Thursday, May 21, 2009

That's the (Medieval) Spirit, Ziggy

Those of you who have tried to click on the images in the last few posts and failed should try again. It seems that when I use Blogger in Explorer, the images I upload are not clickable. I have re-uploaded them all in Firefox. I really, really do not understand why this was necessary, but oh well.

At any rate, only people with eyes even less useful than mine will need to click on today's comic in order to see it properly.* Tom Wilson II does love his huge, huge text. See, look at that: even Blogger's largest font setting doesn't make my text as big as TWII's. I think it's possible that possession of a Sharpie makes him go mad with power.

Today's Ziggy constitutes the next logical progression in TWII's yearning for the past. I have already covered this comic's cutting-edge lampooning of a book series completed a full year previously and its timely exploration of how ten-year-old computers are plotting to kill us all. As you can see, TWII is gradually taking Ziggy farther and farther into the past as he reaches back towards the Middle Ages, where he really wants his strip to take place. Today, he actually kind of gets there.

The comic contains a great deal of medieval content: the presence of the waiter/innkeeper figure, the word "sir," the reference to the bloodthirsty nature of businessmen/merchants, and the concept of the diner actually preparing his own meal from absolute scratch. At first glance, it seems as if TWII is mixing his social classes in a particularly egregious way. The innkeeper calls Ziggy "sir" but implies in the same breath that he is a merchant, then suggests he slaughter his meal like a peasant. "Sir" is a word most usually applied, in the Middle Ages, to the nobility; to call a merchant "sir" would be to commit a ridiculous social gaffe, and to treat a merchant like a peasant would probably make the merchant quite squiffy. However, there is another common usage of the word "sir." It can be uttered contemptuously** and thus carry the implication that the person to whom it is spoken is the opposite of noble. Either the innkeeper is awfully confused about Ziggy's social status, or he is mocking him openly.

The presence of the bird makes me inclined to go with the latter interpretation. The innkeeper is, in fact, making even more vicious fun of merchants than one might assume. A "businessman"--or, in Middle English parlance, a "sonne of marchaundye" (in other words, a successful businessman)--is someone on his way up in the world: a working man who regards himself as above a peasant in stature, though nobles look down on him for having money but no distinguished ancestry. The innkeeper is drawing attention to Ziggy's lack of blue blood, first by using the word "sir" contemptuously and then by offering to let him slaughter his own lunch and thus implying that Ziggy's money does not materially remove him from the servantless peasant class. Understanding the medieval context of this comic really highlights its meaning.***

Congratulations, Tom Wilson II. You have managed to take your comic all the way back to the Middle Ages. Be careful, however; if you keep this up, you'll be drawing comics about Alexander the Great by next Christmas.

*Plus it won't work. The clicked version will be the same size as the version here. Neener neener.
**For a good, albeit non-medieval, example of this sort of usage, read any scene from any play by William Shakespeare.
***And makes me slightly less eager to punch it.

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