Continuities and Suspense

Posted by on October 1st, 2010 at 3:43 PM

Yes, I know: I said we’d look in on more guest cameo appearances in comic strips today, but matters of greater urgency have reared their importunate heads—namely, what’s transpiring in a few of those ostensible gag-a-day strips that are telling stories now in rampant defiance of their genus.

In Wiley Miller’s Non Sequitur, the mega-corporate campaign against the good-will-fostering Ekert promises to meet opposition when the story resumes next month. In the interim, more gags per day. For a guy who started out not wanting to have regular cast members or continuities, Wiley is proving adept at creating both even while being false to his prospectus. And in the present instance, he’s been interrupting a continuity for weeks on end!

Meanwhile, in Greg Evans’ Luann wherein the nearly brainless lout Dirk threatens the romance between his former paramour, Toni, and Luann’s nerd brother Brad, D.J., Brad’s roommate, has fomented a plan whereby witless Tiffany will take up temporary residence in Toni’s apartment to answer the door when Dirk comes calling in order to tell him that Toni isn’t there anymore. If Dirk can’t find Toni, no romance—right? Ah, but the potent question is: will these two dummies, Tiffany and Dirk, now fall for one another, creating another romance?

Finally, in Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean, we’re well into another of Batiuk’s weekly continuities featuring characters who are never named but who we’re supposed to recognize in order to properly appreciate the import of the story. A week ago, the entire story was told without words. A character whom I assume is the elderly Funky (Batiuk took his strip another decade into the future last year, so all the characters are “older” and at their advanced age, I don’t recognize them anymore; it would help if Batiuk wrote scripts that occasionally mentioned their names—particularly since a few of them look an awful lot alike)—the elderly Funky, as I said, goes to an old folks home called, with evocative double entendre, Bedside Manor, in order to visit another old guy, similarly portly, who is not named but who I vaguely recognize (is it a later yet version of Funky?). They watch tv and smile happily at a rendition of “When Time Goes By,” then Funky leaves. What’s happening? Dunno.

This week’s continuity involves the incipient romance budding between Wally Winkerbean, a mentally damaged Iraq vet, and a woman whose name I don’t know but should. (Even Wally’s name escaped me; I recognized the character and remembered his predicament, but it was Brian Steinberg at his Comics Examiner website who reminded me of his name.)

But the urgency that prompts this interruption of our regularly scheduled obsession is prompted by the single-panel gag cartoon, Brevity, produced by Guy and Rodd, a duo that consistently foists off onto us inexplicable and therefore humorless cartoon-like drawings. Here’s their offering for Monday, September 27:

No hilarity there, eh? This charming tableau was followed the rest of the week by these, at the rate of one-a-day:

Guy and Rodd (that’s Rodd Perry and Guy Endore-Kaiser, whose cumbersome last name is probably the reason the pair adopted a joint signature using only first names; if they used last names, it would look like three guys are doing the cartoon) are obviously promoting a new cartoonist labor-saving maneuver: they’ve constructed a “comic strip” continuity of six panels that they are now foisting off on innocent bystanders as six individual single-panel gag cartoons. To put it another (more incriminating) way, they’ve divided up a six-panel comic strip, releasing a new panel each day, which enables them to hit the links most of the week because they don’t need to think up a new gag every day, like every other member of the gag-a-day fraternity.

I don’t think any of these six “cartoons” are funny. They are entirely humorless, the Guy-Rodd specialty.

If there will be anything to laugh about, it will come tomorrow, Saturday, when I suppose the seventh panel in the comic strip will be published. And my guess is that it will look exactly like the first panel in the series. Ha. That’s the joke. (And that’s also the urgency: I had to get this posted in time to make a prediction about tomorrow’s Brevity.)

If I’m right, then Guy and Rodd will have escaped any meaningful professional labor for an entire week, producing only one laugh-inducing panel out of seven.

But just so your stop here at Hare Tonic isn’t entirely wasted, we’ll plunge now into political cartooning, the socially-useful branch of the medium.

Here, for starters, are a couple of Garry Trudeau’s Doonesburys from this week:

Nicely done. The drift of the dialogue is casual, relaxed—realistic—and yet purposeful, concluding each day in an insightful satirical punchline. And the conclusion of the second (“It makes me feel like thinking,” going from emotion to intellect without pausing for the former to take effect) is perfect.

Notice that Trudeau has yet to formulate a symbol for Barcko Bama. He successfully branded O’Bama’s predecessors with waffles, feathers, and banged up Roman gladiator headgear; but for the current Prez, nothing. A mark, no doubt, of Trudeau’s respect.

The New Yorker’s cartoons often ooze political implications, and last week, they seemed to pile up. Here’s George Booth, commenting on the fickle electorate in an election year:

It’s sweet to see Booth back in the pages of the magazine. He’s been absent much of the time lately. He’s 84. But here he is again—and with his prehistoric creatures, too. He’s as celebrated for his proto-humans as he is for his cranky old men and women in ramshackle farmhouses or a barren apartments.

Notice that the one on the left has big calluses on his/her posterior. When Lee Lorenz, onetime cartoon editor for The New Yorker, did a book about Booth, he asked him where he got the idea for the calluses.

“Just the fact that they sit down,” Booth said. “You know, it gets like that. Here’s where the anatomy I studied paid off.”

“Yeah,” said Lorenz, “Burne Hogarth would be proud of you.

But Booth had the last word: “I don’t’ think of these guys as made up. Reality is terribly important. These guys are real. I saw one this morning on the Avenue of the Americas.”

Then we have Paul Noth providing a keen insight into the workings of the Arizona illegal immigrant law:

Mick Shanahan, however, moves into a more controversial (if such a thing is possible) arena:

“Call me Ishmael” is the first line of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, as every schoolboy knows. But in this context, is Shanahan implying that Captain Ahab is gay? That’s what they always used to say about sailors, you know: all those months at sea without women.

Well, if they’re all gay, whey do they all have a girl in every port? Huh? Answer me that.

Monday, we’ll get back to business.

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