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Posted at 11:05 AM ET, 01/23/2009

Self-Deprecating Comics: The Blogger's Worst Nightmare

By Michael Cavna

Morning, Cartoon Nation...

We begin today with a supersized, ten-point Miffy Award, suitable for wall mounting. And a large-type plaque that reads simply: "Mark Trail."

That's because Everybody's Favorite Stilted Nature Strip has crossed a line we cannot abide. The comic appears this week to be openly mocking ITSELF.

What in the name of Lost Forest is going on here?

For days now, Patty has been clinging to a deer to fill the Great Emotional Ninth-Circle Hellish Void that is her loveless, petless marriage.

Sneaking about, hiding a back-door relationship with the doe-eyed ruminant, desperately hugging this apparent Boy Bambi with every fiber of her blond being. But what really chaps our hide, so to speak, is that Mark Trail the Strip seems to be IN on the joke for once. It's all carried off with a seeming fourth-wall wink. (Even the would-be tragic spousal abuse is drawn as utterly unreal, staged as fake-y as evil-twin fisticuffs on "Guiding Light.")

Which leaves me to admit: I cannot, in good conscience, mock a strip that is slyly mocking itself. It's hardly sporting. Bad form, and all that.

I can only hold up hope that "Mark Trail's" story is actually as clueless as ever, and that I'm giving it waay too much credit. In which case, this is a brilliant plot-turn that deserves a Riffy for sheer mockability.

Only time, and more pelt-petting moments, will tell.

Elsewhere, the Riffys this week...


Because "Prickly City's" swipe at MSNBC all but guarantees that Keith Olbermann will name cartoonist Scott Stantis "the Worst. Person. In. The. World!" someday soon.


As "Curtis's" title character wanders D.C. looking for Barry, I cannot muster sympathy. Sorry, but I'm way too distracted looking at this version of a D.C. police car. I know city budgets are tight, but this model seems to have rolled right off the streets of Mayberry. I didn't realize "Curtis" had a meta-reality that -- like "Mark Trail" -- is stuck in 1962.

(Creators)Enlarge Comic


"Speed Bump":

A deceptively effective gag in it simplicity.

What can I say? I laughed. Out loud, even.

You've got Riffy contenders? Fire away.

By Michael Cavna  | January 23, 2009; 11:05 AM ET
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Sorry, but that patrol car has light bar on top. Not a proper '50s period bubblegum macine.

Posted by: MSchafer | January 23, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I think what seems so odd about the police car is that it depicts DC police officers actually stopping and rolling down a window to talk to a citizen.

Posted by: tomtildrum | January 23, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

You've been paying attention to the BC/Mark Trail crossover this week, haven't you? When BC slapped that deer, I couldn't believe it.

Posted by: marshlc | January 24, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Thanks--yep, the BC "synergy" was great. All week, expected Patty's hub to slap down the back-door deer. Who knew we'd get the d-slap from Johnny Hart instead?

Posted by: cavnam | January 24, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Hi Mike,
I love your blog. Comics are the most important section of the newspaper imho....
Re: Mark Trail's latest story, this is a rerun. I definitely have seen this one before, but I would have to plow through my archives to find exactly when it appeared.
By the way, watch out for the endings, as Jack Elrod has a habit of leaving characters and even whole subplots unresolved. In the last adventure I am still wondering what became of Charlie, the would be boyfriend of his partner, the swamp draining developer who goes gaga over Mark. He hires Rabbit to "take care" of Mark and then never reappears to get his bop on the jaw when Mark, with Andy the wonder dog's help, overpowers the smuggler thugs and turns them over to the sheriff.
Don't say I didn't warn you.....

Posted by: rwyckoff | January 26, 2009 7:55 AM | Report abuse

The cop car in Curtis isn't what threw me, it's the officers wearing uniforms straight out of Car 54 Where Are You?

So we get to the same place, just from different directions.

And speaking of time warps, how about today's Lio, a homage to Doctor Strangelove, a movie from 1964. I got the joke only because I finally saw the last half hour of the movie a few days ago. One of these years I might catch the whole thing.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | January 26, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

What would people do if their wife had a crazy wild deer running around the house all day? If the husband had one the wife would't smack him?

Posted by: Dremit97 | January 27, 2009 6:41 PM | Report abuse

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