Today’s strip concludes (we hope and pray and hope and wish) this latest visit from the Ghost of Distress Past. Her Royal Wryness. The VHSaint herself.
Special thanks go out to Summer for being a prop with no impact on the story whatsoever, she has already collected her prize of appearing in a full 3 panel strip this week (panels will not necessarily be consecutive).
Special thanks also go out to Les for having such an insatiable ego and such milquetoast friends and family that he will continue to receive the unearned praise he has been given for decades now.
And extra special thanks go out to Crazy Harry, who demanded nothing but 18 panels of our precious time in return for his brilliant idea of pretending Isaac Asimov invented the concept of recording video using already obsolete technology.
On the subject of 18 panels (well, 16, thanks to a couple of 2 panel strips), this new Lisa tapes origin story actually takes up more column inches than the entire original origin story AND depiction of the recording of the tapes! That took just 16panels in fourstrips. For all its faults, Act II got to the point…
More word zeppelins in today’s strip… Not as bad as yesterday, but still, get your bookmarks out, folks!
You know, this is actually one of TB’s tidiest retcons, probably because it is one of the very few intentional ones he’s ever undertaken. It takes the original scene and changes its context (slightly) by depicting a previously unseen scene. Tidy. The pieces actually fit together. There are no loose ends, deleted original context, or unresolved conflict with the originals scene. See? That’s not so hard.
Heck, as a bonus it even (unnecessarily but adeptly) explains a silly detail from the original scene, why Les has a camcorder and this Hari Seldon story readily at hand as if he was waiting for Lisa to lament about all the things Summer she will never get to experience. Turns out, he pretty much was just waiting on the chance to whip that camera on out.
Tidy as it is, this retcon was no more entertaining or less irritating because of it. In fact, it makes the origin story of the Lisa tapes tremendously off-putting. The focus shifts away from the impending reality of Summer growing up without a mother seen in the original scene to the needs of Summer’s nogoodnik parents… First, Lisa wants to record the tapes so she can live vicariously through Summer’s adolescence in her imagination. Then, Crazy and Lisa hatch this cockamamie plan to let Les take credit for the idea to record the infamous tapes, which only soothes his ego and bolsters his hero complex. These people are awful and I hope I never wind up sitting next to any of them on an airplane.
I’m surprised it took until today’s strip for the word zeppelins to arrive… but one has docked right at Crazy’s mouth and is unloading such a tremendous volume of technobabble that it threatens to lift the roof right off the porch of the Taj Moore-hal! In explaining the concept of recording Lisa’s advice on video, Crazy somehow spits out 60% more words than Les did in the original take on this story back in 2007. It is almost enough to make you pity Lisa, who apparently had to listen to this verbal assault twice.
Hey, I said almost…
I’m not a big Isaac Asimov guy or a sci-fi reader in general, I’ve always been very much a non-fiction reader when it comes to things that aren’t comics, so I cannot tell you how accurate or apt or idiotic or unnecessary Crazy’s rambling is (I can tell you it makes for miserable comic strip reading, but that should go without saying). I suspect we have some folks much better suited to that than me in our comments section, so I will now turn this over to my fellow SOSFers.
So much for Summer’s reappearance… with today’s strip we’re now seven panels removed from Monday’s “Hey Harry! What Brings?” with no end in sight to the sepia-toned sadness blocking Ms. Moore from view. If that’s not bad enough for poor Summer, Lisa can’t be bothered to even mention “her daughter” by name in the word salad she spits out in panel 2.
Are we headed toward another unnecessary and uninteresting retcon?
Cue the laugh track for today’s strip… because otherwise there’s just this long, awkward pause between non-jokes. It’s like a newsprint manifestation of those “sitcom without the laugh track” videos, only more more cringe-inducing. Why are these two ostensible friends (one of whom is terminally ill) being insufferable to each other? This kind of thing works when you establish that the two characters have some type of relationship and that unbearable wryness is their M.O. As far as I know, Crazy and Lisa never had much of a relationship of any kind (he was Les’ weirdo buddy), much less a whole Gilmore Girls thing going on.
Lisa really let Harry slide on that face after saying she didn’t feel as bad as she looked? Sure, she’s dressed like Crankshaft, but she’s also sick and at her own home. He’s the one who went out in public dressed like Gallagher wearing a Paul Simon Halloween costume.
Today’s strip appears to be the latest installment of one of TB’s most recent recyclable story concepts: “old person has a Lisa flashback in front of Summer”. Of course, it’s also the latest installment in his most overplayed story… but we all knew we would be back here eventually.
Just how many Lisa tapes are there? We can see 5 or 6 peeking out of the top of the box Crazy is carrying today, meaning there are probably at least 10 total in the box. The box Summer brought to him close to seven years ago was about twice as deep, also with about 5 or 6 tapes visible out of the top. This suggests that there are about two dozen tapes, over two full days worth of Lisa video assuming she recorded a full 2 hours in SP mode on each tape.
Regardless of how many of these tapes there are, they can’t be much more than conversation pieces now given that Crazy baked them when converting them all those years ago. Not that Les wanted anyone conversing about them despite having 7 or more of them on prominent display in his living room.
I don’t know what she just bought, but Cayla’s jeans magically manifest on her body between panels one and three. Maybe they slithered up her legs in panel two. Maybe that’s why she looks so shocked.
