As I have remarked before, modern cartoonists are just as addicted to filler as medieval poets, albeit with much less justification. Sunday's Hagar the Horrible acts as an excellent demonstration of this practice. Mr. Browne has a three-panel joke but is working with a nine-panel grid. The first panel goes to the title of the strip; the next two establish that Hagar and Lucky Eddie do not know the gentleman with the moustache,* a fact that is completely irrelevant to the gag at hand.** The next two panels involve the gentleman asking for a dry martini and the bartender promising to get him one. We then get two cut-and-paste panels in which Hagar, Lucky Eddie, and Moustache Man sit perfectly still in silence. In the final two panels, the bartender gives Moustache Man his dry martini, and Lucky Eddie remarks that the drink looks wet.
Leaving aside the fact that the joke here is one that I first made when I was about eight years old,*** what we seem to have is a very, very sparse situation stretched out over far too many panels. Hell...this gag could fit into one panel.**** It is a terrible joke, but even so, it would be funnier if it were shorter. As it is, I had a hard time discerning the point of the comic. The filler panels are especially egregious, as they have absolutely no reason to be there.
This Hagar comic is therefore drawing on the medieval tradition of the really bad verse romance. Not only is it far too long, it inserts its filler so clumsily that the cartoonist may as well be waving vigorously and screaming, "Hey, look! Filler!" Its plot is clumsy and nonsensical, and it ends with a line that is meant to be clever but would not know cleverness if it met some in the street. The effect is very much that of the anonymous romance churned out by an unrepentant hack.
Someone needs to take Mr. Browne's Ctrl-V function away from him before somebody gets hurt.
*I have made him French because Lucky Eddie calls him "fancy-looking," and he is not drinking beer. It is amazing how anti-French stereotypes have lasted for hundreds upon hundreds of years.
**To be fair, a lot of Sunday strips involve two throwaway panels that certain newspapers don't use; cartoonists need to ensure that their jokes will work without them. To be less fair, there is absolutely no reason that the throwaway panels can't actually be funny.
***I mean, who hasn't? When your parents are drinking "dry" wine, of course you're going to make a crack about it being wet. You're eight. That's just the way your brain works.
****Bartender: Here's your dry martini, sir. Lucky Eddie: Gosh, I don't know; it looks awfully wet.*****
*****Or even just...Lucky Eddie: Barkeep! I asked for a dry martini. This one's wet!