CSotD: Random critical observations

Dog Eats Doug (Creators) has a sweet story arc just starting on weekdays. Since the death of the original Sophie who inspired the cartoon version (but was much older), I understand Brian Anderson has been fostering adoptable dogs, and, even if he hasn’t, the family in the strip has.

“Fostering” means giving a dog a place to live other than a cage at the humane society while waiting for adoption, and it’s not only nicer for the dog but, as seen here, provides a chance for a little socialization, rehabilitation and training.

I’ll admit to being amused by some of the armchair speculative psychology of people talking about why a pup is the way it is, but Stella’s unreasoning terror is not particularly unusual, however she came by it.

And that scream in the first strip is not only typical of such unfortunate pups but is apt to linger even after they become more trusting: One downside of a formerly-timid dog is that they often bark at almost everything.

If you adopt a dog you feel sorry for, be aware that you’re very likely looking at some permanent issues. (If you’re cool with that, you’re my hero.)

I’m looking forward to more of Stella’s story arc, but here’s a different observation: Annie originated as a foster who has become part of the family, and it was a very good move on Anderson’s part.

I said years ago that, if Doug ever developed speech, the strip would have jumped the shark, but things got to the point where Sophie needed more active feedback than “Bak!” and Annie provides sweet, naive dialogue without breaking the premise at the heart of the strip.

Having written that love note, here’s a more critical

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Sally Forth – KFS)


(Zits – KFS)

I was struck by the contrast between today’s Sally Forth and today’s Zits, in large part because Francesco Marciuliano has long since transformed Sally Forth from a lukewarm domestic strip into a bazaar of surrealism, even after the syndicate directed him — fruitlessly — to stop making Ted insane.

But, in the meantime, Zits seems to be losing the “loveable slacker” aspect of Jeremy of earlier years. It used to be fun to see his folks have to prod him into chores, while his interactions with his buddies also revolved around his lack of drive.

Here, however, we see Sally and Ted in a very realistic scene. For those not following the seven-day continuity, Hilary has just learned that one of her two closest friends is moving away and, yeah, either Ted or Sally will have to go up there and deal with a justifiably distraught kid.

Meanwhile, Jeremy turns down a chance for some Dad-time, and not only doesn’t want to spend time with his father but takes the opportunity to mock and insult him for asking.

For my part, I’d rather go upstairs, even if all I could tell Hilary was “There, there” and “I know, I know,” than have to deal with the realization that I’d screwed things up so badly with my son.

Neither strip is funny, but one of them wants to be.



Pat Byrnes (Cagle) offers me a smooth transition from comedy to politics.

He’s certainly not the only cartoonist to show relief at the Restoration, but he offers at once the quiet, observational approach that has made him a regular in the pages of the New Yorker, then spices it with more smiles and emotions than generally seen in that harbor of deadpan humor.


Madam & Eve surprise with a Dr. Seuss-themed political gag that is funny and well-done.

Most Seuss gags are flaccid at best and annoying at worst, but this works, first of all, by not attempting a takeoff on his poetry.

Attempts to satirize Seuss generally prove that the ability to draw well is not often matched with an ability to write in consistent poetic meter, which sends the gag stumbling and limping into futility, much like poor Dan of whom it was written:

There was a young poet named Dan
Whose poems would never quite scan.
When told it was so
He said, “Yes, I know,
But I always try to get as many words into the last line as I possibly can.”

By simply playing with book titles and going no deeper, M&E avoids overreach.

And blasphemy, though I don’t object to blasphemy if the meter plays out properly.


I give Chip Bok (Creators) enough critical wedgies here that it’s only fair to tip the hat when he pops one over the fence, and I think he sums up the past four years well here, tearing away at the conservative whine-du-jour about “cancel culture.”

It would be nice if each administration would cheerfully build upon the legacy of its predecessor, I suppose, but we don’t have that many times when the election isn’t a rejection, at least in part, of the status quo.

Looking back, the most recent seems to be Reagan-to-GHWB, which didn’t turn out so well, perhaps because Bush — though a helluva nice guy — was basically a functionary and not a leader.

