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Gasoline Alley, 9/9/04

Take a look at Gertie, Uncle Walt’s soon-to-be nurse, in the first panel of this strip. Then look at Rover and his parents in the third. They’re all pictured at more or less the same angle, and more or less the same distance from the “camera,” but to me they look quite different: Gertie looks like a drawing of an actual person — maybe even of an actual, specific person — while Rover and company look like cartoon characters.

You know you’re in deep, comics-wise, when you spend a good piece of your day trying to eyeball this. I think it’s mostly Gertie’s eyes, which look like real human eyes, while the men in the third panel have little pupil-dots, and mom has the perfectly-round-eye syndrome that has beset Caucasian cartoon characters for generations. Gertie’s nose is also fairly normal looking, while everyone else’s has a cartoon sketchiness. Rover’s dad (OK, I’m just about out of circumlocutions that will allow me to avoid admitting that I have no idea what these people’s names are) even has the classic pig-nose that also doesn’t occur outside of the comics page (Luann’s Brad also has one of these). Gertie’s hair, too, almost looks like it’s being drawn based on a photograph.

So, here’s the puzzle: Who is Gertie? Why is she being dropped into the cartoon world of Gasoline Alley? Is the artist honoring an old friend — or is it something more sinister?

Actually, I can’t really imagine what sinister purpose there could be behind it. It’s probably just a nice gesture or something.

No doubt quite a few of you don’t really care about this issue at all and have just spent the last few minutes saying “Holy crap, I can’t believe Gasoline Alley still exists!” Well, it sure does, buster, it sure does. In fact, it not only ages its characters in real time, but it also on occasion features some of the best dialectical dialogue this side of Barney Google and Snuffy Smith.