Friday, September 19, 2008

Actually, I Think Many Comics Would Be Better with Glosses

I would like to greet those of you wandering over from Quod She. Well, actually, I would like to greet everybody (hello, everybody), but the Quod She people are special because they are our first linked medievalists. Yes, 'tis true: Japes for Owre Tymes has broken out of the online comics community and expanded into the much, much smaller online medievalist community.

Now we just have to liberate Geoffrey Chaucer from Newgate, and we'll be all set.

Beetle Bailey started up in 1950. It was actually originally a strip about university students, but six months after it began, the protagonist enlisted in the army, and the university characters and setting were dropped forever. Ever since, Sarge has been beating Beetle up, Killer has been seducing women, and Brigadier General Halftrack has been lusting after his busty secretary while cringing away from his large, unhappy wife. As with many strips created billions of years ago and still going today, Beetle Bailey is somewhat resistant to change. The residents of Camp Swampy haven't, oddly, even acknowledged that anything is going on in Afghanistan or Iraq; they seem content to train perpetually (sometimes, apparently, with real land mines).


This strip contains several horrors, the chief of which is not the man-wolf Sarge but the sight of Killer in his boxers, which seem to be covered with tiny black hearts. However, the whole thing really does have the feel of a medieval allegory. What does it signify that Beetle sees himself as a hybrid sheep/man? Why are there two of him? Is he morally or emotionally split? What happens if the Sarge-wolf catches only one of the Beetle-sheep? Which half of Beetle is Sarge out to kill? Sarge himself is singular. Is his wolfish exterior meant to identify him with the devil? Is Beetle losing his faith? What will we do if Beetle loses his faith?

So many questions. So...many...

P.S.: That's Wycliffe's translation of the Bible verse. What a contemptible Lollard ich am...


Wanders said...

This is my favorite so far. Please keep up the great work.

Lea said...

I love this blog so much.

Also I remember you from the PhD Comics forums! Though you probably don't remember me (I used the handle strangebrooch and did not post for long, because not long after I started, my adviser died and I lost the heart for the sort of conversation that went on there).

Anyway, Middle English-based humor makes the world a far happier place.

Angry Kem said...'ve found me out, Lea. Your handle does sound familiar, actually, though possibly only because of the existence of Strange Brew (could it be that you too are Canadian?).

I'm sorry to hear about your adviser's death, and I can see why the Ph.D. forums would have seemed less appealing after such an event.

Take care...and yes, hurrah to all Middle English humour. Some people may not quite get it, but we shall care not.

Lea said...

I am not Canadian, but I did grow up in Detroit, which is close to Canada! The handle is actually a reference to Richard II 5.5 though.

Angry Kem said...

...And Strange Brew, which is a bizarre Canadian version of Hamlet, is a reference to the line from Shakespeare. I just can't think of the one without immediately connecting it with the other.

Now I remember you better, since I think a discussion quite like this one happened on the forum as well.