Author Archives: ComicBookHarriet

Plumbing the Depths.

As it was foretold in the comments section, today we get a commissioned sideways comic cover. And whadda ya know? The Subterranean looks like if you ripped the spikes off of Doomsday. Or dipped The Hulk in concrete. Or shaved Solomon Grundy and had him running around nude.

Past comments by numerous commenters have been harsh on the Atomik Komix lineup.

There’s not a single AK title that would have sparked my interest back when I was reading comic books. Not a thing. Back then they would have bored me just as much as they do now.

“No new comics to read? Just these Atomix Komix things? Sheesh, I think I’ll go home and do schoolwork.”

Beckoning Chasm

And I would agree. Though I thought the concept and first cover of Stardusters did show some promise with a cast of differentiated characters, a Star Wars-esque grungy space look, and an action heavy tableau. So props to Rick Burchett and Rob Ro on that tip of the Funky Felttip.

But for the rest, all we have is a dumb name, a dumb costume, and maybe a gimmick or a gimmicky backstory. They have to be terrible, right?

Well, yes; because they’re being written by Funky Winkerbean characters, who–in turn–were written by Tom Batiuk. A man who seems stuck in the era of “Why is Superman Forcing Jimmy Olsen to Marry a Gorilla! Twice!”

But if we’re just going off the names, the gimmicks, and facts, the covers…

As we exit this weirdly awful comics arc, and brace ourselves for the blandly awful Les arc that will follow, let me tell you a little story.

Two of my best friends were at a local comic shop picking up Batman, Nightwing, and Transformers comics, when one of my friends saw this.

And I mean LOOK at this! Some kind of smarmy, cocky, swaggering douchebro with a giant star on his chest and a MONEY SIGN in his name.

My friend said. “Who the f**k is Booster Gold?!” And became very offended, (mostly facetiously,) that a character like this: some kind of boring-looking, stupid character, would be worthy of his own DC omnibus collection.

So it was a running joke for us for months that Booster Gold was our friend’s arch nemesis. And to further the joke, I bought her a copy of the first issue of the 2007 relaunch of Booster Gold’s solo title for her birthday.

And we read it. And then the next. And then the series. And you know what? It was great.

Written by Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz, and drawn by Dan Jurgens, it told the story of a time travelling superhero who wasn’t respected by other superheroes. Because for most of his career he’d tried to use his super-heroics to accumulate fame and fortune . But Booster Gold now was a superhero who had recently gone through the most traumatic experience of his life. An experience that spurred growth in him. The death of his best friend, Blue Beetle.

The first major arc involved Booster Gold going back in time to try to prevent his friend’s murder, only for the new future they create to be a terrible dystopia. Eventually Ted Kord (Blue Beetle) decides that the only way to put things right is to go back in time to die again.

The Bromance is real guys.

Look at Blue Beetle, that’s a weird looking costume if I’d ever seen one! And the thing was packed with a million references to old nonsense that we hardly understood, and a dozen weird characters with wacky gimmicks. But that didn’t matter, because the book was funny, the characters were crisp and distinct, and the story was heartfelt, and we ate it up. And then we went back, and read Booster Gold and Blue Beetle’s old adventures in the Justice League International. We started reading ANYTHING with these two. Because their friendship was one of the best things ever in a universe that included BATMAN. One of my friends and I went to a convention dressed as them.

And all because my friend thought that a cover looked stupid.

What I’m saying is that, in the right hands, ANYTHING can work, any name, any costume, any gimmick, any backstory. That fact is born out in comics history again and again and again. Some of the most critically acclaimed books were made up of D-list characters cobbled together from the Scrappy Doo heap. The New Suicide Squad movie is hoping to make a billion dollars on this premise.

But in the wrong hands the tearful reunion of two elderly men and former friends after literal decades apart can be as emotionally thrilling and meaningful as watching paint dry.

It’s called writing.

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Deceiving Appearances.

Link to Today’s Strip.

Those of you who DIDN’T guess that Phil and Flash would be asked to take The Subterranean to Atomik Komix, please report to the front desk for your free brain scan.

And really, Phil Holt is accusing Flash of grandstanding? Isn’t Phil the man who loudly crashed a ComicCon panel to come back from the dead, then stormed the stage to have a reunion with his former partner that ended with both of them in tears.

Since when have we ever seen Flash Freeman grandstanding? We’ve all been treating Mr. Freeman as the stand-in for Stan Lee, but he’s even less like Stan Lee than Phil Holt is like Jack Kirby.

