Here’s the one Westview teacher who makes Les look like Mr. Chips, getting his first spoken lines in a year. Burchett’s Jim Kablichnick still resembles Mark Twain, though he’s lost his suspenders (and he used to favor colorful dress shirts). Today’s gag, of course, is lifted from Sunday’s “Name the Canadian Provinces” strip (and from every comic strip that’s featured a kid sitting at a school desk), right down to name-checking another Golden Age Disney character. Smirk it up, Bernie: there can be no incorrect answer (“Write down what you think…”). On the other hand, Kablichnick’s enough of a douchebag to find a rationale to mark every student’s answer incorrect anyway.
Given Rick Burchett’s animation background, it’s weird how statically he’s rendered Jim here: propped up in front of the classroom, pointing his finger at the ceiling. Like Batiuk, Burchett uses some unusual “camera angles.” But unlike TB, RB (let’s just start using that abbreviation) puts his characters in actual, defined space, and not silhouetted in a crosshatched, encroaching black void. Three of his four strips so far have been set in a classroom, the angular walls and neatly tiled ceilings of which loom claustrophobically on all sides. I recognize the books atop the cabinet in the corner of Jim’s class, but am still trying to figure out what those diagonal planes in the left foreground of yesterday’s panel one. All the crazy angles lend some sort of tension to the settings. Kind of like how in the old Batman TV series, the camera shots inside the villians’ hideouts were all tilted askew.
It is comics like today’s strip that remind me how good I have it. I’m not taking high school English from Les Moore. I never had to take high school English from Les Moore. It is as if he is intentionally trying to be the opposite of the teacher that successful people so often cite as the inspiration that got them to make something of their life. What a miserable experience in every single way this strip is.
Les’ senior students did poorly on their quiz last Monday and now his freshman students have done poorly on theirs… I see a common denominator here. I bet these students would too if Westview High had a math teacher.
If I had told you a year ago that today’s strip was going to be the second in as many days to revolve around Bernie Silver’s forehead acne, you probably would have said “yeah, that sounds like something Tom Batiuk would write about.”
What a pompous and verbose response to a reasonable question. Does Bernie look at Les a role model? Because strips like this make it seem that he does. It almost makes you forget that Bernie is trying to use a pimple to justify an absence from school, a trope that became trite decades ago when the 7 billionth fictional teenager got a pimple on school picture day or prom night and sulked about it.
The traveling green shirt, meanwhile, lives up to its name and finds itself being worn by a third different student in as many days.
Today’s strip gives us a good indication of why Bernie has been a freshman for two years, he apparently plays hooky when the slightest blemish appears on his face.
Bernie might not be learning much of the three Rs in high school, but he’s getting Westview’s trademark tone-deafness down pat. Griping about your “bad forehead day” in front of a 15-year-old cursed with Peyton Manning’s forehead and a 15-year-old cursed with Ron Howard’s hairline while wearing bangs that cover 95% of your own forehead… that is cold-blooded, Bernie. Les would be proud if he didn’t despise you and every other student who walks the halls of Westview High.
Today’s strip is a dramatic improvement over yesterday’s, for obvious reasons.
It is not, of course, without its issues:
– First and foremost, what does Not-Monroe expect the school to do about his lunch complaint? Bus kids out for lunch? They’re freshman, they couldn’t leave campus for lunch even if they had a car. They’re 14-15 years old and don’t have drivers licenses. Unless, of course, they were held back, which is certainly possible. Bernie was a freshman last year too…
– Second, the only place that the seniors with cars could go out for lunch and get back in time for class is Montoni’s. The freshmen stuck eating cafeteria food are undoubtedly coming out ahead from that angle.
– Third, who is this “they” that Bernie speaks of? The seniors? The faculty? Wall Street? I enjoy a good conspiracy as much as the next guy, Bernie, but it is not interesting if you are not specific about who is trying to keep you down.
Link to today’s strip.
When Bernie first appeared in the strip, my recollection is that he was a fairly well-adjusted kid who refused to be intimidated by Chullo’s newfound bullying powers. Since then, he’s joined the school’s newscast group and chess club, and (of course, like everyone other than the hated sportos) become a member of the band. Despite his interest in comic books, he seemed like a normal, happy kid.
Alas, those days are over now. It sure looks to me like he’s being groomed to be the new Les. You know, the guy who only has two Facebook friends–because he’s just too good for anyone else to really appreciate him on his own level. The sneer on his face in that last panel really sells it.
But maybe not. Maybe he’s just being shown as a schmuck who no one likes. Giving him a big push would be a lot of work on a certain cartoonist’s behalf, and that cartoonist just doesn’t seem up to that task anymore. Even just a few years ago, there were a whole bunch of student characters. Then that got whittled down to Chullo, Glasses and Wedgman. And then that got whittled down to Bernie and some pre-existing characters ported over from Crankshaft…all of whom rarely appear anyway.
Still, aside from the Crankshaft Twins, I think he’s the only new student who even has a name. The one guy who dissed Harry Dinkle a few days ago makes (I think) a third appearance, and he’s not been given a name. I think from now on I’ll call him Thatsnought Hewmore.
Link to today’s strip.
How many years has Les been teaching at Westview High? And yet, according to panel two, he still has to tape a paper sign to his window. You’d think the teachers would have little engraved signs on the doors or windows, but no, No One Will Escape…The Entapening. (This film has not yet been rated.)
Is Tom Batiuk on the payroll of the 3M company? That…actually, that wouldn’t surprise me.
As far as the actual content of the strip is concerned, I can’t make any sense out of it. He wants them to be prepared for the test, and that’s fine, but then he goes on into nonsense land.
Just as an experiment, I went back though this years strips and replaced his last panel dialogue with something else. With one exception, these are unaltered. The slightly altered one is first. I think they make just as little sense as the original, but are improvements nonetheless.