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Funny Paper

Thanks for Pitching in With Freedom's Paperwork

Oct. 15-21

By Scocca & MacLeod | Posted 10/24/2001

DOUG MARLETTE PLAGIARISM WATCH DEP'T.: For the second straight Monday, Kudzu rips off the "God Speaks" billboard campaign ( This time, the Rev. Will B. Dunn is sitting at his desk, with a sign saying "What part of 'Thou shalt not . . . ' don't you understand?" on the wall behind him. Hey, Marlette--what part of "thou shalt not" don't you understand? Stop stealing your gag lines from God-fearing billboards, you NASCAR-belt Ruth Shalit. Don't make us come down there.

Funny Paper is not claiming that this material started with the God Speaks people. For all we know, it was written by Paul Harvey, or by God Himself. But it's got Doug Marlette's byline on it, and we know he didn't write it. Theft from the commons is still theft. If we want to read unfunny public-domain jokes, we'll get 'em in our e-mail, the way God meant us to get them.

DOUG MARLETTE SECOND-CAREER WATCH DEP'T.: Marlette's roman á hack, The Bridge, stands at No. 13,300 on the sales list. Three used copies are available, from the low, low discount price of $12.75. Excerpt of the week: "My talent is like a pit bull on a very long leash, and each day when I take it out for a stroll I hold on for dear life." Now that's funny!

YOU CAN SEE THAT AGAIN! DEP'T.: Thursday brings back-to-back smooch panels on page 7E. For Better or for Worse ends with Deanna giving a joyous buss to Weed for finding a lead on an apartment; Luann, right next door, begins with a holdover panel of Bernice locking lips with Zane. Lynn Johnston's chaste kiss between friends looks way more smoldering than the allegedly passionate encounter drawn by Greg Evans.

YOU CAN DRAW THAT AGAIN! DEP'T.: Graham Nolan concludes this Sunday's Rex Morgan, M.D. with . . . the exact same panel he ended with last Sunday. June Gale is slumped in a packing crate in the basement, in graphic-novel chiaroscuro, with water rising around her. He's tweaked the ripples on the water outside the box, but the central artwork is cut-and-paste identical to last week's image, down to the wood grain. Funny Paper is less troubled by the recycling (though we wonder why the action-loving Nolan is not taking the opportunity to draw more action) than by the fact that it means the plot has slowed to a weeklong standstill.

THE STEVE ALLEN EQUATION DEP'T.: "Comedy equals tragedy plus time," the late, prolific, family-values-defending, formerly funny funnyman once said. At least, we think Steverino said it. We've also seen various algebraically modified versions attributed to Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, and maybe David Sedaris. Tragedy + Time = Comedy. Time = Comedy + Tragedy.

With apologies to all the supposed authors, though, Funny Paper proposes a different theorem. Tragedy + Time - Comedy = This Week's Post-Terrorism Comics Roundup. On Monday, in Family Circus, Jeffy kneels in his nightly prayers: "Daddy says you've been 'stremely busy since September 11th, but . . ." Meanwhile Herb & Jamaal presents a strip with plain black panels and a paraphrased Langston Hughes poem--"To all the terminators of man's dreams, America says no!"

The pinnacle of sentimental crappiness, though, comes from Non Sequitur. On Sunday, over a quote from "America, the Beautiful," the giant golden hands of God reach down toward the Twin Towers--which are now rooted in the clouds--to pick up a valiant firefighter and a man in a suit. Boy, those hands are big. Looks like they could just grab an errant airplane out of the sky if they wanted.

DOONESBURY: Contradicting our newly revised Steve-and/or-Woody Allen Rule, Garry Trudeau gets a week of good, character-driven material out of Mike's trip to the funeral of his ex-boss, who died in the Trade Center. Maybe it's because he's dealing with actual ongoing events rather than trying to commemorate the sheer awfulness of it all. Or maybe it's just because he's a better writer than Wiley Miller or Stephen Bentley. "I'm stunned to hear that Bellows acted so selflessly at the end," Mike says. "Now I feel terrible for thinking he was the most unprincipled person I'd ever known." "Yeah, me, too," his ex-colleague Marcia replies. "I almost regret my sexual-harassment suit." Deft use of "almost" there.

