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Momma, 7/7/09

Oh, let’s review the biography and career of Nero’s momma, shall we? Agrippina the Younger was born into Rome’s first imperial dynasty, the Julio-Claudians. She was married off to an aristocrat at the age of 13, and gave birth to her only child at 22. After her brother Caligula became emperor, rumors were that he was sleeping with all three of his sisters and offering them up to his friends at orgiastic dinner parties. Later in his reign, Agrippina and her sister Livilla conspired with their cousin Lepidus (who was sleeping with both of them) to assassinate Caligula; the plot failed, and the sisters were stripped of their fortune and exiled to a small Mediterranean island, where they had to learn to dive for sponges for a living. When Caligula was successfully assassinated, they were recalled to Rome, and Agrippina eventually seduced the new Emperor Claudius (who was also her uncle) and became empress; the emperor adopted her son Nero. Claudius eventually died — poisoned by his young wife, it was rumored — and 17-year-old Nero became emperor. Mother and son quickly became embroiled in a power struggle, as Agrippina had apparently thought she would be running the empire; she tried various tactics for keeping him under her thumb (including, it was rumored, sleeping with him), until he finally decided to kill her. He arranged for her to take a sea voyage on a booby-trapped boat, which sunk, but Agrippina’s swimming talents allowed her to swim safely to shore, so Nero just sent assassins to stab her to death. Later, he viewed her corpse and remarked on how beautiful she was.

Now, much of this — particularly her supposed intimate relations with her son, and the story that she killed Claudius — is thought by modern historians to be propaganda put out by Agrippina’s political enemies. But still, it adds an interesting bit of deep historical background to the strip’s typical Oedipal horrorshow.

Mary Worth, 7/7/09

Wow, there are exactly two instances I can remember when Mary looked this mad, and that’s when she dropped the capisce-bomb on Aldo and when drunken Rita broke her precious swans. Clearly Mr. Smith is going to end up either at the bottom of a gorge in a heap of twisted metal or exiled to the hellscape that is the Downtown Women’s Shelter. But by the way the two adversaries are sizing each other up in panel two, I’m hoping that first there’ll be a no-holds-barred martial arts battle, with lots of Hong Kong-style wire work.

Crankshaft, 7/7/09

Ha ha, Crankshaft is an angry old dick with no customer service skills! Actually, though, he’s subbing for a friend in the ice cream truck for the summer; I think he might find if he checks some of those unmarked boxes in the back, that the truck is in fact funded by pixie dust, or other two-word phrases that end with “dust.”