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What could be more obvious, more crank-turningly predictable than pre-Labor Day back-to-school themes? Nothing, that’s what! So let’s get started!

Dennis the Menace, 08/31/07

Here’s an archetypical back-to-school strip: cozy old theme, a little wordplay, easy on the menace, bang, out of the studio and beat the bridge traffic to the shore. Oh, and Alice Mitchell looks hot in that old-school put-together way. Knows it, too. Mmmm. But I digress.

Curtis, 08/31/07

Nobody turns the crank like Ray Billingsley — it’s like he’s the one working a desk at the DMV. Michelle spurned Curtis? Check! Here comes “Mom won’t buy what I want” as night follows day. Cue Magical Gunk! Barry, wet up that bed! On in five, “Onion”! Greg, smoke ’em if you got ’em! How Billingsley must pray for Kwanzaa, when the mushrooms ripen at last and his mind can soar free.

Crankshaft, 08/31/07

Tom Batiuk once had no peer at whimsy — the hall-monitor machine gun, soliloquies atop the gym rope, band gales. All swept from the cancerscape of FW of course, and alive in Crankshaft only as this ham-handed pretext ginned up to showcase Ed’s relentless petty spite.

Sally Forth, 08/31/05 and 08/28/07

Hey, look — Hilary’s going into the sixth grade. Stretchin’ right out, too — King Features might want to rethink that “precocious 10-year-old” business. And I’m pretty sure that’s her Dad’s manic glint in the second strip. Poor Sally.

— Uncle Lumpy