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Funny Paper

This Bulkhead Is Right Over My Face

Oct. 8-14

By Scocca & MacLeod | Posted 10/17/2001

NICE TITLES! DEP'T.: Normally, Funny Paper doesn't dig the extra Sunday Color Supplement Positioning Option Panels. But we are impressed, if not awed, by Garfield's opening salvo this week. The fat-ass feline is motoring along in Ed "Big Daddy" Roth-land for the first 25 percent of his color appearance: working an 8-ball gearshift with a distorted monster hand, egg-shaped eyes bulging from flapping sockets, tongue distorted and trailing due to rapid acceleration. A big hemi mill churns in the front of the cat's hot rod, and flies buzz around the vehicle and the crazed kustom garfield lettering. Well worth the extra ink. Then the strip goes back to the usual crap style, with Garfield swatting a spider.

Then, two strips down, Luann's Greg Evans presents a title panel of Knute's head on a pig's body. The Stoner of Pitts School looks really, really happy with his new porcine self. A lesson for us all.

NEW WORLD ORDER DEP'T.: Week by week, strip by strip, the post-Sept. 11 consciousness continues to creep over the comics pages. Early adopters The Boondocks and Doonesbury keep on keeping up with the political end of things. And now Jump Start and Luann worry about life on the home front. In the former, Marcy sighs over old snapshots of the World Trade Center, and the cops on the beat encounter a more appreciative public. In the latter, Brad idly considers joining the Army, while Luann moons around discussing her fears with adult authority figures, like the exemplary teen she is.

Meanwhile, in Non Sequitur, Wiley's bid at an actual sequitur comes up non, in a Monday panel showing a man looking at towering twin rectangular leaf piles, with the caption "Autumn in New York." Huh? Half of Funny Paper thought they looked like twin topiary hedges. Not that hedges made sense either. Later in the week, Wiley also offers not one but two strips dedicated to the proposition that War Is Bad. Thanks for sharing, Wiley.

Then there are the strips that seem to be sniffing around the subject--literally, in the case of a regrettable Monday Hagar the Horrible. "That's just the way life is, Snert," Hagar says to his dog. "You get used to something and then suddenly it's gone." Nice . . . except what Snert is looking at, with a tear in his doggy eye, is a tree stump. He misses his pissing tree. On Saturday, the Browne factory goes after the Big Questions again, further establishing the strip's hopeless tone-deafness. Hamlet asks Hagar why kids have to fight over stuff. "If we could figure that out there wouldn't be any more wars!" says Hagar. Says Hagar the Horrible. Says Hagar the Horrible, the Viking marauder, scourge of the English coast.

KUDZU: Doug Marlette appears to be alluding to our earthly troubles too, with a Monday strip in which the Voice of God tells the kneeling Rev. Will B. Dunn, "Don't make me come down there!" Nice gag line, Marlette. Which is why it's been one of the centerpieces of a nationwide proselytizing billboard campaign ( that was just written up in all your hometown North Carolina newspapers back in August. It's so catchy, the AP even used it as a headline on its local wire piece about the billboards. Hey, Doug, here's something else God said: "Thou shalt not steal." Or, in the Funny Paper translation, "Thou shalt not fucking plagiarize billboards, ye abominable hack."

THE PHANTOM: The Phantom gets on the submarine's intercom and harasses the "ghost pirates." The pirates decide he must be their missing shipmate Koll, trying to double-cross them. This amuses the Ghost Who Chuckles Ironically: "They think the pirate I impersonated is impersonating me!"

Sunday, Falk & Nolan present . . . the Origin of the Phantom!


FAMILY CIRCUS: Monday, Billy wants to be Lance Armstrong. "Mommy, how many times around the block would be the same as the Tour de France?" he asks. And what would it look like if you traced the route over and over with a dotted line?

Wednesday, the Keanes do one of their clumsy speech-balloon-and-caption dialogue jokes. "When Dolly was born," Mommy says, "we thought about giving her my name." "Oh no!" Jeffy pipes up. "Then we'd have a sister named Mommy." Hey, Jeffy, maybe you already do. Just like Faye Dunaway in Chinatown.

