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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 10/22/2008

The Morning Line: From Bill Watterson to Bil Keane

By Michael Cavna

Somewhere, the lean, bespectacled Bill Watterson is sitting by a babbling heartland brook, delicately painting the changing October foliage while free of deadline or syndicate demands. We picture him peaceful, basking in nature's resplendent glory.

Only then -- as we've mourned before -- can we fully forgive him for not continuing the adventures of the sorely missed Calvin.

When the thinking, if not the thinking cap, is utterly backward. (UFS) Enlarge Comic

Today, the out-of-shape, bewhiskered "Stephan Pastis" avatar is sucking on a piping cig, messing with our notions of cartoon narrative by resurrecting his whale character. The "Pearls Before Swine" cartoonist has a simple explanation for this development with his once-dead leviathan: "He un-died." Bra-vo. Cartoon reality may be breached, but we actually laugh out loud (and not in a fake-y LOL way) through our own spouthole.

It's the kicker, though, that turns this into our early Cartoon O' the Week, as Rat retorts: "I really, really miss Bill Watterson."

So do we, Rat. So do we. But at least Pastis's chain-smoking avatar is here to ease our Hobbesean withdrawals. (And wait: Did not Hobbes's philosopher namesake write "Leviathan"? Damn you, Pastis -- you are indeed too smart for us!)

Sometimes, the Keane family wit renders us incapacitated, too. (KFS)Enlarge Comic

META-JOKE O' THE DAY: As a gateway drug for kid-readers, "The Family Circus" is all in good clean fun for the tykes today. But today's panel, even more than most, is ripe for alternate readings that only a grown-up, heavily medicated Mommy or Daddy could appreciate. (Note: Once upon a time, Dad -- then named "Steve" instead of Bill -- apparently did carry his own "bottle.") Mostly, we'd love to see this accompanied by a real-world second panel, in which papa Bill sits up, sighs deeply and replies:

"No, Dolly, I do not WANT to be in bed. Nay, it is life itself in 2008 that has punished me, rendering me bedridden as I struggle to keep a roof over the heads of three freak-of-nature rugrats** who refuse to age! I've had six mouths to feed -- if you count that cur Barfy -- for more than 45 years now! For the love of all that is right and good, when you will unironic spawn AGE so I can dream of spending my golden years alone with my still-smokin' squeeze Thel?!?
"Sigh, never mind, Dolly. Just please go get Daddy his meds and a Michelob Light."

[**NOTE: Four IF you count the quasi-aging PJ.]

By Michael Cavna  | October 22, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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"'cause"? "bein'"? She left off a "you betcha".

And in case anyone ever thinks comics are a lonely perversion, I mean diversion, google the name of your favourite strip. I bet the name shows up at or near the top of the list. Just a spot check:

"Luann", "Opus", "Zits" are right at the top.

"Duplex" (the McCoys' other strip) and "Black Panther" show up near the top.

"Pearls Before Swine" is at the top, although I'd think more people know the reference than the strip.

Comics rule!

Posted by: f2 | October 22, 2008 7:45 AM | Report abuse

When you get to be a certain age, Michael, afternoon naps start looking good again.

Posted by: Daniel J. Drazen | October 22, 2008 8:52 AM | Report abuse

All I know is that "Brewster Rocket" had me giggling long after I finished the paper this morning.

Posted by: debit | October 22, 2008 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Hasn't Pastis used the "un-died" line before already?

Posted by: Sebastian | October 22, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Technically, he's got four freak-of-nature rugrats who refuse to age. Just sayin'.

Posted by: tad | October 22, 2008 11:42 AM | Report abuse

It's a standard line of dialog from most Marvel Comics: "I thought you died." "I did, but I got better."

Posted by: Seismic-2 | October 22, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

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