CSotD: Looking behind the curtains

Wallace the Brave is consistently filled with such surreal touches that it is generally easier to point out the ways it could have gone wrong than to explain where it all came from in the first place.

The timing is exquisite: My feeders have been crowded the past two weeks as birds either gas up for migration or fatten up to hunker down, but I have to assume Will Henry did this Sunday piece well before that began, and, besides, who cares?

The idea of Wallace luring that many birds into his bedroom is so fanciful that the time of year hardly matters.

So we start with the wonderment of the overall concept, and add the element of Wallace being in his underwear as well as the variety of birdfeeders he has managed to obtain, hang and fill.

We are left with how you then frame the gag. Nothing his father could say would improve the gag, and, in fact, saying anything would distract from it.

But simply showing Wallace amid the chaos of birds and feeders would only be a picture, not a gag.

There are roots, and WTB often seems like a mashup of Cul de Sac and Calvin and Hobbes, which is a whole lot different than pointing out the number of single-panel comics that are takeoffs on the Far Side.

Even if we assume Will Henry was a fan of both strips, inspiration is not at all the same thing as imitation.

Alice Otterloop would not have done this, but Calvin might have, if Calvin had been drawn by Richard Thompson.

And there’s substantial evolution in Henry’s lack of commentary: I’m not sure either Thompson or Watterson would have had the cojones to let Wallace’s father — the viewer’s POV agent — simply look and move on without a despairing comment.

Those fathers were actively frustrated. Wallace’s father has accepted that which he can neither change, manage nor understand.


And then there’s yesterday’s strip, in which we see that, unlike Calvin’s equally frustrated mother and Alice’s mother, who didn’t always seem to grasp her situation, Wallace’s mother is much more comfortable in the chaos and may even provide a hint as to where the boy gets it.

Making Wallace’s dad not just the perfect person to walk in on the aviary but the only character who could make it work, and then only by quietly closing the door and walking away.

The best part being that I doubt Will Henry gave it half this much analytical thought, because you can’t consciously plan this stuff.


But wait! There’s more!

It’s not the case that good work can’t be planned, and friend-of-the-blog Brian Fies recently appeared on a Pop Culture Classroom YouTube session to discuss his graphic memoir about the fire that destroyed his home and many others in 2017. (And which, as DD Degg reported earlier, is about to come out in a paperback format with additional pages.)

It’s an hour long session but with very few of the limp moments so many of those things usually entail. It’s packed with explanations of how he did his original piece and the consequent choices he made in creating the final book-length version, both as a storyteller and as an artist.

You don’t have to be a cartoonist to enjoy and appreciate it, but, if you are a cartoonist, it’s that much more important to check it out.


Meanwhile, among the pop art

Wayno did this Bizarro last week, and he posts a blog each Saturday recapping the week with brief explanations.

For this one, however, the explanation is expanded, because Hogan’s Alley curator Tom Heintjes provided him with the actual source of the ubiquitous pizza chef artwork.

Does it matter? Hey, if Andy Warhol had copied that pizza box, people would be climbing over each other for a print.


Unintentional Juxtaposition of the Day

(Red and Rover)

(John Cole)

Another case of unintentional timing, as Red and Rover drops this innocent piece just as Dear Leader has stepped up to address the important issue of inflation.

Spoiler Alert: It’s 33 psi

I had to look to see if there were radial tires back in the vague 1960s setting of R&R and found that Michelin had introduced them in 1948 on the Citroën 2CV, the cheap little runabout known as the “Deux Chevaux” (two horse) for its lack of style and power.

Ford brought radials to the States as standard issue on the 1970 Lincoln Continental Mark III, which was not mocked except perhaps as conspicuous consumption, but I’m sure the tires were available before then, so Red is off the hook.

Meanwhile, Cole has captured yet another case of Dear Leader sounding off on something his advisors wouldn’t have advised, given that Goodyear employs several thousand Ohio residents who may also have friends and spouses.

There are other American-made tires, but apparently only the Cooper is American-owned, so, if you’re going to make a political point, do your research and make your choices carefully.


The real timing issue in this is that, with the exception of a loyalist on Facebook who slashed his own Goodyears, the number of people who will need tires between now and election day is probably less than the number of people pissed off by a proposed boycott in a state where jobs were promised and votes were cast and jobs didn’t happen.

(Snow tire sales generally crest after the first big storm, not six weeks before.)


Finally, Steve Kelley poses a head-scratcher, because I’ve seen few enough good/bad choices in my lifetime, the closest to good/good being Ford/Carter, which was more like mediocre/mediocre.

My first chance to vote offered Nixon/McGovern, but I’d been a Muskie supporter and, after the Ratf*ckers got him off the ballot, we faced a Satan/Unicorns choice in which the best I could do was — as in Mondale/Reagan — try to offset the landslide.

Stevenson/Eisenhower may have been a choice between two good candidates, but, while it was within my lifetime, we didn’t get a TV until I was three, so I didn’t follow the campaign all that much.



5 thoughts on “CSotD: Looking behind the curtains

  1. Thanks for the mention, Mike, as well as the information–I didn’t know the YouTube video was available yet, so now I can mention it myself!

    Thanks also for your frequent looks at Wallace the Brave, which wouldn’t otherwise cross my path. It’s a wonderful strip that, like Cul de Sac before it, deserves to be in thousands of papers. The fact that it isn’t is an indictment of something: editorial cowardice, readers’ bad taste, the general degradation of the newspaper industry, I don’t know what.

    I can only imagine that Brian Basset must be both thrilled and terrified to have readers like you who’d look up the history of the radial tire to be sure it’s period appropriate. Thrilled that you care enough to check; terrified that someday he’ll get it wrong.

  2. Gee, I think that Mr & Mrs Otterloop are pretty calm, considering what they have to work with. But you are right about Wallace and his folks, though I haven’t quite caught on to where the little brother got his genetics form.

  3. I’ll also offer thanks for introducing me to Wallace the Brave. I had cousins who lived in Snug Harbor, the actual place, and I worked one summer in a different cousin’s marina nearby ,right off Succotash Rd (mentioned in a recent strip). And on family vacations we’d buy lobster from Wallace’s dad and cook them in the little beachside cotrage. But I’d like the strip anyway – like Wallace most actual kids are nicer than Calvin.
    By the way, in the bird feeder strip, Wallace os in his swim suit. It’s one of the running gags that that’s all he wears all summer (he ceremonially throws his shoes in the bay on the last day of school).

  4. We are much the same age, I think. I would have been two during the 1952 election. However, we didn’t get a TV until I was 6 or 7. How naive and saccharine those ads appear compared to contemporary politics. I sometimes yearn for those days,

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