After my blatant misreading of yesterday's B.C., which fooled me with its cunning stupidity, I hesitate to tackle today's Hagar the Horrible, which makes me want to curl up in a corner and suck my thumb. However, duty calls. I shall mock this comic or perish in the attempt.*
I don't know what's going on with poor Hagar lately. Two weeks ago, Hagar was lost at sea, screaming questions to the heavens as a callous, uncaring God looked down upon him and accused him of being a terrible sinner. Today, he and Lucky Eddie are chained in a dungeon. The comic's progression is reminiscent of certain productions of Waiting for Godot; the dialogue is broken up by panel-long pauses as the two characters, trapped forever in a single setting, stare straight ahead and speak, presumably in thin, dead little voices. Even more disconcerting is the way those background rocks keep changing position, as if the light is constantly shifting, picking out different bits of the background from moment to moment. I'm not sure whether each panel takes place at a different time of day or Hagar and Lucky Eddie are chained up next to a highway and are being bathed in the headlights of passing vehicles.
The dialogue itself is chilling in its implications. If one stretches one's imagination, one can see the joke: Hagar and his young friend are caught in an utterly hopeless situation, but they are also kept going by hope. Haw haw...the irony! However, the blank stares of Vladimir and Estra--er--Hagar and Lucky Eddie seem to indicate that this conversation is actually straight; the irony is in the whole situation, not in Hagar's reply. The cartoonist is exploring a medieval-style moral paradox. If hope is, in fact, all that sustains us in this vale of tears we call Life, why do we go on about it when we seem to have no reason to hope? When the lights go out with chilling finality and we are left in the dark, alone, pinned to the wall by the certain knowledge that the end has come and we can do nothing to stop it, how can we claim that hope guides us?**
The only acceptable answer would involve suffering through the slings and arrows of this life in order to reap the benefits in the Next World...but in the narrative landscape of Hagar the Horrible, ruled as it is by a vindictive, fallible deity, the Next World may be simply a pipe dream. The irony of the base paradox expands to include Hagar's entire life, which is, in the end, a tale told by an idiot...a sparrow's flight through the mead hall. "Hope" is just a word. If it is an anchor, it is one dropped into a bottomless ocean.
All right...now I'm depressed.
*Or possibly both.