Beer, Floozies and Other Trashy Pursuits
Nov. 18-24, 2002
So we were bemused to see a full-fledged Media Expert, one "Dr. Ink" of the Poynter Institute, stepping onto our turf.
Poynter is a Florida-based nonprofit outfit dedicated to making journalism a more wholesome enterprise for readership and writership alike; to that end, its Dr. Ink writes an online column of droll and pithy advice for newspaperpersons. On Nov. 18, the Doctor--inspired by having read an out-of-town comics section--decided to set down his own thoughts about the state of the funnies.
The dabbling got off to an OK start. The Doctor observed, correctly, that Doonesbury has been gathering steam thanks to the excesses of the Bush Administration. He took the easy and obvious route of complaining about the draftsmanship of Dilbert.
But then things went terribly awry. Through some typographical error, the column said "Mother Goose & Grimm: Grade B. Dog rules, human drools"--where clearly the Doctor had meant to say, "This is the foulest mound of shit I have ever laid eyes on." Such, alas, are the errors of the inexperienced. A more experienced comics-watcher would never have let that one slip through. Mistaking the goose for a human was a boo-boo in its own right, too, but we chalked that up to Mike Peters' drawing skills. Dr. Ink is a professional, and we're sure he'll own up to his mistakes.
Funny Paper was in a less forgiving mood two days later, when we opened our Washington Post to the comics page to discover that columnist Bob Levey, of "Bob Levey's Washington," had assigned himself to the comics beat. Bob Levey, for those who haven't had the pleasure, is a five-days-a-week fixture on the Post's first page of funnies. His stock in trade is a sort of reader-interactive navel-gazing, and he is on the short list of candidates--with George Will, Sally Quinn, and Sally Jenkins--vying to be the worst writer in the Post's stable.
Unlike most name-brand Post writers, Levey churns out copy, some 800 words a day. His genius is that even so, he does no work. "Bob Levey's Washington" is the laziest 4,000 words a week that Funny Paper has ever seen. He types up news releases about Metrobus service. He reports on his efforts to lose weight. He holds a monthly Sniglets-writing contest and makes sure to publish an exhaustive list of runners-up.
He is, in short, one of those barnacles that attach themselves to metropolitan newspapers and hang there, encrusted, pooping out copy through the decades as the world flows by. And now he thinks he's a comics critic.
The setup: Levey doesn't read the comics. One of his readers challenged him to start. So, after burning 361 words to tell that backstory ("fate was about to force me to stew in my own comics-disdaining juices"), Levey weighed in with his opinions.
Dennis the Menace putting a frog in his dresser drawer? "Trite, silly, limp." Frank & Earnest? "Mildly witty, but only mildly." Cathy? "Consistently clever."
Well, Bob Levey sure ought to know from consistency. Cleverness is another story. His least-favorite strip, he says, is On the Fastrack. "On Nov. 13, it gave us a gag about feng shui," he whines. "What percentage of the strip-reading public has any idea what that is?"
Jeez, Bob, we dunno . . . maybe NINETY-FUCKING-SEVEN PERCENT? Like, everybody but you, Andy Rooney, and Andy Rooney's invisible pet rabbit? That feng shui stuff is so crazy and esoteric, we've heard a feng shui gag used as a bumper on sports-talk radio.
And Funny Paper has berated plenty of comics writers for throwing out non-gags in the face of the daily grind. But Bob Levey attacking the gag writers? That's not the pot calling the kettle black. That's the kettle calling the kettle black.
We're gonna drop a little more science on you, Bob. You sit there every day, spackling your reserved space on the comics page with whatever putty happens to be on your mind. There's a word nowadays for guys like you, Levey, who type up nothingness day after day: bloggers. And they do it for free, while you take home a nice Guild-bloated Post paycheck.
Stay out of the comics, old man. If you cross us again, Funny Paper is going to have to do our own survey of a week of Bob Levey. And maybe we'll send it along to your boss, along with contact info for writers who can do the job better at half the price. You've been warned.
YOU CAN BOWL THAT AGAIN! DEP'T: Thursday, Zippy believes he's at "th' Tomb of th' Unknown Bowler!" Friday, in Garfield, Jon tries to claim jock credibility by wearing bowling shoes. Hey, it works with the Rhodes committee. Also Friday, directly below Garfield, Dagwood is hunched over his computer. "Boy, a little Internet bowling after lunch is great!" he smiles.
