gets the Arlo and Janis treatment

Based on Flo and Friends, 2014-03-17.
He's so pleased about it too.

Based on The Amazing Spider-Man, 2014-03-18.
Being petty and childish is what Spider-Man is best at.

Based on Blondie, 2014-03-18.
Why did I make this? This is totally unnecessary.

Based on Hi and Lois, 2014-03-18.
This one on the other hand...

Based on Mary Worth, 2014-03-19.
It's a reference to Dustin.

Based on Garfield, 2014-03-20.
Every now and then I like to confirm that Garfield is still better if you remove his dialogue. It works every time.


Philosophical Friday: Human or Animal?

Dennis the Menace, 2014-03-14.
I wonder how many fifth birthdays Dennis has had now?

Sherman's Lagoon, 2014-03-19.
I don't know what she's so upset about, that seems pretty impressive to me.

Pluggers, 2014-03-21.
They look remarkably alike because they're both dogs! It's panels like this that really rub in just how weird it is that Pluggers have pets. That is a dog keeping another dog as a pet.

B.C., 2014-03-20.
When I saw this comic I had to wonder, just what the hell is Grog? According to the BC website he's "a caveman's caveman", which I guess means he's supposedly human? There's absolutely no explanation for why he looks like that, but there is this:

So it wasn't a total waste of time.


Sitcom Thursday: War and Ennui

Molly is on the phone.
"Mother!" she says. "Moose got a job today! Security guard on an armored truck"

Meanwhile, Moose is at work. While his coworker wasn't looking, Moose has stuffed his clothes full of money to such an extent that it is clearly visible poking out everywhere and is grinning like a loon. Money is loosely piled up inside the truck and spilling onto the ground.
"Moose —" says his colleague, "it happens to everyone the first day! Just put it back"

"When do you think the general will retire?" asks Pvt. Blips.
"Gee, I don't know" says Sheila. "And I'm not sure I could tell if he was retired!"

Gen. Halftrack might take offence to that comment if he'd heard it and actually gave half a shit about his job. But in fact he was practising his putting and not paying attention.

"We have to work tonight" says Crock.
"Whatever" replies a legionnaire indifferently.
"You say 'whatever' one more time and I'll wring your neck!" says Crock. "I'm tired of hearing it!"
"Whatever" says the legionnaire.

It's funny, because Crock will probably actually follow through on his threat and the legionnaire is so numbed by the daily horrors of war that he can no longer muster up even so much as the will to live.


One-Panel Wednesday: Hey Girl

Sonja and her owners (a man and a woman) stand outside their house watching Heathcliff go by in a dirigible with "HEY GIRL" written on the side. Sonja is clearly delighted.
"You never blimp me any more." says the woman.

A police officer cuffs a man who has just spray-painted "Watch your step" on the wall beside a small step in the middle of a footpath.
"Helpful? Perhaps." says a second officer. "But still illegal."

"Thanks, Dennis." says Margaret as she leaves the Mitchell house. "I had a really nice time."
Dennis turns to his mother and shrugs.
"I must be losin' my touch." he says.

Leroy and Loretta crouch, facing each other, eager grins on their faces as they prepare to leap.
"Last time I ever ask them to hug it out." sighs the marriage counsellor.


Action Tuesday: Suspicious Behaviour in the Jungle

Although he resisted for a while, Mark Trail has finally been forced to acknowledge Marlin's suspicious behaviour and has stumbled upon some actual evidence.

"Names, addresses, photos ..." says Mark to no one as looks through the names, addresses and photos. "Wait, these are photos of Marlin and other men hunting game animals at night!"
Needless to say, Mark is utterly scandalised that anyone could do such a thing. Especially someone as suspicious and obviously up to no good as Marlin.
"Looks like he has been harvesting sea turtle eggs as well ..." shouts Mark. "Marlin has turned this island into his own private illegal hunting grounds!"
Some disgruntled-looking water birds look on disapprovingly.

And something's finally happened in the weekday Phantom story as well. After weeks of the Phantom showing off his stolen treasure, Rick Grubber, the villain who came here to steal that treasure has finally made his move. Unfortunately for him he missed the "minor treasure room" where the Phantom keeps all his gold and jewels and such and stumbled on the "major treasure room" where the Phantom hoards items of historical and cultural significance.

