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Nothing ever makes sense in Brenda Starr

In a way, that is the beauty of it

It embarrasses me to admit this, but I am a compulsive funnies reader. Show me a drawing with a box around it and no matter how stupid the joke, I’ll read it. I’ll read it even if there isn’t any joke. I read Dick Tracy. I read Gil Thorpe. Hell, I’ll even read Dondi, which gives you an idea how desperate my condition is.

Do I find these strips entertaining? Not in the slightest. The whole thing is strictly Pavlovian. They put ’em in the paper, and I read 'em. Simple as that.

However, even the most incorrigible funnies addict has some standards, loose though they may be. For one thing, I demand that my funnies be . . . how shall we say . . . linear. I require that they make a particle or two of sense every once in a while. I expect not to have to be equipped with a freaking Ouija board to figure out what the hell is going on.

For the most part, the funnies are pretty good about meeting these elementary requirements. But there is one conspicuous exception, which no troo-bloo comics aficionado will have any trouble guessing: Brenda Starr.

Brenda Starr, I think we may fairly state, has gone completely off the deep end. It all started several years ago, when Brenda married her “mystery man,’’ Basil St. John. Basil is this black-haired hunk with an eye patch who is supposed to be a brilliant scientist with a laboratory out on an island somewhere, where he raises black orchids, whose chief characteristic, apart from being black, is that they are the size of watermelons and thus (presumably) easier to draw. From these Basil periodically cooks up a mess of black orchid serum, which is apparently all that stands between him and lingering death, although the details of this are not real clear to me. The result, at any rate, is that in days of old Basil was never around.

Meanwhile, Brenda worked at the Flash, which was the world’s greatest newspaper, despite the fact that its employees — namely, “the city room gang,’ — never did anything but gossip all day long about the exploits of La Starr (i.e., Brenda), who was the paper’s star reporter even though she had never written a story in her life and spent most of her time getting involved in ridiculous adventures. Most of these involved romance of some sort, owing to the fact that Brenda was (and is) the world’s most beautiful woman, her advanced age (the strip started in 1940) notwithstanding. Brenda rejected all her suitors, however, and pined for her mystery man, whose principal contribution was to mail black orchids to her via parcel post from time to time, with maybe an actual appearance every five years.

Brenda thus led the ultimate female fantasy life — she had a supposedly glamorous job, she never got any older, and she had a handsome stud on the leash whose constant absence meant that (a) she never had to pick up his dirty underwear and laugh at his dumb jokes, and (b) she got to mourn piteously for him whenever the plot started to run out of gas, which was about every two weeks.

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Then disaster struck. In a fit of whimsy. Dale Messick, the strip’s author (since retired), decided to have Basil St. John actually settle down and marry Brenda. This tragic miscalculation had predictable consequences. You cannot have a mystery man if he is going to be hanging around the house getting underfoot all the time. What little inherent drama the strip had to begin with was instantly drained away.

The situation was made even worse when Brenda and Basil had a kid, upon whom they inflicted the nauseating moniker Starr Twinkle. Within weeks after her birth, Starr Twinkle was making ironic asides in the last panel of the Sunday strip, a job that had formerly been the province of the pigeons that roost outside the Flash’s skyscraper. In short, the whole thing was getting disgustingly domestic.

Realizing this, Ms. Messick began to resort to progressively more bizarre plot devices to inject a little life into the flagging story line, culminating in one of the most astonishing about-faces in the history of comicdom. But here let me recount the twisted narrative thread of the last few years.

We pick up the story in September, 1980. Plotwise, we are talking strictly Sahara Desert. No living thing stirs. Dale Messick ponders: what to do? A solution leaps to mind — assassinate Basil St. John. She has the happy couple and several hundred intimate friends crowd into a balloon for a ride over the Bermuda Triangle. This is a completely insane thing for Basil St. John and company to do, of course, but we must remember that Dale Messick is a woman at the end of her rope.

Predictably, the balloon goes down during a storm. Brenda and Basil are separated; she is rescued.

