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Funny Paper

Follow the Sheep

Nov. 12-18

By Scocca & MacLeod | Posted 11/21/2001

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS DEP'T.: Sunday was the last chance for cartoonists to present their full-color meditations on the subject of Thankfulness. So who's the most fortunate soul in the funnies? Mark Trail encourages us all to be thankful for what's left of America's natural resources, quoting famous dead president John F. Kennedy about Americans' habit of "squandering and belatedly protecting their natural heritage." Nag, nag, nag. Maybe we should be thankful we don't have to worry about the current White House laying any guilt trips like that on us.

In Dennis the Menace, the Menace family and the Wilsons go around the table celebrating their good fortune. Mr. Mitchell starts by giving thanks for the meal, with a glance at the pert little lady who whipped it all up. Mrs. M. toasts health and happiness; Mrs. W. toasts Dennis, "this sweet little angel boy." A sweating, distracted-looking Mr. Wilson echoes Mrs. Mitchell, sotto voce. And then Our Hero closes things by declaring, with plate outstretched, "I'm thankful for seconds." Yeah, seconds. Like these ever-thinner helpings of Dennis soup that the North America Syndicate is boiling off your dead creator's carcass.

The family in Cathy, meanwhile, is grateful for the chance to have a "full fat Thanksgiving." No more dieting--it's time for "real mashed potatoes made with real butter" and "yams smothered in marshmallows." Ah, food = love. In Curtis, on the other hand, Mr. Wilkens is undermining the whole notion of ritual holiday food. "In some countries, they eat dogs!" he tells Curtis. "When your mother and I were first married, we had Chinese take-out. . . . After you were born, Curtis, we had pasta and garlic bread . . . . The important thing about Thanksgiving is that we are alive, healthy, and together."

But there is no holiday table like the holiday table of the Family Circus. At the head of the table, Daddy presides over the carving of the steaming turkey, doling it out one plate at a time. At the foot of the table, Mommy is spooning out some salad. Between them sits an actual horn o' plenty centerpiece, with grapes, apples, and a pineapple spilling out of it. Around it are mashed potatoes, can-shaped cranberry sauce, unidentifiable greens, and a platter of celery and olives. Pie waits on the sideboard, with an aerosol can of dessert topping alongside.

All that's missing from this homey scene are the smiles. Instead, most of the Circus Family members are sitting there with little hyphen-shaped mouths of bafflement, as Dolly--waving a spoon that seems to be the only piece of flatware permitted to the children--announces that she thinks she's seen Dead Grandpa "standin' right next to Grandma" during grace. Grandma, clutching her napkin, peers through her foggy glasses and forces a smile. Is that a drink of water by her elbow, or a tumbler of Beefeater?

"And now, I'll bet he's in the living room watchin' football on TV," Dolly continues. Right she is! There's Dead Grandpa, in his Defending Your Life-style robe and sandals, happily parked in front of the TV. Watching Spectravision, we presume--when you're dead, you get it for free. Dead Grandpa has a big, shit-eating smirk on his face. It is the smirk of the gratefully dead, who get to watch Brett Favre slicing up the Lions without having to eat the green-bean casserole and endure the mindless prattle of their half-wit descendents. In all the funnies, nobody has more to be thankful for than Dead Grandpa.

YOU CAN SAY THAT AGAIN! DEP'T. (HALL OF MIRRORS VERSION): On Monday, in Classic Peanuts, Snoopy hops off his doghouse, puts on his "Ike" jacket, and heads over to Bill Mauldin's house to "quaff a few root beers" for Veterans Day. Ah, the familiar seasonal rhythms of Pea--What? He did all that two days ago too? Why so he did. They ran the same strip twice, before and after the holiday. And it was a rerun to begin with. It's Classic Classic Peanuts, Charlie Brown! This could never have happened in Canada, what with their "Remembrance Day" and everything. Those clever, mnemonic Canadians.

PRODUCT PLACEMENT DEP'T.: In Monday's Family Circus, Mommy and Jeffy pull into the McDonald's drive-through. "I'll just have a LITTLE Mac," Jeffy says. Also, the same day, Dilbert riffs deftly on the Who Moved My Cheese? book--the ultimate self-help text, if by "self-help" you mean "help The Man screw you." Nice to see Scott Adams using live ammo for once.

MARK TRAIL: Sarah the Incredibly Coincidental Dog removes the stolen lumber-camp payroll from the tree hollow, brings it home with a trail of bills falling out, and buries it in her hold under the house to make her bed more comfortable. In complaining about this story line last week, Funny Paper inadvertently failed to give Jack Elrod credit for his full Rube Goldberg plot construction: Sarah needs a soft bed, you see, because she has a hormonal imbalance that makes her think she's pregnant. Now it all makes sense.

Sunday's featured natural phenomenon: the grandeur of America's threatened natural resources. With cameos by a squirrel, a deer, a cardinal, a flock of juvenile whooping cranes, a flock of gulls, a family of raccoons, a fly fisherman, and the rusting hulk of a Ford Fairmont.

THE PHANTOM: The Ghost Who Floats and his canoe-load of nautical jungle pygmies head for home, while the Mawitaan Coast Guard intercepts the "ghost pirates" in their former Soviet "Akuna class" nuclear submarine. "Next week: a new adventure!"

In the Sunday plot line, the guy with the spider tattoo on his head and his cronies keep plotting to steal diamonds from the tribal waters of the Llongo. Now they're going to do something to the "statue of the golden ox" to create a diversion.