Anyway, she better run out and get dark sunglasses, wide brimmed hats, and old-timey high collared coats, because she’s going to have to wade through a picket line to get into the Chateau.
Once again, Batiuk writing a year in advance shoots him in the foot. Last September The Hollywood Reporterput out an in depth investigative hit piece on the hotel. After nearly all the staff was laid off due to the pandemic, many were willing to speak out against the hotel for discrimination, harassment, and general mismanagement. The allegations went all the way to the very top, with owner, André Balazs, accused of using the hotel as his own private playground, snorting cocaine, getting drunk, and groping workers.
Since then there’s been regular protests outside the hotel, as well as calls to boycott the business. A movie cancelled a planned film shoot there. Celebrities like Jane Fonda, Alfonso Cuaron, and Lena Headey have all supported the boycott. And when Cersei Lannister is ringing the bell and calling ‘Shame!’ you know it’s gotta be bad.
Not that the controversy has completely killed business, the place looks pretty booked up through the end of September. Sometimes, to my folksy midwestern eye, the entire SoCal area looks like a hyper-charged game of social activism whack-a-mole being played by a manic-depressive. Quixotically clutching their pearls in moral outrage over the living conditions of livestock while snorting cocaine off a dinner plate at a hedonism fueled wrap party.
Shame poor Cayla’s excitement had to be marred by this controversy. I wonder if Batiuk is hoping it will fly under the radar of his normal readers. Then again I wouldn’t be surprised if the last news story Batiuk remembers hearing from the Chateau Marmont is John Belushi’s death.
After taking the bold stand that women have been unappreciated for their contributions to comics, (something that hasn’t been true for literal decades,) Batiuk now declares that WOMEN BE SHOPPING.
And I’m pretty conflicted on it. Because on the one hand, it’s a tired old stereotype. It’s Pluggers level humor. It’s an insult to Cayla’s character. And who is Cayla or Batiuk fooling? She hasn’t changed her hair in any meaningful way since Les paid the chemically relaxed shoulder length cut an anemic compliment back in 2011.
I feel like we can be too reactionary against stereotyping in general. Stereotypes are usually based on observable trends. Moreover stereotypes are such a fundamental part of human humor, that trying to go on a moral crusade against them is a dumb and fruitless as Baptists trying to ban dancing. (See what I did there.)
Some of the oldest written comedies we have are full of humor based in gender, generational, or cultural stereotypes.
LYSISTRATA: Hello Lampito, my dear friend from Sparta. How beautiful you look, so sweet, such a fine complexion. And your body looks so fit, strong enough to choke a bull.
LAMPITO : Yes, by the two gods, I could pull that off. I do exercise and work out to keep my butt well toned.
Lysistrata, Aristophanes. 411 B.C.
CHREMES: He maintained that women were both clever and thrifty, that they never divulged the Mysteries of Demeter, while you and I go about babbling incessantly about whatever happens at the Senate.
BLEPYRUS: By Hermes, he was not lying!
CHREMES: Then he added that the women lend each other clothes, trinkets of gold and silver, drinking-cups, and not before witnesses too, but all by themselves, and that they return everything with exactitude without ever cheating each other; whereas, according to him, we are ever ready to deny the loans we have effected.
BLEPYRUS: Yes, by Posidon, and in spite of witnesses.
The Ecclesiazusae, Aristophanes. 390 B.C.
It’s not the dumb shopping stereotype that’s the problem here.
It’s that an obsession with shopping is literally the only character trait other than doormat that Cayla has been given in the TEN PLUS YEARS she’s been part of the strip. Nothing makes her unique. She has no agency or desires of her own. Except for her skintone she is identical to Cindy, or Holly, or Mindy, or Jess.
Every female character in this strip is as thinly drawn as the forearms of HE WHO SHALL NOT BE MENTIONED.
I spent an entire week working really hard to transmit my enthusiasm for how wonderfully dumb the Phil Holt resurrection arc was; and THIS is how I’ve been rewarded.
Well, jokes on HIM.
For the rest of my shift, I’m going to be lazy. And for the rest of my shift, I will not mention a thing about HIM. It’s what he wants. Attention. And I refuse to give it. The rest of you feel free to savage at will in the comments, as is deserved. For once, I can’t stomach the rightfully earned dismemberment.
So what I’ll say about today is that I really like the porch swing in this strip. I like how it shows up off and on as a gathering place. It gives the strip visual continuity that rewards long time readers, but as far as I remember it doesn’t have the same verbal attention drawn to it by the characters as other locations like Montoni’s. It’s 100% better than that stupid bench that gets talked about all the time by…
That was close.
Cutting it short today so I don’t mess up again. Until tomorrow folks.
Today’s strip gives us our first glimpse at a young Batton Thomas… back when he had the hair of a newscaster, the jaw of Rob Riggle, and the neck of something that doesn’t have a neck. Quite a contrast to today’s sad-sack Batton, who looks like he could be Pete’s dad (he’s not, John Darling program director Reed Roberts is). Trading that plaid seersucker jacket for a blue Members Only was a good call, though.
So The Flash #123 inspired Batton Thomas (and, most definitely, one Thomas Batiuk as well) to become a cartoonist, eh? How, exactly did it do that? If we are lucky we’ll get that answer in 6-10 business days. Or just visit the official Funky Winkerbean blog, where TB writes more about The Flash than he does about his own creations… Haha, yeah, you all go do that. I’ll wait.