Visually, Flash is drawn as an old guy with a weirdly long face and a receding hairline, kinda like an elderly Stan Lee. And on the surface they’ve done similar things: being a head writer, giving the writers and artists in their employ pet nick names, making up behind the scenes stories, and being blamed for stealing credit from others.

Chester’s wailing about the ‘Batty Batom Bullpen Boasts’ is an obvious reference to things Stan Lee did to drum up enthusiasm and company loyalty in kidsoomers. Things like the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins and the Merry Marvel Marching Society, which put out a record that has been BURNED INTO MY MIND.

“You belong, you belong, you belong, you belong, you belong you belongyoubelongyoubelong…

But in personality? Flash Freeman has been presented as an affable, laid-back guy. Down to earth, level-headed, and even reserved. He’s usually drawn with a slight smile and relaxed face, like he’s bemused about everything around him.

That is not Stan Lee.

Stan Lee was a man who treated every conversation as a performance. A man who only stopped flashing his toothy grin when he was posing or playacting a ‘serious’ moment. A man who rearranged his life into entertaining stories, and if he had to sacrifice the facts to do it, so be it. This is not Flash getting wrong the street address of a diner he last visited 60 years ago. Lee was a man who told a story to a convention about how he’d gotten hired, then called a former coworker who could expose the fib, and tried to convince him to go along with the ‘enhanced version’ of the truth.

Here’s an excerpt from the transcript of that coworker’s panel at ComicCon in 1998.

Stan Lee; is Stan here? No? (laughter) Stan Lee called me about two or three years ago, and says, “Joe, I opened my convention with the story that I answered an ad in the newspaper to get my job. I answered an ad in the newspaper for a job in comic books and then I went. You hired me and I was walking in the hall and I ran into Martin.” Well, I knew Martin was his uncle; well, his relative. Actually it was Stan’s mother’s cousin, something like that.

[Stan continues:] “So, Martin said to me, “Stan, what are you doing here?” And I said, ‘I work here.’ And Martin says, “Is that right? I didn’t know.””

I said, “Stan, that story can’t be true. We only had three offices and a bunch of relatives in the building. We didn’t even have a hall.” (laughter) So Stan says, “Is that right? My memory is going.” (laughter) I thought it was a pretty good story. (laughter) I figured at that time, he’d stop doing it. He’s still doing it. A month later I read the same story in Newsday. But, God bless Stan, he’s got a good story and he’s sticking with it. (laughter) He did a wonderful job. He did a miraculous job. I’m proud of him.

https://www.twomorrows.com/kirby/articles/25simon.html

Who was that coworker? Why Joe Simon, the man who hired Stan Lee. The first editor of Timely (later Marvel) comics. And Jack Kirby’s creative partner for the first 15 years of his career. Theirs was truly a partnership where credit can’t be sorted. They both wrote, they both drew, and scripted, and inked. There are covers and pages with both their names on them, where not even experts can parse out who did what.

They first met working for Fox Features Syndicate, an early comics publisher run by Victor Fox who Joe Simon characterized more clearly than any Act III Funky Winkerbean character could hope to be:

 It was at Fox Comics. I guess you all know about Victor Fox. He was a little chubby guy. He was an accountant for DC Comics. He was doing the sales figures and he liked what he saw. So, he moved downstairs and started his own company called Fox Comics, Fox Publications, Fox Features Syndicate, Fox Radio, Fox this, Fox that… He was a very strange character. He had kind of a British accent; he was like 5’2″–told us he was a former ballroom dancer. He was very loud, menacing, and really a scary little guy. (laughter) He used to say, “I’m the King of the Comics. I’m the King of the Comics. I’m the King of the Comics.” (laughter) We couldn’t stop him. So that’s the task I had when I went in to start that job.

Hmmmmm…….

When Joe Simon left Fox comics for Timely, he took Jack Kirby with him, and there they created Captain America. Then when they felt they were getting the short stick by Timely, Joe began negotiations for both of them to move on to National Comics (now DC.) There they wrote Boy Commandos and the Newsboy Legion, both very popular at the time, even if they’re mostly forgotten now.

After the War, they worked freelance, basically creating the Romance Comic genre. All the while, they were living across the street from each other with their young families.

Their partnership more or less ended in the mid-fifties, after comics hit a huge slump. The self-imposed censorship and moral panic in the wake of The Seduction of the Innocent and the Senate hearings made it an uncertain financial field. So Jack and Joe parted ways amiably. Jack stuck it out with comics, and Joe moved on to advertising and magazine publishing; though he would occasionally dip his toes back into the comics business. In 1974 he and Kirby worked together on a relaunch of ‘The Sandman’ for DC. They remained on friendly terms for the rest of their lives.

