Sitcom Thursday: Creepy Kid

The Born Loser, 2014-09-23.

"I'm an eternal optimist. A glass-half-full type of person!" says Brutus's co-worker. "How about you, Thorny— are you a glass-half-full or half-empty guy?"
"I'm the born loser, so I'm a glass-completely-empty type of guy." says Brutus.

Is it just me or is it really weird how this comic has its protagonist just come right out and acknowledge his role in it? And this isn't an isolated thing either, he does it all the time. He is "the born loser" and he knows it. Not merely a born loser, the. And it isn't even necessary to the joke, you can remove the words "I'm the born loser, so" and it works just as well. It's more obviously fourth-wall breaking than anything Ted Forth has ever done.

Beetle Bailey, 2014-09-23.

"Can you take this truck to the dump, Zero?" asks Sgt. Snorkel.
"Okay, Sarge" says Pvt. Zero.
Some time later Zero returns with the ute still loaded full of garbage.
"I'm back from the dump, Sarge" he says. "Where do you want me to take it now?"

With that instruction I'd expect Zero to return on a bus, having left the ute behind.

Curtis, 2014-09-23.

"Did any of you children read during the summer vacation ?" asks Mrs Nelson.
"I did, Mrs. Nelson !" says Curtis. "'Vampire Feast,' 'The Thing From the Deep' and 'Mutant Zombie Landlord'!"
Mrs Nelson glares at him.
"Hey, they had a front cover, back cover and pages in between ! Technically that's a book !!"

I'm with Curtis on this. He's constantly getting flack for reading comics, despite the fact that he's apparently the only student in his class who reads any kind of book at all. It's pretty shitty to criticise him for it.

One Big Happy, 2014-09-24.

"Library lady, these tomatoes are for you. My grandpa grew them!" says Ruthie.
"Why, thank you, Ruthie!" says the library lady. "They're beautiful! Thank your grandpa for me, will you?
The library lady takes the tomatoes and begins to leave. James follows her.
"No, James, it's not going to happen."
"I sure enjoy seein' a hefty gal eat!" says James.
The library lady grimaces.
"I know, I know."

Well, that sure is creepy.


Action Tuesday: *For the ghost who is about to kick some arse.

Spider-Man was feeling pretty good about himself after outwitting a man known for being dumb, and decided to push his luck by trying to sneak into Doc Ock's lab. For some reason he felt pretty confident that Octavius wouldn't be expecting him, but it turned out that Octavius totally was expecting him.

The Amazing Spider-Man, 2014-09-19.

"Gotta find out what Doc Ock's planning." thinks Spider-Man as he creeps through the lab. "My Spider Sense is tingling — but that's probably just because Ock's nearby..."
Unseen by Spidey, a metal tentacle snakes around a console and FLIKs a switch.
"ARRRGG" yells Spidey as the floor he's standing on becomes electrified.

Turns out Doc Ock is planning to hold the city to ransom with his earthquake machine. No surprise there.

The Bozz of Time is about to send Mandrake home, but Mandrake somehow knows that he's been noticed missing in the present (even though there is no way he could know that).

Mandrake the Magician, 2014-09-23.

"If you move me back in time-- just before you kidnapped me-- and don't do it--" says Mandrake, "-- then I won't vanish-- my friends won't worry--"
"Clever, ancestor." says the Bozz. "No-- even I, ruler of time, cannot change the past."

OK, never mind the fact that being "ruler of time" doesn't really seem to mean anything if you can't change the past, what about kidnapping Mandrake in the first place? Was that not changing the past? It seemed like changing the past to me.

The Phantom (Sunday), 2014-09-21.

Jungle scouts! Kidnapped by those who would turn them into guerrillas!

"There's going to be a test later!" says one of the kidnappers.
"Test?" asks a jungle scout.
"Your first firefight, stupid! If you survive, you pass! Try not to flunk out!"
He picks up a rifle and takes aim.
"Okay! Moving on! Sniper's rifle! Sight your enemy through the scope! Like this!"
Suddenly the face of the Phantom appears in his crosshairs. He lowers the rifle.
"Who the... !? I could... swear I... saw..."
He looks through the scope again. Nothing. Just jungle foliage. He lowers the rifle again, visibly shaken. The jungle scouts begin whispering amongst themselves.
"Do you think he saw...?
"You know who!?"
"Yeah! I do!"

The daily Phantom is often boring and dumb, but the Sunday ones rarely disappoint.


Melodrama Monday: Endless Tedium

For Better or For Worse, 2014-09-22.

