Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Stupid Whole

In 1956, Bob Barnes created a comic strip called The Better Half. He continued to crank out a panel per day on the trials and tribulations of married couple Stanley and Harriet until 1973, when Ruth Barnes and Dick Rogers took over from him. In 1979, Vinnie Vinson took over from them. In 1982, Jay Harris took over from him. In 1993, Randy Glasbergen took over from him. And thus a hideous monstrosity was perpetuated down through the generations.

I'm sure The Better Half originally seemed like a damned good idea. A short, fat man marries a tall, angular woman and hijinks ensue! Let's see how big we can draw Stanley's nose! Marriage is funny because everybody hates it! This was cutting-edge humour in 1956. Actually...what am I saying? This wasn't cutting-edge humour in 1356. Geoffrey Chaucer would have taken one glance at this thing, then rewritten it so that Harriet was constantly cuckolding Stanley right in front of his eyes. Farting would probably have been involved in some way. The word "throng" (not "throng" in the sense of "crowd" but "throng" in the sense of "violently thrust") would have made an appearance. It would have been dirty and vulgar and mean and low...and far, far funnier than its current incarnation.

Today's strip is what you get when you are writing a comic that has been around for fifty-two years and you suddenly awake to the fact that there is absolutely nothing your characters can say to each other that they haven't said five hundred times already. You throw your hands into the air, draw Stanley in a cat suit, and go back to bed, possibly for the rest of your life.


Skullturf Q. Beavispants said...

Are there any words in contemporary English that are cognates of "aswiken" and "swinke"? Just as with Chaucer in a high school class, we can often fake our way through it, but there is the occasional word that trips us up.

Angry Kem said...

Skullturf: I'm not sure. "Swinken" was quite a common verb in Chaucer's day, and it's hard to say what happened to it. "Werken" was also around, however (I just like "swinken" better), so perhaps the latter simply nudged out the former. Languages are funny things sometimes.