Why did humanity learn to fly? “To expand our knowledge,” you might say, or “For the joy of exploration, or the visceral thrill of taking to the air.” And maybe you’re right, when it comes to the early inventors and tinkerers who built the first primitive aircraft. But forgive me for being a cynical materialist and pointing out that the infrastructure of flight we have today was built for less noble reasons. Investors and entrepreneurs knew that travelling at hundreds of miles an hour to get to far-off desinations in hours instead of days is something that many of us would pay for, and so all those airliners and airports were built to separate us from our money, money that buys nice things for the families of the pilots and the executives and the stockholders. Then there are the military applications of flight, and while of course we always trump up some noble reason for war, when it comes right down to it we fight and kill and die to better control various resources. And so the once miraculous power of flight is commonplace today thanks to capitalism’s alternately charming and remorseless logic, because it’s making money for people, and if we follow the hierarchy of needs down to their base, what is “making money” other than an effort to make sure that one is well fed?
The question of how exactly we should think about an anthropomorphic animal in comic strip is a tricky one, and varies from comic to comic and from character to character, but I think one thing that’s common to all of them is that they’re closer to their animalistic nature than we are, even if they walk on two legs and wear safety helmets when they’re hang-gliding. So, the answer to the question “Why did Heathcliff learn to fly” also involves food. But there are fewer steps you have to take to get to that point.
Rex Morgan, M.D., 12/20/13
Based on previous signs, we’re meant to presume that Doris has been getting increasingly blotto over the course of this meal and finally just passed out drunk, but I appreciate the fact that everyone is tiptoeing around it and claiming she “fell asleep,” like that’s a totally normal thing that happens in the middle of dinner conversation. Still, I guess we can’t rule out the possibility that June is a super boring conversationalist and Doris was in the middle of listening to one of her dull long-ass sentences and thought, “You know what? I don’t see the point of holding on for the end of this.”
Mary Worth, 12/16/13
Oh goodie, Mary is hitting the “NEW YORK IS THE GREATEST CITY IN THE WORLD” fugue state many visitors achieve when they’ve been there for a few days, assuming they haven’t been permanently turned off by the density or the people or the smell. Look at how blissfully happy she is shoving that delicious cheese ’n’ grease triangle into her grinning teeth in panel one! We all know she won’t have the nerve to actually up and move to New York, but look for her to sigh theatrically and talk about how everything in Santa Royale is so lame compared to New York for weeks after she gets back. (She’ll be right.)
I guess “Elf Marvy” is supposed to be Marvin’s dream elf name, à la Hermey the Elf from the Rankin-Bass Rudolph special? Or maybe “Marvy” is just the cool nickname that he’s always wanted but nobody will give him, because it has the same number of syllables as “Marvin” and also nobody likes him enough to give him a nickname. Anyway, Marvin this week will be relentlessly hammering home some dumb joke where Santa Claus becomes one of the Duck Dynasty people, so brace yourself for that.
I’m not sure what possible interpretation of this cartoon is more unsettling: that Heathcliff is going to fuck this cupcake, or that he’s going to eat it, with the visual tropes of romance being a metaphorical lead-in to eating it.
Mark Trail, 12/12/13
So Jeff and Jared’s Sinister Artifact-Napping Plan is going something like this: they woke Mark up at gunpoint and Jeff took him off with the artifacts by canoe, with Jared left behind fake-tied-up claiming that Mark is the one doing the kidnapping! I have literally no idea why they think this will work out any better for them than just fleeing with the artifacts — wouldn’t the police have a bit more urgency in tracking down a kidnapping victim than they would in looking for some stolen property? — but I’m super glad things are playing out like this, because we finally get to see Cherry explode into the violent rage that we all knew was lurking just below her placid/heavily medicated surface.
Judge Parker, 12/12/13
Say, remember when Judge Parker Senior’s terrible airport-bookstore thriller got a bad review from a snooty academic, and he raged about it for days and days in a way that reaffirmed that he was thin-skinned and unpleasant, and then by crazy coincidence he and Katherine were seated with said snooty academic at dinner, and he lied about his name so he could glower at her in secret? Kind of the sort of behavior that might make you think, “This man is an awful person and not a strip protagonist that we want to see rewarded,” right? Well, screw you, loser. Judge Parker Senior has now revealed his identity to this lady and has publicly humiliated her and prompted her husband to do so as well! So all’s well that ends well, for assholes!
Soooo … is Heathcliff driving off to get more milk, or abandoning these non-milk-having chumps in a huff and finding a new family that knows the importance of keeping the refrigerator properly stocked? I’m guessing the latter, based on the don’t-give-a-damn vibe radiated by the cat and the car, which are both wearing sunglasses, in the middle of the night.
Rex Morgan, M.D., 12/11/13
All the top etiquette experts agree: If you gave one of your dinner guests a handjob in high school, it’s best to bring it up as early in the evening as possible, to get any potential awkwardness out of the way.
Gasoline Alley, 12/11/13
Ha ha, look at Slim’s horrified thousand-mile stare! “I never thought any of the children would do … that … on my lap, and yet it keeps happening — again, and again and again…”
Marvin is just now realizing that he’s a literal demon from hell.
Mary Worth, 12/11/13
“I could take a black and white picture of all these black and white pictures! It’d be ‘self-referential’ or ‘metatextual’ or whatever bullshit the kids are saying these days.”
