Marmaduke (the comic strip) was first published in 1954.
Marmaduke (the character) is a big dog.
Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
There is only ever the one joke in Marmaduke. Actually, calling it a "joke" may be a bit insulting to actual jokes. The fact that Brad Anderson has spent fifty-four years telling his one flimsy non-joke over and over and over again every goddamn day truly blows my mind. I expect the very first Marmaduke ever was mildly funny. Perhaps, at that point, no one had ever drawn a one-panel comic about a big dog before.
It has now been done. It has been done so often that if Anderson hasn't repeated every one of his comic's scenarios at least twenty times, I'll eat my hat.*
Today's comic takes one of these scenarios (i.e., Marmaduke is such a big dog that he can steal ice cream from a small child) and reduces it to complete incomprehensibility. If I saw a Great Dane slurping up someone's ice-cream cone, I would not observe that his begging technique was faulty; I would observe that his ice-cream-stealing technique was spot on. If the artist had even shown Marmaduke's intent to beg, perhaps placing him in the traditional begging posture while he snaffled the kid's treat, the cartoon would have approached humour, albeit from a very great distance. Here, however, we just have a great big dog evoking "hilarity"** by virtue of being a great big dog.
In many recent strips, we have detected more than a hint of medieval allegory. I don't think that I am out of line in claiming that such allegory may just make an appearance here. Big dog as big dog? Not funny. Big dog as Antichrist? Side-splittingly hilarious. The fake Spider-Man demonstrates one aspect of Antichrist, but Marmaduke truly is the Beast: larger than life, apparently benign, and apt to remove ice cream from the possession of the faithful while pretending to humbleness. This comic derives from a later stage of Antichrist's career, when he is hardly even bothering to act any more; instead, he devours ice cream (read: souls) with unholy glee as his disciples, blinded by his earlier disarming goofiness, explain his actions to the uninitiated. Soon enough, Marmaduke will grow to even greater size and attempt to devour the world.
*I do not have a hat.
**"Hilarity," in quotation marks, is the funny pages' variant of hilarity. The two terms actually have very little in common.