Friday, June 8, 2018

I'm Going To...

I was more perplexed over how Clayton managed to kick the ball through the boy's tiny frame
than his (then) baffling statement in the last panel.
A commonly quoted line that I was completely out of the loop of was the oft repeated statement where, after winning a particularly celebrated sports event (particularly Football) would be to have the lead athlete be asked "What are you going to do now?" who would then respond with "I'm going to Disney World!"  (Or DisneyLand, depending on the region)

Given the company's ultra protective restrictions of its copyrights, its astounding that any comics outside of their brand manage to reference them without facing the threat of heavy lawsuits.  So it came as a complete surprise when I came across an innocuous comic around mid-April when comics generally focus on Income Tax jokes.

This started off on April 11th, but didn't resume until almost a week later on the 16th.  In between were a bunch of otherwise unremarkable filler comics, save this one which I decided to share for posterity.
Selfie Ver. 1.0
Then started the longest Hi & Lois comic that lasted longer than the last one, which I thought was an anomaly.
Though the majority of them don't actually reference the Magical Kingdom by name - just that the family is going on a trip, which seems to be a reoccurring theme when it comes to taking vacations.

Following the schedule, the storyline continued on onto Sunday, a rare instance when such phenomenon was much more common back in those days.

And starting Monday, after going to all that trouble to get there, readers were faced with this:

Disappointing isn't it?  All that buildup and we don't even get to see the family go on vacation in DisneyLand?  Well, the punchline there was somewhat prophetic, since the very next Sunday, we get a continuation of the storyline that seemingly abruptly ended. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

A Word About The Fridge Door

Starting in March 1989, a new feature was added to the Fridge Door - a Word of the Week that was designed to build children's word power... IN THEORY.  If you look at the first word, you'll see that they were not going to talk down to their audience, using obscure words that required usage of a dictionary to understand.

This feature could've been made more effective if Noodles had used the word himself in the context of the strip, to give some idea of the usage.

Calvin tended to talk in long overbearing complicated monologues, but you could still get the gist of what he was saying even as he was dabbling in ancient passages of ages long past.

The editors must've realized they set the bar too high, as the next word of the week was one that was thematically appropriate.

Later, the words seemed to fit the general mood of Noodles' reaction, which seemed more appropriate.  Though Fusty is closer to Musty than Fussy.

Here, we see some examples of how children took these words as an example to use in the form of a sentence - using them without actually having to explain what they were saying.  They're still getting a grasp of vocabulary, struggling with basic sentence structure, and it's not for extra credit - what did you expect?

This is a good word, where people absorb knowledge without knowing that they're receiving information.  Too bad it's not the kind of thing that'd be easy to convey for young children just waiting to get out of school.

As an extra challenge, see if you can make a sentence consisting of the following words:

  • Dittybag
  • Refulgent
  • Folderol
  • Baffle
  • Fusty
  • Squirm
  • Osmosis
  • Pungle
  • Mobocraly

There won't be a quiz later... probably.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Herman Comparison

Since my last post regarding the sudden implementation of updated technology in Nancy, I intended to show a similar usage of updated technology that ruined what was a personal favorite strip of mine.  Starting on July 3rd 2011, new Herman Sunday comics were being produced.

Pretty much every advancement of new technology has faced the future with the prospect that "This newfangled device will threaten our way of life!", the alarmist message not being too far off the mark.  Since it would change things - whether for the better or for the worse being constantly under debate.

What surprised me was that despite my distaste, there were apparently far less instances of modern technology in the newer Herman Sundays than I thought.

It's not so much the implementation of newer technology that bothered me.  There were many strips where Herman showed remarkable ingenuity about technology.  It's that the newer strips fail to show the absurdity of technological advances.

Not to mention that many Herman strips had box-like TVs, so seeing Flat Screen TVs in Herman is something of an anachronism.  I've grown so used to seeing old-timey wimey technology there that seeing Herman join the 21st Century without a spacesuit is considered unusual.

Fun fact - the updated version has slightly different monologue in some places.
When Jim Unger retired (and later died) there was the unspoken guarantee that ghost artists would pick up the slack, creating new comics in his absence.  But so far, they've been content to stick with rerunning his old stuff, which is fine, because the new material hasn't exactly been up to snuff.  Here's a few examples.

The last panel of Herman tend to be spoken by one person only, lending further impact to the punchline depending on the size of the panel.  The Turnkey's comment here is pretty much redundant.  You could remove it, and the outcome would be just the same.

On the opposite end, this strip suffers from the opposite problem.  There's a kind of meanness in the newer strips that wasn't evident.  Sure, there were the occasional barb thrown about, and a henpecked husband, but in terms of relationships, it was more The Better Half than The Lockhorns.  What exactly is supposed to be funny about the above strip?  Or the one below?

