I’m a little embarrassed by how much information about the world of Shoe I carry around in my head, but it took today’s strip to make me notice a gaping hole in its bird-person society. The denizens of Treetops, East Virginia (that is the name of the town where the bird-people live — one of the many things I am embarrassed to know) are, as we see today, represented by an elected bird-official; their society also features dying print media, a medical system and associated pharmaceutical industry, institutions for disposing of their dead honorably, and sexually deviant auto mechanics. But where do these birds go for spiritual comfort? I can’t think of any appearance of the sort of stereotypical priest-bird-man that one might expect from the strip; the resulting need for divine guidance explains the weird sway that Madame Zoo Doo has over her customers. Look at how desperate the Senator appears for news of his soul’s fate in panel one, and how relieved he is in panel two! Yet the Madame never offers any guidelines for living, never creates the foundation for a system of ethics that might transform her superstitious mummery into a great moral belief system; instead, she merely uses her mystical connection to the “other side” as a source of power and control here on earth (or whatever the hell the freaky bird-planet these creatures live on.)
Mark Trail, 12/3/10
Oh my goodness, the hilarious sitcom-style misunderstanding hijinks are already getting underway, and Mark’s not even out of the shower. Kelly playing idly with the phone cord in panel three is a delight — is in fact so delightful that it almost seems to indicate that the strip is becoming aware of its own ludicrousness, which would of course ruin everything. But Kelly’s weird innocence salvages things. She’s not trying to scheme here; her spoken motivations in panel two are completely honest (and why wouldn’t they be, as they’re spoken aloud to no one in particular?). She really does want to make sure Mark doesn’t miss an important call! She’s helping!
I’m not sure why Marvin and Marvin’s dad (Jeff, Marvin’s dad’s name is Jeff, another thing I’m embarrassed to know) have such looks of numb horror in panel three. Maybe Roy’s misjudged modern mores and “you bet your sweet bippy” is still an incredibly shocking and profane thing to say. “Who is this monster,” thinks Jeff, “and how can I keep my poor son away from him?”
Mary Worth, 12/3/10
Dr. Jeff is usually closely aligned with Mary on Team Destroy Anyone Acting Even Slightly At Variance With Acceptable Norms, so it’s rather touching that he’s showing a little softness towards Jill’s human frailty here. “It happens, Mary! I mean, in my day I occasionally got blotto and lunged at someone inappropriate; if I hadn’t, Adrian wouldn’t be here today! Whoops, I’ve said too much.”
Adrian is taking good care of her boozy friend; based on the look of Jill’s hair, I’m guessing that the bride-to-be dunked her bridesmaid’s hair in a bucket of ice water, to shock the drunk out of her. I’d say that Scott is being awful kind to allow Jill to take his seat at the sweetheart table, but I’ve seen no evidence so far that the future groom even bothered to show up for his own rehearsal dinner.
Rex Morgan, M.D., 12/3/10
Oh, right, Rex Morgan, remember that? As usual, a promisingly hilarious storyline has wrapped up dumbly, with everyone loving Mayor Dalton because they read about his prostate on Pacebook, and with the mayor convincing his rival to drop out of the election by agreeing to give the man’s wife a volunteer job at the museum. Still, I’m amused by today’s strip, in which Dalton decides that unsolicited cheer from a middle-aged mustachioed gentleman is a good opportunity to talk “street.” “Thanks, man! Wait up! That’s how the kids talk on the Pacebook, right?”
Hi and Lois, 12/3/10
Cyclists often set up white-painted ghost bikes as memorials on the spot where someone riding a bicycle was killed by a car, which makes Ditto’s spectral white bicycle extremely creepy to me. Perhaps Lois ran over Ditto months ago on that very spot; driven mad with grief, she can’t remember that her youngest son is dead, and every evening she comes home from work, expecting him to come out and move the bike-memorial out of the way. Dot can no longer bring herself to shatter her mother anew every day, and now just feeds her comforting lies. “Ditto’s, um, not here right now, but he wants a new bike, mom! I’m sure you’re going to give him one, real soon, and he’ll be so happy!”