The panels in today’s strip read at least as well in reverse order. To paraphrase Nate, who can say what the past four years held for the Class of 2017? The only glimpse we get of WHS ’17 is a few pairs of feet in panel 4 (nicely-rendered, by the way, and feet are hard to draw) . Recall that Cody and Owen handed over the reins of WHS’ in-house media operation directly to some freshmen. I’m supposing Tank and Conner to be underclassmen. As befits these anono-grads’ status, their commencement is held not in a stadium, with drones, but rather in the auditorium, listening to Nate name-check the author of A Game of Thrones.
So how did Lisa do in the Lisa Legacy Run featured in today’s strip?
She finished dead last.
If only Tom Batiuk trusted his characters to inhabit their own stories. and his readers to follow along. We’ve long since established that poor Wally can barely function in 21st century Westview. But in a story arc where he’s the main character, we must listen to Wally’s wife and
uncle cousin boss narrate the “action”. In the case of today’s strip, this is done in order to set up the wordless third panel punchline, where we see “focused and ready” Wally sitting intently, surrounded by his younger peers whose attention is anywhere but on the lesson. This marks quite a change for our Wally in the six years since his first community college go-round (see below), during which time he was not merely distracted but actually asleep in class. It’s gotta be those glasses!
Having exhausted the roster of cartoon cavemen, TB revisits a couple tropes from past Wally strips. First, the “Hey, you can’t bring that dog in here” guy, as seen in a restaurant a few years back. Wally explains that Buddy is “my service dog.” But according to the “Dogs and PTSD” page on the VA website:
A service dog is a dog trained to do specific tasks for a person that he or she cannot do because of a disability. Service dogs can pick things up, guide a person with vision problems, or help someone who falls or loses balance easily.
What you’ve got there, Private, is an “emotional support dog”:
An emotional support animal is a pet that helps an owner with a mental health condition. Emotional support dogs help owners feel better by giving friendship and companionship…In most states, emotional support dogs do not have special permission to go to all public places like service dogs do.
Fortunately for Buddy, he does wear that swell little vest and has a winning smile. Not to mention he’s a “chick magnet.” Perhaps Rachel’s come to accept that aspect, but when Wally brought it up a few years ago she sure gave him the stink eye.
Again with the friggin’ cartoon cavemen! I’ve tried to use restraint when it comes to judging Wally’s behavior on the chance that this might be a true-to-life depiction of life for an afflicted vet. But folks, Wally’s been back Stateside over seven years now. And sure, his wife and everyone in his hometown mostly left him to fend for himself. But seven years. This fish-out-of-water act is really getting old. Fortunately, the day is saved by a young lady so unconcerned about campus security that she cheerfully unlocks the door for a gaunt, older stranger in military fatigues.
Okay, there seems to be a motif at work here…I mean aside from the fact that today’s strip is a rehash of the day before, with Wally as a cartoon caveman in the last panel instead of the first. It’s a pretty safe bet that everyone recognized Fred Flintstone in Monday’s strip; no doubt some of you recognized Alley Oop, but I had to shake my head at this Tip of the Funky Felt Tip to a character I thought obscure even by Tom Batiuk’s standards.
According to Wikipedia, the Alley Oop comic strip was created by American cartoonist V. T. Hamlin in 1932. This surprised me, as I’d had Oop pegged as a prewar contemporary of Little Nemo and The Yellow Kid. I was even more surprised to learn that the strip survives over 80 years later and today appears in more than 600 newspapers. That’s roughly half again as many papers that carry Funky Winkerbean.
Instead of allowing the “Bullzheimer’s” prestige arc to gain momentum, Batiuk has us check in on another of Westview’s lost souls. Not only does Wally find the campus environment daunting: the mere act of online registration makes him feel hopelessly ancient. Perhaps he’d have an easier time had he not waited until the semester had already begun. I don’t know if Fred Flintstone’s what you call a “real” Neanderathal, but Rachel does kind of resemble Wilma, now that Batiuk’s remembered to make her a redhead.