Panel from the Lockhorns, 9/14/14
One of the things I like about the Lockhorns is the work ethic implied by the format of its Sunday installments: instead of using the extra space to do larger, more expressive, possibly multipanel strip, or just being lazy and doing one enormous panel, the Lockhorns creative team just churns out five more Lockhorns, each of which could stand on its own in a daily panel, because, fuck it, making more Lockhorns is our job, right? Anyway, this panel from today is close to the ultimate Lockhorns installment. “Marriage is like a perpetual I.R.S. audit,” Leroy says, and no detail (Loretta probing into the family finances, say) is provided to imply that this is part of some vaguely clever metaphor; “I.R.S. audit” here is just literally a synonym for “something unpleasant.” That’s the next, and presumably final, step: every Lockhorns strip, regardless of the setting or action, just having the caption “Marriage is unpleasant.”
Panels from Marvin, 9/14/14
Meanwhile, something profoundly unpleasant seems to have recently happened in the throwaway panels of Marvin. In panel one, the whole family, including Marvin, is sporting, grim, thousand-mile stares; in panel two, Marvin sits alone in the Punishment Corner. Does the level of distress on display here mean that whatever transpired was much worse than Marvin’s usual poop-related antics? (No, of course not, Marvin’s bowel movements are the stuff of the worst kind of nightmare.)
Rex Morgan, M.D., 7/20/14
Long ago, I worked with a photographer who was also a passionate VW enthusiast, and for whom every new “upgrade” to his beloved brand was a kick in the solar plexus: One-piece rear window, UNGH! Big tail lights, UNGH! Convertible top, UNGH! When they introduced a semiautomatic transmission he uttered a fearsome oath, bought a Porsche, and never looked back. Good thing, too, or he would’ve seen the abomination Niki’s driving.
The same dark forces that turned the bug by degrees into the Super Beetle turned Original Niki and Kelly into these two. We first met Niki snatching June’s purse to buy artisanal salami for his methskank Mom, then doing some impressive ethical acrobatics to talk himself into a big payday “reward” after an extended tutorial from Rex. Kelly started out a stereotypical Bad Girl running off to drug parties in the woods and having a Brush with Death before Seeing the Error of Her Ways. Now they’re all cleaned up, and droning out text like “Sarah’s a great kid and I like her very much” about hideous paint-spattered brat-monsters. Kids, don’t let the Morgans get anywhere near you, is what I’m saying.
Slylock Fox (panel), 7/20/14
Slylock’s totalitarian society descends into outright racism: “First they came for the skunks and I did not speak out, because I was not stinky.”
Lockhorns (panel), 7/20/14
Loretta, lack of wind is not the problem.
Also: Alfas haven’t had those bumpers since 1982. Has Leroy been bald 32 years?
Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, 7/20/14
Parson Tuttle’s own sins tend toward small-time grifting, so he’s plum tickled to get a lead on the more entertainin’ sinnin’ goin’ on in th’ Holler.
Piranha Club, 7/20/14
Now that right there is an authentic automobile. Own it, Ernie — own it as long as you possibly can. Doris will be happy to drive you to work.
– Uncle Lumpy
Mark Trail, 7/15/14
“Call me Dirty, Mark, like my good friends do! You like me, Dirty, don’t you? I sure like it when you talk to me: Dirty. And I will be Dirty for you any time and any way you want!”
In Carson McCullers’ novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, people constantly confide their deepest feelings in a character who is utterly incapable of understanding or helping them in any way. Mark Trail is exactly like that, but with more elephants and no actual hunting.
One of the paradoxes of experimental psychology is that the paradigm for secondary reinforcement, which increases the frequency of a behavior, is identical to the paradigm for frustration, which decreases it. Both paradigms present stimuli associated with a primary reinforcer such as, oh, say, sexual release, but withhold the primary reinforcer itself. Archie, of course, has been dining out on that association for a long time – start with a stereotypically porny setup like oiling up your mostly-naked girlfriend by the pool in front of her angry but impotent father, but then cut to some dumb pratfall. Readers know it won’t deliver — it hasn’t for 72 years, and never will. I guess I’m just asking why anybody reads Archie, since it’s not porn.
It didn’t occur to me before seeing this panel today that Leroy and Loretta Lockhorn are never shown in casual daywear — check it out. Apparently in the absence of any sort of emotional connection they had been relying on deeply-ingrained but meaningless rituals to keep their lives from flying apart: parties, dress codes, weekly visits with Dr. Pullman, and other mechanisms to sustain their empty, endless charade of a marriage. It worked, too, right up until the instant Loretta said, “We’re not staying together for the sake of appearances — any more.”
Judge Parker, 7/15/14
OK, I’m posting this partly because the dialog doesn’t make any sense – it’s like the authors pasted in speech-bubbles left over from other strips so they could make a tee time:
“What do you know about the fashion business?”
“Lots! Remember Jules? He didn’t know anything about business!”
“We met at an institute design class! That has nothing to do with business either!”
“But Jules was into shoes! Are we even talking about business any more?”
“That’s what design classes are for … to spark a passion! For shoes! Or Jules! Certainly not business — or design, whatever that is!”
But I mostly want to express my irritation that we are probably headed for a do-over of one of the most grindingly dull Judge Parker stories of all time, justly ignored in Josh’s retrospective: Mopey Eurotrash Jules and Sam the Man with a Business Plan. Spoiler: Sam winds up with a million-dollar stake in Jules’ business just because.
– Uncle Lumpy