Saturday, things get spiritual. "Wow!" Dolly says, watching football on TV. "Think how many guardian angels are flyin' around in that stadium." Is this yet another terrorism reference? Because if it is, the Guardian Angel Theory took a helluva hit last month.

SALLY FORTH: Ted talks on his cell phone while driving. Sally and Ted talk about talking on cell phones while driving. All week long. Gab, gab, gab.

GASOLINE ALLEY: The Dick Tracy crossover murder-mystery plot thickens with the arrival of lawyer Krahs Yenrotta. "In my long career, I've met many characters whose names--when read backwards--form other names!" Tracy says. "Hmm! Could this be a clew?" He then proceeds to spell the name of the butler, "Chilblain," backwards. This is Jim Scancarelli's birthday tribute to the hawk-nosed detective? To make him a dunce? Who's Scancarelli to make fun of the wits of other strips' characters? Hey, Jim, meet Funny Paper's cousin. He's named Ycart Kcid Laer Eht Su Evig Tsuj--Yella Enilosag Pord S'tel Nus Eromitlab Yeh.

As the parlor investigation continues, Melba declines a cup of coffee, because "I never touches stimulatin' drink!" Good thing Joel and Rufus only drinks depressant.

DOONESBURY: Mike Doonesbury fears his Arab seatmate on a cross-country flight. "Relax, I'm just flying to Newark to visit my mother," the unshaven, head-wrapped man says, "I'm a Palm Pilot salesman from Tacoma." No negative stereotyping! Positive stereotyping!

Sunday, Garry Trudeau takes it to the old school of sledgehammer political cartooning, as talking cigarette Mr. Butts whoops it up in the Lincoln Bedroom. "What keeps my spirits up?" he says, reaching for the champagne. "Just knowing that the Bushies want to settle the federal suit against Big Tobacco." From next door come the sounds of "Mr. and Mrs. Big Oil" having a party of their own.

MARK TRAIL: Mark Trail paddles down Cloudy River, which is in a logging region. An old man named Matt Crawford talks to his dog Sarah. And talks and talks. "This is your favorite place to come every day, Sarah!" he says. Shouldn't the dog know that already? In a four-day, nine-panel, 170-odd-word monologue, he tells the dog the whole story of how he took the fall for his good-for-nothing son once, after the son stole the logging-camp payroll--and then how his wife and son left him while he was in the clink. Otters frolic, mallards fly, and he keeps on rambling. Poor Sarah-dog has to listen to the same damn thing every day.

Sunday's featured animal: the voracious and destructive coypu, "also called nutria." Also called "the other gray meat." We hear it "accepts seasoning very well."

LUANN: Young Mrs. Horner--who pretty much tells Luann that she's really Ms. Horner, and Luann has been bungling her name all along--talks about the Big Issues with her impressionable young friend. "Dear, I learned long ago that worry is the second most useless emotion," she says, fiddling with the teapot. "What's the first?" Luann asks. "Hate," Ms. H. says softly. Hate is the most useless emotion? Funny Paper always thought shame was the most useless emotion.

ONE BIG HAPPY: Ruthie gets her first royal straight flush, and wants her mom to put it in her baby book. Later, though, she reveals it "wasn't organic." "You mean, it wasn't a natural?" her father interprets. "Yeah. Fours, fives, and sixes were wild!"

Sunday, Rick Detorie gives us a pun-filled, child-style illustrated report "by Joe the Great GENIUS." Not unlike the Father's Day work of Billy, the great NONGENIUS. That's two straight Sundays that One Big Happy has stooped to within smelling range of Family Circus.

CLASSIC PEANUTS: Peppermint Patty camps out in Snoopy's doghouse (which she takes for the "guest cottage") and gets her mail forwarded to the Brown house. "Motorcycle News . . . ," Charlie Brown says, digging through the mailbox, "Football Stories . . . Wrestling Annual . . . Fishing Guide . . . Glider News . . . Mountain Climbing Dispatch . . . Dirt-Bike Report . . ." How can a voracious reader of Mountain Climbing Dispatch do so badly in school?

