Before the comics begin, a note on last week’s fundraiser! Please read if you contributed! First of all, another huge thanks to all of you! I’ve already written to everyone thanking you, and asking which reward you’re interested in and double-checking to make sure your mailing address is correct. Unfortunately, about 20% of you never got back to me! So, if you haven’t heard from me, because your Paypal account is connected to an old email address or my message went into a spam folder or something, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If I don’t hear from you by the end of the week, you’ll get a magnet mailed to whatever mailing address is attached to your Paypal account (unless I don’t have a mailing address for you either, in which case you won’t get anything). So please, get in touch!
Funky Winkerbean, 5/29/13
You know, after close to nine years of making fun of newspaper comic strips, I still sometimes discover that I have optimism that can be dashed. For instance, I figured Funky Winkerbean would be able to squeeze a week out of Darrin and Jessica indignantly refusing to participate in Darrin’s bio-dad’s terrible reality show, tops. And yet here we are on the next Wednesday and it’s still happening. Most FW “punchlines” contain at least some token bit of wordplay, no matter how grim, but I have to say that “reality” -> “really stinks” doesn’t quite do it for me. Here, here’s a better version: “The only reality about reality TV is that it stinks almost as badly as the fetid, choking air in the terrible, cruel reality that we are forever trapped in, like flies in a spider’s web.” Too … too long maybe? Not enough room in the word balloon?
Man, forget the multiple half-assed jokes in this strip; the dramatic arc I’m interested in is the dog’s. He pushes his head around the corner, spots Archie and Jughead, then takes a deep whiff of Jughead’s pants and instantly falls in love despite the fact that his presence has not been acknowledged at all. Is this li’l lost pup so starved for affection that he’s latched onto the first person who doesn’t threaten or flee from him? Or, more likely, does every single item of clothing owned by notorious glutton Jughead Jones smell strongly of ham and/or barbecue sauce?
I know it can be hard to tell sometimes, but Momma is still being produced afresh daily in the current Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Thirteen, as today’s strip makes very explicit. I like the way Momma and Marylou look directly at the reader as they announce this fact. “We can’t believe we’re around in this far-off future era either. Death is coming for us all!”
Hi and Lois, 5/29/13
Little known but important motivation for attaining verbal skills: they’re needed to demand constant reassurance that we aren’t completely unlovable.
Funky Winkerbean, 5/25/13
Oh, hey, I guess I’ve been neglectful of the great Darrin/Frankie confrontation because it’s been … kind of boring? Considering the air of menace that surrounded his earlier appearances, Frankie’s ultimate goal — to put together some kind of ill-conceived reality show about his reunion with Darrin (which, say, shouldn’t they be getting footage right now?) seems relatively harmless. The worst of it is that, since all right-thinking people are assumed to loathe reality television despite its massive popularity, this plot gives Darrin and Jessica the opportunity to indulge in righteous indignation, which is my third-least-favorite Funkyverse emotion, just behind smug self-satisfaction and sexual arousal.
Kingpin is a busy, successful entrepreneur, and in his best-selling business memoir Faster! Work Faster!, he taught a generation of CEOs how to extract maximum terrified efficiencies from their employees. But recent challenges in Kingpin’s career have demonstrated that there’s more to being a great manager than just cowing your subordinates. In his new book, Not Without My Minions: Why It’s Better To Be Loved Than Feared But Being Fear-Loved Is Best Of All, he explains that organizational downturns can be used as an opportunity to build loyalty in the face of adversity and gather a fanatically dedicated core team who will stick with you when times get tough. Have your personal assistant look for in the increasingly sparse places where books are sold!
Ha ha, it’s funny because nobody likes Momma! I sort of expected that the doctor would be cowering in fear of his relentless hypochondriac nemesis, but instead he regards her with an evil grin, delighting in the way he’s unsettled her, which is frankly a much darker scenario.
Mark Trail, 5/23/13
Meanwhile, in Mark Trail, all this is happening, against a background of apocalyptic flame! Do killer grizzly bears really have adorable pudgy butts like in panel three? Because if so, awwwwww.
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Update — Well, we ran out of JP and RMMD magnets mid-afternoon EDT on Tuesday, May 14. Thank you generous (and fast!) readers! Contributors at the $15 level will now receive a favorite Josh panel from the last few months, matted for framing and signed by Josh, or at their option a Margo bracelet. Thanks again!
Hey, it’s the Comics Curmudgeon Spring 2013 Fundraiser! It’s your hard-earned money — squander it here, and receive a one-of-a-kind Judge Parker or Rex Morgan, M.D. refrigerator magnet for contributions of $15 or more. Thank you!
Apartment 3-G, 5/14/13
“You don’t understand, Margo: I don’t want to be transported to the frontiers of ecstasy in the masterful hands of some handsome Italian Lothario — I want to have FUN. With my MOM.”
Meanwhile, Lu Ann sees herself in a mirror!
Ah, but some daughters know what fun is, and a mother’s role in it. As Sonya speaks, Marylou Hobbs imagines herself tanned and radiant in half of her revealing new swimsuit, striding confidently toward her lover across the deck of his yacht lying at anchor in azure waters gleaming under a benevolent Mediterranean sun — her mother nowhere aboard, in mind, or accessible even in the deepest reaches of her memory.
Sonya’s bullying logic shocks her from her reverie, and she struggles to respond:
||“Evaluate the truth-value of the postulate!”
||“Conditional! False for at least one value of X! Specify range of X!”
||“For all values of X, dammit — evaluate for all X!”
||“True, true for all X, oh God yes it’s true I will totally bang any dude with the money to rent a canoe it’s true please let it be true for me just once and free me from this hell … (sob).”