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE: Liz takes a walk home with her ex-roommate Rudy, the slob. Showing new depth of character, Rudy ruminates on the acquisitive streak of Liz's creep boyfriend Eric. Liz, now alarmed, asks if Eric is seeing someone else. "Right now, Liz . . . it appears that I'm seeing you," Eric announces, suddenly appearing on the scene. Lynn Johnston's rendering of the femme-y creep is so femme-y here, Funny Paper thought at first that Liz was being confronted by the Other Woman. Within three panels, the creep has flipped the whole scenario, so that Liz is groveling for his forgiveness. Ick. For better.

GARFIELD: Speaking of new depth of character, Odie displays what may be his first-ever signs of internal life on Tuesday. "You wouldn't be so happy if you were seeing what I'm seeing," Garfield snarls--prompting Odie to whip out a hand mirror, gaze at his reflection, and grin. "How long have you been carrying that around waiting for me to say that?" Garfield says. Odie is capable of advance planning? Odie is capable of recognizing his own image in a mirror? What's next, Jon gets lucky?

JUMP START: Jojo tries to launch a career as a motivational speaker.

THE MIDDLETONS: Bumper and a neighbor dog welcome back a fellow canine from a trip to the vet's operating room. "Was his bark always that high?" Bumper asks. Ah, the TV Funhouse principle: Standards and Practices doesn't care how low the bar goes if it's just animals getting their nuts cut off.


NON SEQUITUR: Monday, "Ned finally grasps the concept of performance art." To wit: "Oh, I see . . . it's a contest on who can annoy the most people at one time, right?" According to Wiley Miller's Web site, more than 400 newspapers presently carry Non Sequitur. Hey, Wiley--you're a performance artist!

The Web site also informs us that "no one knows where Wiley got his sense of humor." And it explains that "Wiley considers the writing the most important part of a cartoon: 'Anybody can draw a silly picture, a silly picture is not a cartoon,' he says." Which is why on Friday, he takes a perfectly funny silly picture--a king getting cold-cocked by a slide trombone while strolling past his otherwise trumpet-blowing heralds--and destroys its simplicity with a beyond-obvious connect-the-dots-caption: "Why royalty prefers the trumpet over the trombone." Why Wiley fucking sucks.

LUANN: Romantic confusion reigns as Luann takes Gunther to see Monsters, Inc., only to lose track of him when he wanders into the wrong auditorium after making a popcorn run. When the movie starts, Gunther finds himself sitting next to a hulking parody of Luann. By Saturday, the teens are wandering in opposite directions through the cineplex.

ONE BIG HAPPY: The kids play "Anteeks Road Show." Then Ruthie spends a few days tormenting the Library Lady.

FAMILY CIRCUS: "Why does this picture of Daddy when he was a kid look like me?" Billy asks. Because you're so fucking inbred, sonny. If Thel hadn't brought some Aussie genes into the mix, you'd probably have a tail.

MOTHER GOOSE & GRIMM: A young Humpty Dumpty brings a slant-eyed egg-maiden home to meet the folks. "This is Yolko," says Mr. Dumpty. Bwahahahahaha. Yolko. Great. Mike Peters is making a breaking-up-the-Beatles joke, while simultaneously poaching on the turf of The Coll-Egg-Table Eggers Family. Poaching. Ha! So are we. Sorry, Lori Lee Landi. We apol-egg-ize.

THE COLL-EGG-TABLE EGGERS FAMILY: "William Sh-eggs-speare" takes the prize, courtesy of 11-year-old Uuljan Djangazieua of Ellicott City. Funny Paper wants to see the honorable-mention entry from Ulysses Muñoz, age 8, of Columbia, which was titled "Eggs-Men." As in, the Incr-egg-dible Eggs-Men? Wolv-egg-rine, Prof-eggs-or Eggs-avier, and, uh, Storm-egg, battling the evil M-egg-neto? That would be cool. Way better than Lori Lee's "eggs-ample" of the week, which is "introsp-egg-t," with an egg scratching its head and floating a thought balloon saying, "Who came first?" Quel sophist-egg-cated, Lori.

THE LOCKHORNS: "I see the tuna surprise is back," Leroy says Wednesday, "but not by popular demand." Funny Paper is confused by the use of "tuna surprise" here. When we see the words "tuna surprise" used by Bunny Hoest, we're looking for a surprise. It's like the gun in the first act of a play. This joke could have been done with "meat loaf." Don't get our hopes up with "tuna surprise" then serve us "meatloaf"-level humor.

PRINCE VALIANT: Prince Valiant, disguised as a knave, tells the Emperor Justinian to "follow the sheep."

REX MORGAN, M.D.: Over the morning paper (headline: "MARKET TUMBLES AGAIN"), Rex produces a tape recording of little Sarah saying "Da-Dee." June undercuts his triumph by demonstrating that Sarah calls her clown doll "Da-Dee." Rex announces he's taking up golf.

APARMENT 3-G: Cap'n Greg spritzes a little starter fluid on the embers of his old romance with Lu Ann.

MARY WORTH: Ian comes home drunk and lies to his wife, all in the name of destroying his sister-in-law's romantic plans.

THE BOONDOCKS: Riley stews over black people's wartime demotion to being the third-most despised ethnic group in America, which translates into him being less feared at school.

DOONESBURY: It's fish-in-a-barrel week, as Garry Trudeau's dumb college kids look into getting jobs with the dumb CIA.

GASOLINE ALLEY: Everybody hits on Clovia at the class reunion--including one apparent paramour whom she can't remember. Seems Slim liked more than his cars fast, back in the day. While she hobnobs, Slim goes off and falls into the lake.

BEETLE BAILEY: General Halftrack says he's considering laying off the sauce. The cosmos trembles. Funny Paper, inspired by the example of U.S. Grant, urges the general to stay off the wagon. Don't you know there's a war on, Amos?

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