Keeping things current?

This comic ended in 2012, and is in reruns. But apparently someone is working to update the comics, and keep the date “right.”

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I’m impressed that they’re keeping things in sync enough that a post-New Years comic is running a little after January 1st, and that someone is actually reading the comic and noticing that the year needs updating. On the other hand, I find it a little jarring to see the date changed on old comics to makes storylines “recent,” when I remember them occurring a decade ago. And on the gripping hand, I find it immensely jarring to see these characters discussing how “a lot happened in 2020,” and not including the most prominent and obvious thing that happened in 2020.

What do you think?

(And as a side note: Does listing all the things that happened during the year seem like a strange response to “Where did [the year] go?”)

52 Comments

  1. It would be quite funny if it was a real comic from 2021 discussing 2020, with the characters being absorbed in their soap opera lives and ignoring the bigger world around them. But if it is just a paste of the number 2020 in place of 2012, then it is jarring.

    And yes, it does seem odd too to say “where did the year go” with all those eventful personal events. Years going by quickly often mean, to me anyway, that little has happened. Each day may drag, but the whole year passes in a blur as there are few bumps to pin memories to and one long dull day is much like another.

  2. I agree with Wallaby’s comments, though I’m not all that impressed by the date update.

    I also don’t understand Lynn Johnston’s continued insistence on updating dates in For Better or For Worse. I thought she’d dropped that conceit entirely until a few weeks ago when I saw it done again. But nothing else in the strip is updated — phones, TVs, current events.

    Comic strips that take place in an indefinite present (like Luann) can ignore the pandemic without real harm. But if you’re going to explicitly state that your strip is taking place in 2021 while ignoring the public health emergency, that’s just weird.

  3. I meant to do some digging in the Lila archives, but haven’t gotten to it. (Have you see the joke ads for “a round tuite”?). The questions are * has there always or often been a New Year review, including when it was all new & what is the length of the story repeat cycle (hence does New Year fall in the same place of the cycle? Unlikely).

  4. Even if I didn’t know this strip ended quite some time ago, that “2020” really looks like it was added in place of a different year.

  5. That is the second reference to the “gripping hand” for a 3rd option in single week (from the 3 handed aliens in The Mote in God’s Eye). Is this just a weird coincidence?

  6. Another year January 01 was on Sunday (2017) and the Lila sunday color was a review-of-year. But it was a different part of the story.

  7. “Does listing all the things that happened during the year seem like a strange response to “Where did [the year] go?””

    Well, I’ll say, no. That seems completely normal thing to say to me. Saying “where did the year go” is feeling it’s too soon to have a new year and we barely filled up the old one with anything significant, but pointing out that a lot happened means that, okay, maybe we did have a full year after all and it’s okay that it actually ended and it is time to start a new one.

    As for the dates, considering every piece of media ever since June 2020 has been making jokes that everyone has been crying “Jeezus, will this year ever end” it’s completely weird and bizarre to imagine anyone in a comic (maybe a real person in real life might say it– absolutely nothing happened to me this year since March… but I can’t say time passed quickly) but no one in a comic strip would ever comment that 2020 was over “already”.

    It has been noted time and time again that this is the one year that no-one would say that.

  8. But nothing else in the strip is updated — phones, TVs, current events.

    The strip is updated occasionally, notably to add safety gear for children and adjust prices for things.

  9. I mentioned the TV show NCIS-LA some time back as one with no C-19. Later episodes makes it seem like it’s near-future, where the virus happened but isn’t a current problem. Callen’s girlfriend is supposedly working with a group helping communities recover from C-19 and/or wildfires.

  10. “That is the second reference to the “gripping hand” for a 3rd option in single week (from the 3 handed aliens in The Mote in God’s Eye). Is this just a weird coincidence?”

    I think it mostly means that CIDU includes a higher-than-average proportion of several minorities, including SF fans.

  11. Today’s “Red and Rover” by Brian Basset, has Red discussing Martin Luther King’s “I Had a Dream” speech with Rover. The strip supposedly takes place in the 1950’s, and the speech was given in 1963. Not to mention that white people’s attitude toward Dr. King was not then what it is now.

