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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 08/ 1/2008

The Morning Line: "Beetle's" Buck[Naked] Privates

By Michael Cavna

We read "Beetle Bailey" -- with its painfully dated gags -- and only one word comes to mind. Not "funny." Nor "quaint." No, the only term that often resonates is this: "pervy."

BEETLE BAILEY: This man's army loves its privates front-and-center. (King Features) Enlarge Comic

Now, as has been well-documented this week, we appreciate a good off-color joke as much as the next Neanderthal (or, for you smartypants anthropologists, "Neandertal"). From Shakespeare to Chappelle, bring on the ribald. But today's pathetic "Beetle," even scrawled on a restroom wall, would shame the latrine. We know the frequent defense: It's "just a comic strip." But when's the last time you heard someone besmirching a "Calvin and Hobbes" with such a smear? Today's strip typifies the kind of stale and misogynistic approach that gives all half-century-old, Korean War-era, Army-themed strips starring slacker privates a bad name.

And then there's the more glaring matter: What is the deal with that bizarrely drawn bikini, anyway? Is that a bikini bottom whose straps need to be knotted? Or perhaps more troubling: Is that a bikini top that's been shorted to the tune of one cup? Or there's Option C: the explanation that this bikini top actually belongs on...

PIRANHA CLUB: Dabbling in free-range humor. (King Features) Enlarge Comic

... the half-nekkid female fowl in "Piranha Club." The strip has been dwelling for days now on pervy poultry, with part of the running joke seeming to be that -- as one colleague said -- if the bird awakes from her stupor and rises, the strip will serve up full-frontal "chicken breast." (Perhaps it was her delivery, but that, we'll grant you, is pretty funny.)

Next week, we hear, a different Post comic features male dorsal nudity. We invite your full-frontal honesty: Are these strips all in good, clean fun, or are these cartoonists just getting way-pervy?

Now, for this week's Riffy Awards...

GET FUZZY: Artistically, the best thing since sliced bread. (UPS) Enlarge Comic

Favorite Art of the Week goes to "GET FUZZY," because no one has drawn detailed foodstuffs as splendidly as Darby Conley. Just look at that hurtling loaf, for instance. Fast-flung foodstuffs are an unorthodox pick, but if we went "traditional beauty of line" every week, then Jim Borgman's virtual shelf would soon collapse under the weight of all his Riffys.

BREWSTER ROCKIT: Dialogue with a natural delivery. (TMS) Enlarge Comic

Favorite Touch of the Week goes to "BREWSTER ROCKIT: SPACE GUY!" Here's the deal: Time and timing can be exceedingly difficult to convey in a static visual medium. I've always wrestled with how to get across when characters are interrupting one another. But oh-so-deftly here, Tim Rickard plays the interrupted punchline perfectly. Bra-VO.

This week's Miffy Award? (Our statuette for cartoonists with serious "issues" to work out somewhere besides the comics page.) SEE: The top of this very blogpost.

Well, what say you? What are your picks for this week's best and worst Moments in Cartooning?

By Michael Cavna  | August 1, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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Next: The E-Mailbag: Now Taking Your Cheeky Comments...


OK, Sherman, set the Wayback(tm) to 1986 when the Meese Commission on Pornography came thisclose to equating nudity with porn. At least one Commission member held out for that position but was mercifully overruled. Otherwise, practitioners of bare-butt kid nudity on the comics page ("Family Circus," "Baby Blues") would have run afoul of the law.

Unfortunately, the question about the "Beetle Bailey" strip, where any nudity is off-panel anyway, is built on the same shaky premise: nude = sex. I don't expect the kind of cartoons that would be more at home in "Playboy" appearing on the comics page. And if it's hard-core nudity and sexual content you want in a comic strip, well, like the song says "That's why the Internet was born: porn, porn, porn!"

Posted by: Daniel J. Drazen | August 1, 2008 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Not only is Beetle Bailey old fashioned and unfunny, it is SO demeaning to women. I can't believe that strip is still published.

Posted by: Julia | August 1, 2008 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Miffy to Candorville this week, which is wandering around the instersection of Not Funny and Who Cares.

Riffy to Judge Parker for keeping Sam's flight under a week.....

Posted by: JkR | August 1, 2008 9:54 AM | Report abuse

I SERIOUSLY miss the Fusco Brothers!

Posted by: Richard | August 1, 2008 10:01 AM | Report abuse

An open letter to Darrin Bell:

Enough already with Roxanne. She's irritating and unfunny, and besides, she's Schmuck Bait: we already know that Lemont ends up with Susan Garcia, because we know from the author bios on your books that Susan Garcia is based on your wife. So drop the whole Roxanne story. We don't care.

Posted by: Barmy | August 1, 2008 5:24 PM | Report abuse

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