Archive: Barney Google & Snuffy Smith

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Gil Thorp, 7/2/19

Now let’s just hold on a darn minute here! I may not have the photographic recall of soap opera plots that I used to, due to me being old and/or having like 15 years of them to remember at this point, but I am reasonably sure that this Gil Thorp strip gets multiple facts wrong about the backstory of these characters?

  1. Jaquan made what I thought was his first appearance in the strip a couple of years ago, accompanied by Trey Davis, who was a heavily recruited Mudlark college basketball prospect back in 2006. By 2017, he was an “an absurdly high-priced personal coach and trainer” and Jaquan was his client, not a Milford alum, and just tagging along?
  2. Meanwhile, Hadley V. Baxendale definitely hasn’t reappeared in the strip since 2005, which I know because she was one of my favs and I would’ve remembered her return! I got extremely excited about her ex Steve Luhm’s 2009-2010 reappearance, but alas, no Hadley.
  3. The one who helped Jaquan “defect” from the NBA, in the sense that she put the terrible idea of going to grad school in his head, was Heather Burns, who you might remember as the girl who quit the soccer team to very briefly become a third-string tight end and play an extremely few downs back in 2016.

So what’s all this “reconnect” business? I’m genuinely wondering if whoever’s in charge of continuity over at Gil Thorp HQ was like “enh, didn’t Jaquan have a thing with, what’s her face, the feminist,” and then we got this? Because it would make me very sad if I suddenly became more up on Gil Thorp continuity than the actual creators of Gil Thorp. I mean, it doesn’t even look like Gil is paying very much attention to this backstory, to be honest. He’s just slurping down a giant glass of Long Island iced tea and trying to not let his eyes glaze over too much. “All great schools, congratulations!” he blurts out, once he’s been given a list of proper nouns he can recognize.

Mary Worth, 7/2/19

Meanwhile, we’ve had exactly one (1) strip not about Wilbur before coming back to the subject of Wilbur. Don’t forget, in addition to the hacky advice column that he sends Dawn to fob off onto Mary whenever he’s busy, Wilbur also writes “Survivor Stories,” in which he demands that poor people in developing countries perform their trauma for an American audience. You might think it’d be kind of strange for Wilbur to jet off overseas so early in his relationship with Estelle, but I guess even Wilbur realizes that a little bit of Wilbur goes a long way.

Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, 7/2/19

Speaking of forcing poor people to perform their trauma, Snuffy Smith has “ha ha, all these characters live in one of America’s most deprived and forgotten communities” lurking in the background of literally every strip, but it’s rare that this bubbles up to the surface level of a punchline like “ha ha, the Smif house consists of a single room, with living and sleeping spaces only divided by a worn, patched curtain.”

Dustin, 7/2/19

I was about to make some smug joke about “what sort of fascist police state does Dustin live in where chalking a sidewalk is considered a crime” but then I did a little research and it turns out it’s, uh, America? (Although the cops are apparently much more likely to enforce rules against sidewalk chalking when you use sidewalk chalk to protest police brutality, who could’ve guessed!) Anyhoo, I’m pretty torn here, because I’m strongly against pointless overpolicing of public spaces but also I’d definitely like to see Dustin go to jail.

Dennis the Menace, 7/2/19

Dennis, that’s a … dog? That’s clearly a dog. There’s absolutely no circumstances where anyone would mistake that dog for a cat or for [extremely heavy sigh] a Pokemon. This isn’t so much “menacing” as “profoundly concerning.”

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Funky Winkerbean, 6/25/19

I got some feedback on my joke about Sunday’s Funky Winkerbean and was about to write something whiny along the lines of “Ugh, Funky Winkerbean made me learn things,” but honestly? I love learning things, and telling other people about those things! So here we go: the most famous version of the Buster Keaton house-falling gag is from 1928’s Steamboat Bill, Jr., but Keaton had done an earlier version in 1920’s One Week — and, more relevant to this storyline, Fatty Arbuckle, for whom Butter Brinkel is pretty transparently a stand-in, did the original version of it 1919’s Back Stage, which Buster Keaton also appeared in. As the name implies, Back Stage was a comedy that took place behind the scenes of a play, and so the house-falling stunt was much smaller scale and actually involved a small facade used as part of the play’s set dressing, rather than an actual house as in the Steamboat Bill version; the depiction of Brinkel’s stunt (which you can see better in Sunday’s strip) more closely matches what happened in Back Stage.

There’s one big difference, of course: Arbuckle’s Back Stage stunt, like both of Keaton’s, went off safely; but Brinkel is an inhabitant of the Funkyverse, so his version was botched and left him in agony for years afterwards. That’s the special twist on history we’ve come to expect from this feature, folks!

Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, 6/25/19

I sort of assumed I pretty much knew the lay of the land in the small, insular world of Hootin’ Holler, but apparently not? Apparently there’s a high-stakes card game in town that Snuffy has decided he’s ready for? Or maybe Snuffy, unfamiliar with the geography of the flatland world, assumes that “Las Vegas,” a city he’s heard about occasionally from Parson Tuttle’s television, is only a few more hours’ walk past whatever economically imploding mining town of 25,000 people or so is the closest metropolis to Hootin’ Holler. Anyway, we shouldn’t let this speculation distract us from the important point here, which is that Snuffy has gambled away his family’s meager resources and now they’re starving to death.

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Beetle Bailey, 6/22/19

Maybe I’m getting old and my brain is turning to pudding or whatever, but I genuinely enjoyed today’s Beetle Bailey! Mostly I like the contrast between Sarge and Otto’s faces. What exactly went down at this dog show? What did Otto think would go down? The phrase “Sarge took Otto to the dog show” doesn’t make it sound like Otto was formally entered in the competition, but perhaps Otto secretly hoped that he would be spotted in the stands by one of the judges, who would say “Who’s that? Why, it’s a dog in an army uniform! What a good boy! What a very good boy, indeed!” Instead a truly zany series of events occurred that left Otto furious and Sarge confused and a little sad.

Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, 6/22/19

Wow, there’s a lot going on here when it comes to perceptions of the powers, purpose, and very nature of political authority. In the first panel, Snuffy bluntly demands that Sheriff Tait use his monopoly on legitimate violence in the Holler to expel outsiders: to our hillbilly, the demos to which the sheriff answers has the absolute right to control access to local territory and resources in favor of natives if competition for those resources gets too intense. The sheriff’s initial response might at first seem to indicate his loyalty to a code of abstract law — the outsiders have a right to be there, and nothing can be done unless they’ve actually committed a crime. But then, we see the cash in his hand and we learn the truth: Tait doesn’t truck with either modern legalism or traditional community-based exercises of power. He just sees the law and the state as a vehicle for his personal enrichment. Snuffy can’t help but be impressed.

Mark Trail, 6/22/19

Good news, everyone! Mark, Leola, and Doc are close to the mine! I guess they don’t need to find JJ and pull the map out from under his waterlogged corpse after all, and can just let the desert scavengers do their thing uninterrupted.