I've Written Down All the Spontaneous Things I'm Going to Do!
Dec. 30, 2002-Jan. 5, 2003
RING OUT THE OLD! DEP'T: The old sleeping-through-the-countdown New Year's Eve routine crops up in Blondie, For Better or For Worse, and The Middletons. Obligatory football references crop up the next morning in The Middletons and Blondie.
RING IN THE OLD! DEP'T: "This year," Hagar the Horrible declares on New Year's Day, hoisting a dripping mug, "I hereby resolve to do all the dumb things I did last year over again!" Following the lead of the industry spokesbarbarian, other strips spend the week jostling in line to use the New Year-O-Matic gag generator: 1.) "This year, I, [CHARACTER], resolve to stop [CHARACTERISTIC MISBEHAVIOR]." / 2.)Perform [CHARACTERISTIC MISBEHAVIOR]. Wednesday, Kudzu is first out of the gate, with [DORIS THE PARAKEET] and [GORGING ON CHOCOLATE]. Thursday, it's [LUANN] and [BEING SELF-CENTERED], along with Jump Start's [MARCY] and [OVERPLANNING THINGS]. Turning straight toward the third wall, unsettlingly, Marcy exults: "I've written down all the spontaneous things I'm going to do!" And how! Robb Armstrong follows up with [OFFICER ASHBURN] and [SMOKING], then [BAD-DRIVING GRANDMA] and [BAD DRIVING].
THE OLD IS ALREADY HERE DEP'T.: Then there are the strips that don't even feint toward changing their ways. Here's what the first day of 2003 brings in the laziest corners of Flatland: Cathy gripes about how complicated modern technology is. Shoe japes about a microwave cooking class (it's at "seven . . . but it's over at 7:04"). Momma savors her Marylou's misery and dependence. B.C. forces a pun about gnus and the New Year. Eula in Herb & Jamaal forces a pun on "ring out" and "wrung out." Loretta Lockhorn disparages Leroy. Zippy the Pinhead blathers on about giant abandoned sign letters.
OTHER RESOLUTIONS DEP'T.: In The Boondocks, Riley resolves on Huey's behalf that his older brother should "hate at least twenty percent less playa, twenty percent more game." In Willy 'n Ethel Willy stands on the bathroom scale clutching a bucket of chicken. "OK, Ethel, write this down," he calls. "I weigh exactly two-hundred and five pounds." "Is that your real weight?!" she replies. " . . . With the bucket of chicken?" "Absolutely," Willy says. Willy has obviously resolved to lose some weight in the new year. Or to eat more chicken! In Family Circus, there's no ambiguity: "My New Year's resolution is to have waffles every morning!" Billy tells Mommy. So get to it, woman.
DOGS FAILED TO LAUGH FOURTEEN TIMES DEP'T.: "What is 2003 in dog years?" Grimm asks Mother Goose on Wednesday. "I guess when you're young, you live in human years and when you're old, you live in dog years," Wendi muses in The Middletons Friday.
MARRIAGE EQUALS GOOD SEX DEP'T.: At the stroke of midnight on New Year's in Luann, Mrs. DeGroot turns off the TV and the bedside lamp. "Honey, we're missing the fireworks," Mr. D. complains. "Wanna bet?" she whispers in the dark.
MARRIAGE EQUALS BAD SEX DEP'T.: In For Better or For Worse on Sunday, Michael makes bedroom eyes at Deanna after she's been suckling their infant all day. "Don't touch me!!!" she snaps.
POTTY ANIMALS DEP'T.: Wednesday, Ziggy's cat, using the parrot as its mouthpiece, requests a magazine while it's taking a dump in the litterbox. Thursday, Marmaduke eyes a snowman. "Marmaduke likes to make sure the snowmen know who is boss," the kids say. Har! Just because you didn't draw the real cartoon that goes with that caption, Brad Anderson, don't claim you're innocent.
THE MIDDLETONS: Sunday, Midge jokes that one of Bumper's filthy dog-sweaters would be dangerous in the hands of Saddam Hussein. Is The Middletons the best placement John Poindexter's new information-control agency could get?
HERB & JAMAAL: Ernie the cabby gets his tongue pierced. People with pierced tongues talk funny, it would seem.
DOONESBURY: Garry Trudeau dusts off a week's worth of 2001 reruns about the innocent Iraqi detained by thuggish federal agents. That's it, Garry--take a vacation and stick it to the Feds for last year's offenses. It's not like there's anything more serious on the current political front, right?
DENNIS THE MENACE: Thursday, while doing an undetermined stretch in the time-out corner, the eternal five-and-a-half-year-old detects inconsistency in the Santa Claus/Good Behavior relationship. "If I'm such a bad boy, how come Santa brought me all those gifts?" Dennis broods. "That's what I should have said."