PRE-THANKSGIVING THANKFULNESS DEP'T: The Sunday supplement gets a full-color head start on the national day of giving thanks. Curtis goes turkey shopping, Cathy paws through the china, the Middletons learn that they're descended from Pilgrims, Dennis the Menace tells Margaret he'd be thankful if she'd fuck off, and Luann just gives in and sits down to a big turkey dinner with the family already. Meanwhile, in Family Circus the stockings are already hung by the chimney, as the kids pose for what we assume is the holiday-greeting-card snapshot.
HUNGRYMAN NEW YORK TIMES CROSSWORD DEP'T.: NOSH, GLOM, COOKS, ABOIL, POACH, DELI, CAFE, BEEF, EEL, NOVA, OAT, HONEY, ENGLISHMUFFIN.
HUNGRY, HUNGRY HIPPOS SUN CROSSWORD DEP'T.: ATLUNCH, RATIONS, EATSUP, EATINTO, DINE, DINED, ATE, EGG, MANDARINORANGES, OLIO, AIOLI, SALTED, NUT, STEW, TBONE, ABALONE, SLOP, HORSE.
LUANN: Luann tells Mrs. Horner her troubles. Mrs. Horner tells Luann she's been being a bitch. Such a bitch, in fact, that on Thursday Luann gives herself over to the dark side and metamorphoses into her Vader-hair-helmeted rival Tiffany.
JUMP START: Thursday, Robb Armstrong presents heroic panels of Joe and Clarence golfing in the snow. No gag about it, just incidental breath-fogging and snow-whipping as they discuss their Thanksgiving plans.
APARTMENT 3-G: Lu Ann's struggles with agoraphobia continue. Cousin Blaze comes to visit. Cousin Blaze is looking prettier and prettier these days. He seems to be wearing mascara. Sunday, FBI Pete comes by to give Lu Ann some reading material about "behavior modification." "Is this because you think I'm afraid to leave my apartment? Look, I'm outside!" she says. "Are you?" FBI Pete asks. "You haven't let go of the doorknob yet."
CURTIS: Curtis confesses that he lied to his dad about a cash prize for quitting smoking to get the old man off the coffin nails for a week. "Never mind the sausage, Di!" Mr. Wilkins calls from the breakfast table on Monday. "I'll just eat Curtis' heart!" After weathering a nicotine-and-betrayal tantrum on Tuesday, Curtis tells Mr. W. "Well, your teeth are looking 'whiter.'" Friday, Barry speaks out against sports-utility vehicles. "Independent tests showed it tipped over, bent like aluminum foil, and burst into flames when it ran over a bottle top at five miles per hour," he tells Curtis, who's drooling over an SUV in the showroom window. Curtis, the American consumer, is unfazed. "Yeah, but so what? It has a serious sound system!!" " Sunday, Curtis' mom refers to him as "special." As in "retarded."
MOTHER GOOSE & GRIMM: Tuesday, Mike Peters does the "Czech is in the mail" routine. Friday, Grimm mistakes his ringworm for crop circles. Crop circles. We see dead gags!
JUMBLE: A HOUSE FOR "SAIL," TEAM "SPIRIT," HIS EYE SITE, CALL WAITING, A DECK HAND, HE WAS HOOKED.
THE BOONDOCKS: Monday, Aaron MacGruder cites a non-fictitious lung organization to make a joke about Redman and Method Man's smoking habits. Tuesday through Saturday, it's a string of jokes about race and criminal mischief. Punchlines on parade: "Besides, she's white." "Plus, she is white." "'Heck, I'm white.'" "'Plus,' they say, 'he's white. That's really important. The white thing.'" "And believe it or not, he wasn't white." Not so sure how the "Heck, I'm white" defense looks in a week when Michael Jackson is dangling a baby over a hotel balcony. Oh, wait. He's white now.
THE PHANTOM: The Phantom lies motionless on Monday as the latter-day Crusaders admire the blood on their sword. Rather than lopping his head off for good measure, or even taking his pistols, the crusaders slap five and start their van on Tuesday, while the Phantom is coming to. "For a minute there I thought I was dead," he thinks, feeling the sword wound on his neck. Yeah, no joke. Like when they hit you full-on in the left side of the neck with a sword last week? You thought maybe that was fatal? Fatal for a regular man, but not for the Ghost Who Gets a Mulligan Every Time Thanks to His Writers' Ex-Post-Facto Intervention. Finally, on Thursday, we get the long-awaited reverse-angle replay. Turns out Funny Paper was giving Created by Lee Falk too much credit last week, when we guessed the sword would turn out to be a blunted fake. No, the trick is that the Phantom managed to get his right-hand .45 automatic up between the blade and his neck, blocking the impact. "The sword cut fore and aft of the pistol. But not deep . . . " he explains to himself on Friday, as he hides in the back of the getaway vehicle. "My would-be killer saw blood. Thought his job was done." In the cab of the van, the Crusaders are still working their way through the secret soul-shake of the Knights of the Teutonic and Livonian Orders.