I’ll say this for Jack–Jack went back to Marvel, he switched to Marvel from DC. We got together a couple of times in-between. But every time I called Jack I’d say, “Jack, I’ve got a project to do; come do it with me.” He was there the next day–and in those days, we were always together when we had to be, when we wanted to be. He always came back to me. I never paid him the way I’d pay the other artists; I always split with him, everything we had. We had kind of a nice relationship. 

Is Flash Freeman a poorly written Stan Lee? Or is he intentionally tempered with the soul of Joe Simon?

The prosecution presents the following evidence.

Now we needed a villain for inside the comic, too. … Even sitting at lunch, I was always thinking about heroes and villains, with all sorts of ideas swimming around in my head. Next thing I know, I had a hot fudge sundae sitting in front of me, with the vanilla ice cream, and the hot fudge is running down the side. It was intriguing.

The hot fudge looked like limbs—legs, feet, and hands—and I’m thinking to myself.

Gee, this’d make an interesting villain, I mused. We’ll call him Hot Fudge … Just put a face on him, and have him ooze all over the place.

You have to be stupid to be in this business. Nevertheless, I did some sketches, right then and there. And I Iooked at them.

Nah, I thought. Who would believe anything like that?

But I looked again at the sundae, and I saw the big cherry on top. The cherry looked like a skull.

“Wow,” I said to myself. “Red Skull … that sounds good.” And it made a lot more sense.

https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/captain_americas_creator

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‘It is not good that the man should be alone.’

Link to Today’s Post.

I thought Phil said he needed someone to ‘write it to life’, but apparently he already has dialogue written for this story. So he’s not really looking for a writer but an editor.

And whooo boy, that is some old timey sexism there. It’s so bad that all the background men have disappeared. Mindy looks grumpy! Which is nice to see, because she’s done nothing else but smile blandly for an entire month.

Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt though. Maybe Phil meant that line as a really weird homage to the Rankin-Bass Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer special.

But, darling, you’re a reindeer?

I can think of plenty of contexts where that line would still be acceptable. Maybe the speaker is an anviliciously sexist villain or otherwise flawed character that needs to be punished and educated. I mean, comics today seem to be nothing but virtue signaling and navel gazing. The twelve people that still read modern superhero stuff would love to see puff-pieces on The Mary Sue about how brave Phil Holt is for burning his past self in effigy. The Subterranean is obviously a monstrous stand-in for the basement dwelling creatures, fueled by misogyny, destroying comics by complaining online about ‘the feminist agenda’.

To be sure, the old Marvel comics Kirby and Lee created back in the day were laughably sexist. But you know who was writing the dialogue? Stan Lee. So why is the Stan Lee stand in correcting Kirby?

Still not as cringe as the Fan4stic movie.

And you know who Jack Kirby created? Big Barda, the wife of Mr. Miracle. A character where literally the gimmick is she is stronger, more prone to violence, and more physically imposing than her husband. Apparently the interplay between them was inspired by his relationship with his wife, Roz.

Maybe if Phil Holt wasn’t a cantankerous hermit with only a single friend he would be better at writing women. It’s funny how that works, knowing other people helps you understand other people. And understanding other people helps you understand yourself. Cutting yourself off from engaging with other perspectives, even ones you fundamentally disagree with, can take you to some pretty strange places.

I said yesterday that I thought Phil Holt was too antisocial and reclusive to be pure Jack Kirby cariacature. If I wanted to give Batiuk credit, I would say that he intentionally infused his Kirby Clone with a bit of essence of Steve Ditko. (Like 90’s Superboy having a bit of Lex Luthor DNA in him, gahIamsuchanerdgah.)

Ditko was the artist and co-creator of, among others, Spider Man, Dr. Strange, The Question, and The Creeper. Like Jack Kirby he had a falling out with Stan Lee over author credits and creative direction, and left Marvel to freelance for Charlton and DC. But unlike Jack Kirby, Ditko was an intensely private man, who didn’t give interviews, or go to conventions, or converse with fans.

This is one of only three or four confirmed pictures of Ditko. THINK.

Some of you more comics savy may be thinking, “Oooh, The Question! That’s who Alan Moore based Rorschach on!” And you would be mostly right, except that The Question was really a watered down version of another character that Ditko created. While Ditko made his living doing freelance work, he also created superhero comics with smaller indie publishers. Like Mr. A.