He failed to recognise the value of those items, but since he came all that way he decided he may as well take a few things anyway.

In the dead of night, Rick Grubber makes his way out of the Skull Cave, wearing various pieces of armour and jewellery of both great monetary value and inestimable value to historians, archaeologists and anthropologists, clinking and clattering and looking utterly absurd.
Suddenly a noise freezes him in his tracks. Behind him, in the darkness, someone clears their throat.

We've probably still got at least another week of this, but hopefully the next story will be less dull.

Meanwhile in Judge Parker, the Alan and Katherine have spotted a surveillance drone and seem to be regarding it with more mild interest than any sort of apprehension.

"Do you think it sees us?" asks Katherine as the drone whirs overhead.
"I don't know..." says Alan. "Could be infrared! I must be watching the La Cura compound!"
"Infrared?" asks Katherine in sudden panic. "Does that mean it sees through my clothes?"

Eventually they manage to somehow distract the pilot and the drone crashes into a tree. It can't fly any more but the camera's still working and a couple of swarthy gentlemen in Hawaiian shirts seen observing Katherine on a monitor.


Melodrama Monday: Life-Altering Changes

Arlo and Janis is usually pretty light on story, but it does have one and it has moved forward a bit recently. Although each week of story is separated by at least a week of non-plot-related strips, it has been established recently that the restaurant where Gene and Mary Lou (Arlo and Janis's son and his wife) work is closing down. Janis was very upset about it for a while, but everyone else seems to be taking it fairly well.

"Hey, Skeeter!" says Meg.
"Hey, Meg!" says Skeeter. "What's up?"
"My mom's restaurant is closing!" says Meg, wide-eyed as though she can hardly believe it.
"No way!" says Skeeter, unironically.
"Way!" says Meg. "They haven't told me yet, but I know!"
"Will you have to move?" asks Skeeter. "I sure hope not! I'd miss all those great leftovers your folks bring home!"

It's funny because the leftovers come from the restaurant, so they'll be gone either way.

Another comic with an incredibly slow-moving story is Between Friends. Recently Maeve met a man who spoke no English and decided to go to Germany with him. When she realised that that was actually crazy she instead went with her ex-husband. Turns out he wanted to get back together with her, which was not something she was keen on. Now she's been hanging out in Paris and is thinking of moving there permanently, assuming she can convince her company to transfer her there.

It sounds somewhat interesting when I put it like that, but it actually hasn't been, and unlike Arlo and Janis the Between Friends strips that don't move the plot forward are all about how insufferable the main cast are. They are petty, mean, smug and vindictive, so even though this Maeve in Europe thing is obviously not going to lead anywhere and has been a total waste of time, it's the best this comic has ever been.

Apartment 3-G hasn't moved on much this week, Tommie's fiancé is still dead, there's still a deer in the flat, the professor is still the only one who seems to care enough about Tommie to pay any particular attention to her or how she's feeling. Actually, I'm not even sure where Lu Ann even is right now. Has she wandered off and gotten lost?

A week later at Manhattan General...
"Good morning, Ms. Dawkins." says Tommie cheerily.
"Tommie — what are you doing here?" asks Ms Dawkins, flustered.
"I'm ready to go to work." says Tommie.
"Sit down, dear." says Ms. Dawkins. "We need to talk!"

Looks like Tommie is still in the denial phase.


Weekend Workshop: Merciful Margo

Based on Jane's World 2014-03-10.
I just saw the direction Chelle was looking in panel two and the new dialogue wrote itself.

Based on Apartment 3-G 2014-03-10.

Based on Apartment 3-G 2014-03-14.
Come on, we all know Margo doesn't do "compassion" or "empathy" or "inconveniencing herself in any way to cater to the needs of others".

Also, this week I'd like to link some stuff that I forgot to include last week, specifically Myrl Crow who posts amusing captions to comics panels, Wonderella, a drunken super hero, J Jonah Jameson, Spider-Man's Peter Parker's boss, and the Comic Strip Megathread on the Something Awful forums, a great place to talk about syndicated comics.

And when I posted this I forgot one again so I'm editing it in. I meant to tell you that Stripped, a documentary about comics, will be available soon and looks like it's going to be pretty good.


