I don’t advocate violence against anyone, but I think Bull here would be perfectly justified in punching Linda right in the face, as hard as he can.
Here, Bull has just failed at a final task his former coach assigned him, and all she can think to do is make a joke basically saying, “Well, Bull, we knew you’d fail from the beginning. We just wanted to see it happen.”
That, my friends, is the very definition of mean-spirited. The only way this could work would be if Bull was in on it–“You knew I’d do that, didn’t you?” Easily done:
Just add a half-lidded smirk and the venom is drained out of it.
However, this also illustrates a point made by our very own Paul Jones on the 29th. If I may quote:
His metier is really the gag a day strip that has no consequences to its jokes but he doesn’t realize it.
In a nutshell and on target. That is the major failing of this strip–Tom Batiuk is trying to tell long-form stories here, but he is still in the mindset of the gag-a-day strip, where everything must be status quo ante after the day’s last panel. The two forms really don’t mix well at all. It’s why medical and psychological conditions have no real consequences, and why–in this instance–someone can make a cruel joke about a character’s failure and we’re all supposed to brush it off. As Scarlett O’Hara might have said (were she to find herself in a mediocre comic strip), “Tomorrow is another gag.”
As I’ve said before, I think the worst thing that ever happened to Tom Batiuk was being nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. We’ll never know the reasoning behind that nomination, but it basically said to Tom Batiuk, “Yes, the long-form dramatic comic strip is what you should be doing. You should never go back to gag-a-day. You are on the right path.” And all the evidence that he is not on the right path gets swept aside in the waves of an ego-storm. Criticism that might make him take a second look is overshadowed by the words “Pulitzer nominee.”
The thing is, of all the long-form stories that he’s told, none of them have been told well. They’re not interesting–or if they start out that way, they are quickly mediocre’d until they stop that. They’re not insightful or poignant or heart-warming or anything at all. They just take up space.
Something I’m guessing Bull will stop doing shortly.