Posted by on December 21st, 2010 at 8:01 AM

I’ve been taking the month of December off. Not that you’ve noticed. But even if I’m not blogging about comic strips, I’m still reading them, and the other day—December 16, to be exact—strange Yule-ish things transpired. Here are two of them:

In my newspaper, these two strips appeared on the same day, side-by-side, so, reading left to right, you’d read first Patrick McDonnell’s Mutts; then Mike Peters’ Mother Goose and Grim, and you’d have reindeer playing games in your head all through breakfast.

Not only do both strips employ the notion of playing reindeer games, but the joke in each strip is a dump on playing reindeer games, a denigration of reindeer game playing.

Coincidence happens, of course. And I’m not suggesting any skullduggery at all, no collusion between McDonnell and Peters (to what purpose? why would any two cartoonists conspire to produce similar gags on the same day? what would either, or both, gain by such a maneuver?).

Just coincidence. Pure and simple. Well, simple anyhow.

But then the cosmic whassis shifted once again, producing another coincidence—on the very same day, December 16. To wit:

The panel cartoon on the right, Guy and Rodd’s Brevity, appeared in my newspaper on December 16, and I, with reindeer playing games still in my head, thought suddenly that I’d just seen another snakes joke in the last day or so. And, sure enough, when I picked up my copy of The New Yorker, I re-encountered Diffe’s effort, seen here on the left.

These two jokes are not as much alike as the reindeer gags, but how often do you run across a snake joke anyway? Not very. Particularly when the joke involves snakes arrayed on the floor.

It used to be, by the way, that syndicates advised their cartoonists not to draw snakes in their cartoons. Snakes make some people feel creepy, so the syndicate moguls prohibited them.

Right about that time, Gus Arriola, pondering the snake prohibition, did a whole week’s worth of his strip, Gordo, about a huge boa constrictor. There, he said to himself: that’ll show ’em who’s running my strip. (Some of this infamous episode appears in a book of mine, Accidental Ambassador Gordo, which is actually offered to same at my website,; just in time for Christmas giving, too.)

Our next holiday treat has nothing to do with snakes, as you can tell.

It is, rather, just a happy exploitation of the “strip” format—one gag, stretched across the entire panorama, the breadth of which stresses the coincidence of all three characters saying the same thing.

And now, to finish off the month that I’m not here, here’s my anyule gritting:

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