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Judge Parker and Rex Morgan, M.D., 12/13/17

It’s been just over a year since Woody Wilson handed over writing duties on Rex Morgan, M.D., and Judge Parker to his designated successors (Terry Beatty and Ces Marciuliano, respectively). The two strips weren’t identical before, but they had very similar vibes, and it’s been fascinating to watch them diverge. Like, remember that episode of the original Star Trek where Captain Kirk was split into a “good” but indecisive and ineffective half and an “evil” violent and audacious half? Something like that seems to be what’s happened to these two strips, and today’s dramas make for a good example. On the one hand, you have Judge Parker’s title character, a respected jurist and pillar of the community, being railroaded into helping break his assassin daughter-in-law out of prison and then flee into the murky underworld and leave his respectable life behind forever; on the other, you have some old people being just a little too nosy.

Mark Trail, 12/13/17

Oh, hey, we never did wrap up the story of Mark Trail and the bank robbers, did we? Sheriff What’s-His-Name has a bunch of paperwork to do, presumably after the bank robbers were shot “trying to escape,” and I now sincerely hope we get a solid three to six weeks of prairie dog counting. Tomorrow’s action: “One … two … three…”

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Pluggers, 12/12/17

Fine, I’ll admit it, I’m not ashamed: I learned something from Pluggers today, because I didn’t just stare at it uncomprehendingly in dull horror and say “what gibbering madness is this?” before moving on to Piranha Club. In fact, I discovered that, according to this retrospective 2016 article in the Michgan-based Jackson News, beard-growing contests for the Bicentennial were a thing, confirmed by this 1996 post on the usenet group where someone in Alabama remembers similar informal beard-growing competitions. Side note: isn’t it crazy that that 1996 post is closer in time to the Bicentennial than it is to today, but I can’t remember 1976 because I was a toddler and it was decades ago but I remember 1996 very well because I was an adult and it was very recent? Funny how this world works! Ha ha! Anyway, my point is that yes, “Bicentennial beards” were a real thing, with millions of American growing huge beards to honor our founding fathers, who were, to a man, clean-shaven. The ’70s were wild, guys.

Mary Worth, 12/12/17

It seems Wilbur called Iris at breakfast time to try to make dinner plans with her, which I guess explains the robe, and somehow I find it extremely hilarious that Zak is over there enjoying some delicious, healthy All Bran to start his day after an evening of vigorous and mutually enjoyable sex stuff. Not sure if he’s thinking “Dag, this is what happens when you sleep over at an older lady’s house, she doesn’t have any Cocoa Pebbles or anything,” or if it’s more “You know what, I’m a successful businessman now, I’ve cut my formerly flowing locks, so maybe it really is time for me to start pooping on a regular schedule.”

Gil Thorp, 12/12/17

Oh, uh, this Gil Thorp storyline is still happening, huh? Well, just to catch you up, Uncle Gary really wants to Rick Soto to have a concussion, so that Rick will be forced to quit football forever and dedicate himself full-time to becoming a YouTube singing sensation. Unfortunately for this not-at-all insane scheme, multiple doctors have now insisted that Rick hasn’t been concussed even a little! Still, I have a feeling this isn’t the end of it: the skull we catch a glimpse of in the background of panel three is definitely of some kind of early hominin, possibly Homo erectus or an Australopithecine, meaning that this doctor is used to dealing with specimens with much more robust crania than our poor Rick and her advice is suspect.

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Spider-Man, 12/11/17

Oh, hey, remember how MJ was on the verge of being falling victim to the various reptiles that live in the Everglades? The normal ones, not people turned into lizards because they’re trying to grow their arms back or whatever. Anyway, she’s been rescued by … this rugged khaki-clad outdoorsman! Once again my extreme disinterest in Marvel comics leaves me blissfully unaware of who this guy is, which makes it fun for me to speculate. Is he a new character created for this Newspaper Spider-Man storyline? Or is he one of Marvel’s deep bench of third-tier superheroes and/or villains, with a name like … Swamp Fellow, or Reptile Fighter, or the Vigilante Park Ranger, or Our Lawyers Assure Us He Doesn’t Infringe Upon Steve Irwin’s Life Rights Man? Whatever the case, he’s sure to get his own Marvel Cinematic Universe movie or at least a Netflix series by 2021!

Slylock Fox, 12/11/17

“…and you, Shady, are using latex paint!” Slylock proclaimed. “Anyone who knows basic chemistry would know you were the culprit! I arrest you in the name of forest environmental law!” The detective was so busy feeling smug that he barely noticed the frog collapse quietly in the the grass, the rubber paint having thoroughly coated his permeable, breathing skin.

Six Chix, 12/11/17

I have to give a shout-out to Six Chix for simultaneously and largely successfully going two different directions with this joke: imagining the “rat race” in terms of adorable rats with tiny medals and little tank tops, and painting us a picture of a surging, seething mass of rodents, just a nightmarish rat flood that cannot be stopped or escaped.