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Funny Paper

Plenny of BUGS!

June 4-10

By Scocca & MacLeod | Posted 6/13/2001

YOU CAN SAY THAT AGAIN DEP'T.: "Rain makes dirt a lot more fun, huh, Mommy?"--Dolly, Family Circus, Wednesday.

"This rain is just in time! We were running out of mud!"--Dennis, Dennis the Menace, Wednesday.

YOU CAN PLACE THAT PRODUCT AGAIN DEP'T.: "Th' booth . . . makes me want to discuss th' meaning of snap, crackle and pop."--Zippy, Zippy, Tuesday.

"Pok! Snorkle! Crock!"--Ziggy's cereal, Ziggy, Friday. ("You bought the generic brand, didn't you?" sniffs Ziggy's parrot.)

PLAGUE OF INSECTS DEP'T.: For some reason, the back page of section one of the Sunday color supplement is crawling with, as Dennis the Menace says, "plenny of BUGS!" A little lower down, the boys in The Middletons grab grasshoppers while they're supposed to be playing soccer. And below that, in Hi & Lois, Trixie is captivated by the variety of arthropods to be found at her toddler's-eye level. "Compared to bugs," she thinks, "people all look the same." What's going on here? They barely achieved this kind of unity on National Cartoonists Day.

MARK TRAIL: It's a cavalcade of critters as Jack Elrod--apparently as bored as Funny Paper by the unspooling expository conversation about ginseng smuggling--does his patented pull-back move four days in a row, shrinking the Trail residence into the distance so he can draw some wildlife. And there's nary a beaver to be seen! Monday, it's a male wood duck on the wing; Tuesday, a squirrel; Wednesday, some sort of warbler; Thursday, a rabbit chewing on its nether parts. Meanwhile the humans natter on about ginseng, ginseng, ginseng. "I think I could use some of it myself," Mark says brightly on Tuesday. To improve his memory, of course. Right, Cherry?

Sunday's featured plant life: the endangered longleaf pine forests of the southern U.S. Trail enters a remarkably muddled plea for saving the trees: "Most towns and cultures in the Southeast would not have existed without the industries they generated." Yeah--specifically, most towns and cultures in the Southeast would not have existed without the lumber they generated.

HERB & JAMAAL: More masculine insecurities for Jamaal. Fresh off the humiliation of buying a girly "Frisky" automobile, he heads to the video store to rent a "'chick flick'" called Natalie's Romance, only to have a failure of nerve at the counter, telling the clerk it's for his girlfriend. Yolanda, overhearing, decides to storm Jamaal's living room on a false fire alarm to see if he really is dating anyone. When she finds out he isn't, she invites herself (still wearing her fireproof coat and holding an ax) to join him in watching the movie. Are their crazy sitcom-style miscommunications finally coming to an end? Jamaal, Yolanda--of course you guys are meant for each other! Your heads are drawn the same shape!

CATHY: Cathy Guisewite broadens her perspective with a week of material about Irving thinking he looks fat in a bathing suit.

HI & LOIS: Saturday, Lois refers to layabout neighbor Mr. Thurston by his seldom-used first name, Thirsty. Funny Paper thought maybe Walker & Browne had decided to stop calling him Thirsty when they stopped shading in his schnozz with souse-lines. We figured he'd eventually get re-dubbed "Lazy," or something similarly nonalcoholic. How about "Twelve-Steppy"?

THE PHANTOM: "These men bear the skull mark . . ." the Phantom muses as he shadows the last two invading ruffians. "I don't recall marking them. . . . The life of a Phantom. . . so many thugs . . . so little time . . ."

But time scarcely seems to be pressing the Ghost Who Walks. He keeps on lurking and watching as kidnapee Victoria Carter collapses from fever--"succumbs to the jungle," the narration box puts it--waiting till Saturday, when one ruffian decides to put her out of her misery, to even begin to intervene. C'mon, Phantom! There were only two of them left. Couldn't you have stepped out and saved the lady a little sooner, instead of spying on her suffering?

FAMILY CIRCUS: "I like pencils best," Jeffy says Thursday, looking up from a sheet of pre-literate scribbling. "They never run out of ink." Yeah, tell us about it next time you're lined up at the pen sharpener, you little nitwit. What other cartoonist has the courage of Jeff Keane, to make his alter ego a dummy? Daddy must still be calling the shots.

