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Spider-Man, 1/8/18

Huh, so, when they set up that Doctors Banner and Connors have the same incredibly rare blood type, I assumed the meant, like … a super-powered sci-fi blood type? One conducive to turning people into green monsters? Not, you know, AB negative, a normal human characteristic which is rare in that it’s the least common of all the possible blood types, but even at about 0.6% of the population, that’s still thousands and thousands of people in Dade County alone! So I’m not sure it’s really a “we need a specific donor right away from whom we can siphon delicious blood” scenario, but thank goodness Bruce will soon be there, having already removed his shirt to make finding a vein that much quicker and easier.

Slylock Fox, 1/8/18

Speaking of South Florida, I love that Max is planning on attending a beach wedding by throwing a jacket on over his usual total absence of a shirt. I think Slylock’s giving him bad advice, though. He needs to bring both jackets — black for a sophisticated look at the beach, and then change to white for those hot Miami nights on the dance floor.

Funky Winkerbean, 1/8/18

Somehow Funky ended last week’s AA meeting diatribe by concluding that the world was so messed up that it went way past the point where he should start drinking again, so I guess that’s … a cheerful ending? Anyway, now we’ve moved on to another classic topic of Funkyverse japery, Bull Bushka’s encroaching TBI-caused dementia. You know what they say! Old ballers never die … their minds just fade away, leaving them a wizened husk of their former self. In a way, it’s like a living death. Then they do die, eventually, but by then it’s a blessing. THAT’S THE PUNCHLINE TO TODAY’S STRIP EVERYBODY

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Dennis the Menace, 1/7/18

One of the anecdotes my wife and I repeat to each other endlessly comes from years ago, when we were driving through Pennsylvania and stopped, as was our habit, at Clyde Peeling’s Reptile Land, where we never paid to actually see the animals but took advantage of the Subway, bathrooms, and gift shop anyway. On this trip there was this very sullen-looking little boy, maybe seven or eight years old, wandering through the store, and then his mother came up to him, and said to him, with a voice that was trembling and almost fearful, “Look, it’s a book about dinosaurs! You love dinosaurs!” He squinted at her, and then, with a voice loaded with contempt, said, “I don’t read,” and then walked away, leaving her standing there with the book.

This is, of course, a horror story about our society’s coming decline into idiocracy, but I’d like to imagine that maybe there was some comeuppance in store for the kid, like the one Dennis is experiencing here. Maybe there’ll be a horrified realization, once it’s too late, that a generation that refuses to read will be followed by a generation that couldn’t read even if it wanted to.

Hi and Lois, 1/7/18

Here’s another story for you about illiteracy that I love, although I’m not personally involved in this one because most of it took place decades or millennia ago. Once upon a time, there were a bunch of clay tablets dug up in Greece with an alphabet on them nobody could read. Archaeologists called the script Linear B (because it was clearly related to Linear A, another alphabet nobody could read), and various dating techniques pegged those tablets as being from between 1400 and 1250 BC. The first written material in Greek doesn’t appear until the 770s BC, and the Greeks themselves had legends of other people who lived in Greece before them, so the assumption was that Linear B was those people’s vanished language. And what’s more romantic than a vanished language? Think of all the mysterious culture locked in those tablets — the poetry, the histories, the odes to forgotten gods — tantalizingly right in front of us, and yet indecipherable.

In the 1950s, though, some British classicists figured out that Linear B (though not Linear A, which is still undeciphered) was in fact Greek after all, an earlier form of the Greek language written using a clumsily adapted syllabary system that was unrelated to the Greek alphabet that emerged centuries later. And what, after this breakthrough, did those tablets turn out to be telling us? There were no poems or tales of dead heroes at all. The tablets consisted entirely of administrative records for the palaces where they were found, keeping track of how much grain, wool, sheep, and wine had been extracted from the peasantry and handed over to the army and the temples. Some royal accountants had apparently got wind from some other culture of the idea that you could record words by making marks in clay and realized that would make their jobs loads easier, but they hadn’t bothered to sell anyone else on the concept. Or maybe they tried but nobody — not the priests, not the poets, not the kings — saw the point in it.

And in the middle of the 1200s, this whole early Greek civilization went up in flames — literally, all the palaces were burned down in a relatively short timeframe. The fires hardened the clay tablets stored in the palace basements, which is why we have so many of them; after the culture collapsed, nobody wrote anything in Linear B anymore, because there were no more kings to take stuff from the peasants and give it to the soldiers and priests.

To us, a societal loss of literacy is a terrifying thought. But to those ancient Greek farmers, none of whom had been able to read in the first place, it must have been liberating. Maybe Chip and his girlfriend are seeing the possible anarchic paradise that Joey has to look forward to. Everywhere they go, writing is the means by which an omnipresent state imposes its will on everyday behavior. But Joey? Joey can do whatever he wants. He doesn’t know any better, and that’s the purest freedom of all.

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Mark Trail, 1/6/18

Oh my God, in order to convince Rusty’s teacher (side note: Rusty goes to “school,” I guess?) to let him have time off to go to Mexico with his adoptive parents, Cherry had to pimp out her own father to the lonely, horny schoolmarm. Mark is bug-eyed in horror in panel two: one of his family is actually going to have to do sex with another human! Sure, Rusty is finally going to get to go fishing — but at what cost?

Spider-Man, 1/6/18

Ah, yes, threatening a hospital orderly, those notoriously overpaid and underworked health care functionaries, with physical violence unless your personal friend is given special treatment, and then looking on in satisfaction as he simpers with fear of your freakish, superhuman strength and does your bidding: truly the mark of a hero!