She reaches into the water and finds . . . Basil’s eye patch. Oh, woe, thinks Brenda. Happy day, think the readers. Brenda mourns. And mourns. Weeks pass. The readers think. For Chrissake, let’s get the show on the road.

Finally Brenda’s boss, Mr. Livwright, assigns her a story to take her mind off her troubles — get an interview with the reclusive Cash Wallstreet, billionaire and flaming asshole. Wallstreet, who has a sort of psychopathic handsomeness about him, instantly flips for Brenda, setting off an unspeakably tedious string of escapades in which he tries with the delicacy of a train wreck to win her heart. She demurs. He persists. The months drag on.

Dale Messick can see this is going nowhere. She is suddenly inspired. She has Mr. Livwright sell the paper to Wallstreet. Wallstreet, master of subtlety, moves a giant couch into the editor’s office. Brenda regards this as ominous.

Wallstreet makes yet another proposition. Brenda rejects him. Wallstreet has a heart attack. Nonetheless, he is back on his feet two weeks later. He threatens he will close the paper unless Brenda marries him. She says okay, on the theory that the wedding will get massive publicity that Basil St. John will see, despite having drowned, whereupon he will come to her rescue. (I know this doesn’t make any sense. Nothing ever makes sense in Brenda Starr. In a way, that is the beauty of it.).

Mr. Livwright decides enuf is enuf. He buys the paper back somehow. Cash Wallstreet sets fire to Livwright’s desk (no kidding). He is arrested for arson. The Flash is saved.

More stupidities transpire. The story line gets more incomprehensible by the day. Dale Messick invents a long, preposterous yam involving one Asha Wallclimber, an unemployed window washer who sneaks up to Brenda’s terrace to . . . oh, you don’t want to know. After the passage of many monotonous months, it develops that Asha has been hired by Cash Wallstreet to either drive Brenda insane, or min her reputation, or something. I can’t figure it out, and neither can anybody else. Messick realizes she had better do something fast.

So what does she do? The obvious thing, of course. She has Cash Wallstreet throw a bomb into the city room. Brenda’s hit. She’s in a coma. She wakes up to find — Basil St. John. He tells Brenda that she tripped on the bathroom floor and has been delirious ever since. In other words. Cash Wallstreet, Asha Wallclimber, Basil’s own disappearance, and for that matter, all the events of the preceding year never really happened.

Brenda is speechless. The reading public is speechless. I’m speechless. Never before in the history of the funnies has an author been so brazen as to attempt to expunge the preceding 365 episodes from the record.

But is Dale Messick content with this? She is not. She has Cash Wallstreet make a reappearance. Only this time he’s Dr. Mackey, the city’s top psychiatrist, whom Brenda saw briefly while delirious. Dr. Mackey is going to try to treat her for her Cash Wallstreet delusion. Only — you ’ll never guess — he falls madly in love with her. He pursues. She resists. He gets involved in a plane crash. He almost dies. He miraculously recovers. He chases her to a ski lodge.

Around the nation, baffled crowds begin to gather on street corners. Crumpled copies of old funnies pages are passed around and examined. The word spreads: Brenda Starr has totally lost her mind.

Meanwhile, the plot situation continues to deteriorate. Dr. Mackey disappears from the scene. Messick demotes thirty-eight consecutive strips to a story based on the premise that Brenda Starr, ace reporter and the world’s most beautiful woman, cannot cook. Readers are aghast.

Messick strikes down Mr. Livwright, the Flash’s editor, with a fatal heart attack and replaces him with his tyrannical sister Nevera from Australia. There follows a long, completely baffling sequence involving Nevera’s attempt to ban coffee from the newsroom, which the limitations of the English language prevent me from recapitulating here. Then Nevera tries to drive Brenda insane, for some reason. Then we get a forty-seven-strip reprise of the Brenda-can’t-cook theme. Then Basil St. John, who is now back on the scene fulltime, spends a week trying to get laid (by Brenda, his wife, of course). However, she is exhausted by a total of eighty-five days of unsuccessful attempts to cook. So are the readers, who have taken to doing the Jumble. Some are starting to eye Mary Worth with undisguised longing.