  12. I am of the SF tribe, or at least was more in the past than now… I even had a few short stories published15-20 years ago, mainly in UK sf mag Interzone but one or two other places too. Like Enta Geweorc, set in Cheddar (which is four miles from where I am now) on a post-apocalyptic Earth after a massive war for which our self-obsessed “hero” bears a good deal of responsibility.

    To keep slightly in the theme of this post, this 2004-published story was based on my own half-page squib idea written in 1976, when I was 18! However, I did do a lot more than change dates.

    https://tangentonline.com/print-bi-monthly/interzone/interzone-195-november-2004/ for a review.

  13. Carl Hiiassen’s latest book “Squeeze Me” published about Mayish of 2020 is one of those wierd sci-fi ish “present day” books. It was clearly written before Covid and it was hastily added to make references to Covid but as in what some of the responses to covid were. That… puts it in a weird time in that it takes place in the present but; covid has run it’s course and we muddled incompetently through it; and the president at the time that the book was written had apparently been re-inaugorated (his inaugoration was specificially mentioned with reference to covid) in theaftermath and the book takes place in Jan to March of ….. some year.

  14. I still participate, although with gaps, in the usenet group rec.arts.sf.written. I wish they’d discuss SF more and other stuff less. When I get irritated enough, I take a break.

  15. A guy named Drew is pregnant?

    I do find it irritating when a rerun strip has Christmas in, say, July. Or when their obviously Sunday strips run on a weekday.

    Brian: I dislike NCIS-LA, but NCIS Nola is one of my favorite.

    Arthur: I think you’re right about SF fans. (I’ll note that my first Worldcon was in 1974).

    narmitaj: Nice countryside, Somerset. Thanks for the link to the story “Enta Geweorc.” I’m not sure how to imagine a “sentient black hole,” but that’s for another occasion. I haven’t time to read the whole thing now, but I will.

    Woozy: All I know about Carl Hiiassen comes from Frazz.

  16. I dislike NCIS-LA, but NCIS Nola is one of my favorite.

    For me, original is best, followed by LA, then NO last.

  17. mitch4: Did they think people no longer know Nora Ephron?

    I think it’s more likely that they thought the “gay men are like women” basis of the 2010 joke doesn’t fly as well in 2021.

  18. I go with the original – which we watch weekly – and then NOLA – which I watch in reruns and often put on at 5 or 6 am to have on very low volume to help me fall asleep (it is familiar voices and I need that to fall asleep). Have watched LA and on and off and somehow it come a far third.

  19. Another possibility for changing the Nora Ephron joke is that she died between those two versions.

    Justin Thompson of Mythtickle also occasionally updates his reruns.The most recent one I can think of had Boody wishing for a PS5 instead of something else. Don’t remember what.

    @MiB: Red and Rover is set in the mid to late 60s, not 1953. There’s an active manned space program, but it’s not entirely clear if we’ve reached the Moon yet. Consider also the big brother’s hairstyle and the fact that he drives a Beetle. The strip is semi-autobiographic and Basset was born in 1957, with Red being 8 or 9. So the MLK speech wasn’t anachronistic, but the 1/19 strip mentioning the new president having two dogs certainly is.

    I am also a long time SF reader. I also write for the Galactic Journey (galacticjourney.org) and thus have a tiny share in a Hugo nomination.

  20. @ Boise Ed – “Earth’s uplifted weapons on both sides defected, disappearing into a sentient black hole of their own fabrication” –

    These days I’d probably say something like a “Singularity” of their own making, which is much the same idea – but basically some sort of artificial intelligence leap that we meatbrains can’t follow.

  21. I think this whole chain misses the real question, which is “Rather than rerunning strips for a decade (or more) after the artist stopped writing it, why not give new artists a chance and run a new strip?”

  22. Charles Shultz did this in Peanuts with one strip, in which Linus told Sally “I thought little girls were supposed to be trusting.” Sally’s response was “Welcome to [year]” and whenever that strip was repeated, it was updated.

  23. On NCIS – I watch only the original now, though I did follow the NOLA version for about the first season and a half. I’m a bit ashamed at the top reason I stopped, so I usually mention the second one, that there was just too much celebration of local color. Okay okay we all know NO is the most special city in the U.S. you don’t have to make the point a half dozen times in every hour.

    But speaking of NCIS original recipe, are they in an over extended break right now? The other branches of the franchise seem to have come back from the holidays with a couple new episodes each, while the D.C. one has been absent.

