Mary, Mary, Why Ya Buggin'?


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.

NEXT: A Bunch of Buncombe

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  1. I don’t know if it’s just that time of the month or what, but I read this post, thought about the polemicism and low-hanging contrarian fruit mistaken for libertarianism that infests H&R lately and thought: see? Someone here can really write.

  2. the only American work of absurdist art that ranks with the European masters

    Almost. In ’86 or so, Dave Thomas from Pere Ubu (which is kind of a hint) made an album called Monster Walks the Winter Lake that’s so pointedly retarded, you’d swear it’s French. Nobody bought it. It’s great.

    Nowadays, there’s 12 oz. Mouse on Cartoon Network almost every Sunday night. Nobody likes it, but (or because) it’s the most perfect absurdist drama ever made–possibly accidentally so, but hey, even better.

  3. Panel 1: I married the girl who introduced me to Jim’s Journal.

    Panel 2: …

    Panel 3: …

    Panel 4: She left me two years later.

  4. Next you’ll be telling me that Sterolab rules. *Shudder*

  5. The sheer awesomeness of the Run-DMC reference in the title makes my head explode. (And not the one that sits on my neck, either.)

  6. I should point out that the video you linked to was actually made in 1998, when the Dud Ford plot was still in full swing. I have no idea what series of twists and turns brought the video onto the Interweb, but it appears to have happened in 2002, based on comments posted on the 0TV site. Thank God that very little on the Internet ever really goes away.

    One of the commentors on my blog (and thanks again, Reasonistas, for linking to it) said that the video seemed like Guy Maddin movie, which seems about right.


  7. The sheer awesomeness of the Run-DMC reference in the title makes my head explode.

    I was just thinking… how many political blogs do you think would use a Run-DMC reference. Two, maybe three? Maybe it’s because Penn and Teller use to hang out in their videos.

  8. Josh,
    Have you thought about dumping the chafe and going for a site soely dedicated to Mary Worth? I love your site, but I feel the more dedicated scope of a site like This week in Milford may be in order.

  9. BTW, I think the slowest-moving comic ever was Spiderman when it ran in my local paper. Typical strip:

    Panel 1: Spiderman.

    Panel 2: Spiderman: “Ah…”

    Panel 3: Spiderman: “… ah …”

    Panel 4: Spiderman: “… ah … CHOOOOO!”


  10. The paper asked Moy:

    Q: Have Mary and Dr. Cory even had sex?

    A: I’ll leave that to the readers’ imagination.



    (A big Joe Giella fan, but I never want to see him draw that!)

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