9 Chickweed Lane, 8/10/16
Sooner or later, courtship plots need to resolve. That’s no problem if you’re writing a book or play – just get your couple to their Big Moment before the final chapter or curtain. But when your TV serial or comic strip is built on romantic or sexual tension and lasts more than a couple years, you’ve got a problem. Recap Dick and Jane playing footsie for the fortieth time and your audience will start to get restless. But resolve the issue in the customary way and your good thing could end faster than you can say “Season 5 of Northern Exposure.”
After fifteen years of footsie, 9 Chickweed Lane finally got protagonists Edda and Amos in bed – technically “on piano” – during an interminable cello competition in 2008. Since then, the strip has dithered around with minor characters, flashbacks, and fantasy sequences, trying to get what it apparently thinks is its groove back.
The solution on offer is to clone the main characters and do the whole damn thing over. So now we’ve got Piano Amos (shaving in the john there) and Chinese Edda, with exactly the same personalities and hang-ups as the originals, going through the same tired will-they-or-won’t-they scenarios. Genius, really – how many instruments are there to rotate through? How many ethnicities to pair them with? How long before Gamelan Amos melts at the sight of Paiute Edda? Tam-tam Amos grovels before Igbo Edda? Bassoon Amos babbles incoherently when a wisp of Pole Edda’s hair brushes his face? It could go on forever!
And every so often they can sneak in a beaver joke.
Luann’s solution to their Brad and Toni problem is to re-create beloved ’80’s sitcom Three’s Company, with TJ in the Suzanne Somers role and Frank DeGroot as the nosy neighbor. Hijinx ahead!
The Crush — Brad and TJ angrily blame Toni for sending them to a nonexistent party, never dreaming that it is the DeGroots’ teenage houseguest who wants them out of the way so he can have Toni all to himself!
The Love Diary — TJ is hired to type up the diary of a mystery person, which contains several steamy entries. Mr. DeGroot sees the diary and becomes convinced that TJ is enamored of him!
The Bake-Off — Brad accidentally eats the pie that TJ was entering in a statewide baking competition, then tries to substitute a ringer from the bakery!
Since Three’s Company did in fact go on forever – the shame of my generation – there are lots of premium plots like these to choose from. And Brad and Toni can freeze their relationship right where it is, to the relief of everybody.
Pluggers and Family Circus, 8/10/16
Coincidence? I think not!
Click the banner to contribute to the Comics Curmudgeon. Details here.
It’s the Comics Curmudgeon spring fund drive! You can bet we pay close attention to generous readers like you!
Do you ever get the impression comic strip creators aren’t always meticulous about consistency and continuity? I do! Let’s see why:
Remember how elated Jeff was about neighbor Lillian naming her bookstore on Sunday? Well, turns out that was just a short while after his mother Rose suffered an episode of syncope that even today has him moping around the home where he spent his miserable childhood. He takes a break from self-pity to enjoy himself on weekends? Lack of commitment — sad!
Anyway, we’re lucky Ed wasn’t around to say, “I guess it’s syncope or swimcope for Rose now!”
Rex Morgan, M.D., 5/3/16 (panel)
Hey, it’s adorable gifted artist Sarah Morgan and half of her Dad!
Rex Morgan, M.D., 4/30/16 (panel)
And here she is last Saturday — last night in strip time. Does she want to see the damn house or not? Is the strip’s author confused? Is Sarah? Knowing the character, these flip-flops are probably part of whatever con she’s running.
Mary Worth 5/3/16
Hey, it’s beloved secondary character Wilbur Weston, Dawn’s Dad! Check out his uniquely neglectful parenting style: “Dawn, is this older man you’re spending all your time with trying to use his influence and position of authority to take advantage of you in some way? No? Okay, welp, grub’s getting cold GLOM GLORP SMACK.”
Always four hairs, all across the years — somebody’s showing commitment to the project! The intern who draws Crankshaft’s blackheads could take a lesson.
But for a truly neglectful relationship, consider the one between Josh and Luann: he has sworn a terrible oath to ignore the strip entirely, so these periodic updates fall to me. Hey, it’s the job.
Leslie (“It’s Les!”) Knox is a bully because he ignored Knute’s order not to enter a men’s bathroom Crystal was using, moments after Knute himself left it, and despite the fact that guys hanging out while girls pee is totally a thing here. Anyway, Knute attempted to choke Les as he walked in, but Les knocked him down, presumably did his business, and left. Got that? Les is the bully.
In an amazing feat of circumstance, he is also the nephew of Mr. Gray, who is both the taciturn and possibly mobbed-up former Las Vegas club manager who saved Luann’s parents’ nightclub and the lethargic swain of Gunther’s Mom. Small world. So Gray is calling in a favor from Luann’s parents by having them hire Les to work at the in-club restaurant TJ manages.
TJ is probably just checking his calendar there to show us that Les is compounding his bullyhood with tardiness. But I prefer to think the gang took Les to the vet to have him chipped, and that TJ is checking his BullyTrax® app.
– Uncle Lumpy
So ends the Comics Curmudgeon 2015 Spring Fundraiser. Sincere thanks to everybody for your generosity/patience. We now resume our regularly scheduled programming.
Dick Tracy, 4/25/15
Heckuva plan there, Abe. I mean, nobody coulda seen that coming, right? Also, I admire your use of “enlisted” instead of the less delicate “forced at gunpoint.”
Funky Winkerbean, 4/25/15
“Gosh, Cindy, thanks for the offer ‘n’ everything, but as it happens, Mason Jarr the Hollywood Actor and I are already on excellent terms from having collaborated for weeks on the failed movie version of my horrible misery porn book Lisa’s Story about my dead wife, Lisa, who died. You may even recall that I was the one who introduced you to him, during his implausible visit to Westview to research his part in Starbuck Jones, because that’s totally a thing, and nobody can read comic books anywhere but here. Anyway, didn’t Mason (Jarr, the Actor: he lives out west somewhere) specifically say he wanted to bring in a writer from the ‘comic book world’ a few strips back? But don’t worry – Darrin just wandered in for no reason, and his gigantic head is right behind you, hanging on our every word. So I’m sure his Skype-buddy, unemployed comic-book writer Mopey Pete, will hear about the opportunity somehow.”
You can’t just let plots develop — you gotta engineer them.
Luann shows the signs of 30 years of careful risk management — no unsettling “time jumps” here! “But wait!” you may say. “Didn’t the whole crew just graduate head off to various colleges and Peru and whatnot?” Yeahbut! No chances were taken with the franchise — the stories are the same old “romantic” entanglements, and new characters are plug-and-play replacements for worn-out old ones. For example, Luann’s eccentric fop art teacher fills in for whiny tool Mr. Fogarty, and Dez here is the Designated Ethnic Replacement for annoying prig Delta.
Caution is the watchword — even the Tarot (“Witchcraft!”) with its scary “Hanged Man” and “Death” cards gets a remake as a whimsical “Destiny Deck” (um, somehow not witchcraft?).
Anyway, just for the record, Luann’s mom’s name is “Nancy.” I don’t know how “Prudence” got in there.
Gil Thorp, 4/25/15
Despite my role as a small-c curmudgeon, I have great fondness for Gil Thorp‘s seasonal ritual, the Reading of the Roster. This one telegraphs (hell, literally states) that 2015’s Baseball Story will be about pitcher and cleanup hitter Jordy Castillo.
Slugging pitchers are rare in the majors but more common on college and high-school teams. With the Mudlarks, of course, there’s a good chance Gil and Mimi decided the positions and batting order during a drunken session of strip I-Ching.
— Uncle Lumpy