It was like promoting the butler.


By stark and jolting contrast, Steve Kelley (Creators) offers a different view of the changeover, in which he ignores the fact that Trump began the first week of his administration by needlessly antagonizing the press, demanding they accept and publicize an absolutely preposterous lie about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, and then sending out his press lackey to badger and insult them for questioning it.

BTW, I’d be reluctant to make bedroom analogies when two clearly loving, devoted couples are bookends for the couple I like but who seemed to barely tolerate each other, much less sleep together.


I’m closing with Sarah Winifred Searle’s long-form cartoon at the Nib, a masterful piece about her weight and where the world places her because of it.

It’s at the end not because it’s least important but because I want you to click that link and read it all, but I’m afraid you wouldn’t come back afterwards.

It’s that good.


7 thoughts on “CSotD: Random critical observations

  1. The Searle piece is terrific. I see that it’s nearly four years old, but I’ll share it with my graphic medicine friends who may have missed it.

    I thought both the Zits and Sally Forth aimed for funny and hit it. You have a darker take on Zits than I did: I don’t think Jeremy’s making fun of Walt so much as how Walt enjoys spending his time, a thin but real distinction. He loves his Dad but thinks Home Depot is deadly boring. And at the end, Jeremy comes to some grudging respect for Dad, who tried to throw his boy a lifeline that he was too stupid to grab. I liked it. As for Sally, Ted’s lame deflection is the kind of thing I’d say, so I liked it, too.

    My only complaint with the Bok cartoon is I doubt the word “legacy” is in Trump’s vocabulary.

    I don’t even get the Kelley cartoon. Before reading your take, I took it as a compliment to the Bidens: “We the media are very happy to again lodge guests who don’t trash our rooms and urinate on our linens.” Of course reporters would welcome covering an Administration that didn’t constantly lie! If it’s supposed to be a dig at either the Bidens or the media, it went clear over my head. On that basis alone–not clearly communicating its idea–I’d consider it a failed cartoon.

  2. I’m glad I didn’t notice the date on the Searle piece or I might not have posted it, and it deserves to be seen. Someone had posted it on Twitter or Facebook and so I went straight to it instead of scrolling for it.

    Maybe Zits would have tickled me more as a daily where the shorter format would have required dropping his wisecracks and cutting to the point.

    Parent/child hostility is at the top of my comics-I-hate list, at about the same level as “Oh, no we’re going camping/to a museum.” Kids don’t get enough parental time (or enough intellectual stimulation.)

  3. Adding this: Someone — I forget who — said that, instead of spending quality time with your kids, you should tell your boss you aren’t at work for 40 hours a week, but, when you are, it’s quality time.

    What will all the people working from home, maybe that’s a dream coming true, except for the being-out-front-about-it part.

  4. Fresh out of the army, 24 years old, I went on something like the drug in the Searle piece. Without a prescription; my cousin got it for me. It was called biphetamine—obvious connection with amphetamine. It worked like a charm. Never had more energy, dropped pounds within in a week. Two weeks after starting I was flushing the remaining pills down the toilet. Insomnia and overwhelming paranoia.

    I agree with Brian. I don’t see disrespect for the father in the Zits strip, just for what the father was doing. Maybe that says something about our relationship to cartoons. If my own son had reacted that way to my invitation a dark mood would surely have enveloped me on my way to the hardware store. I also agree with Brian that the strip was funny?

  5. Yes, I must admit that Bok cartoon was fair and balanced. But the last year or so even George Will and I have been agreeing.

  6. Has Sally Forth gone back to being a funny strip? I gave up on it a couple of years ago, after the bit where girl and the band destroyed part of the house and Ted became totally nutzoid.

  7. Solidly agree with Mr. Rush. I gave up on Sally Forth years back. I used to have a reprint book by Greg Howard which, before my library got downsized to Half Price Books, I used to page through wondering how such a charming, funny and enjoyable strip turned into the discombobulated mess it has been for years now. A real loss and shame.

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