Sunday, we get another installment of the pure-gold exchange between Mr. Slackmeyer, on his deathbed, and Mark, who has now read his father's World War II army-clerking memoir, Hell in Triplicate. "You know," Mr. S. says, "it would've been great if once--just once--someone had come up to me and said, 'Thanks, soldier! Thanks for pitching in with freedom's paperwork!'" Pause. "Well?"

"Oh . . . thanks, Dad!" Mark says. "Thanks for pitching in with freedom's paperwork!"

BEETLE BAILEY: On Monday, Beetle and Sarge are armed to the teeth: rifles, pistols, knives, belts full of grenades. "Are we mad at somebody?" Beetle asks. Maudlin post-terrorism comics bad; war comics good!

THE BOONDOCKS: Aaron McGruder brings us the adventures of Flagee and Ribbon. Bad-tempered anti-jingoism comics: good!

KUDZU: As if the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions didn't have enough to worry about--what with using toddlers as guinea pigs in lead-paint studies and all--now Doug Marlette is dragging the Hopkins name into his pinched and mediocre little world. "Researchers as Johns Hopkins University," the TV tells Doris the Parakeet on Tuesday, "have found conclusive evidence that everything you enjoy eating is bad for you." Great. Not content with ripping off God, Marlette's started ripping off Cathy.

LUANN: In the middle of tutoring hunky and sensitive cripple Zane, Bernice suggests they take a break and stretch their legs. Mortified by her faux pas, she crumples in tears, then--finally--pounces on him, lips first. The other girls refuse to believe it really happened.

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE: Mike and Deanna look for an apartment, with the help of Weed. Sunday, Grandpa Jim lectures his old-ladyfriend Iris about how glad he is to be in the winter of life. "Winter can be the best time of all!" he says. Yeah, especially when you slip on the icy sidewalk and break a hip. For worse!

MARMADUKE: Marmaduke is confronted by a quintet of adoring poodles, all of them with evident romantic designs on the Dane. Funny Paper is always bemused by the breed/gender intersection in dog humor. Fifty percent of real poodles, no matter how foofily groomed, are boy poodles, just like 50 percent of bulldogs are girl bulldogs. But in the funnies, the beribboned, fluffy dogs are always girls. Oh. Hey, maybe they're not.

GASOLINE ALLEY: Still more of the crossover murder-mystery adventures of Plainclothes Tracy. The hawk-nosed dick continues to interrogate the domestic help in the parlor, with Joel and Rufus as a moronic Greek chorus. Why is Detective Tracy asking so damn many questions? Shoot somebody, already! Preferably Joel and Rufus.

ZIPPY: In other crossover news, the Sunday Zippy offers special guest appearances from Nancy, of Nancy fame, and Henry, of Henry. But Henry has dialogue. This is just wrong, even in a formerly underground anti-comics comic strip. Henry does not speak! Henry does not even have a mouth. He does not even generate thought balloons. Henry is an opaque, pantomiming Anyman.

MARY WORTH: Blowhard Ian meets with Dawn and Woody to plot the seduction of his sister-in-law. "Nice to meet you, son!" he says to the amateur thespian-turned-psych major. "I trust you have a whip and a chair!" Not only is Ian a perv, he's a boring perv.


PRINCE VALIANT: Prince Valiant's sleeper cell of militants continues to infiltrate the Emperor Justinian's expeditionary force. Their newest tactic is to slip poison into the Imperial Physician's wine. Very heroic.

MARK TRAIL: The lumberjacks keep plotting to steal the camp payroll. A chipmunk scampers over a log. Mark takes one glance at Sarah the dog and diagnoses a hormonal imbalance. Nice work, St. Francis of Assisi. We thought you were a reporter, not a veterinarian.