Saturday we get a product placement as Dolly sings, "Oh, I come from Alabama with a Band-Aid on my knee . . ." Funny Paper swears we've seen this particular malaprop before in the Circus. It might have been 20 years ago, but we're sure it was there.

B.C.: Funny Paper understands that Johnny Hart has trouble finding much funny material in the Paleolithic, especially since Alley Oop has already mined the territory. We know too that a little anachronism is standard industry practice among mediocre strips--how would the freelance gag-writing community ever clear its backlog of golf jokes if the rules barred Vikings, knights, and cavemen from the links?

But dadgum it, there are some limits. In Monday's B.C., Cute Chick, reading a newspaper, tells Fat Broad that a new café is opening at the library. Leading Fat Broad to get on the phone for a reservation, so she can be told, "We're all booked up! Ha ha ha ha ha ha."

Ha ha ha ha ha ha, indeed. We count five technologies or concepts from modern society (newspaper, café, library, reservations, telephone) dragged into the caveperson world--all to set up an incredibly weak two-panel gag, a gag so feeble Hart had to tack on a laugh track. Make that six anachronisms.

APARTMENT 3G:As they picnic on the rocky coast of Maine, Joyce tells Margo she's interested in dating a friend of hers . . . the Professor. Margo, who'd been hoping to play matchmaker for her flamboyant cowpoke cousin, asks her, "What about Blaze?" "What about Blaze?" Joyce replies. Yeah . . . what about Blaze?

REX MORGAN, M.D.: Artist and headache victim Wendi Carol ogles Rex shamelessly. "Your man is the best-looking doctor I ever saw . . . no offense!" she tells June. Then she invites June to a party at her studio--which is (surprise!) next door to where the butt-rash-and-dizzy-spell-afflicted Tito lives. For the moment, the epidemiological coincidence sails right over June's head. Good thing she wasn't on the case back in the typhoid era.

THE COLL-EGG-TIBLE EGGERS FAMILY: Word to the would-be Eggers winner: Keep it seasonally topical, as 12-year-old Robert Corbin of Edgewood did this week with his mortarboard-wearing "Grade A egg." "Grade A egg"? That's not even close to being a pun. Our heart bleeds for the non-top-egg-cal runners-up: "Frank-egg-stein," "Wy-egg Earp," "eggs-scruciating," "gladi-egg-tor." OK, those aren't funny either. But cripes, at least they tried.

YOU CAN WITH BEAKMAN AND JAX: Exploring the phenomenon of "brain freeze," B&J ponder the sensual mysteries of the "C-spot," a bundle of nerves and veins behind your palate. "When you chill it, your nerves get too much information and zap you hard." Is this how Herr Graffenberg got started?

NON SEQUITUR: Friday, a balding, ponytailed modern-artist type stares at a blank canvas on a paint-spattered wall. "Sigh," he thinks, "I just don't seem to have it today . . ." Yeah, Wiley, not today.

Sunday, in the "Time Before Man" fable, charming prehistoric mammal Ele smacks her husband around.

THE LOCKHORNS: Leroy gets drunk.

JUMBLE: "SAX EDUCATION," SCRATCH, THE BOOT, "CHECK" MATE, A BETTER SEAT, and some answer for Saturday that The Sun didn't bother to include in the following Monday's paper. As we've said before, we don't solve the damn thing, we just give the answers.

GASOLINE ALLEY: Kitty gets loose in the cathedral, sparking some high-wire Joel 'n' Rufus slapstick. "That fool cat's got 9 lives an' yo' ain't got near that many!" Joel calls out as Rufus scampers up a flying buttress in pursuit of the wayward feline. Joel is barely scratching the surface here: How come, in the strip that pioneered real-time character aging, Kitty is still a kitten? Does Joel just keep getting new cats and naming them Kitty? Wouldn't that be kind of creepy?

DOONESBURY: Mike delivers Alex to computer camp, where she meets her friends. "Oh my God, like you're so, like, oh, my God!" "Oh my God!" "Like, like, oh, my God!" "Like, you're oh, my God!" How very, very Moon Unit. Has Garry Trudeau been living in a giant Thermos bottle for the last 20 years?

PRINCE VALIANT: Know-it-all Yuan Chen gets some comeuppance when his trireme encounters Charybdis--which he had assumed to be an imaginary monster, but which is actually a gigantic whirlpool. "The ancient myth, he understands, was never literally true--but it expressed the human terror of something that was truly real." That's what you get for not taking Homer seriously. You may be wise, Yuan Chen, but John Cullen Murphy is the wisest of all.

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