Philosophical Friday: Consistently Good Comics

I thought that today instead of talking about what's wrong with a particular comic I'd just point out a few that there's nothing wrong with, some comics that are pretty much good every day.

The Amazing Spider-Man

Stan Lee is a mad genius and his version of Spider-Man is lazy, selfish and incompetent and fights some of the most absurd villains, including a guy named Bigelow who did time and therefore started calling himself Big Time and became obsessed with clocks. Or a bad actor who decided to dress as a clown and commit crimes, and had a car that looked like a duck. It's ridiculous and dumb, but it's about a guy who got super-powers by being bitten by a radioactive spider and decided to dress in a weird costume and become a vigilante, so what do you expect?

The Creeps

A strong contender for "best comic", The Creeps uses clever wordplay and unexpected twists to great effect and also sometimes plays with the format to add to the joke.

Cul de Sac

One of the best comics about children, now unfortunately in reruns due to the author's poor health.

Ham Shears

Ham Shears is a pig who moved to the city to find his fortune. He works at Boss's Butcher Shop and lives with Jill and Ingrid. Everyone in this comic is just a little bit odd. Boss thinks that every woman is named Jill. Jill is frighteningly intense about picking apples. Ham Shears is delightfully earnest.


The other comic about a fat orange cat. The one that's actually good. Not that Garfield doesn't have its points, but Heathcliff is clearly the superior product. Unlike Garfield, Heathcliff goes in more for surreal humour and the unexpected.

Heavenly Nostrils

A comic about a girl and a unicorn. A well-executed take on the child and talking pet formula.

One Big Happy

A comic about kids. Not an original premise but done well and consistently funny.

Pros & Cons

Witty banter between police, lawyers and various others. The art style is a little off-putting at first but it does grow on you. There's also a graphic novel.

Reply All

I think everyone has the same reaction when they see Reply All — this comic looks like garbage. And it does. Donna Lewis really, really can't draw and doesn't seem to even be making any attempt to improve. But the writing's pretty good. If she got someone else to draw it then there wouldn't even be any question about it, it would be a good comic.

Sally Forth

This comic about a pretty ordinary middle-class American family was exactly as unremarkable as it sounds until a few years ago when the writing was taken over by Francesco Marciuliano and the family started going slowly insane. Ted likes to imagine his life is a TV show and may or may not have once been an assassin and one of Hilary's friends can hear other people's thoughts, but the great thing about it is how the crazy stuff is kind of just in the background of this relatively ordinary story.

Wee Pals

Morrie Turner created this comic in 1965 and continued to produce it until his death earlier this year, and it stayed funny and relevant the entire time. Amazingly, Turner worked so far ahead that we're still seeing new content even now, and hopefully it'll go into reruns when those run out.


Sitcom Thursday: Food and Wine

"Bill's chippy isn't doing very well these days" says Chalky.
"Yeah, well it's his own fault" says Andy. "He should fix his sign"
It seems that some of the letters have come off and the sign now reads "ILL HIPPY", although the missing letters can still be seen fairly clearly and the shop has big windows so you can see in from the street, so it's unlikely that people are actually being confused or put off by the sign.

"I'm drinking a glass of red... Alone." muses Lizzie. "Is that OK or is it a cry for help? If it's a cry for help, nobody would hear it."

"...'cause I'm drinking alone, baby!"

Ed approaches the counter at a fast-food restaurant.
"You're serving a burger on brioche?" he asks. "Brioche?"
"Yes, sir." says the unfortunate staff member forced to deal with him.
"When I was in Paris last summer I never saw brioche used with a burger." says Ed, closing his eyes sadly. "Don't you think it's a little pretentious?"
"Gee, I don't know, sir..." says the staff member, "but then I'm not the one acting like a jetsetter in line at Wendy's."
Ed is momentarily taken aback but recovers quickly.
"Maybe you misunderstood..." he begins, condescendingly. "You see, brioche is a classic French bread with a paper-thin crust and silky, tender crumb... in France, it's used with fine meats. Putting a cheeseburger on it seems inauthentic to me."
"Got it, sir." says the staff member, who absolutely could not give less of a fuck. "You know, I'd ask if you want French fries, but we might be here all week..."

One-Panel We-Thursday? Breaking the law

I had an issue with my hard disk the other day, so I'm posting this a day late.