I’m preeeeettty sure that Francis has knocked some girl up.
BIRDS DON’T HAVE ANY MONEY
THE ONLY FLAW IN YOUR PERFECT PLAN
Well, congratulations, Heathcliff: you did a panel where the whole joke is that Heathcliff is about to cannonball into a fishbowl barely bigger than he is, and the fish in the bowl can see him and know they’re about to die gasping on the carpet after their whole world is obliterated in a flurry of yowls and shattered glass, and so one of them, as presumably his last act on this earth, just says “Fuck.” Oh, I mean, “fudge,” obviously, except in my experience “fudge” as a minced oath only ever means “I almost said ‘fuck’ but then realized I was in a context where that was inadvisable, like, say, a nationally syndicated newspaper comic.” It seems appropriate, anyway, given the gravity of the situation from the fish’s perspective, although there’s a pretty good chance that Heathcliff might miss the bowl entirely from this distance.
Mark Trail, 12/3/13
The great thing about being a villain in Mark Trail is that when you’re a villain in Mark Trail you’re a villain, by God. None of this “likable antihero” or “moral ambiguity” nonsense, which is for college professors and other sissies. It can take a little while for the humans to figure it out, but Andy has these guys’ number and is already trying to attack. Even Mr. Dunlap’s delicious homemade syrup (or, as I like to call it, “flapjack juice”) physically leaps out of Jared’s hand, refusing to grant its power of deliciousness to such a ne’er-do-well.
In all honesty, I don’t really care that much about whatever harebrained artifact-napping schemes Jeff and Jared have cooked up. All I want is for Mr. Dunlap to wander around spouting off declarative sentences for as long as possible. “He’s staying at the museum! Homemade syrup is great on flapjacks! Suspenders hold my pants up! I like saying things!”
Ha ha, it’s the Funkyverse so even the puns are horribly depressing. “There’s no therapy dog? But … I’ve been waiting all week for this! It’s the only thing I’ve had to look forward to! I love dogs, I had dogs my whole life, but I can’t keep one in here. My family never visits me. I just want something warm and friendly and good that will touch me and love me unconditionally. What am I supposed to do with a bunch of fucking flowers?”
Family Circus, 12/3/13
Years later, when Billy was on trial for the various crimes he had committed as leader of the notorious Real Presence of the Manifest Messiah cult, and he took the stand in his own defense, ranting and raving that he was the son of God and no Earthly court could judge or punish him, this moment at the table came rushing back to his mother with terrible clarity.
Mary Worth, 12/2/13
As Mary Worth whines to Broadway has-been Ken Kensington about how she misses New York’s “former charm,” let’s do a little age-math, shall we? I have a strong memory (though I can’t find it now) of some official or semi-official King Features source describing Mary as “perpetually 60.” Maybe she’s a little older, but surely not past her mid-60s. Mary has said earlier in this storyline that she used to live in New York when she was a young woman; again the dates are fuzzy, but we can say with relatively certainty that this period in her life was somewhere between 30 and 40 years years ago. The years from 1973 to 1983 were, of course, the Taxi Driver/Bernie Goetz era in New York City, so you probably need to rethink whatever you were imagining when Mary wistfully recalled the city’s “former charm.” Presumably she’s one of those people who can’t go through Times Square without muttering about how it looks like a God-damn mall now that that asshole Giuliani shut down all the porn theaters. “After your experience with that mugger, it may be hard for you to agree!” “I’ll be okay, Ken. I’m shaken … shaken by how half-assed that mugging was. What self-respecting New York City thug would just give up when confronted by a portly actor? Why aren’t I lying dead in a puddle of my own blood right now?”
How exactly are those lids staying on the trash cans as the Garbage Ape swings them to and fro? Don’t those owls look like they were just cut and pasted from another drawing and plopped onto a picture of a pine tree without regards for what exactly might be holding them up? I hate to say it, but rampant Garbage Ape mania has upped the demand for this lovable/mysterious character so much that the strip is churning out some slapdash art to keep up.
Beetle Bailey, 12/2/13
Article 115 of the U.S. Military Code of Justice, “Malingering,” says that “Any person subject to this chapter who for the purpose of avoiding work, duty, or service feigns illness, physical disablement, mental lapse or derangement … shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.” So, good news for everyone who ever wanted to see Beetle Bailey locked up in a military prison. Camp Swampy is clearly not a “hostile fire pay zone” but I’m guessing that the military still considers us to be living “in time of war” for legal purposes, so he’s looking at three years of hard time!
Ha ha, look at how terrified that little blonde child is! “He’s heavy! So heavy! Heavier than anything alive from our space-time continuum has any right to be! You’ll die in agony, your bones crushed to powder under a pile of impossibly dense meat, all while he sleeps his ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep!”
Judge Parker, 12/2/13
“I don’t think it matters that we live in a world where mysterious, incredibly skilled black ops troops with no obvious allegiance to any nation-state can swoop into anywhere in the world, with tactical data gained from omnipresent and near-omniscient surveillance tech, and snatch up anyone they want, killing dozens of insurgents, criminals, and terrified bystanders in the process! Just don’t worry your pretty little head over the fact that unimaginable military power will protect you, so long as some member of the ultra-rich mega-elite takes a shine to you and orders your rescue on a whim! The important thing is that Ross is safe! You know, for now.”