I mean, I like objective reality as much as the next philosophical conservative, but this is taking it a little far.
Angel was a delinquent who stabbed the lady being carried btw. He just fell off a building and died. Yay!

Yup. Ditko was a Randian Objectivist that would make Andrew Ryan blush. His principles, combined with his anxious and shy nature, made it easy for him to alienate everyone around him. In many cases it seemed he wanted to. He never married. He broke off friendships. He surrounded himself with the few he thought he could trust not to betray or challenge his ideals. To quote Flash Freeman, “He spent most of his time at war with the world and everyone in it.”

I read two informative articles, and watched one fascinating documentary about this weird, weird, strangely admirable and slightly pitiable guy.

This Vulture article was the most negative, but also the most psychologically insightful. Vulture writers are a bunch of liberal pantywaist hippies who hear the word ‘objectivist’ and rear back like Dracula at a Crucifix, (sorry, channeling the spirit of poor Steve for a moment) but lots of good facts there.

This article was a little more even-handed, very focused on his work output, and covered the characters he continued to create for Marvel and DC into the 90’s.

And finally, this charming BBC4 documentary was probably the most sympathetic to Steve Ditko. Several comics creators, including Alan Moore, weigh in on his art, philosophy, and legacy.

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Hail to the King, Baby.

Link to Today’s Strip.

Let me see if I’ve got this straight, Phil. You faked your own death so you could work without being bothered, and in the literal years since you’ve managed to draw and layout a single issue? Seriously? GRRM works faster than you! I swear to Galactus, if there isn’t Berserk levels of detail to every single panel of this book…

Jack Kirby would be ashamed! You know, the guy you’re supposed to be based on? Jack Kirby was a legend for his output and work ethic. He could complete multiple pages a DAY. The man was a machine. If Jack Kirby faked his death to work on a project for four years, the final output would rival Henry Darger.

But how close are you really to Jack Kirby? I took the time this week to watch a few documentaries, read a few articles and interviews. Let’s see how close Phil Holt stacks up to The King. The glorious co-creator of Captain America, The Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Mr. Miracle, The New Gods and so many more.

First of all, the physical resemblance is as close an approximation as the art style allows, especially in the earliest appearances. The poofy, swept back hair, the cigar, the squarish head and round face, all look like a caricature of Kirby. Even more, they look close to how Kirby depicted himself in comic form. The strip even goes out of it’s way to show that Phil is shorter, just like Kirby who was 5’6″.

The only difference is the glasses, and even then, the glasses seem to serve the function of giving him the boxed off square brow and deep set eyes he had naturally.

But does Phil resemble Jack in personality?

Not really. Phil is prickly, he snips and snaps at everyone. He might have depths of generosity, and hidden warmth, but twice he is described as someone whose resting state was antagonistic.

The Jack Kirby described by others, and I saw in interviews was not this person. Yeah, he was a pugnacious guy, who could hold a wicked grudge against people who he thought slighted him. He even lashed out at people he was frustrated with by creating comic villains to RESEMBLE those people.

Funky Flashman (Stan Lee) and Houseroy (Roy Thomas) from Mister Miracle #6, 1972

But to anyone else, he was warm and welcoming. He had a wide circle of friends. People liked working with him. The documentary I watched talked about how random people would show up at his house and he would let them in, show them his studio, and his wife would feed them sandwiches.

Did you know he had a wife? And kids too! People he was financially supporting. Relationships that drove him to look for work and and fight for contracts that paid him his fair share of the profits he was creating, and get rights to royalties that would allow him to continue to provide for his family in the future.

And Jack Kirby never disavowed comics. Sure, in the 80’s he moved on to animation for Hanna-Barbara, but he created comics intermittently through the 80’s and early 90’s. He continued attending conventions and meeting with fans right up until the year he died. He was proud of his work, and went through a legal slugfest with Marvel trying to get his artwork back.

I might think it was petty to draw a sniveling caricature of poor Roy Thomas, and print it in the pages of DC; but I’ll give Jack Kirby this, he didn’t stomp out of an entire industry in a huff and never work again. Jack Kirby worked hard his entire life. He fought hard for his credit, and switched comics companies multiple times, because he wanted that hard work to be recognized. Not just for himself, but for his wife and kids.

Is Phil Holt meant to be Jack Kirby? Probably. But he’s a Jack Kirby that existed in a world where he had nothing to fight for but his own ego.

This was my favorite of the documentaries I watched. It’s probably more hagiography than strict history, but peeling back the veneer of eulogy you can still see that the truth of the man beneath. If you’ve got the time, and the inclination, I’d recommend.