Marmaduke grabs Phil by the arm and drags him into the yard to see that the snowman that was there is now little more than a misshapen blob.
"There's nothing I can do, Marmaduke." says Phil. "It's called 'end of winter.'"
It isn't though, no one says "Ah, the weather's warming up, I'm so glad it's 'end of winter'!" That's just not what anyone calls it.

Mrs Nutmeg and Iggy wait while Heathcliff meets with his parole officer.
"That's his fake laugh." says Iggy.
It seems that Heathcliff is trying to get on his parole officer's side as he does not want to return to cat jail.

"Mommy, when I graduate from college, will I be smarter than your phone?" asks Dolly.
No, Dolly, you won't.


Action Tuesday: Iron Jonah and Lena the hyena

Well, it happened, Iron Jonah smashed a tank while Peter Parker stood around watching. The Amazing Spider-Man is the best comic.

"Mr Jameson — is that your image on the robot's helmet?" asked Peter, incredulously.
"Nope! I'm really inside this thing!" answered Jonah, holding the two criminals up by their shirts and hovering a couple of meter in the air. "Quick, Parker — take a photo! This is front page news! Just imagine the headlines when Iron Man crushes Spider-Man!"
"Frankly, I'd rather not!" thinks Peter, obediently taking several pictures.

Today's strip reminds us that going faster than the speed of sound in the Iron Man suit is a bad idea, and Jameson dismisses the advice once again, so that should be good.

Dick Tracy had been a little dull lately, but the action's picked up now with Silver Nitrate and Sprocket leading the detectives on a high-speed chase across the country in their heavily modified car (a call-back to the classic Chester Gould Dick Tracy story featuring the son of legendary villain Flattop Jones). The car is outfitted with various gadgets, including weaponry. After ploughing through a police roadblock, the villains took shelter in a barn, where their hyena, Lena, escaped — yeah, they have a hyena too — so Silver went out to recapture her.

"Holy cow!" said Silver, grabbing Lena's leash. "So that's what was upsetting you, Lena! Sprocket! Get dressed, we gotta run!"
"But I'm not finished showering!" called Sprocket.
"Then it'll be a clean arrest." said Silver. "The cops are coming!"

So no one's been mauled to death yet, but this is Dick Tracy so it's almost guaranteed at some point.


Melodrama Monday: You're So Party Let's Go Dancey

As expected, Tommie's fiancé appears to have died in a plane crash, although there's still the potential for entertainment in this scenario given that no one else in Apartment 3-G ever met him, so they might decide that Tommie just made him up. Her trying to convince everyone that she was actually engaged to a guy they never met and he really did die and wasn't made up could be pretty great. Unfortunately it's probably not going to happen.

Mary Worth's Tommie the reformed drug dealer plot is still moving pretty slowly, and seems unable to make up its mind what exactly Tommie's problem is. Is he worried about slipping back into crime, or about becoming a drug addict (again?) or just about not being accepted because of his past? Whatever it is, his current struggle is whether or not he should get drunk or try to stay sober and get a job. I know what I'm hoping for.

Luann took a break this week from the main cast wittering on about the school dance to bring us everyone's least favourite recurring story, Brad and Toni want to spend the evening together but have to look after Toni's niece Shannon.

As far as I'm aware it's never been explained why Brad and Toni, two independent adults, have so much difficulty finding time to spend alone together, but they complain about it constantly, and every time they do get together it's ruined by either Shannon, TJ or both.

The other element of these vignettes is that Toni's brother is an unfit parent and therefore Shannon is boisterous and disobedient (but actually she seems pretty normal to me) and Brad and Toni do their best to ignore and neglect her as much as possible.

Their method this time involved locking themselves in a closet to have sex make out chastely hold hands during a supposed game of hide and seek. Naturally this resulted in them becoming trapped in there.

"I hear you!" calls Shannon. "Come out!"
"Brad, what happened?" asks Toni, concernedly.
"The lock broke!" shrieks Brad.
"Shannon?" calls Toni. "Honey, we're locked in. Brad's calling a fireman friend to get us out. So just be calm OK? Shannon?"
Meanwhile, Shannon takes the opportunity to go through Toni's wallet.

