Your COTW momentarily, but first, a link from faithful reader knittaplease! Have you always dreamed of the day when Hubert Selbey’s Requiem for a Dream would be combined with the now retired syndicated comic strip Cathy? Your dreams have come true, my friend!
And now, your comment of the week!
“That’s right, Mary. I always wanted chlamydia. And now … I’ve got it!” –btown
And your runners up! Very funny!
“Is Tommie Thompson so hard up for some lovin’ that she perpetually keeps her lips pursed in hopes she stumbles onto a kissing bandit or friendly golden retriever?” –Baka Gaijin
“Nina’s Single White Female stalking of Margo has reached phase three, I see.” –Lolsworth
“My cooking and my advice are a great combination. Both are bland, hard to swallow, and eventually induce vomiting.” –Digger
“I like how bored Thor looks in the second panel. Longtime Spider-Man reader, I guess. ‘So this is where a bird shits on him or something and he passes out, right?’” –Roto13
“I love how Jeff the bank robber, after donning that coat, is a dead ringer for He-Man after he decided to restart his career and become a Don McLean-esque folk singer.” –Aelfric
On a character “overdosing on tattoos” in Gil Thorp: “If he is overdosing then you need to take a syringe full of adrenaline and jam it right into his hear. Now you have to do it hard enough because you will be going through his rib cage. Why are looking at me like that? It’s how they did it in Pulp Fiction. You haven’t seen it yet. It’s the most popular movie in theaters right now. This is the Nineties right? I can’t tell when we are anymore.” –Liam
“I like to think the arrow in Momma is there just to prove to the reader that there is a joke located in the strip.” –sporknpork
“Judging by the look of delight on Nola’s face, I’m wondering what the heck she could need advice about: ‘I can’t figure it out, Mary. When you hold a man in the palm of your hand, do you rub the ice cube above the scrotum or below. What do you do, Mary?’” –Bill Peschel
“Obviously, the ‘blue pill’ is an allusion to the Matrix. Pluggers, by definition, have chosen to take the blue pill to escape back into their dreary life of slavery, by choice, because the concept of the red pill and all it represents — free will, being happy, having a funny comic strip — is too horrible to contemplate. Now, honey, where’s my Metamucil? I want to have some me-time.” –Crankenstank
“I like to imagine that Nina has spent the entire duration of her visit with Margo dropping increasingly unsubtle hints about her pregnancy, only to have each one go over her head. ‘I HOPE I CAN FIND A GOOD PEDIATRICIAN’ ‘HEY MARGO, DO YOU THINK GRANT IS A NICE NAME FOR A BOY?’ ‘DO YOU WANT TO FEEL IT KICKING?’ None of these were working, so she went with the most obvious indicator of pregnancy there is, outside of ‘A SMALL HUMAN BEING HAS BEEN DEVELOPING INSIDE MY UTERUS FOR THE LAST FEW MONTHS.’” –Irrischano
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OK, so here is my excuse as to why I was late with the first few days of this week’s comics, which is that I was in scenic Orlando, Florida. While in America’s #1 Central Florida tourist destination, I stopped by the Universal Islands of Adventure, and while maybe I was mostly interested in Harry-Potter-related activities, I was also keenly aware, thanks to a steady trickle of photos sent to me by faithful readers over the years, that there was a real live Mark Trail diorama to be found. And when I spotted it, it was all I had hoped and dreamed of … and more!
Yes, here we have Mark and Billy Keane interacting, for some reason! And what the pictures I had seen couldn’t convey was the fact that this display has an audio component as well! As I stood nearby and pretended to menace Mark with my feeble fist, his soothing voice was piped in from a speaker above his head, informing us that he works for Woods and Wildlife Magazine and loved nature. For reasons I cannot comprehend, Mark is the only character in the whole Toon Lagoon area who gets to speak! Do you think that any of that makes sense to anyone who visits the park, other than the soap opera strip obsessives who read this blog?
There were other characters on display there, and a weird grab-bag they were. They certainly weren’t the most popular characters, but they also weren’t from any one comics syndicate, which means we can rule out corporate synergy as a basis for the character choices. For instance, there’s this Shoe display! Kids love Shoe, right?