DID YOU KNOW? Despite being drawn 24 times, Mindy has only been allowed to speak twice this entire month?

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Oh! I have slipped from the fetid bowels of the earth…

Link to today’s strip.

Okay. I know that most of you have had a stab at trying to parse out the logic here, but I really want to get my own corkboard and string out and see if I can make a clearer picture. So let us follow the sequence of events.

1.) A few years ago Phil Holt was living alone in obscurity in California. He drew caricatures for the birthday parties of rich brats. He considered his old comics work junk despite the fact he hung pictures of it on the walls of his apartment. And wasn’t working on comics anymore despite the fact he had a drawing board and supplies out in a prominent place so must have been working on something (Fine art? Advertising?).

I love having junk on my walls! In my bathroom I have a movie poster for Jupiter Ascending!

2.) This single conversation with Darrin (who never brings Pete by to meet him btw,) sparks in Phil a desire to create comics again. He affirms that he will ‘be there for Darrin’.

Meeting your stupid friends won’t be a problem if you think I’m too dead to meet them.

3.) Despite the fact that no one except Darrin has recognized him in years, Phil Holt is worried about being ‘bothered’ while working out his new inspiration. Phil Holt has a friend/acquaintance/stalker named Mickey. Phil apparently has no one else in his life to confide in. This fat old man with a badly named comic shop somehow knows a fancy lawyer in a high rise office who also loves Phil Holt so much that he’s only too happy to help everyone else on Earth (except, presumably the government,) think he’s dead. Phil Holt thinks this will help him achieve the solitude he needs to work?

Ye Old Comic Shoppe? Does it only carry trade paperbacks of Prince Valiant?

NOTE: Mickey, who attended the con and then panel with Phil, phased out of existence the second Phil pulled off his mask. Where is he? Why doesn’t he get to go to the fun and fancy restaurant of reminiscing over retroactively recreated history?

4.) Phil decides to use the lawyer to gift a bunch of original art to Darrin. Art he had ALREADY decided to leave him in his will, and updated the will accordingly. It is worded vaguely enough that I can’t tell if this is the sole mechanism by which he faked his death, or just a nice thing he decided to do to ‘be there for Darrin’ despite planning on disappearing. The fanboy lawyer, who knows that Phil Holt is still alive, still somehow has trouble locating Darin.

Looks like the kind of guy who would know ‘Mickey’ well.

NOTE: The auction of the comic covers was advertised, and Phil never moved from the SoCal area it was held in. So he knew that Darrin immediately cashed in the art. He’s shown no ill will toward Darrin so far, so I can only assume he approves of the charity donation.

5.) So, for the last few years, after faking his death quitting, his job as a caricature artist, and giving away valuable possessions, Phil has moved from a tiny apartment in the greater L.A. area to a house in San Diego that couldn’t cost less than 500K?

The talking house really makes me miss classic Mark Trail.

NOTE: I’m assuming they’re still in San Diego. Unless the ROAD TRIP Pete was so excited about was all of them driving 150 miles to LA after having supper, after a long day at a convention? Ruby is in in the same clothes they wore to the panel. But Pete and Darin politely changed shirt color before dinner. And Mindy hacked off her sleeves again.

Pete has changed into his FANCY flannel for this.

6.) All so he can spend LITERAL YEARS working on a comic character he already worked on once before, and had entire folders of preproduction material prepared. And could have been working on constantly in the 40 plus years since he stomped out of Batom. I estimate he should have a Watchmen length graphic novel all penciled up and ready to go by now. Which means he never intended for his faked death to be permanent? I guess? Or he was creating for the sake of creation? Or he was going to release under a pseudonym?

Unless the folder is full of stills from stag films.

Conclusion: I’m lost. It’s nonsense all the way down. But as I said on Monday, this is the kind of stupid and crazy I joined on for. If Funky Winkerbean was nothing but badly handled social issues, I think I would probably get burned out on the outrage and leave.

But THIS? An elderly man imagining that even more elderly men are still alive so that he can live out his fantasy of all the Silver Age Marvel greats that bickered over credit kissing and making up? I don’t know if I’ve enjoyed an arc this much since Zanzibar. Actually even Zanzibar had the unfortunate implications of being based on a real life murder.

This is *chef’s kiss* peak outsider auteur Neil Breen crazy.

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A clever Scorpions “Tainted Love” reference.

Link to today’s strip.

Pete, stop. The fish that clean other fish by eating algae out of gill slits are less pathetic and parasitical. By spouting out constant, enthusiastic, purposeless praise you’ve basically become the annoying junior sidekick that you said you despise.

