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Funny Paper

STRANGLER FIG

Feb. 11-17

By Scocca & MacLeod | Posted 2/20/2002

LOVE IS ALL AROUND DEP'T.: By Funny Paper's count, about a dozen of the 39 daily Sun comics acknowledged Feb. 14 in one way or another, from yet another Jim Scancarelli drop-everything Gasoline Alley holiday splash panel (also commemorating Skeezix's 81st birthday) to a passing reference to Valentine's cookies in Sally Forth to love-and-romance strips (albeit ones that didn't name-check the day itself) in Hi & Lois, Barney Google & Snuffy Smith, and Mother Goose & Grimm.

Who had the most romantic Valentine's Day? Not Cathy, who's jabbering about romantic self-improvement. Not Mrs. Wilkins in Curtis, who's taking the kids out to dinner because Mr. W. is laid up with a bad back. Not Loretta Lockhorn, who fails to see the charm in Leroy's hand-drawn-on-the-back-of-an-envelope Valentine. Nope, it looks to Funny Paper as if the happiest, least dysfunctional St. Valentine's Day observation takes place in Jumble, in which Henri Arnold & Mike Argirion give us cheerful scene of a curvy woman opening her rumpled suitor's pop-up "funny Valentine." "Oh, that's so cute," she exclaims, as a floating infatuation-heart hovers over the lucky man's head. But what, Arnold & Argirion ask us, did the card provide? Funny Paper breaks out the red pen to solve the Jumble ourself for once: FLUKE . . . DADDY . . . SHRETH . . . no, dammit, that's not a word . . . TRUTHS . . . wait, it's an E, not a U . . . THRESH! . . . GATHER. Got it. Now . . . LVEAYHRHBAT . . . Wait, that's not a B, that's a G . . . Funny Paper can't read Funny Paper's own goddamn handwriting . . . A "HEARTY" LAUGH. Aw, that's sweet. That's also why we never do the Jumble.

OK, LOVE IS NOT REALLY ALL AROUND DEP'T.: And who had the least romantic Valentine's Day? In Garfield, Jon is attacked by "killer moths." Beetle Bailey is scrubbing down the toilets. Luann is dwelling on death and permanent injury. And Marmaduke, rather than courting the usual poodle or Afghan hound with flowers or candy or chew-bones, is bounding out the door wearing a heavily studded leather jacket and a hungrier-than-usual expression. "When did he get into leather?" Phil asks. Hey, Phil, what do you expect? You're the one who put a collar on the big fella. But the big loser in the Festival of Love is Morris "The Middletons" Middleton, who is sitting on the couch in his underwear next to his mom, apparently because Mom has the heat turned up too high. Apparently.

LOVE IS THREE DAYS LATE DEP'T.: Saint Valentine's Day is not enough to contain all the seasonal love and affection--especially when the 14th falls on a black-and-white weekday. And so the Sunday color supplement annexes saints Theodulus and Julian's Day for a suite of better-late-than-never hearts-and-flowers gags. In One Big Happy, Dad is driven to stick an annoying musical Valentine's card in the fridge. In The Middletons, Midge and Peg compare the jewelry each got for the holiday. And in Sally Forth, Ted presents Sally with a "late Valentine's Day' bouquet." But wasn't he offering Hillary and her schoolmate Valentine's cookies on the day proper? So he didn't forget the day. He just forgot his wife, because he was too busy plying his daughter's friend with treats and clowning around to impress her. Next week, Ted starts lifting weights and buys a red Firebird.

TURKEYS ARE ALL AROUND DEP'T.: Monday, in Mother Goose & Grimm, Mike Peters renders a panel of "Turkeys in Hell": the birds surrounded by flames, with a pop-up thermometer jutting out of each one's lower breast. Friday, in Shoe, an anthropomorphized turkey-woman, with dangling snood, tells Roz about her late husband's last days. "I knew he was a goner when they removed his pacemaker," she says, "and replaced it with a self-baster." Why are they running roast-turkey jokes now? Are they planning to run Groundhog Day jokes in May? And if you're going to run a joke out of season, shouldn't the joke at least make sense? Note to the Jeff MacNelly Memorial Cartoonarium: A self-baster isn't a device you attach to a turkey. It's the turkey itself, after it's been injected with fat and moisture. Congratulations. You guys are dumber than Mike Peters. And less funny.