For the first time ever it looks like Shannon might actually be doing something to justify Brad's poor opinion of her, but it turns out she was just getting a credit card to use to open the door. Oh, and Brad forgot to phone his fireman friend back so he turned up later.

Things have also been happening in Sally Forth lately. Hilary decided that her band, New Delhi Monkey Gang, needed a chart-friendly, non-werewolf song to get some attention, so she wrote You're So Party Let's Go Dancey. Faye and Nona reluctantly went along with it to a point, but a T-shirt and music video were considered to be taking things too far. Hilary had to be stopped.

"Okay, Hil." said Faye. "We're not gonna wear that shirt. We're not gonna make a video. And we're not gonna play 'You're So Party Let's Go Dancey' anymore... I think we need a new direction... and I think I need to take over the band for a while."
"What?!" cried Hilary.
"Nona already wrote the new band name on the drum kit." said Faye.
"Actually," said Nona, "I wrote it on paper that I taped on the drum kit. I know how whimsical we are."

I bring this up for several reasons. One, because New Delhi Monkey Gang was an awesome name. Two, I don't know why but I really love You're So Party Let's Go Dancey as a song title. Three, I really enjoy the Hilary-centric stories in Sally Forth. And four, today's strip reminds us that Nona is able to hear the thoughts of those around her and Hilary keeps forgetting she can do that, which is hilarious.


Weekend Workshop: Unsanitary Restaurants

Based on Tina's Groove 2014-03-04.
Based on Blondie 2014-03-05.
And here's an avatar I made from this week's classic Mandrake Sunday (originally published 1941-11-23):

And a reminder that I also have a Facebook page, where you can see the modified comics for each Weekend Workshop as I make them instead of waiting for Sunday plus get notifications when I update this blog, and a Twitter which includes all that plus additional (funny?) comments about a bunch of comics each day.

And in case you're not already aware of them, Comics Kingdom and GoComics are the best places to read the daily comics online, and you may also enjoy The Comics Curmudgeon, The Lovely Ladies of Apartment 3-G, Mary Worth & Me,  Son of Stuck Funky and Luann DeGroot on Twitter.


Philosophical Friday: Mothers and Fathers

The Pajama Diaries ... centers on Jill Kaplan, an independent and introspective suburban mother, as she balances her career as a freelance graphic designer and family life ... The strip provides readers with an intimate and candid view of modern marriage, work, and motherhood. Readers relate to Jill’s inner dialog and contemporary struggle...

There's one important thing the blurb forgets to mention though, and I think it's the clearest message the strip sends. Mums need booze. Take today's strip:

The Pajama Diaries, 2014-03-07.
Doesn't matter what it tastes like, if it's got alcohol in it then it's good enough! Last week it was this:

The Pajama Diaries, 2014-02-28.
What you need to cope with being a mother is a drink. Or five. It's not every week, but here's one from earlier this year:

The Pajama Diaries, 2014-01-28.
Seems like at least once a month Terri Libenson makes sure to remind us that she's not an alcoholic, she just drinks that much because she's a mother. Sure.

I'd also like to add that every time I write the name of this comic it is driving me crazy to misspell the word "pyjama" like that.

Daddy’s Home is a contemporary, family comic with an emphasis on the role of the modern father. No other cartoon feature examines domesticity from this uniquely male perspective...

Oh yeah, that's what the comics page is missing; the perspective of a middle-aged, upper-middle-class men. I can't think of more than a dozen or so comics with this exact premise, it's a really under-served niche. I wonder if they'll mention golf at all? I don't think there are enough comics about golf.

Daddy's Home, 2014-03-04.
And can you believe it only takes two people to produce this masterpiece? Tony Rubino and Gary Markstein, I salute you.


Sitcom Thursday: Rules for throwing out socks

"Ready to go to the store, Henry?" asks Henry's mother. "Pick up a pound of frankfurters for supper, dear!"
So Henry heads down to the grocery shop, but when he gets there he sees a sign in the window that says "No dogs", so he goes back home. You see, the sign is intended to prevent people from bringing their pets into the shop, but Henry has misinterpreted it as a warning that the shop has sold out of hot-dogs, which is another name for frankfurters.

