The Mom Signal

Cidu Bill on May 19th 2017


Filed in Arlo and Janis, Bill Bickel, CIDU, Jimmy Johnson, comic strips, comics, humor | 17 responses so far

17 Responses to “The Mom Signal”

  1. Mona May 19th 2017 at 12:06 am 1

    This is part of a series. Their son, now an adult with a family of his own, needs help with his business. It doesn’t matter how old your child gets, Mom will always know when she is needed and come to the rescue.
    (Mom signal/Bat signal)

  2. James Pollock May 19th 2017 at 01:06 am 2

    The first three panels are a flashback.

    In the fourth panel, Janis has suddenly stood up (note the overturned chair) and the look on her face signals to Arlo that she has metaphysically sensed that Gene needs her/them to be there (wherever it is Gene lives now).

  3. Proginoskes May 19th 2017 at 01:48 am 3

    Janis looks mad in the fourth panel, like she caught Arlo staring at the Mom in the two middle panels.

  4. The Bad Seed May 19th 2017 at 02:51 am 4

    The retro Janis hair in the flashback made me smile, for some reason.

  5. Ted from Ft. Laud May 19th 2017 at 02:57 am 5

    She didn’t metaphysically sense it - the previous day’s strip has Gene explicitly telling Janis on the phone that he is having a crisis getting the restaurant they are starting ready in time for Memorial Day, and Janis saying she could help (I assume Arlo overheard this). Not sure where the phone (which she had in her hand in the previous day’s strip) went to.

  6. James Pollock May 19th 2017 at 03:01 am 6

    “like she caught Arlo staring at the Mom in the two middle panels.”

    Janis doesn’t mind catching Arlo staring at the mom in the middle panels, because Janis IS the mom in the two middle panels.

  7. James Pollock May 19th 2017 at 03:03 am 7

    “She didn’t metaphysically sense it”

    There’s a bit of a jump from “we could use some help” to “I need my mommy RIGHT NOW”

    Again, note the overturned chair. Janis has jumped to her feet.

  8. Stan May 19th 2017 at 03:13 am 8

    To lend weight to Proginoskes # 3, I agree that she does look angry rather than worried/concerned…furrowed eyebrows, clenched fists, slightly downturned mouth, cold stare at Arlo. I do think everyone else is right, but this would be difficult to determine if you haven’t been following the strip.

  9. Boise Ed May 19th 2017 at 03:35 am 9

    Like Mona said, it’s playing on the Bat-signal, only instead of being put up by Commissioner Gordon, it’s just something that Janis (Mom) can sense.

  10. Ted from Ft. Laud May 19th 2017 at 03:52 am 10

    I think it is determined along with concerned, rather than angry…

  11. padraig May 19th 2017 at 10:10 am 11

    “What’s that, Janis? Little Gene has fallen down the abandoned well?”

  12. ~~Silk May 19th 2017 at 11:27 am 12

    I don’t follow the strip, so I may be wrong, but is it possible that’s a contemporary mother and child, and Janis has heard the cry of a hurt child for his mother, and seen the mother respond, and the sight and sound has flipped dormant switches and galvanized her? MY BABY NEEDS ME!

  13. Ted from Ft. Laud May 19th 2017 at 01:00 pm 13

    No - that’s clearly Janis and Gene, about 20 years ago.

  14. James Pollock May 19th 2017 at 01:01 pm 14

    “I don’t follow the strip, so I may be wrong, but is it possible that’s a contemporary mother and child”

    I’m confident that, had he intended this to be a mother and child who are NOT Gene and Janis, they would not have looked like Gene and Janis.

  15. larK May 19th 2017 at 10:55 pm 15

    For anyone who does not follow the strip, and even for those who do follow the strip, but haven’t been following it for 20+ years, the mother and child do NOT look like Janis and Gene.