B.C.: Tuesday, Fat Broad reads in a magazine that "thousands used to gather in Times Square on New Year's Eve to watch the ball come down." This is really creeping us out--suddenly, B.C. is revealed to be a postapocalypse strip? But then Thursday, Cute Chick is buying "cave wall stencils," presumably to paint old-fashioned animal scenes on the wall for posterity. Before Christ? After Christ? Christ!
KUDZU: Friday, the Rev. Will B. Dunn sneers at a homeless man: "Hey, if he can ask for spare change he can say, 'Welcome to McDonald's--may I take your order?'" Another notch on the hatchet of Doug Marlette, grandson of lintheads and champion of class justice. Saturday, Marlette misspells Nicolas Cage's name.
CATHY: The hollow thrills of rampant consumerism ultimately prove unsatisfying and frustrating to Cathy and her parents.
MOTHER GOOSE & GRIMM: Monday, Mike Peters fumbles yet another not- necessarily-terrible gag, this one "Small talk at Bartlett's Familiar Quotations." "I'm going to 'lunch' now," a man says, making air quotes with his fingers. "Have a nice 'day,'" a woman replies, making air quotes back at him. No, no, no. Much as Funny Paper appreciates the use of the single-word-in-"quotes" humor device, in this one the quotes have to be around entire familiar phrases, Peters. He: "I'm 'Out to lunch.'" She: "'Have a nice day!'" But you're in the ballpark, Peters. Funny Papers resolves to be more understanding and forgiving toward Mike Peters in 2003.
Thursday, it's "That fateful day when the Crocodile Hunter, Crocodile Dundee and Ralph all got on the same elevator." What's so fateful? We wouldn't exactly turn a Mike Peters drawing over to Carolus Linnaeus for filing, but we're pretty sure Ralph is an alligator.
Friday, we get "God, after a long week . . . " "Ahh . . ." the white-bearded figure thinks, putting his sandaled feet up in front of the TV and clutching a highball. "Thank me it's Friday." Funny Paper is pretty sure this one came out of the same "brain"-storming session that generated the Hunchback of Hump Day last month. Too bad it's Sunday, idiot. The Lord rests on Sunday! Thank God It's Sunday! Funny Paper resolves to rid the world of Mike Peters.
MARK TRAIL: Rusty volunteers to go looking for Sweetie Pie, the unwelcome and now-wounded pet deer. "You're really attached to that animal, aren't you?" Cherry asks Wednesday. "You know Tom and I can't have children," Judy says. "I suppose that's why I became so attached to Sweetie Pie!" Oh, so the deer is a walking, pooping, disease-harboring reminder of her husband's failed seed and Judy's withdrawal from reality. Funny Paper is really starting to see the deer-in-the-house question from Tom's point of view. Animal cameos: a classic beaver shot on Wednesday and some sort of horned owl attacking a rodent on Thursday. Funny Paper can't make a good enough size estimate to decide whether it's a screech owl swooping down on a mouse or a great horned owl swooping down on a rat. Saturday, the unconscious Sweetie Pie turns up, sprawled out in the undergrowth. She's alive, Rusty reports, "but she has a bad wound behind her ear!"
Sunday's featured animal: the voracious and beneficial beaver! Beaver beaver beaver! "Voracious vegetarians," aka "furry engineers." Beavers swimming, beavers gnawing, beavers baring their teeth for the artist. Happy New Beaver, everybeaver!
FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE: April collects 50 bucks for baby-sitting Gord and Tracey's kids on New Year's Eve. Fifty bucks? Oh, right: 50 bucks Canadian. Even so, April is a little awed by the payout for such light duty. "They were right across the street," she marvels Thursday. "They could have come home any time." "That's not the point!" Elly explains. "They left you alone with their children. They trusted you to take care of the most precious things in their life! That's an incredible responsibility." "Oh," says April. "That makes me feel like I shoulda done it for nothing!" she thinks, frowning. Yeah, right. That line of thinking might work for oversocialized firstborn kids and public-school teacher trainees. For a thirdborn like April, the logic is more like, "That makes me feel they shoulda paid me at least a hundred." For worse!
MARMADUKE: Wednesday, Marmaduke leaves his bone on the bed.
JUMBLE:THEY WERE AT ODDS, TRIPPED HIM UP, "SHEEPISH," WELL "ROUNDED," THE LAST LAUGH, HARD TO SWALLOW.
HAL FOSTER'S PRINCE VALIANT: The perfidious Faustus sells out Fishburg to the Emperor Justinian. "Justinian displays a vulpine leer."
REX MORGAN, M.D.: Overwhelmed by the blizzard, Sasha the cabby gives up on driving the rabbit-fever-stricken John to the hospital. They'll just have to go to a nearby bakery and wait for the snowplows.