"Michael, you left your socks on the floor again!" screeches Lynn. "Michael, do you hear me?"
Michael's voice can be heard upstairs but it's not clear whether he's responding to her or something else.
"Are you listening?" she yells, starting to climb the stairs.
Michael still seems to be talking, but it increasingly clear that he is not talking to her. She reaches the door to his bedroom to find him singing along to the music he's listening to through headphones while studying. She is enraged at his rudeness.

This is why we don't yell at each other across the house, children. Find the person you want to speak to and get their attention, then you'll know they're listening. You just know Lynn's complained about the kids doing this exact thing, too.

Apartment 3-G, 2014-09-22.

Later that night...

"You said you wanted to talk to me, Jack." says Carol.
"I do, Carol." says Jack. "I'm just not sure where to start."
"Take your time — I'll wait." says Carol.

No, Jack! No! Do not take your time! You have taken too much time already! Why won't this end?

It seems it was all the way back in July when I last mentioned Rex Morgan, so you may have forgotten/not cared what was going on. I'll recap. Sarah Morgan, a small child, has been hired to illustrate a book. Dolly Pierpont, a fabulously wealthy former criminal has taken Sarah under her wing. Now Dolly has brought Sarah and Kelly (Sarah's babysitter) to a run-down warehouse to meet Rene Belluso, an artist who works for her. The Morgans are totally fine with all of this and even know about Dolly's criminal past. Just excellent parenting there.

Rex Morgan, 2014-09-16.

"That painting is called 'Sailing the Catboat'!" says Dolly. "The original is by Winslow Homer!"
"I've heard of him..." says Kelly, "a famous American painter!"
"But why do you paint someone else's painting, Mr. Belluso?" asks Sarah.
"Because I've tried poverty and it's highly overrated!" says Rene.

So obviously Dolly is going to trick Sarah into becoming an art forger, right? Nope! Rene used to be an art forger but now he sells his paintings as reproductions, it's completely legit and his role here is just to give Sarah art lessons. Kelly is going to give Dolly a makeover though, so that could be entertaining, possibly.


Philosophical Phunday: Meaningless Coincidence

Back on the 2nd of September I noticed a weird coincidence in the comics pages. Three of the strips seemed to be thematically linked. First there's Garfield doing a pretty standard Garfield bit.

Garfield, 2014-09-02.
That Mirror-Garfield talking to Real-Garfield thing is a running joke. Then we have Crankshaft in which we see the old "someone sees something weird and then looks at their drink and says they're never drinking again" joke.

Crankshaft, 2014-09-02.
If you've never seen that one before you must have been raised in isolation with no access to television or movies. But then we have the final piece of the puzzle, that links these two strips together.

Curtis, 2014-09-02.
It's Curtis doing a combination of both those jokes (in a too young to drink way). Weird, right? That's all, I didn't really have a point, it's just something I noticed.

Safe Havens, 2014-09-03.
OK, this is the equivalent of a human being terrified of McDonald's because they eat mammals in there! Dodos are not chickens.

Alley Oop, 2014-09-18.
Sorry, Alley, I agree with this guy. Your teeth are perfectly straight, your hair is neatly trimmed, your body is strangely hairless. You look nothing like a caveman.


Sitcom Oneday: Comedy, tragedy, wisdom.

Cul de Sac, 2014-09-16.

"Miss Bliss says she got engaged." says Alice.
"What, to that banjo-playing guy Timmy Fretwork?" asks Petey.
"How'd you know?"
"They keep getting engaged then breaking it off." He gazes into the distance. "Timmy Fretwork is a banjo man! You can't tie down a banjo man!"
"What does that mean?" wonders Alice.
"It means he's a banjo man!" says Dill. "You can't tie down a banjo man!"

It's true, you can't.

Heavenly Nostrils, 2014-09-17.

Phoebe is sitting at her desk in class. Suddenly, the bell rings, startling her.
"The first bell of the school year is always the hardest." she thinks.

If that was the first bell, why is she already in class? Continuity error spotted!

Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, 2014-09-18.

"How's Jughaid doin', miz Prunelly ?" asks Loweezy.
"Jughaid is an exceptional student, mizzus Smif !!" says Prunelly. "He's th' furst student I ever had who flunked ev'ry subject !!"
Both she and Loweezy appear to be terribly concerned about this and also completely at a loss as to what to do about it. They simply cannot understand why Jughaid is having so much difficulty or how to help him. It's tragic.

Beetle Bailey, 2014-09-18.

Sgt. Snorkel is standing on a bench. He jumps off, landing on a pumpkin, which is pulverised by his weight.
"There! I squashed all your pumpkins" he says.
"Good!" says Sgt. Jowls. "I'll get busy and bake the pies!"

