Lots of good speculation this week about what Mason might do, now that he’s learned of the Lisa Tapes, but as always there’s more creativity in the comments here than in Batiuk’s entire studio. Mason just makes his excuses and leaves, and from the looks of it, he’s not doing anything interesting like hiding a couple of the tapes under his shirt. Just another extraordinarily lame “joke” and we’re done.
Think about that for a moment. The Lisa Tapes were mentioned, Les was extremely snotty about them, and the subject was dropped. Mason didn’t even ask what was on them. Long-time readers such as we (and probably only we) know all about the Tapes, but any casual reader is going to be baffled by their mention. “Well, gosh, what are these tapes? I didn’t learn anything about them!” Batiuk probably thinks that since the Tapes are Known to Him, they’re Known to Everyone–something that happens a lot to folks who work on a project for a long time. The details are so ingrained in his mind that he thinks everyone is similarly familiar with them. “Everyone knows Dinkle hates vanilla ice cream, no need to address that at all, the joke works fine as is.”
But the casual reader has to be brought up to speed for a situation to make sense. As Stan Lee famously said, “Every comic book is someone’s first comic book.” Without the background, this mythical casual reader will soon become an ex-reader. Here’s the problem, though–Batiuk can’t talk about the tapes themselves. Batiuk thinks the tapes are cute and endearing and evidence of the great love that Lisa generated.* But any casual reader–and, realistically, anyone else–would find them horrifying, evidence of deep mental problems in Lisa, Les, Cayla, and anyone else caught in Lisa’s web. A casual reader would be repelled–the characters, Les especially, would be revealed in the full glory of their loathsomeness.
The cynic in me has another answer, though–Batiuk hopes this will intrigue a casual viewer into taking the next step–“Since I must learn what those tapes are about, I guess I’ll have to buy the books to find out more!”
It’s right there, between the second and third panels.
*PS: I agree with Comic Book Harriet that a tape left for a child by a dying parent can be a touching display of parental love. But that’s not what Lisa is doing here. She’s never told Les or Summer that she loves them. Every tape is designed to run every aspect of their lives according to her will.