MODIFIED TO FIT YOUR SCREEN DEP'T: The Sun has always been on the leading edge of squeeze-to-fit comics technology--witness the daily gravitational deformation of the skulls of the cast of Rex Morgan, M.D. But the manipulation reached new levels on Monday, as Non Sequitur showed up in an illegibly distorted aspect ratio, the pictures and lettering stretched double-wide and half-tall. Evidently the Tribune Co., in a cost-cutting move, has replaced the Sun composing-room staff with an ARTBOT 5000. So when the paper received Non Sequitur in square format, instead of strip format, nobody had the wit to reorder the comic in the right shape, let alone unstack the four sub-panels and lay them out in a line. The lidless CCD that passes for the ARTBOT 5000's eye simply perceived a format irregularity and compelled the picture to fit the space. So in the interest of science, Funny Paper has deployed the FUNNYBOT MARK IV with the DESUNULATOR 2.1 algorithm (pat. pdg.). Behold, the virtually restored version of Non Sequitur:

Gad, Non Sequitur. Why did we bother? We could have spent the time working on the MARK IV's killer app, the Moose Miller insertion worm.

FAMILY CIRCUS: "I hope Canada wins lotsa gold medals," Dolly tells Billy on Monday as they watch the Olympics. "I like their National Anfem." Lord help us, we agree with Dolly. We love that Canadian anfem. Especially the rewritten verson from Slate.com's football column: "Beer is our pride, warmth is our goal . . . Salute the flag, but do not lick the pole!" We also dig the Canadian uniforms. When it comes to sporting around on snow and ice, in fact, Funny Paper pretty much approves of the 51st State in every regard. Except for those crybaby so-called gold medalists in the pairs figure skating.

Wednesday, the kids are suddenly watching soccer on the tube--because the Keane factory has gone to a rerun from 1992. Maybe Bil Keane filed a strip about those crybaby Canadian skaters that was too hot to handle. Thursday, it's back to the Olympics. "Isn't that cute?" Dolly asks. "They call their sled Bob." No, it's not cute.

Sunday, Jeffy bursts into tears when Daddy, hunched over his drawing board, fails to answer correctly to his call of "Knock, knock!" "Daddy," he howls, "you don't know any of our new games!" OK: Bil Keane is drawing his funny-page alter ego neglecting his funny-page children for the sake of drawing more funny-page children. Funny-page funny-page children. So what's in this "Family Circus" that "Bil Keane" is so busy drawing, this strip-within-a-strip? We're pretty sure it's evil.

B.C.: The anachronistic cavepersons continue their Olympic hijinks, complete with five-ring logo. Doesn't the IOC smite anyone who uses the Olympics name and emblem without paying the licensing fees? Did Johnny Hart buy off the athletofascists? Or is he just refusing to bow to the dictates of the One World Government?

Friday, at the Paleolympic figure-skating venue, Fat Broad plunges through the ice after cutting the bottom loop of her 8 too deeply. Compulsory figures? They cut the figures out of figure skating more than a decade ago. Probably at the behest of some crybaby Canadian figure skaters.

JUMP START: Joe is obsessively focused on Black History Month. Marcy changes her hairstyle.

BARNEY GOOGLE & SNUFFY SMITH: Loweezy helps Snuffy cheat at cards.

CURTIS: Laid up with a bad back while Diane and the kids go out to eat, Mr. Wilkins dozes off on the couch, dropping a smoldering butt in among the cushions.

Sunday, Curtis drops by the Ominous Burrito--"Home of the Pizza Brick"--for a bite to eat. "Gimme my usual, Papi!" he tells the rotund, slicked-haired counterman. "One garlic brick with extra mozzarella and bacon bits coming up!" Papi says. That's not even the gag. That's just what happens in the optional color-supplement title panels. Ray "Value Added" Billingsley strikes again!