  16. Ted from Ft. Laud May 20th 2017 at 04:25 am 16

    A&J is one of the strips in which the characters age (though at something less than real time), and their appearances have changed over time. Also, there have been flashback strips over the years - the Janis and Gene characters in panels 1-3 match their appearances in both early strips and in flashbacks, so for those that have followed A&J for a long time, there wouldn’t be any question.

    larK’s doubt about this reminds me of a discussion in RACS many years ago (that I came across again in Google Groups more recently - my memory isn’t that good…) on the topic of the cartoonist’s responsibility to occasional or newer readers in terms of introducing characters or background info that regular readers would be familiar with. (That discussion was triggered by 3CL - a new reader read it for several weeks without figuring out the relationships or names of the principal characters, because during that time, nothing was spelled out.) There are certainly some strips that go to extremes - Spiderman gives the Spidey catchphrase every Sunday, Phantom provides an origin story every new story arc, etc., while others (like Doonesbury, with multitudes of characters) might have a regular character address a long absent character by name but provide no other clues - and maybe not even that much. As someone pointed out, (many) strips are serial art - even for ones without a continuing story line, there is a continuity of characters and general background that is usually needed to be understood by the reader to get full enjoyment/understanding - and limitations of the medium make it awkward/difficult/impossible for the author to provide the character and background info explicitly, at least very often (or nothing would ever happen). It was suggested that readers could look outside for that info (the strip’s website was mentioned, wikipedia wasn’t - perhaps it was not yet ubiquitous at that point), while others argued strips should be self-contained and not require the reader to do “research”. (Obviously, a web comic - at least on it’s own site - has an advantage here, as the ancillary info is collocated with the strip itself. I don’t think a consensus was reached…

  17. James Pollock May 20th 2017 at 12:11 pm 17

    Comic strips aren’t alone in this regard.
    TV (and, in the olden times, radio) is also episodic, thus creating the need to simultaneously appeal to the fans who’ve been there since day one, and the fans who’ve just turned up today for the first time. It’s not always the same… some comedy comes from having a knowledge of the characters, while some comes from just the situation. (The ultimate case of the latter, it turns out, isn’t even a scripted “sitcom”… it’s “America’s Funniest Videos”. You don’t need to know the characters at all, just laugh because that man got smacked in the testicles.)

    TV shows used a variety of methods of doing this. “Gilligan’s Island” explains the whole premise in the theme song, and so did “The Brady Bunch” “Cheers” set the tone with the theme, but didn’t actually spell out the premise. “How I Met Your Mother” doesn’t even have words in it’s theme song, and they used Bob Saget’s future Ted narrator to provide exposition. On the drama side, Consider the exposition from the narrator in the intros for “Superman”or “Law & Order”… which fans can repeat word-for-word… and the entirely wordless intro to “Batman: The Animated Series” or “ER”. Some shows need to open with a “Previously, on (show)…” recap, others don’t need to, and sometimes shows incorporate or don’t incorporate these depending on an episode-by-episode basis… sometimes they use them, and sometimes they don’t.

    Getting back to the original question (”Does the comic-strip writer have a “duty” to help newcomers to the strip to understand the characters and settings”), I’d come down on the “no” or maybe “OK, but not very much” side of the argument. Storytellers who work in a sequential medium (novelists, for example) have control over the order in which a person encounters the story. Some literary styles have fairly rigid rules, others are more flexible. For example, a mystery story reveals the identity of the murderer either at the end (traditional) or in the beginning. Nobody but Dick Wolf reveals the killer’s identity right at the midpoint. Storytellers working in an episodic format don’t have that kind of control.
    A comic strip artist needs to have a visually distinctive style. The cats in “heathcliff” don’t look like the cats in “Garfield” (and of course, except for Faron, who appeared before Schulz decided he couldn’t draw cats and quickly disappeared as a result of that realization, cats don’t even appear on-panel in Peanuts.)
    The writers of comic strips need to tell a complete story, usually including a joke, in a few words. They need to tell good stories and funny jokes, and not worry about whether every newcomer thinks. That takes care of itself… since the primary way most people experience comics is still by their association with a newspaper, they’re going to keep getting a strip for a period of weeks or months, by which time they will be up to speed.
    I’ll finish with a personal story. The strip is the well-known Calvin and Hobbes. I was fortunate, and a paper available to me started carrying Calvin right at the beginning, and so I was first exposed starting on about the third Calvin and Hobbes strip ever. There was this kid, and a “realistic” tiger, except sometimes the tiger wasn’t in it, with no explanation given. The first couple of strips were confusing. But, you know what? I get it now, even though Bill Watterson never did come out and answer the question of whether Hobbes is really a tiger who hides himself as a stuffed animal when others are around, or if Hobbes is a figment of Calvin’s imagination. Turns out, it doesn’t matter, either way.

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