Dennis the Menace and Gasoline Alley, 12/18/23
Christmas is just a week away, and that means our beloved (?) legacy comic strip characters are starting to interact with, or perhaps perform as, mall Santas. How’s that going? Well, Dennis is showing that the real menace is the slow process by which enchantment seeps out of the world; he sits a good distance away from Santa, presumably for liability reasons, and instead of opening up about what he most wants as a gift, he’s interrogating him about how his mythical powers fit into the regulatory framework of the modern state. But Gasoline Alley for all its faults still understands the chaos that’s necessary to make magic seem real. Rufus will say “Ho ho ho” if he wants to! No rules constrain these elves, and that’s why small children believe they can deliver livestock to neighborhoods that are very much not zoned for it.
One of the dilemmas to be contemplated in a world like Crock, where sapient animals coexist with people, is whether we’re dealing with a spectrum of intelligence, and if so how that maps on to the spectrum we already know about for human beings. Is a child human, by virtue of his humanity, smarter than an adult animal? Would a person of any level of intelligence of learning know more about a camel’s biology than a camel himself? These are fun things to think about when you’re trying very hard not to imagine a camel’s hump bursting like a giant pimple, sending a rush of pus and blood flowing over his haunches onto the sand below.