"I told Sarge you needed to see him." said Pvt. Bailey. "He said he'd come after lunch"
"I need to see him now!" roars Lt. Fuzz. "Go get him!"
So Bailey gets into a track loader and uses the bucket to pick Sgt. Snorkel up and drive him back to where Fuzz is waiting.

"There's a sock in your waste-basket." says Sheila.
"That's mine." replies Gen. Halftrack. "It had a hole in it."
"Why didn't you throw it out at home?" asks Sheila.
"You have rules for throwing out socks ?" asks the general.
Pvt. Bailey, peering in through the window, is mystified by the whole scenario.


One-Panel Wednesday: Misery and the Garbage Ape

Smiling happily, Loretta pats Leroy on the stomach.
"You're not too fat, Leroy..." she says. "You're just fat enough."
Leroy regards her attempt to assuage his self-loathing with contempt.

Shooka shooka shooka.

The sound breaks the silence of the night. Heathcliff holds his hand up, calling for silence.

Shooka shooka.

A helicopter draws into view. Heathcliff and Sonja stand and watch as it closes in. The door opens and a rope is lowered to the ground. Down the rope, bearing two garbage cans, rappels the garbage ape! Touching down, he pauses, then hurls the garbage cans into the air before disappearing back into the chopper, which flies away. Heathcliff and Sonja take their places on the upended garbage cans, thrones from which they survey their domain.

"The garbage ape rides again" comments one bird to another as they watch the helicopter vanish into the distance.

Thusday, dinner time in the Keane household. Jeffy regards his plate with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. Billy leans over and theatrically whispers "Now I know why these were left over from yesterday."

Monday. The children sit down for dinner. Thel brings them each a plate of brown mush. Once again, Jeffy regards his food with apprehension.
"When Mommy says, 'Just eat it,' you know you're not going to like it." says Dolly, resignedly.


Action Tuesday: The Valiant Trail Phantom

I know you'll all be eager to hear what's been happening in The Amazing Spider-Man, but I'm actually going to give that a miss this time, because it's kind of in the middle of everything right now and I'll be able to cover it better in a week or two. Instead I'm going to start with Prince Valiant, who recently crashed his ship (with his family on board) onto an island where they all got attacked.

While Val climbed further inland, lured by the call of a siren, Aleta and Karen were attacked by a serpent. Fortunately Aleta had Val's singing sword and has managed to hold the beast at by thus far. Meanwhile, Val managed to offend the siren (who seems to have him confused for someone else) and she set a cyclops, Polyphemus, on him. Val head-butted the cyclops and took his club, but the the cyclops also has a large knife.

The giant swings and Val ducks, hitting him in the knee with the club. Polyphemus steps back, dangerously close to the cliff edge, while in the sea below the serpent rears up to strike at Aleta.

Seizing the opportunity, Val tackles Polyphemus and the two of them fly out into the air...

Seriously, read Prince Valiant, it's awesome.

The Phantom's current Sunday storyline has been pretty great recently, too. The weekday strips have been just incredibly dull, but an entirely separate story runs in the Sunday strips (for the benefit of newspapers that decide to carry the strip either only on weekdays or only on Sundays), and the current plot is a flashback about Juliet Adams Walker, wife of the fifth Phantom and also known as Captain Amazon.

I'd actually like to hear more about Captain Amazon's adventures from before she married the Phantom, but what we are getting is pretty good. See, the Phantom went after a bunch of slave-trading pirates who managed to overpower him and held him prisoner on their ship. Not knowing what had happened to him, Juliet decided to go after him.

She located a girl the pirates had taken prisoner and snuck into the place they were holding her, traded clothes with her and took her place to be taken aboard the ship.

"Juliet Adams Walker boarded that evil ship to learn the fate of her missing husband!" narrates the Phantom.

The year 1652...

"Heh heh!" leers a pirate.
"Filthy vermin." thinks Juliet as she's led past. "Escape now if you can!"
A single pirate brings her down below decks to the room where the prisoners are kept.
"These pirates think I'm that frightened girl they captured!" thinks Juliet, and as the pirate unlocks the door she lands a solid punch to his head, leaving him unconscious.
"Oh, Kit, where are you?!" she thinks, searching the ship.

"Pirates thought their captive must have swam to freedom after felling her guard!" narrates the Phantom.

Meanwhile, below decks...

Juliet finds Kit, beaten, bloody and chained, but still alive...