LUANN: Bernice demands to know how Zane, the noble cripple, came to be crippled. "Well," Zane says, "I was tweaked out of my skull on crystal meth, and I was running from the cops . . ." Har! We wish. No, Zane was heading off with his parents to visit colleges. "I was driving. There was a curve . . . a truck. . . . It all happened fast. . . . I was thrown from the car . . . messed up my spine. My parents . . . they died instantly . . ." Oh, so he's a noble, crippled orphan. Better and better. And in Greg Evans' reconstruction of the accident, we notice that Zane's car is entirely within its assigned lane on the blind curve as the killer truck bears down on it. He wasn't even at fault! How does this all this fit into Evans' mission to provide a Positive Teen Message, again? Do right, obey the law, and you too can end up maimed and alone in the world, unable to get to second base with a chick you wouldn't have given the time of day if you were still able to walk upright.

Though we guess Zane isn't doing that bad, ladies-wise, since chesty bookstore supervisor Miss Eiffel seems to be taking an excessive interest in Bernice and Zane's socializing. "I pay my people to work, not chitchat," she barks on Saturday. When Zane counters (not entirely truthfully) that they were working, Miss E. bristles. "How touching. The bold iconoclast and his faithful doter . . . a real 'Harlequin Romance.'" "She's jealous," Zane whispers.

CLASSIC PEANUTS: Snoopy resolves to write a biography of Miss Helen Sweetstory, author of the Bunny Wunny series. "Miss Sweetstory is still grinding them out, I see," says Charlie Brown Thursday, finding the newest book, The Six Bunny-Wunies and the Female Veterinarian, in the mailbox. "Miss Sweetstory does not 'grind them out'!" Snoopy sniffs.

JUMBLE: SMARTING, HORSE CENTS, UP IN THE AIR, "CRACKED" THE CASE, A "HEARTY" LAUGH, "HIGH" LIVING.

flgraph:THE PHANTOM: The Phantom, looking for a shortwave radio to call out the air force after Noah von Belon, hastens to Trader Joe's. Where they have a special on freeze-dried shortwave radios this week, along with instant couscous and Clif bars.

Sunday, the diamond-stealing, warmongering, contraction-avoiding ruffians haul up their last load of "ice" from the lake bed. "Load those sweeties in the jeep!" one says. "We are out of here!" But a masked man on horseback blocks their path. "Who is that guy?" "The G-Ghost-Who-Walks!" You are in trouble now!

MARK TRAIL: Thanks to a warning cry from Rusty, Lucky the hard-luck gosling escapes the jaws of the ravening muskie. But now--"Meanwhile"--a low-rent backwoods-type couple is looking for something to put on the table. "If you'd stay sober, we'd have a lot less problems!" the woman says. "Stay off my back, Mabel!" says the man, who wears heavy sideburns, a moustache, and a mudflap. "Where are you going with that gun, Moss?" she asks. "There's plenty of game over at Lost Forest," he says. Didn't Mark Trail just finish beating up sideburn-wearing poachers a little while ago? Yee-haw! It's Return of the Hillwilliamses! But, dag, Moss. Heed the example of your cousins. Your brothers. Your uncles. Your cousbruncles.

Sunday's featured plant: the ruthless STRANGLER FIG, epiphytic terror of the tropical and subtropical forest. "The doom of a tree is sealed when the seed of a strangler fig falls upon it. . . . As the seasons pass, the monster of the tropics, like a giant octopus enveloping its prey, sends stems twining around the trunk of its host. . . . And the once-proud palm dwindles to a lifeless skeleton, supporting its ruthless conqueror, the STRANGLER FIG."

MARY WORTH: Spying Liz Hoag's "Luxor" convertible in the parking lot of the Eighty-Eight Club, Dawn pleads a stomachache to keep Wilbur from going in and possibly happening on Liz and Woody-Forrest. Then she goes home and reflects on the near miss. "Hey! Wait a minute! . . . What's he doing with her in a place like that at midnight?!?" Um, seducing her? Exactly as you planned? Why are we keeping track of this interminable plot, if the characters can't even be bothered to keep it straight?

