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Funny Paper

Could I Have a Mouth Hole for Eatin' Stuff?

Oct. 29-Nov. 4

By Scocca & MacLeod | Posted 11/7/2001

IT'S THE GREAT PILE-ON, CHARLIE BROWN! DEP'T.: Wednesday brings an overflowing cornucopia--wait, wrong holiday. Wednesday brings a sweaty, grease-spotted paper bag full of empty-calorie All Hallow's Ween gags. Beetle Bailey and Blondie both send their grown-up champion eaters out trolling for candy--Sarge just wears his uniform and a black mask, while Dagwood borrows Elmo's pirate mask and accessories to go pillaging Mrs. Farr's supply of "popcorn balls." Cathy, meanwhile, lounges around in her robe and feeds treats to her dog. And a hooded, club-and-ax-wielding team of tax collectors tells Hagar the Horrible it's "time to play 'trick or treat'". In For Better or For Worse, envious trick-or-treaters watch freeloading newlyweds Mike and Deanna liberate old furniture and a TV set from the parental estate. Even Jumble gets in on the action, with the setup "What he needed to do when he wanted the Halloween mask." (Ans.: SCARE UP CASH.)

But most of the action is among the junior set, as it should be. In Hi & Lois Ditto steals Hi's bowling shoes to complete his clown costume. In The Middletons Wilson puts on extra-long vampire fangs, leading Wendie to mistake him for a walrus. Huey stays home and watches TV news to scare himself in The Boondocks. Joey refuses to wear a mask with his skeleton suit in Dennis the Menace--because, astronaut-suited Dennis explains, "He's scared of it." And in Family Circus, Dolly--in halo, wings, and a domino mask that changes her usual vacant dot-eyes into creepy Charles Burns peepers--raids hobo clown Jeffy's candy bag. Do kids dress as hobo clowns anymore? Funny Paper's neighborhood candy-grubbers tend to show up in off-the-rack Pikachu suits, or in their Pop Warner jerseys. Or Scream masks. Lots of Scream masks.

As ever, the best strips rise to the occasion. In One Big Happy, Ruthie and Joe get in a fight about who gets to be Elvis. So their mom settles the matter by sending them out as a joint entry of Young Elvis and Fat Elvis--with Ruthie, naturally, getting the jumpsuit and huge shades. Funny Paper adores Ruthie. Meanwhile Linus, in Classic Peanuts, waxes Biblical at the absent Great Pumpkin: "How long, oh, Great Pumpkin, wilt thou hide thyself from me? Mine enemies reproach me all the day!" Gracious--they made a kids' TV special out of this?

And it wouldn't be a holiday if some people didn't do a half-assed job of celebrating it. Hence Wiley Miller's Non Sequitur entry, with wee trick-or-treaters confronting "the scariest house on the block," where a sign invites them to sign a "litigation release form." Those darn lawyers ruin everything. We bet Wiley hands out pennies. Or leftover golf pencils. Or original Non Sequitur art. Then there's Jim Scancarelli, who spits out yet another holiday-themed Gasoline Alley splash panel--this one with an oooh, spooky graveyard scene and an illegibly overdecorated season's-greetings message.

Finally, there are the strips where Funny Paper couldn't quite tell if it was Halloween or not. Ziggy's mechanics tell him that his carburetor's haunted. Mother Goose & Grimm does a melting-witch gag. And Doonesbury's Roland Hedley is running around in Islamic-woman drag. But we're pretty sure that's just the regular plot line.

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE: Lynn Johnston refuses to let go of Hallowe'en, as Dr. Patterson spends the back end of the week toting around his rented life-size witch lawn decoration. On Sunday, the strip veers into pure slapstick, as Dr. P's dental assistant cuts away a patient's rubber mouth shield, accidentally taking a big chunk of moustache with it. For better!

