Shoe and Get Fuzzy, 7/22/07
If you are a subscriber to the Baltimore Sun, you saw this precise constellation of quasipolitical comics when you opened your paper this morning. Both seem to be aimed at the same problem: making a relatively gentle joke about politics that isn’t actually political, and doesn’t result in dozens of angry letters to the editor. And, while usually I go on about just about everything at great length, the most important thing I can say here is that Get Fuzzy is funny, while Shoe isn’t. Shoe falls into the typical toothless trap of just saying “THE POLITICS AREN’T THEY ANNOYING?”, literally allowing the discussion to be replaced by meaningless placeholder syllables. Get Fuzzy works with established character traits — Bucky and Satchel’s party affiliations have been frequently noted, whereas I don’t believe Shoe and the Perfesser had political beliefs until they became necessary for this cartoon. Plus Get Fuzzy contains actual political jokes that are funny. I love the third-party punchline, but I love “Well, with the proper funding…” even more.
Rex Morgan, M.D., 7/22/07
“I can assure you, I am not without qualities! I have a certain height, for instance, as well as a certain breadth and depth! I occupy volume in space! I have a certain skin color, and wear clothing, and inhale air and breathe out carbon dioxide! I have quantities, too, if you’d care to hear about them!”
With his constant wavering between unbearable upper-class superciliousness and desperate, raw emotional need, I’m frankly shocked that Hugh has somehow managed to remain a bachelor to this point.
Marvin celebrated its 25th anniversary this past week with a series of painfully unfunny jokes about life in that long-lost age known as “1982.” (Dallas was on TV! Ronald Reagan was president! HA HA! STOP, YOU’RE KILLING ME!) Today, Marvin the baby appears on the set of the Tonight Show to exchange painfully unfunny jokes with Jay Leno. The fact that Jay Leno is, in fact, painfully unfunny in real life does lead one to wonder whether the lameness on display here is meant to be a brutally realistic exploration of what it would be like if a cartoon infant were on the Tonight Show. Frankly, I wish that they had carried on with the “life in 1982” conceit and done the interview with Johnny Carson, though presumably even after his death he has too much dignity to appear in Marvin.
Extremely creepy to me is the way that Jay Leno keeps his mouth shut throughout his unfunny dialog. The fact that Marvin keeps his own mouth shut and communicates with Jay (and, presumably, the viewers at home) telepathically via thought balloons for whatever reason doesn’t faze me at all, but seeing that lantern jaw firmly shut while the usual inane patter floats next to his head in a word balloon unsettles me a great deal. I do like the fact that Marvin’s bottle has been placed completely out of reach of his stubby arms, though.
Mary Worth, 7/22/07
I can totally understand why Dawn was so nervous to offer this revelation up to Drew. After all, it’s totally possible that the good doctor was only on going on this date with her so that he could synchronize his retrochronometer onto her current form and then go back in time five years to date her past her self — wouldn’t it be disappointing if he had gone through all that trouble only to return to the present in disgust? Thank God he’s only interested in dating the beautiful swan Dawn of the here and now. Look at the lovely visage in the final panel — the octogonal face, the bright orange roots. You can see why he wants to “get into the saddle” right away!
Slylock Fox, 7/22/07
OH COME ON, SLYLOCK! We’ve moved from ludicrous acts of deduction to petty attempts to come up with ways that that Cassandra might be committing crimes despite the absence of any evidence. “Do they both have ticket stubs? They might have just torn a single ticket in half! Did they pay for those tickets with cash? They might have stolen that cash from a bank, or an old lady, or an orphanage!” I think we all know why Slylock is harassing this poor woman while she’s trying to enjoy an innocent evening out at the movies with her bovine companion. I can’t wait for the inevitable strip where Slylock uses his infallible crime-fighting skills to avoid the process server with the restraining order.
Purge on Wednesday, binge on Thursday, and now the inevitable aftermath.
I dislike political comics. Political messages throw characters, relationships, situations, and art — everything that makes good comics good — into the background. Entertainment suffers: even when you agree with their message, the biggest payoff you’re likely to get from a political strip is a smug chuckle at the expense of some imagined adversary. Thin gruel, by my lights.
When somebody raises a stink about their politics, the authors respond with self-promoting claptrap about freedom of speech, speaking truth to power, taking hard stands, making a difference, and other noble causes they have little talent to advance. Most of the time, they aren’t striking a damn blow for any damn thing – just wasting their talent on comics that read like speeches and billboards, and pretty soon start looking like them, too.
