As part of my program of occasionally saying something unmitigatedly nice, I’ll say that I really like this technique that Baldo does occasionally, where normally cartoonish characters suddenly become lifelike, if romantically idealized. For reference for those of you who don’t read the strip, this is what Tia Carmen usually looks like:
Since Baldo is about a Latino family, it’s tempting to call these installments comic-page telenovellas, but their real antecedents are soap strips like Mary Worth or Rex Morgan, I think. I like them because I think they represent the idealized way the characters see themselves, rather than the cartoonish way in which we usually look at them.
Hmm! Say there, Ziggy seems to be saying something to the mice about something that we, the audience, can’t see! Doesn’t this seem a bit familiar? Let’s turn the wayback machine to November 15, 2006:
At the time, I said this:
You know what would have made this cartoon marginally funnier? If we could actually see the mice making off with Ziggy’s cell phone. Or see the antenna sticking out of the mousehole. Or see Ziggy holding an empty cell-phone holder. Or really see anything that would indicate that this wasn’t one of hundreds of photocopies of a single pre-drawn “Ziggy talks to the mice” panel, all awaiting only the addition of “hilarious” dialogue and published at reasonable intervals so as not to be glaringly obvious.
(Note for libel purposes: I’m not saying that Ziggy actually uses photocopied panels instead of coming up with a new one every day. I’m just saying that it would save a lot of work if it did.)
Well, it sadly looks like I was right. Despite the fact that today’s Ziggy could have just used the November panel with different dialogue, it seems that the artist has gone through all the trouble of making an entirely new drawing for what’s essentially the same mice-using-wireless-communications-technology joke. To his credit, he managed to make it even less interesting visually this time around.
A couple of weeks ago, I proposed that Spider-Man getting hit in the head with a brick would cause amnesia and mistaken-wife-identity hijinks. It was a moronic idea for a storyline, I thought, but hey, this is Spider-Man. Of course, I failed to account for the fact that the Spider-Man strip will do whatever it takes to prevent you from deriving enjoyment of any kind from it. Today, it becomes obvious that Spidey getting bonked in the head and stumbling about woozily for the better part of a week wasn’t meant to set up any ludicrous narrative shenanigans; in fact, it actually served absolutely no narrative purpose at all. As I should have known since this enraging sequence a couple years back, this strip exists entirely as some elaborate bit of storytelling gamesmanship, in which all reader expectations of excitement or at least a vague sense of involvement are continually and gleefully thwarted.
What I love best about today’s Pluggers is how damn smug Grandpa McCheapskate looks. “Yeah, I’m trying to teach you the value of a dollar … specifically, that it’s four times greater than the value of a quarter. Now go get a job, you little ingrate.”