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I Wasn't in the Mood for Cooking It, Either

Sept. 10-16

By Scocca & MacLeod | Posted 9/19/2001

SHADOW OF DEATH DEP'T.: The comics page may have been the one place where the American way of life went on exactly as usual after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Thanks to long lead times, the comics were all in hand and ready for publication, so The Sun went ahead and ran them. No sense inflicting another disruption on the kiddies.

We found surprisingly few creepy results of the comics-as-usual policy. Family Circus on Wednesday had the kids contemplating the "skeleton" of a half-built house, which was jarring after all the reverse architecture of the previous day. Non Sequitur happened to be indulging its usual cheap misanthropy on the 12th, with a desert-island strandee happily contemplating "a whole month without human contact . . . no cell phone, no pager, no G.P.S., no Internet, no e-mail, no Palm Pilot, no news on the rest of the world . . . I should've thought of this years ago." Not so funny when you're still trying to get a clear circuit to New York.

Thursday, Dennis the Menace showed Joey a jar of bugs, calling it "my anti-Margaret defense system." On Friday, Curtis had Mrs. Wilkens trying to calm Barry's apparent fears about death, while The Lockhorns did a gag about buying airline tickets online. And on Sunday, Doonesbury's Mark Slackmeyer did a rant about the Chandra Levy media frenzy, not knowing that Levy had already dropped to number 5,400-something on the nation's missing-persons list.

One strip in The Sun did get around to addressing the subject--a graceful and oblique Saturday Beetle Bailey, a rare one-panel strip with the troops slumped morosely in their mess-hall seats, ignoring their dinner trays. "It's all right, I understand," Cookie says. "I wasn't in the mood for cooking it, either." It was so oblique, Funny Paper sent an e-mail query to the Mort Walker factory (Missbuxley@aol.com) to see if we'd read it right. "It was a response and it was rushed in order to get it out as soon as possible," the factory confirmed. In our national hour of crisis, Funny Paper is comforted--seriously, without irony--by the swift, effective mobilization of Camp Swampy. Would that we all react so well.

YOU TALKIN' TO ME? DEP'T.: Tuesday in Blondie, Mr. Dithers asks Dagwood to explain a cartoon to him. "It's funny because the rooster is wearing a wig," Dagwood says. Then Dagwood goes home to consult with Blondie: "Honey, do you get why this rooster is wearing a wig?" Meanwhile, directly overhead, Jim Davis serves up a punch-line panel of . . . Garfield wearing a wig.

YOU CAN SAY THAT AGAIN! DEP'T.: "I'm getting tired of these reality shows!" Ziggy says Wednesday, sitting in front of a TV that shows Ziggy sitting in front of a TV that shows Ziggy sitting in front of a TV.

Thursday, Non Sequitur presents "How to Tell When the Reality Programming Fad Has Peaked," showing a television production crew surrounding a guy in front of his TV, on which his own image stares back at him. Looks like Wiley Miller, still reeling from his head-to-head loss to Family Circus a few weeks back, drops another game in the dueling-humorist standings.

CURTIS: Michelle greets the news of Puff Tabby's demise with her usual cold-blooded aplomb. "I guess I sort of expected it . . . 'Puff Tabby' was fifteen years old! . . . That's a lot in human years! It was probably just his time." Friday, Barry's high-top-fade-wearing teddy bear, "Snackers," puts in an appearance.

LUANN: Luann limps back to school on her sprained ankle. Knute slouches around being an idiot. Sunday, we get an all-too-rare solo adventure of Brad, who lacks the necessary gray matter to successfully man the register during Weenie World's "Friesday" promotion. Usually, Funny Paper is on the other side of the counter for stuff like that.

MOTHER GOOSE & GRIMM: Everyone suffers as Grimm and Attila pitch a tent in the yard and Mike Peters fires up the GAGTRONIC 2000. Let CHARACTER = DOG VS. CAT; let SITUATION = BACKYARD CAMPOUT. Monday: "You rough it . . . I'll stay here softing it." Tuesday: "little tents" puns with "a little tense." Wednesday: Attila staggers under a load of camping-inappropriate luxury appliances. Thursday: "It's scary under the stars. I'm sleeping under you." Friday: "That's just the call of the wild." "Well, I want my calls blocked!" Saturday: "Attila, we're outside . . . the whole world is your litter box!" CTRL-ALT-DEL.

DOONESBURY: Mr. Slackmeyer shows Mark his memoir of WWII The Big One: Hell in Triplicate: A Company Clerk Remembers.

JUMP START: Who's that on the E.R. gurney? It's the gallery owner who cancelled Charlene's pottery exhibit because of Charlene and Clarence's interracial marriage. And to deepen things, she's black! By Saturday her bigotry yields to Marcy's tender, nonjudgmental nursing ministrations.

DENNIS THE MENACE: Saturday, a heavy-lidded Dennis curls up with the phone. "Hi, Gina," he purrs. "My dad says our phone cable is underground now. Does my voice sound deeper?" What is up with the Dennis the Mack-nace bit? Hank Ketcham never sent the eternal 5.5-year-old chasing skirts. This is like when Chester Gould died, and his re-animators decided that Tess Trueheart and Dick Tracy should file for divorce. Besides, when the time does come for Dennis to become Mr. Menace, Gina won't need any convincing. Any Dennis reader knows that Gina is good to go already. Witness Tuesday, when Gina was carrying Dennis over the threshold of his house. That's the normal, healthy Dennis-and-Gina relationship.

ONE BIG HAPPY: Joe and Ruthie perform cryogenic experiments on flies. Joe: "One day we'll defrost them . . ." Ruthie: "When scientists find a cure for what killed them!" Dad: "How did they die?" Joe: "We swatted them."

