Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pearls Before Swine: Does he want something you have?

Okay. See, this is why Pearls Before Swine is a better comic strip than Cathy is. In Cathy, Irving never gets kidnapped by a zebra.

As should be clear, I rescind my complaint of yesterday's Pearls, seeing as it was necessary set-up for today's, which does take the old "spouse is away" trope in a (darkly) funny and unexpected direction. I will never doubt you again, Pastis, you crazy bastard you.

Mark Trail: Yeah, I bet that's it!

Mark Trail will forever go down in infamy as the only comic transgressive enough to occasionally shock readers with a close-up image of a squirrel's butt.

Which is a shame, since I believe that there is no comic strip in existence that could not be made better by the occasional inclusion of a squirrel's butt.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cathy and Pearls Before Swine: Find her? Oh, dat beeg meestake.

One of these comics is one of the most consistently funny and original comics around. The other one hasn't had a particularly funny or original idea in years. Recognizing this to be the case, Pearls Before Swine has mocked Cathy rather viciously over the years. So Cathy Guisewite might be enjoying just a bit of schadenfreude upon seeing that Stephan Pastis used pretty much the exact same joke she did today.

The premise at play here is that old comedy trope of someone enjoying their time away from their spouse by doing things they couldn't do in the spouse's company. It's been done a million times before, and neither of these strips really adds anything new.

I nevertheless admit to smiling at the image of Larry the croc wearing a beer helmet.

Hagar the Horrible and Zits: They taught him too well...

In yesterday's post about Beetle Bailey, I wanted to compare it to a strip or two that used exaggeration well. Unfortunately, there were no good examples of well-employed exaggeration yesterday. Fortunately, there are today.

Neither of these is particularly brilliant, but both are competent. They tell actual jokes that rely on exaggeration. In Zits, the premise is that teenagers eat a lot. The joke is Jeremy's exaggerated appetite, which requires that he make a snack to tide him over for the thirty seconds until dinner is ready. In Hagar the Horrible, the premise is that animal training consists of the animal only doing what the owner asks. The joke is this premise taken to such an extreme that Snert requires absurd precision in his instructions before he will do anything. I'm not exactly doubled over in laughter here, but the jokes make sense and are affable enough.

In yesterday's Beetle Bailey, on the other hand, there was no joke, and the exaggeration did not follow logically from the premise. It was, in other words, an epic fail.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

In which Beetle Bailey fails to understand both technology and humor.

This is a perfect example of how not to use exaggeration in a comic strip, mostly because the exaggeration is not actually part of the joke, but instead just a means to ensure the reader can understand the joke. So the use of exaggeration here is basically just a symptom of laziness.

It also doesn't help that the joke makes no sense, even beyond the annoying hyperbole of a vibrating cell phone apparently being the equivalent of an earthquake in your pocket. Why, for example, are all the soldiers receiving calls at exactly the same time? Wouldn't the joke have worked just as well with just one soldier receiving a call? Considering that all the soldiers are convulsing violently, is it really necessary for Corporal Yo to ask how Sarge is aware of the cell phones? And considering that a vibrating cell phone apparently produces seizing in the world of Camp Swampy, wouldn't the soldiers have known they couldn't hide their cell phones merely by turning them to vibrate?

Now that I've gone through all that, I'm actually beginning to wonder just what exactly the joke in this panel is. I'm pretty sure the joke is supposed to be that Sarge knows the soldiers have their phones because the phones are vibrating. But that's not even remotely funny. I don't think it even qualifies as a joke, really. The author of this strip, let's call him Mort Walker Inc., must have realized this and, in a desperate attempt to make the strip funny somehow, resorted to the poorly thought out exaggeration. All of which suggests that this strip doesn't so much have a joke or a punchline or even so much as a point. It just has a premise. Which is apparently that these youngsters nowadays carry their cell phones everywhere. Which just reveals how incredibly lame and out of touch Beetle Bailey really is.

So well played, Mort Walker Inc. Well played.

Baby Blues: Never get sarcastic with an animal lover.

First of all, mice only sort of like cheese. The idea that it's their favorite thing in the whole world is one of those common knowledge things that's actually largely incorrect. Common knowledge is funny like that.

More importantly, though, Velveeta is not cheese. Let us disabuse ourselves of the notion that it is.

What this blog is.

This is a blog about comic strips that will hopefully combine a healthy dose of Internet snark with cogent and in-depth analysis. We'll see how that last part goes.