Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Here Comes the New Year, Same as the Old Year

I'm back!

I don't know how regularly I'll be posting. I'm not entirely sure how I sustained that whole once-a-day thing to begin with. This translation gig actually takes up a fair amount of time. However, we shall see what we shall see.

As I am going to be spending most of January 1st on various airplanes, I shall while away the time until midnight arrives in BC and my parents and I can blow our little bugles out the door* by exploring the radical new direction in which the hack who currently churns out Hagar the Horrible is clearly set on taking the strip.

As we can see, today's gag is one that has made an appearance in the comic at least once and very probably five or six hundred times before. The gags in Hagar are, in fact, all recycled, and they have been since the seventh strip, which was the strip published the day after the cartoonist ran out of ideas. This commendable practice is entirely medieval in its provenance, albeit with a modern twist. Instead of borrowing bits and pieces from various "auctors" and thus imbuing his work with "auctoritee," the Hagar cartoonist is borrowing bits and pieces from his own strip and thus imbuing it with both "auctoritee" and status as an "auctor." He is his own source. The technique is innovative--or would have been in 1390--and has been emulated by most of the legacy cartoonists, though seldom so successfully as in this case.

Today's comic again draws on antifeminist stereotypes and the idea of horns representing a cuckold to provide a fresh take on the old "don't-lie-to-me-or-your-horns-will-fall-off" chestnut. Helga, as the typical nagging wife, is also the type of a hypocrite: she rails at her husband (probably with cause, as Hagar demonstrates when he grabs the horns) while actually forbidding him to shed his status as a victim of her own adultery. Hagar unwittingly clutches this status close; he thinks he is unwilling for Helga to know his secrets, but he is really wilfully blind to her treachery. Ah...the womens! The nagging, nagging womens! What a terrible double standard is imposed upon men by this socially and politically powerfully sex!

We here see a subtle evolution in the trope. In the earlier example, Hagar blatantly lies to Helga, thus demonstrating his guilt. In today's comic, Hagar indicates his potential for guilt but never utters the lie. I suspect that the next permutation of the gag will involve a wholly innocent Hagar and a raving, unreasonable Helga with unearthly blue flames issuing from her bodily orifices. Really, it's only a matter of time.

Happy New Year. May the funny pages continue to be relentlessly medieval in their content and outlook. I truly can't imagine that they won't.

*My family has some quite odd traditions. It's best simply not to ask.

1 comment:

Michael said...

"...a raving, unreasonable Helga with unearthly blue flames issuing from her bodily orifices."

The thought of Helga farting flame is disturbing. I think I'll have a lie down.

Oh, happy new year Kem.