APARTMENT 3-G: How will Luann get to the theater to see cousin Blaze despite her agoraphobia? Practice, practice, practice. But Sunday, overwhelmed by the blizzard that's swept down from Rex Morgan, M.D., her cabby gives up on driving the phobia-stricken G. to the theater. She'll just have to walk.
MARY WORTH: In a subtle homage to the pivotal moment of the Reformation, Mary (get it? Mary!) finds a note tacked to her door Friday. "They could have slipped it under the door instead of marring the woodwork," she fumes, using the plural pronoun for gender neutrality. It's from Smedlap; he wants to talk to her. Sunday, she arrives at Smedlap's door in high dudgeon, waving the crumpled note in a semicircle. Smedlap is unfazed. "Don't get your dander up, woman!" he says. Then he heads into the kitchen, where a bottle of booze awaits.
THE PHANTOM: New adventure: a man, posing as an agent of the "Central Aviation Authority" intercepts a mysterious aircraft on a fueling stop and plants a bomb on it. "Must give them enough time to cross the Rhodian frontier . . . " he thinks, fiddling with the timer, " . . . but not enough to reach Ivory Lana."
Sunday, one of "Raz" Rakowski's men, searching for treasure in the temple of Anuga, nearly falls into a pit full of writhing serpents. "All those snakes creep me out!" he shudders, after the Phantom pulls him to safety. "Snakes? . . . What snakes!?" says the Phantom, staring into the now-empty pit. The Island of Anuga: home of the D.T.s.
SALLY FORTH: The Forth family rings in the New Year by playing Scrabble all week. "I have 'flatulence'!" Hilary exults on Monday. That's the high point. Come to think of it, that's the high point of Sally Forth's entire existence. Perhaps we've underestimated Francisco "Mac" Marciuliano.
GASOLINE ALLEY: For a man who's just been cavorting with Santa Claus, Jugmaster Joel is in a dark mood. "I been thinkin'--" he tells Rufus Monday, as they ride along in the junkwagon, "times was hard when I was a lad! They tol' us t' think ahead t' th' future an' things would get better! Well, it's th' future! When do it start gettin' better?" When they finally get around to killing off Walt. That's when the future arrives.
YOU CAN WITH BEAKMAN & JAX: B&J present their new e-mail address. "One morning . . . we had gotten 172 separate pieces of junk e- mail," Jax writes. "So we just shut off our e-mail address." Sure, you shut down your Internet because of SPAM, sure, sure.
ONE BIG HAPPY: Thursday, Ruthie rats out her family members' trespasses to the Lord in her evening prayers, hoping He'll take her environment into consideration as a mitigating factor. Friday, Joe is content with non-outcome-based education. "How do you spell 'mountain'?" his father asks. "M-O-W-N-T-I-N," Joe replies. "Wrong," says Dad. "No, Dad," Joe counters, "you asked me how I spell it!"
BARNEY GOOGLE & SNUFFY SMITH: Wednesday, the postal increase finally hits Hootin' Holler, as Loweezy carefully weighs her letters for maximum value. Using Snuffy's finely calibrated meth scale, it seems.
CURTIS: This year's Kwanzaa fable turns out to be an African-themed rewrite of manipulative and unpleasant children's classic The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. Day after day, villagers troop to Maya's house to take her possessions and mutilate her, all in the name of wedding planning: "'Give to me your ox, so there will be milk, meat and hide' . . . . 'Give to me one of your eyes, for their color is most beautiful, that it may be used to make dye' . . . . 'Give to me the use of your skin -- for it is most smooth -- that I may fashion it into a grand hall." Give to us a break! Thursday, when the skinless, half-blind Maya shows up at the wedding, the villagers sneer at her for not having any gifts. But then Friday, in a break from the abject passive-aggression of the Silverstein book, the African Gods get all Old Testament on everybody, sending "a deadly, but completely silent, flood to clear the land of such people." That's the worst kind of flood: silent but deadly. Vengeance is mine, sayeth Ray Billingsley. Saturday, Jontuse, introduced last week as a major character and then written out of the plot completely, reappears from her fishing trip. "Jontuse returned, placed the finned beast on the flower [sic], then sat down and proceeded to chat." Grand. The other chick's still got one eye and no skin, as far as we know (the African gods evidently being more into punishing than into fixing things). The whole village is dead. So much for the Harambee spirit. Happy Kwanzaa?
NON SEQUITUR: Monday, a guy in a Hawaiian shirt stares at an A-frame sign outside a bar: "Pundit Nite! Talk show hosts, columnists, and cartoonists DRINK FREE! . . . While being beaten to a pulp by people who work for a living." "Cool . . . free drinks!" he exclaims. Caption: "How to tell pundits don't pay attention to details." Cartoonists? Does Wiley hate himself? Then Funny Paper's work has not been in vain!
GARFIELD: Saturday, the fat cat continues to revel.
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