Heathcliff’s campaign to bend mice to his will is well documented, but only now does its purpose become clear. The mice are but pawns in his scheme to scare the neighborhood elephant into wreaking Heathcliff’s terrible vengeance upon the hated dogs. Who will be next? Are we humans safe? I don’t think we’re safe.
Gil Thorp, 5/14/13
Gil Thorp spices up its spring baseball story with a little constitutional law. You know, to make it interesting.
Wizard of Id, 5/14/13
Id spearchuckers have terrifying asses.
– Uncle Lumpy
Apartment 3-G, 4/25/13
Hey, it’s Doris, Margo/the Mills Gallery’s mousy assistant who married some guy who I think might have originally been presented as a love interest for Margo or maybe Lu Ann, who can even remember now. Anyway, Doris must not really be up on “current events” or whatever if she can’t recognize the governor standing right in front of her or notice what I’m sure is his sizable security entourage lurking around outside. Then again, you can forgive her for being confused, seeing as he looks just like all other dark-haired Apartment 3-G dudes, including her husband.
“Can I tell her who’s calling? Can anyone? Can anyone explain what’s going on? You all look alike to me! Jack? Jack, is that you?”
Momma is politically and culturally retrograde in any number of unsettling ways, but give the strip credit for this: the title character is just as intent on policing her son’s sexuality as she is on policing her daughter’s, if not more so. And, you know, I’m all for casual sex, but I might start getting testy too if I had a kid who called up a bunch of people in rapid succession to find out if they’re DTF tonight while I’m right there in the room with him.
Panels from Momma and Crankshaft, 4/17/13
Occasionally here at the Comics Curmudgeon, we must remember that we exist to praise the comics as a visual medium, and so here we go: two comic panels that deftly convey what it’s like to be eating food and then you realize the food is terrible and you’re thinking about the social consequences of spitting the food out, maybe onto your plate or maybe just into your hand. Momma is having dinner at her son Thomas and his wife Tina’s house; one of the weird dynamics of the strip I’ve always queasily enjoyed is that Momma is terribly cruel to her daughter-in-law, and narratively it’s pretty clear that our sympathies are not supposed to be with her, and yet her number one complaint — that Tina’s cooking is awful — is also always presented as legitimate. Do you think that she deliberately feeds Momma disgusting food, as revenge, for everything? Meanwhile, in Crankshaft, the terrible food is coming from Lena, the bus drivers’ transportation manager, and her emotional relationship to the people who loathe her baking is an underdeveloped Crankshaft plot element. Still, does she lash out with crappy food because of the toxic psychic environment created by Crankshaft’s mere presence? Almost certainly.
Gasoline Alley, 4/17/13
If, like me, you suddenly realize you have no clear picture of how all the characters in Gasoline Alley’s aging, sprawling cast are related to each other, check out this sweet family tree, which has a 2004 copyright date and a 1995 web design aesthetic! Anyway, it turns out addled supercentenarian Walt Wallet is grandfather-in-law to Slim, against whom I’ve always harbored an unreasoning hatred (well, there are a few reasons). More to the point, despite his encroaching dementia and general good nature, he clearly holds the same low opinion of Slim that I do, which warms my shriveled black heart.
Slylock Fox, 4/17/13
Usually the Slylock Fox true/false trivia strips do a pretty good job of offering questions that could plausibly be either true or false. Still, today’s second question is just way, way too specific to be false, though that would be hilarious. “2) False. The Global Soap Project is an art collective that steals soap from hotels and uses it to create ephemeral bubble-sculptures that are displayed at invitation-only events at exclusive private art galleries in lower Manhattan. After everyone goes home, the remaining soap suds are flushed down the toilet. Suck it, soap-poor nations!”
It’s funny because Momma is down to her last five bucks and her son is a thief.
Funky Winkerbean, 2/21/13
Many, many comic strips have terrible dialogue, but the dialogue in Funky Winkerbean and sister strip Crankshaft is terrible in its own unique way — not from lack of craft or attention (Hi, Crock!), but its very opposite. Stare at a simple line like “How’s your room?” long enough and you’ll start to ask yourself if readers will remember the characters are traveling, or maybe think the question is whether they have enough room, say, to swing their arms or something? Then it’s down the rabbit-hole: “How’s your hotel room?” could be any hotel, so let’s go with “How’s your room in the hotel” to make it clear this Esteemed Figure is staying at the main convention hotel and not some off-strip dive, then plaster “Music Educ Asso t” on the wall for good measure. Despite all that work — no, because of it — you wind up with overwrought phrases that seem unambiguous, but which no actual human would ever utter: “solo car date”, “dead man’s singles”, or “space heater in the basement” (for “water heater”).
More fundamental is the Quip Fail at the heart of this strip. Hotel ratings use stars, not letters, so “B-flat hotel” makes no sense even coming from a
band leader Music Educator. My guess is that the joke started out star-related — maybe Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever? — and then got reworked into its present form. But if “B-flat hotel” is really your punchline, own it, don’t bury it in these wads of bumf. Put it at the end, where punchlines go: “I won’t be staying there much, so I don’t mind a B-flat hotel.” And spare us Beardo’s in-strip affirmation of your character’s dubious wit. Exactly.
Wizard of Id, 2/21/13
It’s funny because it’s not golf.
Got that? A joke. Now laugh, God damn you!
– Uncle Lumpy