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<   No. 1083   2006-01-13   >

Comic #1083

1 Ginny: {appearing suddenly in the train compartment, catching Monty with her open suitcase} Aha! Caught you red-handed!
2 Monty: How ironic, comrade. But there's no orichalcum in there anyway. What does it matter?
3 Ginny: You've committed a crime against a Soviet citizen on Soviet soil. Legal representatives of your government can't petition for your release now.
4 Monty: As if that matters to Stalin?
4 Ginny: Lawyers give his dogs indigestion.

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Every so often, a raft of things fall into place and produce a comic I'm really proud of. I think this is one of the best strips I've done.

Every time I say I really like one of my strips, I hear readers say things like, "Eh, it was okay," or "I didn't get it." But, you know, that's okay. Deep down, I make these comics because I enjoy it, and I aim to produce things that I think are clever and/or hopefully funny.

Having said that, let me give you a bit of insight into what makes this particular strip special for me.

  1. The punchline. It's not the greatest punchline I've done, but it's sharp, and punchy, and uses the classic twist of the unexpected to generate the humour. As if legal niceties matter to Stalin? Well, no, actually, they don't really. Stalin is the sort of guy who'll do whatever he pleases, whether anyone likes it or not. That's the accusation Monty is making. Ginny counters with the unexpected statement that, no, it's not that at all that would bother Stalin. It's the fact that when he sics his dogs on the lawyers, they'll get indigestion. She's saying Stalin is even more nasty than Monty's accusation. Not what you'd expect from a loyal communist.
  2. It's a lawyer joke. C'mon, that's comedy gold right there.
  3. The opening pun. Ginny caught Monty red-handed. She's a communist. Get it?
  4. Monty comments on the pun (which is an unintentional pun by Ginny) in character. He stresses the word comrade to do so. This bit of dialogue shows Monty's attitude to Ginny and (I think) it really helps develop the relationship between these characters. Monty is a little bit attracted to Ginny - she's smart, competent, and into archaeology; what's not to love? But he's disgusted by her politics and loyalties. He can't overlook those, so he goes out of his way to criticise her on them whenever he can. It's the old love-hate thing. And I think I nailed it this time.
  5. The close up in the final panel. Monty really wants to pick a fight here. He's getting into Ginny's personal space, and in a confrontational way. The close up makes it work.
  6. If any of you got this one, I'll be really happy: Stalin's dogs references George Orwell's classic satire Animal Farm, which is an overt commentary on Soviet totalitarianism from the Russian Revolution of 1917 through to the 1940s. The character of Napoleon is a pig who is based on Stalin, and rules the farm through his use of nine vicious attack dogs, which represent Stalin's bodyguards and secret police.
I realise analysing my own work in this depth is the height of pretentiousness, but heck, I really liked this strip after I'd made it, and I wanted to share with you the reasons why.

A reader has pointed out another feature of this strip. Monty uses the word "ironic", which has echoes of "iron" in it. This is significant for three reasons:

  1. Iron is a metal (like orichalcum) strongly associated with the colour red (like orichalcum). So there are hints here of a possible correspondence between the metals, and to the colour red, associated with communism.
  2. Iron is also associated with communism because of the Iron Curtain (which didn't exist until 1945, but hey).
  3. The name "Stalin" literally means "man of steel" in Russian, steel of course being a refined form of iron.
How about that? An unintended triple pun! And all done a mere two words into panel 2.
2015-04-15 Rerun commentary: Wow, there's not much more to add here. Except that this strip is really brown.

You can see reflections of the elder Joneses in the wall behind Monty and Ginny. When taking photos like this, I need to be careful not to have an obvious reflection of the camera visible in shot.

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