If you’re gift-shopping for a middle schooler, here’s When Pigs Fly, a graphic novel we can pretty well guarantee they won’t already have, since it won’t be published until next week.
Better yet, it’s funny and inventive and I promise they won’t come away with any lessons.
Well, beyond “Believe in your dreams,” of course, since that will get you an A+ on any book report you write in middle school.
Rob Harrell first came to my attention through his strip “Big Top,” which he had to step away from in 2007 while he dealt with cancer and the loss of an eye.
That might be TMI except that he then came back and created the middleschool hybrid novel “Wink,” which depicts a young boy dealing with that same medical problem, and goes for laughs as well.
His return also included taking over the Adam@Home strip from Brian Bassett, producing a trio of hybrid novels about a middle school troll (the fantasy kind) named Zarf, and creating Monster on the Hill, a graphic novel that is the basis of a new movie.
Other’n that, he hasn’t been doing much.
Though Adam@Home is more aimed at an adult audience, that strip also includes a level of the endearing silliness which has made Harrell popular with young readers, and which also suggests that, while you may give the novel to one of the kids in your life, you’ll be stealing it back to read yourself.
When Pigs Fly is about a very normal middle school pig who, through the usual superhero bizarre accident, gains various powers, some of which actually work pretty well and some of which might perhaps work better.
Such that, when he goes off to fight a giant lizard, he ends up strapped to a large rocket and having swallowed poison. As one does.
I used to instruct my middle school critics not to write that they “couldn’t put it down” or that something “kept me on the edge of my seat,” so let’s skip the cliches and just say this one will likely be read in a single sitting, not because it’s short but because it’s fun.
Enough fun that you don’t actually have to have any middle schoolers in your circle and I’m pretty sure you won’t be asked at the bookstore.
Now, on with the show:
While Adam@Home is based on working at home, the pandemic has made such things a feature of several other work-based strips, and On the Fastrack (KFS) has had a great deal of fun with the topic.
I spent the last decade of my career as a 1099 Independent Contractor, so I’ve been particularly enjoying things as Ms. Trellis discovers new ways to exploit her staff.
And it’s not easy to shock someone who has worked for an Alden newspaper, since what she does in jest they do in all sincerity.
For instance, she realized that, if everyone continued to work at home, she could jettison most of corporate HQ and save money, while I got to watch Alden slowly rent out sections of a multi-story downtown newspaper building before selling the whole thing and moving the newsroom out to jury-rigged offices in the production building, miles from anyone they needed to interview.
Which didn’t bother me, since I was telecommuting from 1500 miles away anyway.
Now she wants to jerk their benefits, but I can laugh because I never had any.
The real challenge for the strip is to make Ms. Trellis more grasping, heartless and amoral than a real employer.
Good luck with that.
The jokes cut both ways, however, and Pardon My Planet (KFS) points out the benefits of not being under constant surveillance.
I worked at one paper where they decided to install videocameras throughout the building.
Y’know, for our safety.
I don’t know if the negative response was frightening enough, or if they just looked at the bids and didn’t want to spend the money, but it never happened.
Which was good, because they sold the building. There’s a lot of that going around.
Anyway, something I learned from working at home is that you get a lot more done if nobody is calling you in for pointless meetings, dropping by to ask how your weekend was or just flailing around in your peripheral vision.
I was paid by the task and not by the hour, and my clients knew that, if I didn’t respond to an email within 10 minutes, I was probably walking the dog and would respond to a phone call.
Or the phone call would wake me up from a nap.
Whatever. As long as I hit my deadlines, it was none of their damn business.
An excellent system.
Though, sticking with PMP for a second gag, I strongly suspect that Vic Lee watches daytime television while he’s working. Or instead of.
If you turn the TV on before 5 pm, you’ll quickly spot the difference between daytime and nighttime audiences. Daytime ads are cheaper because audiences are smaller, but they’re also targeted differently.
Targeting matters. Back before Ted Turner revolutionized cable, when it was just local channels and a few distant superstations, there was a late-night movie out of California, sponsored by Big Sur Waterbeds. It made sense, because if you’re up at 2 am watching a cheesy movie, you might need a more comfortable bed.
Daytime TV, judging by current ads, is watched by unemployed hypochondriacs, who need to cash out their structured settlements, hand their homes over to Tom Selleck and ask their doctor about pills that, as noted, have more side effects than benefits.
We’ll close with a bit of seasonal humor from Reality Check (UFS).
Dumping on both fruit cake and candy corn in one swell foop seems like piling on, and let me speak on behalf of the candy corn makers in pointing out that at least they’ve stuck to their guns and kept making it the same old way.
By contrast, the makers of fruit cake and licorice — another hate-target — have modified and sweetened and gussied up their products so that, while the people who hated them still hate them, the people who used to like them now also hate them.
Candy corn for the win.