Tag Archives: Summer

To Have and Have Not

Link to today’s strip.

First off, kudos to unca scrooge and others who noted that the joke in yesterday’s strip had to do with men being last-minute shoppers, while women were ahead of the game. The presentation was unusually subtle; generally, Tom Batiuk can’t help but have one of his characters point out how clever he is.

And the joke would have worked fine…in a sitcom made during the early 1960s. But here in the technical vastness of the future, we can surmise that surely humor is very different.

Take today’s thing. It seemed pretty obvious from the outset that the pun being avoided here was something Batiuk was aching to use. The fact that he now denies himself is quite odd. Including it would have made at least one joke, no matter how poor; keeping it out just makes today’s strip one more pointless episode in a long string of them.

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Wrappin’ Around

Link to today’s strip.

I’m going to guess that the “joke” here is that people get more frantic and desperate the closer the holidays get.

There’s not a lot of visual evidence for that guess, but that’s what I’m going with. In fact, panel two seems to have some of the same folks as panel one–sky-blue coat lady and blonde, for example. I guess it could be a second shopping trip, but you’d think Tom Batiuk would want to spice it up with a little variety.

At first, I thought the bald guy near the front had brought an upright vacuum cleaner to be wrapped–which would have been a good choice a day or so ago–but on closer inspection it looks like a sauce pan. Seems like an odd thing to want wrapped, as I imagine they mostly come in their own boxes, but I don’t know–maybe you can buy them loose. Fine.

What I really like is the guy in the front of the line. What a face of absolute despair. I like to imagine he’s saying “I don’t have any family or friends, so I don’t have anything to be wrapped. My dearest wish is to have something I need wrapped.” Everyone angrily waits for him to collapse, or to shoot himself.

Callow youth even furiously checks his watch. It’s been eighteen seconds, damn it. Do what you’re gonna do and let us get our stuff wrapped.

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I’ll Make You A Star

Link to today’s strip.

Okay, what is that thing the woman wants wrapped? A big star with tassels? Why would you want to give that as a gift? It’s both awkward and unattractive, and while I don’t want to judge anyone’s taste, I can’t see it going well with anything. A star for the top of the Christmas tree? Wouldn’t you want that before Christmas day?

I guess the thing is huge and unwieldy and thus difficult to wrap, which might be why Tom Batiuk thinks it could be part of a joke. But if someone handed that to me and told me to wrap it, I’d say “Okay, it’s an extra three dollars for the box.” Because that’s what one would do–put it in a box and wrap the box. It’s just that simple.

I guess the customer could insist that it be wrapped as is, and the customer is always right, but let’s get a quarter-inch closer to reality: no one is going to spot this wrapped thing and exclaim, “Oh boy, you got me an XBox!”

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Respect Your elf

Link to today’s strip.

Wow. This strip really gives “nothing” a chance to stretch out. I mean, I cannot think of a single thing that’s worthy of comment here.

It’s not funny. It’s not educational. It’s not poignant.

It’s nothing at all. As Spock would say, “It occupies space.”

It would be one thing if the elf costumes were outlandish or otherwise goofy, but they aren’t. They don’t look embarrassing at all. I guess one could question why they’re dressed as elves in the first place–it’s possible the kiosk is labelled “Santa’s Wrapping Workshop” but the name is obscured by that deathless dialogue.

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Sidelong Glance

Link to today’s strip.

Why does Tom Batiuk use these stupid sideways strips? While it makes less work for Ayers to draw them, it makes more work for the reader, and there’s never any reward for doing so.

Batiuk might say they make his strip unique, as no one else does this. That’s true–no other comic strip artist does this. The reason they don’t is very simple–it’s an idiotic idea that adds nothing, and subtracts a great deal. Much like an ermine violin, it’s an impractical thing to have. Here’s an idea: why not make up a completely new language for his characters, with no translations available? That would be unique, too. And it would save time for the reader, since he could just skip the whole thing and move on to Garfield.

I guess striving to be unique, even if that makes the strip more difficult, is his goal at this point. He certainly hasn’t been trying to make his characters interesting or his stories anything other than dull.

As for today’s entry, well…when I was in college, my father would arrange summer jobs for me between years. It was decent work, and it gave me some spending money. But he never did this during Christmas break, which is (I assume) why Summer and Keisha are there now. It seems like a rather mean trick to play on a kid.

One might argue that this gives Summer and Keisha some work skills, showing up on time, knowing your tasks, etc. Except I feel certain both of them have worked at Montoni’s, so they’d already have some idea of those things.

Any excuse to ruin someone’s holiday, I guess.

By the way, I refuse to believe the person “on the left” is Cayla. It doesn’t look anything like her.

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Fuel for Thought.

Link to today’s strip

And here it is. We’ve had to suffer through an entire week of Les whining to Marianne about one woman who died at least 15 years ago in strip time (Edit: twenty-three, ED), while the world is literally burning around them. As day turns to night with nary a word from Cindy, Masone, Pete, or Mindy.