At the other end of the Spectrum is Mark Trail. People still get punched but instead of it being by badass crime fighters and costumed vigilantes it's by a mentally challenged nature magazine writer.

Mark's heard about a couple, Jessica and Marlin, who live on a private island, and one of them is a taxidermist who mostly works on fish, so he decided to write an article about them. It's incredibly obvious that they are up to no good, but Mark's just bumbling around in his innocent naivety, as he does.

Mark has just spotted Marlin bringing some people with hunting gear back to the island on his boat and something about it doesn't sit right with him.

"Those guys could be clients of his..." says Mark loudly to no one, while standing in the shadows a few meters from Marlin and his clients. "But why bring hunting gear here?"

Losing interest almost immediately, Mark returns to camp.

"I think I have enough material about Jessica for my story ..." he says, again to absolutely no one. "I'll get a few more pictures tomorrow! Then I'll get back to Rusty and Doc at the hotel!"

In the distance, a deer watches.


Melodrama Monday: It's been a slow week

Last week I told you what had been happening in Judge Parker, and seven days later absolutely nothing else has happened. But it looks like there might be a battle between the hospital/fortress guards and the people who hate April's father. This being Judge Parker, it'll probably happen off-screen while Alan stumbles upon a lost treasure which he is naturally allowed to keep, but I'll keep you posted.

Mary Worth spent all week on an incredibly awkward dinner.

"Tommy," said Wilbur, "maybe I can help you with your job search! I have a friend who's a manager at SantaRoyMart!"
Tommy threw himself backwards in his chair, raising his arms as though to keep Wilbur at bay.
"The big box store?" he asked, fear in his voice. "No! I can't!"
Mary and Wilbur exchanged worried glances. Wilbur gestured at Tommy with a knife, a move perhaps not best calculated to instil calm.
"I mean..." said Tommy, cowering, "that won't work for me!"

And why could Tommy not bear to face SantaRoyMart? Was it because he used to buy drugs there? Or sell drugs there? Or because hearing the name "SantaRoyMart" would make anyone uneasy? No, none of those. Apparently he once got caught shoplifting there. When he was sixteen. It doesn't even have anything to do with his career as a meth dealer.

The stand-off in Rex Morgan MD ended, as might have been expected, rather anticlimactically and largely off-screen.

"Hey, you didn't have to do that!" whined Buck. "She was going to stop!"
"Let's go outside, sir..." said one of the police officers, gently steering him toward the door. "We'll take it from here!"
The other police officer, knelt to check on Doris who had collapsed after being tased.
"She's not breathing..." she said. "... call the paramedics!"

Turns out she bit part of her tongue off, but was otherwise OK and now she's going to jail. Rex feels bad for Buck, but June is quick to step in to make sure he doesn't do anything crazy like offer to lend him money or do anything else for him that might inconvenience her.

Meanwhile the devil-child Sarah sees an opportunity to blackmail her babysitter, but we'll have to wait to see how that plays out.

Finally, Shulock is doing her best to ramp up the tension in Apartment 3-G. Tommie's on the phone to her fiancé's mother Rose, who is being very evasive, which Tommie is completely failing to notice. It's not clear what the exact nature of the shocking revelation will be, but it's pretty clear that Tommie isn't getting married any time soon, and not just because she's the least interesting person imaginable or because it would destroy the comic's central premise.

My bet is on Jim being dead, but it's also possible that he may be in a coma, already married, in prison, or a ghost. There's just no way to be sure at this stage. Maggie at the Lovely Ladies of Apartment 3-G and Josh Fruhlinger (the Comics Curmudgeon) favour the theory that Jim never existed at all, which would be the best possible answer, but I can't see it happening.


Weekend Workshop: Horror at Charterstone

Based on Apartment 3-G, 2014-02-24.
Because Tommie's been keeping a baby deer in the apartment, you see.

Based on Hazel, 2014-02-27.
You can either take this as a jokeless non-sequitur, or that Hazel is a qualified lawyer working as a maid.

Based on Arlo and Janis, 2014-02-27.
Arlo and Janis is always about sex.

Based on Mary Worth, 2014-03-01.

And I liked this panel from Rex Morgan MD (2014-02-25) so much I shrunk it down to avatar size in case anyone wants it.