Saturday, August 12, 2006

It's April in August

Three silent penultimate panels today--and all from the old guard.

Blondie under the direction of Dean Young
Garfiled by PAWS, INC.
Momma by Mel Lazarus

What is amazing is that out of these three strips, Blondie is the one with the most freshness and humor.

Just as I watch the daily comics for cliches and needless repetition, I try to keep an eye on myself for the same. So I've tried to lay off Mallard Fillmore for a week. And I almost made it.

Wait, what month is it? April is the time for IRS jokes, not the middle of August. Now is the time for gags about family camping trips, using too much lighter fluid and going back to school. Come on, right now you should be telling kids that if they try to pray when they go back to school, liberals will kill and eat them. I know you may have come up with so many good IRS gags that you couldn't fit them all in before tax day, but save them so you can make next April one to remember.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Only two

It's Friday, time for a quick, just-the-pictures update. Even when I'm in a hurry, a silent penultimate panel will not escape the watch.

Only two today:
The Meaning of Lila by John Forgetta and L.A. Rose
Mutts by Patrick McDonnell

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Crazy camping dad

Five today, the biggest haul of the week.
Garfield by Paws, Inc.
Luann by Greg Evans
On the Fastrack by Bil Holbrook
Piranha Club by Bud Grace
Zits by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman

It seems that almost every time I put Zits here, I get a comment suggesting I might be wrong. I never really thought much about Zits until I started this blog, but I've slowly realized that it is fairly popular and well-liked. And liked by some of the people I thought would naturally hate it--like real teenagers. Strange. I know I would have hated it as a kid.

Anyway, both Zits and Fox Trot have similar themes this week--gung-ho dad wants his kids to enjoy camping as much as he does.

This is a scenario that has been repeated over and over again at least since the invention of the sitcom. We've seen it so often, we all relate to it as if it was a shared memory of childhood--like the time we took the family trip to Hawaii and found the cursed idol we thought was a good luck charm.

The "crazy camping dad" is just a myth. It never happened to you or me or anyone else we know, but it's in two comic strips at the same time this week and is probably happening right now in whatever show is on the Disney Channel at the moment.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Cartoon dogs

Another three
Frazz by Jef Mallett
Mutts by Patrick McDonnel
Pooch Cafe by Paul Gilligan

I've been around long enough and stomped around shouting out my tastes and preferences enough that it probably wouldn't take too many guesses to figure out which cartoon dog I prefer:

The expressive, free-flowing pen and ink Earl or the slick, photoshop-perfect Poncho?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

More declarations

Three silent penultimate panels today:

Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau
Piranha Club by Bud Grace
Zits by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman

I have to say this every once in a while to keep the comments from getting too heated--just because a strip is here, it doesn't necesarily mean I hate it or it deserves to be hated. On a case by case basis, some strips that use an SPP are funny, most are not. But it is the sheer enormity of the phenomenon that I'm tracking here. In other words, not every pop song that rhymes the word "car" with "far" is bad, but it is funny to notice that just about every time someone sings about a car, they're going to drive it far.

There should be no argument that the SPP is used too often. I have proven it here.

Monday, August 07, 2006


Three culprits today:
Garfield by Paws Inc.
Overboard by Chip Dunham
Prickly City by Scott Stantis

I'm letting Non Sequitur off the hook today. Yes, it is technically a silent penultimate panel, but it doesn't bring the momentum of the strip to dead halt.

To expand my comments about Cow and Boy from yesterday, and to respond to the comment from Phinnaeus: With or without the string of silent panels, the gag is simply not funny. A bad SPP simply makes something look like a joke, it doesn't make it funny. The SPP imitates a rhythm we've gotten used to from watching too many sitcoms and beer commercials. It's a crutch that props a flimsy cloth of an idea into the shape of a gag.

The most awesome Family Circus ever?

Why the bulky phrase "butted me with his head," instead of "headbutt" (or the even cooler "coup de boule,") I don't know. But that top drawing is one of the best I've seen in the daily comics in a while. Look at that energy just pouring out of Jeffy.

So, The Family Circus, the most middle of the road, non-offensive, mainstream, heartland-America comic ever makes a joke about the World Cup. Does this mean soccer has finally penetrated the consciousness of America? Maybe so. All it took was the head and temper of Zinedine Zidane (and a taunting Italian.)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Cranky, cranky, cranky

Sundays are always a good day for the watch. What better way to fill up all the space in a Sunday strip than with a silent penultimate panel.

Baby Blues by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott
Candorville by Darrin Bell
Frazz by Jef Mallett
Get Fuzzy by Darby Conley

And, last but certainly not the least, Cow and Boy by Mark Leiknes. This just deserves special attention:

One of the things I keep saying is that the SPP is less actual comic timing and more just a symbol of comic timing. The artist is just saying "I know a beat belongs here, and I can't think of a better way to show it than by just not adding word balloons." (For one example of a comic pause without an SPP see here. ) So Mark Leiknes here has two problems. He needs a comic beat and he needs to fill up all that Sunday space. Well, his solution is the easiest and least funny possible--one, two, three silent panels. An infinite amount of time can pass in a panel gutter, and a good cartoonist can use that to his or her advantage. A mediocre cartoonist just imitates sitcoms.

And Frazz, dear Frazz, you try to act like you're such a bon vivant, but, please, the Eagles? How much more pedestrian can you get?

You can start looking down on other people's taste as soon as you get some of your own.

Man, I'm cranky tonight. Any more and I just might sprout feathers and call treason on the New York Times.