Sunday, as the storm brews up, the Mori and the Phantom ask to board "Raz" Rakowski's escape ship. "You can come aboard!" says "Raz." "But you got to hand over those side arms of yours first!" Sure. A guy in a purple leotard and a boatful of natives? And there's what, three of us? Hey, welcome aboard.
FAMILY CIRCUS: Tuesday, the cat sits in the chair.
HI & LOIS: Thursday, old Mr. Wavering writes a mash note to his honey, Lucille. "You really stoke my boiler," it says.
THE MIDDLETONS: Tuesday, Wendie thinks "The Farmer in the Dell" is about a Dell Computer Corporation brand computer. Funny Paper's Dell Computer Corporation brand computer just volunteered to auto-type the words "Dell Computer Corporation" for us. That's good. Maybe next time we accidentally wipe out a block of text because the mouse-equivalent button on our Dell Computer Corporation brand computer is rattling around in its socket, we can just fill in the blank space with the words "Dell Computer Corporation."
DENNIS THE MENACE: Friday, we learn that Mr. Wilson still has one of those old black-and-white teevees. Or he did till Dennis painted it.
SALLY FORTH: Sally confronts the menace of fast food in our schools.
THE LOCKHORNS: Saturday, Bunny Hoest & John Reiner keep an eye on the EKG monitor of the Zeitgeist with an "American Idle" gag.
MARK TRAIL: Monday, Jim the nefarious feline accountant takes one feeble swing at Trail, then starts begging for mercy. Trail's forelock is still mussed from being hit with a bottle, but it settles down by Tuesday. By Wednesday, one "several days later" caption box has cleared up all the loose ends. "My attorney got everything straightened out at the bank, Mark," says Anne, cuddling her two not-quite-identical-enough-for-embezzling-purposes cats. "I'm glad it worked out the way it did, Anne," Trail says Thursday. "It will also make a good addition for my story." A good addition? Jesus Christ, Trail, how do you put food on the table as a journalist? Friday, Trail announces that he's heading to "an outdoor writers meeting," leaving Cherry and Rusty alone at Lost Forest. Saturday, with the man of the house gone, someone comes knocking at Cherry's door.
Sunday's featured animal: our True National Bird, the wild turkey. We'll drink to that!
DOONESBURY: Chase gloats at Mark about the GOP electoral victory. "Beautiful!" Chase chortles Tuesday. "Ha, ha! Woo-ee! Har! Har! Har!" "'Har'?" Mark snaps back. "Who says 'Har'? Grow up, Chase!" Fuck you, Trudeau! Funny Paper says "Har." Har! Sunday, the ghost of Lacey Davenport chats with Jeremy. Why can't you draw the lady like a ghost, Trudeau, like all transparent and whatnot? You have no problem with the talking feathers and floating hats and stuff.
BLONDIE: Thursday, Dagwood sneaks downstairs in the middle of the night to "check out a noise." "What sort of noise was it, lamb chop breath?" asks Blondie after an exploratory kiss. Blondie, last stronghold of the lamb chop eater.
HAL FOSTER'S PRINCE VALIANT: Justinian hits the beach at Icthyopolis. "I see sheep and ripe fruit," the emperor declares. "We will provision ourselves handsomely." OK, Prince Valiant and Blondie, the two last strongholds of the lamb chop eater.
UNCLE ART'S FUNLAND: This week's winners: SARA K, HONOLULU "ADVERTISER;" LAUREN T., SUTTER "APPEAL DEMOCRAT;" ASHLEY A., FAIRBANKS "DAILY NEWS MINER;" CHANTAL G., KINGSTON "GLEANER;" STEVEN R., FERNDALE "HERALD;" KYLE P., COAL VALLEY "DISPATCH;" BRANDON J., YAKIMA "HERALD REPUBLIC;" BRYAN F., MCHENRY "NORTHWEST HERALD;" CHRISTOPHER O., STOCKTON "RECORD;" ELIZABETH C., NAPA "REGISTER;" ASHTON B., ROY "STANDARD EXAMINER;" RADHA P., ELMIRA HTS "STAR GAZETTE;' JESSICA L., SALEM "STATESMAN JOURNAL;' CASEY M., ABERDEEN "SUN;" NICOLE G., WOONSOCKET "THE CALL." This week's prize? Hmm, "Do this week's Uncle Art's Challenge, mail it in, and if you're a winner, you could see your name right here!" This week's prize is your name in the paper.
