Archive: Dennis the Menace

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Dennis the Menace, 2/8/17

My friend Ruth Graham recently wrote a fascinating story about the fact that huge swaths of Americans reached adulthood thinking that Eli Whitney was black. She goes into some of the reasons why. For one thing, the cotton gin helped make cotton a more lucrative crop, which increased demand for slave labor in the American south, and so it’s an invention often discussed in schools during Black History Month, around the same time that other actual black inventors are also introduced. The irony that a black person might’ve set the chain of events that ramped up cotton cultivation in motion seems to make the idea hard to resist (in many versions of the story, this alternate history black Eli Whitney gets screwed out of the profits from his invention, natch). I think this Dennis the Menace illustrates the process by which these kinds of mistakes can be made, since a lot of the way we’re taught history in elementary and high school involves rote memorization of isolated bits of data, leaving our minds free to fill in the substantial blanks around them.

In other news, one of Dennis’s neighbors is a big drunk! But, you know, not a day drunk. That’s how you know he’s not talking about Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson’s retired and can drink whenever he wants!

Hi and Lois, 2/8/17

It’s Trixie’s thought balloon that really makes clear the profound strangeness here: Lois, mother of a teenager and thus presumably on at least the verge of middle age, is expected in this suburban gender-normative milieu to worry about wrinkles, so we accept her use of “4 Ever Young” face cream without much thought. But Trixie’s burning desire to advance past infancy — a desire that we know can never be fulfilled — really hammers home the Flagstons’ nightmarish endless-now existence. Just as Trixie eagerly anticipates milestones she’ll never reach — walking, speech, autonomy — so too does Lois experience eternal youth that she cannot enjoy, instead living in constant terror of the crow’s feet that never quite appear at the corners of her eyes.

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Dick Tracy, 2/7/17

If ’00s Dick Tracy was a continuing exploration of how many insanely violent ways a newspaper comic strip could kill off its villains, ’10s Dick Tracy is a long-running experiment in how far up the asshole of obscure comics history a newspaper comic strip can get, which is … not better? It’s different, anyway. Let us remind you that the “Moon Maid” in the current run of the strip is actually some genetically modified and mind-wiped gangster’s daughter, and so while the Tracy family has taken her in, she isn’t really Dick’s son’s wife, leaving her free to flirt shamelessly with hunky crossover star The Spirit. The Tracys’ guest is regaling everyone with the plot of a comic book from 1952, because why not, and while his words say “of course we didn’t visit the dark side of the moon where Moon Valley [the home of Moon Maid’s Lunarian people] is,” the knowing expression he’s giving the reader says “of course we did visit the dark side of the moon, where I learned the sexual techniques that bring the most pleasure to the inhabitants of Moon Valley!” Or, uh, maybe it’s just me? Maybe it’s just me.

Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, 2/7/17

Look, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, you came into your current phase of existence in the 1930s when your original concept, about a ne’er-do-well horse-racing aficionado, lost its lustre and the decision was made to pivot into the then-lucrative realm of making fun of hillbillies, and ever since then, that’s been your shtick. If you wanted to, say, shift the tone and start exploring real issues of poverty in isolated rural communities, or maybe have your characters provide an outsider’s perspective on mainstream American urban and suburban life, then I think we’d all accept it and actually be pretty impressed. But don’t think you can just wedge in whatever generic jokes you’ve got rattling around in your head, à la “What’s the deal with energy drinks?” Leave those to other, non-hillbilly-based comic strips. Yours is a higher, or at least more specific, calling.

Dennis the Menace, 2/7/17

So, who’s the real menace here? The innocent child, who, like more and more of us young and old, occasionally enjoys eating traditional breakfast foods like pancakes or scrambled eggs in the evening? Or his mother, who’s asking this question having clearly already prepared the meal, presumably as part of her plan to reply to whatever he says with “tough shit, kid, you’re getting whatever’s in this casserole dish”?

Judge Parker, 2/7/17

“She’s a qualified mental health professional, with a speciality in adolescents and trauma! I’m … honestly surprised this hasn’t occurred to you already?”

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Mark Trail, 1/30/17

Last week’s Mark Trails were a between-stories palate cleanser that depicted a noble woodland creature (a bear) in search of a meal, which I didn’t post here because they were kinda dull. Today’s Mark Trails is about another noble woodland creature (Mark Trail) in search of a meal, which he’s having handed to him in a huge, steaming stack, and I’m posting it here because it’s amazing. That pile of flapjacks is hypnotic, and it’s totally worth violating the 180-degree rule between panels one and two to keep them in the same spot in the frame, focusing our attention on them and emphasizing the fact that nobody in the room can take their eyes off their pancakey deliciousness.

Meanwhile, Rusty wants us to know that he enjoys pancakes too. Tough shit, Rusty! Did you narrowly escape an exploding island anytime recently? No? Then how about you sit there in blessed silence and let Mark methodically and manfully devour that entire heap of griddled delight in peace.

Mary Worth, 1/30/17

Hey, remember when someone wrote into “Ask Wendy” with a professional dilemma that blatantly mirrored the Iris-Zak-Wilbur triangle? Mary told the questioner they should make a list of pros and cons for each of their options. Well, looks like that didn’t work! Looks like Mary’s whole professional advice-giving style is bullshit. Looks like Wilbur’s gonna have to come back from Antarctica and CLAIM WHAT IS RIGHTFULLY HIS, by which I mean his advice column, but probably Iris will end up back with him too because this strip always makes a list pros and cons for every potential narrative resolution and inevitably settles on the least interesting option.

Pluggers, 1/30/17

Usually when Pluggers presents a plugger’s version of some common phrase, it’s supposed to be a simpler, down-home alternative to some fancy pants elitist institution. But the “discount double-check” is a service offered by State Farm to its car insurance customers and advertised in heavy rotation during NFL games, so this cartoon is … confusing? Do pluggers not use car insurance, because only a bad person would have a car accident, probably because they’re listening to rap music? Or does State Farm cater to effete city dwellers? It’s got “farm” right in the name, darn it!

Dennis the Menace, 1/30/17

I mean, I guess that’s what they call it when you try to leave the Cheesecake Factory without paying and sprain your elbow as security wrestles you to the ground!