Post Content

Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, 1/4/11

Some of my comics obsessions — like Margo Magee’s smoldering, angry sexuality, for instance, or Mark Trail’s cheerful, violent autism — are amusing. (I assume you agree because you are after all reading this site.) However, I’m the first to admit that some of my other obsessions are just weird and sad. For instance, I’m kind of fixated on how the economy of Hootin’ Holler, the setting for Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, operates. We see very little by way of economically productive activity; the women engage in some subsistence agriculture, while the men mostly laze about and occasionally steal things. Yet the characters are shown to be at least dimly aware of money as a medium of exchange, and have some access to manufactured goods. How exactly do the inhabitants gain access to this money? Do they export things? If so, what? Chickens? Moonshine? Labor? Do the more industrious Hootin’ Hollerians head down to the flatlands to work in mines or factories for a pittance, saving money by living together in dilapidated shacks and sending cash back home to keep women and layabouts alive?

Today’s strip is particularly interesting from this perspective, as we are shown an intriguing phenomenon that can happen at the fringes of a developed economy. Loweezy is planning on engaging in barter to gain access to medical services, as is traditional in her community; however, instead of trading livestock she raised herself, she uses processed foodstuff that comes from outside the zone of local production, foodstuff that can only be produced by cultures with a much higher level of economic activity than Hootin’ Holler itself can sustain. This demonstrates that a strictly linear model of economic development rarely applies in reality, as not even the poorest and least developed communities exist in total isolation from the outside world.

That having been said, I think we can all agree that this comic would have been better if Loweezy had been offering the doctor butchered pig parts, possibly still dripping gore, especially if the medico’s grin and “gimmie gimmie” gesture remained in place.

Shoe, 1/4/11

Another thing I spend too much time thinking about is the configuration of characters required to set up the jokes in Shoe. I’m assuming that the strip began with the joke, and then two characters were sought out who might plausibly offer each half of it — notorious vice addict Shoe and naive child Skyler, in this case, never mind that generally the two of them have no real reason to interact within the strip. Is Skyler doing a report for school on comparative mammalian locomotion? Does Treetops lack a public library, forcing him to head down to the local newspaper, the one source of knowledge in the town? Don’t these birds have access to the Internet? If not, the Treetops Tattler’s decision to acquire the domain was extremely ill-conceived.

Herb and Jamaal, 1/4/11

Yes, there’s very little more embarrassing than your mother seeing you naked, and then dragging out the photo albums to show your best friend all the naked pictures of you she still has on hand.

Apartment 3-G, 1/4/11

I’m less surprised that Margo is watching the ball drop alone than I am surprised that she’s watching it on January 4. I guess she recorded it on the TiVo that she’s got hooked up to her 13-inch black-and-white TV.

Curtis, 1/4/11

Not satisfied with ruining Kwanzaa with a depressing tale about unemployment, Curtis has upped its game: our saintly hero asked a magic mouse for world peace, and the mouse responded by wiping out all human life. Ironic genocide is, of course, the best kind of genocide.