Archive: Dick Tracy

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Mark Trail, 3/6/17

Mark Trail has had exactly three writer-artists in its 71-year existence — Ed Dodd, Jack Elrod, and James Allen — and Elrod and Allen both spent extensive periods assisting their predecessors before taking over the strip. Other soap strips have seen a higher turnover in syndicate-hired personnel, and I have it on good authority that, in the absence of organized archives, some of those writers resorted to using my blog’s archives for backstory on the strips they were taking over; but Mark Trail has institutional memory when it comes to the lore, man. That’s why the strip is able to casually bring back recurring characters like fecund Quebecker Johnny Malotte, who’s been around since at least the early ’50s. So even though I’ve been reading Mark Trail every day for the last 15 years and have never heard of Johnny Lone Elk (hmmm, Mark sure knows a lot of non-WASPy guys named “Johnny”), I have full confidence that the Water-World Theme Park Disaster was a real storyline that was published in newspapers, probably in the ’70s sometime, and was extremely hilarious. I am jazzed up for this next adventure, guys.

Hagar the Horrible, 3/6/17

I honestly love how Gus maintains his weirdly bug-eyed smiling expression even through Hagar’s blurted question in the third panel. You’d better believe there’s no ham sandwich, Hagar. There’s nothing Gus loves so much as blowing people’s damn minds.

Dick Tracy, 3/6/17

There are any number of hilarious things about this strip: The Spirit sleeps in his eye mask and white gloves! The Spirit has a bedside princess phone in his hotel! The Spirit thinks that a normal, comfortable way to talk on the phone is to lie face down on the bed and sort of rest the handset against the side of his head! Still, I’m a little disappointed that my initial interpretation of panel one, which as that the Spirit slept wearing a CPAP machine, turned out to be incorrect.

Slylock Fox, 3/6/17

Oh wow, it seems the colorists for today’s strip, in which notorious person of (green) color Count Weirdly implements an incompetent terrorist attack on a ceremony honoring law enforcement, have decided to suddenly portray him as Caucasian! Way to promote #whitgenocide, Slylock Fox.

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Dick Tracy, 3/1/17

Dick Tracy started running in 1931, and The Spirit in 1940, which means that, at these characters’ origins, the early 20th century era of enthusiastic trust-busting was still within living memory, an era marked by this sort of political iconography:

What I’m trying to say is, in taking on this criminal “Supotoc” corporation, Dick and the Spirit may be rejecting the modern neoliberal Borkian approach to antitrust law and will instead be tackling monopolies the old fashioned way: with firearms.

Gil Thorp, 3/1/17

OK, my prediction is that probably what’s happening here is that Aaron’s mom has a crappy low-paying job with no insurance so they can only intermittently afford the prescription medication he needs to stay 100%. Maybe he has ADHD? That would be charmingly ironic, considering that molly and Adderall are both amphetamines.

Still, the funnier possibility is that Aaron is just straight-up into recreational drugs, despite his previous denial. It would really bear out the old Sherlock Holmes adage, “Once you’ve eliminated the impossible, maybe go back and check if you only think something’s ‘impossible’ because you asked a suspect whether he was guilty and he said ‘no’ and then you did no follow-up investigation.”

Shoe, 3/1/17

Hey man, I have to come up with funny material for this website each and every day, and I get that sometimes you’re tapped out. So when your dentist offers up a perfectly serviceable joke mid-cleaning, you don’t sit around fretting about, “Oh, my characters are all anthropomorphic birds, they don’t have teeth, this doesn’t make sense.” You use that shit, man. You use it and you don’t look back.

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Funky Winkerbean, 2/22/17

The great wave of Prestige Television Dramas that started in the late ’00s often presented us with morally compromised antiheroes, like Don Draper or Walter White. These gave rise to a wave of thinkpieces on the topic of “Hmm, Rooting For These Popular Television Characters Is Actually Problematic”, followed by smug counterthinkpieces that informed us that “Oh, Were You Rooting For The Protagonists Of These TV Shows? That’s Not What The Writers Want You To Do”. The problem is that the way these narratives are structured makes it difficult for you not to root for them, no matter how bad they are as people: individual episodes and season-long arcs are about the protagonists trying to overcome obstacles; they serve as our viewpoint characters in the show’s world, and so it’s almost impossible to not want to see them succeed, if for no other reason that failure might mean an end to the pleasure of watching the show.

Anyway, anyone who wants to really work at writing an antihero protagonist that their audience will eventually turn on could do worse than read the last couple weeks of Funky Winkerbean. The title character is up against the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, perhaps the easiest bureaucracy to use as a punching bag, and yet in every single conflict he encounters, he comes off looking worse than the dead-eyed functionaries who oppose him.

Mark Trail, 2/22/17

Oh snap, it looks like Chris is travelling back to the U.S. to do a little hunting of his own … hunting the most dangerous game, i.e., Mark Trail. Since we spent all last week learning how trophy hunting in Africa is Actually Good, I’m sure we’ll see an even-handed description of how, while the majestic, wily Mark Trail is much beloved, he can be a danger to humans living near his territory and must be occasionally culled to preserve ecological balance.

Mary Worth, 2/22/17

AHHHHH PICTURE OF YOUNG MARY WITH LONG HAIR AND HOOP EARRINGS AND HER HUSBAND AHHHH! AND POSSIBLY A PICTURE OF YOUNG MARY WITH BELL-BOTTOMED JEANS ON THE NEXT PAGE??? Remember, Mary is canonically 60-something, which means that she spent her young womanhood in the 1970s, presumably smoking weed and listening to Led Zeppelin, which in turn means that you — yes, you — are impossibly old. Sorry, I don’t make the rules!

Dick Tracy, 2/22/17

Is your special plan to give it back to the people who the Brush and his accomplice tried to steal it from? Much as I would love to see Dick and the Spirit suddenly become dirty cops, that … that probably should be the special plan.

Rex Morgan, M.D., 2/22/17

Oh no! I shouldn’t have said that an old man dozing off on a plane was boring! I didn’t want it to end like this! I didn’t want any of this!

Pluggers, 2/22/17

Now that you can’t smoke indoors anymore, pluggers have had to work harder and harder at committing suicide slowly.