At this moment of extremity. Providence intervenes. Dale Messick announces her retirement. The strip’s distributor hires a new writer by the name of Linda Sutter, a former ABC television reporter. She and Ramona Fradon, an artist who has been doing the drawing for a couple of years, take over the strip altogether on November 14, 1982. The nation breathes a sigh of relief.

But incredibly things get even worse. Brenda takes a leave of absence from the Flash to go visit California with Basil (who is still seething with sexual frustration), Starr Twinkle, and Gertie the maid. There they meet Professor Kissintel, who is employed as a mad scientist in the Silicon Valley. And what rollicking, freewheeling, wacky, zany adventure do they embark upon? They go out to play golf. For four and a half weeks. Incredible.

Still, we must not make too much of this. A protracted golf game is just the sort of tedious digression that would have intrigued Dale Messick. Sutter and Fradon have yet fully to place their stamp on the strip.

It turns out that Professor Kissintel has developed a revolutionary new silicon chip. And where has he hidden it? In the ball he has spent the last forty-one panels knocking around the golf course. (Admittedly this is a mad scientist we’re dealing with here.) Naturally, the balls get mixed up, and Kissintel’s ends up in Gertie the maid’s golf bag. A Keystone Kops collection of foreign agents suddenly appears and chases Gertie all over the funny pages. The chip somehow migrates (pay attention now) into Starr Twinkle’s Cap’n Zoom video game, where it is discovered by the ever-vigilant Basil. The Arabs kidnap Brenda, wrap her in a rug, hoist her on a derrick, and dangle her over a cliff at the Pebble Beach golf course. They offer to trade her for the chip. The Keystone Kops foreign agents chase around madly in panel trucks. The FBI shows up. Basil looks grim. Chaos reigns.

At this point Fradon and Sutter’s peculiar style of creativity has reached its full flower. Brenda continues to dangle over the Pacific for twenty-one days, during which time her chief concern is not that she will be killed, but that she, a print reporter, will lose the story of her impending death to television, in the form of a traffic helicopter that happens on the scene. However, Brenda is brave. She refuses to submit to an interview by the hovering TV reporters. Network executive Bull Bombard is alerted to her predicament and is immediately entranced by her ravishing beauty and firm devotion to principles. “I want her!” he declares. Wisecracks bloom like dandelions as print reporters jostle their TV brethren.

Basil hustles out to Pebble Beach and decides to trade the chip to the Arabs for Brenda. Unfortunately, one of the Keystone Kops foreign agents bumps his hand, and the chip falls into the Pacific. And that’s it! That’s the stunning climax of four months of development. The next day Brenda and Basil are staring dreamily into the sunset. It is the stupidest thing you have ever seen in your life.

However, Fradon and Sutter are not through. The psychotic story line simply enters a new and even more depraved stage. Fradon and Sutter decide they will use the Bull Bombard character as the basis for a lampoon of ABC News president Roone Arledge. Trouble is, most people have never heard of Roone Arledge, with the result that the reading public is completely baffled.

But Fradon and Sutter do not care. They’re struck by an inexplicable and vaguely horrifying spell of wanton creativity. Subplots begin multiplying like rabbits. A mysterious stranger appears out of Basil St. John’s past. Two even stranger characters sail across the Atlantic in an Incan reed boat (I know, wrong ocean, but this is the funnies). Nevera Livwright hatches some new plot. The Incan reed boat is sucked into the vortex of the Bermuda Triangle. Basil invites Brenda to a fancy restaurant to meet his mysterious friend. The Incan reed boat escapes the vortex. Bull Bombard shows up at the restaurant and asks Brenda to be a guest on the Have a Good Day, America show (a takeoff of ABC’s Good Morning America) where she will be interviewed by Dan-Dave Hearty (who is supposed to be a send-up of GMA host David Hartman). Nevera continues to plot. The Incan reed boat makes it to New York, where an Incan chief and a dwarf in lederhosen disembark (I’m serious). When a hotel clerk won’t give the two a room, the chief puts the whammy on him by swinging his arms and going “Z-Z-Z-Z-Z.” Brenda appears on Have a Good Day, America. Numerous cryptic remarks are exchanged by Brenda, Bull, Dan-Dave, et al., which are supposed to skewer the foibles of the TV industry but which instead suggest that the authors need a long rest in a darkened room.