APARTMENT 3-G: Back from the bounding main, Margo throws a fit when the Professor and Gabriella show up to fetch the G's and Blaze from the airport. "What's wrong, Margo?" Gabriella asks Sunday, after a week of being snarled at by her faithless biological daughter. "Just the horror of sailing . . . !" Margo snaps. "A crazy-in-love roommate . . . ! . . . And my mother holding hands with my best friend . . . !"

REX MORGAN, M.D.: Finding June and Melissa in the kitchen, Merle's ballbuster power-achiever daughter, Helen, immediately assumes that the younger, shapelier one must be her father's bride-to-be, and the older one must be an insubordinate housekeeper. Alternately fuming and chuckling to themselves, June and Melissa let her rant for three days before setting the record straight. "Melissa," Helen says, "are you going to let the hired help talk to me this way?" "If I were Melissa, that's precisely what I'd do!" June says. "Only I'm not her . . . but the hired help is!" Helen is struck dumb, her face twisted by the whipsaw force of the subjunctive counterfactual.

PRINCE VALIANT: The Prince and his men descend into the valley they've discovered, where the wolves become friendly and the trees are in full leaf. "A rabbit hops by, pursued by a fox. But there is no desperation in the rabbit's eyes. And when the fox catches up, it does not devour its prey but plays games with it, and then happily moves on." Great. John Cullen Murphy is cribbing plot lines from The Watchtower.

MOTHER GOOSE & GRIMM: Wednesday, a dog (but not Grimm) leaves an "Adult Dog Store" with a box labeled "Inflatable Leg." R-r-r-racy! Boy, that Mike Peters. Hey, Mike Peters--your last name is a plural of a euphemism for the male sexual organ. That's funny too, huh, Mike? In an "Adult" way. Put that in your inflatable leg and hump it.

ZIGGY: "Since you're a cartoon character," a doctor tells a haggard, ruddy-nosed Ziggy Thursday, "I'm going to refer you to Rex Morgan!" Funny Paper has a feeling that Rex Morgan isn't in Ziggy's PPN. We suggest Ol' Doc Pritchart, up in Hootin' Holler. He'll give you an otolaryngological exam with a throat culture and a two-week course of penicillin in exchange for a pair of stolen chickens.

THE BOONDOCKS: "Do you ever lie awake in bed when it's completely dark," Riley asks Huey on Monday, "and, you know--wonder what death is like and get scared?" "Sometimes," the older brother says. "Punk," Riley sneers.

NON SEQUITUR: A week of conventional-comix-style Valentine's Day classroom humor with mopey schoolgirl Danae.

CATHY: A week of chocolate and romantic anxiety, ending Sunday with Cathy screaming at her own body: "STOP MAKING FAT! STOP MAKING FAT! STOP MAKING FAT!"

YOU CAN WITH BEAKMAN & JAX: Jax reveals the fraudulence of modern industrial toothpaste. "Toothpaste is a thick mixture of water, a grinding powder, sweetener, flavor, and a soap-like chemical that makes foam. . . . The foam is just there to make you feel good. The working part of toothpaste is the gritty powder." For the first experiment, readers are urged to make a toothpaste of baking soda and crushed antacids. "It won't get all foamy like the kind you buy in a store, but the foamy part of toothpaste doesn't really help you grind food off your teeth."

But it's not just useless--it's unnatural. For the second experiment, readers are supposed to use that detergent ingredient in store-bought toothpaste to spread out an oil slick. "Your taste buds are covered with a thin skin that is made out of stuff that's very close to being an oily fat. The foaming stuff in toothpaste breaks that skin and changes the way your taste buds work. Things can taste different. It shuts off the sweet taste and changes the sour/acid taste into the bitter taste."

ONE BIG HAPPY: Ruthie torments a ventriloquist.

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What Am I? A Freakin' TV Guide?! (2/18/2004)
February 9-15, 2004

This One Is Not a Sweetheart (2/11/2004)
February 2-8, 2004

Haiku for the Holidays (12/31/2003)
Dec. 22-28, 2003

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