See All Topics

Home / Section: Comic strips

CSotD: Friday Funnies w/ a side order of truth

The new Nancy is hardly the only strip featuring a rude, self-absorbed main character, but, at least so far, it goes beyond simply laughing at her rudeness.

Confucius said, “In vain have I looked for a single man capable of seeing his own faults and bringing the charge home against himself,” and expanding the search to include little girls does not seem more fruitful, but at least Nancy is sweating in that last panel as she trots out her self-serving explanation.

One of the challenges of creating a strip with an extreme character is that you have to find ways to keep the extreme aspect fresh, and, to be frank, it’s one hell of a challenge.

Pig Pen was perpetually dirty, but most of the time he was just a dirty little kid on the baseball team whose lack of cleanliness was not part of the gag.

On the occasions when it was, it was just dirt, not filth, and the joke was that this little kid couldn’t help it.

By contrast, I think even Schulz stumbled from time to time in keeping Lucy from turning from cynicism and a dark outlook into a genuinely unlikable character and there were times when her put-downs became tiresome and predictable.

Lucy, however, let down her shields from time to time, showing some care for someone else and even some vulnerability. She wasn’t just crabby, and it kept the character fresh.

There’s a difference between WC Fields and Don Rickles, and it takes a deft touch.

It’s been about a year and a half under Olivia Jaimes and so far so good; It’s long enough to judge her intentions, if not long enough to test her staying power.

 

Meanwhile, Rubes riffs on a cartooning classic, because mice and cheese — Swiss cheese, and only Swiss cheese — are more than a well-established fictional partnership.

Mice in real life are only curious about cheese and they also nibble the insulation off wiring but you don’t see people baiting traps with that. The fact is, peanut butter is a much better attractant, because they’re vegetarians and it has a relatively strong, oily odor.

In fact, the last couple of traps I’ve bought had yellow plastic triggers with holes like Swiss cheese, but I put peanut butter on them anyway because I was more obsessed with function than with tradition.

The joke here — the reason he’s labeled a “mouse nerd” — is that, while he’d correct that mice prefer peanut butter to cheese, that’s got nothing to do with a word that, also traditionally, forces a smile.

I’m gonna assume that, should there be a need for a mousetrap in a future Rubes panel, Leigh Rubin will stick a piece of Swiss cheese on it, because, in cartoons, that’s what mice prefer, dammit.

 

Meanwhile, Red and Rover touches off another kind of traditional thought that you probably should not ponder too much.

I know I’ve ranted over this before, but, come on: If there really is a Rainbow Bridge, I will find about a dozen dogs waiting for me on the other side, plus it’s a good thing I get along with my ex because there will be some visitation issues with several of the dogs.

Though it won’t be the biggest challenge of this whole going-to-heaven thing, because I’ll be reunited with family, but they’ll be reunited with family who are also reunited with family back and back until it turns into a crowd scene kind of based on that thing of putting a single grain of wheat on the first square of the chessboard and then doubling it for the next and so forth.

I don’t like crowds, and so suspect I’ll only be sent to heaven if I commit a bunch of sins and merit that level of torture.

 

Juxtaposition of Yesterday

(Grand Avenue)

(Speed Bump)

These two came up on Thursday’s comics page and I will admit that I had to stop and think what the hell a coefficient was. I remember numerator and denominator but couldn’t drag that one back up.

I get annoyed by all the gleeful “I haven’t used algebra once!” proclamations on Facebook because of course you have, you nitwit. You use it every day, repeatedly.

It’s those higher levels of math that you have let slip away, unless you happen to have a tank of water being drained at one rate while being refilled at another.

I became jealous of my kids, because they had a math teacher who actually explained the ideas instead of repeating the same rote process that you didn’t understand the first time, with increasing lack of temper and the accusation that you were not trying hard enough.

I also snagged a copy of older son’s repair manual from the Navy, because, as Herman Wouk famously had a character observe in The Caine Mutiny, “The Navy is a master plan designed by geniuses for execution by idiots.”

Or as my son’s chief on his first ship put it, the system is designed so that the stupidest rock on board can keep the ship from sinking.

This seems to me a worthy goal, and the manual he was assigned in apprenticeship school contains the most clear writing I have ever seen. It is not “condescending.” It is simply clear.

As I said to a group of young would-be journalists in a workshop yesterday, you should dare to put aside all that fancy prose your teachers praise you for.

Nobody ever complained “You made that too easy to understand.”

 

Parental Guidance Suggested

Off the Mark is on the mark with this accusation.

The other element being that, while you may wish your kid wouldn’t keep picking the same books over and over again, it wouldn’t hurt you to try a new movie once in awhile instead of replaying your old favorites.

Just sayin’.

Not claiming I’m any less guilty.

 

Tom Spurgeon has a substantial preview of the upcoming CXC get together this September.

It’s not too soon to book a hotel room, and I’d suggest you take a look before it’s too late.

 

Community Comments

Currently there are 7 Comments
Stay up-to-date on the comments by subscribing to the comments RSS feed.

#1 Denny Lien
July/12/2019
@ 7:04 am

As some comics commentator (I can’t recall who) once pointed out, Pigpen is not actually depicted as “dirty” but rather as “dusty.”

#2 Mike Beede
July/12/2019
@ 7:16 am

You only graze the issue of cheese vs. peanut butter for mice. I’ve always assumed the reason all cartoon cheese is Swiss cheese is that it’s visually distinctive. But there’s a more important reason mice in cartoons eat cheese, and that’s that a cartoonist drawing a little pile of peanut butter risks falling into the “did the mice poop on this?” problem. In spite of the fact that mouse poop looks more like little black rice grains.

Tradition!

#3 Mike Peterson
July/12/2019
@ 9:09 am

ITYM caraway seeds.

First question you ask: Have I had any bread with caraway seeds in the house lately?

Despite knowing, of course, that you haven’t.

#4 Kathleen Elizabeth Donnelly
July/12/2019
@ 10:39 am

Mike, mice are only vegetarians when they aren’t eating their own babies. I know from experience!

#5 Mike Peterson
July/12/2019
@ 12:20 pm

As long as you get them before they’re old enough to eat any Swiss cheese, they count as vegetables.

#6 Mary McNeil
July/12/2019
@ 5:14 pm

The Red and Rover reminded me

https://condenaststore.com/featured/rex-here-has-been-going-on-and-on-about-you-charles-barsotti.html

#7 Kip Williams
July/12/2019
@ 9:12 pm

Nostalgebra should not be confused with the piece of underwear for women who miss the way things used to be: The Nostalgiabra.

Join the discussion!

PLEASE NOTE: Please use your first AND last name when posting a comment. Please refrain from swearing. It's one of the rules that I enforce strictly. Thanks.

Want a cool icon next to your name? Go add one to Gravatar.com

*
*
This will not be published

(Optional)