Meanwhile, Basil St. John decides he must leave on some indeterminate but vital mission. “Why must this dark force control my destiny?’’ he ruminates. Bull Bombard wants Brenda to come work for the network. A telegram summons Brenda to the Flash, where it is revealed that the dwarf in lederhosen (now outfitted in conventional attire, mercifully) is really Farewell Livwright, a three-quarter-scale version of the deceased Atwell Livwright, who is taking over as publisher in chief. Nevera is furious; she says Farewell knows nothing about publishing. Farewell proves that he does by ordering up a front-page headline in thirty-four-point type, conveniently ignoring the fact that thirty-four-point type is virtually unknown in the industry. Starr Twinkle is mad because her mother refuses to become a famous TV reporter. Nevera Livwright retaliates against the city room gang by installing a window washer’s scaffold on the outside of the Flash skyscraper for her to sit on. (No one in North America can fathom this.) Basil splits for parts unknown, leaving only a watermelon-sized black orchid on Brenda’s pillow. Starr Twinkle runs away to follow her father. And finally as of a couple of Sundays ago — Brenda discovers that her entire family has taken a powder. Her heart is broken. Stay tuned.

Now, what are we to make of this? I mean, Incan reed boats? Dwarfs in lederhosen? People wrapped up in rugs dangling over the Pacific? The Bermuda Triangle?

Thirty-four-point type? It takes my breath away just to think about it. The suspense gets more intense by the day — will anything rational ever occur in Brenda Starr? Will I ever learn to quit reading the funnies and find something useful to do with my time?

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Fortunate Son: “Working class American-Chinese food”

I pause to think about how much of a staple these things have been in my life.

It embarrasses me to admit this, but I am a compulsive funnies reader. Show me a drawing with a box around it and no matter how stupid the joke, I’ll read it. I’ll read it even if there isn’t any joke. I read Dick Tracy. I read Gil Thorpe. Hell, I’ll even read Dondi, which gives you an idea how desperate my condition is.

Do I find these strips entertaining? Not in the slightest. The whole thing is strictly Pavlovian. They put ’em in the paper, and I read 'em. Simple as that.

However, even the most incorrigible funnies addict has some standards, loose though they may be. For one thing, I demand that my funnies be . . . how shall we say . . . linear. I require that they make a particle or two of sense every once in a while. I expect not to have to be equipped with a freaking Ouija board to figure out what the hell is going on.

For the most part, the funnies are pretty good about meeting these elementary requirements. But there is one conspicuous exception, which no troo-bloo comics aficionado will have any trouble guessing: Brenda Starr.

Brenda Starr, I think we may fairly state, has gone completely off the deep end. It all started several years ago, when Brenda married her “mystery man,’’ Basil St. John. Basil is this black-haired hunk with an eye patch who is supposed to be a brilliant scientist with a laboratory out on an island somewhere, where he raises black orchids, whose chief characteristic, apart from being black, is that they are the size of watermelons and thus (presumably) easier to draw. From these Basil periodically cooks up a mess of black orchid serum, which is apparently all that stands between him and lingering death, although the details of this are not real clear to me. The result, at any rate, is that in days of old Basil was never around.

Meanwhile, Brenda worked at the Flash, which was the world’s greatest newspaper, despite the fact that its employees — namely, “the city room gang,’ — never did anything but gossip all day long about the exploits of La Starr (i.e., Brenda), who was the paper’s star reporter even though she had never written a story in her life and spent most of her time getting involved in ridiculous adventures. Most of these involved romance of some sort, owing to the fact that Brenda was (and is) the world’s most beautiful woman, her advanced age (the strip started in 1940) notwithstanding. Brenda rejected all her suitors, however, and pined for her mystery man, whose principal contribution was to mail black orchids to her via parcel post from time to time, with maybe an actual appearance every five years.