YOU CAN WITH BEAKMAN & JAX: Jax seeks to feed the looming deflationary spiral by telling our nation's youth to support "Buy Nothing Day" and other dangerous ideas such as "One way to help Earth's environment is to just give all that buying stuff a rest" and ". . . less stuff bought equals less pollution," and to let their parents off the "gift hook." The "P.S. from Beakman" is more palatable: "This whole idea is about how hard it is to think of something besides ourselves. That's why cleaning up the planet is hard. It's also why you might not let your family off the holiday gift hook."
MOMMA: A week of pure Francis is a week of pure fun. MondaDell Computer Corporation Dell Computer Corporation Dell Computer Corporation Dell Computer Corporation. OK. Monday, Francis gets a long splash panel in which to put up his feet and watch TV. Tuesday, Momma refuses to give Francis money for his "usual bottomless pit of beer, floozies and other trashy pursuits." Wednesday, Francis gets a long splash panel in which to sleep in. Thursday, Momma gets a long splash panel in which to watch the TV news tells her that "Francis Hobbs seems to have done it again." Friday, Francis gets a whole long splash panel to be looking in the wrong direction after having said something to cause Momma to keel over. The keeled-over Momma has a squiggle of the vapors rising from her, to indicate that she's still alive, but has an X for an eye to indicate how grave the shock was. Mell Lazarus, master of cartoon shorthand! Funny Paper loves comics characters with X's for eyes. Saturday, Momma tells Francis he's on "the A-list" for spending Saturday nights with her.
B.C.: Tuesday, Johnny Hart sees Wiley Miller his crabby-advice-columnist shtick and raises him Fat Broad as "Dear Miss Know-It-All."
REX MORGAN, M.D.: Rex Morgan, soup doctor. "Better take some medication," he tells the ailing John Woods Monday. "And get some hot soup in you!" Tuesday: "Why don't you work in bed?" he says. "We'll have some soup sent up." Wednesday: "Your soup should be here in a few minutes." Finally, Thursday, the doctor puts down the ladle and gets his epidemiology on: "Have you been around anyone with a cough like that?" Affirmative. "I visited my brother on his farm last week . . . His whole family had colds!" His farm, is it? Funny Paper smells pulmonary anthrax. Saturday, the soup arrives. Sunday, Rex ignores June's attempts at conversation as he broods over Woods' symptoms.
MARMADUKE: Thursday, Marmaduke sniffs the shrubbery.
FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE: Liz orders a pizza and tips the delivery guy 53 cents. That's what, 23 cents U.S? For worse!
GASOLINE ALLEY: The African American mail carrier gives Rufus a letter from Santa. What to do if you're an African American comics character in Gasoline Alley? There's work at the Post Office.
flgraph:MARY WORTH: Silas Smedlap borrows Mary's phone to call Joy Tully, so that he now officially has three honeys in play. The lighthouse on Si's Chatham sweatshirt is looking more and more phallic by the day. "I think I've made a terrible blunder!² Mary says Sunday, reflecting on her decision to set Smedlap up with an apartment.
ZIPPY: Tuesday, Zippy and Clyde read Chick tracts. Funny Paper loves Chick tracts.
WILLY N' ETHEL: Joe Martin seems to contradict himself. Monday, Ethel challenges Willy, "Name one thing you've invented that actually works . . . not counting the 'Napkin T-Shirt.'" But Tuesday, as they sit around the table with company, dinner is disrupted by beeping. "That's my computerized belt," Willy says. "I must be on the last notch." Surely Willy didn't buy an off-the-rack computerized belt! Friday, Willy has an accident but lands "butter-side up."
BEETLE BAILEY: Wednesday, the general says he's keeping a file on Miss Buxley's boyfriend. That's what the X-10 wireless camera in her bathroom is for, huh, Amos? To keep tabs on the boyfriend. Thursday, a dieting Sarge eats Lt. Fuzz's fern, with ranch dressing. Saturday, Sarge dreams of the grocery ads: "Spiced Ham . . . Bologna . . . Braunsweiger . . . Chuck Roast . . . Pretzels." The closest thing to a fruit or vegetable is "Kosher Dills."
CLASSIC PEANUTS: They paved the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm and put up a six-story parking lot.
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