ZIGGY: Gas in Ziggy World is $2.35 a gallon. "I never feel anything as wrong as road rage . . . ," the mild one says. "But when I look at the price of gasoline I come pretty close!"

DENNIS THE MENACE: "I bet Eskimo kids have to warm their PJs in the microwave," Dennis says. Now there's a Family Circus we'd like to see!

ZIPPY: Zippy talks to a giant rabbit-headed man, a giant Paul Bunyan, and a hot-dog stand shaped like a giant hot dog.

THE LOCKHORNS: Loretta's piano playing gives Leroy "Bach pains." Funny Paper has "Bunny Hoest pains."

B.C.: Cute Chick has swollen lips, without surgery. "I just walked up to Fats and called her Lardo," she says. So "Fat Broad" is OK, but "Lardo" is an insult?

DILBERT: The boss tells Carol to tell callers he's in a meeting; since he's clutching a newspaper, Funny Paper assumes he's heading for the can. Pissed off at the "vague instructions," she says he's at a "Morons Anonymous" meeting. "The whole thing usually ends with a shoe-sniffing contest," she says. Good one, "shoe-sniffing contest."

NON SEQUITUR: Not even the deft presspersons at The Sun can compensate for the rampant amateurism of Wiley Miller's Sunday offering. All the other color funnies print fine, but Non Sequitur looks like it sat out in the rain for a week before it went to press, thanks to Wiley's aversion to using black ink. What, were color pencils on clearance at Office Depot? If there'd been some black in the cartoon, maybe we could have read the anti-arithmetic note that gloomy girl Danae wrote on the chalkboard. Though somehow we doubt it would have enhanced the experience all that much.

GARFIELD: The dieting Garfield hallucinates about junk food. Then he gets pissy about the food he has. "Celery!" he snarls. "If science could find a use for it, we wouldn't have to eat it to get rid of it." Yeah, that fucking useless celery! Can't do anything with it! Except slice it up and stir-fry it with pork. Or chop it into a mirepoix and make a rich French soup. Or stuff a chicken with it. Garfield: food humor for people who eat out of cellophane bags.

REX MORGAN, M.D.: June goes looking for killer mold, wisely deciding to crawl through a basement window rather than get the sleepy Chef Tito to unlock the door. As she clambers down, she falls through the top of an old shipping crate, in a classic Graham Nolan action sequence. What a disaster! But how had she been planning to get back out of the basement, anyway? Meanwhile, Chuck Franks, hoping to distract Wendi Carol while the basement floods, tries an improbable mack routine on her. Good move, androgyny boy, making a pass at an Amazon twice your size. "You didn't bring me up here to talk about an art commission!" she snaps. "And it wasn't to hit on me either! What are you up to, Chuck?" The plot thickens! By Sunday, Nolan is in full Gothic graphic-novel mode, with June trapped inside the crate, semiconscious, as the water rises around her.

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE: April eventually figures out she was supposed to find the reproductive-biology book. For worse!

APARTMENT 3-G: The girls keep sailing for the Bahamas. Margo keeps bitching about the accommodations on the boat. "This bulkhead is right over my face," she whines on Sunday.

CURTIS: Curtis photocopies his butt, scans it, and uploads it to the school system's computers. Since when do deprived inner-city schools have that kind of computer power? Heck, when did they switch to photocopiers from mimeographs? Maybe Curtis mimeographed his butt. Or carbon-papered it.

MARY WORTH: Woody "Don't Call Me Forrest" Hills notes that Ian, "the curmudgeon of Center Hall," is a bundle of trite professorial affectations.

BEETLE BAILEY: Lt. Fuzz tells Sarge of his lifelong quest to be a top desk jockey.

PRINCE VALIANT: Prince Valiant encourages his men to ply their useful trades, to gain influence among the troops and laborers in Emperor Justinian's joint expedition with the barbaric Rus. Galan will do the doctoring, Gawain will care for the horses, Arn will do some blacksmithing, and Mr. Brave himself will navigate by the stars. It's the Camelot Vo-Tech Class of '01. 501, that is.

CATHY: Cathy, immune to current events, goes purse shopping. "I even buy my purses two sizes too small," she brags.

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