Well, OK then.

One-Panel Whatday: In-Depth Analysis

Ballard Street, 2014-09-15.

A group of five men are walking together down the footpath. Each of them wears a headset connected to a little box at his hip and each box is connected to the others. It's the Ballard Street Walking & Talking Club.

F-Minus, 2014-09-15.

A man and a woman are sitting on their couch, inside their house. The front door is open. The man is holding a length of blue cable that trails away outside the house.
"You're really missing the point of the leash law." says the woman.

The implication is that there is a dog attached to the other end of the blue cable and the man is obeying the letter of the law by having his dog on a lead, while in reality letting it wander about the neighbourhood unsupervised and at will. Perhaps he is missing the point, or perhaps this is an act of wilful disobedience, a protest against a law he sees as unwarranted.

Or perhaps there is no dog, the man is simply holding a blue cable which bears no relevance to the conversation he is having, in which he has demonstrated a lack of understanding with regard to leash laws and their purpose.

Who can say?

Heathcliff, 2014-09-15.

Heathcliff and Sonja are floating in the air, suspended by bright pink balloons attached to their faces. A man and a woman stand on the ground watching them pass. The two are long since used to Heathcliff and his high jinks, and are not shocked at the spectacle. But it does cause the woman to reminisce.
"You never buy me gum anymore." she says.

Family Circus, 2014-09-15.

"You never know what's going to happen." says Thel, presumably in response to some dumb thing Jeffy just said.
"Yeah, nobody ever tells me anything either." says Jeffy, assuming that everyone lives in the state of perpetual ignorance in which he lives his life.


Action Thisday: Boring... predictable... HOLY SHIT!

Shit is about to get real in Dick Tracy as the team have arrived to put a stop to Axel's plans, but right now they're just waiting for morning. Anyone else feel like this story has dragged on too long? Early in their run Staton and Curtis were accused of rushing through their stories too quickly, but if that was a problem then, they've over-corrected. Personally I loved the fast pace and quick resolutions, but I guess maybe they were burning through their story ideas too quickly? Whatever the reason, I'm ready for this to be over.

Remember how Mandrake the Magician had been kidnapped and brought to the distant future by one of the rulers of Earth? It turns out she wanted him to put on a magic show for her. To start with she got a robot version of Luciphor (called Cobra) to attack him, and he blasted it with magic, which she loved. Then he got pissed off and "gestured hypnotically" to make her appear to be a child, to demonstrate what he thought of her.

Mandrake the Magician, 2014-09-13.

"Marvelous magic-- made me think I am a little girl" says the Bozz, looking into a mirror.
"Yes--" says Mandrake, "a naughty girl-- who should be treated as such--"
He picks her up and puts her over his knee.
"50,000 years ago-- this was called-- a spanking."
"!" says the Bozz.

Well, that's taught her a lesson. Or not, because it turns out she loved it. And the other two rulers want a spanking too. Seriously. I think this is the point where Mandrake becomes a fetish comic?

At least we can always count on The Amazing Spider-Man being hilariously incompetent. In order to test his suspicions about Doc Ock, Spidey broke into the jail cell where Ox was being held and "tricked" him into revealing that he was hired to commit a crime, possibly by Octavius.

The Amazing Spider-Man, 2014-09-15.

"Ox gave me info he didn't know he had." says Spidey to no-one as he swings away. "Now I'm positive Dr. Octavius is up to no good!"
"I wanna tear Doc Ock limb from limb from limb." says Ox, gripping the bars of his cell's window. "But even I can't bend them cars like Spider-Man did."
Suddenly he stops, looking more closely at the bars.
"But — looks like he might've loosened one when he bent it back in place!"

So now Spidey has accidentally helped a criminal break out of prison. Good job, Peter!

And finally, James Allen shows us again that the new Mark Trail can be as good as the old (although for different reasons). It all started on Sept 9 when "Dirty", fleeing in his car, encountered some rhinoceroses The next day they attacked, and it just got better from there. Actually, don't even bother clicking those last two links, here they are in all their glory:

Mark Trail, 2014-09-12.
Mark Trail, 2014-09-13.

And then Mark dragged him from the flaming wreck.

Mark Trail, 2014-09-17.

Mark, Lori and Taurus are rushing Chris Dyer to the nearest hospital
"We'll be there soon Chris — just hang on!" says Mark.
"Mark, I was only trying to to make things right for me and Lori!" says Chris. "I never meant to ..."

God dammit, Mark, call him "Dirty"!

