Archive: Willy ‘n Ethel

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Not to horn in on the excellent schtick of Comics I Don’t Understand, but … there are three comics today that I just … don’t understand. Perhaps you all can help me.

The Lockhorns, 8/11/05

So this is no doubt another small, passive-aggressive skirmish in the Lockhorns’ long-running war over money. I suppose the point is that by putting the sign on his car (after no doubt stealing it from the battered pick-up truck of some hapless pizza merchant), Leroy is trying to put a stop to Loretta’s wild spending habits. In so doing, he’s throwing back in Loretta’s face one her chief complaints about him — his inability to support her in the lifestyle to which she’d like to become accustomed. What I don’t understand is his facial expression — in this strip, the crooked smile and mussed combover hairs are usually indicators of drunkenness. Maybe here it signifies the shameful bravado of his making a defiant act of aggression out of his low-earning status. There’s another fatal flaw in his plan, of course, which Loretta seems to have recognized. You’ve got to get out of the car sometime Leroy, and when you do, that paltry paycheck is hers.

Willy ‘n Ethel, 8/11/05

OK, so The Lockhorns I mostly got after thinking a little bit about it. This one, however, is a little more opaque. There’s a lot of content here — a potentially humor-rich environment in which some kind of joke might lurk — but such a point is difficult to suss out. Ethel’s punch-card of deceit is inherently amusing, of course, but I’ve tried coming at Willy’s response to it from a couple of different angles and none of them quite work. Is he saying that if she ran a pizza parlor and left town after filling up a punch card it would be bad for business? Or that if she were running a pizza parlor he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from lying and thus filling up the card? Or that giving away free pizzas to liars is an unpromising business model? You’ve won this round, Joe Martin … but the war’s not over yet, I promise you that.

Marmaduke, 8/11/05

Sometimes, I don’t get the joke. Sometimes, I’m pretty convinced that there’s no joke to get. Marmaduke’s going for a walk. He stops to look at a bug. His annoyed owner, longing for the comforts of his slippers and his easy chair, wants Marmaduke to hurry up and move along. That’s it. Where’s the joke? Where’s the humor? Well, aren’t you demanding! If you aren’t satisfied with vignettes like this, the little grace notes of living with a big dog, then you don’t deserve to enjoy Marmaduke.

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Willy ‘n Ethel, 10/21/04

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Here’s what I want out of you, Willy ‘n Ethel: Jokes about the many reasons that and ways in which Willy gets fired, jokes about how fat and/or unpleasant Ethel’s sister is, jokes about how stupid Willy is, jokes about how lazy Willy is, and jokes about how Ethel can’t believe she’s married to Willy. I also want passing mentions of the names of Willy and Ethel’s pets (Bondo and Dogmeat), and strips in which Willy attempts to teach his nephew something and only ends up illustrating his own ignorance. (I know this last type of joke falls into the category of “jokes about how stupid Willy is,” but I like these strips and feel that they deserve a separate mention.)

Now, here’s what I don’t want out of you: Jokes about feeding mountains of corpses, or perhaps still-living condemned human beings, into hellish industrial machinery in order to reprocesses the very flesh and bones of our fellow men and women into some mysterious end-product that we either knowingly or unknowingly consume, implicating each one of us in this awful crime and transforming existence into a ghastly cannibalistic deathscape.

I don’t really think that’s a lot to ask, honestly.

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Well, this blog’s varied and intelligent readership has met the challenge of last week’s baffling Ziggy cartoon. Josh “The Sedermeister” W. has this to say: “You presume that information cannot be extracted from the eyes/eyebrows of the characters. Well, my friend, I do believe you presume too much. Forget about Ziggy for a moment. The parrot’s eyes are quite telling. He has the half-closed eyes often associated with an evil or mischievous thought crossing a cartoon character’s mind. The eyes of a schemer. Case in point: ‘The Family Guy’s’ Peter Griffin, after seeing ‘free Tibet’ signs at a rally, informing China from a payphone that he has acquired Tibet and will trade it for ‘that’s right, ALL the tea.’ But I digress. Next take a look at the dog’s eyes. He has wide open (albeit small) eyes — the eyes of an innocent. So what you have here is less naive character corrupting his pure-of-mind companion by explaining a painful ‘truth’ to him — Lassie is a ho’. Imagine an older brother saying to his younger sibling, ‘You know, mommy and daddy tried to put you up for adoption but no one would take you — even when they offered a large sum of money to sweeten the deal.’ In this context Ziggy’s expression makes total sense. He’s the parent walking in on that conversation, disappointed in the lack of maturity being displayed by his progeny … while wearing no pants.”

The delightful and talented Laura continues with the no-pants tack: “Does the fact that Ziggy is naked from the waist down, and possibly pulling up his shirt to expose even more of himself, enhance the meaning of the strip in any way?” (That all depends on what you mean by “enhance,” Laura.) “Maybe the dog and parrot have something against nudists, and Ziggy’s annoyed that they’re mocking him and his dangly bits.”

By the way, I have already railed in this space against the evils of coloring in daily strips; in this case, it highlights the fact that the Ziggy’s artist is too lazy to draw Ziggy’s pants (which is still a lesser crime than being too lazy to put on pants, believe you me). A quick glance at the Sunday comics reveals that I don’t get Ziggy in the Sunday comics, so anyone who can add information on his pants-wearing in that context should chime on in.

Meanwhile, Willy n’ Ethel has proven a tougher nut to crack. One reader who chooses to go nameless says, “‘Will there be anything else Master?’ is a clear allusion to I Dream of Jeannie. And the bandage refers to the episode where Tony gets amnesia and forgets who he is. If you think of it that way, it all seems kind of obvious.” That “it seems kind of obvious” bit worked on me in my Apartment 3-G quandary, but it doesn’t quite convince here. I’m still holding out for a more logical explanation.

This is as good a time to any to offer a linkback to Subdivided We Stand, who makes an amusing reference to “Wilbur the Combover King.”