Here's proof that a) there really is something to this Long Tail business and b) if you just hang in long enough you'll see everything: Mary Worth is now the hippest item in American culture. For how many years—nearly two decades, I think—have I been loyally following the benumbed antics of Mary and her uninteresting cronies at Charterstone, secure in the knowledge that no area of fandom could be more reliably recondite, more secure from the possibility of attracting popular attention?
No more. It's not just the Comics Curmudgeon whose Mary devotion has hit the big time (though he certainly helped). This Palm Beach Post report gives the skinny on how the recent "Aldo Kelrast" plot brought the funny papers' meddling dowager into the national spotlight. As the Curmudgeon notes, this plot now appears to be wrapping up in characteristic MW style: with a superlame anticlimax. But while the Aldo-stalks-Mary intrigue was percolating, it generated a scorching sum of Aldomania. (Get your t-shirt here.)
This success has, maybe inevitably, been achieved at some cost to the purity of the vision. It must be said that during Karen Moy's tenure, Mary Worth has been substantially more interesting and eventful than it was under the late John Saunders. But the comic's elemental, Beckettesque stiffness, its Jim's Journal-type silence and alienation, have been lost. It was my pal Mr. Cutlets who first identified Mary Worth as the only American work of absurdist art that ranks with the European masters, but that was back in the mid and late nineties. These days, Mary Worth doesn't really work as Ionesco, but it's a more entertaining read. That's a boon to the majority of us who now have to follow Mary's adventures online rather than getting a daily dose of cosmic futility in the local paper. But was entertainment ever really the goal of Mary Worth? This must-see video from ZeroTV, in which three actors reproduce the impossible blocking, disconnected gestures, and random accentuations of a classic Mary Worth strip, makes the point eloquently: To find the right material, they had to go all the way back to the "Dud Ford" plot of 1998. The film is adapted from the "Dud Ford" plot of 1998, back when the strip's stilted existential horror was at its peak.
Excelsior, Mary. I was reading you when the parvenus didn't even know your name, and I'll still be here when they've moved on.