You also have the opportunity to stand directly under Marvin’s no-doubt poop-filled diaper:
And you can get some ice cream, if you aren’t scared off by Cathy’s looming crotch.
In summary, the Toon Lagoon section of the Islands of Adventure is a good place to spend a few minutes of ironic bafflement before moving on to actually fun parts of the park. (Although the Dudley Do-Right log flume ride is pretty great. I had forgot how completely pun-tastic that show was!)
Being America’s #1 Newspaper Comics Blogger is in fact a pretty sweet gig, but sometimes there are heavy responsibilities that go along with it. For instance, you are expected to have opinions about things that you don’t really want to have opinions about, like the end of Cathy! Readers of this blog know that my feelings about the strip range, depending on the day and the punchline, from disinterest to irritation to occasional mild but shameful amusement. In Cathy’s very first mention on this blog, I openly rooted for the Cathy-Irving marriage to herald the demise of the strip; probably if it had wrapped up back then, in the summer of 2004, I wouldn’t have felt a need to weigh in.
It is important to remember that when Cathy launched in 1976, it was actively new and exciting and, in the grand scheme of things, good for a newspaper comic to focus on a lady who was unmarried and had a job. Sally Forth mined some of the same novelty (minus the unmarried part) when it launched a few years later; but Sally was always a more or less fully functional human being, whereas Cathy is a nightmare bundle of neuroses. The fact that the character always seemed to take every negative stereotype about women and extend them to cringe-inducing extremes made it hard to celebrate it as a feminist achievement.
But still, there is one thing we can really thank the strip for, and that is only revealing Cathy’s successful insemination in the final strip, rather than subjecting us to God knows how many months of strips about morning sickness. And maternity clothes! Good lord, can you imagine all the strips with Cathy trying on maternity clothes? Sparing all of us this was a true act of mercy.
Apartment 3-G, 10/3/10
Meanwhile, in happier news, the predicted Tommie-ignoring is proceeding apace! “I had always dreamed of having a huge wedding party, but really, other than the two of you, who else is there?”
There are days in the comics blogging business when I really know that I’ve made it. Today, for instance, I was one of surely only a few hundred people on the Universal Press Syndicate’s email distribution list chosen to receive a very important email with the following subject line:
AACK! After 34 Years, Cathy Comic Strip Bids Farewell
Read all about it here, assuming you enjoy reading interviews with Cathy Guisewite in PDF format, and who doesn’t, really.
Obviously, a long-running strip like Cathy can’t just go away without a big to-do. But with the strip’s formerly chronically single title character now married off, and the October 3 end date too close for her to finally poop out a baby, we have to ask ourselves what the bang of an ending will be. Since Cathy was a pioneer depiction of a working woman, we suggest that she get with the times: heartless layoff, followed by workplace spree killing, concluding with suicide by cop.
Archie takes a break today from typical teenage whimsy to explore Riverdale’s grim economics. Lazy layabout Jughead can’t maintain the income necessary to fund his burger habit; Archie, who is marginally more employable and may be writing himself checks from the checkbook stolen from Mr. Lodge’s desk, has agreed to float his friend enough cash to keep him fed, but at significant interest rates — and now those debts are coming due. Terrified at Archie’s suddenly revealed violent side (he’s holding a gun in his left hand in panel three, just out of our field of vision), Jughead seeks out “Pop,” his substitute father figure, coming up with some feeble excuse to try to beg for shelter and protection without Archie noticing. But we can see from his rage in panel two that, if Jughead can’t afford his greasy diner food, Pop wants nothing to do with him, and in panel three he shows that he wants no part of this scene. Jughead will be lucky to escape Archie’s implacable wrath with only a missing thumb or two.
(Seriously, though, if someone could explain to me what’s actually supposed to be happening here, I’d sure appreciate it.)