Melodrama Someday: Why is nothing happening?

Apartment 3-G is still just talk, talk talk. Jack's back now, and there's something wrong with his horse, but who gives a shit? Nothing is happening. Where is Margo? I'd even settle for Lu Ann. Just anything that gets us away from Tommie and Carol. I'm not even going to do a particular strip here, there is literally nothing to comment on. Moving on.

Mary Worth has finally finished the wrap-up and recap of the psychic Olive (prophet of the Lord) story with the conclusion that she's not psychic or anything, just intuitive, and Mary will definitely keep in touch with her (she definitely will not). The new story has started, but nothing has actually happened yet, so...

Nothing is happening in Luann either. We cut away from Rosa and Gunther (thank god), but in their place we got Luann and Bernice doing nothing and not revealing Bernice's mysterious new roommate, and now we're back with Bwad and Toni and TJ's insurance fraud, which sounds fun in theory, but nothing is actually happening. TJ just got the money and Bwad is still being all passive-aggressive about his suspicions, but TJ hasn't actually bought anything yet and Bwad is too spineless to actually confront him, so I guess this is going nowhere.

In Judge Parker, Neddy and Sam have met with Rocky and obviously he is absolutely thrilled to give her free use of his property to start her business because that's just how things work in this comic. And we've heard that there may be some ongoing drama with Godiva, but she hasn't actually been in the strip at all so it's just been boring people talking about something interesting that may or may not be happening off-screen.

But here's something. Sally Forth is actually dipping it's toe into the soap-opera genre this week, as it does from time to time. Alice, Sally's co-worker (and only friend) Alice has been looking for a new job, leaving Sally feeling conflicted. On the one hand, she doesn't want to hold Alice back, but she feels that their friendship probably won't survive if they don't see each other at work.

Sally is at her desk, writing something with a pen on paper like a caveman. Alice walks in.
"Hey, Alice, what's up?" says Sally.
Alice remains silent.
"Did... did the mood just change in this room?" asks Sally, looking around. "Is there a switch for that kind of thing?"
"I got a job offer." says Alice.

OK, it's not much, but honestly I have never seen the soap strips be so boring all at the same time like this before. There's usually something happening!


One-Panel Wednesday: You've got to admire his style

Heathcliff, 2014-09-01.

Heathcliff is piloting a small boat behind which half a dozen cats are water-skiing in a pyramid formation. Each cat (including Heathcliff) is carrying a fish. Sonja is on top of the pyramid. As they go by the fish market, two fishmongers come out to watch.
"You've got to admire his style." says one to the other.


Action Tuesday: Overdue Bills

I haven't been talking about Mandrake the Magician lately, but only because it's been incredibly dumb in a very boring way. Mandrake was kidnapped by an alien in a UFO which turned out to actually be a person from the future in a time machine and brought to the future, where he was given a guided tour of the Earth. Basically, the entire Earth is paved over now and there are replicas of present-day cities in big domes under the sea, and everything is ruled by three women called the Bozz of Time, the Bozz of Paving and Potholes the Bozz of Everything Else.

There was a liquid diamond suit that allowed Mandrake to fly and some zoos full of genetically engineered versions of present-day animals that all lived in harmony. Eventually he was brought to a replica of his own house but made of liquid diamonds, and introduced to robotic replicas of Narda, Lothar and Hojo. But forget that, because this is where the ruler of past, present and future, the Bozz of Time lives.

Mandrake the Magician, 2014-09-02.

"Third ruler of the Earth? You kidnapped me!" says Mandrake.
"I did indeed." says... the exact same woman who brought Mandrake here and gave him the tour. She was pretending to not be the Bozz of Time but actually she was the Bozz of Time.
"This room. Almost like my study." says Mandrake.
"Exactly like your study-- where I found you. -- working on papers just like these."
"My bills -- from 50,000 years ago -- now overdue!"

Yeah, clearly that's what we should be focusing on here, Mandrake. Not the fact that some crazy woman who claims to be the ruler of all of time kidnapped you apparently for the purpose of pulling a weird prank. If you never get home your bills will go unpaid, and that would be a catastrophe.

I also haven't been talking about Popeye at all lately, because it went through a period of unrelated joke-a-day strips, but a new story has begun now. Olive Oyl found a weird crown that gave her super powers and made he think she was Velma of Venus, whoever that may be.

Popeye, 2014-08-28.

"It's wonderful to be able to fly!" says Olive/Velma. "This headpiece gives me wonderful powers!"
She takes it off to admire it and crashes tot he ground.
"But I must remember not to take it off in flight !"

