Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Pearls Before the Wheel

Stephen Pastis recently completed a brilliant story arc in Pearls Before Swine. In addition to providing five strips of stand-alone humor, he also made some pointed commentary about some comic strips that are long since past their prime. Monday's sequence sets up the premise: it's Comic Strip Week on Wheel of Fortune. And the first contestant to be introduced is Andy Capp. (click on images to enlarge)

Reg Smythe started Andy Capp in 1957, and even after his death in 1998, the strip shambles on. Pastis points out the obvious that readers seem to disregard in this "loveable" character. Capp never works, drinks constantly, and abuses his wife verbally and cheats on her as well. One has to wonder -- why is this strip still around?

Tuesday introduces the next contestant -- The title character from B.C. This is another legacy strip, started by Johnny Hart in 1958 and continued after his death in 2007.

Hart became a born-again Christian, and considered B.C. part of his ministry. In the latter part of his life B.C. became increasingly heavy-handed in its Christian messaging. B.C.'s opening remark nails the overt tone of Hart's latter strips perfectly.

Wednesday's sequence was something of a surprise. I didn't expect Pastis to introduce one of his own creations, but he did --  Larry the croc.

In retrospect, it was a perfect choice. There's a general perception that Wheel of Fortune contestants aren't always the brightest bunch (Jeopardy snags those). Having the dimmest character from the Pearls cast just reinforces that notion.

Thursday the game starts.

Andy Capp's too drunk to think, and B.C. tries to shoehorn Jesus into the answer. Both play out the worst traits of their respective characters.

Two important things happen in Friday's sequence. First is the obvious joke: Pastis is such a nobody that even with just one letter missing, Larry can't identify his creator.

But there's a more pointed commentary, too. Larry sets it up by mistaking Pastis for a homeless person. B.C., who's been proudly displaying his Christianity all week, immediately says he has no spare change. A mordant comment on the nature of B.C.'s (and by extension Hart's) faith.

And the final day is just for fun.

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