Brenda thus led the ultimate female fantasy life — she had a supposedly glamorous job, she never got any older, and she had a handsome stud on the leash whose constant absence meant that (a) she never had to pick up his dirty underwear and laugh at his dumb jokes, and (b) she got to mourn piteously for him whenever the plot started to run out of gas, which was about every two weeks.

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Then disaster struck. In a fit of whimsy. Dale Messick, the strip’s author (since retired), decided to have Basil St. John actually settle down and marry Brenda. This tragic miscalculation had predictable consequences. You cannot have a mystery man if he is going to be hanging around the house getting underfoot all the time. What little inherent drama the strip had to begin with was instantly drained away.

The situation was made even worse when Brenda and Basil had a kid, upon whom they inflicted the nauseating moniker Starr Twinkle. Within weeks after her birth, Starr Twinkle was making ironic asides in the last panel of the Sunday strip, a job that had formerly been the province of the pigeons that roost outside the Flash’s skyscraper. In short, the whole thing was getting disgustingly domestic.

Realizing this, Ms. Messick began to resort to progressively more bizarre plot devices to inject a little life into the flagging story line, culminating in one of the most astonishing about-faces in the history of comicdom. But here let me recount the twisted narrative thread of the last few years.

We pick up the story in September, 1980. Plotwise, we are talking strictly Sahara Desert. No living thing stirs. Dale Messick ponders: what to do? A solution leaps to mind — assassinate Basil St. John. She has the happy couple and several hundred intimate friends crowd into a balloon for a ride over the Bermuda Triangle. This is a completely insane thing for Basil St. John and company to do, of course, but we must remember that Dale Messick is a woman at the end of her rope.

Predictably, the balloon goes down during a storm. Brenda and Basil are separated; she is rescued.

She reaches into the water and finds . . . Basil’s eye patch. Oh, woe, thinks Brenda. Happy day, think the readers. Brenda mourns. And mourns. Weeks pass. The readers think. For Chrissake, let’s get the show on the road.

Finally Brenda’s boss, Mr. Livwright, assigns her a story to take her mind off her troubles — get an interview with the reclusive Cash Wallstreet, billionaire and flaming asshole. Wallstreet, who has a sort of psychopathic handsomeness about him, instantly flips for Brenda, setting off an unspeakably tedious string of escapades in which he tries with the delicacy of a train wreck to win her heart. She demurs. He persists. The months drag on.

Dale Messick can see this is going nowhere. She is suddenly inspired. She has Mr. Livwright sell the paper to Wallstreet. Wallstreet, master of subtlety, moves a giant couch into the editor’s office. Brenda regards this as ominous.

Wallstreet makes yet another proposition. Brenda rejects him. Wallstreet has a heart attack. Nonetheless, he is back on his feet two weeks later. He threatens he will close the paper unless Brenda marries him. She says okay, on the theory that the wedding will get massive publicity that Basil St. John will see, despite having drowned, whereupon he will come to her rescue. (I know this doesn’t make any sense. Nothing ever makes sense in Brenda Starr. In a way, that is the beauty of it.).

Mr. Livwright decides enuf is enuf. He buys the paper back somehow. Cash Wallstreet sets fire to Livwright’s desk (no kidding). He is arrested for arson. The Flash is saved.

More stupidities transpire. The story line gets more incomprehensible by the day. Dale Messick invents a long, preposterous yam involving one Asha Wallclimber, an unemployed window washer who sneaks up to Brenda’s terrace to . . . oh, you don’t want to know. After the passage of many monotonous months, it develops that Asha has been hired by Cash Wallstreet to either drive Brenda insane, or min her reputation, or something. I can’t figure it out, and neither can anybody else. Messick realizes she had better do something fast.

