You might think that the familiarity that comes with reading and criticizing the comics section every day for years would breed a certain amount of contempt for the medium and its perpetrators. But I’ve actually gained respect, or at least sympathy, for cartoonists in the process of writing this blog. For one thing, I’ve learned how hard it can be to come up with something funny to say every day, and realized that sometimes you have to write something only semi-coherent, tell yourself that they can’t all be winners, and then move on. And, once you’ve assembled a body of work over several years and know that you have a long-term audience, you’re faced with the dilemma of writing something that stands on its own or going back to that in-joke well.
Take today’s B.C., for instance. That’s Wiley in the hat, manager of the strip’s ever-hapless baseball team. And there are his players, visible only from the neck up; at some point in the mists of the strip’s history, there was a gag in which the baseball diamond’s dugout was depicted as a literal hole literally dug out of the ground, which has now stuck.
So, if you’re a long-term reader of the strip, all these visual cues would make some sort of sense (but not really all that much). But let’s assume, for a moment, that there are people who, right now, are picking up the newspaper or loading their Web browser, and reading B.C. for the very first time. Would there be a single thing in this cartoon that they could grasp, at all? Would you look at Wiley and understand his outfit as a baseball manager’s and not, say, a train engineer’s? Would you look at the hatless, baseball-equipment-less players standing in an open trench and think, “Oh, yes, these are baseball players, in a dugout, ha ha?” Wouldn’t it all just be madness to you, a sea of symbols without an organizational system?
The answer to that last one seems to me to be an obvious yes! But, on the other hand, the “Wiley is a baseball manager and his team’s dugout is a hole in the ground” tropes long predate my first reading of the strip, and yet here I am patiently explaining them to you, so somehow I’ve managed to pick up on them. And I’ve never even particularly liked B.C.! The determination of the human mind — or at least my mind — to make sense of larger narratives is impressive, I suppose. But I do wonder, now that people are more likely to find their comics on the atomized Web rather than on collected on a newspaper page, if people will have the same patience with strips they don’t get right away.
And with that said, here are a couple of comics and commentaries thereupon that probably won’t make any sense if you aren’t a regular reader of this blog!
Gil Thorp, 4/5/10
So, our basketball-season stories have wrapped up with surprising grimness: the girls’ team is defeated in the playdowns, Cassie ditches her erstwhile fiance and is ditched by her friends in turn, and Steve Luhm gets punched in the face and is still a janitor. I imagine that we haven’t seen the last of at least some of these clowns, but now we’re launching into our exciting baseball-season stories, which will involve baseball in the sense that the sport is mentioned in the first panel before we move on to whatever sort of sleazy underground S&M den Kelly is trying to forcibly drag Coach Kaz into. “The Pit” doesn’t sound that hot to me, honestly, but since most of their romantic encounters take place at Kaz’s sex dojo, her standards are probably pretty low.
Apartment 3-G, 4/5/10
We’re pretty much all in awe of Margo’s quotin’ and naked ringless fingers, but I’m not sure if they’re really the match for an actual loaded pistol that she seems to believe they are. Still, I wouldn’t mess with her, armed or no!