GASOLINE ALLEY: Joel, Rufus, and Mayor Melba head out for Melba's uncle's home in Snorin' Creek. But the junkwagon is only a two-seater. "Rufus got a perfeckly good lap goin' unused," Joel tells the ever-braless chief executive, winning our Inappropriate Double Entendre of the Month Award. Thursday and Friday, Jim Scancarelli pays Tribune Media Services intramural homage to Chester Gould as the junksters pull into Sunny Dell Acres to ask directions, only to have B.O. Plenty refuse to help the "flatland touristers" out. "Hesh, B.O.," Gravel Gertie says.

MARY WORTH: Dawn Weston gets home to find that her father has taken Liz Hoag out to dinner at the pricey Surf House. Carlos, wearing a beret and riding a bicycle because he's a foreigner, marvels over the immodest outfit La Hoag was wearing. "Let me only say," he says, "I hope the lady does not have to bend over!"

Before Dawn can figure out how to react to the news, the phone rings--it's hunky psych major Forrest Hills, asking her to come over and let his friend do the needed body work on her car. "While he works his magic we'll go to the neighborhood watering hole and I'll treat you to a beer and a burger," he offers. Watering hole. Forrest slays us.

Sunday, as the phone conversation continues, he asks Dawn to "practice calling me 'Woody'!" and tells her he used to be an actor. "When I was an undergrad it was my honor to 'tread the boards' in at least a dozen productions!" Tread the boards. Dawn receives this information with an old-fashioned glowing-lightbulb thought balloon.

FAMILY CIRCUS: Thursday, Billy, clutching a book to his groin, asks Daddy if Latin was a dead language when he was a kid. Billy is studying Latin? Why isn't Billy studying English? We were going to say something mean about Billy in Latin, but Funny Paper is a little weak on the classics, and we couldn't rustle up an effective English-Latin translation engine on the Web. So we said screw it and asked Babel Fish to put in into Portuguese: Billy è uma crianÁa que seja mentalmente impairede. Funny Paper makes no claim that Babel Fish Portuguese has any relation to the Portuguese spoken in Portugal, or in Brazil, for that matter.

Saturday, Billy and Jeffy come through the door wheelbarrow-race style. "Wheelbarrows belong in the garage," Mommy says. Be a good boy, Billy, and lock your brother in the garage.

Sunday, the kids doze off in front of the TV--on which a logo mysteriously reads "Paul Harvey Jr."--to the strains of "Brahm's [sic] Lullaby." Brahm's Lullaby. Maybe it's by John Brahm, director of the films Hot Rods to Hell, Tonight We Raid Calais, and The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima.

MARMADUKE: Marmaduke wants to jump on the chair.

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE: Lynn Johnston keeps things rolling as Mike and Deanna go down the aisle. The psycho mother-in-law throws one last fit, the tiny ring-bearer panics, Weed the photographer snaps the necessary shots, and it's kiss-the-bride time by Sunday. For better!

THE PHANTOM: The Ghost Who Walks cold-cocks a ghost pirate--"UH! . . . That was no ghost jaw!" he says--and steals his outfit. The Phantom likes wearing a tricorn hat. "I like this hat," he thinks. Then he infiltrates the rest of the pirate gang, and rides with them ("in a cargo van," he thinks contemptuously) to their rendezvous with the ghost ship. Funny Paper has a hard time telling who the Phantom is when everyone is wearing a domino mask.

Sunday, the Phantom and Prince Bakhmet interrupt Marshal Zebal just as he's about to seize the reins of power. "Look, Tom-Tom!" Prince Rex cries. "It's Uncle Walker!*"

"*For the Ghost Who Walks!" the inescapable footnote-caption explains.

GARFIELD: Jon spends the week fielding phone complaints and beatings from off-screen neighbor Mrs. Feeny, who's being picked on by Garfield. "Where did you find fifteen howler monkeys?" he asks the cat. More to the point, since when is Garfield a hyperactive trickster? Heathcliff must be filling in for him this week.

Sunday, the spider dreams.

ZIPPY: After last week's dalliance with Nipper, Zippy returns to his favorite piece of canine signage, the now-refurbished dachshund-head-on-a-pole sign outside San Francisco's Doggie Diner. "I still love you, Doggie," Zippy tells the no-longer-rusted sign, "but you're kind of a bitch!"

In separate and otherwise unrelated strips Thursday and Sunday, Bill Griffith name-checks both Law and Order and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.

CATHY: Cathy shops for clothes to wear to Alex's wedding. She's so busy worrying about her age on Thursday, she forgets to worry about her weight. Even though Cathy Guisewite has chosen to draw her with a huge potbelly.

REX MORGAN: June and Wendi resolve to hunt for killer mold; Chuck Franks meets with the city's chief building inspector, Cyd Barrymore, to plot how to block the mold-hunters. On Sunday, the ever-adventuresome Graham Nolan uses the Tom Tomorrow photocopied-photography technique to render a streetscape.

MARK TRAIL: The bear-gallbladder-poaching Hillwilliamses get the drop on Mark. A suddenly heroic Rusty decides to distract them by stealing their truck.

For once, Sunday's featured animal interacts with one of the strip's characters, as Andy is beset by a tail-pulling mob of crows. "[T]hey have fascinated people with their unusual behavior for thousands of years. . . . They are among the most intelligent of birds."

APARTMENT 3-G: The girls keep preparing for their sailing trip, with Margo taking Lu Ann out to shop for swimwear. Once again, Bolle + Trusiani go heavy on the rosy flesh in the Sunday color supplement, as Margo--the anti-Cathy--strikes a series of seductive poses in front of Lu Ann in the dressing room, clearly relishing the proud jut of her own breasts. Sheesh, it's Apartment 34C.

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