Apparently, Tom Batiuk’s psychic powers are more formidable than anyone could have anticipated–as I had a whole Sunday essay ready to go, and it has been utterly destroyed. So, talk among yourselves as I try to reassemble bits here and there.
Author Archives: beckoningchasm
Saturday’s strip was not available for preview, but it’s a safe bet we’re going to get more of Cindy’s desire to do a documentary on Butter Brickel. It seems Batiuk has a nostalgia fever and he’s going to cough it all over this strip come hell or high water.
As Cindy said the other day, “It’s a story that still resonates today!” and I couldn’t agree more. The past few years have seen dozens and dozens of “Judge them in the press” stories, and the internet allow these things to spread with frightening speed, while the truth (as Mark Twain observed) is still getting on its pants.
Which is why it’s odd that Batiuk chose to tell this story about a pretty much long-forgotten comedian of the silent film era. There are many more examples that might appeal to “contemporary young people.” The cynic in me says, this way he can fudge the details as much as he wants, and no one will call him on them. The other reason would be that anything that happened in recent years would have partisans on both sides, and favoring one side might lead to controversy…which Batiuk courts only in the most superficial manner.
There is also the matter of his very intense, narrowly focused nostalgia. The past few years have seen a very strange parade of things that seem to be going further back in time–from silver age comic books, to old movie serials, and now to silent comedies. I wonder if he’s casting backward because the things he used to value are becoming less and less satisfying.
Speaking of less and less satisfying, let’s enjoy the first strip of June!
Wow, everyone is sure full of praise for themselves! Even waiter Barrithuh Hatchetface is smirking to beat the band. Too bad their praise is so misplaced.
Director: We’ll sit in chairs and chat, and I’ll only ask you questions you can preen about. Thus, later, I’ll be surprised by very basic career information about you.
Videographer: I’ll shoot this chair-bound set with a hand-held camera!
Subject: I threw away over seventy years of my life so I could have a snit-fit.
BuddyBlog: What kind of crap is this? Damn, it’s a good thing my dad is rich…I think.
Emmy awards committee person A: Oh my God, this is so terrible. I think we finally have a winner for the “Most Pathetic, Pitifully Bad Production – Documentary” award someone added as a joke.
Emmy awards committee person B: You mean the “Please Just Stop, or At Least Try Next Time” award? Won’t that make the ceremony longer?
But his Lordship’s artificial limb had still not been found.
Therefor, having directed the servants to fill the baths,
He seized the tongs,
And set out at once for the edge of the lake
Where the Throbblefooted Spectre still loitered in a distraught manner.
He presented it with a length of string
And passed on to the statue of Corrupted Endeavor
To await the arrival of autumn.
(As you might have gathered, today’s strip was not available for preview. So please enjoy chapter one of Edward Gorey’s “The Object Lesson,” written from memory.)
So, the last two strips were entirely superfluous–weirdly superfluous, as if Batiuk did have some purpose–“Say, no one’s mentioned Lisa lately, how can I fix that? I know, I’ll just push Monday’s strip to Wednesday, that gives me two whole strips to shoehorn her in. Now, where’s my thinking crap?”
Now, credit where it’s due, I guess–Batiuk just straight out has Cindy outline her entire purpose, when he could have stretched this out for days. (“Oh, you knew someone named Lisa, too?”) Oh, don’t get me wrong, he’ll still stretch the whole premise out for days, but at least we get the preliminary bit right out, center stage. So we’re at least somewhat on track.
Of course, I would not put it past him to run the following script in tomorrow’s episode–
Panel One: Cliff: So let me get this straight–
Panel Two: Cliff: You want to make a documentary about Butter Brinkel, the biggest screen comedian of his day,
Panel Three: Cliff: And how he went to prison for the murder of actress Valerie Pond, despite protesting his innocence?
Panel Four: Cindy: Well, let me put it another way–
And the next day, Cindy restates it all again. Repetition, it’s what all the cool kids are doing, and it’s a surefire way to make it to that fiftieth! Less than three years to go!
Look, I made a pun! Based on “kemosabe” and “chemotherapy”! Do I get an award yet?! I should go out and stand by the mailbox!
Of course, I have the feeling that Batiuk has used that exact same pun, previously on this long hard slog, so I’m a bit deflated by that.
Speaking of deflated, how completely baffling is it that Lisa is brought up in today’s strip. It makes it look as if everyone in the entire world was affected by her passing, and everyone must pause and mourn when something brings her to mind. “Hey, look at this painting, the Mona Lisa!” (sigh) “I guess I should sign the lease, uh?” (moan) “Okay, I found one, where’s the other shoe?” (sob).
Because otherwise it just seems like more whoring out of Tom Batiuk’s Greatest Hit, in the hopes that someone, somewhere–anywhere–might say, “Hey, I’ve got an award I’ve got to give out–and it looks like I’ve found someone deserving!”
Batiuk, let her rest. You fumbled it, and the play’s been called.
Many thanks to Comic Book Harriet for her recent hosting of the Ongoing Mess. As usual, her posts were more interesting than the strip before us.
As for the strip before us, a cursory glance at today’s strip left me really puzzled. I thought, How in the heck could Crazy Harry be close to Butter Brinkel, someone who had probably died before he was born? Is this like his Tarzan fixation, where his obsession with the character led to said character coloring his world? Just because he owns all the DVDs? And how could he afford to fly out to Los Angeles?
A more careful reading then revealed that this was Cliff Anger, and not Crazy Harry. Frankly, this strip is too worthless to inspire careful readings, so I was a bit put off.
Then there’s the word “kemosabe.” I’m of the generation who associates the term with the Lone Ranger and Tonto, being Tonto’s term for the Ranger. A quick search says that it means something like “faithful companion,” which is how I always took it. The fact that it’s an odd word, not likely to used in common parlance, leads me to believe we’re going to get some kind of awful wordplay down the road. Oh…joy.
(Unless Batiuk is going to pick up on the Urban Legend that “kemosabe” means “horse’s ass,” but I don’t see how he can get Les to Los Angeles in time….)