You people have been saying it all week: Marianne has been blandly listening to Les whinge about his manpain, instead of worrying about friends, family, coworkers, or her own property. The girl had more going on for herself when she almost threw herself off the top of the Hollywood sign.

And all so Marianne can watch some video tapes that Batiuk will, no doubt, forget were transferred to digital years ago. So many problems with this. But two stick out in my mind.

One, why didn’t he let her or Masone watch some of the tapes to begin with? It’s implied that some tapes are very private and others are meant for more public consumption, as seen in this strip from Darin’s birthday. Why did you ever think of this as an all or nothing thing?

Two, are you now going to let her watch all of the tapes? Even the tapes that weren’t meant for you? Have you seen the tapes addressed to Summer directly? Or the tape specifically for CauCayla? Are you prepared to override the rights of Lisa, Cayla, and Summer, to have their own private messages remain private?

Who are we kidding? Of course you are. The sum total of everything Lisa ever was or wished is now yours to use, abuse, and change however you see fit. You can tell yourself that you think Lisa would have wanted you to share material that SHE SPECIFICALLY TOLD YOU IN PERSON was private. Anything so Marianne can have important moments like this inform how she plays Dead St. Lisa.

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Thought-Les

Les, the humorless shmuck, humorless shmucks around in today’s strip.

Nothing – not cancer, not Hollywood, not even the students he loathes so much – seems to disturb and anger Les more (oy, sorry) than people laughing at him over something utterly trivial. Funky and Crazy found this out the hard way 9 years ago, in the infamous “Children left behind” strip. Despite what they are doing in Les’ imagination, I doubt they would be bold enough to so much as chuckle anywhere within earshot of Les again.

Is this how TB’s family and friends reacted to his recurring role as “Art Professor” (I think that is both his name and his profession) in the ongoing live-action saga of The Cardinal, the greatest comic superhero around who dresses like the Iowa State University mascot?

Yeah it probably is. Also, Les himself exists in The Cardinal live-action universe. *shudder*

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On Wednesdays I Go Shopping

Link to today’s strip (eventually).

Wednesday’s strip was not available for preview.  THANK GOD.

There’ve been many times lately when criticizing this strip feels like criticizing a preschooler’s finger-painting.   When presented with such a work, you don’t want to say, “Well, Tommy, arms don’t really come out of the sides like that, and shoes aren’t big and round like wheels.  And is that a dog?”  That just seems kind of mean-spirited.

Tom Batiuk doesn’t write well.  To put it mildly.  He cannot plot out a proper story, his ear for dialogue is deaf, and his points are buried beneath the ineptitude of his execution. Occasionally, he has a sort of ham-handed way with a phrase that has a certain off-putting charm, but that’s about it.

But what if that’s the best he can do?  His “stories” over the last couple of years have started out like they might be going somewhere but always–always–end up like a balloon that’s just been unknotted.  Falling to the earth with a farting noise.  The Butter Brinkle thing–seriously, what an embarrassment that would have been to a professional, published writer.  Here?  In it goes.  And once it was done, it was gone.  Nothing to tie it together, nothing to indicate it meant anything…no impact at all.

Lately, the strip has been all been wish-fulfillment.  Les gets showered with praise.  Funky gets stepped on.  Everyone talks about how awesome Les is.  Bull gets an off-hand death that is largely used to push “Lisa’s Story” again.  That really seems like the work of someone who doesn’t care.

But he seems to be losing his grip on the elements he’s always deemed important, like Les and “Lisa’s Story.”  How many times has Mason told Les he wants to option the book?  He flew out to Ohio to do it, then flew Les in to California to do it.  That doesn’t seem like someone who can separate the wheat from the chaff.  Both are treated with equal carelessness.

So I wonder if I’m pointing out the shortcomings in the work of someone who should do better…but can’t.

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This site uses cookies

Link to today’s strip.

Charles basically nailed it–and did my job for me, thanks!–in yesterday’s comments, in which he basically laid out the next month’s worth of strips.  I’d link his comment here, but I don’t know how to do that. (Here ya go. —TFH)

So, what we have here is what we had yesterday–two characters talking about Les.   Not a single step forward, but hey, if people are talking about Les, it has to be award-winning, right?

I don’t dare wish for anything different, because it’s certain to be worse.

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Return of the LisaVirus

Link to today’s barf.

Well, I should have known.  Batiuk’s revisiting of his “prestige arc” was so poorly performed that it should have been obvious he was going to spin up Lisa’s Story again.  The world’s worst book, written by the world’s worst writer, about the world’s worst person.

Of course Summer has no idea what’s going on.  Les is far too important to himself to waste valuable preening time on informing his family about anything.   “Hello, Summer!  How’s school?  We just spent a week in California with Mason Jarre!”  No, even that takes too much effort, effort that could be put to better use stroking his ego.

I would like to say something nice about the artwork.  The shift in perspective from panel one to panel two is nicely handled; it looks like Cayla went toward Summer to help her with her bags.  A rare instance of interesting art in this strip.

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