Saturday, May 20, 2006

Big Five

...and then there are days like this. Five silent penultimate panels.

kits by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman
Candorville by Darrin Bell
Monty by Jim Meddick
Spot the Frog by Mark Heath (Thanks, Susan)
On the Fast Track by Bill Holbrook (Thanks, Ugli)

Spot the Frog is unique today. I'm not too familiar with Spot the Frog, but Mark Heath links to me on his blog, so I'm sure he has good taste.

Today's Peanuts reprint also features an SPP. Now that the Complete Peanuts series has caught up with the syndicated reprints, I know when Schulz's SPPs will appear--and there will be quite a few in the next two years.

At the next rules committee meeting we'll discuss if reprints should qualify for the watch. I'm leaning towards "no." It's not like we can hold a dead guy accountable for using a cliche over fifty years ago before it became a cliche. But it may just be my own personal feelings towards Peanuts that makes me want to exclude it. We'll see.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Just one

I'm doing my job too well. Just one silent penultimate panel today from:

Betty by Delainey and Rassmusen.

Once more, for the second day in a row, Pearls Before Swine avoids the watch. The gag is centered in the second panel.

When wit won't work, wackiness will do.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Blood from a turnip

A hat trick of silent penultimate panel activity today:

Adam@Home by Brian Basset
Hagar the Horrible by Chris Browne
Monty by Jim Meddick

Between Red and Rover and Adam@Home, Brian Bassett is becoming a steady contributor here. Hagar the Horrible makes his first appearance here. And, like Garfield's paucity on the watch, it probably has more to do with my avoiding Hagar than true SPP discipline on Chris Browne's part. Monty makes his usual weekly appearance.

Once again, Pearls Before Swine avoids the watch. The "reveal" in the second panel is essential to the gag.

And in response to my comments about yesterday's Overboard, Elza K wrote: "You don't think the fact that in panel 1 the captain tells Louie to "stare real hard at the charcoal" makes it clear that the dog is staring at the charcoal in panels 3 and 4?

And yes, that's true, the dialog does describe what is going on. But it is supposed to be a visual gag, and a good visual gag should work visually. And, further, the action is separated from that verbal description by a "Mark Trail pullback" panel. The gag just doesn't quite work. It's not an incomprehensible strip, it is just very clumsy. Maybe I am being nit-picky, but, damn it, I demand excellence, and I shall not rest.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The sassy vocab gag

Three inarguable silent penultimate panels today:

Betty by Delainey and Rasmussen
Momma by Mell Lazarus
Shoe by Chris Cassat and Gary Brookins

Overboard is off the SPP watch today, but it is on the clumsy lay-out watch. What's wrong with it?

In the third and fourth panels, there is no indication that the dog is starring at the grill. So, when the grill appears in fifth panel, there is no understanding of cause and effect. It's just confusing.

The "sassy vocab gag" is a time-honored tradition in the daily comics. It's been Johnny Hart's second savior for decades. They come in many forms--a bird-child taking a vocabulary test, a caveman reading a dictionary, a senile old man at the pharmacy, etc--but there is one certain constant to them all. They are never, ever funny.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Overboard and Red and Rover

Three silent penultimate panels today. (And thanks as always to Ugliness Man for pointing these out.)

Overboard by Chip Dunham
Red and Rover by Brian Basset
Sinfest by Tatsuya Ishida

That's two days in a row I've mentioned a web comic. I'm learning to accept these new-fangled things.

Overboard and Red and Rover are becoming regulars here. It's been a struggle to find anything with any kind of constant SPP use since Aaron MacGruder started his nap. Dunham and Bassett are doing their parts to keep this blog active.

It's time to play "take a panel out of context and say 'what the hell is going on here.'" So:

What the hell is going on here?

Lynn Johnston is already known for including a few too many ass-grabs in the comics, but this is pushing a line.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Meaning of Lila dropped

Three silent penultimate panels today:
Drabble by Kevin Fagan
Pooch Cafe by Paul Gilligan
C'est la Vie by Jennifer Babcock

C'est la Vie is a web comic I've been keeping my eye on since my little rant about web comics a couple of weeks ago. I haven't seen it long enough to have a good opinion on it yet, but it has some promise.

The L.A. Times (along with about a hundred other papers today) started running a new strip called Lio.

It apparently is a pantomime strip about a little kid with Something About Mary hair. I have a fondness for pantomime strips. (I think I may be the only person who trully appreciates the genius of Henry.) And judging from this one strip only, it looks to be unique and inventive, with a subtle and strange wit. I'm looking forward to seeing more of it.

But of all the strips the L.A. Times could have dropped to make room for it, they chose the Meaning of Lila. I've poked some fun at Lila at times here, but it really is one of the better things out there. It has a fresh, clean look and a contemporary sense of humor. I can only assume a few cranky Inland Empire retirees complained about seeing in the comics a young woman with actual sexual desires.

The L.A. Times has a fairly strong and diverse comics page. Through the few years I've been here, they've cut out a lot of space-filler (Garfield, The Wizard of Id) and replaced them with good, new strips (Brewster Rockit, Candorville, and until today, The Meaning of Lila.) But there's still a few weak and/or inertia-laden strips just waiting to be cleaned out like lint from the dryer. (Drabble, Cathy, Blondie.) Why not one of them?

As soon as I'm done here today, I'm writing an email to the L.A. Times about this. Actually, this is a first for me to write to them about the comics. Most of my letters to the L.A. Times are rants about mis-representations of L.A. public transit. (If you want to get me started, ask me about the so-called Bus Riders Union.)

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Three silent penultimate panels this Sunday:

Sherman's Lagoon by Jim Toomey
Opus by Berkeley Breathed (debut!)
Zits by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman

I don't think I'm alone in not loving Berkeley Breathed's second return from retirement. For one thing, it's consistently ugly. The colors are so obnoxious and sickening, it looks my newspaper fell into a tub of melted rainbow sherbert. His gags are always about Opus getting righteously indignant about some brand new technology or trend. (Such cutting-edge stuff as baggy pants and toilets that flush automatically.) It's really just ugly, confusing, and not that funny. Mr. Breathed, you can retire again for all I care. I would love to see you leave all that space for someone who could actually take advantage of it. Patrick McDonnell or Brooke McEldowney, just to name two.

Zits combines the SPP with my other pet peeve, the four-panel Sunday.

What's the point? All this space and color and you do a standard four panel strip--and a fairly lame one at that. It's unexciting things like this that make Berkeley Breathed think he's so extremely important.