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Mark Trail’s Hard Choices Wilderness Academy

Mark Trail, 10/5/09

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Mark Trail’s clan is part of a network of isolated, hard-working, rural-cabin-based families who don’t get many visitors. Our reluctant poachers actually have more than a passing similarity to his old friends who own Sneaky, except instead of harboring sinister raccoons they just have a cat — a heavily sedated or dead cat, if the limp, compliant way it’s just letting Cindy tote it about is any indication. Anyway, one wonders how they all stay in touch. They could swap rustic livin’ tips on the Internet, or at least they could if any of their rustic shacks were actually connected to municipal electric or phone lines.

There’s something distinctly unsettling about Mark’s quick transition from “Rusty has been complaining about my cooking” to “You’re a beautiful young lady, Cindy!” The best case scenario is that Mark is going to set her to rustling up some grub for his young ward, both as a way to get her accustomed to her womanly duties and to see if she’d make a suitable mate for the lad once they both reach the traditional Lost Forest marital age of 13. But more likely, part of the purpose of this camping trip is to teach Rusty that sometimes when you’re very hungry, you need to eat things that you wouldn’t eat otherwise, and Nature’s Way is to start with the smallest and most feeble. (You’ll notice that we haven’t seen Sassy in a while.)

Dennis the Menace, 10/5/09

Today’s Dennis the Menace offers an amusing set of metaphorical nesting Russian dolls when it comes to absolute and relative chronology. Henry Mitchell is the father of a child who, I’ve always assumed, is in the 6-8-year-old range; obviously there’s an extremely wide range of ages that Henry himself could be based on that, but if pressed, I would place him somewhere between 35 and 45, and probably at the lower end of that scale. So, yes, he’s safely in the generation that spawned the whole “cartoons for grownups” phenomenon, which really took off with the monster success of the Simpsons twenty years ago. Which in turn of course means that Dennis could not possibly remember a time when cartoons were, in fact, for kids.

And yet, Henry goes about his day wearing black pants and a white shirt and a bow tie most of the time, which marks him out as a Stereotypical ’50s Dad, which has him being born in, I dunno, 1920 or so. This makes him about 90 years old, or means that he’s watching the 1955 version of Aqua Teen Hunger Force or Family Guy or whatever (and note that one of the cartoon characters is himself sporting Henry’s trademark outfit) on the DuMont Network.

Apartment 3-G, 10/5/09

Make fun of Dr. P (side note: my new nickname for the Professor is “Dr. P”) all you want, but before I met my wonderful and charming wife, I had a certain attraction to women who were mean, bad, and/or crazy (see also my devotion to Margo Magee), so I can sort of see where he’s coming from here. Pill-addled? Possibly suicidal? Hinting at a troubled, mysterious past? Shouting into the phone at someone who is probably supposed to be bringing her more drugs? Sign me up!

Pluggers, 10/5/09

You know, this cartoon would be a lot less confusing if the sarcastic postal clerk weren’t himself capable of flight. “Sorry, we don’t deliver via carrier pigeon anymore. I mean, I’m a carrier pigeon myself, but … you know, union rules. Now they’ve got me behind this desk, and let me tell you, it’s a drag.”

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