So here we go:
Day by Day, 2/1/07
This Web comic trying to make it to print chronicles four co-workers who have paired off and make ever more turgid speeches in ever more revealing poses. Typically, the heavy lifting happens in panel two, as some poor character has to wrench a labored setup into context for the “payoff.” This one makes no sense (Marie Antoinette was surely indulged and confused, but I don’t think she said the peasants were). I love how the cute redhead has to crouch to make room for the yak, yak, yak, . . . . Talk about forgetting your raison d’Ãªtre, pal!
Doonesbury does characters, even public characters, better than anybody – check out that porcine fop Trump in panel 4. But his presidents are always ciphers – helmets, doughnuts, asterisks, and above all, speech bubbles rising out of buildings. I guess it avoids the tiresome task of humanizing them, and leaves more room for the yak, yak, yak. . . . Trudeau is is a genius at building characters like B.D. and Mark Slackmeyer across decades, but his political strips are just lazy.
Mallard Fillmore, 2/1/07
So here’s a picture of somebody writing a letter. About a radio show. And there’s a footnote – with a URL! Why not just put up a sign that says, “I got nothin’ – go someplace else”? I think papers carry this strip for “balance”, i.e., to shut up the Doonesbury critics so they can keep it on the comics page. A nice little irony for Mallard‘s author.
Get Fuzzy, 1/26/07
This is my favorite comic strip in the paper – consistently creative, character-driven comedy, great expressive artwork, and enough play at the borders of the medium to keep it interesting even in a slow week. But not last week. Last week, we got one of the best characters in comics – the peer of B.D., Ted Forth, or Snoopy – hiding behind a poster. Q.E. f’n D.
Are any political strips entertaining? I’d say Al Capp‘s takedown of Joe McCarthy in the ’50’s, and Aaron McGruder’s “Flagee and Ribbon” series after 9/11. I’m sure there have been others. But most of the time, entertainment isn’t the point, and certainly isn’t the result. Whether or not you agree with the politics, most political strips fail as comics.
Heart of the City and Get Fuzzy, 11/6/06
There’s been a bit of back-and-forth in the comments today about the latest Mallard Fillmore, and exactly who and who not is being urged not to vote by America’s
favorite only talking Republican journalist duck. While things have remained civil enough to avoid banishment to the Cockpit (and let’s keep it that way, shall we?), I’m surprised nobody mentioned these two strips, in which children and animals are urged to vote. I think that Satchel might be Canadian, even. The fact that he’s a Green supporter should probably come as surprise to no-one.
Beetle Bailey, 11/6/06
Meanwhile, Beetle Bailey is just totally insane and such. I’m going back and forth on whether this is a genuine hallucinogenic product of a deranged mind or an attempt at forced whimsy that has resulted from all the elevated prose extolling Duck Amuck. On the one hand, the little cutsie waterfowl outfits (look, a little girl! a cowboy! a millionaire!) are a bit too precious and calculated; but the phrase “invaded my dream” creeps me out, and the weird circle-with-a-line beaks of the father/son ducks in panel one and richie rich duck in panel two are just not right at all, and are in themselves fertile nightmare fuel.
Slylock Fox, 11/6/06
Also today, the little Goat kids (see what I just did there?) are being made accustomed to the nightmarish police state that awaits them as adults. “Say, someone ate the cookies? Let’s call in CSI: Genus Vulpes and subject you three to a full-on interrogation until someone confesses!”
At least Slylock uses the power of deductive reasoning to determine the culprits, rather than just going at them with a rubber hose right off the bat. I love the look on the face of bowler-wearing-sidekick-mouse-whose-name-I-forget. He has no real crime-fighting abilities or interest; he’s just happy to be there, drinking coffee out of a mug the size of his head.
Mark Trail, 11/6/06
I’m beginning to think that Molly, the pet bear, isn’t particularly bright.
Hey, everybody! Kelly Welly and Ranger Rick have suddenly re-entered this story after — what is it, three months now? What do you suppose they’ve been up to? Never mind, I think we all know what they’ve been doing.
Mary Worth, 11/6/06
Look at the way Mary grits her teeth in that last panel. I have a feeling that Ella’s casserole is going to be made up mostly of broken glass, fiberglass insulation, and bleach.