So, the year was 2015. I was trying on used pants in the cluttered dressing room of a Goodwill, when my phone lit up. It was a friend of mine sending me a text.

Did u c the news?

Wat?

Harrison Ford crashed his plane.

My heart immediately froze then sank. I sat down on on the bench, pants around my ankles, and frantically typed back.

Srsly?

Yeah, sounds like he’s ok tho.

And then, I could breathe again.

Understand, I don’t think Harrison Ford is a especially admirable person. I mean, he seems decent enough. He’s a Hollywood movie star. I imagine he’s a little egotistical, an ounce more hedonistic and self-serving than I generally like to see, but just a normal guy otherwise. A man I have never met, and will likely never meet, and if I ever did meet him it would just be a cool story for me, and a completely forgettable moment for him.

When he dies, (given our ages, odds are that it’ll be before me,) it really won’t affect my life. He’s not my dad, my grandpa, my friend, or even that one crazy old guy who used to come into the gas station to buy Mr Pibb and lottery tickets and always had a sassy word.

But when he dies, I’ll still be sad. Not devastated, but sad.

Because somewhere in a box of old school things, there’s a fifth grade note book where I drew hearts around a sticker of Han Solo and wrote, “My favorite actor, Harrisen Ford.” And beneath it, in the same box, is the 1998 People magazine when he was ‘Sexiest Man Alive’. I took that thing to school to keep in my desk. A very weirded out Mr. Dunlap asked me if I knew that Harrison Ford was older than he was. I didn’t care.

Harrison Ford was my first crush that wasn’t 2-D cell shaded, and no matter how much my adult brain understands that he isn’t really a part of my life, the lovesick girl in my heart still remembers. You can think of that as good, bad, or neutral; it is still a fact. His existence impacted mine. It’s the reason we mourn famous people. I don’t think it was unhealthy when I had a moment’s pause and pang of sadness at the passing of Christopher Lee, Johnny Cash, Carrie Fisher, or Hank Aaron. It’s natural to be sad when someone who played a part in your own life experiences passes away. When the world loses a little piece of itself that helped to shape it, it’s okay for all of us to notice.

So say Alan Rickman springs up from the audience of Ellen one day, explaining he really just needed some time away from Potterheads lusting over Snape. Or Terry Pratchett shows up at Dragoncon to accost Neil Gaiman, shouting that he knew he would ruin the legacy of Good Omens and just had to see for himself how he would do it. Or Robin Williams heckles Jerry Seinfeld off the stage and does an impromptu set of impressions of how everyone reacted to his pseudocide.

I wouldn’t be overjoyed they’re still alive.

I would be enraged.

They’d be alive, sure. But they’d be dead to me. The person I hoped they were torn away to reveal a callous, selfish monster who was content, even happy, to cause grief in the millions of people who thought of them fondly. Someone so narcissistic as to be oblivious to everyone elses’ feelings, and to come sauntering back into the spotlight expecting to resume their career and fame.

And if I learned that I, somehow, was the instigator of this decision in the famous person; the catalyst sparking all that grief, and now anger.

Well, if I never did anything else in my life, that would probably be the worst thing I’d ever caused.

Apparently, as long as you aren’t lying to or defrauding the government, or intending to defraud others, or committing some other crime in the process thereof, faking your death to others isn’t illegal.

But that doesn’t mean it’s victimless.

(BTW: Thanks to everyone who enjoyed yesterday’s metaphysical musings. It made digging through all the Les/Lisa ghost porn worth it. )

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The Death of Sense.

Link to Today’s Strip.

Comic Book Harriet, back in action. Ready to dig through the comic muck of this Inedible Pulp to, hopefully, stab at the heart of this horrifying nonsense.

First of all, I want to thank Spaceman Spiff for easing us through the shock and awe of the first ‘back from the dead’ soap opera moment I think we’ve had since Wally Winkerbean came home.

While some of you have been frustrated and angry at just how baffling the decision to retcon Phil Holt’s death is, I’ve actually been relishing the absolute stupidity of this arc. Unlike Batiuk’s biffing of Bull’s Suicide, the morally dubious resolution of the Adeela ICE arc, or the callous insensitivity of the LA Fires, the crazy on display here has no offensive real-world victims unless you find it libelous to Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, or Joe Simon.

And today, I finally get the answer to the most pressing question raised by Phil Holt’s ‘resurrection’: did he fake his death, or have a near death experience? Hanging on this question, was the interpretation of this strip from three years ago.

Spoiler Alert: Phil Holt wasn’t already dead.

