Saturday, September 20, 2008

And They're All Made Out of Ticky-Tacky, and They All Look Just the Same

The step from Beetle Bailey to Hi and Lois is a natural one, as Lois is actually Beetle's sister. That's right: Hi and Lois, which has run since 1954, is a spin-off strip. And like Beetle, the damn thing just keeps going and going and going.

Unfortunately, this comic has inspired dozens, if not hundreds, of other comics, and the basic situation of a suburban family with two to four kids, a dog, and humorous neighbours has taken over the comics page to such an extent that any strip not involving some sort of family is seen as dangerously different. Sure, we get variants now--single mothers, single fathers, and so on--but the base story is the same. There's usually a sullen teenager and at least one bratty and/or precocious elementary-school kid. If there are two parents and the mother works, she does something suitably feminine (Lois Flagston is a real-estate agent; that's about as high-powered as a woman stuck in the 1950s is ever allowed to be). The wife is rather more clever than her husband, who is a bit of a goof and has to be told almost constantly what to do.

Dear Syndicates: Could we have some new situations? Please? I know not everyone can identify with, say, the story of an air-traffic controller who talks to dead people,* but frankly, I can't identify with the hideous suburban nightmare in which Hi, Lois, and their eternally unaging children seem to be trapped forever. Do we always have to identify exactly with the situations in comics? Some people like reading about new things. Give us air-traffic-controlling psychics or give us death!

This particular comic is such a soul-deadening take on a creaky, ancient joke, played out by two people too bored by their own lives to move at all between panel one and panel two,** that I like to imagine it taking place in Purgatory. Repent, sinners.

P.S.: I may have cheated a bit on the grammar in panel 2, but I did check, and "doth" is a legitimate imperative. So there. And yes, I added a comma. It looks damn stupid without that comma. Maybe I have ruined the joke, but really: what joke?

*Yes, I made this situation up just now. You can probably tell.
**And using speech bubbles of completely inappropriate size. The laziness makes me cringe. I mean, seriously: I couldn't find a bigger version of this comic anywhere, and yet I got away with using 11-point font, even though my Middle English sentences are much longer than the brief, enervated originals. In that second panel, the letterer hasn't even bothered to centre Hi's text. Good. Lord.


Charlene said...

I love your blog.

You're right about the lettering: why do they do that?

Byron LL said...

I was hoping that your asterisk would lead me to a world of adventure or at least something interesting to watch or read.

Imagine my sadness when I discovered that there is no series of any kind involving an air-traffic controller who has an unfortunate habit of speaking to the dead.

First-time reader, loving the blog so far. Bookmark'd!

Talia said...

I might have used "dereling doon" and "dereling doon the nat."

Nice site, by the way. A friend of mine pointed you out, calling you my "evil twin" since I often dabble in curious ME translations myself.

Angry Kem said...

Talia: Yeah...I am having problems with the imperative. I'm not even sure "honey do" counts as an imperative here. I quite like your solution, though I'm uneasy about the second bit ("doon" is generally an infinitive form, and it works the first time around if you take "honey do" as an infinitive, but you've also got it juxtaposed with that "the." I'm not sure that "doon" can work as a second-person-singular verb form. Can it? Is there some obscure evidence I'm missing? Am I worrying far, far too much about this?).

I'm not really a Middle English grammarian; I've read reams of the stuff (one of the romances I made it through for the sake of my special field reading list was 21,000 lines long), but I haven't spent a lot of time gazing at lists of verb endings and alternate spellings. However, I can manage if there's no imperative. The imperative makes me want to scream very loudly, travel back in time, and ask the people of medieval England what the hell they were thinking.

Come to think of it, that's the same impulse I have every time I read Hi and Lois.

P.S.: I've always wanted a good twin. I feel like an evil twin, but there's never been anyone whose life I can ruin through diabolical impersonation. Now, perhaps, there is...

Min Self said...

I believe do(o)n could be used as an imperitive as with Mod. German "tun." Though I'll admit it doesn't seem to have been common -- I've seen it once. To do/They do/Done seem to be the most common uses.

Still, if one wants to force it further, doon can also mean 'finish' (thus he's telling his wife to stop working on it.)


-What framest thow?
-Worche for the biline a "dereling do."
-Lestow, dereling, do way.

It's still probably better than the original joke.