FAMILY CIRCUS: So Dolly's an angel and Jeffy's a hobo clown and Billy, on Tuesday, is getting ready to put on a sheet-with-eyeholes ghost costume--the Halloween sartorial equivalent, cartoonically, of a desert island with one palm tree. Even Dennis the Menace doesn't stoop to the sheet-with-eyeholes thing. "Could I have a mouth hole for eatin' stuff?" Billy asks Thel. Hell, no, you can't have a mouth hole. Come to think of it, this year, Mommy's using a plastic sheet. With no holes at all. Put on your black Nikes and eat your applesauce.

Thursday, a drooling, slackjawed Jeffy gets on the phone to ask Grandma if she can "smell the mint I'm eating."

Sunday, the earlier themes of ghosts, grandparents, and communications all converge, as Dead Grandpa floats down from the clouds to kick Grandma's TV so it stops fritzing. So the grandkids can watch Touched by an Angel. No, really. Touched by an Angel. The kids jump for joy as Grandpa drifts back up through the ceiling, with a little pain-star shooting from his spectral sandaled foot. If we didn't know better, we'd think Bil Keane was being a little insincere here.

THE PHANTOM: In other ghost-related news, the Phantom finishes subduing the ghost pirates, calls the Mawitaan Coast Guard, and abandons ship--but not before baiting the pirates one last time. "Singh pirates! I battled your kind 400 years ago!"

"Ghost Who Walks . . . M-man who cannot die!" a pirate gibbers.

The Phantom is contemptuous. "They think I am that same Phantom" he thinks, "21 generations later." Uh, yeah. Since you just told them you were. Since you and your ancestors have spent 400 years doing everything within your Old Jungle PR powers to reinforce the lie.

In another rare Phantom-less Sunday Phantom, a band of ruffians--one with a spider tattooed on the side of his head--learn with amazement about the Llongo tribespeople's custom of tossing diamonds into a lake to propitiate the river goddess. Over-under on how soon the one guy is wearing a skull mark on his jaw to go with his spider tattoo: nine weeks. Half of Funny Paper, mumbling something about "inside information," just laid a sawbuck on the under. Check back in January to see who wins.

CATHY: Three guesses how Cathy spent Halloween Week. Oops. One guess. Cathy ate the first two.

DOONESBURY: Roland Burton Hedley Jr., in Afghanistan for CNN, falls in with a group of native fighters who keep switching sides. "We have a long tradition of changing allegiances in response to opportunity," one explains. "In my country," Hedley says, "we have a man named A-Rod . . ." Eh? Alex Rodriguez has changed teams once. He was assigned to the Seattle Mariners straight out of high school via the Major League Baseball draft, which prevents players from choosing who their employers will be. When his term as the Mariners' exclusive chattel was up, he shopped his services around the way that any free, job-seeking U.S. citizen would. We hate to get all American Enterprise Institute here, but Rodriguez didn't double-cross anyone to get his quarter-billion-dollar contract from the Rangers. He just found a willing buyer.

Now, if Hedley had said "Roger Clemens," he might have been onto something.

DILBERT: Asok is assigned to work with Catbert, the evil HR director. Do people in HR departments clip Dilberts and put them on the minifridge in their private lunchroom?

LUANN: Luann is driven into a frenzy of deluded self-righteousness by the sight of Aaron Hill flirting with Tiffany. Hey, Aaron, don't you have a sainted deaf girlfriend? How dare you betray her with a slutty cheerleader? You're supposed to betray her with Luann!

SHOE: Actual punch lines this week: "Jet Li lag" and "It's a jingle out there." Please, somebody dig up Jeff MacNelly's corpse so Jet Li can beat the crap out of it.

GASOLINE ALLEY: The Dick Tracy commemorative plot line drags to its conclusion, with the borrowed hawk-nosed detective signing off into his "2 way wrist radio." Hadn't the real Dick Tracy already worked his way up to a "2 way wrist computer," like, 15 years ago?

ONE BIG HAPPY: The kids lament that they can't recognize any of their classmates' inappropriate-movie-inspired Halloween costumes.

