Since we checked up yesterday on the poor damned souls at the Flagston residence, we may as well spend today with little Trixie's uncle. Beetle Bailey, not content with making pointed comments about the terrible, terrible folly of World War I, now takes a deep breath and dives into the mire of a soldier's inner life.
Honestly...this comic makes me sad. In a scenario worthy of Norman Drabble, Zero ("the stupid one") has discovered that his imaginary friend--his imaginary female friend, no less--has left him for someone more interesting. Beetle ("the lazy one") expresses insincere sympathy while not even bothering to make his concerned face...but it is the expression on Zero's mug that catches at my heart. Look at him. His loneliness is almost palpable. You just want to reach into the strip, hug him tightly, and ask him what the hell he's doing sitting on what appears to be a bed made for a four-year-old. You probably don't want him to answer you, however.
The "joke"* acquires quite a bit of depth (and makes quite a bit more sense) when removed to its proper medieval context. Zero, like many current comic-strip characters, represents Everyman; his medieval name, Noght, identifies him both with the mathematical concept of "zero" and with the idea of human insignificance. His imaginary friend is clearly one of Everyman's companions. Wisdom, perhaps? Deep Thoughts? Lustful Ignorance? Moral Indifference? At any rate, Zero has reached a point in his journey through life at which this metaphorical property has deserted him. I'm laying bets on Wisdom.** The next scene will involve Beetle and Zero getting drunk and heaving an armchair through the window of a bar.
It's still not funny, though.
*It is too sad to be a "joke." Then again, most of the comics on today's funny pages are too sad to be "jokes," though you will note that I have here cleverly changed the meaning of the word "sad."
**Though I would also like to put a word in for Lustful Ignorance.