With the retcon, and the knowledge that Phil was completely fine at the time, there is only one explanation for these ghosts. Darin was imagining Phil and Lisa’s spirits having this conversation as they looked on approvingly at the auction. It was a fantasy that he concocted for his own gratification.

Furthermore, this suggests that every time we see ‘ghosts’ in strip it’s just the daydreaming of a living character, comforting themselves with a lie, roleplaying a no longer possible conversation, or expressing an internal anxiety, sometimes all at the same time.

Like when Lillian was visited by ‘Lucy’ coming back from the grave to lead her on a guilt purging journey of taking an undelivered letter to a demolished building, where Lucy and her old boyfriend Eugene could finally spiritually be together (even though Eugene was still alive at the time.)

Les of course is the worst offender of this. Lisa constantly pops up around him, encouraging him, praising him, agreeing with him, and smiling while watching him make out with his hot new wife.

But even Les seems to realize that this is just him projecting what he imagines Lisa would say. And that Lisa only lives on inside his mind as a fractured reflection of his memory. She sleeps forever, in the oblivion of death.

If I could ask Batiuk a personal question, I would ask if he believes in an afterlife. Because I don’t think he really does. I think he wishes there was something after death, but has been convinced that the only immortality we actually get is the lingering echoes we leave in the hearts and minds of others.

And, in time, those people will pass away, and so then passes even memory. Life has meaning, but only temporarily.

And so all metaphysical experience is really just human consciousness and awareness fractured and reflected back on itself. When we try to conceive of or reach out to God, or dead loved ones, or eternity, the only thing that can reach back is a part of yourself.

Dead St. Lisa was only a part of imagination. She’s no more or less real than that heatstroke robot Funky imagined when running, or Jeff’s Inner Child avatar, or Les’ depression cat.

But, then again, apparently the depression cat is real and crazy old film producers can see it.

And Dead Lisa did call into an airport and talk to customer service, then Les, then called in a phony bomb threat…

The only evidence of life after death in Funky Winkerbean.

Strap in folks! It’s gonna be a fun week!

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Quid Mus Sumit?

Link to Today’s Post.

The punchline of today’s strip is church mice.

Last week faithful and valued commenters William Thompson and Maxine of Arc got on the subject of church mice, specifically questioning why they would be quiet or poor. I promised them an explanation, so today here it is.

Why are church mice quiet?

Church mice are quiet because in the 20th century two idioms got smashed together. “Quiet as a mouse.” Which has been around since the 16th century, and “Poor/hungry as a church mouse.” which has been around since the 17th century.

The quietness of rodents is pretty self explanatory. But why are church mice poorer and hungrier than other mice?

Transubstantiation.

For any of you who didn’t have to sit through three years of confirmation or multiple years of religious history in college, transubstantiation is the Catholic belief that communion bread and wine become, in reality, the actual body and blood of Christ. Not a remembrance or a symbol or even just inhabited by the the spirit or essence of the body, (Lutheran consubstantiation.) The substance has been transformed into actual Godflesh.

So Catholics take a lot of care that any excess communion bread left over after a Mass is protected; and the place they put the extra, either a tabernacle or an ambry, often has kneeling rails for private devotions or eucharistic adoration.

Even before transubstantiation became a set idea, early Christians didn’t want little mice gnawing on communion wafers.

“Let all take care that no unbaptized person taste of the Eucharist nor a mouse or other animal, and that none of it at all fall and be lost. For it is the Body of Christ to be eaten by them that believe and not to be thought of lightly.”(Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition III:32:2 235 AD.)

But what would happen if a mouse DID eat communion bread? Medieval theologians were fascinated with the idea, and used the question ‘Quid Mus Sumit?‘ ‘What does the mouse eat?’ as a thought experiment to explore the idea of The Eucharist. What is it? What does it do? What would it do to someone who ate it without knowing what it was? At what point does it stop being body and blood?

“Even though a mouse or a dog were to eat the consecrated host, the substance of Christ’s body would not cease to be under the species, so long as those species remain, and that is, so long as the substance of bread would have remained; just as if it were to be cast into the mire. Nor does this turn to any indignity regarding Christ’s body, since He willed to be crucified by sinners without detracting from His dignity; especially since the mouse or dog does not touch Christ’s body in its proper species, but only as to its sacramental species. Some, however, have said that Christ’s body would cease to be there, directly it were touched by a mouse or a dog; but this again detracts from the truth of the sacrament, as stated above. None the less it must not be said that the irrational animal eats the body of Christ sacramentally; since it is incapable of using it as a sacrament. Hence it eats Christ’s body “accidentally,” and not sacramentally, just as if anyone not knowing a host to be consecrated were to consume it. And since no genus is divided by an accidental difference, therefore this manner of eating Christ’s body is not set down as a third way besides sacramental and spiritual eating.”