Apartment 3-G, 7/13/10
Speaking of sudden turns to grimness, I Dressed In The Dark is beginning to look less like What Not To Wear and more like a reality-show version of 24, with the sadistic Mama Kat taking the role of the chief torturer. The girls will submit to her aesthetic demands, no matter how many beatings she has to dish out. But the once bickering roommates will come together now that they’re literally under attack from outsiders; naturally, Margo has taken a leadership role, and she’s demonstrating exactly why, for all her faults, you want her on your side in times of trouble. I look forward to this battle of implacable wills!
Mark Trail, 7/13/10
You might think that Mark Trail owning a cell phone is terribly anachronistic for this strip. The police officer certainly does, based on his puzzled expression in the final panel (“Hey, my uniform indicates that I just arrived here from 1965, and this freak is talking into some tiny sci-fi gadget!”). Still, you have to admit that a mobile phone really allows Mark to ignore the feelings of the people around him, as is his wont. “Excuse me while I take this call … Hi, honey, what’s up? No, I’m not busy, there’s just some old lady here weeping about how they’re going to take away the only things that make her life worth living, some crap like that, I dunno.” Cherry’s glad to be able to get a hold of Mark now, but she’ll regret it when she realizes that with his new phone he doesn’t even have to return home from a romantic horseback ride to get a call from his editor Bill Ellis that will take him out of range of her clumsy seduction attempts.
Dennis the Menace, 7/13/10
Dennis the Menace the character may no longer be menacing, but today’s Dennis the Menace the cartoon panel was apparently menacing to the colorists, who decided that trying to render the vibrating Mitchells in color using the Photoshop tools at their disposal wasn’t worth the effort. This in no way makes up for the fact that the whole “joke” here is that Dennis belched forth a punny malapropism. That’s the sort of thing that Jeffy Keane does, Dennis. Do you want to be like Jeffy Keane?
We interrupt our usual studied ignorance of Cathy to note that today’s “punchline” contains the phrase “poop bags.” We now return you to our usual refusal to acknowledge Cathy’s existence.
As you may have noticed, many comics are earnestly pushing a pro-volunteering agenda this week, with results that range from the “so irritating that even people who like volunteering will come to view it with scorn” (Luann) to “so cynical that they seem to be actually making fun of the very concept of helping one’s fellow citizens” (Archie, Wizard of Id). Probably the best of the lot is today’s Marmaduke, in which the titular hell-beast takes some time out from burying the bones of his victims to help his serial killer neighbor prep some backyard graves.
Mark Trail, 10/21/09
You know, Mark Trail has always been kind of David Lynchian, but things seems to be accelerating this week. I missed it Monday when a word balloon clearly containing dialogue for Bob emerged from the head of Mr. Sinister Sideburns; today, the same phenomenon recurs. Is Rusty just passing the time in the swamp by practicing his ventriloquism? Is “Rusty” just one Mark’s many personalities, and panel one a brief hint of the real world of Mark Trail, in which an isolated man spends days nattering on to nobody in particular? Or is the whole universe of the strip simply collapsing, with the very identities of the various characters becoming increasingly fluid as their reality dissolves into nothingness? The last possibility would explain the ominous, world-consuming mist pooling around Mark and Rusty’s feet in the final panel.
To Westerners, one of the most striking aspects of Hindu deities is that they are portrayed with more than the usual complement of limbs. Now, most Hindus do not in fact believe that, say, Vishnu is a blue-skinned man with four arms; rather, since arms and hands are the methods that humans use to impose their will on the world, the depiction of Vishnu as four-armed represents his power, which is beyond that of mortals. The characters in Cathy are also occasionally portrayed with many arms, and by analogy I have always taken this to be metaphorical, generally representing their flailing, desperate, and ultimately fruitless attempts to control themselves or the world around them. Today, however, we learn that they are in fact literally becoming monstrous, tentacled hell-beasts — and frankly not a minute to soon when it comes to piquing my interest in future developments in this feature.
Gil Thorp, 10/21/09
So Duncan Daley has spent this fall storyline by turns refusing to drink, brooding manfully, and injuring his fellow football players in uncontrollable bursts of rage. And today, the big reveal: he’s doing it all because his brother’s in prison, which makes total sense. “Gah, I told Danny I’d be in jail in time to celebrate his birthday with him! How many people do I have to maim before they lock me up?”