Now, compare these with this one:

Another great
of Herman is that it packages so much material with very little.  With just a few spoken words, you get the full breadth of a story that we're seeing a bit part of.  We know that the couple next door has gotten into tense arguments that are audible to their neighbors.  We get the gist of what they tend to argue about.  We know the Husband is nosy only as a precaution.  We see the Wife clearly doesn't want him to indulge in this foolish behavior, even as she benefits from it.  All this and more can be gleamed from the absurdity of the scene.  And Jim Unger did this on a regular basis for almost twenty years!

The only daily I saw that was done by the new artist was one that was a redraw of an older strip.

The great appeal of Herman was that it showed naturalistic dialogue that could be spoken by just about anybody.  That kind of honesty is hard to come across when being mass produced by someone else who hasn't had the experience of several years of deadpan humour.

As a result of the strip changing hands, it approached sitcom territory not unlike how the first Seven Seasons of The Simpsons were demythologized by later Seasons that bypassed thought-provoking multidimensional layered jokes with emotional depth by forgoing multiple needed rewrites and instead going for the cheap laugh.

Sure there's deliberate repetition of panels and probably photocopying involved,
but don't knock at the usage of well-timed silent panels.
The two comics below probably comes the closest to approaching the spirit of Herman, while also remaining far away from the influence.  It's unusual for a Herman to have so many incremental punchlines in a row.  Another thing about these newer Hermans - there's a lot more dynamic movement and use of arms when old comics tended to be more static, but I still feel something is lost in the transition.

What's wrong with that guy's back in the last panel there?
After a sporadic schedule of newer material, the last "new" Herman comic I bothered to check was on October 6th, 2013, and it's not as memorable as you'd hope it'd be.

After that nonsensical one, they went back into reruns before resuming in December.  There were always the occasional baffling Herman comic, but even those gave you the opportunity to think about them.  What point is exactly being made here?

It just goes to show that despite being an architect of another time (Box TVs everywhere), Herman was surprisingly progressive in ways you wouldn't think.  Talking about Genetic Manipulation, Recycling, Computer Design of Products, Miniturization, and a lot more!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Fancy Pansy Nancy

Normally, I wouldn't bother with devoting much attention to Nancy, a comic I consider so bland that it barely musters attention.  I can't even find it in the online Newspaper archives, and there's a LOT of lame strips out there.  But the latest revision of Nancy has shown a surprising amount of humour that while still sub-par, is decidedly better than the previous iteration.  It's still bad, but in a kind-of-amusing-bad way, not so-bad-it's-ironically-good.

Compared to the previous run, of which I only saw a smattering of, this slightly snarkier version is a vast improvement, but then, considering the source material, that's not a very high bar to clear.

If anything, I suspect what a lot of people are really protesting isn't that Olivia Jaimes, the only woman working on a Legacy strip starring a female character since ever, but that former Nancy artist Guy Gilcrest's bombshell Aunt Fritzi isn't around anymore.

Frankly, a lot of their comments seem self-determined to show just how badly the new Nancy artist is living up to the legacy, but I suspect those complaints are railing against change that they're not accustomed to.  Another annoyance factor is that Nancy seems to be relying more on recent technology than her previous iteration ever did.  Using Ipods and computers just like everyone else!  What would the World think?

Though there was a Gilcrest comic where Fritzi used a cell phone, and no one complained there.  Funny, that.
The contradiction, not the comic.
Another new addition is that Nancy now seems to be allergic to pollen.  This is probably the largest defining characteristic for what's pretty much a blank state.  I don't think she's ever had this trait before, and can't be bothered to do a search beyond "flowers" and "pollen", though what little I saw didn't yield very much.  (Check out the very first comic in this post)

Probably the best addition (so far) is the inclusion of a nameless teacher who clearly takes no guff with the known boundaries of the Nancy Universe.

An example of a joke that's bad, but awesome in just how BAD it is.
In the midst of schooling Nancy, we get to see our first rendition of Jaimes' Aunt Fritzi, and it's a much more reserved version compared to her earlier incarnation.

If anything, going through the Nancy comics and learning about the Nancy Card Game method certainly showed how they influenced the Randomized Garfields that'd been floating around.  Considering the sheer amount of odd occurrences in a dadaist Nancy strip, any configuration could wind up creating a comic that kind-of-but-almost-sort-of makes sense.  To all those haters hating the latest new Improved Nancy, I present to you a relevant page from Cracked Magazine:
Even back then, Aunt Fritzi was a looker, but for entirely different reasons.