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Marital non-mirth

The Lockhorns, 1/7/10

Today’s Lockhorns is particularly rich in the delightful seething contempt that keeps me coming back day after day. As if the naked animosity on the principals’ faces weren’t enough to bring joy to fans of marital misanthropy everywhere, we also have the fork jabbed into Leroy’s pile of undifferentiated food-like matter to amuse us. While it’s easy to imagine Leroy leaving it there sticking upwards to serve as a sort of visual confirmation of his complaints about the meal’s unappetizing physical qualities, the angle of the utensil, with its handle pointing away from him, implies that it was actually Loretta who put it there. Perhaps she initially appeared to thrust the fork at Leroy’s doughy torso, before changing her angle of attack at the last minute and leaving it in the home-cooked meal her husband is unable to appreciate! I also note that the configuration of the Lockhorns’ dining area seems to have changed, with Loretta’s seat being replaced by a portal to some kind of ecru nothingness, into which she can stalk when inevitably provoked.

Curtis, 1/7/10

I was about to rag on this year’s Curtis Kwanzaa storyline for its less-than-lunatic plotting and all-too-zen ending when I got to today’s final panel and found out that the whole thing was actually a touching tribute to a late friend of cartoonist Ray Billingsley. So, uh, thanks a lot, Mr. Billingsley, for making me feel even more like a petty jerk than I usually do. You’ve left me with nothing to do except point out that panel two’s depiction of an adorable bunny sleeping on the back of a contented hippo is quite charming.

Mark Trail, 1/7/10

Anyway, I certainly hope that nobody involved in the production on Mark Trail is dying inside due to neglect from his or her spouse, because I’m sure as hell going to make fun of that. Today’s exchange shows that each of the Trails has their role in this terrible dysfunctional marriage down pat, with Mark openly acknowledging that leaving his wife in a desert of emotional emptiness is just what he does!

Like a sonnet, each Mark Trail storyline is built out of a strictly defined series of components, and each story must begin with Cherry being ritually humiliated. First, she herself becomes the unwitting agent of her own loneliness. Why did she even tell Mark about that phone call, when she must have known it would lead to his almost immediate departure? In truth, she had no real choice in the matter, being driven on by her universe’s remorseless narrative logic. Compare her dialogue in that earlier strip to one from several years ago, as acted out by my lovely wife in our production of Mark Trail Theater. Amber read Tuesday’s dialogue out in her best Cherry Trail voice, and the echo was uncanny. Today, Cherry completes her debasement by launching a desperate and doomed sex advance at her husband. In panel three, Mark is closing his eyes and holding absolutely still, in the hope that Cherry will eventually lose interest and go away.

Beetle Bailey, 1/7/10

Meanwhile, Beetle Bailey grows less circumspect by the day, with Beetle no longer willing to pretend that Sarge’s elaborate exercise instructions have any purpose other than to get the young private out of his uniform trousers.

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