Summa Theologiae, Thomas Aquinas. 1273 AD.

Of course all this Catholic rodent obsession was eventually used by Protestants during the Reformation as a big old ‘gotcha’ when lambasting Catholic ‘idolatry’ of the communion. Some of it got downright vicious and definitely disingenuous. And it’s from about this time that ‘hungry as a church mouse’ became an idiom.

Excerpt from The Works of John Jewel who was Bishop of Salisbury from 1559-1571.

So there you have it. Church mice are poor because they can’t get any communion bread, and we joke about it because of leftover anti-Catholic sentiment.

Many apologies to anyone who came to this blog today expecting comics criticism instead of a theological deep dive, but I wanted to end my shift talking about something I actually find compelling, rather than dance the Dinklepolka.

It’s been an interesting couple weeks. I mean in terms of the straws I grasped at to try and find something to say. Those straws were kinda fun to braid together. The strip was boring as mud. Actually, I take that back. Mud is much more interesting. I think I’ll research that next.

Join me again in a couple months as I regale you all about INTERESTING MUD. For example. Did you know all baseballs used in MLB are rubbed with special mud harvested, prepped, and packaged by a single man from New Jersey who gathers it in a secret location every year along the Delaware River?

Until next time then. TF Hackett is taking over tomorrow. Good luck good sir. You have my sympathies.

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Give ‘er a Ring!

Link to Today’s Strip.

I want to thank everyone in the comments yesterday for completely ruining what I was going to post today. I was going to go on and on about how Dinkle has learned all about online fundraising multiple times over the past few years, and pull up the strips to prove it. But our crack commenters Billy the Skink and Banana Jr. already discussed it in depth. Jerks.

I mean, what am I supposed to talk about today? The fact that Dinkle couldn’t wait to call his wife over his viral cat video epiphany, and is postponing practice to do it? The fact that he apparently called his wife on a Playstation Vita? The fact that Lillian is now carrying the pineapple laptop around one handed, and it made me question if she’s been doing that all week?

While going mad trying to scrape together something passing for an amusing thought, my eyes were drawn to the wedding rings Dinkle and Harriet are wearing. It’s an interesting detail to include when the art so often seems quarter-assed. Scrolling through the strips this arc, the ring is inconsistent. It showed up Sunday, but the art on the Sunday strips is always higher effort. It showed up on Monday April, 12. But after that, it was nowhere to be seen, even when the hands were in focus.

Slipping off the ring to pick up chicks? What a sly lad.

And scrolling through archives, there are more disappearing wedding rings than last call at a dive bar. Wedding rings tend to appear when the person’s marriage is either being discussed, or the spouse is in the strip, and be absent otherwise. It’s like the rings exist in some kind of phantom zone and magically phase into being when contacted with an unseen magical matrimonial energy field.

This is best exemplified from Funky’s AA exercise rant from last month. Remembering his wife causes Funky to magically manifest his wedding ring mid-speech.

I don’t even know what I’m trying to say with this, just something weird I noticed.

Even weirder, did you know that Lillian magically manifested a ring yesterday in service of a crappy joke?

The Mystery Continues.

This has been your daily dose of Nitpicking News! Finding something to say about nothing since 2010.

Join us tomorrow as we veer off on oblique tangents to keep from going mad with boredom and frustration, and watch with baited breath as we wait to see if the downvote fairy will visit again tonight and slip us all a little present under our comments while we sleep.

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“Clink!”

Link to today’s strip.

Many many apologies for the late post tonight. I was working late on the farm, trying to get a field of mown hay chopped before forecasted rain. I was out there till 10, well after dark.

As I was driving the tractor back and forth across the field stubble, watching the windrows emerge from the inky black and enter the pool of tractor light. As I jogged from machine to machine in the chilly night air, a golden Cheshire moon sinking into the horizon, the Big Dipper above me at the very apex of the sky…I had a lot of time to think over this week. And I came to one conclusion.

It is dumber than dumb that dumb Tom thought that we all were too dumb to remember the dumb name of the dumb crowdfunding site, so he had to list it by it’s dumb name three dumb days in a row, and then he expects that we’re all smart enough to remember that dumb Dinkle wears a dumb medal under his dumb shirt because he showed us a month ago.

Dumb.

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