Also, now Popeye and Wimpy have both decided that they're in love with Velma, not realising that she is actually Olive, even though her appearance remains exactly the same when she has the crown on.

"Dirty" somehow managed to get away, even though Taurus had the gun, and drove off. Fortunately there was another car, which Mark and Taurus began pursuing him in. Unfortunately they decided to take a shortcut and ran into a herd of elephants.

Mark Trail, 2014-09-02.

"Taurus, fire your rifle!" says Mark. "Maybe the sound will scare them!"
"Okay, Mark!" says Taurus, hanging out of the sun roof.
Kablam Blam goes the gun.
Beep Beep Beep goes the car's horn.
The elephants turn to run towards "Dirty".

If we're lucky, I think "Dirty" may be about to be trampled by a herd of elephants.

Melodrama Monday: All Talk

It turns out that Dr. Kapuht's drug use led to the death of a patient, so it's a good thing that Mary Worth convinced Olive's parents not to trust him.

Mary Worth, 2014-08-26.

At the hospital, Mary overhears two doctors talking.
"You'd never guess that he's a drug addict by the look of him! Kapuht fooled a lot of people!"
"It's always the ones you don't suspect, isn't it?"
"What a shame about the patient, though!"
"Yes, an unfortunate victim of errant behaviour... I'm glad it wasn't me!"

And "an unfortunate victim of errant behaviour" is just the best phrase. It's written so awkwardly that it sounds like they're not even blaming Dr Kapuht, it was just a thing that happened. You can't even tell they're talking about the fact that someone died. Oh dear, what a shame, glad it wasn't me.

Then a few days later we had this delightful strip.

Mary Worth, 2014-09-01.
I have no idea what's going on with Mary's face, but I love it.

And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it turns out that Gunther isn't dead. Nor was his departure to Peru an excuse to write him out of Luann entirely. In fact, we just got a whole week of him, with the implied promise of more to come.

It turns out that Rosa's uncle's clinic isn't the underfunded, ramshackle jungle-based operation providing the only source of medical care available to the grateful savages that she had pictured and is, in fact, well-funded and located in a city, and her uncle is a plastic surgeon. You'd think she would have known this. You'd think she'd have made some effort to find out what her uncle did before flying to a different country to work for him. But apparently Rosa heard "clinic in NotAmerica" and leapt to an incredibly stupid conclusion.

Luann, 2014-08-29.

"Here's your cubicle." says Sofia (Rosa's uncles executive assistant). "Read these manuals — phone answering and data entry. Settle in and I'll be back to take you to lunch and perhaps some clothes shopping..."
"Unbelievable." says Rosa. "My uncle's 'clinic' is a nip'n tuck factory!"
"Hey! I know this program!" says Gunther.

God, this is just so dumb. And although we're back with Luann herself this week, I can't help but feel that we're in for more of Rosa and Gunther in the near future. When will the Evanses realise that Tiffany is the best character and make the strip just be about her?

Unbelievably, Apartment 3-G is still dragging out this conversation between Carol and Tommie. The comic has just been the two of them talking since the 14th of July. And that's just going back to when the two of them played their incredibly mild practical joke on Tina, the supposed gossip. If we don't count Tina, it's a whole extra month before we see anyone else, and that was just Jack Riley. Remember him?

Before that point it's just the three of them, Tommie, Jack and Carol, all the way back to the 11th of May when Aristotle left. That was the last time we saw any of the regular cast members other than Tommie. And she's been on Jack's farm since the beginning of April. Why won't this end?

Well, this week Tommie's been telling Carol about her ex-boyfriends (who actually were never boyfriends at all) and it's been exactly as boring as you'd imagine.

Apartment 3-G, 2014-08-29.

"And that, Carol, brings me to doctor Joe Kelly. We worked together in the E.R. Joe was easy tot alk to and fun to be with right up until he..." says Tommie, "tried to kidnap his children, kill his wife and make a run for it."
"Whoa, Tommie — what the..." says Carol, grinning.

Remember when things used to happen in this comic? When it wasn't just the two most boring characters talking to each other day after day forever? Good times.


Philosophical Sunday: See the resemblance?

Alley Oop, 2014-08-25.
No. No I do not see the resemblance.  I would go so far as to say that Ooola looks nothing like Lana. But don't worry, these clever film people have a solution for that. It's a blonde wig. Never mind that their faces are completely different and presumably so are their bodies, a wig will solve it.

Ginger Meggs, 2014-08-29
Uh, so which Batman villain is that supposed to be? I guess maybe he means the Joker, but, well, I do not see the resemblance.