So what does she do? The obvious thing, of course. She has Cash Wallstreet throw a bomb into the city room. Brenda’s hit. She’s in a coma. She wakes up to find — Basil St. John. He tells Brenda that she tripped on the bathroom floor and has been delirious ever since. In other words. Cash Wallstreet, Asha Wallclimber, Basil’s own disappearance, and for that matter, all the events of the preceding year never really happened.

Brenda is speechless. The reading public is speechless. I’m speechless. Never before in the history of the funnies has an author been so brazen as to attempt to expunge the preceding 365 episodes from the record.

But is Dale Messick content with this? She is not. She has Cash Wallstreet make a reappearance. Only this time he’s Dr. Mackey, the city’s top psychiatrist, whom Brenda saw briefly while delirious. Dr. Mackey is going to try to treat her for her Cash Wallstreet delusion. Only — you ’ll never guess — he falls madly in love with her. He pursues. She resists. He gets involved in a plane crash. He almost dies. He miraculously recovers. He chases her to a ski lodge.

Around the nation, baffled crowds begin to gather on street corners. Crumpled copies of old funnies pages are passed around and examined. The word spreads: Brenda Starr has totally lost her mind.

Meanwhile, the plot situation continues to deteriorate. Dr. Mackey disappears from the scene. Messick demotes thirty-eight consecutive strips to a story based on the premise that Brenda Starr, ace reporter and the world’s most beautiful woman, cannot cook. Readers are aghast.

Messick strikes down Mr. Livwright, the Flash’s editor, with a fatal heart attack and replaces him with his tyrannical sister Nevera from Australia. There follows a long, completely baffling sequence involving Nevera’s attempt to ban coffee from the newsroom, which the limitations of the English language prevent me from recapitulating here. Then Nevera tries to drive Brenda insane, for some reason. Then we get a forty-seven-strip reprise of the Brenda-can’t-cook theme. Then Basil St. John, who is now back on the scene fulltime, spends a week trying to get laid (by Brenda, his wife, of course). However, she is exhausted by a total of eighty-five days of unsuccessful attempts to cook. So are the readers, who have taken to doing the Jumble. Some are starting to eye Mary Worth with undisguised longing.

At this moment of extremity. Providence intervenes. Dale Messick announces her retirement. The strip’s distributor hires a new writer by the name of Linda Sutter, a former ABC television reporter. She and Ramona Fradon, an artist who has been doing the drawing for a couple of years, take over the strip altogether on November 14, 1982. The nation breathes a sigh of relief.

But incredibly things get even worse. Brenda takes a leave of absence from the Flash to go visit California with Basil (who is still seething with sexual frustration), Starr Twinkle, and Gertie the maid. There they meet Professor Kissintel, who is employed as a mad scientist in the Silicon Valley. And what rollicking, freewheeling, wacky, zany adventure do they embark upon? They go out to play golf. For four and a half weeks. Incredible.

Still, we must not make too much of this. A protracted golf game is just the sort of tedious digression that would have intrigued Dale Messick. Sutter and Fradon have yet fully to place their stamp on the strip.

It turns out that Professor Kissintel has developed a revolutionary new silicon chip. And where has he hidden it? In the ball he has spent the last forty-one panels knocking around the golf course. (Admittedly this is a mad scientist we’re dealing with here.) Naturally, the balls get mixed up, and Kissintel’s ends up in Gertie the maid’s golf bag. A Keystone Kops collection of foreign agents suddenly appears and chases Gertie all over the funny pages. The chip somehow migrates (pay attention now) into Starr Twinkle’s Cap’n Zoom video game, where it is discovered by the ever-vigilant Basil. The Arabs kidnap Brenda, wrap her in a rug, hoist her on a derrick, and dangle her over a cliff at the Pebble Beach golf course. They offer to trade her for the chip. The Keystone Kops foreign agents chase around madly in panel trucks. The FBI shows up. Basil looks grim. Chaos reigns.