HERB & JAMAAL: Herb writes conversational crib notes on Jamaal's arm before sending him out on a date with Yolanda. Jamaal is dismayed when the crib notes work better than his regular remarks. At least Jamaal says the crib notes succeeded. Stephen Bentley fails to include any strips that show the cribbed conversation working to Jamaal's advantage. We had the same feeling about Jamaal and Yolanda's last date--one day they they're setting off for the evening, the next day it was already over. C'mon, Stephen Bentley. More meat, less bread.

THE COLL-EGG-TIBLE EGGERS FAMILY: Lori Lee Landi caves in to nationalistic fervor, crowning 12-year-old Aaleah McMullen of Parkville the winner for drawing an egg waving a flag, captioned "American Citizen." Not "Am-egg-rican Citizen," or "American Citiz-egg." American Citizen. That's not an Egger! We demand a recount!

JUMBLE: A "SHADY" DEAL, ALL SHOOK UP, A LONG RUN, SCARE UP CASH, DRESSED TO "KILL", "FAST" LIVING

REX MORGAN, M.D.: Leaping from her sickbed, the hypothermic June joins Wendi Karol in storming Chuck Franks' office. Franks confesses to flooding the basement to conceal the out-of-control mold problem.

MARY WORTH: Ian and the kids keep plotting to interfere with Liz and Wilbur. Ian keeps drinking. "Much as you might think otherwise, Hills, I do not always overindulge before dinner," he says. The hell he doesn't. This whole nefarious-sister-in-law plot line has really been more of an Ian-is-a-drunk plot line. Funny Paper is praying that next week they abort their silly costumed-seduction schemes and drag Ian off to rehab.

APARTMENT 3-G: "Hard to lee! . . . Pull in the jib!"--Greg wrestles the Bahamas-bound sailboat away from the rocks where Margo steered it. "We missed one ledge by mere inches," Blaze marvels.

"I never said I could read a navigational chart, Greg," Margo says.

"I think what's more important, Margo, is that . . . you never said you couldn't read one," Greg says.

Again: What is going on with Margo? Why have Bolle + Trusiani decided to make her such a thoughtless train wreck? Funny Paper is reminded of when we first saw The Last Days of Disco, and we couldn't figure out why the female lead, played by Kate Beckinsale, was such a raging psycho bitch. Then when we saw it again on Bravo, we realized that Beckinsale had been so unsympathetic because she wasn't the lead character--we were supposed to have been siding with her dishrag roommate, portrayed by noted amateur actress Chloë Sevigny. We can only guess that something similar is going on in Apartment 3-G. Margo has always seemed to be the clear first among G's, but she's too annoying to be the protagonist anymore. Evidently Tommie or Lu Ann is going to have to step up. Which one is Tommie, again?

GARFIELD: The new, wide-eyed Manic Garfield pops up again Sunday, watching gleefully as Mrs. Feeny falls in a tiger trap he's dug. What have you done with the real Garfield?

JUMP START: On vacation in Cancun, Dot hops on a "mo-ped" and gets lost. "Mo-ped." She blunders into a bull-ring, where a mata-dor is at work. Then she ends up at some pre-historic ru-ins. Ah, sunny Mex-i-co!

MARK TRAIL: The lumber-camp robbers hide their loot in a tree cavity, then hightail it back to camp.

Sunday's featured plant: the gargantuan American sycamore. "The sycamore, while not the tallest tree, attains the most massive proportions of any American hardwood. . . . One had a girth of 47 feet. . . . It is said that [early settlers] often used the hollow trunks of big trees for temporary quarters while building their cabins." Or for stashing the stolen lumber-company payroll.

CURTIS: Curtis gets a patriotic motivational lecture from "Lucky," a ragged, smelly street person. "You's got de heart of yo' African ancestors, and red, white and blue American blood in you!--Powerful combination, dat!! . . . Fear and courage mix like a tub fulla water and a coffee cup of old bacon grease--'fear' bein' water--it separates, wid d' grease risin' to d' top! That same grease is you, Junior!--Itchin' and a-strainin' t' rise up over your fears! Let is rise, Junior!! Let it bubble over!! Can I get an 'A-men'?!!" Then Lucky gets in a limo and rides off.

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