Mysteries and Bafflements

Posted by on January 29th, 2010 at 10:15 AM

Okay, I don’t get it. I don’t get the jokes in these three strips. Could be terminal dotage has set in. Probably that’s it. All these strips survived an editor’s scrutinizing eye, so they must be funny to someone. I’m just missing something. Let’s start at the top with Overboard.

The dog has been trained not to take food from strangers yet he gobbles her arm up to the elbow. Is that the joke? That he won’t take food, he’ll just take body parts? Why, then, do the people on the bench switch places? Is that part of the gag? How?

In Brevity, are we supposed to see panels two and three as aspects of a panoramic scene? If so, does that lead into the last panel for a joke? Is the tree, leaning first one way and then the other, imitating the lovers beneath? Is the tree a phallic symbol? Is the couple annoyed by the tree? Is that why they leave?

In Scary Gary, Leopold, Gary’s demon henchman, is a vicious character, deriving pleasure from things that to most of us are simply hideous if not ghoulish. So perhaps the thermos of cocoa he gave to the carolers out front is laced with poison. Or maybe it’ll explode? Or turn them all into snowflakes. Is that why Leopold is patiently smiling? I suppose.

Any help on these three bafflers will be appreciated. For now, I’m going to hide in the basement.

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6 Responses to “Mysteries and Bafflements”

  1. In #2, the tree is deliberately leaning back and forth to keep the couple from sitting in its shade. It’s a confusing visual gag because a) the “camera” keeps switching position, b) panels 2 and 3 create a distracting mirror-image effect, and c) the couple is drawn with too little detail and expression to make it clear that they’re annoyed by the tree’s tomfoolery.

    I think your analysis of the other two strips is correct. So, to sum up, the jokes are as follows:

    #1: A man thinks his dog is well-trained but it’s not.
    #2: Trees are assholes.
    #3: The cartoonist is too lazy to show us what a demon would put into cocoa.

    Comic strips are terrible.

  2. Gavin Lees says:

    In #3, the demon has his fingers in his ears in the last panel. I think this is pretty standard shorthand for “explosion about to happen” – he’s demon, carolers are irritating – he’s doing what we’d all love to do.

  3. Kim Thompson says:

    Ah. I thought (as I’m assuming both Harv and Shaenon did) the demon just was reclining with his hands behind his head. The failure of the cartoonist to make a clear “fingers-in-ears” drawing spoils the gag.

    The second one is just ineptly designed. The first is a non-joke.

  4. Yeah, I couldn’t tell the demon had its fingers in its ears. Although what would you put into cocoa that would cause people to explode? Maybe nitroglycerine? Wouldn’t plain old poison make more sense, or maybe acid? I have now put way more thought into this strip than the cartoonist did.

    Charles Addams would have made it clear what was in the cocoa.

  5. Wesley says:

    I think the idea in the first strip is that the guy thinks his dog is well trained, but the moment he turned his back it gobbled the food so enthusiastically it also swallowed the lady’s arm up to her elbow. Which still isn’t funny.

    I’m wondering whether the continuity error cropped up because the cartoonist was just bright enough to realize he needed to put the “surprise” on the right side of the panel, but couldn’t figure out how to draw the first panel so that the balloons came out in the right order. (I would have arranged the balloons top-to-bottom instead of side-to-side; the man’s balloon contains four words, small enough to fit anywhere.) Or maybe he just didn’t figure out what the second panel needed to look like until he’d drawn the first, and was too lazy to draw it again.

    The most depressing thing is that this appears to be a Sunday strip… and it’s a two-panel gag on the scale of a daily strip. Newspaper comics really are the size of postage stamps now, aren’t they? (I’ve seen a Krazy Kat Sunday page that was two panels, but it really needed two huge panels.

  6. R.C. Harvey says:

    I think you’re all right. I missed the tree’s shade moving around and Leopold’s having his fingers in his ears, which, thanks to Shaenon and Gavin, I now notice and can understand the gag. Wesley is clearly right about Overboard: just clumsy drawing, not unexpected in that strip. To all, Big THANQUES. Now I can sleep of a night again.