At this point Fradon and Sutter’s peculiar style of creativity has reached its full flower. Brenda continues to dangle over the Pacific for twenty-one days, during which time her chief concern is not that she will be killed, but that she, a print reporter, will lose the story of her impending death to television, in the form of a traffic helicopter that happens on the scene. However, Brenda is brave. She refuses to submit to an interview by the hovering TV reporters. Network executive Bull Bombard is alerted to her predicament and is immediately entranced by her ravishing beauty and firm devotion to principles. “I want her!” he declares. Wisecracks bloom like dandelions as print reporters jostle their TV brethren.

Basil hustles out to Pebble Beach and decides to trade the chip to the Arabs for Brenda. Unfortunately, one of the Keystone Kops foreign agents bumps his hand, and the chip falls into the Pacific. And that’s it! That’s the stunning climax of four months of development. The next day Brenda and Basil are staring dreamily into the sunset. It is the stupidest thing you have ever seen in your life.

However, Fradon and Sutter are not through. The psychotic story line simply enters a new and even more depraved stage. Fradon and Sutter decide they will use the Bull Bombard character as the basis for a lampoon of ABC News president Roone Arledge. Trouble is, most people have never heard of Roone Arledge, with the result that the reading public is completely baffled.

But Fradon and Sutter do not care. They’re struck by an inexplicable and vaguely horrifying spell of wanton creativity. Subplots begin multiplying like rabbits. A mysterious stranger appears out of Basil St. John’s past. Two even stranger characters sail across the Atlantic in an Incan reed boat (I know, wrong ocean, but this is the funnies). Nevera Livwright hatches some new plot. The Incan reed boat is sucked into the vortex of the Bermuda Triangle. Basil invites Brenda to a fancy restaurant to meet his mysterious friend. The Incan reed boat escapes the vortex. Bull Bombard shows up at the restaurant and asks Brenda to be a guest on the Have a Good Day, America show (a takeoff of ABC’s Good Morning America) where she will be interviewed by Dan-Dave Hearty (who is supposed to be a send-up of GMA host David Hartman). Nevera continues to plot. The Incan reed boat makes it to New York, where an Incan chief and a dwarf in lederhosen disembark (I’m serious). When a hotel clerk won’t give the two a room, the chief puts the whammy on him by swinging his arms and going “Z-Z-Z-Z-Z.” Brenda appears on Have a Good Day, America. Numerous cryptic remarks are exchanged by Brenda, Bull, Dan-Dave, et al., which are supposed to skewer the foibles of the TV industry but which instead suggest that the authors need a long rest in a darkened room.

Meanwhile, Basil St. John decides he must leave on some indeterminate but vital mission. “Why must this dark force control my destiny?’’ he ruminates. Bull Bombard wants Brenda to come work for the network. A telegram summons Brenda to the Flash, where it is revealed that the dwarf in lederhosen (now outfitted in conventional attire, mercifully) is really Farewell Livwright, a three-quarter-scale version of the deceased Atwell Livwright, who is taking over as publisher in chief. Nevera is furious; she says Farewell knows nothing about publishing. Farewell proves that he does by ordering up a front-page headline in thirty-four-point type, conveniently ignoring the fact that thirty-four-point type is virtually unknown in the industry. Starr Twinkle is mad because her mother refuses to become a famous TV reporter. Nevera Livwright retaliates against the city room gang by installing a window washer’s scaffold on the outside of the Flash skyscraper for her to sit on. (No one in North America can fathom this.) Basil splits for parts unknown, leaving only a watermelon-sized black orchid on Brenda’s pillow. Starr Twinkle runs away to follow her father. And finally as of a couple of Sundays ago — Brenda discovers that her entire family has taken a powder. Her heart is broken. Stay tuned.

Now, what are we to make of this? I mean, Incan reed boats? Dwarfs in lederhosen? People wrapped up in rugs dangling over the Pacific? The Bermuda Triangle?

Thirty-four-point type? It takes my breath away just to think about it. The suspense gets more intense by the day — will anything rational ever occur in Brenda Starr? Will I ever learn to quit reading the funnies and find something useful to do with my time?

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The reggae hardcore act has influenced bands such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys, and Living Colour.
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