Using Spider-Man as a lens through which to satirize the contemporary media landscape is one of my running jokes that I am reasonably sure is primarily for my own enjoyment, though, you know, if I’m wrong, please contact me about doing a J. Jonah Jameson-centered Marvel Cinematic Universe Netflix series called Bugle! Anyway, one strand of said show would involve Spider-Man’s awkward position in being both a superhero and someone who profits from the public’s hunger for superhero-themed content. And just as news outlets’ coverage decisions are more and more influenced by web traffic and Facebook sharing behavior, what’s to say Spider-Man won’t start engaging in clickbait superheroics? If he determines that, say, photos of Spidey battling Doc Ock get more pageviews than photos of him sparring with the Shocker, will he allows the latter to commit crimes unmolested? Will his dignity allow him to follow through on the implications of the viral success of Buzzfeed’s “Top 10 Spider-Fail GIFs We Can’t Stop Laughing At”? The thing that, in the long run, will save him from falling into this trap is probably his total incompetence as a journalist; he can’t even figure out that hiding a tiny point-and-shoot camera in a tree forty feet away from the house where he’s about to confront a not terribly photogenic opponent is a bad idea, so presumably he’s completely incapable of getting useful data out of the Daily Bugle’s Chartbeat analytics dashboard.
Elmo is, in his quiet way, the most unsettling character in Blondie: an elementary-school-age child who seems to have few friends and no family and just hangs out a lot at the home of an adult non-relative. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but for me today’s revelation that Elmo also apparently spends time with Dagwood’s next door neighbor and best friend definitely makes things substantially weirder.
Dick Tracy, 9/27/16
Let’s give a big shoutout to the Colvard Institute, D.C.’s #1 think-tank for providing anti-extraterrestrial talking points to elected officials on both sides of the aisle! I certainly hope that, after they had their summer intern multiply two times three and get six and then multiply six by three thirteen times, they decided that was the equivalent at least ten billable hours.
Beetle Bailey, 9/27/16
I gotta say, if you had asked me what Beetle Bailey character was running an underground pharmaceutical ring, I would’ve guess Cosmo, or maybe Killer. Plato wouldn’t have even been on my list of suspects!
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I’m really not sure how to even begin grappling with this strip, in which Dagwood, a man who I’ve always assumed to be not too deep into middle age and in possession of a perfectly healthy set of teeth, sits through a nightmarish sales pitch for some kind of futuristic dental implant technology with a name out of a satirical dystopian sci-fi movie. Maybe his insatiable appetite is leading him into the dangerous world of body modification; once this dentist outfits him with ultra-efficient chewing tech, he’s going to show up at a hospital and demand that he be given gastric bypass surgery “only in reverse.”
Beetle Bailey, 8/23/16
Say what you will about today’s Beetle Bailey, but it does get to an essential truth at the heart of the strip, namely that all the characters are morons who also have access to military weaponry. I think it’s a nice touch that the joke focuses on Zero possibly blowing his own face off and just barely draws our attention to the box of live grenades propped awkwardly on the table, ready to tumble out at the most hilarious/violent moment.
Family Circus, 8/23/16
What character do you most identify with in today’s Family Circus? I’d like to think I’m the guy who’s just out there casually smoking a pipe while he’s sunbathing, but I’m probably more like the kid who thinks that because he’s wearing goggles we can’t tell how eagerly he’s staring at the other kid’s toy boat.
Mark Trail, 8/23/16
So, uh, the staff of Woods and Wildlife Magazine didn’t know invasive species were bad until, like, last year? I’m beginning to have some doubts about their environmentalist bona fides.
Uh-oh, look at that graph. Dithers Construction Company’s profitability is tanking despite robust top-line growth. That indicates significant diseconomies of scale, probably because tightwad Dithers underinvested in staff and equipment for so long. Now every new project increases the company’s reliance on outside contractors, who take advantage of tight supply and exact their revenge for Julius’ endless chiseling by driving their prices relentlessly upward. The staff is right to be alarmed — Dithers’ panicky plan to “grow his way out of trouble” only advances the day when savage job cuts will fall without warning. But yeah, how about those Olympics?
Dick Tracy, 8/11/16
Whew! Team Tracy finally slowed its march through the character archives long enough to give us a week-long standoff between Dick and aspirational nemesis Abner Kadaver at Switzerland’s Reichenbach Falls, scene of Sherlock Holmes’ (temporary) death at the hands of Professor Moriarty.
Kadaver is a high-end hit man whose body is actually decomposing from some ill-advised makeup experiments during his former career as a horror-show host. His mouth is strangely unaffected, maybe because he runs it nonstop.
Gasoline Alley, 8/11/16
There are two humanoid species in Gasoline Alley. The Round-Eyes include patriarch Walt Wallet, daughter-in-law Nina, granddaughter Clovia, the annoying Frank Nelson character, and various animals, children, and cops. The Coal-Eyes include sons Skeezix and Corky, Clovia’s husband Slim, and the Bump family here, Rover, Hoogy, and Boog.
Now of course a Coal-Eye mother may deliver a Round-Eye baby, that’s only natural and God’s plan and why would you ever ask such a thing. But I always thought they developed in the usual, uterine, fashion. Now we see that a Round-Eyeling actually inhabits its Coal-Eye mother as an insatiable parasite, consuming the body of its host from within until its eyes glare out from her hollowed-out sockets, silently shrieking “How long ’til I am born, to shed this skin-prison and feed free?”
Wow, the comics teach you something new every day, don’t they?
Sally Forth, 8/11/16
Hilary Forth has the exact same schtick as her father Ted. In any confrontation that makes her confront her future — here, confronting her literal future self — she panics and spews any nonsense she can think of to change the subject. And it works! Present Hilary can take comfort from the fact that Future Hilary apparently didn’t think it was a problem worth solving.
Maybe its just the thought-bubble and the scowl, but I think Egghead and Ant-Man are the same guy! I mean, ants lay eggs, right? — it totally makes sense. Egghead probably hatches twice the number of evil schemes he really needs and blames Ant-Man for the 50% that fail because of stupidity or bad luck. Then he writes a tiny, tiny note saying “I quit! Signed, Ant-Man” and leaves it where Spider-Man will find it and blab his “scoop” to the Bugle. Investors will then flock to Egghead’s schemes, figuring that with Ant-Man out of the picture they’ll be 100% successful!
I’m beginning to respect the evil genius of this Elihas Starr, even though he talks down to people with those big impressive $100 words like “equivalent” and “commence.”