Monday, May 25, 2009

Richard II, All Grown Up

Back at The Wizard of Id, that clever tribute to the reign of Richard II, we get a wistful strip that comments metaphorically on the tragic youth of the child king. Due to the comic's frequent references to the Peasants' Revolt, we know that it is set around 1381, when Richard was a fourteen-year-old puppet. He is represented in the comic by a "short" (read: young) king who is frequently ineffective and reacts childishly to the world around him.

Today's strip is extremely telling. Here we see the little king longing to be taller: i.e., to grow up. Behind his words is a veiled wish for more power, which is being kept from him by his advisers. The wizard here represents John of Gaunt, the most controlling of these advisers. Note that the comic is actually named after him; it may often seem to be about the king, but the true power behind the throne is revealed in the title of the work. The manipulation of the mirror is a reference to the subtle politics involved in controlling a puppet king; the wizard/Gaunt must make it seem as if the king has "grown up" and seized power, and he must do so without actually relinquishing his own position.

The Wizard of Id is one of the cleverest comics out there today.* It is not laugh-out-loud funny, but it mimics editorial cartoons in its succinct, multi-layered comments on an important political situation. Though it's true that it hasn't been 1381 for a while, it's fair to say that the Parker Descendants** are extremely good at writing about what they know. If what they know just happens to be late medieval England, who are we to judge?

P.S.: Happy Towel Day. I trust you all know where your towels are.

*If you are taking me seriously here, I shall smite you. I mean that.
**Or whoever is responsible for the comic at the moment. Seriously...these guys eventually sort of fade into the woodwork.


Randy said...

Needs more footnotes.

Also, it should be noted, the way the eponymous Wizard seems to be bending the mirror, would actually make the King look shorter in it, rather than taller.

Angry Kem said...

Convex and concave mirrors always confuse the hell out of me. I think they probably confuse the hell out of Mr. Parker the Younger as well. Perhaps The Wizard of Id should forget about Richard II and start teaching science. The next strip could have the wizard making the mirror concave and the king appearing upside down in it.

To be fair, a simple experiment with a spoon demonstrates that a convex mirror can, in fact, stretch one's reflection upwards to a ludicrous degree. Perhaps the wizard is making the whole mirror bulge outwards instead of simply bending it, and we just can't tell because the art is crappy.

Re. footnotes: I refuse to make footnotes for the sake of making footnotes! I shall makes footnotes only where appropriate! And stuff!*


Angry Kem said...

Damn it...I forgot to wish everybody a happy Towel Day. I've had to go back and modify the post. I might even have been able to make it into a footnote if I'd remembered in time, and then Randy wouldn't have had cause to chastise me. *Sob*

jackd said...

"...greten me?"

Would 'ygreten' be an M.E. synonym for 'enlarge' or a spurious construction better translated as 'embiggen'? Clicking on the image made me think of it, of course.

Angry Kem said...

"Greten" is a fantastic verb. The usual sense of it is "to grow," but it can also mean "to make something grow." "Embiggen" is just about it (cromulently).

dmontag said...

Kem, it's great to have you back again on a regular basis. I've enjoyed all of your recent posts. Welcome back!