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Bizarro, 8/6/23

Josh’s dogged (foxxéd?) seventeen-year investigation into the post-animalpocalypse world of Slylock Fox has given us deep insights into the cruel, authoritarian, and relentlessly petty society that replaced human civilization. It’s like a worldwide Home Owners’ Association using a gestapo and tactical nukes to enforce garage setbacks and paint codes.

But what of the Before Times? Alas, we have only fragments, no doubt because the social and technological structures that maintain a historical record were destroyed in humanity’s collapse. We know that Count Weirdly struggled to replace mankind with terrifying genetically-engineered animal-folk who were somehow not pluggers, and that his first attempts went horribly wrong.

Now we see the fruits of Weirdly’s second try: The Age of Cats. This fully realized urban civilization sprang Covid‑like from the Count’s lab and swept across the earth. The Age ended suddenly when the cats invented the Internet and were instantly absorbed into it. Sort of like the Maya, but in the cloud, with adorable memes.

Sally Forth, 8/6/23

Who’s up for a Sally Forth recap? You are? Okay!

The Forths head off for a fun-in-the-sun vacation and rent their house to the Park family for the duration when strange things happen. Young Emma Park joins and tries to boss around Hil’s band, develops a werewolf obsession, starts showing up in Hil’s friends Faye and Nona’s Apartment 3-G‑style flash-forwards, and gets all chummy with Hil’s boyfriend Duncan. Dad Dae Park starts freaking out at the sound of the ice cream truck and launches a campaign to grill the perfect summer burger. Mom Joon Park dives into Sally’s Starlee and the Moonbeams reruns and finds them “glorious.”

Faye and Nona deduce that the house is turning the Parks into the Forths, and likely releasing its hold on the Forths themselves as well. They negotiate with the evil spirit of a doll that’s also haunting the house (yes this is a double haunting, stay with me here) to blackmail the Parks—who by now are so Forthy they believe they have always lived there—into leaving.

Meanwhile the vacationing Forths, released from all agency, responsibility, and idiosyncrasy, are having the time of their lives lolling around a tropical paradise like normal people until the moment the Parks walk out their door back home. The house, Sauron-like, instantly locates and locks on to them, and here we are.

But hey. I understand Sally’s panic at returning to her pinched, neurotic life. I mean who would want to live for even a minute in that lady’s head, amirite? The puzzle is Ted: as the house slips its evil tendrils back into his consciousness, he should be manically nattering “Let’s play Tenet Monopoly” or announcer-voicing “It’s time for the Star Wars Christmas Special.” But instead he deadpans his home maintenance to-do list, as though he and the house have somehow fallen symbiotically into cahoots. What, I wonder, will Ted demand from his house-accomplice in exchange for that sweet coat of fresh blacktop?

Watch out, Sally.

The Phantom, 8/6/23

Josh may want to wrap up the current Phantom Multiverse of Mozz storyline, but I remain all in. Especially since the Sunday strip has become a sort of sidequel to the dailies, and double especially because it features Patrolwoman Hawa Aguda, my #1 non-Savarna Phantom crush object.

But first, my sincere compliments to author Tony DePaul for revisiting the Mina Braun story the past few months of Sundays. Mina is a talented and pretty “scholar/adventurer” who fell in love with the Phantom after a bout of traumatic scholar-adventuring way back in 2005. To erase her trauma and untangle his relationships, the Phantom had Guran dose her with Bandar amnesia powder—the same thing he did to spunky reporter Lara Bell in 2014 to protect the secrets of the Phantom Cave.

In this year’s Sunday strips, we see Mina again, outside the Domain of the Almost Humans (who are somehow not pluggers), and learn that Guran’s dose fucked up her life. Tormented by dreams and half-memories, thought a madwoman, and with her career in ruins, she found her way back to rediscover her past and resume her scientific work alone. Mrs. Phantom Diana Palmer speaks for readers in calling Mina’s treatment—at her husband’s command—”inhumane.” Gracefully done, Mr. DePaul.

In today‘s strip, ex-amnesiac John X (the Phantom) returns to Jungle Patrol HQ after the events at Gravelines Prison covered in the daily strip. But Hawa’s congratulations seem off: it was the Phantom, not John X, who liberated Gravelines. Somebody is having trouble keeping his aliases straight. (“Um, lessee—Walker: sunglasses, fedora, no beard; John X: sunglasses, ball cap, beard; Unknown Commander: secret mailbox, spooky handwriting …”).

Gosh, that’s a long one. Back to wisecracks and cheap shots tomorrow, I promise!

—Uncle Lumpy