Sunday's featured natural phenomenon: the nests built by gray squirrels. "When constructing its shelter, the builder instinctively leaves air spaces between the layers of twigs and leaves. And when wrapped by the bushy blanket of its tail, the squirrel generates its own heat . . . which is trapped by the 'insulating' air pockets." Why the quotes on "insulating"? Too much fresh air has ruined Jack Elrod's punctuation.

SHOE: Cosmo asks Irv for the "key to the men's room." "The key is to make sure you don't touch anything." Wow. Another solid rim-shot from the rotting corpse of Jeff MacNelly.

ONE BIG HAPPY: Ruthie frees a bug from a spider web, then swats it when it jumps on her. There's a gag you'll never see in Family Circus.

THE PHANTOM: Following Old Jungle Criminal Procedure, the Mawitaan police process the "ghost pirate" that the Phantom left behind on shore, taking the skull mark on his jaw in lieu of an indictment.

In the Sunday strip, we learn how the Phantom brought peace to the warring savage tribes of the jungle, brokering a treaty. "Woodcarvers of the Oogaan tribe carved a golden ox out of one single piece of golden wood. Then the chiefs confirmed the treaty by shooting arrows at the statue." And then the LORD said unto Moses, "Thy people have corrupted themselves, they have made them a golden calf, now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them." Oh, wait, that was the Israelites. No word on how God feels about the Oogaan tribe.

Actually, according to Funny Paper's crack African-affairs research bureau, there is no Oogaan tribe. There is a Somali word "oogaan," but it's not a proper noun. Oogaan can mean "knowledge" or "awareness." Or it can mean "to create a problem." Good word, oogaan. Sounds like a concept dear to Funny Paper's heart. Unfortunately, given the general level of cultural sensitivity in The Phantom, we doubt the Falk + Nolan creative shop worked through the lexical nuances. We figure they were just going for the sound. So they could make a treaty with the Boogaans. .

BLONDIE: Blondie introduces Tootsie to her college roommate, Judi Wriggley, who says she majored in "boys!" in college. And graduated "magna cum laude!" she adds, her jewelry twinkling proudly. Ah, Blondie! When this strip goes on a war jag, it's gonna be all about Pearl Harbor.

DENNIS THE MENACE: "That boy could get in trouble in a monastery," Mr. Wilson snarls. Huh? Why wouldn't Dennis get into trouble in a monastery? A monastery is a place where everybody keeps quiet and follows a tight schedule. Dennis is a five-and-a-half-year-old with a short attention span. This makes no sense. Is the Hank Ketcham Memorial Cartoonarium making some sort of filthy anti-monastic double entendre?

JUMP START: Jump Start spins a week's worth of material from the fine print on our desk blotter. October 16, it turns out, is "National Boss Day." Insert your own every-day-is-kids'-day-type joke here. Robb Armstrong rightly decides that the only proper way to deal with such a dumbass fake holiday is through wanton overkill. So Jojo's preschool minions spend the whole week planning and throwing a surprise party for Boss Day, complete with the unveiling of a Play-Doh bust of their leader. Armstrong includes the circle-R registered-trademark symbol on "Play-Doh(r)." Then Benny eats the bust, piece by piece. We can't wait to see what happens on "United Nations Day."

BARNEY GOOGLE & SNUFFY SMITH: Snuffy shirks his household chores, except for his chicken-thieving duties.

HERB & JAMAAL: Yolanda, running late for her long-deferred date with Jamaal, gets dressed and made up in two minutes flat. "There are advantages to being a firefighter," she thinks. Nice to see that Stephen Bentley isn't, like, haunted by Sept. 11 or anything.

APARTMENT 3-G: Margo takes the helm on the Bahamas-bound boat. Blaze warns of the risk of pirates. Funny Paper prays for a Phantom-Apartment 3-G crossover.

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