  24. ::”Another possibility for changing the Nora Ephron joke is that she died between those two versions.”

    And….? We can’t talk about dead people?

    ::”the real question, which is “Rather than rerunning strips for a decade (or more) after the artist stopped writing it, why not give new artists a chance and run a new strip?””

    That’s a question but a question I found really puzzling is why not just admit these are reruns and leave the strips with old dates in? I mean are we supposed to be so dumb we don’t know they are reruns. Or are we some how supposed to accept the are reruns but go ape-ziti when we realize they actually don’t take place today? Or what.

    There was the opposite joke on the Simpsons once when, I don’t remember the details Krusty the Klown puts on a rerun and says something like “my audience changes so quickly they won’t remember this one and they won’t notice” and then the Krusty on the rerun is handed a bulletin and announces “Oh, no! Iraq has just invaded Kuwait. Oh, no kids!” and launches into a political analysis that pertains only to that particular date in time years and years earlier. (It’s funnier than I describe it.)

  25. “And….? We can’t talk about dead people?”

    We can, but “you look like a woman,” and “you look like a dead woman” are substantially different jokes.

    I think DemetriosX has it right, and I retract my earlier explanation.

  26. So….. I said you look like Audrey Hepburn …. that would be an insult? Or if I said you looked like Queen Victoria that wouldn’t be funny?

    I’m sorry. I’m really not getting these things everyone seems to take for granted.

  27. Audrey Hepburn and Queen Victoria are so iconic that if you were to say I looked like one of them, I think most Americans would understand you to mean Hepburn in her 30s or Queen Victoria in her 70s. When someone, like Nora Ephron, is not as iconic, it’s less clear what age of appearance you’re referring to. Since it’s not clear, it’s natural to default to their current appearance. But that’s confusing if they’re currently a corpse.

  28. @DemetriosX: Actually the new president having two dogs is NOT anachronistic if the strip is set on, say, December 6, 1963, one day before Lyndon Johnson moved into the White House with the two beagles Him and Her.

  29. But speaking of NCIS original recipe, are they in an over extended break right now?

    Winter breaks are typical for many shows. They are running two new episodes tonight.

  30. ” if the strip is set on, say, December 6, 1963, one day before Lyndon Johnson moved into the White House with the two beagles Him and Her.”

    That certainly isn’t possible. The text says “tommorrow we get a new leader” and not “the leader we’ve had for two week is moving into the white house”. For obvious reason no-one knew the day before LBJ was sworn in that he would be… unless Red/Rover was in on it. … (hmmm, that would explain…. absolutely nothing)

    Actually, do comics strips have to take place in any time? After all, they don’t exist in this universe clearly so why should it matter if the refer to Biden one day, and talk about the cartoonists childhood the next?

    How many dogs did Nixon have when he moved in?

  31. Jan 19, 1969. MLK has be dead for 9 months, and Nixon coming in with two dogs; Pasha and Vicki.

    Both strips work just fine that way.

  32. deety (JANUARY 19, 2021 AT 7:29 AM): I guess you’re right. Now that you bring it up, there’s the famous Drew Barrymore.

  33. I wasn’t sure if Nixon had two or three dogs when he moved into the White House. Did King Timahoe come later? I suppose it works, although I find it hard to believe Basset would write Red as being excited about Nixon. Also there’s an implied contrast with the previous President as an improvement. LBJ had three dogs in 1969, so Nixon’s two would be a step down in Red’s eyes.

  34. “although I find it hard to believe Basset would write Red as being excited about Nixon.”

    Yeah, that did occur to me…. but if the cartoonist is committed to having it be in the 60s but being relevent to today, a bit of research to notice “I need a cartoon about inaugaration day…. what did nixon’s inaugaurtation have in common with Biden’s that Red and Rover would care about” and with the new fangled innerwebs, it wouldn’t be too much effort to realize… both moved in with two dogs is easy to research. (although nixons weren’t “his and his wiife’s” but his two daughters).

    I’m not as familiar with Red and Rover as others are… how “committed” to the 60s is the cartoonist and is it a treaded line as I implied?

  35. Mitch4: Yes, Him and Her had big ears that LBJ apparently could not resist, and he did get a lot of flak.

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